Joshua Tree National Park: Converging Environments

“Be very careful if you are hiking.  Take plenty of water with you because you can become dehydrated quickly.”--Park Ranger

June in Joshua Tree National Park will not be confused with February in Buffalo.  It’s hot and dry and the sun is extremely strong.  You might not notice it if you are driving in an air-conditioned car or just spend a few minutes standing in the heat.  Walking a trail in this environment can be fatal if not taking the proper precautions. 

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Keys View offers an incredible view of the Coachella Valley.  The peaks of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley are the tallest peaks in southern California. 

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Joshua Tree is a unique place.  Some of the rocks have been dated to 1.7 billion years old.  These precarious rock formations owe their architecture to erosion. 

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Check out the rock balancing on the top left portion of the pile.

Check out the rock balancing on the top left portion of the pile.

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This rock was teetering on edge. It was also in the shape of a pork chop--it's always about food

This rock was teetering on edge. It was also in the shape of a pork chop--it's always about food

From the National Park Service Joshua Tree Website:

Joshua Tree’s nearly 800,000 acres were set aside to protect the unique assembly of natural resources brought together by the junction of three of California’s ecosystems:

•The Colorado Desert, a western extension of the vast Sonoran Desert, occupies the southern and eastern parts of the park. It is characterized by stands of spike-like ocotillo plants and “jumping” cholla cactus.

•The southern boundary of the Mojave Desert reaches across the northern part of the park. It is the habitat of the park’s namesake: the Joshua tree. Extensive stands of this peculiar looking plant are found in the western half of the park.

•Joshua Tree’s third ecosystem is located in the westernmost part of the park above 4,000 feet (1,219 m). The Little San Bernardino Mountains provide habitat for a community of California juniper and pinyon pine.

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Have you been to Joshua Tree National Park?  What is your favorite part of the park and why?

For more information about Joshua Tree National Park, click the link below.

Death Valley National Park: Minimalist Beauty

The further south you drive the less vegetation, animal life and human life you see.  It’s certainly not a moonscape but a certain "Wild West" feeling emerges as you descend into the valley.  I sped faster to arrive just short of sundown.  The sun was running to the west side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and I was still dozens of miles from Panamint.

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Rather than check in to the “resort”, I kept driving to reach the center of the first valley you reach when driving in from the north.  It was mere minutes before the sun would escape till tomorrow so I stopped to preserve it with my camera.  As I opened the car door, a young coyote approached as if he had waited all day for me to play with him.  I attempted to shoo him away but, looking forlorn, he circled the car and stared at me again.  I chose to drive down the road another fifty yards to take my pictures.  It was obvious to me that past visitors had fed him which now made him oblivious to the dangers of humans.  This is a huge no no for park visitors.  Never feed the animals because they become dependent on food from humans.  Also, you could feed them something that is harmful to them.

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As I exited the car, the sun’s orange blaze shined bright above the mountains as thunder rumbled in the distance.  Although Death Valley only receives 2-3 inches of rain per year, rain was a factor in my visit.  Rain did not materialize that evening but I was unable to reach certain areas of the park which were damaged by heavy floods just seven months earlier.

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The sand dunes of Mesquite Flats kick up tons of dust on a windy day.  Sand dances across the roads just like snow on a winter’s day. The picture above was taken near Badwater Basin which is North America’s lowest point at 282 feet below sea level.  Death Valley is a desolate place yet still holds its beauty.  A land of high highs and low lows. In a matter of minutes you can descend from 5000 feet in the mountains to below sea level.  Simply unlike anywhere else in North America. 

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Have you been to death Valley National Park?  What was your experience like?  What is your favorite part of the park and why?

For more information about Death Valley National Park, click the link below.