Saturday, October 30, 2010

Joshua Trees and Rock Piles

As we headed north on Highway 79 out of Hemet (CA), the road continued to ascend and the clouds seem to descend at equal rates.

Soon the hills of Lamb Canyon met the clouds and we drove to Beaumont in thick fog.

We began to wonder if this was the best day to travel to Joshua Tree National Park.

Even after we joined I-10 and headed east, the fog followed us for several miles. As we neared Highway 62, the fog lifted and we could see the rolling hills of the San Jacinto Valley.

This was just the most recent wind farm that we have seen in California. We know that many view these wind farms as unattrac-tive, but we see the kaleidoscopic quality of a multitude of wind turbines as contributing to the beauty of the hillsides.

We entered the Park at the West Entrance about five miles south of the town of Joshua Tree. The western half of the park, at eleva-tions above 3,000 feet, is Mojave Desert habitat.

From the Park's brochure: "What tells you that you are truly in the Mojave Desert is the 'wild-armed' Joshua tree."

The Joshua Tree was so named by early Mormons, who thought the trees looked like the prophet Joshua summoning his followers.

Then we learn that the Tree isn't really a tree but a species of yucca.

Joshua trees can grow over 40 feet tall--at the barely noticeable rate of an inch a year.

The photo on the left shows the main features of the Park--the Joshua Tree, the rock piles (the Park's other prominent image), and the muted color of the desert's plants.

The mountains of the Park appear to be piles of rock that are the result of 90 million years of erosion.

Geologists believe that a type of granite rock, called monzogranite, developed a system of rectangular joints. One set of joints was oriented horizontally; another set oriented vertically; and a third set vertically.

Ground water percolated down through these joint fractures, loosening and freeing grains in these joints.

Over millenia, these fractures widened forming rectangles, and as the rectangular forms developed rounded forms, in some instances, spheres were formed.

The remaining photos were taken at some of the turnouts in the early part of our time in the Park.

They contain scenes of some smaller rock piles, and some of the color of the fall desert. When looking at the desert on a large scale, the color and form of the desert may appear relatively uniform.

When looking into the crevices of the rocks or viewing the vegetation gathered around the bases of rocks, the colors of the desert quickly become visible.

We consider these bursts of color--even though muted--to be the gems of the desert.

We took a break from our drive through the Park for lunch at one of the several picnic tables.

Tomorrow a hike into Hidden Valley.

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