Desert Grace in Joshua Tree National Park (November-December 2016)

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First Impression of Joshua Tree National ParkJoshua Tree National Park - photography by Jenny SW Lee

After startling wildlife encounters with a coyote and kangaroo rat upon leaving Death Valley and driving for nearly four hours under a canopy of stars, we finally arrived at the home of Joshua trees in the Mohave Desert. The Joshua Tree National Park was a step up in community development from Death Valley. Our first morning there began with attending a park ranger talk at the Visitor Center. We never spotted any road runners as was said to be a common sighting in the region. As we entered the park, we were greeted by graceful Joshua trees that appeared to be shaped as fans at the top. I can see why the Mormon settlers derived the name from the Biblical context, when Joshua’s hands were raised in prayer. Such unusual looking trees, but the landscape reminded me of the 1956 film, The Ten Commandments, in the scene when Moses was cast away in the desert and he finds the life-giving palm tree.Joshua Tree National Park - photography by Jenny SW Lee

Touring & Hiking the Park

The drive around the park especially during sunrise and sunset was tranquil and sublime. What a contrast to Las Vegas where we spent the earlier part of our trip. The park was clean and well organized with clear signage and ample shoulder parking along the road. We practically stopped at every few meters to take in the beauty of the view from outside the car. Luckily, there were hardly any vehicles around, especially during sunrise, so we were able to take our leisure time to explore the area. The variety of vegetation here is remarkable, particularly in how they all have their own survival mechanisms in the desert. As we learned from the park ranger, Joshua trees with no branches is an indication that they have never bloomed. We found these trees to be in all different sizes. There are areas of greater density of trees than others throughout the park.Joshua Tree National Park - photography by Jenny SW Lee

We enjoyed the hiking trails and often saw mountain climbers making their way around the boulders. Each interpretive trail was superb and well kept. Hidden Valley and Barker Dam were loop trails with stunning views. Barker Dam had Native American cave drawings or petroglyphs. Among our favorite spots were also Keys View and Cholla Cactus Garden. A comfortable place for lunch among piles of oddly shaped boulders is Skull Rock.

Where the Streets Have No Name

Upon exiting the National Park on our last day, we discovered how bonded we became to this Joshua tree family. It was difficult to say goodbye to this magical land. Turning our heads to look behind a last time in gratitude, we could see from the distance our beloved family of Joshua trees, with their arms raised as if waving and full of grace. As implied in U2’s song, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, we felt at a place of unity.

Follow Jenny S.W. Lee:

Greater Boston, Seattle and Vancouver (BC) based artist & photographer exhibiting internationally.

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