The most iconic part of Joshua Tree National Park are, of course, the Joshua Trees. These distinctive trees are the lifeblood of the Mojave desert, providing food and shelter for many animals and early native Americans. These trees thrive in the Mojave desert – and Joshua Tree lays half in the Mojave… but the remote, southern half climbs over a mountain ridge, drops suddenly in elevation, and we have the Sonoran desert. Who knew?
One thing I found interesting about Joshua Tree National Park was its proximity to cities, its associations with people. Driving up to the gates, there are communities and houses right up to the National Park boundary. I started this year thinking of the NPs as wilderness sanctuaries where humans play fourth fiddle as visitors who are not to disturb the wilderness… but the parks also have their own stories of how they came to be protected, and that story inevitably involves people who fell in love with the land and fought for its designation as a NP.In the case of Joshua Tree, its first champion was a wealthy socialite who lost her husband and son, and found solace and peace in the desert – creating in her a strong advocate for the preservation of this place as a sanctuary for us all. But part of Joshua Tree’s human story – and a longer part of its history – are the people who lived and worked in this desert, at a time when this land was farmed and mined, a source for human livelihood not a temple. Continue reading “Joshua Tree: Unexpected Stories of Desert Living and Dying”