January is the busiest month in Quartzsite, and it was time to get out of town. Again. Or at least further out of town than I already was, and the Palm Canyon Trail, a very short National Recreation Trail, (not to be confused with the trail by the same name in Palm Springs, CA), seemed like the place to go.
Seven miles off of US 95 into the desert, almost 20 miles south of Quartzsite, AZ, in a narrow canyon of the Kofa Mountains are groves of Palm Trees.
Hence the name Palm Canyon.
The California Fan Palms, aka Washingtonia filifera, found in Palm Canyon exist because of the micro-climate created by the side canyons. The walls prevent too much sunlight from reaching the trees, while they also help to trap much needed moisture in the canyon.
Something I didn’t know is that since Palm Trees don’t have growth rings it is very hard to tell just how old these trees are, but they usually live to be 80 or 90 years old.
Also found in abundance there is the Palo Verde, aka Cercidium spp., Arizona’s State Tree, which is a small tree with bright green branches and stems common in the Sonoran Desert.
It’s name means “green stick” in Spanish.
The green coloration of it’s bark and branches is from chlorophyll, since it loses it’s leaves when water availability is scarce.
I have heard that the seeds are edible, but have not tried them personally. When the pod is green, or so I’m told, the seeds are tender, and you can eat them the same as peas or edamame. When the pods are dry the seeds can be sprouted and eaten. And you can also eat the yellow flowers, again, something I haven’t tried.
Palo Verde burns quick as campfire wood, doesn’t make great coals, and has an unpleasant odor when the smoke is inhaled. Some people say it smells like cat urine. But despite common myth it is not poisonous to burn. Unlike the Oleander shrub…
Camping in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is free, with the usual 14 day camping limit, only here those 14 days are in a 12 month period. However, it is a much more scenic and quiet desert camping experience than the LTVA’s, (Long Term Visitor Area’s) or the other free common camping areas like Plumosa Road or Kuehn St., which runs parallel to I-10 much, much closer to town. (Those two have the 14 day camping limit over a 28 day period.)
If you can pull yourself away from town for a week, or just want some peace and quiet while Quartzsite is suffering through bumper to bumper traffic, and the LTVA’s are full of people taking advantage of the government shutdown, the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, and Palm Canyon in particular, is an amazing desert camping escape not too far away.