Springtime at Joshua Tree National Park

Written by Sven Eberlein

As National Park Week is coming to an end, I thought I’d share some of the photos I took last week during a visit to Joshua Tree National Park.

In light of Congress’ Anti-Parks Caucus dedicated to the incomprehensible task of wrecking our park system I think it’s more important than ever to give visual presentations of the great natural life and beauty that still exists all across this country, thanks in large part to the history of the National Parks system.

As if that weren’t enough, on August 25, 2016 the National Park Service turns 100, so even more reason to celebrate. Here’s to another 100, but preferably a million.


I hadn’t been down there in about twenty years, but when our dear friend John asked his peoples if we wanted to celebrate his 50th birthday with him in the desert, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse.

So we dug out our old tent and sleeping pads from the back of our closet and sojourned down to Southern California, desert on our minds.

John had booked a group campsite on the Southern and less popular Cottonwood side of the park, and when we rolled in on a late afternoon we instantly felt like we had arrived. Our campsite consisted of a view shaded picnic areas, around which we all set up our tents. Deb and I immediately climbed up the hill to document our home for the next two days. If you look closely, you can spot us in the picture.


It became clear right away that this place was pretty lively…


and that we were just a tiny fraction of inhabitants…


After a beautiful first night under the great desert sky and in the kind of silence that almost knocked my city dweller self off my feet when I got up to pee, a bunch of us piled into three cars the next morning and headed north.


Along Pinto Basin Road we stopped to check out the ocotillos.


John’s sister in law studies herbal medicine and she was telling us about some of the ocotillo’s (Fouquieria splendens) healing powers, including for lymphatic and venous congestions of the pelvic area. But some of us were also drawn in by the desert sage.


Of course, what’s a desert without cacti? (Hello Moon!)


They really come in all shapes and forms, and some of them have a foot-like feel to them, though I would strongly advise against stepping on one.


Our first hiking destination was Hidden Valley, where I saw my first Joshua Tree.


If you’ve never been into rocks, this is the place where resistance is futile.


They remind us just how small we really are…


while also providing great comfort for a lunch break.


They bring out the ape in us…


and not to forget, they make for fantastic shelters as well as inspirations for joy.


After our morning hike, we spent the later half of the day way up top at Keys Point, where we got to enjoy an expansive view of the Coachella Valley…


and celebrate the incredible lightness of being…


before descending again for some more Joshua Tree explorations.


By the way, did you know that the iconic Joshua tree’s botanical name is Yucca brevifolia and that it was named by Mormon settlers? Crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century, the tree’s unique shape reminded them of a biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.

Well, I can definitely see how they would have reached that kind of conclusion, as we humans are known for seeing what we want to see…


It was time for some musical processing back at our camp.


The following morning, Deb and I split off from the group to do some more microcosmic exploring. We went back up Pinto Basin Road and stopped to hike down into a particularly luscious looking desert cove. The vegetation really takes on a whole different sheen when you let it sink in for a while.


Not to mention all the wildflowers…


Next we stopped at the Cholla cactus garden, which I think may have been our favorite stop.


There’s just something so surreal yet comfortable about the Chollas that you just want to bathe in them…


metaphorically speaking, that is…


Our next stop was at Skull Rock. Skull Rock itself is pretty neat and exactly what you’d think it is: a rock that looks like a skull. Since that’s where all the people were, Deb and I decided to take the trail on the opposite side of the road, and lo and behold, the trail led us through a landscape of magnificent rocks with nary a soul in sight.


I really loved the simplicity of this one…


and the softness of this one…




Deb was going for the lizard perspective, as she’s wont to do…


You really have to look sometimes to see…




We finished our day at Split Rock, which looks like, well…


The rock itself is worth the trip, but the general area really rocked my world. I was going for the panoramic view on my phone camera but I couldn’t get all of it in there. You get the idea though…


This would have made for an amazing afternoon napping spot…


but unfortunately we were scheduled to be in Palm Springs that evening, which ended up being a wonderfully windy affair…

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Sven Eberlein

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