After what seemed like a never-ending summer, which started in mid-May and lingered into November, autumn finally arrived in mid-November. In Southern California, this means that desert-exploration season is finally upon us.
Evidently, we were not alone in this assessment. We arrived on a Friday just after lunch and were nearly convinced we wouldn't find an available campsite anywhere in the park. All sites at Ryan and Jumbo Rocks campground were occupied, but luckily we snagged the last available site at tiny Belle campground. Minutes after we pulled up to the site, several cars passed by, peering in our direction. I'd like to think that they were staring to get a good look at the majestic, eight-point buck standing on the rocks, but in truth, they were likely scoping out the campground for a site.
E+J's friend Torin joined them later that evening, which gave me a break from having to constantly be the one to provide stimulating conversation. The following day, we took E's favorite hike in the park: the Maze/North View/Window trail, a 6.5-mile loop through some of the finest jagged geology and Joshua trees the Mojave Desert has to offer.
That night a howling wind began to blow which didn't let up until the following evening. The wind kicked up a sandstorm that made for a miserable night of sleep. We ditched our tent around 3am and slept in the car until morning.
With the wind still blowing on Sunday, we opted to skip hiking and instead visit some of the art installations strewn around the towns off Highway 62 that are part of the High Desert Test Sites (HDTS). Here's how HDTS describes itself:
We found the installations to indeed be immersive experiences, requiring exploration by wheel, foot and hoof to off-the-beaten-path destinations leading to unexpected finds. I won't try to describe what we saw, but instead let the photos below tell the story.