Before leaving Lake Havasu, we visited Joshua Tree National Park. The drive was only a little over 2 hours and it was very peaceful. We drove over the Parker Dam into California and had to stop at a border checkpoint. In our six years of traveling, this was the first mandatory checkpoint we have ever encountered. The agents stop everyone driving from Arizona to California but not the other way. Surely they are looking for something, but for all they know we could have had whatever they were looking for, as they neither looked nor asked, the agent just said hello and waved us through.
We drove and drove through large swaths of uninhabited land. No longer did we see cacti but instead, lots of dirt and tiny bushes, which I recently learned were mesquite and creosote. We reached the very small towns of Twenty Nine Palms and Joshua Tree, both of which border the park. For logistical purposes we entered via the westernmost town, Joshua Tree.
Not much compares to the beauty and majesty of the Grand Canyon, but this park can hold its own. Joshua Tree National Park sits where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge. The boundaries are not firm, but they rather overlap.
The main road lead us to the famous Joshua trees, which are actually not trees at all but a species of yucca.
After seeing acres and acres of Joshuas we came across what I would describe as a field of jumbo boulders haphazardly stacked as if just thrown about. These boulders protruded the earth eons of years ago as a result of volcanic activity. It is however, a rock climber’s paradise.
Midway through at an elevation of 5185 feet is Keys View where we had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful view of the valley, mountain and desert. You probably wondered what is wrong with this picture? Well, the picture is fine, it’s actually haze and caused by pollution.
As we continued our drive, we ventured into the Pinto Basin in the Colorado desert portion of the park and the landscape gradually began to change. We came across the Cholla Cactus Garden. The Cholla cactus is also known as jumping cholla because it has a tendency to jump and attach itself to those being inattentive and yes, their needles do hurt. Back in Florida during one of our stays at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, chasing after Jackson who was chasing a rabbit, I was apparently being inattentive and the chollas got me and it was not fun. So bearing that in mind, I stayed really close to the trail.
Right before we were left the park, out of nowhere we encountered an Ocotillo patch. Ocotillos are very tall, long stemmed looking plants, not quite a cactus, whose red blooms can be seen after rain, usually in the Spring. We were here just in time! Yay!