joshua tree national park, photographs, traveling, national parks tour posting by John Wilson
Joshua Tree National Park - a story and photographs that my brother (Rob Wilson) and his wife (Jan Wilson) have allowed me to share with you from The Sprinter Tour.
You can follow their adventure live on facebook.com/sprintertour
and their twitter site sprintertour
For additional information on the park, visit Wikipedia for a little history and the size of the park.
Weird Trees, Alien Rocks, and an Oasis: Joshua Tree National Park
The Joshua tree is pretty cool all by itself.
It’s not a tree as we know them elsewhere. It has no rings so you cannot count its age when felled.
Instead, it is made up of thousands of small fibers, much like a cloth that gets thicker and thicker as time goes by. But without those rings, it is difficult to tell a Joshua tree’s age. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_brevifolia
Its’ top-heavy branch system is supported by an enormous root system, sometimes reaching 36 feet away from the trunk.
We expected to see forests of these plants when we arrived at Joshua Tree National Park, as you would see a forest in, say, Colorado. Or in northern Utah, around the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
Not the case here. Joshua trees grow far apart from each other. Maybe it’s because of that amazing root system and the fight for scarce water in this arid area. There are indeed hundreds and hundreds of Joshua trees - likely thousands - but the dense tree forests of the east and northwest are missing here.
Beautiful sights in their own right, these odd-shaped growths coming out of the ground.
But when you add in the freaky geology of the park, it moves from cool to wonderment.
Stacks of huge boulders are scattered throughout the park. Rocks that seem to emerge from the ground without reason, gigantic things, mounds of them, some of them towering overhead. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Flat desert ground and then these enormous boulders.
What it makes for is quite amusing. Those amazing trees, flat dry land, and then those rock formations. You know everyone else is asking themselves the same question: “where did all these rocks come from?” But you cannot help repeating that question to yourself over and over and over.
We were careful not to ask a ranger about the rocks, like it’s the most often asked question there. But we got waylaid by a ranger on a short hike to a small reservoir built in the early 1900s. She offered - uninitiated by us! - to explain the rocks. Being polite, we listened to her geological explanation.
But we knew better. We’d spent quite a bit of time figuring this out, and we already knew it was space pods from alien beings. Nothing else made sense to us. And the shapes, the rounded shapes that invite climbing and clamoring around on them - well, it was quite evident to us aliens had been visiting some time ago.
The only question was, when would they give birth?
We moved on to something more realistic to deal with, opting for a hike to an oasis.
Funny thing, an oasis. We’ve all read about them. Seen movies where an oasis saved the day. Or the failure to find it determined certain death.
But we’d never seen one for real.
We did hike to what was called an oasis in Guadalupe NP, but that was NOT the oasis of stories, fables and movies. And that was what we were after.
This hike did not disappoint. Some pretty decent vertical gain through some of the driest dirt we’ve ever tromped on. Up and down some steep hills.
Neither of us wanted to say we saw the oasis palms. We both thought we were seeing things, thinking perhaps a mirage on the landscape. Finally, one of us asked, “Are you seeing anything over there? Like palm trees?”
And then we really could see it, nestled between two colliding hills, forming a “v” shape in the landscape - the tops of very bushy palm trees. Not just any palms, mind you, but the only palm tree species (California fan palm trees - also known as the desert palm) native to western North America. http://www.desertusa.com/magnov97/nov_pap/du_nov_fanpalm.html
As we drew closer, it seemed that the oasis was on two levels. An upper area, near a bit of water flowing downhill, and a lower area, much more dense with palms, and a pool of water there.
Wow, just like the movies! Palm trees growing at the edge of a pool of water. Life amidst the barren hills. Not a tree to be found until we saw the oasis. Lots of green, lots of birds (not that they would sit still for photo, mind you) and a nice cool change in temperature.
Just as we had imagined. Except for the fact that the stands of palms had withstood fire! How on earth did fire start here? No brush, no undergrowth, no campfires. Hmmmm. Another mystery on the Tour. Or was it the aliens trying to stay warm while depositing their birth pods?
We hung out for awhile, just drinking in the experience. And trying unsuccessfully to get into the camera some of the birds flitting about.
Not at all what we expected at Joshua Tree National Park. The trees were different, the rocks clearly came from another world (there is no other logical explanation), and then the movie-come-true oasis.
The memories just keep coming.