On Tuesday, October 2, we moved from Yucaipa Regional Park to our host site in Black Rock Canyon Campground at Joshua Tree National Park. We stayed at this location through Jan. 8, 2008 when it was time to leave for our next volunteer location. We were met by Ranger Cynthia Fero, the ranger in charge of this campground. We found her to be a great person to work with and a good friend.
There are two host sites here in the campground and they are the only sites with hook-ups. We had complete utilities with both 30A and 50A power. The area receives no TV from the antenna, but cell phone coverage is very good. We of course had our dish set up and so received both internet and TV from it. I am not sure if there is internet access in the ranger station that a volunteer could use, but they do have internet so I suspect that you could. The area is as quiet as anywhere we have been with a great deal of wildlife in the area. The campground has 99 primitive camp sites and there are water hydrants to fill tanks from and a dump station for camper's use. Many mornings a coyote walked past our site, no more than 50 feet from the motorhome. In fact, wildlife was frequently observed from our site. Muffie was really unhappy about that since none were friendly!
Our main job was to just be in the park during the busy times, mostly week ends and holidays. We were off duty on Christmas and could have left for Thanksgiving but chose to stay and help the duty ranger and to relieve her so that she could join her family for dinner. We also did some litter patrol and occasionally dealt with some camper's problem. In return we were encouraged to participate in all activities in the park and to see everything that is there. It was a very enjoyable three months and the passed very quickly.
One of the most common activities in the park is hiking with many trails of lengths from less than one mile to as long as thirty three miles. We hiked nearly all of the trails that were under five miles in length. There are also several very interesting historic sites to visit.
One of the most interesting and unique locations in the park is one called Samuelson's Rocks. He was one of the many strange and unique people who lived for a time out on the Mojave Desert and survived. There is a very interesting story about the man who made these works.
The Keys Ranch is open only by guided tour and is behind a locked gate. It is a wonderful tour with a great deal of history. We were fortunate to have been here while Willis Keys, the oldest living child of rancher Keys, was here as a volunteer caretaker for the ranch. We got to spend an afternoon at the ranch visiting with he and his wife who also grew up in this area in the 20's and 30's. The 49 Palms Oasis is a three mile hike that is to the difficult side but which is well worth the trip. The oasis is a tropical area of an acre or so, far out on the desert where the water that wells up and is the only water there most of the time.
While here we visited many other interesting places and toured the wind farm near Palm Springs, rode the aerial tram from Palm Springs to the top of Mt. San Jancinto, took our grandson who spent ten days with us, rock climbing and we got to meet friend Rudi from the Escapees RV forums.
The campground is located at 4000 feet above sea level so it can get quite cold at night in winter and we did get snow just before Christmas. The snow did not last but a day and it was actually quite pretty. But warm clothing is required. Were were supplied uniforms and also both a uniform jacket and winter coat.
We truly enjoyed our time with Joshua Tree NP and will long remember it as one of our special locations. The staff were wonderful to work with and they make a real effort to make each volunteer feel welcome and appreciated. We were treated as equals by the rangers and two of the law enforcement rangers even gave us their home phone numbers & personal cell numbers. That same was true for both the volunteer coordinator and for our direct supervising ranger. They were as great a group to spend time with as one could ever ask for.