PN Joshua Tree, California, United States

The Arms stretched out to Heaven of the PN Joshua Tree

the entourage
Joshua's Shadows
Rivals of the Desert
Prickly Fruits
Tree of Life
From Sentinel II
in the sun
Via Dorada
Mojave on Fire
Skull Talk
Left of the Desert
Vegetable vs Stone
of sentry
Joshuas Forest
Plush Cactus Garden
Flare Teddy Bears
Joshua Juvenile
branches in the sun
Arriving in the extreme south of California, we are amazed by the countless Joshua trees that sprout from the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Like the Mormon settlers who named them, we cross and praise these inhospitable settings of the North American Far West.

The Coachella Valley fades away as the Twentynine Palms Highway ascends north and out of the great oasis.

The golf courses, the Art Deco houses, the palm trees and the forest of wind towers, the sophistication and wealth around Palm Springs give way to an empty vastness that almost only the asphalt and the vehicles that cross it attenuate.

The road curves eastwards, towards small towns that appear out of nowhere, Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree, both expanded in the shadow of the popularity that, over time, conquered the homonymous national park.

From the same nothing, the street becomes a commercial mall flanked by single-storey businesses or with a mere two floors, with the prefabricated profile characteristic of recent and modern urbanizations in the USA.

In Joshua Tree, the center of visitors of the park is added to him. We found it in the throng of outsiders eager to escape. During the holiday season adjacent to the Chinese New Year, many are Chinese Americans, Chinese visiting their families or simply discovering America.

Discovering PN Joshua Tree

We collect information, tips, brochures and maps. We all see them as privileges. Essential in a desert stronghold that, with the ongoing winter, in addition to being labyrinthine and arid, becomes deadly cold without warning.

From the visitor center, we head south of the village, along a Park Boulevard, towards the entrance and west station of the park, marked by barriers and small huts inhabited by the rangers of service.

From then on, we were left to common sense and the immensity of Joshua Tree National Park.

Josué's trees follow each other endlessly, in all shapes and sizes. Around monumental or whimsical rock formations that, for different reasons, concentrate most of the attention.

This is the case of The Sentinel, a yellowish granite pyramid 60 meters high, detached from the Real Hidden Valley, with faults and grooves that form different ascent routes.

Joshua Tree National Park and its Emblematic Granitic Formations

Year after year, thousands of climbers challenge it, determined to reach the peak.

Every year, some distraction or bad luck kills one or two applicants, a cruel price to pay for a radical enjoyment of the park that, in its origins, the authorities had not even foreseen.

Several other hyperbolic pebbles and rocky bollards give the tireless climbers something to do.

A few, with particularly peculiar shapes, attract visitors committed to enriching their photographic collection, their Instagrams and similar selfie showcases.

The ghostly Skull Rock has become one of those favorite spots. As the sun descends on the horizon, it defines the eye holes that, over the millennia, the rain has deepened in the rock, part of a strange erosive process of geological “caveirization”.

In our times, Joshua Tree National Park, Skull Rock, other “rocks” and their priceless Joshua trees are considered natural gems without equal. The absolute opposite of how they came to be seen during the long-lasting Conquest of the American West.

Captain Fremont and the “Vis Joshua Trees”

We find a good testimony of their depreciation in the writings of John C. Fremont, a captain who was part of the corps of topographical engineers of the United States army, considered one of the first white people to confront the species. yucca brevifolia.

Fremont and his company were exploring southern California when, in the words of the captain: “As we descended a ravine from which a spring was flowing, we were surprised by the sudden appearance of trees yucca, which gave the landscape a strange southern look, adapted to the dry and desert region we were approaching.

Associated with the idea of ​​barren sand, their stiff and inelegant form makes them, for the traveler, one of the most repulsive trees in the plant kingdom.”

Captain Fremont's text describes an event of April 14, 1844. By that time, not even the yucca brevifolia were known as Joshua Trees.

The Probably Mormon Genesis of the Term Joshua Tree

In a context that remains semi-legendary, this name was given shortly after by a group of Mormon settlers who ventured across the Mojave Desert.

Inspiration for baptism remains diffuse. It would have come from the contribution of the trees to their orientation through uncharted lands and/or the configuration of their leaves that looked like beards.

Or even the shape of the trunks opened towards the sky, which reminded Mormons of the biblical episode in which Moses raised his hands and thus enabled the triumph of the army of Israel, commanded by Joshua, over the Amalekite.

As yucca brevifolia they exist in other desert areas that the complex Hispanic and British colonial history, and the following one, of the United States in rivalry with Mexico, made Americans or Mexicans.

Further south, for example, along the neighboring Sonoran Desert, the Hispanic inhabitants call them izotes (of the desert), translatable by daggers of the desert.

Who had the misfortune of leaning against the leaves of a yucca brevifolia, understands the etymology better than anyone else.

Barker Dam's Thorny But Stunning Trail

It is one of the precautions with which we advance along the various trails we take on foot.

The Barker Dam which reveals the dam built in 1900 by CO Barker and other pioneer cattle ranchers.

And, along the circuit that surrounds it, a peculiar combination of rock formations with an assortment of Josué trees, cacti and eccentric and photogenic shrubs.

Despite the invasion of humans, on this trail, we come across curious coyotes and huge cottontail rabbits, even so, one of the favorite dishes of coyotes.

In the southern part of the trail, we can also appreciate petroglyphs that are believed to have been generated more than two millennia ago by the prehistoric inhabitants of these California confines.

If his pictographic art continues to deserve the admiration of visitors to the region, a contemporary creation has done more than any other for the notoriety of Joshua Tree and Joshua Tree National Park.

“The Joshua Tree” and U2's Musical and Photographic Tribute

We refer to the eponymous album by the Irish U2, released in 1987.

That year, more than a decade before the renowned Coachella Festival opened, the band dedicated several days to exploring the backdrops of the Coachella Valley, the Death Valley and others, south of Los Angeles, the city where he would film the video clip for the album's biggest hit "Where the Streets Have No Name".

For, contrary to what one might think, the solitary Joshua Tree that appears in the photographs that illustrate the album, is not located in the Joshua Tree PN.

It was the photographer and director Anton Corbijn who noticed it in the vicinity of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. Far from the roadside, the tree required an almost ten-minute walk for U2 and the photographer.

It provided the desolate Wild West imagery forever associated with the album and its songs.

Despite the remote location, hardcore U2 fans often find it and keep the place identified with writings made of stones and other tributes.

One or two still arrive at PN Joshua Tree to ask about the famous tree. They are quickly disillusioned.

U2 universe aside, Joshua Tree Park abounds with strange and far-fetched scenarios that deserve their own adulation.

We continue in such demand.

In a Garden of Dangerous Teddy Bear Cacti

Back at the start of the Barker Dam trail, with the solar day about to end, we detour to Wilson Canyon and to a section where the Colorado Desert merges with the Mojave Desert.

There, a slope fenced off by slopes turns out to be full of Cholla cactus (Cylindropuntia bigelovii), known in English as Teddy Bear due to its deceptively furry appearance.

We walked among the thousands of gleaming specimens, with twice as much care as Joshua Trees.

It is the park authorities themselves who flag them as “dangerous cacti, prohibit access to that Cactus Garden for pets and warn that they are prone to causing injuries.

It only takes a few minutes to sift around for us to have to remove some of its prickly and aggressive leaves, already clinging to the heel of our shoes and socks.

We noticed that the sun was spreading over the horizon.

Aware of how often the cloudy firmament colors the desert, we set off towards areas full of Josué trees.

We leave the car, expose ourselves to the freezing wind and the harshness of the Mojave. As expected, the sunset ignites and colors the clouds with an unusual intensity.

We scoured the Joshua Trees for appealing combinations.

Under a unique garish sky, we are dazzled by its vegetal spirituality.

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