near Palm Springs, California
As a Mississippi girl, I can readily identify kudzu, cotton, soy beans, and peanut plants – a Joshua tree…..not so much! I had seen one pictured on U2’s 1987 Album of the Year (Joshua Tree) but that was all the knowledge I had on the subject. The “twisty” trees look like something out of a Salvador Dali painting or a Dr. Seuss interpretation of a tree. When we visited Palm Springs for a tennis tournament, I could not resist the opportunity to visit Joshua Tree National Park and see these odd trees first hand.
We booked a concierge tour of the park and were promptly picked up at our hotel in Indian Wells. The tour guide was named Dave, a retired American Airlines pilot from Dallas. Already we had something in common! The large white Suburban was comfortable and the ride in to the park was very enjoyable. Dave told us a lot about the history, the ecology and geology, and about the wildlife in the area. He questioned us on what we were interested in and customized our trip accordingly. The entire tour was most enjoyable and I could not think of a better way to learn about Joshua Tree National Park.
The desert landscape in the park is dotted with huge granite boulders, Joshua trees, and other heat tolerant plants. There are many hiking trails inside the park and several areas popular with rock climbers. We got out and scrambled around on a few of the granite croppings and believe me, they are much bigger than they looked from afar!
After a couple of climbing and exploring stops, Dave took us to a popular trail head for hiking. This was the Barker Dam Trail and there were several vehicles in the parking area when we arrived. Armed with plenty of water, sunscreen, hats, and closed-toe shoes – we were off on 1.5 mile desert hike. This was a great adventure! We experienced the desert heat first hand. We saw a bit of this area’s history and the old dam that provided livestock and settlers with much needed water. We walked through desert plants, cacti, yucca and brush while seeing scurrying lizards and other small sunbathing reptiles. We walked in the shade of more huge granite boulders and noticed holes, caves, and Indian petroglyphs. I loved every minute of this hike!
When we arrived back at the trail head, Dave had a well-stocked vehicle and offered us several snacks and drinks. After a quick break, we were off again and headed to a high overlook in the park that looked down into the valley around Indio and Palm Springs. On this clear sunny day, we had fantastic views of the towns below. There were several more trails in this area that led down to lower terrain.
We had a wonderful experience the day we explored Joshua Tree National Park and I will never forget all the sights of the Mojave Desert. If you are ever in the Los Angeles or Palm Springs area, take time to go see this wonderful desert park. It is a very unusual, almost prehistoric, setting. Words and photos do not give you the true scope of this beautiful landscape. Go experience it first hand.
Many scientists think that Joshua trees will be reduced by 90% at the end of the 21st century due to environmental and ecological changes. What a shame. I hope you get to see these unusual trees in their natural habitat before they are gone.