Joshua Tree National Park with Zeb, Soapy Smith and JB Duck

In the desert of southeast California, we entered Joshua Tree National Park.

We are entering Joshua Tree National Park

We are entering Joshua Tree National Park

As you know, this is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, so we are visiting some national parks this year.    The desert has so many types of vegetation and pretty cactus.

A silver color desert plant

A silver needled desert plant

This silver one caught our attention.   The western part of Joshua Tree National Park is in the Mojave Desert.   This desert is more than 3,000 feet above sea level.    This is a Joshua Tree.

We are in front of the Joshua Tree

We are in front of the Joshua Tree

Joshua trees are really a species of yucca plant and are a symbol of the Mojave Desert.   The waxy, spiny leaves expose little surface area, efficiently conserving moisture.   Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet tall–at the leisurely rate of an inch a year.   Our Joshua Tree has flowers.

Joshua Tree Blossom

Joshua Tree Blossom

Joshua Trees bloom February through April.   The flower is pollinated only by the Joshua moth, and branching occurs after flowering.   These trees are not scarce in Joshua Tree National Park, nor in the Mojave Desert.

Many Joshua trees

Many Joshua trees

They are referred to as the Tree of Life, similar to the Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert.   The rock formations here are great also.   This is Skull Rock.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock

You know how it received that name.   The rocks were formed by underground volcanic activity eons ago and have evolved to todays rock formations.

Formed from underground volcanic activity

Formed from underground volcanic activity

We love them.   The eastern part of Joshua Tree National Park is in the Colorado Desert.   This desert is less than 3,000 above sea level.   The Colorado Desert is a lower, hotter and drier desert than the Mojave Desert.   The Colorado Desert is a sub division of the Sonoran Desert.   Of course there are no boundaries between the deserts, just a subtle, gradual change and the appearance of lower creosote bushes.

Creosote bushes

Creosote bushes

There are many Cholla Cactus here.

The Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus Garden

This fenced area is called the Cholla Cactus Garden.   Let’s go explore.

Let's go see the cactus garden

Let’s go see the cactus garden

The signs say not to touch the cactus, or even get too close.   The needles cause pain–going in and coming out of your body.   Here is new growth on the cactus.

New growth on the cholla cactus

New growth on the cholla cactus

When the needles turn brown and fall off, the remaining cactus arm resembles woven, hollow stalks.

The arms look hollow without needles

The arms look hollow without needles

Even though this is a sub division of the Sonoran Desert, the large cactus do not appear.   We did like this desert plant with the huge flowering blossom.

Desert plants blooming in March

Desert plants blooming in March

The desert is just so full of different vegetation and so many surprises.   We hope you visit Joshua Tree National Park, or some national parks in this, the Centennial year, of the National Park Service.

The Colorado Traveling Ducks Visit the Mojave Desert

We are driving into the Mojave Desert.

Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve

Looking around, there is not much vegetation, dry mountains around us, and 57 minutes with no other humans in sight.

Low vegetation in the desert

Low vegetation in the desert

These are Joshua Trees, also known as yucca palms.

Joshua Trees

Joshua Trees

There is a national park featuring Joshua Trees.   Very tall mountains add to the feeling of isolation.

Tall mountains add to isolation

Tall mountains add to isolation

A town on the horizon.   This is Kelso Depot and Visitor’s Center.

Kelso Depot and Visitor's Center

Kelso Depot and Visitor’s Center

The visitor’s center is not open yet this morning, so we just look.   From the mid 1940s until 1985 this was the jail for Kelso.

Kelso Jail with Soapy

Kelso Jail with Soapy

A 2 cell, strap-steel jail to confine drunks and other unruly individuals for a night or two.   The jail was originally west of Kelso Depot on the far side of Kelbaker Road.   That rascal, Soapy Smith Duck, better be careful…he may have to stay in jail in Kelso, California.   Kelso Dunes are the largest field of eolian sand deposits in the Mojave Desert.   They cover 45 sq. miles and reach heights of  600 feet.   Humans can walk to the dunes and climb to the top.  The dunes were formed 25,000 years ago.

A path to the Kelso Dunes

A path to the Kelso Dunes

Well, mom, let’s go.

Let's walk to the Dunes

Let’s walk to the Dunes

OK Ducks.   Let’s walk a little way in the sand, but not to the top of the dunes today.   Leaving Kelso Dunes, we pose for a photo with these wildflowers.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Remember, wild flowers in the desert were the reason for this road trip.   We are out of the Mojave National Preserve, but still in the Mojave Desert.   We like these trees with the bright orange.

We like the orange here

We like the orange here

We are not sure, but we think the lower plants turn orange when they die, and blew into the tree.   But it is pretty.   The Mojave Desert does have vegetation, but not very tall.

Mojave Desert. Rather barren

Mojave Desert. Rather barren

We like the harsh look of the desert.