Monday, August 20, 2018

Cross Country Adventure - Day 15 - Joshua Tree to Los Angeles

 Day 15. We'd driven more than 4,000 miles through 14 states and had just one more National Park to visit and 132 miles to drive before we would arrive at our final destination in Los Angeles. Apart from a tornado scare on the second day, the trip had gone without a hitch. Unfortunately, our luck didn't quite hold.

On that last morning as we were parked at a gas station while I went to stock up our water supplies, a guy in a van parked next to us managed to clip our car as he reversed out. He immediately took full responsibility (possibly because my daughter was standing on the nearby sidewalk and witnessed the accident), but by the time we'd exchanged insurance details, he'd been on the phone to his insurance company, and we'd spoken to the car rental company who insisted we got a police report  which meant we had to wait for Highway Patrol to turn up, half the morning was gone.

Still, it could have been a lot worse, so it was with some relief we eventually got on our way to Joshua Tree National Park, famous for its strange looking plants. 

The park boundaries include part of two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado. The western half of the park is the Mojave Desert with elevations above 3,000 feet. This is where the Joshua Tree thrives. 

The Joshua Tree is neither tree nor cactus but is a Yucca, part of the lily family. It was named by Mormon Pioneers who thought it looked like Joshua beckoning them to the promised land. 
The trees grow in interesting shapes and sizes.

some are tall and upright

some like to lean a little

And some can't seem to decide which way they should grow!

The jagged line up the solid rock is a climb called A cheap way to die!
I was surprised to learn that Joshua Tree National Park is popular with climbers. Saddle Rock provides a number of routes of varying difficulty, including one with the somewhat off-putting name of  'A cheap way to die.'   

The road through this part of the park takes you past Jumbo Rocks, where huge boulders scattered over the landscape provide scope for the imagination. 

This one is known as Skull Rock. 

Another plant in this part of the desert is the Mohave Yucca. This particular one was not that tall, but even these can grow to 16 feet tall.  

The eastern half of the park's elevation is less than 3,000 feet above sea level and is within the Colorado Desert.  As the road crosses from the Mojave to the Colorado Desert the Cholla Cactus Garden comes into view. Not only do the plants look weird but it's not wise to get too close as they have a tendency to attach themselves to passersby and the spines can be very painful to remove!

There's a reason they are called Jumping Cholla 

There literally are hundreds of these plants in patches. Marked trails wind between them so you can safely get a closer look.

Another odd looking plant is the Ocotillo, which is common to the Colorado Desert. They may look like a bush, but can grow up to 20 feet tall! Sometimes the plant will be brown and look like a bunch of dry sticks, but if there is sufficient moisture, tiny leaves grow from the stems turning the plant green. In the spring red flowers blossom from the ends of the branches - that must be quite a sight.  

Ocotillo with leaves

All too soon it was time to leave the park and start the final stretch of our drive on Route 10, which conveniently links to the southern exit of the park. It's a popular road and soon we were just one of many cars heading to LA. Sadly, no one got out of their car to dance like they did at the beginning of La La Land!

With all this traffic, this must be LA!

And finally, the sign that confirmed our fabulous road trip was almost over. No, not the Hollywood sign in the hills, but the road sign to Western Ave where our weekend accommodation awaited us at the delightful Coral Sands Motel. 

Mel writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense. For more information about her books visit her website, or sign up for her newsletter at  

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