One of my favorite places

Joshua Tree National Park is one my favorite natural places in the world—in part because it is other-worldly.  I had the day free yesterday to take in this one-of-a-kind biotic community that makes it a favorite photographic theme for album covers and advertising images.

I’ve been there when wildflowers were in full bloom, when there was snow on the cacti, and even in the midsummer heat, which, thankfully quickly dissipates as the sun sets leaving the afterglow atmosphere utterly magical as the rocks and joshua trees turn rosey and the bats begin to zig and zag in the deep blue of the twilight sky.  You feel like you’re in a living museum that has its heat, light, and moisture set at “perfect.”  And, in reality, you are indeed in one of our Creator’s museum showplaces.

Yesterday was the first time I was there when the joshua trees were actually in bloom—each flower cluster about the size of a small football.  Of course I had to shoot a few photos of this.  I spotted one cluster hanging very low near the road, so I pulled over to get a shot close up.  I had to stoop to get a macro shot, and when I straightened up, I ran my noggin right up into the spears of an overhanging branch, and in seconds had blood running down my forehead.  Glad I had a bandana to press down on it.  In about five minutes the bleeding stopped, and when I looked in the mirror later, I couldn’t even see where I got stabbed.  The tips of the branches are needle sharp, so the wounds were like pin pricks.

Near the west end of the park is a place called the Wonderland of Rocks, an apt name.  Our boys particularly enjoyed rock scrambling there, and we usually started our climb at Barker Dam, an empoundment built by ranchers around 1900 that still holds water.  Because of heavy rains a few weeks ago, the reservoir was about as close to full as I have seen it.  To celebrate my return to this wonderland, I did a little rock scrambling—discovering that being several pounds heavier and twenty years older makes it a bit more risky.  Fortunately, I survived the ordeal with no injuries—nor with holes in the seat of my pants from sliding down the coarse granite (a lesson I still remembered!)

I stayed until sunset—the photos of which are stereotypical of those shot by just about every visitor who stays until day’s end.  Besides, I wanted to also take in the stars looking through thin, dry air completely away from the light pollution.  And, PTL, I finally got to see the Milky Way for the first time in about a year.  Driving out of the park at night is also an adventure as rodents scurry across the road in the light of your high beams.  Driving some 40 miles through such a landscape at night, your low beams seem to be totally inadequate.  Being late, I think I had to dim my lights only twice.  You can only imagine the nighttime drama of life in the desert that’s taking place out there in the moonless darkness.

To learn more about this fascinating place, take a look at the Wikipedia article on it.  You can follow links from there to other sites.

See you outdoors,

Dean