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desert beauty: Joshua Tree

I’ve lived in California now for about six years.  There are some beautiful places that I’ve seen that I’d love to return to more often than is realistic: the rugged coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the achingly gorgeous views within Yosemite National Park, the stunning mixture of nature and architecture in San Diego’s Balboa Park, the quiet peace of Pine Mountain.  Only recently did I go to Joshua Tree National Park for the first time, crossing a long-term to-do off my list of places to go.

Let me say here that I’ve never felt particularly at home in desert climates.  The incredibly open spaces and the spare vegetation are strange and unfamiliar to me, having grown up in the forested and cozy hills of New England.  Something about the desert’s openness is off-putting, almost.  Having said that, there is certainly something to be said for the brilliant red of a desert sunrise, the surprising growth of wildflowers on the dry desert floor, the wild silhouettes of the Yucca brevifolia that abound in Joshua Tree.  I felt more at home than I thought.

Even during the daytime (not even limited to sunrise or sunset!) the colors are exquisite.

I loved seeing the tiny, colorful wildflowers and wild cactus springing unexpectedly from the seemingly parched earth.

Aren’t the shapes magnificent?  I’d love to bring a box of paints next time to study the figures and patterns in the landscape.

We took a leisurely walk at sunset, just down the road from the sustainable organic farm where we were spending the night.  I don’t think I’d choose to live in the desert, but if I had to, this would be a pretty wonderful setting for dusk dinners and glasses of wine.