Joshua Tree National Park, A Natural Beauty Near Palm Springs

A couple of weeks ago, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Joshua Tree National Park.  The tour I participated in was called the Superintendent’s Tour and I was simply amazed.  I had no idea that we had such a beautiful park in our backyard and I would encourage everyone to make time on your trip to the Palm Springs area to visit this wondrous place.

When I arrived for the tour, we boarded a small bus and it began the trek through the park.  The scenery was beautiful and the “famous” Joshua Trees were everywhere.  The trees are amazing and are members of the lily family.  This tree provides a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert, but you can find it in other places like western Arizona or the San Bernardino Mountains.  Years ago, the Joshua tree was recognized by American Indians for its useful properties; tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, and flower buds and raw or roasted seeds made a healthy addition to the diet.  By the mid-19th century, Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River.  Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.  The tallest Joshua tree in the park looms a whopping forty feet high, a grand presence in the Queen Valley forests; it is estimated to be about 300 years old.  Many birds, mammals, reptiles and insects depend on the Joshua tree for food and shelter.  If you go, keep your eyes open for the yellow and black flash of a Scott’s oriole busy making a nest in the tree’s branches.  At the base of rocks you may find a wood rat nest built with the spiny leaves.  As evening falls, the desert night lizard begins poking around under the log of a fallen Joshua tree in search of tasty insects.

After riding for some 30 minutes, we arrived at our first destination:   Hidden Valley. This beautiful maze of rocks had many hikers and rock climbers.  It was great to see everyone enjoying the rocks and hidden valley was aptly named.  Once you got through a small crevice, you entered an area that was completely surrounded by rocks.  It was indeed a “hidden valley”.  We hiked for a while through this area and our guide told us that in the old west, cattle rustlers would bring their herds here and “hide” them in the valley surrounded by rocks.  Hence the name was born.

After we left Hidden Valley, we stopped at a campground for lunch and then went on to Keys Ranch.  This ranch was a working ranch for many years and Mr. Keys raised his family there.  It has been left pretty much untouched since he lived there and it was fun to poke through the area and see how he lived in days gone by.

Our final stop for the day was Keys View.  This mile high vantage point had amazing views and our guide showed us how you could actually see the San Andreas Fault as it meandered through the desert below.

So don’t forget, if you get to Palm Springs and have some time to spare, visit Joshua Tree National Park.  Trust me, you won’t be sorry.

Best Regards,

John Pivinski
Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce
760-325-1577 ext. 113

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