Joshua Tree National Park is a rather creepy place to be on a foggy day. When the first cold air arrives in late autumn or early winter, a slow moving weather front coming in from the Pacific Ocean can carry enough moisture to completely cover the coastal areas of southern California with thick pea soup fog. The fog slowly creeps over everything in its path till it meets the towering mountains that parallel the coastline. When the coastal fog butts up against the mountains, the fog condenses even more and the visibility is so poor that is becomes difficult to see objects at arm's length. The thick Pacific fog creates an ominous effect and the experience of wandering around blindly through the mist is quite surreal, especially in places like Joshua Tree National Park.
I attended elementary school in southern California for a few years and our home was located at the base of the San Gabriel Mountain Range. The tall mountains blocked the Pacific fog from moving any further east, so walking to school during such an event was always a thrill for us kids. I was a scout at that time and we did an overnight hike to a camp on Mt Baldy that was 10,000 feet above sea level. A heavy Pacific fog rolled in overnight and the views from the mountain peak were simply unbelievable! The heavy fog had a maximum ceiling of about 8,000 feet, so when looking down from the high vantage point, the fog looked like a thick white blanket that stretched all the way out to the horizon, which was quite an interesting sight to behold.
When I recently toured Joshua Tree National Park during late autumn, it was like returning home because we used to camp here back when I was younger. The skies were blue upon arrival, but that soon changed. A winter weather front moved through a few days before and it was cold enough to snow on the mountains in Death Valley, which is just a short drive north. The air was still chilly and the clouds were slowly moving in from the Pacific, so the conditions were conducive for heavy fog. Just like turning on a light switch, the dense fog slowly rolled in up and over the hills to the high plateau in the north end of Joshua Tree National Park.
Watching a tall solid wall of fog slowly creep over the Joshua Tree National Park landscape truly was an amazing experience. On one side of the fog wall the skies were sunny and blue, while beyond the wall in the thick fog there was zero visibility and the sun looked like a dim pale white glow in the distance. I was traveling south through this park to a campground, so I was able to ride along the leading edge of the fog bank, which presented some good photo opportunities. Watching the ground hugging fog slowly roll over everything in its path definitely was entertaining, until the fog enveloped the road as well.
Driving through pea soup fog in a remote wilderness area is always a white knuckle experience. A driver will have to negotiate extreme terrain hazards in these conditions and the sharp turns can lead to perilous moments. There always seems to be wildlife unexpectedly standing in the road, which can cause a driver to totally freak out while slamming the breaks and swerving out of the way. The wild burros are the best at scaring the wits out of drivers in the fog and they seem to take great pride in sending drivers into a state of panic.
Joshua Tree National Park certainly is a creepy place to be when heavy fog envelopes the area. Joshua Trees are odd looking plants that can look amusingly animated on a sunny day, but in the fog these trees really come to life. The branches look like arms and the bushy clump of green growth on top of these trees looks like a head. When gazing into the thick blinding fog, the Joshua Trees take on many devilish looking shapes that look like everything from mythical beings to strange monsters from outer space. It is easy fo stop and stare at the weird looking trees in the fog for far too long and become totally creeped out, which can result in quickly driving away un a panicked state in order to escape from the unknown.
If the weather forecast calls for heavy Pacific fog, this is no reason to postpone a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. In fact, predicted heavy fog is actually a good reason for going to this park, because the zero visibility experience in the super creepy Joshua Tree forests will certainly be a memorable one! When the Pacific fog rolls in during a slow moving cold front, the heavy fog may be encountered at just about any time around the clock for two or three days in a row. This presents an opportunity to observe some rare meteorological phenomena that it is difficult to comprehend. Touring this National Park by sense of feel may not appeal to all people, but if you happen to relish the thought of laughing hysterically at creepy animated trees while lost in the fog, then be sure to not pass up the opportunity!
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