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Joshua Tree

Who wants to walk around the desert in 90 degree heat?? US, that's who! We really wanted to see
Joshua Tree National Park and were staying close by in Palm Springs, so thought we would go check it out for a little bit. We figured we wouldn't stay too long since it was so hot! Much to our suprise, the desert was actually very cool and we needed a light jacket for most of the day. By nightfall it even got too cold for us to stay any longer! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

We started the day off at the Visitor Center where we picked up the Junior Ranger packets for the boys and looked at the interpretive information they had about the park. We were surprised to learn that the crazy, twisted, Dr. Seuss like trees that we had been seeing lining the road were in fact, the Joshua tree - a giant member of the lily family.  We discovered that the tough leaves of the tree were used by American Indians to make baskets and sandals. Legend has it that in the mid-19th century Mormon immigrants named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, when they saw the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward. Later, homesteaders arrived in the desert and used the tree's limbs and trunks for fencing and corrals for raising cattle. We also found it really cool to find that this tree does not have growth rings like other trees. The Visitor Center had a piece of the tree that we could feel and we found the inside to be sponge-like in constrast to other typical trees. It was a very informative center and we would defintiely recommend stopping by before you start hiking through the park!

After absorbing as much info as we could at the Visitor Center we were ready to venture out into the park to do some serious hiking! We drove out to the Arch Rock Trail to participate in a ranger guided hike. Driving through the park, the scenery wasn't much to look at as there were huge piles of rock and dirt scattered across the scraggly desert floor. It was dry and arid and didn't look like the hike was going to be too intriguing. However, once we got to the trailhead we were pleasantly surprised. There were gigantic rocks that looked like they were just thrown into a pile in the middle of the desert. We started down the trail and were suddenly captivated by the beauty of the area. The sun was shining and casting amazing shadows all over the place. The rocks had naturally made trails that carened in and out of the desert floor. The ranger showed no mercy and had us climbing, down, around, over and even under some very narrow rock passages. Then out of nowhere he showed as a rock arch bridge that had formed naturally through hundreds of years of wind and weather. It was a breathtaking sight. The ranger took us further along the trail and gave us alot of great history of the desert and the animals that live in it. He explained the rock formations in great detail and had us all mesmerized by the beauty of the area. We were fortunate to run into a group of Cub Scouts from Lakewood, CA, that were camping in the park. The boys loved having someone else to climb on the rocks with. They ran up and down big rocks together, seeing who could get the highest. It was alot of fun and we appreciate the hospitality of the Scouts from Lakewood for making our day so special. 
                                          Thanks Cub Scout Pack 75 - You Guys ROCK!

At the end of our hike the ranger stopped and asked us if we knew where we were. Everyone tried to guess and then he told us to climb to the top of a giant rock, only to see the parking lot on the other side. It was pretty funny! A few scrapes and prickly thorn scratches later, we had safely navigated our way out of the desert.  After that we went in search of Skull Rock, a rock formation that is supposedly shaped like a skull. It started getting dark quickly and as the rocks lost the heat of the daytime sun, the desert started to rapidly cool down. We all started getting a little fearful of coyotes, so decided to turn back down the trail to the safety of our waiting car!   On the way back to the Visitor Center to turn in our Junior Ranger materials, we spotted a HUGE TARANTULA trying to cross the road. We stopped the car and Dylan grabbed a stick to help escort the gigantic spider to the safety of the side of the road. As we know the spiders are venomous, Dylan practiced his Scouting Skills and safely managed the spider. We were quite proud of his bravery and the desire to save the spider instead of kill it! He even managed to stop a few oncoming cars until he could get the tarantula off the road. Dylan is definitely Junior Ranger material!  Back at the Visitor Center the boys were sworn in and received their offical Joshua Tree National Park Ranger Badge.  We then made our way out to the Ampitheatre for the evening Ranger program and a cookout under the stars. The night sky quickly appeared and there were so many stars out we felt like we were in a planetarium! It was so crystal clear that we could even see the Milky Way Galaxy!! After a long day of hiking we decided it was time to call it a day. As we headed back out of the park we saw several foxes and the boys found it hilarious to watch the desert kangaroo rats play "Frogger" on the dark road. It was a great day at Joshua Tree National Park! We can't wait to go back there and camp under the huge rocks and beautiful night sky!  

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