Wednesday Sept 29th - After leaving Sequoia NP, we headed south and west towards Arizona (looking forward to visiting with our second daughter, Sarah and her boyfriend Jason). We planned on stopping through Joshua Tree NP, CA. We checked the weather and the temp there was supposed to reach 104 degrees and not cooling down much at night (way too hot for the camper!) so we opted to stay in a hotel in Twenty-Nine Palms, CA, just at the north entrance to Joshua Tree. We planned to tour the park on Thurs, then spend Thurs night just past Joshua Tree at Blythe, CA.
Thurs Sept 30th - Our guide book suggested a full day to drive the park and do several short hikes, and this worked out to be just about right for us. To be honest, the desert landscape has not ever really “inspired” me, but we found Joshua Tree NP to be beautiful and unique in its own way. This desert park has two distinct climates, the high Mojave desert (above 3,000 feet), which is wetter and more vegetated, and the lower Colorado desert. Each area of the park has a distinct look and plants that are specific to each region.
Joshua Tree NP was named for the abundance of “Joshua Trees” that grow in the high desert area. This plant is neither tree, nor cactus, but a giant branching Yucca. They were given the name “Joshua Tree” by the Mormon pioneers who thought they looked like the biblical figure, Joshua, with his arms out-stretched to God.
One brochure from the park noted that “…..people are intrigued by the Joshua Tree’s ‘grotesque’ shape”. " ’Grotesque’ would not be a word that I would ever have used to describe this plant. Each was unique…branching out, over the years, based on winter freezes which would stunt the growth buds and force branching and flowering.
At the Oasis Visitor’s Center, we learned about one of the principal advocates for the formation of Joshua Tree NP, Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, She was a new York socialite and gardening enthusiast, who moved to Pasadena, CA with her husband in the 1920’s. She became intrigued with the desert plants and advocated for the conservation of the desert areas.
I admired this woman……for where I would have seen desolate, dry, nothingness…….
She saw beauty………
So….as we drove through the park and walked among the boulders and desert plants…….we kept our eyes (and hearts and minds) open to the unique beauty of the desert.
The northern, high desert area of Joshua Tree NP has many, massive piles of granite rock.
Some of these jumbled piles of rock evoked a visceral reaction - almost an anxiety…….certainly a sort of “dislike” of this state of disorder.
Others, had a softness and a ‘flow’…..
Some, beckoned one (at least Fred) to climb……. : )
This desert has several Oasis……
The Oasis of Mara……
And Lost Palms Oasis. These Oasis were most recognizable by the presence of Fan Palms and Cottonwoods, which grow where there is water. Whatever water there was, was not visible from the surface…..one only saw the result …..the plants that will only grow where they find enough water.
The southern, low desert area had an abundance of Cholla Catus. These plants had an almost velvety look…….
But they came with the warning…..that these “jumping” Cholla can inflict a very painful injury with their sharp needles!
We drove up to the overlook where you can see the San Andreas Fault line.
This area, with Palm Springs, CA in the valley, is very beautiful. The sign noted that the place where we were standing moves 2 inches to the southwest each year!
This wind sculpture at the visitor center really caught our attention. It moves continuously with even the slightest breeze –and is meant to represent the delicate balance and the ever changing nature of all relationships.
As we left Joshua Tree NP and continued our drive on towards Phoenix …….. I pondered the desert landscape…….maybe, the beauty of the desert lies in the unseen…….. the potential…….in the tenacity of life…….. and in that dynamic tension that exists in all of nature.