03-Jan-2010 -- I decided to kick off 2010 with a weekend getaway to Joshua Tree National Park, and I'd been meaning to add 34N 116W to my list of completed confluences for quite some time. Once inside the park it's a quick drive to the Belle campground, and from there it's an easy hike, as long as you take it slow and don't push yourself if you are not in good condition to hike up steep hills. There are also some rough spots on the way up where you need to be careful around loose rocks.
It was a near-perfect January day, with temps in the 60's. Along the hike, the main thing one is present with is the beauty and isolation of the California desert. I've been going to Joshua Tree since the 80's when it was still just a national monument, and it's a wonderful place to recharge your physical and spiritual batteries. Twenty years down the road, it's nice to see the younger crowd making it their own, doing the rock-climbing thing, etc.
I started off around 12:00 noon from the Belle campground and I was at the confluence by 1:30. It is very close to a set of towers maintained by the National Park Service to handle radio communication among the park rangers. There is a service road that allows access, but a quick peek at Google Earth shows that it's a long dirt road with many switchbacks, and it's clearly marked with "Service Road Only" signage which means no cars or mountain bikes. But it would probably make a nice day hike.
It didn't take long to capture the necessary photographs and begin the hike back down. I was back at my car by 3:00 PM. I spent the rest of the day checking out the visitor center and had some dinner before I headed home to Los Angeles. One of the more positive changes since the upgrade to national park status is that there are plentiful good restaurants in and around Twentynine Palms and the town of Joshua Tree, including both Indian and Thai food, my personal favorites.
As far as equipment used, my camera was a Canon EOS 30D which I've had for a few years. Due to the economic crisis of 2008 - 2009 I had to resist the urge to upgrade to a newer Canon 7D. But the 30D is still an outstanding camera, well worth the effort to lug around on a hike. My GPS was a Garmin eTrex Legend HCx, and although Garmin keeps coming out with newer models, they have yet to offer anything that matches the "clean" user interface of the eTrex line, so I have no reason to upgrade.
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