Day 2: Twentynine Palms to Desert Shores - Joshua Tree, Anza-Borrego, Imperial Valley 2016 - CycleBlaze

November 1, 2016

Day 2: Twentynine Palms to Desert Shores

I got up at 6:45 just as it was getting light outside. Today will be the longest day of the tour. On the road at 8:05 after stops for breakfast and groceries.

Today's route has no services and no water until long after the two big climbs. The weather is a bit cooler than normal but I left Twentynine Palms with 4 full water bottles, 2 full 1-liter Platypus bladders, and a 12 ounce can of V-8.

The climb back to Joshua Tree is long but not difficult. The first half of the 1700 foot climb even has a bike lane, until the park entrance. Traffic was light anyway. The bike lane was not essential.

Starting the climb from Twentynine Palms to Joshua Tree National Park.
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Roadside plant. Bill Shaneyfelt tells me this is Datura (Jimson weed).
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Bill ShaneyfeltDatura. A native.
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2 years ago
Wayne EstesThanks for your expertise!
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2 years ago

I got to the Pinto Basin road intersection at 10:40. It took 2.5 hours to backtrack to where I was yesterday afternoon. Then Pinto Basin road climbs another 260 feet to the first summit, passing through stands of Joshua Trees at the highest part.

Joshua Trees once again near the first summit.
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Today's first hiking excursion is the 0.5 mile Arch Rock nature trail. The trailhead is at site 9 of the White Tank campground. It's a great trail. Less crowded than the Hidden Valley nature trail.

White Tank campground site 9. The Arch Rock nature trail starts here.
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Arch Rock nature trail.
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Arch rock.
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Arch Rock nature trail.
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The Arch Rock trail was my last up-close encounter with the granite rock formations distinctive to Joshua Tree National Park.

Leaving the granite behind and entering a zone of dark-colored gneiss hills.
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The day started with a 1950 foot climb to the first summit. Now I have a long 2050 foot descent. During the descent I stopped to hike the 0.3 mile Cholla Garden nature trail. I've seen a lot of Cholla, but this Cholla is rather unusual because the trunks are so fat and woody. Old-growth Cholla, apparently.

Pinto Basin road entering the Cholla Garden.
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View from the Cholla Garden nature trail. Woody old-growth Cholla.
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Self-portrait from the cell phone camera.
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I'm now in the Colorado desert, a subdivision of the Sonoran desert. The vegetation is now mostly creosote bushes. More sparse than before.

Rare Ocotillo with leaves.
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To the east of Pinto Basin road is an immense roadless wilderness that encompasses half of Joshua Tree National Park. One roadside sign states that literally everything you can see east of the road (desert and surrounding mountains) is part of the wilderness.

Lower elevation, now in the Colorado desert.
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Unfortunately I have a second big climb to do today. A 1400 foot climb followed by an incredibly long gradual 3000 foot descent. 30 miles downhill.

My last hiking stop was near the beginning of the last descent, at the 0.3 mile Bajada nature trail. The scenery wasn't really spectacular but it has many interpretive signs describing the desert plants and trees. Other than the creosote, most of the plants are dormant now. It would be nice to be here in March when the plants are green.

View from the Bajada nature trail which has interpretive signs describing the plants of the Colorado desert.
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The descent was so gradual that it took longer than expected. Daylight is rapidly fading.

Descending to I-10.
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When crossing I-10 I leave the National Park and the road becomes a Riverside County road called Box Canyon road. It goes 8 miles through a canyon that descends through the badlands. Very scenic. Also very unusual to see a road built in a wash. It would take only one big storm to wash away part of the road and cover the remainder of the road with a deep layer of gravel. Fortunately it almost never rains here.

Box Canyon road through the Mecca Hills.
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The road descends through the badlands in a dry wash.
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The road emerges from the canyon at about sea level, giving me the first semi-close view of the Salton Sea just after sunset.

I expected the temperature to rise significantly as I dropped to sea level but it was so late in the day that the temperature stayed about the same because the sun was setting. It only got up to 75F.

Salton Sea just after sunset.
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I crossed the first of many irrigation canals that I will see in the Imperial Valley. This canal delivers Colorado river water to the Coachella valley, watering date farms, golf courses, and subdivisions.

First of many canal crossings during the tour.
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After crossing the canal I pedaled west through farms on Ave. 66 to Mecca. It was almost dark enough to see stars when I arrived in Mecca at 6:40 PM. It's a bigger town than I expected, with several large apartment complexes to house the farm workers. The population is 100% Latino. Most signs in Spanish.

I was very tired and hungry so I stopped to eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant. After dinner I installed the headlight on the handlebar for the long ride to Desert Shores.

Still another 15 miles of night riding to get to the motel in Desert Shores. Most of that distance was on CA 86 which is a busy 4-lane divided highway. It has a very wide paved shoulder but I had to constantly weave around truck tire debris. Even late in the evening the traffic was mostly big trucks. No worries about cold weather. The temperature was still 70F long after dark and I had a brisk north tailwind to push me along.

I finally arrived at the Sea and Sun motel in Desert Shores at 8:20 PM and got a $45 room. I was the only guest at the motel. It's amazing that Desert Shores even has a motel. Most of the town is boarded up except for a big trailer park. Fortunately there is a tiny store near the motel.

It's dark and I'm exhausted, so I will explore Desert Shores tomorrow. The motel is close to the shore but I didn't go there tonight.

Today was longer and more difficult than I prefer, but there were no motels along today's long route. My sleeping options were definitely reduced when I quit camping.

Distance: 84.5 mi. (135 km)
Climbing: 3668 ft. (1111 m)
Average Speed: 9.4 mph (15 km/h)
Hiking: 1.2 mi. (1.9 km)

Today's ride: 85 miles (137 km)
Total: 142 miles (229 km)

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