my most recent adventure to joshua tree national park this past weekend was short, but sweet. i have been to palm springs, desert hot springs, and coachella, but never to the park. the town itself of joshua tree is as small as can be, but with a few charming shops,cafes, and a health food store. you can’t be in the desert without a health food store.
since, we had the doggies with us we couldn’t hike anywhere past 100 yards from a stop off. so, it was a scenic route in the car stopping off for photos. the place looks another planet… or something like the flintstones. i love the mountains,i love nature in general, but the desert has my heart. it has always thrusted an immediate peace over my body and mind. i feel such a powerful spiritual prescence and yet a feeling of total isolation. there are few trees or mountains to hide behind, everything is out in the open, exposed to the sun and the sky. it feels safe to me, but then again i am generally an open book. the desert isn’t for everyone. some don’t like the heat, the dry air, the creepy bugs and critters…but this is all part of the beauty. you just have to search for it a bit more.
i am a nerd for geology, geography, and information. i find it fascinating the way the earth creates her own beauty through time and transformation. read the excerpt below for info on the park.
“The desert is immense and infinitely variable, yet delicate and fragile. It is a land shaped by sudden torrents of rain and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and water holes are few. This land may appear lifeless, but within its parched environment are intricate living systems, each fragment performing a slightly different function and each fragment depending upon the whole system for survival.
Two deserts, two large ecosystems whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation, come together at Joshua Tree National Park. Few areas more vividly illustrate the contrast between high and low desert. Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert, occupying the eastern half of the park, is dominated by the abundant creosote bush. Adding interest to this arid land are small strands of spidery ocotillo and jumping cholla cactus. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the undisciplined-looking Joshua tree, extensive strands of which occur throughout the western half of the park. Standing like islands in a desolate sea, the oases provide dramatic contrast to their arid surroundings. Five fan palm oases dot the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally at or near the surface to meet the life requirements of these stately trees. Oases once serving earlier desert visitors now abound in wildlife.
The park encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in the California’s deserts. Exposed granite monoliths and rugged mountains of twisted rock testify to the power of the earth forces that shaped this land. Washes, playas, alluvial fans, interact to form a giant desert mosaic of immense beauty and complexity.
The geologic landscape of Joshua Tree has long fascinated visitors to this desert. Geologists believe the face of this modern landscape was born more that a million years ago. Molten liquid heated by the continuous movement of earth’s crust, oozed upward and cooled while still below the surface. These plutonic intrusions are a grantic rock called monzogranite.
The monzogranite developed a systems of rectangular joints. One set, oriented roughly horizontally, resulted from the removal, by erosion, of the miles of overlaying rock, called gniess (pronounced “nice”). Another set of joints is oriented vertically, roughly paralleling the contact of the monzogranite with its surrounding rocks. The third set is also vertical but cuts the second set at high angles. The resulting system of joints tend to develope rectangular blocks. Good examples of the joint rock system may be seen at Jumbo Rocks, Wonderland of Rocks and Split Rock.
As ground water percolated down through the monzogranite’s joint fractures, it began to transform some hard mineral grains along the path into soft clay, while it loosened and freed grains resistant to solution. Rectangular stones slowly weathered to spheres of hard rock surrounded by soft clay containing loose mineral grains. Imagine holding an ice cube under the faucet. The cube rounds away under the corners first, because that is the part most exposed to the force of the water. A similar thing happened here but over millions of years, on a grand scale, and during a much wetter climate.
After the arrival of the arid climate of recent times, flash floods began washing away protective ground surface. As they were exposed, the hugh eroded boulders settled one on the top of another creating impressive piles of rock that can be seen today.
The “broken terrace walls” laced throughout the bulders are naturally occurring formations called dikes. Younger than the monzogranite, dikes were formed when molten rock was pushed into existing joint fractures. Light colored aplite, pegmarite and andesite dikes formed as a mixture of quartz and potassium minerals cooled in these tight places. Suggesting the work of a stonemason, they broke into blocks when they were exposed to the surface.
Of the dynamic processes that erode rock material, water, even in arid environments, is the most important. Wind action is also important, but the long range effects of wind are small compared to the action of water.
The erosional and weathering processes of the present are only particially responsible for the spectacular sculpturing of the rocks. The present landscape is essentially a collection of relict features inherited from earlier times of higher rainfall and lower temperatures.” – sourced here