I’ve long harboured a desire to visit Joshua Tree National Park, most likely inspired by my father’s trip in the early 70s and the beautiful slides he brought home.
It’s easy to give personas to these gangly yuccas, with their long arms and unusual body contortions. There’s a sense of friendliness to them. It even extends to their name which, as the story goes, was given to them by 19th century Mormon pioneers. As they journeyed across the Mojave desert, they were reminded of the biblical Joshua, waving them on towards the promised land.
With a little imagination, each takes on its own character. Certainly, no two are quite alike. Some seem to have gregariously gathered in groups, others have struck off alone. There’s all kinds and shapes out there: tall, confident and upbeat, or solitary, timid and wistful…
Welcome to the mystical land of the Joshua Trees.
We spent our first night camped behind a boulder field outside the park. Peace and quiet was broken only by an intrepid desert mouse, who sniffed about our belongings in the hope of a midnight snack, before being trapped and unceremoniously ejected from the tent.
We're in. $5 a bike gets you a week in the park.
In my mind's eye, the trees seemed to gather around us, as if forming a welcoming party, ushering us into their land.
We wound our way amongst them, making our introductions...
Straddling both the Mojave and the Colorado deserts, the park is filled with all manner of wondrously shaped creations. And I don't mean Nancy...
Most have ingenious, prickly ways of protecting themselves.
Some are squat and portly.
Others more pointy.
A few have found homes in improbable places.
I'd love to return in the spring, when the whole desert begins to flower.
The blossoms of the Joshua Trees are creamy white. Some trees tower 40ft in height, and might have come straight from the pages of a Dr Seuss book.
Over a 200 year life span, each develops its own character. This one seems both playful on the one side, and downcast on the other.
A main paved loop runs through the park...
... with a few dirt road detours.
We spent two, crisp cold nights there. I'd liked to have stayed longer.
Although the park is named after its trees, the rock formations there are just as remarkable.
Hidden Valley is littered with huge boulders, as if tossed aside by a passing giant.
And just like the trees, each rock has a persona too.
Infested with cracks and slabs, they're popular with climbers, who cling to the rough granite, ant-sized in the distance. Fall and Spring are good times to climb and bike, as summer temperatures can reach 120F...
Even without climbing gear, it's fun to scrabble about.
Leaping from boulder to boulder, in the aptly named Wonderland of Rocks.
A truly enchanting place.
So long Joshua Trees, until the next time...