It was a truly- and I mean truely- a hellishly difficult drive from Death Valley to the hotel we were staying at just outside of Joshua Tree NP, but i’ll go into that later in the final post (you can finally find out about the dinosaurs I was talking about in my first post when I get to that ). This post is about the abundance of wondrous oddities of vegetation in Joshua Tree National park. I know that doesn’t really sound that exciting, but stay with me.
To begin with, the namesake itself, the Joshua Tree is certainly an unexpected sight, it’s branches brambly arms stretching out in all directions and providing an interesting silhouette to consider, especially in the dark. Every single Joshua tree we came across in the park was unique, and I could honestly spend days wandering around the park just looking at the them- there’s something both beautiful and slightly grotesque in their shape thats beyond captivating.
Then there’s the Cholla Cactus ( Cylindropuntia fulgida) , also known as the Jumping Cholla. Why it’s known as the jumping cactus is a question you should really ask before you find yourself wandering among them, because if you don’t known the answer, you might find yourself screaming a loud “OUCH!” when the cuddly looking plant you’ve been admiring suddenly appears to have attached a spindly segment of itself on your clothes (if your lucky). I always try and read the information signs posted before entering an exhibit area, so I was well informed and alert to these little buggers and managed to get in and out without a jumper, but we saw at least two people looking mighty unhappy as we left and I can’t only imagine the level of their discomfort. Yikes.
After we left that fun area, we stopped to gaze out at the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) . Not actually a cactus, though definetly arresting and dramatic enough for this desert environment. By this point you’ve crossed from the Mojave desert side of the park over to the Colorado desert portion, and you’ll definetly start noticing the change in the landscape. Its more sparse, more of what’d you’d normally expect in these western type deserts that you’ve seen in the movies. It’s a long looooong drive from one end of the park to the other, which is why I highly suggest stopping in at Cottonwood Springs before you leave.
This area is beautiful, quiet and utterly unexpected. We didn’t do the hike out to the Lost Palms Oasis but it’s definetly something i’d like to do when I come back one day…. as well as check out some of the abandoned mines in the park as well, because of course.
We headed out of the park after wandering underneath the leafy cottonwoods and towering desert fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) towards the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach and Salvation Mountain, and I honestly can’t imagine a better way to leave that part of the park. We came back to see the sun set among the Joshua Trees near Hidden Valley and Quail Springs but…thats for another post.