Joshua Tree- a truly unique experience!

At first glance, Joshua Tree National Park just looks like a brown, lifeless desert.  But once you get closer, your eyes adjust to the shades of brown in this place where two deserts meet, and you see so much more than just sand and cactus.  There are over 750 documented plant species within the park!  The western half of the park, at elevations above 3,000 feet, is Mojave Desert habitat; whereas the eastern side, at below 3,000 feet, lies within the Colorado Desert.  And as if this isn’t enough dramatic geography, the San Andreas Fault (the tectonic boundary between the Pacific plate and the North American plate) spans the length of the southern border of this National Park.

The Joshua Tree isn’t really a tree, but a species of yucca (a member of the agave family).  Like other desert plants, its waxy, spiny leaves expose little surface area, efficiently conserving moisture.  They grow very slowly, only about 1 inch per year, but can reach up to 40 feet tall and have an average lifespan of 150 years.  Alive or dead, they provide food and shelter to mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects.  Though there seems to be disagreement on how the trees got their name, it appears to be associated with Mormons and with the biblical figure Joshua. –NPS website
I sat next to a huge brittlebush plant full of yellow blooms and spied this moth flittering about.
Even though they have a furry, cuddly appearance, these “Teddybear” Cholla Cactus are anything but cuddly!  The minuscule barbs on the spines make them especially painful to remove once they’ve latched on to you (no, I did not find this out through first-hand experience!).  There’s a whole stand of these cactus lumped together, known as the Cholla Cactus Garden, in the Pinto Basin, part of the Colorado Desert section of the park.
Although it looks a bit like one, Ocotillo (pronounced “Oh-co-TEE-yo”) is not a cactus.  Most of the time, they have no leaves in order to save water.  During my visit however, they were covered in 1-2 inch leaves, indicating that there had been a recent, sufficient rain.  After 2-3 weeks of drier conditions though, the plant will drop its leaves and repeat the process after the next substantial rain.  In the spring, they burst for a very short time with bright red-orange tubular flowers at the end of their stalks.  –NPS website
Cottonwood Spring Oases is one of five desert fan palm oases located in Joshua Tree National Park (there are only 158 of these oases in all of North America).  An oasis often occurs along fault lines, where uplifted layers of hard, impermeable rock force underground water to the surface.  The desert fan palm, native to Southern California, can grow to 75 feet tall, live for 80-90 years, and weigh as much as three tons. –NPS website

As spectacular as the National Park was, my glamping accommodations in the town of Joshua Tree were just as extraordinary.  I stayed in a unique AirStream campground called AutoCamp.  The 31-foot AirStream campers all had upscale interior renovations that included a queen size bed, walk-in shower, fully functional kitchenette and each had its own private patio with fire pit and dining area.  Between the spa-like accommodations and super-friendly staff, the whole place had a great vibe that allowed me to relax and unwind for a few days.

There are 40+ classic AirStream campers plus a few tiny houses at AutoCamp Joshua Tree.  Vehicles are parked at the front of the property, which keeps the traffic in the living area minimal, and the whole setting peaceful.
The clubhouse has a pool, bar and seating area, and pre-made meals.  The gourmet smores kits were perfect for chilling out by the fire at my camper.
Gorgeous sunsets and sunrises in the desert.
My AutoCamp Airstream was super roomy and nice inside.
Hummingbird visitor while I was sitting out on my patio 🙂

All in all, my stay in Joshua Tree, and visit to the National Park of the same name, was a gloriously relaxed and unique experience.  The landscape and the accommodations definitely put this destination on the “revisit in the future” list 🙂

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