Thursday, 13 October 2016 18:54

Joshua Tree National Park - Where Two Deserts Meet

Written by Jeff Shotwell
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Joshua Tree National Park Joshua Tree National Park

One of California's most unique natural experiences is waiting for you at Joshua Tree National Park, where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet across 800,000 acres of unspoiled beauty. Under a backdrop of cultural history and surreal geographical features, this vast wilderness is home to bighorn sheep, striking starlit night skies, magnificent panoramic views, and of course, legendary Joshua trees.

Diverse in their shapes and always unusual, Joshua trees are native to the Mojave desert and can be tall and spindly or fuller and bushy. Their tough leaves were used by Native Americans to make baskets and sandals, and their roasted or raw seeds and buds provided nutrients in foods. In their original language, local Cahuilla called these spiky trees "humwichawa", but the name we know is a biblical reference and came from Mormon settlers, who used the branches and trunks for fencing. Today, wildlife from animals to insects use the tree for food and shelter, making the Joshua Tree an important part of the park's ecosystem.

Joshua Tree National Park has 9 campgrounds and 500 campsites for those who enjoy sleeping under a blanket of stars. If you're a hiker or backpacker, you can choose from a network of trails of varying difficulty, from day hikes of 3-7 miles to shorter nature trails of 1.3 mile loops and under. You can also enjoy a guided walking tour of Keys Ranch, where the Keys family set up an early homestead settlement in 1910 that lasted 60 years. The settlement is still viewed as a prime representation of the resourcefulness and hard work it took to survive in the desert.

Other fascinating places to see are Skull Rock, where nature carved and shaped a large granite rock into an amazing likeness of a skull. Cottonwood Spring Oasis is considered the park's "best kept secret"; the spring resulted from long-ago earthquake activity that created a much-needed desert watering hole for Native Americans, miners, prospectors and others. At Keys View, you can enjoy panoramic views of Coachella Valley from the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains.

These highlights just touch on the myriad of experiences - from wildlife sightings to birding to nature's quiet beauty - that you can enjoy when you visit Joshua Tree National Park.


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Read 912 times Last modified on Wednesday, 19 October 2016 19:00

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