Leaving the Mainland – Joshua Tree NP

This is the last post documenting our escape from the mainland (Colorado) via a convoluted route to San Diego. As a reminder, here be the map of our travels. 

Monument to San DiegoI’ve documented our visits to Hoover Dam and the Giant Sequoias, and I now turn my camera’s eye to Joshua Trees National Park, not to be confused with The Joshua Tree.

I’m not sure what I expected — aside seeing Joshua Trees — but it was pretty much what I imagined.

Namely. . . 



So, Joshua Trees . . . it turns out they are in the Yucca family. Some might remember my post about the Yucca Plant, a native plant growing pretty much all over the area where I used to live (Monument, Colorado). It also turns out that the same moth, the appropriately named yucca moth, fertilizes yucca trees.

Where does the name come from?” one might ask. I presume you mean the tree, and not the moth. 

Well, Mormons apparently named the plant because it resembled the Biblical character Joshua raising his hands in prayer to his murderous god. Not many will click on the link, so let me give you a quick summary of Joshua, the man, and his god. 

Joshua got around. He was Moses’s wing-man the first time Moses received the Ten Commandments, and later Joshua led the attack on Jerico and led the subsequent slaughter of every man, woman, and child after the walls of Jerico came crumbling down with the aid of the Ark of the Covenant.  

You see, god promised the land of Canaan to the Israelites, so, of course, to make good on his promise, he helped Joshua slaughter the many, many people who were at the time occupying it. Ah, the merciful god of Abraham. You got to love him. He’s all powerful, you see, but rather than relocate the people occupying Canaan to, oh, I don’t know, what is now the US and Mexico, this merciful god decided it was more expedient to slaughter children.  

In later battles, god pummelled soldiers opposing the Israelites . . . he did it with hail. Mind you, he could have just, you know, recalled their souls, but why pass up a chance to beat someone to death with chunks of frozen water?  

Honest, I’m not making this crap up. Heck, if I were, I would be labeled a sick bastard. 

Anyway, Joshua Trees . . . The park has many of them. Many, many, many Joshua Trees. 



My original plan was to photograph them all and then name them all. You know, Joshua Smith, Joshua Brown, Joshua Humperdinck . . . you get the idea. However, I was very politely reminded we already had a mission: getting to Hawaii. 

Still, I did photograph a bunch of them. Here’s why I can drive through desolate landscape and think I see beauty worthy of digitally capturing . . . I have a rare — and useless — ability to see beauty nearly everywhere. Now, beauty is a difficult thing to define. For instance, this to me is beautiful . . . 


Some see it as not only ugly but also evil. 

But, I digress . . . there we were, winding our way through the stark and nearly desolate landscape when I would spot a particular combination of trees, rocks, ground, and sky that appealed to me. I would then jump out of the car and into the sweltering heat, camera in hand, while Melisa remained in the comfortable air conditioned car. 


Most people will not have clicked on the links, so I will now tell you a few things about these trees . . . 

They do not have tree rings as their trunks are made up of fibers. Look at the above . . . that’s not bark. It’s fibers through and through. Also, they grow very slowly and live a long time. A tree that reaches thirty feet in height has probably lived three to four hundred years. Some trees live to near 1,000 years. They are also native to a very specific area and dependent on specific growing conditions. The thinking is they may go extinct by the end of this century. Why? Despite what some idiots think, the climate is changing, and because the Shasta ground sloth is also extinct, there’s nothing alive to transport its seeds to new ranges. 

Its only hope is mankind.  If anyone is willing to eat the fruit and then shit their way northward with the changing climate, why, their fame would rival that of Johnny Appleseed. 

About photographing trees and the surrounding environment . . . here’s me trying a different perspective. I can’t rightly squat as low as I want to because of bad knees, but I can go down to one knee and get this shot . . . 


I didn’t bother looking up the type of cactus in the foreground, so I’ll just make up a name: Brutto Antipasto Spinato. There! . . . that ought to hold you for a while. 

Here’s a closeup for all them botanically inclined readers. 


I mentioned the park has rocks. I don’t mean rocks as in “Crap! There’s a rock in my shoe!

No, I mean rocks; mounds of them.


Wait . . . them ain’t the rocks I’m referring to. These below be them, and more like these. 


It’s probably useless to mention but, SmugMug Gallery HERE and click on photos for larger versions (in new windows or tabs).

Here are two different compositions of the same feature . . . 


There, I attempted to draw the eye from the lower right to the trees and then rocks. In this next one, I isolated the two major subjects; the rocks and the trees . . . 


Now, I talk as if this is a conscious effort on my part. It’s not. When I’m there, I compose based on me envisioning how the photo will look once processed. I’m probably drawing on what I mentioned, but doing so subconsciously. 

By the way, I thought some of these would lend themselves to a few Impression treatments . . . 


Here’s a panorama taken during one of my stops. Some might look at the landscape as harsh and unattractive . . . I don’t agree. More like unique and interesting. 


I thought the above would look better in the style of an old photograph . . . 


For them with pretty good bandwidth, click HERE (11 MB) and HERE (7 MB)for the original-size versions of the two panoramas. 

With this next shot, I tried something different. Here’s the original shot . . .  


We drove through the park close to mid-day. Harsh light, no shade . . . But, I can transform the above by applying One of the Impression paint modules.


. . . and then passing the result through Topaz’s Restyle plugin. 


Sure, I can entertain myself now that I’m comfortably sitting at a temporary and very warm condo I’m renting, but how do I entertain myself while snapping the photos? One of the ways, at least with these rocks, is to let my imagination see shapes and figures in the rock. I’ve done this before and people have a hard time seeing what I see. 

That means one of us is crazy. Bad news for you, I can still think rationally and clearly. That leaves you carrying the crazy bag. 

This, for instance, is a figure reclining/relaxing in a chair. A big guy, to be sure.


What do you mean, “I got a screw loose?” Here, let me help you out . . . 


See?! I told you it was there!

There is an overlook at the park . . . 


Before I talk about it, let me show you a few photos I snapped while walking to the overlook.

20160614_DSC6157_1_DIGI 20160614_DSC6158_1_DIGI

Not the remains of a Joshua tree since it had real wood as opposed to those fibers.

Anyway, here’s the panorama from the overlook . . . 

20160614_DSC6161_1-Processed-2_DIGI. . . and here’s the plaque explaining what you are looking at. By the way, the Saint Andreas Fault cuts across that valley.


I would link the original panorama, but no one clicks on these links and if per chance, someone wants to see the original, it’s in SmugMug. 

As I was enjoying the expansive vista, I happened to look down . . . 


My best guess is . . . Western Fence Lizard!

This next shot is neat because you can see his abdominal blue stripe reflected in the rock.


There are a few more shots in SmugMug, but here’s one more. 


Looking back toward the road to the lookout, I was struck by the seeming incongruity of a piece of asphalt appearing out of nowhere and disappearing back into the landscape. 


On the way back to the car I took the opportunity to get me some closeups of the deadwood . . . 



. . . and a rock. 


Nothing special about it; I just liked how it looked. 

Rejoining the main artery through the park, I stopped at a small visitor’s area to look at this rock . . . 


. . . which from almost every angle looks as if it’s defying gravity.

Speaking of defying gravity, I’m listening to this:

Christopher Walken be crazy . . . I like him. 

Some miles away, I noticed birds be doing weird dance atop rocks. I could not make them out, but the lens resolved them into crows. 


I saw a few other birds in the park, but they were too quick to photograph. Too bad, that; they looked interesting. 

The park has a warning about bees. More on that later, but meanwhile, ants. 


. . . and spines . . . 


. . . and 


That would be a White-tailed Antelope Squirrel. They, along with other animals in the park, tend to be lightly colored. This is both to stay cool and to help them blend in with the pallid surroundings. 

And blend in they do. Can you see it in this next shot?


Here; this will make it easier . . . 


Honest, I was not that close. This guy was just ultra-cautious.Once he deemed himself safe, he stopped to check me out . . . 


Once he felt even safer, he relaxed . . . 



By the way, I discovered another reason that might explain the decline in Yucca Tree population . . . 

20160614_DSC6200_1_DIGIYes, a crude joke . . . but some will laugh. This is for them. 

I came across another rock that reminded me of something. In this case, a gorilla. Perhaps King Kong’s cousin, Duke Kong.


Come on! You don’t see it? *Sigh* . . . here, let me help . . . 


A third of the way through the park, the tree population got smaller and sparser . . . perhaps an area with less water?


We then came to a camping area with massive rocks strewn about in very attractive ways. Were it not for our timetable, I would have liked to climb a few of them as I saw other people do. 

This next shot is not a bad photo of a California Ground Squirrel . . . 


. . . but I was pissed! Not 30 seconds earlier, this same squirrel was sitting, perched at the edge of a rock overlooking the campground. It would have made a great shot . . . but I didn’t have my camera ready. As fast as I am, the squirrel just then decided to run down to its namesake. Bummer. 

But, my spirits quickly lifted when I saw Batman . . . 


OK, I’ll grant this might be a bit harder to see. Especially if one has never seen a similar cartoon representation of the Batman.

Once again, let me help . . . 


And here’s some of the people who were climbing rocks . . . 


This next rock is called skull rock. It’s called that because with certain light and from certain angles, it looks like the shape of a skull. 


We had a long way to go, so I did not look for the best of angles; just use your imagination to see death personified. 

Let me help with a few variations:



I mentioned bees earlier . . . 

Bees may attack when their hives are threatened. Listen for buzzing and stay away. Bees looking for water are attracted to any moisture source, including human perspiration. Do not swat at them; they might sting you. Keep drinks and food inside your vehicle. Keep car windows rolled up and use caution when exiting your vehicle.

At most places, we saw very few bees. At one place, the Cactus Garden, there were many, many bees. We did not roll our windows down and we did not get out of the car. That was not the case with another couple who was keeping a good distance from their car. The car had all its doors open and it looked as if the couple hoped the bees inside and around the car would eventually leave. 

Apparently, things have gotten WORSE. Jumbo rock campground was where I saw Batman and the squirrel. 

So, the Cactus Garden . . . it refers to the Cholla Cactus Garden. This is what it looks like photographed from inside a car.



You might think I would not be able to get a few closeups of the plant without exiting the car . . . . 


Anyway, the above and the next four shots were the last from Joshua Tree NP. After this, the park turned into a very desolate desert and we saw nothing of interest. We exited and made our way to San Diego





That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Flowers behind bars
Flowers behind bars

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