[By Tina Koyama in Joshua Tree National Park] In the book I read to prepare for our visit to southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park a couple of weeks ago, I found a description of one observer’s impression of the geologic formations there: “It looks like God vomited rocks.” That description stayed with me during our trip as the most apt for the truly amazing landscapes we observed in this harsh desert.
Some rocks seem to take on personalities. Skull Rock, Cap Rock and the Trojan have all been named for their appearance. Others are like a Rorschach test that probably say something about their observers – my husband Greg and I kept pointing out faces, profiles, whales, dolphins and other creatures that appeared on the horizon. The difficulty in sketching these rocks was that I was always looking for nearby people to use for scale. Otherwise it’s hard to show just how huge these piles of “vomit” are.
Sketching climbers trying to conquer these formidable walls was also challenging, if only because I could hardly watch them. Whether they were tiny dots at the very top or still scaling the rocks like bugs, I could feel my own adrenaline pumping, fearing for them.
In addition to all the breathtaking rock formations that make Joshua Tree National Park unique, there are also the park’s namesake trees. Although I know any tree is unique, where I live many trees look similar enough that one would be very difficult to distinguish from another. Each Joshua tree, however, really is distinctive, growing with a strange and beautiful pattern of branches with bristles of short, palm-like fronds on the ends. Unlike trees in dense, dark forests that keep sunlight from reaching the ground, the sparse branches on these relatively short trees allow plenty of the desert’s scorching sun through. If you think of trees offering shade, you won’t find it in the Mojave!
Unfortunately, we didn’t see nearly as much wildlife as I had hoped. I saw a small lizard, a coyote and some large ravens; Greg saw a jack rabbit, too. The most wildlife fun we had was when we spotted a relatively friendly roadrunner in the park visitors center’s parking lot. Familiar to the center’s staff, this particular roadrunner had occasionally wandered indoors and was apparently used to being around humans. I followed him quietly around the parking lot, sketching as I went.
|Roadrunner in the parking lot|