Monday, June 26, 2006

Joshua Tree National Park

Living in Los Angeles back in 1995 and 1996 it didn't take long for the chatter of the LA basin to gradually seep into my own life's pulse. I sought refuge from the chatter in various places. The beach, at the right times, was one of those places. Hearing the waves crash on shore and smelling the sea (yes, even the south bay) allowed me to quieten my surroundings and hear my internal beat of life.

Another place of refuge was and still is Joshua Tree National Park. Located outside the basin in the high desert north of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree is a place where one can hear the sand hit the rocks. It's a place to escape the chatter of the world. It's a place that looks desolate and lifeless, but when one takes the time to slow his own interpretations of the world and listen, life abounds - even his own.

The tree for which the park is named isn't even a tree! It's a type of yucca plant - Yucca Brevifolia. They only grow in elevations above 3000 feet and only in the Mojave desert region of North America. Outside the park, large Joshua Tree forests can be seen along I-15 between Primm, Nevada and Baker, California. Inside the park, the Joshua Tree forests are mainly in the northern region. The southern region, known as the Pinto Basin, is much lower in elevation, but still teaming with life in various other forms of plants and cacti - namely cholla cactus.

The park is also home to some amazing and spectacular rock formations - mostly granite formations - that are right popular with rock climbers and hikers alike. I like to roam and climb some of the more sedate formations, sit on top of the rocks and let the wind blow the funk from me.

Life surrounds you - even in the desert...

A nice side-trip in the park is out to Keys View which overlooks the entire Coachella Valley from the Salton Sea in the first picture below to the San Gorgonio pass in the second picture below. On a clear day even Signal Mountain, at 95 miles away, can be seen, but clear days are few and far between.

Standing at the top of Keys View and looking to the west, you can see the smog of the LA basin rush over the San Gorgonio pass into the Coachella Valley. Some days are better than others. After a good, hard and long rain in the basin is the best time to see and appreciate Keys View.

The Pinto Basin region of the park is an interesting mix of plant life, rock formations and, best of all, roads. Well, the one paved road. The road surface is generally good, but rough in a few spots. It does twist through the pinto at a pace that demands your attention.

One area I really like to roam is Cholla Garden - a rather large area where Cholla Cacti abound. Don't get too close! These cacti will jump toward you as you walk by in hopes of latching onto you. Well, not really, but that's the legend. And they do hurt.

Joshua Tree will always be a place of peace for me. Whenever the chatter boils over, I think of the places I've been in Joshua Tree. It helps, but it's nothing like being there. If you've never been to the park, do yourself a favor and check it out. Listen for the sand against the rocks.

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