Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Driving Oatman Hwy (Historic Route 66) and through Joshua Tree National Park

Freight train just outside of Kingman We left Kingman at 9:10am, heading west and getting closer to the coast and our flight back home.

With the advent of the modern Interstate system, what once was Route 66 has become SR 10 west of Kingman. Rather than taking Interstate 40 and getting into California in the morning, we chose to take our time and take the slower way; which turned out to be a nice, scenic route: a narrow road going through deserted land, going over a mountain pass in winding curves. Along Sitgreaves Pass, the alert traveller can also see a peculiar sight: abandoned cars that have just been pushed off the edge of the road, and are now rotting and rusting away in the desert sun.

We stopped in Oatman for a few quick photos, but I felt the place looked too touristy and unauthentic - although since then, I've read accounts by many people expressing thoughts that this is pretty much Route 66's appeal. Maybe Route 66 is being spoiled by its mythos, especially among European tourists who come to expect some grand landmark much like a national park, and get something entirely different.

But soon enough, we had gone over the last few miles of Route 66 in Arizona, and were on our way towards Joshua Tree - we'd have to stop less along the way if we still wanted to see a sizeable amount of the park... we weren't even staying in it overnight.

Chollas & Hexie Mountains We arrived in Joshua Tree National Park around 3pm, entering from the South. Our first stop was Cholla Cactus Garden, located in the transition zone between the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, which mainly affects which plants are prevalent in the areas, and at which times they bloom. Seeing how it was the middle of summer, the latter obviously didn't matter.

We headed North, stopping at Belle Campground for a few more pictures, then left the park via the North Entrance Station to fuel up in Twentynine Palms. We re-entered at the West Entrance Station, and proceeded to Key's View. This overlook, one of the highest mountains in the park normally affords a very nice few, but the air was kinda smoggy this time of the year.

We then took the Geology Tour Road, and I decided to tempt our fate on the Berdoo Canyon Road, an unpaved road that would have brought us to Interstate 40 without taking any of the roads we'd taken before.

The scenery and wild life was quite interesting, but after braving the sandy dirt road for a while, we came to a canyon that was filled with rocks too large to go over in our rental car - we would have needed to move move the rocks, or have more clearance.

After catching a nice sunset, I was pressing back to a paved road, and taking the long Pinto Basin Road out of the park. We arrived at Palm Desert in complete darkness, and were gladly enjoying our suite - the only time during the holiday where we could enjoy such a luxury, since Palm Desert evidently had more vacancies in summer, and therefore had to lure in tourists with lower prices than what they probably charge in winter.

Motel/Hotel Accommodation: Comfort Suites (Palm Desert, CA): $80.10 plus 10% tax

Written April 25 2004 in Luxembourg.