Thursday, April 14, 2011

First trip to Joshua Tree National Park! - April 2011



A friend had some old friends in town and they were heading to Joshua Tree National Park for the day so I went along. I'd never considered going there on a day trip, thinking it was too large or too far away for it to really be worth it. I was pleasantly surprised. It was only a 3 hour drive each way and 4 hours in the park seemed like enough time to get a sense of the place and explore a bit. Here's where we entered the park (7-day Vehicle Permit - $15) :


View Larger Map


And here's a map of all the places we drove past and explored during the day (line in black; places visited circled in green; click on the map to see it larger):

I'd never been to Joshua Tree before and it was pretty beautiful.

From the west entrance station we drove east on the main road through what seemed like random stacks of boulders. They are a type of rock called monzogranite. Turns out the rocks were created by a combination of magma and erosion kinda like this.

We passed many turnoffs before deciding to stop at an area near Sheep Pass that I didn't catch the name of. There was a trail where you could wander off the road pretty far, climb on boulders and just explore.

I took so many photos in the first hour we were there that my camera battery died . . . or maybe I had forgotten to charge it. In any case, here are some of the shots I got:

Joshua Tree
(Yucca brevifolia)

Cactus Wren
(Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus)

Mojave Mound Cactus bloom
(Echinocereus mojavensis)
Chia
(Salvia columbariae)
(Possibly Great Basin Fence Lizard
Sceloporus biseriatus longipes)

After that we continued on the main park road hoping to get to the Cholla cactus garden by late afternoon. We accidentally ended up at the north entrance station (hard to see the turn-off) but the park is small enough that it wasn't a big deal and we turned around to head south towards the Cholla garden. It was amazing! Never seen so many of these fuzzy-looking but nasty-spined beauties and the lighting was just perfect. Some of them even had flowers and we spent some time watching a surprisingly unafraid jackrabbit enjoy a meal.



Black-tailed Jack Rabbit
(Lepus californicus)

One of the common names of this cactus is teddy bear cholla (or it's also possible that they were jumping cholla) but they are anything but cuddly!

From wikipedia:
The stems of this cactus detach easily and the ground around a mature plant is often littered with scattered cholla balls and small plants starting where these balls have rooted.

In an earlier desert outing, a friend and I had both managed to step on their spiny little "babies" and spent quite a while extracting the spines from our shoes and fingers! Funny that I didn't even mention this encounter in my blog post for that trip (perhaps I was too traumatized!).

Once we'd wandered around this area a bit we headed south to the 10 freeway and were on our way home.

As we left the park we passed a beautiful blooming Ocotillo patch. One of my favorite things about visiting places like this is how easy it is to see the microclimates. We'd not seen any other Ocotillo anywhere else in the park. The same is true for so many other species. Pretty interesting.

Note: Something worth seeing on the drive from LA to Joshua Tree: World's Biggest Dinosaurs (AKA crazy dinosaur creationist museum that was in Peewee's Big Adventure) in Cabazon - "By design, not by chance".

Check out some more of my photos from Joshua Tree here.

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