We began by spending several pleasant hours roaming through Joshua Tree National Park, starting below 3,000 ft. elevation with wildflower landscapes and ending at 5,000 ft. with panoramic mountain scenes.
Our tour through the park was approximately 50 miles, including the Keys View where there were awesome views of San Jacinto Mountain with snow sprinkled at the 10,000 ft summit and the sweeping valleys below.
Along our route we paused at the Cholla Cactus Garden to walk among the 100s of Teddy Bears who will give you quite a prickly bear hug as you pass by if you aren’t careful.
The brown on these plants is the dead part of the cacti. But they continue to grow new stems that will eventually fall off and grow to be new plants. Sometimes these new stems attach to desert animals who carry them, unknowingly, far away, starting a new cholla colony.
One answer we were seeking in the park today was: What exactly is a Joshua Tree? These unusual trees, thriving in the higher elevation of the Mojave Desert, are actually a giant member of the lily family related to the Yucca plant, but not the same at all . Many Joshua Trees grow large white and green flowering bulbs in the spring, which they rely on the yucca moth to pollinate. In certain areas of the park the numbers of trees stretched out on the horizon look like orchards. The legend of the Joshua Tree is that the Mormons named it for the bible's Joshua. They saw the outstretched limbs as a symbol encouraging and guiding them west. The image these uniquely-shaped trees brought to my mind was a little different than that. A lot of them remind me of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, with his arms and legs dangling at weird angles and the straw protruding at the ends of his limbs. Do you see it?