Wildflower hunts in the Southern California Desert are an annual rite of spring. We decided to check in with Mother Nature’s designs at Joshua Tree National Park last weekend. While the flowers were not plentiful due to a lack of rain, the ones we found were beautiful and we ran into an interesting resident of the park along the way. To give a sense of the history of the park, the following is an exerpt from the guide, you can get at the Visitors Center, a must stop to learn about everything you will need to explore this wonder of nature.
Humans have occupied the area encompassed by Joshua Tree National Park’s nearly 800,000 acres for at least 5,000 years. The first group known to inhabit the area was the Pinto Culture, followed by the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla.In the 1800s cattlemen drove their cows into the area for the ample grass available at the time and built water impoundments for them.Miners dug tunnels through the earth looking for gold and made tracks across the desert with their trucks. Homesteaders began filing claims in the 1900s. They built cabins, dug wells, and planted crops
Each group left its mark upon the land and contributed to the rich cultural history of Joshua Tree National Park. The park protects 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, 19 cultural landscapes, and houses 123,253 items in its museum collections.After the area became a national monument in 1936, local and regional residents were the primary park visitors. As Southern California grew so did park visitation; Joshua Tree now lies within a three-hour drive of more than 18 million people. Since Joshua Tree was elevated from national monument to national park status in 1994 however, greater numbers of visitors from around the nation and the world come to experience Joshua Tree National Park. – Joshua Tree National Park Guide
Joshua Tree gets it’s name from the many many Joshua Trees seen throughout the park. Like most denizens of the Desert, its leaves leave little surface area to exposure thus conserving the moisture within. They grow an inch a year and can reach heights of 40 feet tall.
There are interesting rock formations throughout the park and it is a popular rock climbing destination. The rocks began underground eons ago and were boosted to the surface by volcanic activity. One of the interesting formations is called Skull Rock.
Key’s View is at an elevation of 5,185 feet and commands a stunning view of the valley below. You can see from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea. What was of interest to me was the view of the San Andreas Fault lying out in the middle of the view. This is the fault that is most feared by Southern Californians when they talk about the “big one.” This is where two tectonic plates touch, the North American and Pacific. When they move, it can cause a huge earthquake. As I stood looking down, I got chills looking at the vastness of it.
While standing there, we had a resident slithering past, a baby red diamond rattlesnake. Everyone wanted to get a picture. When a boy got a giant stick and lifted it up to put out of the walkway, I ran like H E double hockey sticks! Scared me half to death!