Sunday, February 7, 2010

Looking Forward and Backward at Joshua Tree National Park

With the recent heavy rains, our deserts should be gearing up for a phantasmagorical wildflower fest. Desert USA's wildflower reports is now up and running, but it will probably be a couple more weeks before photos of the emergent blooms at JTNP start posting:

Theodore Payne's wildflower hotline will be ready for prime time on March 5th:

Our first ever trip to Joshua Tree NP was on April 13, 1997. I had packed a picnic lunch, replete with the requisite city slicker combo of wine, cheese, pasta salad and checkered table cloth, for a day trip to a galaxy far, far away from our usual haunts. We drove up from the south end of the park and somehow ended up in the group picnic area at Cottonwood Spring. There were no group picnickers in sight, so we didn't think it would be a "problem" if we set up shop there. But just in case the "group picnic area police" happened to stop by, we were prepared to argue our case, that two does actually constitute a group...

4/13/1997 Gil, a happy camper at Cottonwood Spring's group picnic area.

A couple glasses of wine later and after watching a black crested bird with flashes of white on his wing, fly lazily but incessantly, back and forth, back and forth overhead and from tree to tree for almost an hour (I later ID'd this fellow as a Phainopepla or Silky Flycatcher), I had my great epiphany about the desert. I felt like I had just landed on my home planet after years of wayward drift. 

4/13/1997 Hike from Cottonwood Spring to Mastodon Peak

4/13/1997 I dubbed this formation "Spud Rock." It looked like a halved baked potato of the gods to me. Trail to Mastodon Peak.

The rest is history. Over the intervening years, we've done our fair share of camping and hiking throughout the park and other desert destinations. And while I wait with baited breath for the upcoming wildflower show, here's a look back at the past:

3/13/05 Purplemat (Nama demissum)

3/13/05 Brandegea (Brandegea bigelovii)

9/20/03 Chinchweed (Pectis papposa). View from campsite #6B, Jumbo Rocks

3/13/05 Spectacle Pod (Dithyrea californica). Cottonwood Road.

3/21/04 Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris). Bajada All-Access Nature Trail.

9/21/03 Fringed Amaranth (Amaranthus fimbriatus). Campsite #6B, Jumbo Rocks

3/13/05 Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa)

3/13/05 Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

3/13/05 Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose (Camissonia claviformis). Cottonwood Road.

4/4/04 Tiny Checkerspot (Dymasia dymas) on Chuparosa

3/21/04 Desert Star (Monoptilon bellioides). Bajada All-Access Nature Trail.


  1. I love your wildflower photos. I am hoping for a good show this year with all the rain we have been receiving. Joshua trees are just fascinating - we drove the Arizona Joshua tree forest and they are absolutely amazing.

  2. Hello,

    If you would like to contribute to the Theodore Payne Foundation's Wildflower Hotline please send your wildflower reports to by Wednesdays or Thrusdays (by 1pm) for inclusion in the weekly Friday postings.

    -Marie Massa

  3. Thanks, Marie - appreciate the info!