We started our drive at the Cottonwood Visitor Center which is just off Interstate 10 in the lower elevations of the park or the Colorado desert. As we drove out into the park we passed so many different landscapes. As you move along the paved road you discover that plant life seems to grow in the same place. For example, you're driving through acres of creosote bushes and suddenly there are cholla cactus followed by ocotillo. Fields of them and the fields seem to have definite boundaries. It is amazingly beautiful. Both Mia and I were in awe of our surroundings.
|Acres of Creosote Plants|
|More Creosote Plants as other Cacti comes along|
|Beautiful rolling hills|
As you continue your drive you suddenly come upon piles of rocks. Some are jagged and straight while others are round and smooth. Some look like they were formed separately, stacked while others look like they are scattered. The really interesting ones are called monzogranite. They are thought to have been developed a system of rectangular joints and transformed through time and erosion into what appears to be stacks of cylindrical, smooth stones stacked onto of one another. Some appear to float in air. These pictures do not do justice to the amazing feeling of standing near these formations. Some have severe height while others just appear to be a small pile of rocks.
As you leave the lower elevations and the Colorado desert you begin to climb into the Mojave desert and a different landscape. Here the Joshua Tree is the predominant landscape providing many things to many different elements of the desert. Water, food, places to escape the heat and sun for all types of animal life. Thus the "tree of life" provides in a barren landscape.
|As with all things, "The Tree of Life" eventually dies and returns to the earth|
I highly recommend the trip. We went to the highest point in the park, Keys View at 5185 feet in elevation. Unfortunately there was a haze in the air and the view was cut short during our visit however we were told that on a clear day you can see deep into Mexico from this vantage point.
There are dozens of trails and they allow backcountry camping and hiking with permit. You must carry enough water with you to survive as the water in the park is not potable and is reserved to the wildlife. Dogs are allowed in the park on a lease in designated areas and cannot be taken on any trails or into the backcountry. Horseback riding is allowed in backcountry areas and there are 253 miles of equestrian trails with in the complex. There are special requirements and it is suggested you call ahead.
Our opinion of the desert was changed dramatically by this trip. While Interstate 10 seems to wind though miles of desert sand and sage brush the Joshua Tree National Park gives you a whole different opinion of this landscape. Certainly glad we took the day to go explore.
Hope all is well and thanks for visiting.