Winter in the Desert - 2013 travel blog

Joshua Tree


tree with snowy peak



cracked rocks

Joshua Tree forest panorama


oasis palm tree

park panorama

Salton Sea overlook

snowy mountain

It's hard to believe, but it's been 35 years since we visited Joshua Tree National Park. However, I still have vivid memories of this special place. The landscape looked like it belonged on another planet. The trees were an extraterrestrial combination of normal tree trunk topped with yucca. People were climbing the rock formations. Those memories still hold true. But the park has doubled in size thanks to a Clinton administration land acquisition.

We were surprised how many other people were enjoying this remote spot with us today. Many of them weren't speaking English. Perhaps this park has a higher profile overseas than it does here. This high desert location at about 3,000 feet is best visited in spring and fall. I don't think winter is over, but the weather was perfect today.

It can snow here and the Joshua Trees, which give this park its name, need brief periods of snow to stimulate their blossoms. They are pollinated by a unique moth that does its work at night to avoid being eaten by birds cruising the area. Although their trunks look like normal tree trunks, they are members of the yucca family. They can reproduce with seeds, but rhizome reproduction is more common. They have no tree rings, but scientists use other methods to determine that these tough trees can live a thousand years. Climate change has brought something called cheat grass to the park. It burns readily and brings fires to an area that never had them before. Like most living things, Joshua Trees can't handle fire and botanists are worried that this unique plant could become endangered. The trees were named by Mormon pioneers who thought they looked like they were reaching their arms up in prayer.

We took some hikes, but certainly did not get any cardio benefits. The scenery here is so spectacular, we stopped every few feet to take another photograph. Although geology generally doesn't interest me much, the huge rounded boulders that looked like some deranged giant child had tossed them around. Wonder how they really got there...

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