We left Yucca Valley and headed north in the Mojave Desert towards the Sierra Nevada. But Joshua trees didn’t want to say goodbye. They followed us in the fields, although sometimes they disappeared at lower elevation. Masses of wildflowers beautified the desert. After passing Barstow, Hwy 58 took us across our favorite Highway 395. The snow peaks of the Sierra Nevada shone on the horizon. Masses of goldfields painted the desert gold. And a few Joshua trees punctuated the plains. We were surprised to see a golf course at California City, a small town in the desert. There might be desert springs in the area feeding the town. North of the town, a dry lake glared with white laying silently in the distance. As we got close to Hwy 14, vast fields of solar farms brightened up our eyes. We turned to Highway 14 north. Soon we entered a canyon with distinctive folded red colored cliffs. We were cheerful and knew that we were at Red Rock Canyon.
The campground at Red Rock Canyon situated under the mud colored cliffs, facing a desert field carpeted with wildflowers and adorned by Joshua trees. Nature’s force eroded the stones and carved the cliffs into artistic shapes. The cliffs near the Hagen Canyon looked like something made for Halloween. There are vertical tan colored stones eroded into grooves between folded thick red bands. When the sun set, heat retreated and cool air filled in. The moon rose serenely above the color banded cliffs. I climbed on top of the boulders behind the campsite to appreciate the vista of the Mojave Desert. The moon cast a soft and soothing light on the desert. And the tranquil scenery calmed down my body and soul.
The mud colored cliffs shone with a warm tone at the touch of the rising sunlight. We drove to the famous Red Cliffs and were awed at the sight of the brilliant colored sheer cliffs. The mammoth cliffs rose tall above the desert like a impassable wall. Red bands stretched across the cliffs and glowed as glory as the golden palace. No wonder Red Cliffs is a perfect background for movies.
We left Red Canyon State Park early in the morning and took Highway 14 South. Then we turned to Highway 58 to cross the Sierra Nevada. Forest of working windmills stood at the foot of the mountains north of Mojave and on the hilltop of the Tehachapi Pass. This desert area has been turned into an renewable energy field with solar farms and wind farms. As we drove towards Tehachapi, the mountains were green up with grass and forests. We have come to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. The lush green scenery on the western side of the Sierra Nevada is a complete contrast to the desert landscape on the eastern side. Masses of blue lupines and other wildflowers made the landscape even prettier. Railway tunnels cut through the mountains. We caught a glimpse of the Tehachapi Railroad Loop which circles around the mountains. As we were descending into the San Joaquin Valley, we saw smog hanging above the valley from afar.
We drove through Bakersfield. Lots of oil pumps were pumping oil on the huge Kern River Oil Field. Passing the desert looking oil field, landscape changed dramatically to orchards with long rows of mandarin orange trees. Miles and miles of orchards covered the fields on both sides of the Highway 65. Trees were loaded with mandarin oranges. The air was filled with the fragrance of the fruit tree blossoms. Some orchards had mandarin oranges on the ground below the fruit trees. We had no idea how the farmers grow the mandarin oranges to be harvested in spring. Sometimes a whole orchard was covered with protective nets. At the intersection of a small town Ducor, the sign Halo told us who owns these orchards. Besides orange orchards, there were also grape orchards with thousands of frames lined up neatly in the fields. The hazy snow peaks of the Sierra Nevada made a perfect background for this country scenery.
At Porterville, we camped at South Tule Recreation Area Campground. Relaxing in the shade of the big trees, facing Lake Success, inhaling the aroma of sweet orange blossoms, our eyes were lit up by the color of green that came from the lawn, the leaves on the trees, and the grass covered hills in the distance. A local man came to look at our Escape trailer. And he told us that pollution is a problem of San Joaquin Valley, and summer is hot over 100ºF. The smog was blown from the big cities on the west and trapped here in the valley. That explained the hazy snow peaks of the Sierra Nevada and it made me disappointed. I thought this was paradise.
We strolled to the lake in the cool breeze at dusk. Feathery bright clouds flew high above the lake. Sundogs in the clouds added interest. In the nearby mounded hills, cattle were grazing high on the steep slope. All of these were cast in the golden light of the setting sun. It was a warm and dreamy scene. The reflection of the sunset on the lake and the profile of an angler by the bank composed a perfect evening picture. I turned around, the moon was rising above the Sierra Nevada. It was huge and almost full. What a nice way to end a day in San Joaquin Valley!