The Places I’ve Been: Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is located a mere 54 miles outside of Palm Springs. The Palm Springs I lived in for 18 years of my life.  This trip, at the age of 27, was my first visit to the park. My mother and sister both swear I’ve been to the park before, but are unable to tell me when that was.  After actually visiting the park I can truly say, it was my first visit.

As some may be able to tell, the high desert is one of my favorite places to be.  I love being in the warmth. I can see the beauty of browns, yellows, dusty greens and the occasional purple of the native plants. Now add to that the appreciation the Joshua Tree, which I’d never really seen before.

A Joshua Tree is an unfriendly, prickly looking tree. But it was nice to finally see one and put a name to a face, so to speak.

During our time at Joshua Tree we stopped at a few nature walks and admired the scenery. My favorite stop was the Cholla Cactus Walk. There were pamphlets available to follow a sort of self guided tour.  We stopped at every one and read the pamphlet and took pictures. There were tons of warnings to stay on the path and to watch your step as some cactus had grown over into the path. I saw most people observe these signs, but right at the end I saw a small group of young people.

I say young people because I couldn’t be sure they whether were teenagers or college students. In any case, two of the girls hopped over the rocks marking the path to get their picture taken with one of the cactus. Apparently one girl got a thigh full of needles. So if you go to the park, resist cuddling up to a cactus for a picture.

It was a bit chilly that day since the wind was blowing like crazy, but it was still so wonderful to be back in the desert with the wind blowing all the smells of the plants around. Every time we climbed back into the car I could smell the desert on me. It was wonderful.

I decided if I’d really been thinking in college I could have majored in biology and studied the creosote bush. This is a largeish bush in the desert with little yellow flowers, waxy looking leaves and a pungent aroma.  It’s a really hardy plant and really knows how to survive in the desert. Here comes my tangent.

My love for creosote bushes started in high school. My junior year I was scheduled to take Chemistry. Surprise, by the second day I was already failing the class despite help from my boyfriend at the time. It was utterly over my head. So I talked to my guidance counselor.  I knew I couldn’t pass the class and didn’t want it to drag down my average. So I transferred into Desert Field Studies. Which I suppose was a higher level biology class.  This class was amazing.

It was taught by one of my favorite teachers and each day we got to leave the classroom and go across the street from the school to study a creosote bush and its surroundings. So I picked my creosote bush and studied its flowers, the tracks around it, the little kangaroo rat hole underneath it. It was really a great class.  By the end of it I had an entire folder dedicated to the progress of my creosote bush. That is where my love for this plant started.

As we left the park that day a few weeks ago, I thought “I could have studied creosote bushes my whole life and been perfectly happy.”

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