The second destination for the day was to visit Joshua Tree National Park.
If you live in southern California you've no doubt heard of this desert
preserve. I've wanted to go there for years. My dad took his Boy Scout troop
camping there year after year. I guessed there had to be something
worthwhile to see and because California had plentiful rain this Spring,
maybe we'd even spot desert flowers.
Indian Avenue out of Palm Springs takes you right into Highway 62 (Twentynine
Palms Highway) leading straight to the North Entrance Station of Joshua Tree
National Park. There is an entrance fee of $15 per vehicle, good for seven
consecutive days. Visitors can purchase various national park passes good
for Joshua Tree and other parks in the U.S.
Joshua Tree dates back to its designation as a National Monument in 1936.
Since, the area was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1984 and a National
Park in 1994, encompassing 794,000 acres. The park's website can be accessed
at www.nps.gov/jotr. Its namesake, Joshua tree, is an odd looking twisted,
spiky tree with bursts of tough leaves sprouting from bulbous branch ends.
In the Spring, white flowers emerge while temperatures are still quite
comfortable. The tallest tree in the park is 40 feet high and estimated to
be about 300 years old.
Once inside, it's a whole new world of diverse landscape, nature trails and
hiking trails of varying distances for all fitness levels (even wheelchair
accessible), rock piles to climb or just photograph, picnic areas tucked
among the picturesque boulders and Joshuas. Wildlife spotting includes
bighorn sheep, mountain lions (glad we didn't see any), desert tortoises and
mule deer and birds such as quail, great horned owls, jays and road runners
(sorry we didn't see any of these comical runners). It's simply endless
scenery of desert landscape and bony hills.
Parking is plentiful and clean restrooms add to its total enjoyment. There
are 17 campgrounds and I only wish we had planned to rough it with an
overnight because Ranger programs offer evening campground talks and star
parties. I can only imagine the show of stars each night judging by the
pristine blue sky overhead during our day visit.
The main road slices through the park top to bottom, exiting on Interstate
10 just pass the Cottonwood Visitors Center. Numerous observation points,
turn-outs and parking lots enabled everyone to stop and inhale this
beautiful place. One day is not enough to enjoy Joshua Tree's spectacular
desert treasure. Without hesitation, we'll be back for sure.