Sunday, November 20, 2016

Joshua Tree, Part 2: Flora and Fauna


In addition to all the breathtaking rock formations that make Joshua Tree National Park unique, there are also the park’s namesake trees. Although I know any tree is unique, where I live many trees look similar enough that one would be very difficult to distinguish from another. Each Joshua tree, however, really is distinctive, growing with a strange and beautiful pattern of branches with bristles of short, palm-like fronds on the ends. Unlike trees in dense, dark forests that keep sunlight from reaching the ground, the sparse branches on these relatively short trees allow plenty of the desert’s scorching sun through. If you think of trees offering shade, you won’t find it in the Mojave!

Another remarkable type of vegetation we saw was the Cholla (also known as jumping cactus). With plenty of alarming signs warning us of the dangers, we treaded carefully through the Cholla Cactus Garden. The sharp, pointy spikes covering the Cholla have barbs like fish hooks, so once they get into your clothes or skin, they are very difficult to remove. A small piece got stuck to Greg’s shoe, and he had to do a little jig in the parking lot to get it off!

11/15/16 roadrunner
Unfortunately, we didn’t see nearly as much wildlife as I had hoped. I saw a small lizard, a coyote and some large ravens; Greg saw a jack rabbit, too. The most wildlife fun we had was when we spotted a relatively friendly roadrunner in the park visitors center’s parking lot. Familiar to the center’s staff, this particular roadrunner had occasionally wandered indoors and was apparently used to being around humans. I followed him quietly around the parking lot, sketching as I went.

11/17/16 Pee Wee's dinosaur!
Leaving this remarkable national park, we had one more stop to make before heading home: Cabazon, Calif. What could possibly be the attraction in this town just off the I-10? Pee Wee Herman’s dinosaurs!

 Actually part of a creationist museum, the dinosaurs appeared in the 1985 movie, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” Like all the other tourists who made the same stop to take selfies, we pulled into the parking lot and took our own.

11/15/16 Cholla cactus

11/14/16 small Joshua trees

Joshua tree


Jumping cactus tenaciously stuck to Greg's shoe!


  1. I is so strange that places have such unusual plantlike that isn't found elsewhere. Looks like you had such a fun visit!

  2. Yeah, those cholla are insidious! Great photo of the roadrunner.

  3. Very nice; glad I discovered your blog. Planning a sketching trip to Joshua Tree before the weather gets too warm. New to pen/ink/watercolor, so your images are very inspiring.

    1. Have a great time in Joshua Tree, Steve! It is a truly amazing landscape.


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