A short 45 minute drive to Joshua Tree, CA left me time to enjoy the $4.99 Breakfast Special at the Joshua Tree Saloon before meeting up with my hiking companions at the Joshua Tree National Park Visitors Center. In the parking lot I met Tim, our hike leader, Tom and Ann. The fifth member of our group, Howard, was waiting for us at the entrance to the park so we piled into Tim’s RV and headed off to pick him up.
A few miles into the park we parked in a roadside pullout for the start the day’s hike. Today we would be venturing along the Maze and Window trails.
After a short walk along the Maze Trail, Tim led us off the path a bit to show us an ancient patch of Creosote bush. I previously wrote in this blog about the unique adaptations of creosote to survive in the desert and the fact that they propagate by cloning. The the original plant in the circular patch that Tim showed us was likely well over a thousand years old.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
As we continued down the path, Tom turned out to be a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge about the plants and animals in the desert. As we made our way along the Maze Trail, and then along the Window Trail, he pointed out buckwheat, chia, juniper, catclaw acacia with holly growing in it, yucca, pinyon trees, and countless other plants which unfortunately were too numerous for me to remember without taking notes. And of course, as we were in the Mojave desert, the Joshua Trees were ever-present.
About two thirds of the way through our 6 mile hike, Tim led us off the trail a bit to a rocky area for our lunch break. Following lunch, as we continued our hike, we saw several Phainopepla, the one-note bird which is one of the few animals that will eat the poisonous holly berries. Unfortunately they were too distant to get photos.
Off in the distance, to the west, we caught frequent views of the snow-covered peak of San Gorgonio mountain that seemed to be a stark contrast to the desert around us.
All too soon we could see the highway coming into view and a short time later we loaded back into Tim’s TV for the return trip to the Joshua Tree Visitors Center. It had truly been another wonderful day in this incredible park.