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Prickly Points of Interest

202103 YF joshua tree national park
Joshua Tree National Park, by Robert Denney

Cactus collections in Joshua Tree National Park

Teddy bear chollas aren’t for cuddling.

Some people learn that the hard way if they stray off the Cholla Cactus Garden trail in Joshua Tree National Park, photographed above with the Hexie Mountains by Seattle resident Robert Denney on an RV road trip to Phoenix last year.

“This trip changed my perspective greatly, for the vastness and beauty of the region in geology, plant life and wildlife,” Denney says. “Although stark in nature, the detail of the desert is quite complex, with geological rock formations, canyons and inexplicable desert washes, the below-sea-level Salton Sea and a surprising oasis of greenery and palm trees that occurs suddenly and randomly.”

The park straddles the boundary of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, which is part of the larger Sonoran Desert. It was Denney’s first time visiting. He stayed at the Cottonwood Campground, where he enjoyed the quiet and solitude and embarked on trips around the park and a day hike to the California fan palms at Lost Palms Oasis.

Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit. Services are limited within the park, but the nearby desert towns of Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms offer necessary supplies.

“It certainly takes you back to stories of the Wild West and you can only imagine what it would have been like to traverse this vast, harsh environment via horseback, with limited resources or navigation,” Denney says.

– This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of the AAA Washington member magazine, Journey.

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