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With surprises from Mother Nature

| We selected last Saturday for another excursion to Joshua Tree National Park for a little hiking, a little eating and drinking, and a little stargazing. Bob was getting ready for a trip, and Phil wanted to go to another stargazing event organized by an astronomy club, so it was Ken, Réal, Don, and myself who comprised the Usual Suspects.

Joshua Tree is a vast and amazing place with many types of areas to explore. There are the Joshua trees, of course, with their up-raised arms and spikey leaves; astounding piles of humongous boulders; and both high- and low-desert environments.

Réal suggested that we hike to Barker Dam and the lake behind it, a part of the park none of the rest of us had ever seen. "It's beautiful," said Réal, "and so clear you can see the fishes swimming around and everything."

The trail was an easy walk through assorted rock piles and strange plants (who knew there were red cacti?), and it was a perfectly lovely day — the sky was partly overcast and, in contrast to the valley, the humidity was very low.

We knew we had arrived at the lake because there was a no-swimming sign. But there was also no water whatsoever. You could tell there had been water — distinct water lines were visible on the rocks, and there was an abundance of green plants. But no water.

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Joshua trees
no swimming
We arrive at the lake
no lake
"I can't believe the lake is gone! Where did all the water go?

Réal was chagrined and lamented repeatedly, "I can't believe that water is all gone."

But what Mother Nature took away with the one hand, she provided with the other. We were on our way over to inspect the dam when we came upon a whole family of big horn sheep grazing near the dam. The alpha buck with his huge curled horns stood guard, but they didn't seem to care much that we were there and weren't spooked at all by people walking around and clicking away with their cameras.

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A family of big horns

These were the first big horns I've seen in the wild, and they were just awesome. It was even more awesome when they decided to move higher in the rocks — they jumped easily from rock to rock and more or less just walked up the steep sides of sloping rocks. They don't, of course, but it was almost as if they had suction cups on their hooves.

After our hike we dined on chicken from KFC and toasted the good life with bottles of bubbly. The sky cleared up nicely, and a colorful sunset gave way to star shine.

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Last updated on Aug 27, 2016

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