Where Two Deserts Meet
Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.
Known as the park namesake, the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Agave family. The Joshua tree provides a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert, but you may also find it growing next to a saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Years ago 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.
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.
Today we enjoy this yucca for its grotesque appearance, a surprising sight in the landscape of biological interest. The Joshua tree’s life cycle begins with the rare germination of a seed, its survival dependent upon well-timed rains. The tallest Joshua tree in the park looms a whopping forty feet. Joshua trees grow at rates of one-half inch to three inches per year. Some researchers think an average lifespan for a Joshua tree is about 150 years, but some of our largest trees may be much older than that.
As we rode in to the town of Joshua Tree, we were dismayed to see a LOT of sand on the roads. The pavements were piles of sand too. We stopped to ask for directions and were given bad ones which sent us way to the edge of town and up a very steep hill – still covered in sand.
Eventually, we did find the condo we had booked and it was very nice and fairly close to what there was of the town; the main requisite being a bar, restaurant where we could get a meal.
On the way back to our duplex we bought some eggs so we could cook our own breakfast; what a treat!
We packed up
and set off along those terrible sandy roads. Apparently there had been a bad flash flood a few days earlier. The town had had slicks of 4 feet of mud and it had been impossible to get either in out of town. We were just experiencing the aftermath.
It was less than 2 miles to the entrance to the park but those two miles were a nightmare. At one point, Jan stopped the bike as he had seen a scorpion crossing the road and he’d hope to go and catch it! Fortunately, el scorpio had scarpio’d.
The Joshua trees aren’t the most striking part of the park – well, the sheer numbers of trees is, but they aren’t a pretty cactus, unlike the big ‘cowboy’ ones around southern Arizona.
The rock formations were more interesting.
The park has two entrances/exits and we had booked a room in 29 Palms, the opposite gateway from Joshua Tree so we exited there, went to Denny’s for an early dinner before checking in to our next motel and then return to the park for some sunset shots.
Jan had pancakes
After checking in and offloading the bike, then doing some laundry, we headed back to the park; it was a much nicer light.
I have had a great deal of difficulty writing the blog for a couple of reasons; I’ve been taking a lot of photos on my phone, a Google Pixel 2 phone. Unfortunately, Google then uploads the photos to the cloud and it’s a really cumbersome, tortuous job to add those. The better photos, taken with the Sony DSLR can only be loaded to my iPad and edited in Lightroom. But my iPad is doing a really, really slow job. So I apologise for the photos not being better. I’ll have to re-do the blog when I’m home and io my lovely Mac desktop.
Ttfn, I’ll post the Mojave Desert and our 400 + mile ride in a couple of days