Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
On Tuesday March 31st, we packed up the trailer and headed south and then east from Park of the Sierra SKP Resort in Coarsegold to Mojave again (about 200 miles). From there, we drove about 20 miles north to Red Rock State Park. We’ve camped there before and always enjoyed it and so we decided it was time for another visit. We were happy to see that the Spring Break crowd hadn’t filled the campground since our purpose in going back through Mojave and up the eastern side of the Sierra was to avoid the Spring Break crowds. We picked a nice pull-through site with a great view to the east across the park.

Campsite view across Red Rock State Park CA

We set up camp and then drove the loop back to pay our $23 a night fee ($25 minus the $2 senior discount). On the way, we stopped so I could take a photo of the sea of Desert Dandelions in bloom here.

Desert Dandelions at Red Rock SP CA

They have a faint sweet smell but when you get this many together with the wind blowing the air was filled with sweet perfume.

Red Rock SP CA wildflowers

There are Joshua Trees here along with wonderful cool eroded formations and flowers.

Here’s close up view of the Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata) that filled the park.

Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata)

The formations in this part of the park have always reminded me of the dribbled sand castles my sister, Kathy, and I made as kids. Since she also loved Joshua Trees and flowers she was on my mind a lot while we were here.

Campground hillsides Red Rock SP CA

The next morning I went out and tried to capture the magic of the flowers and these big towering formations.

Wildflowers and rock formations Red Rock SP CA

The park is divided by Highway 14 and we’d never gone exploring in the eastern side of the park so we set out to do some 4-wheeling. We didn’t get out of the campground before I had to stop and capture more wildflowers.

I had a heck of a time identifying these lovely little flowers They reminded me of the snow crocuses that naturalized in the yard at Winterhaven, only a little smaller—and clearly they aren’t crocuses out in the Mojave Desert! They're called Sandblossoms (Linanthus parryae)

They came in white.   

sandblossoms (Linanthus parryae)

And shades of purple.

sandblossoms (Linanthus parryae)

There was also some owl clover that had yellow eyes instead of the white eyes we’d seen down at the Poppy Reserve. This turns out to be Mojave Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta venusta).

Mojave Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta venusta)

And tiny little daisies on long wiry stems. These may be a variety of goldfields or a kind of coreopsis.

Tiny daisies

We stopped at the Visitors Center (which was closed) and I shot this photo looking southwest across the park to the campground. You can even see Genevieve if you look carefully.

Red Rock SP from Visitors Center

And I got another chance at the sea of Desert Dandelions.

Desert Dandelions at Red Rock SP CA

We drove out of the park and north on Highway 14 a ways to the first dirt road which would lead us to the Scenic Cliffs.

Along the road we spied some Mojave Asters (Xylorhiza tortifolia).   

Mojave Asters (Xylorhiza tortifolia)

And lots of California Chicory (Rafinesquia californica).

California Chicory (Rafinesquia californica)

There were lots of these lovely little yellow bells too. Which turned out to be Stout Blazing Stars (Mentzelia eremophila).

Stout Blazing Star (Mentzelia-eremophila)

We bumped along on the 4-wheel drive recommended dirt road until we could get a good view of the Scenic Cliffs—which were scenic.

Scenic Hills Red Rock SP CA

The road went DOWN hill so steeply here we couldn’t see where it was going. I hiked down to see what was what. And shot this from the bottom.

Road out to Scenic Cliff Red Rock SP CA

We decided we didn’t need to drive any further since there was a locked gate up around the next bend. But before we drove back I shot this photo of the hills to the north. Kind of looks like someone went wild with the cinnamon, huh?

Hills near Scenic Cliffs Red Rock SP CA

From here we drove south on Highway 14 to the turn off for the Red Cliffs—a day use area with a real live parking lot.

Red Cliffs of Red Rock SP CA

From here we drove back towards the campground and stopped at the Hagen Canyon parking area so we could take the hike there that we’d never taken. The formations here are similar to the Red Cliffs but there’s a whole canyon full of them. We put on our boots and hiked along sandy loop trail.

There were some beavertail cactus in bloom at the trail head.     
Beavertail Cactus flower

And the rock formations did not disappoint.

Hagen Canyon Red Rock SP CA

Along the trail we saw our first real live Chuckwalla, who was kind enough to stay still so I could photograph him in several nice poses. He’s a pretty big lizard, about 3 times the size of the fence lizards we saw down at the Poppy Reserve.

Chuckwalla lizard

Here’s a panorama shot from along the trail.

Hagen Canyon panorama Red Rock SP CA

This area was all underwater 10 million years ago. Sediment washed down from the Old Sierra Mountains and was deposited in layers at the bottom of a huge lake. Time and pressure compressed the layers into rock. Tectonic movement along the Garlock Fault (a mile south of here) pushed some of the layers upward revealing them to wind and rain. Erosion of the softer layers which are somewhat protected by the harder upper layers creates the formations. The uplift in this area has caused the layers to be at a 17% angle at this point.  

Hagen Canyon Red Rock SP CA

Here and there I saw some lovely little purple trumpets which turned out to be Desert Purplemat (Nama demissum var. demissum).

Desert Purplemat (Nama demissum var. demissum)

And many more of the sandblossoms (Linanthus parryae) we’d seen earlier.    

sandblossoms (Linanthus parryae)

In fact they were in masses, just like the snow crocuses. Clearly their seeds are wind-blown.

Masses of sandblossoms at Red Rock SP CA

At one point we got a view down a wash (and across the highway) to the Red Cliffs. I find it interesting that the yellow flowers show up so much better than the purple ones in photos.

View from Hagen Canyon to Red Cliffs Red Rock SP CA

Near the end of the trail, there was a nice bench to sit on and contemplate the views and then we headed on back to the car and drove back to the trailer.

After lunch Walter decided he wanted to go out and explore the little slot canyons in the formations behind us. So up we went.  
Walter Cooke exploring formations at Red Rock SP CA

Some of them were fairly deep.

 Walter Cooke exploring formations at Red Rock SP CA

I shot this photo of the truck and trailer from up amongst the formations. As you can see, we had a great view.

Genevieve Airstream and Francois Ford at Red Rock SP C

There were also clumps of yellow flowers that reminded me Brittlebush but the foliage wasn’t grey enough. They turn out to be Goldfields (Lasthenia californica).

goldfields (Lasthenia californica)

That evening we had a bit of a sunset to cap off a wonderful visit. The night before we’d had a nice oval lenticular cloud in that same spot as this one but it hadn’t turned color with the sunset—it had been just plain WINDY instead something that has been pretty consistent since we started up the eastern side of the Sierra.

Sunset at Red Rock SP CA