02 April 2006 Sunday

We met for another guided tour at 10am with a volunteer.  Our volunteer guide is from Twentynine Palms and has done this tour for 20 years.  This walk is to an area where someone who homesteaded there carved several philosophical and political statements in the rock.  We joined a group from a local Community College of about 9 people and hiked about 1 1/2 miles out to a big piles of rocks (a natural occurrence here) where John Samuelson in 1927 had carved several statements in the rocks in a very neat and orderly writing, although his spelling was a bit off.  We also went by an old homestead that belonged to someone who owns an inholding within the park. 

When Andrew and I got back to our truck, we noticed a lot of bees in the area.  We had left our leaky solar shower out on the hood to warm up (we know it has a small leak at the fill opening).  There were bees all over our wet shower, going after the water.  There were hundreds of bees!!!  I tried to turn the shower over and it stirred up the bees, but they didn’t attack or anything. They just went back for more water.  We weren’t sure how to get the shower back into the truck without the bees.  So we decided to just drive off, taking the bees with us.  This worked, the bees started leaving when we got further from their hive.  We got to another parking area and by then we were down to 3 bees.  I can handle 3 bees!  We got our shower inside and went on our way. 

We’re camping inside the park tonight, so we went to one of the campgrounds to find a spot.  We found a spot in Jumbo Rocks Campground and had lunch.  We took a drive to Keys View, a beautiful high point overlook that looks all the way into Mexico.  We took a hike to Barker Dam, a place that was a natural water catchment that was dammed and enhanced to a good sized lake in the past for water for cattle.  

On our way back we saw some smoke nearby. Smoke in the desert is bad and fire can get out of hand quickly.  Many parks will let a fire burn if it doesn’t threaten people or structures because fire is a natural part of the ecosystem.  The desert is different.  The ranger we spoke to said that the desert doesn’t burn often and when it does, the natural grasses that grow in clumps will burn out without the fire spreading.  Pollution has changed the nitrogen levels in the soil and now invasive grasses can grow.  These invasive grasses grow in a continuous mat and burn much hotter when ignited and combined with the wind, can spread the fire very quickly.  We drove down to a point where a ranger had closed the road and was turning people back.  While we were there, a guy on a motorcycle came up and with a funny accent, asked about how to get to the dirt road that lead to the other side of the park.  Andrew swears it was Bono, from the band U2 (I’m not so sure).  

We turned around and went back to out campsite for the night.  The noises of other campers is so bothersome since we’re used to having our privacy in the desert or National Forests.  Our camp neighbor spent an hour unloading wood from the back of his truck then used two campsite fire rings to built two huge fires… and then sat inside the camper.

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