Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Break in the Desert - Day 2

Day 1 we drove down to Big Bear. Now Day 2 we drive on further south to Joshua Tree National Park. And lets just start off with yes, I broke one of the cardinal sins of photography and photographed in the middle of the day and in glaring, bright desert light no less. Yes, the photos lack any subtle color. Oh well. Family vacations aren't conducive to getting up in the pre-dawn dark so that one can photograph the desert as the light gently illuminates the rugged terrain. Plus, I'd rather sleep in anyway.

rock megalopolis

We recently went to Rock City on Mount Diablo. Well, if that was Rock City, Joshua Tree National Park is Rock Megalopolis. And again it was an irresistible playscape for the Kid. A playscape with uneven surfaces, steep drops and lots of sharp poky things to fall into! Great!

desert junglegymtunnelsyucca schindigerabeavertail cactus

There were (of course) plenty of Joshue trees, Yucca brevifolia as well as Nolina parryi.

yucca brevifolia sundailyucca brevifolia flowersnolina parryi budnolina parryi skeleton

And while viewing the landscape from afar, I couldn't see much variety in the plants, but there were many interesting things to stumble upon once you were out in it. Lotus rigidus on wiry stems; some kind of Lomatium with delicious black buds; Echinocereus triglochidiatus, a plant we've had in a pot for several years at Annie's, putting up with our Richmond weather; and Castilleja angustifolia, such a lovely red skeletal plant.

lotus rigiduslomatiumechinocereus triglochidiatuscastilleja angustifolia

But all the rocks make for great habitats if one can deal with the harsh conditions.

cliff and tree

This cactus astounded me. Where exactly do the roots go?

horse crippler

And this fatty-bo-batty enjoying his sunny front porch. He was about a foot long and not scared at all of the Kid's intense and animated inspection. He was out of arm's reach but quite close.


There were many of these cocoons of writhing fuzzy blue and brown caterpillars. I really wanted to know what they would become but I forgot to ask the ranger when we were at the visitor's center. Lots of charming little Eriogonums; lovely twisted trees; and some kind of pretty, russet-colored parasitic mistletoe.

cocoonsunknown eriogonumcorkscrew pinemistletoe

My favorite wildflower was Amsonia tomentosa. I smelled it before I saw it. The sweet heliotrope-like fragrance was very strong. Interestingly, A. tomentosa has two varieties -one gray leaved, one green. I saw both growing within 50 feet of each other, kind of odd. Both smelled great. I liked the gray foliage more but the green one had larger flower clusters.

amsonia tomentosa greyamsonia tomentosa green

We checked out Barker Dam. The amount of water was quite impressive and odd looking against the dry rock hills. Hard to imagine there is even that much water in the park to capture.

desert lake

water plants

The dam was very handmade looking. Below the dam was an oval structure that I couldn't figure out what it was used for. But I like the way it looked in the landscape.

barker dambelow the dam

Around the corner we checked out some petroglyphs. I was surprised at how bright they were until we read a sign that said a vandal had repainted over the petroglyphs I guess in their attempt to make them "better". How do people get dumb ideas like that in their heads?


On the way out we passed a regionally appropriate landscaped front yard that I thought was pretty cute. Love the wheelbarrow and the hay bale benches.

appropriate landscaping

I was surprised to see that some people still have lawn even out in the desert. I really think California should pass a law banning lawns from the desert. Although, I guess someone could make the case that lawns should therefore be banned in all of California. And I'm afraid I would be guilty of lawn ownership (albeit a tiny lawn) if that were the case.


  1. Thanks for sharing your vacation pics. This sort of landscape is so far from what I know, the diversity is impressive and unexpected. What a shame about the petroglyphs, there should be a special corner of hell for people who do this sort of thing.

  2. I live in the Santa Cruz mountains, and have a small lawn dating from 30 years ago when we built the house. I'd get rid of it, but can't figure out how else to get that smooth flat green plane, which the house and garden design needs. As to petroglyphs...we saw some in Baja that had horrible graffiti added. Hard to understand.

  3. Yes, unfortunately we've been adding to our lawn square footage as our kid gets older. I'm trying out some new "low-water" lawn seed soon. I'll post a blog about it.
    I was trying to picture what the petroglyph artist's contemporaries might have thought about the drawings. Wondering if maybe they might have thought-Who put that darn graffiti on that beautiful rock! :)


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