The weather the first four days at Joshua Tree National Park had been beautiful. Clear skies. Sunshine. Warm. Not hot, but comfortable. Perfect for hiking or just lounging about the camp. On the fifth day, the skies were filled with haze. They were no longer that beautiful blue, which was perfect for picture taking, but white. And bright. And it warmed up a little. But still, it was comfortable. Until you started walking through the desert!
The trail to Willow Hole is not on the Park map. I discovered it when I stopped at the trailhead for the Boy Scout Trail, which is a 7.5 mile trek one-way through the desert to Indian Cove on the north side of the park. Willow Hole trail uses the first mile or so of the Boy Scout Trail then veers off in another direction.
The first two miles of Willow Hole Trail are through the desert and is a fairly level trail. No trekking up mountains or down into valleys. It was perhaps, the easiest trail that I've taken on my journey. It was 3.7 miles one-way, which means the 7.4 miles was also the longest trail I've done so far. The most difficult part was walking in the loose sand and dealing with the little, itty-bitty, tiny pieces of (very sharp) stone that would somehow find their way into the tops of my hiking boots!
The trail was also one of the most interesting that I've been on. Once through the first two miles of desert, the trail went through and around some of the large piles of rock. Then it went into a dry river bed. As you walked along, the scenery gradually changed from the sand and Joshua Trees to “real” trees and bushes.
It was nice that someone showed me the way to go! One couple that I talked to on the way back thought that the trail ended here.
And that dry river bed? Well, it wasn't really dry at all. Along the edges I noticed that the sand was darker. Digging into it with my hands confirmed that it was damp and going down a little further it was really wet. Further along the trail there was standing water in some spots. It was an unusual winter throughout most of the U.S., wet and cold. And that unusual winter has given us an unusual spring as well, with water showing up in places where it hasn't been for many years.
This area was about a mile from Willow Hole. On my way in I had met a couple and we had talked for a while then they started back out. As I returned they were sitting on the two large rocks in the foreground with their feet soaking in the water. They said it was refreshing and asked me to join them, which I did. When I got my shoes and socks off and stuck my feet in the water, they laughed because I immediately pulled my feet out. The water was cold. Extremely cold. I was amazed and wasn't expecting that, but they were right, it was refreshing. We sat there for half an hour or more, talking and relaxing.
At the end of the trail. Done! Is my face flushed from the heat and sun or is it a reflection from that bright red shirt?