Joshua Tree National Park, February 2009 - Falling Planes and Joshua Trees on Valentine's Weekend
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In Los Angeles, we learn to expect the unexpected.  But even for us, this was a strange way to begin a weekend.

Lisa and I had not been to Joshua Tree for a while, and the long Valentine's Day weekend provided a great excuse to get away.

However, we didn't think we would start out by witnessing a plane crashing!

As we drove east through Fontana, we saw a plane flying really low, descending at an odd angle before disappearing out of our sight behind the horizon just north of the 210 Fwy.  Lisa and I both said, "That doesn't look right." 

Seconds later, we saw part of the plane again, its wing pitching forward just beyond the freeway embankment.  We exited at Alder Avenue and drove back around  Eight people were already there and had begun slowly assisting the pilot out of the plane.  He had a bloody forehead and a gash on his hand but otherwise looked fine.  I asked if he was okay, and he said he was fine.  I asked if someone had called the paramedics. 

"After I left the airport, I never could get altitude," the pilot said softly.  I said several times that he should sit down.  "I just bumped my head," the pilot said.  "You've got more than just a bump on your head," a guy with a Marine sweatshirt and a crewcut replied.

A couple said that they had just called the paramedics.  The police arrived 2-3 minutes later, so I left.

The Associated Press reported:

FONTANA, Calif.A pilot has walked away with minor injuries after his plane crash-landed near a freeway in San Bernardino County.

Authorities say the twin-engine Cessna had taken off from the Rialto airport Saturday morning when it lost power.

The plane landed on its belly at about 10:45 a.m. near the 210 freeway and a Fontana golf course.

The pilot, Donald Benart of Rialto, walked away with a bruised face.

No passengers were on the plane.

The crash caused a small fuel leak but there was no fire.

We drove in to Joshua Tree National Park as the buttery glow of the sun shone on the odd-shaped rocks and Joshua Trees in the otherworldly landscape. 


Although the high desert was cold this time of year, I was so distracted by the beauty of the rocky formations that I rarely noticed.

Yucca brevifolia, or Joshua Tree, was named such by Mormon settlers in the 19th century due to the tree's shape reminding them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.  The Cahuilla Native Americans historically used its leaves to weave sandals and baskets in addition to harvesting the seeds and flower buds for nutritious meals.

The tree is ecologically fragile, and only grows in specific areas in California, Nevada, and Arizona.  There are some fears by park officials that the tree will eventually die due to climate change.

We began feeling the bite of the cold air as the sun set below the craggy rocks of Joshua Tree National Park. 

It was time to leave the park, go back to our little tiny Cowboy Hideaway house rental in Wonder Valley and eat a delicious homemade pesto pasta.


Curious George resting underneath the 1950s guitar lamp in the Cowboy Hideaway in Wonder Valley.

The next morning was hazy and partially cloudy, but thankfully, devoid of the cold rain that had formerly been predicted.  "The storm has petered out," Jeff of Sapphire Ranch Rentals had said.

So after a delicious breakfast of Cocoa Pebbles, we mad our way back to Joshua Tree National Park.

Barker Dam is one of our favorite areas, and Lisa and I have visited this general area more than any other part of the park, especially if you include the Wonderland of Rocks.  It's obviously the odd natural beauty of the area, but it's also the diversity of formations, Joshua Trees, the dam, rock climbing opportunities, and valleys that draw us there.  The downside of this is that everybody else also thinks that it's pretty great, and around the loop, there's often a lot of people.

Lisa resting from scrambling among the boulders near Barker Dam.

Overlooking the Barker Dam, a lone tree stretches upward from its rocky roots.

I see hawks in Joshua Tree.

The top of a baby 3-foot tall Joshua Tree.

For the first day I created this on my website, I had an uncropped photo showing my feet.  I had decided that it looked unique and weirder with my feet in even though my first instinct was to crop it. 

However, within five minutes of emailing friends to share the photos with them, noted author Suzanne Olsson wrote about my "big feet" being in the photo, finishing her email by saying, "You have a gift (big feet?) and great photo talents."

So I went home and played with the image some more.  Turns out Suzanne was right.  It does look better!

But for impish good fun, I've kept the original photo here as well.  You can see it by placing the cursor over the photo!

Thank you, Suzanne!

Walking beyond the Barker Dam area into the valley.  I'm almost always stopping to take photos and then running to catch up to Lisa.  However, it's impossible for me not to stop and admire the beauty of the area and take photos.  It's what I do.

Joshua Tree 2009
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