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In the heat of August, the last thing on your mind may be the prospect of visiting a desert. It is probably hot enough where you are now to satisfy your heat desires. But, with the air conditioning running, give it a thought. Now is the time to plan a trip later in the year if you want to see the Great American Deserts when the temperatures are cooler.
California's Joshua Tree National Park is beautiful with a desert countryside that is surprisingly full of life, including the a tree that looks like something Dr. Seuss dreamed up and landscapes that will look familiar to any Star Trek fan. The surprising Joshua Tree, so named by Morman settlers, is abundant in Park.
The tree is actually a yucca plant, whose spreading branches are said to have reminded Morman settlers of the biblical figure Joshua with outstretched arms. They are most abundant in the Mojave Desert part of the Park but you can find them in the Colorado Desert ecosystem as well.
This latter desert also supports the Cholla (or teddy bear) Cactus. A large bed of them can be found at the Cholla Cactus Garden feature of the Park. This specimen supports a cactus wren nest.
It is a fun place to catch a sunrise. The colors of sunset seem to infuse the cactus needles with color, making the cacti glow.
If you fly into Palm Springs and out of Las Vegas, you can combine two national parks into one visit. From Joshua Tree you can drive, through miles of desert, to Death Valley National Park with the lowest elevation and the most unforgiving heat in North America.
As the images in this post from a recent November trip show (above a perfect location for a Star Trek episode in Joshua Tree NP), late fall can be a perfect time to visit the Southwestern Deserts. We took a week and visited both parks. Cold evenings, cool mornings and temperate afternoons with days long enough to see the sights make this a great time to see this unique part of the United States. The dark skies, with minimal light pollution, also made it a good time for viewing the night sky.
Great weather for hiking with light crowds and a quirky family-owned inn to stay in with great food and nightly entertainment made Joshua Tree a great place to spend some time in November.
We will return. But for now, it is on to Death Valley National Park on the eastern border of California, just a few miles from Las Vegas. For us, the drive is a chance to catch up with the others on our tour. There were just seven of us but, as is often the case when you travel with Off the Beaten Path, there were some interesting stories in the van and some shared memories to revisit.
Next week we will talk about prepping for a visit to Kenya and a safari in the African wilderness. All photos and text are copyright Clinton Richardson. If you like these posts, please tell your friends about the Venture Moola blog at Readjanus.com. For more pictures of the California Desert see the Gallery of the same name in the American West Collection of TrekPic.com.
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The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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