Joshua Tree National Park
The Famous Joshua trees … their adventurous spirits are in a constant dance of trying to figure out which direction would be the very best to grow their branches and outdo their neighbor. Which kind of ends up looking like a dysfunctional struggle of trying to find the right direction… but it is exactly that, that makes them so beautiful.
They’re slow growing and some years they may not even grow at all. Their age? Impossible to tell as they don’t grow rings. On top of that, they aren’t actually trees! They are a kind of yucca, a succulent that stores water. But not just any yucca, they are the largest yucca and they grow only in the Mojave Desert.
The Joshua tree got its name from Mormon settlers who crossed through the area in the 1800s. The shape of the Joshua trees reminded them of a story from the bible in which Joshua lifts his hands up to the sky in prayer.
But it’s not just the yucca that make Joshua Tree National Park so amazing, it’s also the massive rock formations that are arranged in such a way that it looks like giants carelessly scattered them around in fun patterns and shapes. But, of course, the truth is that these rocks were formed over the course of millions of years. Great information can be found on the geological formation here https://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/geologicformations.htm
I love spending time climbing the rocks, finding amazing creations resembling faces, bizarre fantasy creations and animals in them and exploring the vegetation that lives around them. A favorite stop is Skull Rock and Grumpy Guy across the street from him.
I probably shouldn’t admit this… but I got lost. But sometimes getting lost can lead to great things and it did. I ran into a Frenchman who had been coming to the park for over 16 years who helped me back on track. And then we saw this…
Desert bighorn sheep. Supposedly between 200 to 300 of them live in the park but the Frenchman told me that in the 16 years he’d been in the park he had never seen one before. We watched this lady in silence for a long time while she stood there posing perfectly like the queen she is, then we went and saw the petroglyphs (below), when we came back we were surprised to see the baby right underneath trying to find it’s balance on shaky legs.
What a treat!
The Petroglyphs give you an idea of what Native Americans once created there, but the spot seems pretty ‘updated’ and painted over in a kind of wanna-be graffiti that is obviously new. A shame… but you’ll just need a little imagination to think of what once was.
If you like rock climbing like I do and venture out on hikes, be aware of snakes and spiders. Bees can also be pretty intense. At one point, by the Keys View outlook below, my car was surrounded by a large swarm. Keep an eye out for signs warning of bees and stay away from those areas if you’re allergic.
Coachella valley and the San Andreas fault line can easily be spotted from Inspiration Peak, Keys View and you might also get a glimpse of a little snow far away from the hot desert.
A short 1.3 mile hike that is worth going on even in the middle of summer is Barker dam. Bring water with you and make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. The hike is breathtaking and the path is easy to follow.
There’s not much water left…
If you have a little more energy left then there’s another really great spot in the park to visit. The Cholla Garden. Also known as the Teddy Bear Cactus but don’t let that name fool you into starting a cacti hugging habit. It will be unpleasant… really unpleasant! This is also known as the ‘most dangerous trail’ at Joshua tree because these teddy bears will pretty much throw those spines at you if you get near them. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration but stay on the trail and if you’re bringing children now would be a good time for that piggy back ride! Don’t let all that stop you from going though. It is incredibly beautiful and peaceful.
A few thing…
– wear good shoes. (cacti/critters are everywhere)
– bring lots of drinks and food in a cooler. You will need it.
– we had absolutely no phone signal anywhere in the park