I had never been to the desert before. I wasn’t expecting to be struck by the beauty of the understated landscape, but coming from the lush and vibrant Pacific Northwest, the barren expanses of Joshua Tree National Park were a welcome change. The desolate stretches of rock and cactus were in stark contrast to the dense forests of Oregon filled with ferns, moss, and evergreens.

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The desert felt like a blank canvas. With the palette of the landscape so dialed back, my eye started to detect subtle differences in color that I would not have normally noticed in Oregon. Granite columns stretched high against the blue sky, with veins of grey, red, black and brown creating a neutral backdrop for the brave plants that can survive the harshness of this land.

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Joshua Tree is made up of 2 deserts, and therefore 2 different eco systems. The higher, cooler Mojave Desert is the western half of the park which is home to the unique Joshua tree and the lower, more arid Sonoran Desert is the eastern half of this national park. Creosote bushes, ocotillo and cholla cactus dominate this part of the landscape.

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With my eyes focused on the slightest shifts of color on the rocks and arid ground that seemed to go on forever, you can imagine my delight in seeing true, vivid color in the desert – cactus blooms! Wandering down the hiking trail, I would gasp out loud at the sight red petal clusters or a teeny yellow buds peeking out from a nest of thorns! One blooming ocotillo cactus was too beautiful to drive by and admire from the car, so we pulled over and captured it in all its springtime glory.

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Thank you Joshua Tree for showing me the beauty of the desert…and for your coloristic surprises! For more information on this amazing national park, visit: www.nps.gov/jotr/index.htm

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