Joshua Tree National Park

Halloween night, I randomly booked a room at 29 Palms Inn since I wasn't going to make it to Joshua Tree in time to set up camp in daylight. I can't remember how I discovered it... I certainly didn't see their website, or else I'd been more prepared for what to expect. I arrived at night, and my navigation system got confused at some point, and sent me to the wrong spot. After a call to Dad to look up the address, I found the place, but I didn't see any Inn. I did see a restaurant, so I went in to ask for directions. It turns out you check in at the bar, so I was in the right place after all.

The reason I didn't see an Inn, is because it is sort of a hippie compound with bungalows. There are lots of neat things to do there, such as walk through their organic garden, get a massage, etc. I didn't do any of that though. I'm sorry I have no pictures to show from that night, because the bar was packed with locals in halloween costumes. I also regret that I was so tired, that I simply checked into my room and went to bed. Here is where a travel companion would come in handy. If I were traveling with someone else, we'd mutually provoke each other into coming back and hanging out in the bar. I imagine if I was traveling with my brother, we'd know half the locals in the bar by the end of the night. Instead, I updated this site, then fell asleep to the sound of packs of coyotes howling at each other... which I might say made me a little nervous about camping the next night.

Wednesday I headed into Joshua Tree. I don't know why I like the desert so much, but I do. I think because it is so different from what I'm used to seeing. I did a little exploring before heading to Ryan campsite (how could I not camp at that site). After setting up the tent, I had grand hopes of climbing Ryan Mountain to the summit for spectacular sunset photographs. Unfortunately, I didn't get started on my hike early enough. It is a 1½ mile hike, and according to my GPS, I'd only gone a little more than ½ mile. I'm not in good shape, the air is a bit thinner at that elevation, it was HOT, and it is not an easy climb. I decided to make the best of the light, and I got some decent pictures from where I was, and on the way back down.

After getting a couple of decent sunset photos, I headed back to camp. It was rather early (sunset was before 5pm), and I didn't know what to do. I've been carrying around my film SLR (a Nikon F100), along with a bunch of old film in a cooler. The idea was I'd finally use up all that film I've been storing in my freezer since the summer of 2001. I bought a lot of film back then since I thought I was going to make a career of it, and it wasn't cheap. I can already say it was a mistake and a hassle to carry around this film all over the country. I should throw it away and be done with it. Anyway, the digital SLR doesn't handle low light well. So, thought I'd load up the F100, and take some long exposures of the campsite since the moon was nearly full. I have no idea if any of these pictures came out yet, as I've not finished the roll. Doesn't that seem archaic these days???

Anyway, some of these exposures were as long as 8 minutes. I didn't have anything else to do while I was waiting, so I was standing very still, looking at the stars, when I heard a noise. I looked and saw what I believe was the silhouette of a coyote about 20 feet away. It was much bigger than what I thought a coyote should be, but it all happened very quickly, so I can't be certain. When I saw it, I immediately took a step backward, and it looked in my direction then darted away. Based on that behavior, I don't think it saw me until I moved since I was standing very still and quiet for quite a while. It looked about the size of a German Shepherd, but as it ran off away from any of the other campsites, I don't think it was someone's dog. It also didn't move quite like a dog, but more graceful.

Not long after that, I decided I was done playing with my camera, so I went to bed. Shortly after I climbed in the sleeping bag, the coyotes started their howling, but surprisingly not as much as I heard at 29 Palms Inn the night before. I thought since I was going to bed so early, I'd wake up before sunrise, and climb Ryan Mountain to photograph the sunrise... yeah right!

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