Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Amboy Crater

UP LATE, THE MOTEL CLOCK not having been reset for Standard Time; to a locally greatly admired coffee house for breakfast, only to find it closed and for lease between two adjacent (or nearly so) Starbuckses; then on through Apple Valley and to Joshua Tree.

We stopped at the Nat'l Park visitor center, then found Lou's house, a pretty little stucco building with a vaulted roof and the fine thick walls that come only from heavy cut stone or -- as in this case -- straw-bale construction.

I was a little surprised at the setting: the usual scramble of modest houses, too many cars and pickups, plastic bags blowing around, ambition, entitlement, an grit you associate with desert subdivisions.
It's dispiriting; but there it is.

On then to Twentynine Palms, not very interesting, and then the road up toward Amboy. And then, oh good heavens, the wildflowers. I'm not going to try to list them here: I'm writing this (partly as an experiment) on a folding keyboard, and sending it from my pocket Treo; I'm not easily able to consult references or provide links.

Let me just say there were lupins, poppies, five-spots, lilies, salvias, and dozens of things I can't identify. Whites, yellows, pinks, violets (I see I forgot to list the verbenas).

And the scent! You can't imagine the extent to which the scent fills your nostrils, and the car... the closest I can come to describing it is a just-opened honey-jar, sweet, complex, dry, floral, a bit exotic. (At one point I thought of the tree-blossoms in Tahiti.)

We drove on up the highway, over Sheep'sfoot Pass, across the Bristol Dry lake, and then turned west on the old Highway 66, now known locally as National Trails Highway. In less than a mile you come to a dirt road leading in to a trailhead to Amboy Crater, a cindercone we'd been looking at for the last ten miles or so.

At the parking lot we had lunch in one of the ramadas; then hit the trail for the Crater. It's a 3.5-mile round trip, and you climb 250 feet to the lip of the crater.

The entire trip was through fields of yellow and violet. I don't know when I've walked among so many flowers, or so many kinds of flowers. The scent, again, was nearly overwhelming; fortunately, there was a bit of a breeze. (It also helped offset the temperature, which crowded ninety degrees.)

The view from the top of the crater is memorable. Unfortunately my phone camera doesn't do it justice; you see here only a small part of the walk back to the car.

And then the drive up to the dread town of Ludlow, which I always associate with blown tires; and Barstow, and Highway 395, and then a new drive to us, the magnificent Walker Pass highway across the southern Sierra.

We're spending the night in Kernville. Dinner... Well, that will have to wait for a report on the other blog, when I'm home and have the proper software...

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