It was on March 17th that I arrived at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, seeking some warmer weather. I wasn't disappointed though a few of the nights were a bit on the chilly side. Coming in on the southern side off of Interstate 10, east of Indio, I entered the park just as the visitor center was closing. The Cottonwood Spring Campground was just down the road a ways and it was there that I spent the night.
The next morning I stopped at the visitor center to get a map of the park and information on some of the trails. Half a mile from the campground was the trail to Cottonwood Spring. It was an easy walk along a gravely path and dry sandy stream. Arriving at the stream, there was simply a sign identifying the place where the Spring had been. Rather anti-climatic but it was a nice walk; the sun was shining and there was a nice breeze.
There were several other trails in the area but the southern part of the park, to me at least, wasn't all that interesting. So I hit the road and headed north where the Joshua Trees and the Jumbo Rocks were located.
Along the way there were a few things to see – the Cholla Garden and Ocotillo Forest.
The Cholla Garden was planted by Mother Nature. You do see the Cholla in other areas of the park but usually just a few hanging out together. Here in the garden they grow in abundance.
The cholla also have incredibly sharp, hooked needles that are difficult and painful to extract if you happen to get one stuck on you. I was very, very careful walking through that garden!
The Ocotillo are interesting also. They can get quite tall, this one was about 15 feet high. Much of the year it looks like a bunch of spiny dead sticks. But after it rains, the Ocotillo is covered with very small leaves. Like other deciduous trees, the Ocotillo loses it's leaves but not due to the changes in the season. Rather, for the Ocotillo, the leaves fall when there is no water. The long stems are often used for fencing material and for walking sticks.
The bright red flowers of the Ocotillo appear on the tips of the stems in spring and summer.