On to LA 
In the morning we decided to head back up to the Salton Sea and see if if there were more birds up in the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. We did a walk from the parking area 2 miles (round trip) to the southern edge of the Sea. There were a lot of different birds there than we had seen the previous day, so it was worth it.

From there our plan was to head to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. After at least an hour to an hour and a half of driving we came upon I-10, which confused us a bit. Upon checking the map we realized that we had missed our turn a very long time ago. After looking over some options, we decided to take a different route towards LA and go through Idyllwild. The mountain road was very windy and beautiful. The town was very cute. We walked around a bit and found a yummy dinner. Once we were done there we headed back down the mountains to Hemet where we stayed the night.

The morning had us heading into LA and right for Little India. We spent quite a bit of time walking around and checking out the shops until it was lunch time. We had a very yummy lunch, then continued to explore the area for a bit. Afterwards we headed to Huntington Beach. There's a small conservation area there. We looked at the visitor center then Joe and Sarah went to the beach while I walked the path around the reserve to see more birds.

Once it was getting a bit closer to dinner time, we headed to Little Ethiopia. This area was not nearly as dense or defined as Little India was. There were some shops and quite a few restaurants but definitely fewer shopping and general browsing opportunities. We found a yummy dinner and then said goodbye to Sarah. We took a bus towards the direction Laura lived so she wouldn't have to drive as far to pick us up.

A funny thing is we chatted with a couple guys at the bus stop. We then hung out in an open air mall while waiting for Laura. After being there for a couple hours, those two guys showed up and were yelling "Minnesota!" It was pretty funny and random that we would run into them again.

Laura picked us up not too late and we headed to her place. Definitely fun to see her again.

-Miranda


Lots of neat birds.

The terns taking a bath near Huntington Beach.

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Joshua Tree National Park 
Our friend, Sarah, moved down to Twentynine Palms, which is right next to Joshua Tree NP, so she picked us up and we headed into the park. We stopped at quite a few of the spots of interest and went on a couple short hikes. This is a very neat park and fun to explore. Joe and I had been there back a number of years ago. It was fun to go back and check out a section of road that we hadn't seen yet.

After going through Joshua Tree NP we headed towards the Salton Sea. It is a sea that flooded because of the Colorado River early in the 1900's. It's incredibly salty and doesn't have anything that is feeding it, so it keeps getting saltier. The "beach" we stopped at in the Salton Sea Recreation Area is essentially all barnacles and fish skeletons. It was super weird. But there were so many birds. Logs of gulls, herons, pelicans and shore birds. I wondered for at least an hour just getting photos.

We moved along to see if there were other spots but didn't have a ton of luck anywhere else before where we were planning on staying, which was in Westmorland.

-Miranda


Cholla Garden

Ocotillo

Sarah hanging out in Joshua Tree NP.

A cute chipmunk.

Quite the variety of birds.

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Mojave National Desert Preserve 
We left the casino town and headed into the Mojave Desert National Preserve. The change in scenery from the beginning of the drive to the end was pretty crazy. There were tons of joshua trees to start and none by the end. We stopped frequently to listen for and find birds. We got to see a few American Kestrals as well as a Shrike and Cactus Wren.

One hike we did was really fun. It was Ring Trail in Banshee Canyon. There were a couple spots where metal rings were pounded into the rock so you could use them to climb up or down. Once we got to the open area we were once again on the lookout for birds. It got a bit toasty in the sun, but was a good hike.

After leaving the park, we headed down to Yucca Valley to return the car. Once we got there we found a place to stay and Joe returned the car. So, you remember that gash in the paint we got in Desert Valley that we were worried about? We rented from Enterprise and they have this index card. If the card can cover the "blemish" then there is no charge. Fortunately, the mark did fit within the card. So, no need for us to worry. That was pretty nice.

-Miranda


Mojave Desert National Preserve

Lots of Joshua Trees

Tracks crossed through the preserve and they were transporting tons of military vehicles. Humvees and tanks along with quite a few other things.

Ring Trail

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Death Valley 
Our first stop was the Mosaic Canyon. This was probably one of my favorite spots in the park. The hike wasn't a long one, but it took you through a narrow canyon. When you looked at the rock you would all of a sudden realize it was marble all around you. The way the water carved the rock was very neat. Once we got to where the canyon opened back up, we walked around looking for birds, then headed back to the car.

While driving to the next spot, there was a sign about gravel on the road up ahead and some road work. The road was relatively quiet, but right at the spot where the "gravel" was (it was more like baseball/softball sized rocks) a truck was going the opposite direction at the same time. I was as far over in my lane as I could be so he could go around the pile, but he decided to just run right through it for some reason. His tire threw a rock up that hit our rental car... I heard the thud but wasn't sure where it hit. When we stopped at the Furnace Creek visitor center (the only place we saw a roadrunner in the park, oddly enough) we checked the car and found quite a gash in the paint on the bumper. This was a brand new, 2014 car with no marks on it....

Anyway, we continued on our way, stopping at sand dunes, and of course the Badwater Basin. We stopped a few other places along the route, though nothing super noteworthy. It was a neat area and actually a bit chilly. The cold weather (for the area) worked to our advantage on this part of the trip.

On our way out of the park, we noticed an RV coming the other direction going slowly, I noticed the coyote jogging in front of the RV and told Joe to slow down. We ended up getting a number of photos and the coyote came over next to our car. Hung out by the window and seemed to wait for me to feed it. :( So, that's pretty sad. Apparently some of the local coyotes have learned that they can beg for food from cars. Sadly people don't realize that by feeding them they're actually increasing the likelihood that it will be killed by a car or cause other issues with people that would mean the park staff would have to do something about it. There was another one doing the same thing a few more miles down the road.

Once we left the park we headed towards Baker. It's a small tow on the interstate where we were planning on staying the night. Once we got there, we decided it was a bit too sketchy. The town is just sad. It's really run down and the only thing around and still open was some chains. The motel we would have stayed at had a few good reviews and probably would have been fine, but it just looked extremely run down and depressing. Also, the only place we could have really eaten in town was the Denny's. We stopped there to share a small dinner that was decent and then decided to drive to the Nevada border and stay in a cheap hotel/casino there. It wasn't far out of the way of our planned trip for the next day so that seemed the best route.

The casino town was basically three different casinos and hotels that are all owned by the same company. There's a mall and even a small amusement park attached to one of them. I don't know if the area is dying or if it was just not very busy because of the time of week and year, but a lot of stuff was closed and it was a bit dead looking.

-Miranda


Hanging out in the Mosaic Canyon.

Sand dunes.

Badwater Basin

The first coyote.

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Red Rock Canyon 
After finding breakfast, we worked our way out of town to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which is a park right next to Las Vegas. The park is gorgeous. We stopped and did a 2.5 mile hike at the Calico Hills. Nothing super long, but it ended with a nice view of the area and you could see Vegas in the distance.

We had a bit of driving and sight seeing to do, so we continued on our way and headed to Ash Meadows National Refuge. Here we spotted an adult male Northern Harrier, which was fun to watch (it was already getting too far away, so I didn't get any photos). We first stopped at a little board walk where we saw a few birds and a small jack rabbit. No one else was there at all. It was nice but also slightly creepy.

We checked out the "Devil's Hole" which is actually run by the Death Valley National Park. It wasn't much, but it is home to a rare fish that is only found there. Because of that and other conservation efforts, it is a very well protected area, with a caged in viewing area and that's it. Security cameras around and everything. While in the park we stopped at the Crystal Reservoir and did another boardwalk then hopped in the car and worked our way to Death Valley National Park.

We entered the park a bit before sunset. Joe really wanted to get somewhere highish to be able to see the sunset. There was something called Dante's View, so we decided to rush up there to try and get to the lookout before the sun set behind the mountains. We just made it. The view was pretty amazing. I'm glad we happened to come in the park from that direction so we could start out the visit with an overall view of the park.

We left from there and worked our way to Stovepipe Wells where we stayed the night. It was one of our most expensive hotel rooms, especially considering how sparse the room was, however, considering the location, it was worth it. The restaurant had some very good food as well.

-Miranda


Calico Hills. (Click on image to enlarge)

The view of Vegas from our hike. (Click on image to enlarge)

Neat iron work along a boardwalk in Ash Meadows.

A bunny. :)

Sunset over Death Valley. (Click on image to enlarge)

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