A Trip to Joshua Tree National Park
On a recent road trip, we spent a day at Joshua Tree National Park near Twentynine Palms, CA. The trip was, in part, motivated by a chance to photograph the Milky Way over the park. It was our first trip to Joshua Tree NP and we really did not know what to expect other than it was a desert landscape with Joshua Trees. It was indeed a desert landscape typical of the American Southwest. It has beautiful eroding, rolling hills covered by talus – piles of rocks eroded from the hillside. There were large, weathered boulders throughout the park that people used for climbing. We learned that it is a very popular rock-climbing location.
The desert was in bloom with ocotillo, cholla, desert senna, Mojave mound cactus and many other plants. But, the signature plant of the park is the Joshua Tree. The Joshua tree is a large tree like plant with hard spiky leaves. Despite looking like both a tree and a cactus, it is neither. It is a plant in the Yucca family (Yucca brevifolia). The oldest one in the park is about 350 years old. Because it is not a tree, it doesn’t have the woody structure to bear all of its weight, so, when branches get to big, they bend and fall to the ground. We missed seeing them in bloom on this trip, but they were developing their seed pods. I like them so much; I’d like to have one in my backyard but they only grow in the Mojave Desert between 4,000 and 5,000 feet in altitude.
Our night sky photo shoot was spectacular. The Milky Way didn’t rise until after midnight. It was a pleasantly warm evening and we had to scramble over some boulders, in the dark, to get to a ledge on another large boulder. That location was picked because The Arch was directly in front of us and our goal was to shoot the Milky Way over The Arch. I hadn’t done a night sky shoot in a very long time, so it was great to knock the rust off my skills. The only disappointment in the shoot was light pollution. When you look at the Milky Way image, you’ll see the sky has a greenish cast along the horizon. That cast is the light rom the Palm Springs and Indio areas of Southern California. Indio is 25 miles from the park.
I want to give a shout out to Casey Kiernan of Joshua Tree Workshops for guiding us in a great night sky workshop and fun time.
Please click on caption to see image at higher resolution.