Beauty in the Barren

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It started with those goofy looking Joshua Trees. I have a thing for trees of all sorts, but I especially wanted to see this funky specimen found only in the southwestern United States. I also heard rumblings of giant boulders dotting a landscape designed by Dr. Seuss.

That’s basically all I knew about Joshua Tree National Park, and the desert in general, before spending a few days wandering through it.

The desert is foreign territory for someone who’s lived most of her life along the shores of the Great Lakes. The absence of grass and deciduous trees gave me an initial false impression of being in a barren landscape. After letting my eyes adjust to the unfamiliar, a new world suddenly revealed itself. Despite all odds, life forges ahead. Things thrive where they should otherwise wither. And there is beauty in the “barren” if you know where and how to look for it.

Consider the cactus. It sets roots in soil that’s rocky and arid. It grows without much moisture. And it’s a deceptive beauty; come too close and it will cut you. Its resilience commands respect and I found myself treading lightly around that kind of greatness. This was especially true for the ironically named Teddybear Cholla. God help the fool who mistakes them for something benign.

Simply put, our time in Joshua Tree was magical. It was as strange and wild and serene as I hoped it would be. We marveled at monoliths, explored a dead sea, and confirmed that coyotes really don’t want you interfering with their nocturnal dumpster diving.

Up next: Hiking “The Maze.”

 

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