Number 138

Caleb wakes again to the sounds of glass breaking against rocky ground and a metal fire ring, so he’s up again to calm these people down just to get back in the tent in time for the rain to start at 2am. We left the rainfly in the car and the screen door on the tent isn’t holding any water back. I struggle to hold part of the tent door over the opening while Caleb throws the rainfly on and dries off with his shirt inside the now humid sleeping compartment.

a five-stripe or black-throated sparrow

Even after all this, Caleb is up with the sun and getting beautiful photos while he lets me sleep, which we both know is a role reversal of how our trips usually go. He gets me up and we leave the tent to dry, though we’re not staying here another night and chancing an encore of last night’s events. We’ll hike the Skull Rock Loop in the opposite direction and find the marked trail way easier to follow.

This is a great start to our morning and there is only one other person out on the trail with us. Breakfast has soaked properly upon our return and we take it with us as we drive into Twentynine Palms for gas, water, and the cultural center that opens at 830 to renew our park pass that expired in May. Lucky us, the farmer’s market is already set up and we get some Brazilian lemonade, evaporated milk being the key ingredient, to add to our list of new things tried.

We’ll carry our 32oz cup around while we look at clothes, vegetables, jewelry, and job opportunities with paid training. The milk balances the sour but I’m grateful we shared the large, easily fermentable, drink before the heat made the lid pop off. Inside the park’s new visitor center is an exhibit about Key’s Ranch and we’re told we have to get our pass from the ranger booth at the park entrance. We buy a new adventure edition atlas and drive back south.

We turn around because we forgot to get water and then we will u-turn again before the park to visit the Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center that’s been here since 2010… talk about leaving something to come back for. Mike is quick out of the shade to hand us a postcard and offer a tour of the orrery and point out other structures over 200 yards in the distance that represent the rest of the solar system from where we’re standing next to the pinhead replica of Earth on an easier to grab globe so he can keep up with its orbit every four days and move the first four planets accordingly.

La Quinta Cove Oasis

Back in the park and we stop at the first trail we see and wander out some while the temperature is still in the 80s. We spook a family of quail and stumble upon some baby coyote melons growing in the rough sand. We drive back to Jumbo Rocks for our tent and the quiet makes me want to nap but Caleb says there’s not enough shade or breeze for that.

The heat continues to increase and causes the clouds to leak a bit as we make our way south to the Cottonwood Visitor Center where we dump sand out of our shoes before going to the picnic area for lunch. This idea of giving us energy for hiking only fuels us to find a small hotel room with the A/C blasting on the bed for over an hour so we can regain brain function for the remainder of the day.

Yuan Dynasty — blend of Mongolian and Han Chinese elements

Our camping spot was $20/night and our room cost us less than that thanks to a loyalty program. With a nap in we’re able to drive to La Quinta Cove Oasis for a short exploration of the beautiful desert in all its 105 degree glory before Caleb starts looking up museums. The first one is now a medical plaza but the Museum of Ancient Wonders is still open and being watched over by two guys — one you pay and the other gives us a guided tour of the Cathedral City exhibit leaving the numbered fossil timeline, Asian guidebook, and solar system walls to do the rest.

Toraja ancestor figure, Ifugoa people statuette (Bulul), no info, Batak people ornament (Singa)

We made it to the museum just before their one-hour before closing entry policy so they’re packing up to leave behind us. Dinner will be picked up from a place with the word bakery in the name, but they specialize in cakes, not delicious breads. Caleb got a turkey rueben and I got a slice of deep-dish marionberry cheesecake so we could both try something new, even if mine will be breakfast. After a shower my hair feels more gross and after a little bit to eat I’m definitely ready for sleep.

Venus of Willendorf

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