joshua tree without the rain |day two|

Monday, July 20: After Rosie and I have breakfast at the 29 Palms Inn, we take a walk around the hotel’s 70-acre property adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park.  We find some Native American artwork on some of the buildings, along with some other interesting sights, including a Cinderella pumpkin carriage (??).

Artwork at the 29 Palms Inn
Artwork at the 29 Palms Inn

After our brief walk, we check out of our room, The Gold Park, and take off to explore Joshua Tree National Park, since our visit yesterday was cut short by torrential downpours.  (Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.)

Reflections at the 29 Palms Inn
Reflections at the 29 Palms Inn

We head into Joshua Tree National Park through the Oasis Visitor’s Center at the North Entrance Station.  We make some stops along the way to take pictures of the Joshua trees and the hedgehog cacti.

The wild-armed Joshua tree tells us we’re in the Mojave Desert.  It isn’t really a tree but a species of yucca.  Like other desert plants, its waxy, spiny leaves expose little surface area, efficiently conserving moisture.  Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet tall — at the leisurely rate of an inch a year. Its clusters of cream-colored flowers bloom February through April.  Branching occurs after flowering.

Hedgehog Cactus at Joshua Tree National Park
Hedgehog Cactus at Joshua Tree National Park
up close & personal to the hedgehog cactus
up close & personal to the hedgehog cactus

The Joshua Tree is to the Mojave Desert as the saguaro cactus is to the Sonoran Desert – both plants are hosts to many animals dependent on them. Both illustrate how intertwined desert life really is. For the Joshua Tree, it all begins with a moth.

The blossoms of the Joshua tree are pollinated only by the yucca moth.  The moth collects the flower’s pollen to help nourish her expected offspring; she taps the pollen into the funnel-shaped pistil. At the base of the pistil are undeveloped seeds; it is here that the moth lays her eggs. Now fertilized by the pollen, the seeds grow and provide food for the hatching larvae.  The larvae grow and emerge, and ample seeds are left to scatter.

Rosie and I stop for a picture with a Joshua tree.  A nearby placard tells all about the interdependence of life in the Mojave.

Rosie and me in front of the Tree of Life
Rosie and me in front of the Tree of Life

The Joshua tree is considered the Tree of Life because desert life is so dependent on it.  For example, the loggerhead shrike skewers its prey on a Joshua Tree spine.  The wood rat builds a nest of cactus joints and discarded Joshua Tree leaves at the base of the tree.  The spotted night snake crawls among the dead tree limbs searching for its favorite prey – yucca night lizards.  The Scott’s oriole hangs a basket-shaped nest in protective Joshua leaf clusters.  The antelope ground squirrel feeds on scattered Joshua Tree seeds.   The ladder-backed woodpecker pecks a nesting hole in the Joshua Tree trunk.

The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life

We drive on through the park, where we see mountains of boulders scattered among the Mojave yucca, juniper, scrub oak, and prickly pear cactus.

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

At the Jumbo Rocks area, we find huge boulders in all shapes and sizes.  The rock piles began underground eons ago as a result of volcanic activity.  Magma – in this case a molten form of the rock called monzogranite – rose from deep within the earth. As it rose, it intruded the overlying rock, the Pinto gneiss formation.

Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree
Jumbo Rocks at Joshua Tree

As the granite cooled and crystalized underground, cracks (joints) formed horizontally and vertically. The granite continued to uplift, where it came into contact with groundwater.  Chemical weathering caused by groundwater worked on the angular granite blocks, widening cracks and rounding edges. Eventually the surface soil eroded, leaving heaps of monzogranite scattered across the land like careless piles of toy blocks, according to a Joshua Tree National Park pamphlet.

me with the Jumbo Rocks
me with the Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Blue skies & Jumbo Rocks
Blue skies & Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks and horizons
Jumbo Rocks and horizons
plant life
plant life
desert plants
desert plants

I love the desert on this day after the storms.  It seems a bright and cheery place, happy to have quenched its thirst.  The clouds make the scenery spectacular.

Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
death in the desert
death in the desert
white bushes and horizons
smoketree & horizons
orange desert plants
orange desert plants
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks

According to the National Park Service website,  the Joshua tree was recognized by American Indians for its useful properties: tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, and flower buds and raw or roasted seeds made a healthy addition to the diet. The local Cahuilla have long referred to the tree as “hunuvat chiy’a” or “humwichawa;” both names are used by a few elders fluent in the language.

a Joshua Tree
a Joshua Tree
desert landscape
desert landscape
desert rocks
desert rocks

By the mid-19th century, Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River. Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward. Concurrent with Mormon settlers, ranchers and miners arrived in the high desert with high hopes of raising cattle and digging for gold. These homesteaders used the Joshua tree’s limbs and trunks for fencing and corrals. Miners found a source of fuel for the steam engines used in processing ore (Joshua Tree National Park).

Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree
desert vegetation
desert vegetation
drooping Joshua Tree
drooping Joshua Tree
the plains of Joshua
the plains of Joshua
gnarly Joshua Trees
gnarly Joshua Trees
a Joshua Tree with character
a Joshua Tree with character

We go in search of the Cholla Cactus Garden, but sadly the road to the south entrance is blocked off due to yesterday’s floods. I was really disappointed as I wanted to see it, especially after the enthusiastic recommendation from the couple we met yesterday at the cafe.  Instead, we turn around and head to Hidden Valley, said to be the best hike in the park.

Hidden Valley is a one-mile loop trail that starts in a picnic area and winds among massive boulders through a legendary cattle rustler’s hideout.  I figure one mile isn’t a very long walk, as I walk 3 miles quite regularly, so I don’t bring any water with me. After all, I rarely even get thirsty.  Rosie, on the other hand, is smart, and brings her water bottle along.

HIdden Valley
HIdden Valley
the Hidden Valley loop
the Hidden Valley loop

We see a lot of interesting sights on the walk.  You can click on any picture below for a full-sized slide show.

I love some of the bare and weathered trees we see reaching up to the sky.

weathered trees
weathered trees

Rock climbers call the monolith below The Great Burrito.  While Joshua Tree National Park is known as a world-class rock-climbing spot, many problems have arisen.  People have created a network of trails to and from formations, trampling vegetation in the more popular areas.  Nesting birds are disturbed.  Archeological sites can be damaged.  Climber groups are working with park staff to find a balance between climbing and resource protection.

The Great Burrito
The Great Burrito
The Great Burrito
The Great Burrito

The hike in the hot sun seems to be a lot longer than a mile, and I find myself regretting that I didn’t bring my water bottle.  My mouth is getting very dry and I’m sweltering. I start to get a little worried until, alas, we’re back at the beginning.  Whew!

After our hike, Rosie and I have to drive back to Los Angeles.  I’ve made plans to have dinner with my sister and we have about a 3-hour drive ahead of us.  Luckily, we don’t encounter too many traffic problems, although we do find some slowdowns as we get close to L.A.  I am so glad Rosie accompanied me on this outing. 🙂

I only have one more day with Stephanie before I head back to Virginia on Wednesday morning.  Time to go home to my family and home!

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12 thoughts on “joshua tree without the rain |day two|

      1. All is well!!
        Spencer is back in school. University of Colorado Bolder.
        It’s been great keeping up with all your travels.
        What’s next.

        Ron

      2. Hi Ron, It’s nice to know Spencer is back in school. What is he studying this time? As for what’s next for me, I’m not sure! Starting next week, I’m taking a CELTA course in Washington. It’s an intensive one-month course. I dread the commute downtown! I hope all is well with you!

    1. Oh dear, I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond to your message. I’m sure by now you’ve already been to Joshua Tree and returned home by now! Anyway, we did stop at that one cafe near the entrance to the park, but I don’t remember the name sadly. Maybe you happened upon it yourself? Hope you enjoyed your trip to Joshua Tree! 🙂

  1. Ah, I love that place! You had a beautiful day there, and you got so many great photos. I can see you love the rocks, as I did – what a pleasure it is to photograph them, right? And the plants, the cactus, yes, the fantastic shapes of the dead trees – all of it. An unforgiving place, and the harshness is powerfully magnetic.

    1. I loved Joshua Tree, Lynn, and yes, we were lucky to have a beautiful day there, although we had to put up with thunderstorms and flooding the day before. I loved the harsh landscape for photographs. 🙂

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