During a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park, I stood in the middle of that desert landscape contemplating those matchless rock formations that look like they’ve come straight out of a Dr. Seuss fairy tale or transported to Earth by some otherworldly visitors. The setting sun illumined the rock faces until they shone like golden nuggets dotting the landscape. The scrub brush, and in particular the rare and distinctive Joshua Trees, contributed to the feel of solitude that the desert brings.
Once the sun set behind a distant horizon, the structures and patterns of the rock formations slowly transformed into a silver hue, lit by the dim glow of a sliver moon. Underneath a million stars and the lucid glow of the Milky Way, and surrounded by the deafening silence of the desert night, I knew without a doubt that Joshua Tree National Park was a place unlike any other.
What makes Joshua Tree National Park Stand Apart from Other Places
When a first-time visitor makes his or her way into Joshua Tree National Park, chances are that they immediately feel that there is something unique about this place. The relatively rare Joshua tree (the park’s namesake) is a rare type of tree that grows only in the desert. This one-of-a-kind specimen evokes images of the trees you used to draw in your kindergarten class. Their sharp, pointed leaves and sturdy trunks bend and shift in the desert winds to create a mind-blowing vegetation.
Another unique aspect of this park is that it is actually made up of two completely different ecosystems: the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. To the untrained eye, a desert is a desert. However, the convergence of these two distinct ecosystems actually brings an unexpected diversity of fauna and flora to the Park.
While you would never equate the idea of abundance, fertility, and lushness with a desert, there are dozens of oases that spring up throughout Joshua Tree National Park. Some of the best hikes in the park take you into these unique spots where water springs from the desert sands bringing a lushness of verdure and vegetation, and where thousands of birds gather to escape the brutal heat and aridity of the desert.
The Benefits of Visiting
Joshua Tree National Park has different activities for all sorts of visitors. If you enjoy exploring the wilderness and have the stamina to withstand long treks into the desert, over half of the park (which is larger than the state of Rhode Island) is wilderness area. For adrenaline seekers, those otherworldly rock formations are highly sought after rock climbing areas.
If you’re not in the greatest shape, or if the idea of wandering miles into the desert isn’t exactly appealing to you, there are also a number of shorter hikes and nature trails that will also give you a unique insight into this spectacular landscape.
And lastly, whether you’re backpacking at a little-known oasis buried in the Joshua Tree, or decided to camp at an easy to access campground, the night sky at Joshua Tree National Park is truly a sight to behold. Professional astronomers and amateur sky watchers alike can come to enjoy one of the most fascinating views of the universe around us from the darkness of the Joshua Tree desert.