Saturday, November 28, 2009

Joshua Tree National Park- November 28

This park is a bit of a distance from where we are parked,so a traffic accident which held us up for an hour on I-10 really cut into the amount of time we could spend here. John has a theory that if it is a national park it has to be good. And he was right again. It is not all about the Joshua tree here,although I did find them to be awesome and unique. This park is part of two different desserts;the eastern half of it is the Colorado desert(which is part of the much larger Sonoran Desert). The western part is the Mojave Desert. And much of the park is an overlay of the two deserts,called the transition zone. The characteristics of each ecosystem is largely determined by elevation.We immediately started looking for the Joshua tree as soon as we entered the park- only to discover that the tree is primarily seen in the higher elevations. This tree is to the Mojave desert as the suguaro is to the Sonoran desert. Someone described the branches of this tree as "wild armed". The Mormon settlers when they first saw the tree named it Joshua because its branches looked like they were raised in prayer. The tallest Joshua tree in this park is 40 feet high and 300 years old. Researchers believe that below freezing temperatures may damage the growing end of the branch and stimulate flowering,followed by branching. In our drive through the park we stopped to see a cholla garden-never before had we seen so many of this species of cactus in one place! The park also has towering rock formations,stacked boulders begun eons ago by volcanic activity. And as we headed out of the park we stopped at Keys View,an elevation of 5,185 feet from where we could view an impressive expanse of valley,desert,and mountain. From this point can be seen San Andreas Fault,Palm Springs,San Jacinto Mountains and Mexico. Because of air pollution from the larger cities nearby this view usually has a bit of a haze over it-as you may notice in the picture of it posted here.

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