Tuesday, September 27, 2016


We took our first trip in our brand spanking new Winnebago ERA 170C last Friday to Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree National Park. As former desert rats in our younger and fitter days, we'd tent-camped throughout JTNP and Jumbo Rocks was our fav campground there. Although the weather forecast portended relatively mild (85F daytime temps and lower 60s/upper 50s nighttime temps) for Friday, Santa Ana winds were also kicking up. That was somewhat worrisome because Gil had never driven a vehicle with a higher profile than a Toyota Tundra. But we weren't about to be deterred by gale-forced winds that could topple us over like toothpicks in a maelstrom or potentially land us in Kansas. Our intention was to leave at crack of dawn so that we would secure one of the better campsites. I had called the visitor center a few days earlier and the ranger said we should show up early because  Jumbo Rocks was completely full by Saturday of the previous weekend. So, we got up at 7:30 Friday morning, but with all the packing, securing the stuff in the cabinets, filling up the water tank, etc., driving to Starbucks in Wildomar to pick up our morning jo and breakfast, we didn't actually get on the freeway until 9:45am. 

9/23/16 Sasha in the driver's seat, rearin' to go bye bye

Come on mom and dad! I'm waiting...

Addy, getting in on the driver's seat action with Sasha

Sasha is her dad's co-pilot

Our route from Murrieta was I-15N to I-10E, exiting on Cottonwood Road at the park's south entrance, then 40 miles north on Pinto Basin Road to the Park Boulevard turnoff to Jumbo Rocks campground. Mileage one-way was 200 miles, about 50 miles more than if we had taken the shorter route of Hwys 215N & 60E, but that would have entailed driving through the winding badlands from Moreno Valley to Beaumont-Banning. Since Gil was a greenhorn at driving an RV (even the van type), we opted for the longer but more straightforward route. At 11:40am we stopped at the Whitewater rest area off I-10 just before the junction with Hwy. 111 so Gil could stretch his legs and arms, and the pooches could do their pee pee thing in the semi-grassy pet area. By the time we arrived at the Cottonwood Visitor Center (7 miles north from I-10 off Cottonwood Road), we were down to about a half tank of gas - not bad at all for an RV, but that's because it uses diesel. Gil went into the visitor center to pay the park entrance fee and enquire about the campground status. 15 minutes later he emerged and said that the Ranger told him Jumbo Rocks had plenty of available campsites and we didn't have to pay the entrance fee if we had an Adventure Pass. So Gil told me to put our Forest Adventure Pass on the windshield. Ok, that was cool, but I was slightly confused because the Forest Adventure Pass was only for select National Forests, not National Parks in California. More on that later...We arrived at Jumbo Rocks at 2:30pm and, to my great alarm and concern, it seemed that most of the 80+ campsites were occupied. WTF? Thankfully, we were able to secure site #82, which was relatively spacious and scenic. Lots of young folks camping nearby, many rock-climbing, engaged in animated conversations, singing, playing music, etc., etc., but nothing too loud or wild to detract from our camping experience. Sasha and Addy were mostly behaved, but had a penchant for barking at anyone and anything passing by our site. They were in their typical Akita, although slightly undisciplined, protective mode. Sasha was especially bent out of shape by an adorable Malti-Poo named Teddy who walked by our site several times with his owner. For dinner, we had campfire-grilled cap of ribeye from Snake River Farms with a ponzu dipping sauce and a side of grilled Mexican elote corn. So good! We turned in around 11pm with all the windows and screen door open in the RV to let the pleasantly cool night air in. Sometime in the wee hours of the evening we heard the hoo-hoo calls of a couple great horned owls and, at dawn, the yipping of a pack of coyotes in the distance. On our drive back down to I-10, we stopped again at the Cottonwood Visitor Center. I went in and explained to the ranger that my husband had mistaken our Forest Adventure Pass for a National Park Adventure Pass, so omitted paying the entry fee yesterday. The ranger, a young lady, was super sweet and said that park entry fees weren't being charged that weekend so all was good, and even gave me a complimentary JTNP reusable bag for my book and DVD purchases. We made a brief stop at Chiriaco Summit 5 miles east of the Cottonwood exit off I-10 to refuel before heading home. All in all, a great trip.

I-10 east just before the junction with Hwy. 111 to Palm Springs

Cottonwood Road exit off I-10E.

Cottonwood Road from I-10 to the visitor center

Cottonwood Road

Sasha in the driver's seat again, parked at Cottonwood Visitor Center (Gil went in to pay our entry fee and ask about campsite availability)

Cholla Cactus Gardens off Pinto Basin Road between Cottonwood and Jumbo Rocks

Cholla Cactus Gardens

Cholla Cactus Gardens

Pinto Basin Road between Cholla Cactus Gardens and White Tank Campground

Turnoff to White Tank Campground

Pinto Basin Road between White Tank Campground and Belle Campground

Turnoff to Belle Campground

Park Boulevard turnoff from Pinto Basin Road to Jumbo Rocks

Park Boulevard

Park Boulevard to Jumbo Rocks

Turnoff from Park Boulevard to Jumbo Rocks campground

Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks

Sasha and Addy in their super alert mode upon our arrival at Jumbo Rocks

Campsite #82 at Jumbo Rocks

Sasha, scoping out the perimeter

Addy and Sasha under the shade of the picnic table

Creosote Bush at Site #82

Catclaw Acacia (Acacia greggii) at Site #82

Site #82

Site #82

Site #82

Addy and Sasha, hanging out with their dad

Stinkbug or Darkling/Pinacate Beetle. Campsite #82

Sasha and Addy, pooped out watching dad puttering in the RV

A cute Desert Cottontail near the campsite

Addy and his daddy

The Sashameister, perusing the campsite

Cap of Ribeye from Snake River Farms

Gil and Addy, prepping the campfire for grilling

Addy, pretending to be useful

Mexican-style elote corn, prepped for the grill

Cap of ribeye seasoned with salt and pepper ready for the grill, with ponzu dipping sauce on the side

Our little chacha girl

Ribeye and corn on the grill

Tending the grill

Perfect medium rare

Ribeye served with the Ponzu dipping sauce

Gil washing dishes after dinner

Addy, moseying his way into the RV

A California thrasher, singing his heart out on a treetop at Jumbo Rocks, as we were leaving the campground the next morning 9/24/16 at 7:30am 

Leaving Jumbo Rocks campground the next morning on 9/24/16

9/24/16 Jumbo Rocks

9/24/16 Jumbo Rocks

9/24/16 Jumbo Rocks

9/24/16 Jumbo Rocks

9/24/16 Skull Rock off Park Boulevard

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