We got a small break on our fourth day. We set off from the Panamint Springs Resort at 6 a.m. and were soon walking the seven-mile section of the steep, winding and shoulderless road. Highway 190 connects Death Valley to Lone Pine and Olancha and one can count on seeing a car go by every few minutes. Because of the early morning hours, we encountered less than five cars in the first two hours. Even then, around a blind curve, I had to move to the outside of the guardrail to avoid being uncomfortably close to the approaching vehicle.
Soon thereafter, the road flattened out and I found myself on a high plateau. There were Joshua trees on both sides and a great feeling of joy came over me. I had done most of the day's 3,000 feet of climbing and wasn't feeling particularly tired. The temperature was pleasant and it was just a sheer pleasure to be out there walking.
The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the Joshua tree. They grow nowhere else in the world. It is believed that the Mormon pioneers named them. The Mormons saw the skyward reaching limbs and imagined it to be the prophet Joshua praying and guiding them westward to a promised land. They are the largest of the Yuccas and can grow up to a height of 40 feet.
Ron and I usually walked facing the traffic. Even though we both wore running shoes, we preferred different surfaces to walk on. He walked the edge of the pavement whereas I was on the shoulder wherever possible. I, sometimes, would walk on the "wrong side" if the shoulder was wider or smoother on that side. Once, a highway patrol car stopped besides me and the officer admonished me to walk facing the traffic. I told him to look at the non-existent shoulder on the other side. He did and then sped off without saying a word.