Hello readers and happy October! This month I am sharing with you a place close to my heart.
I grew up in the high desert of California, and Joshua Tree National Park was my closest neighbor.
I have hiked every trail, and climbed every rock. I swam in the small lakes of water after big rain storms, and had hundreds of picnics with family and friends. I taught my kids how to camp and climb rocks in this park. I drank the water that comes up out of the springs at the oasis found in the middle of the desert, that you can hike to on a hiking trail. The memories I store from the years I lived out there are the most pleasant of all. I urge anyone who loves nature, to take a trip there and create some memories of your own.
Joshua Tree National Park sets aside nearly 800,000 acres of the gorgeous Mojave Desert, to protect the unique assembly of natural resources brought together by the junction of three of California’s vital ecosystems:
The Colorado Desert, a western extension of the vast Sonoran Desert, occupies the southern and eastern parts of the park.
The southern boundary of the Mojave Desert reaches across the northern part of the park.
Joshua Tree’s third ecosystem is in the westernmost part of the park above 4,000 feet: The Little San Bernardino Mountains.
Although the rock formations seem to be the focal point of this geographical location, I must say that the plant diversity of the three ecosystems (listed above) is matched by the animal diversity, including healthy herds of desert bighorn and six species of rattlesnakes, along with every other desert animal, mammal and reptile. You will be captivated by the dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.
The park’s name came from the Joshua Tree “Yucca brevifoli,” which is a member of the Agave family. Yes, Agave, what Tequila is made from. Until very recently, it was once considered a giant member of the Lily family. Don’t confuse the Joshua tree with the Mojave yucca “Yucca Schidigera,” which is a close relative and can be distinguished by its longer, wider leaves and of course the height. Both types grow together in harmony and are both numerous in the park.
Some Joshua Trees in the park are over 150 to 200 years old. This tree’s height can range from 20 to 70 feet, and its trunk diameter can range from 1 to 3 feet, providing shelter to birds and small critters. When you see them, that is a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert, but you may also f ind them growing next to a saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains. Altitude plays a large role in where these trees will grow and thrive.
Legend has it that early pioneers named the tree after the biblical f igure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward towards their dreams of f inding gold and raising cattle. The trees were also highly revered by the Indian tribes who used them for various sources.
As Vegetation Specialist Jane Rodgers says, “You may be at ease with pine or hardwood, or f ind shade under the domesticated trees in your city park, but in the high desert, Joshua is our tree. It is an important part of the Mojave Desert ecosystem, providing habitat for numerous birds, mammals, insects, and lizards. Joshua tree forests tell a story of survival, resilience, and beauty borne through perseverance. They are the silhouette that reminds those of us who live here that we are home.”
The easiest way to get to the Joshua Tree National Park is from the park entrance in 29 Palms, California. You can also get there from Hwy 10.
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“Off the Beaten Path by Francesca”