Posts Tagged With: Cholla


Yesterday, we drove a 21 mile established park route with 18 designated stops. The preservation is based on the organ pipe cactus above, which is said to play an eerie sound like an organ when the wind whistles over the spines. This area es estimated to be 10,000 years old, a young desert, and specimens are young here as well.

Saguaros dominate the landscape. It is estimated by scientists that a saguaro only begins to make arms when it reaches 65 years. They live 150 to 200 years and can weigh 50 tons.

A  “green” desert, it  is just beginning to bloom with desert marigolds and poppies, but the ground is full of young lupine that will put on a gorgeous show of purple in about a month.


O’odham Indians made a home here, learning how to synchronize their activities with the harsh weather. They used flash flood water channeled  to irrigate quick growing crops in a few areas and harvested palo verde seeds and cactus fruits. Explorers wouldn’t have survived this desert without help from the Indians. The O’odham built shelters like the one above from a tough woody plant, the ocotillo, that resembles a cactus.

Ocotillo shows bright red leaves at times looking like it is in full bloom.

Look but don’t touch, is instinctive when looking at the cholla, pronounced choya, another common cactus in the park. Two species of cholla grow here. Edible fruits can catch on clothing, animal skin or fur and travel all over the park.

Twice, I picked up a dead rider from the cholla.

Prickly pear, is another edible. I’ve tasted the fruits and the leaves which when cooked taste like green beans. They are called nopalitas and you can find them at Mexican groceries.

A crest grows in an organ pipe, a mutation with an unknown cause, admired for its beauty.

The drive covered diverse terrain, and took us a leisurely four hours. We picnicked for lunch, the weather was beautiful. While the saguaros are majestic, they sometimes take on comical shapes.

My favorite-the elephant.

I’ll take you to my teddy bear leader.

Don’t shoot, I give up!

What should we name the baby, dear?

He can’t seem to keep his story straight. Arrest him.

I’ve called this meeting to discuss important issues for young saguaros.

I prayed you would get home in time.

You must stop for an inspection.

Goodbye folks. Come back again.

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From Mary’s desk:

Everyone was up for the 1.4  mile hike into the oasis. The terrain was rough and steep but the weather was mild in the early morning. Joshua Tree has many designated hikes like this one, with well marked pathways. Hikes are designated by their difficulty and length, some long, some short.

Everyone had hats and we carried plenty of water. You feel quite rewarded when you’ve hiked a hill and come around a harsh rocky corner to be greeted by a fragile beauty such as this one.

Cactus are complex and fascinating plants. Its hard to imagine that a barrel cactus less than a foot tall,  is older than the kids.

There were skinks and lizards scooting around rocks. Some lizards do “push-ups” which the boys loved to watch.

We met birders on the trail who helped us identify some of those we saw and heard.

It helps to be part mountain goat between flower or special rock sitings. On the hike we didn’t see vast swaths of wildflowers. That came later when we drove through a lower elevation of the park.

Cactus blooms are showy;  the wild flowers fragile and often tiny to survive the harsh environment.

The oasis was a refreshing goal, a place to sit and rest, have an energy snack and head back. We found things we missed on the way in, just a different perspective. The hike was well worth the three hours it took to hike in and out. We met people with even younger children that our 8 and 10 year olds.

Back at camp, Theo discovered a pit viper in a little crevice of rock where he’d been climbing all afternoon. It was chilly by then and it tolerated all of us looking at it. Nearby campers to came to look at it as well.

The snake is poisonous and very small. When discovered, it was next to a rock and hard to see, it was so well camouflaged. It moved about 10 inches into some covering plant debris and stayed quite calm with the flash going off half a dozen kids and adults watching it.

Our drive into lower elevations of the park brought us a grand vista of flowers in the fuzzy Cholla garden, the ochetea were blooming, and huge yucca plants along with the joshua trees.

We spent the evening around the campfire, eating s’mores and enjoying the day in review.

The next day we drove home past Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve.

Room here doesn’t allow for the many photos we took. For a link to more photos, Virginia’s Picasa album address is:

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From Mary’s desk:
I once heard Joshua Tree described as a bunch of rocks and cactus. And it is. Wouldn’t I like to have one of these spectacular rock formations in my back yard to wake up to each morning?  The rocks gradually turned from grayish brown to golden as the sun rose around the bowl of rocks we settled in. We arrived at night and the stars were set crystals.  Obviously a special place, before we ever ventured out to see cactus in bloom and the desert wildflowers.

Once fully lit, the rocks were a child’s playground, and since we just happened to have children with us, know that this was a “mountain climbing” adventure of great beauty and adventure. We big kids enjoyed the easy climbs on giant granite too.

Above, young adults who may want to challenge a mountain some day, find friendly, shear rock faces a great place to practice with mountain climbing equipment. They were having a great time and we watched them get over the top. Safe to say, this is a rock climbing heaven.

Joshua trees live in a narrow band and are forever protected from development where housing is mowing them down on private lands. Not a true tree, they wait for a wet year, like their cactus cousins, to bloom. This was one of those years where the odd looking fibrous “tree” gave quite a show of football sized blooms.

We drove to areas of the park that had stands of Joshua, Cholla and other desert beauties also in bloom with the unusually wet weather. And, we hiked to an oasis created by a fissure in the rocks. We weren’t disappointed. On the way home we made a distant stop near Antelope Valley to see the poppy preserve. More on the hike, and desert wildflowers tomorrow. If you’re going, the parks website link follows.  (I couldn’t get this link to work, sorry.)

For my web album of pictures click the link below:

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