Joshua Tree National Park

Today’s goals were to see the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve and get to Joshua Tree National Park. I drove back through Lancaster and out to the poppy reserve. From looking online this place was to be spectacular. Hillsides were covered in poppies. The California Poppy is the state flower and has a distinct bright orange color and conical shape. When I got there, there was nothing. I mean nothing… The hills were covered in brown. Nothing, zero, nada… I walked up to the top and all I could see was brown.
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When I went to the visitors center I saw one flower being eaten by ants.
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Acres of land that should have been covered. I saw one flower getting eaten by ants. There was just nothing.

I got back in the car and headed to Joshua Tree. I have not been out to the desert, so I had no idea what to expect. I had expected to see a whole lot of barren land devoid of human settlement, but found actually quite the opposite. I went through more than a few well established small communities along the way to the park. You could tell though, that water was a precious resource. There were very few lawns… very few. Most often you’d see a yard full of sand. Playgrounds were much the same way: big sandboxes. The area seems to remind me of the landscape in Raising Arizona. I kept coming back to that movie over and over. It’s just so different from what I’m used to and that was the only connection I had with the area.
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I drove into the park about 6:30, about an hour before sunset. I’m finding when taking pictures the time of day can really make a shot. The hour surrounding sunrise and sunset gives the landscape unique colors that you don’t find any other time of the day. I spent about an hour just taking pics of the high country.
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Since I got in late, all the spots in the park were full. I had expected to have a spot in the park, but since the weather has been good, I had to camp outside the park. Actually it turned out to be a better deal as the off site campground had water and showers! Winter is the time to visit though as temps can soar in the summer. With only .63 inches of rain in the past two years, things are a bit crispy. Fires could be a big issue this year.

Joshua trees are an interesting plant. The name of the tree comes from Joshua in the Bible. From the park web site: “According to legend, Mormon pioneers considered the limbs of the Joshua trees to resemble the up stretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land.” Just about everything in this park is all about conserving water. the trees have very little green on them and have very thick skins to prevent evaporation. Joshua trees only bloom every 3-5 years. Since we had heavy rains in 2004 and 2005, the bloom was to come either last year or this one as the trees need time to build up sugar to bloom. I got lucky.
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It was this year. The cactuses are much the same way. They have lots of thorns such that animals cannot eat them and sap the water out.
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Seems like everything there is conserving water but me!

I camped on Saturday Night for a change in pace. Dinner was chili with salad. Having been up since 6:30, by the time dinner was over at 9:00, I was just beat. Usually I don’t sleep well camping. Not that night. I was out like a light.

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