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Image Credit: Sharlene Earnshow (Author)
Beautiful Joshua Tree National Park

 

Every year, over 60 million people visit our National Parks. The majority of those visits take place during the summer months, when the snow has melted away from mountain gems such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains, but several of the parks are truly at their finest during the cooler months.

 

Joshua Tree National Park, located just two hours east of Los Angeles, may be oppressively hot during June, July, and August, but winter and spring bring cool temperatures and plenty opportunities for families to enjoy some outdoor fun.  Those soon booking flights to Los Angeles should consider packing up the family to explore this beautiful desert park.

 

Explore a Desert Oasis - Palm studded desert oases are not just scenes from Bugs Bunny cartoons, they are life breathing features of desert ecosystems. The most easily accessible oasis within Joshua Tree NP is the Oasis of Mara near the Twentynine Palms park entrance and Oasis Visitor Center.  The oasis was first settled by the Serrano and its springs allowed them to grow crops, drink cool water, and enjoy shade created by the 29 palm trees they planted- one for every baby born there, according to legend.

 

Cottonwood Spring in the park’s low desert southern region was created by seismic activity and has been an important water stop for miners, prospectors, and native peoples throughout history. Those looking for a hike should consider 49 Palms Oasis which can be reached via a 3 mile trail or the 4 mile path to Lost Palm Oasis, a stand of over 100 native California fan palm trees in a steep-sided ravine.

 

Enjoy the boulders and trees that made the park famous - Named by Mormon pioneers who thought the trees’ outstretched limbs reminded them of the prophet Joshua, Joshua Trees are grotesque and mesmerizing desert survivors. These trees, which can grow up to 40 feet in height and 100 years of age, can be found throughout the park but some of the most beautiful forests are along Park Blvd. sprinkled amongst the boulders near Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks.

 

Rock climbing is extremely popular within the park and attracts both expert climbers and beginners alike with 400 climbing formations and 8,000 climbing routes. Boulders with crazy names like Hot Rats, Streetcar Named Desire, and Rosetta Stone are just waiting to be conquered but the small unnamed boulders may be the perfect spot for your rock climbers in training to work on their skills.

 

Take a tour and see how real homesteaders lived - Anyone who has watched Little House on the Prairie knows that pioneer life was no walk in the park, but Pa Ingalls has nothing on Bill Keyes.  Ranger led tours of the Desert Queen Ranch highlight Bill Keyes, his resourcefulness and will to survive in a harsh desert atmosphere with little resources.  When all the other homesteaders abandoned their stakes, Billy Keyes was there to collect what was left behind and turn it into something to help his family to continue to live in the extremes of his beautiful surroundings.

 

This tour may be a bit above the heads of children under age 8 but those old enough to appreciate it will leave with a deep appreciation for the history of the region and a family filled with ingenuity and survival instinct.

 

Enjoy the view - If the weather is clear, a trip up to mile-high Keys View is a must-do. From this lookout point, visitors can see large expanses of the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, Mt San Jacinto, and Santa Gorgonio Mountain. On especially clear days, which have become increasingly rare due to the pollution caused by an increase in housing and nitrogen rich fertilizer used to keep all of Palm Spring’s golf courses looking so green, it is even possible to see Mexico’s Signal Mountain!

 

Image Credit: Sharlene Earnshaw (Author)

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