Some of the best views of Southern California have been witnessed after heavy storms and this weekend was one of those special opportunities. We had heavy rains on Friday and Saturday, bringing spectacular weather on Sunday and Monday. I had missed out on hiking on Sunday, but luckily Monday was President’s Day and I made sure I was on a trail for the holiday.
For my hike up to Echo Mountain, I packed heavy camera gear in anticipation of a stunning sunset… and Mother Nature didn’t let me down.
For more on this video, plus photos of the sunset, please visit my other site, The Hike Guy.
I created a little video of the great people I met while traveling. To make it a little less boring, most of the clips are playing at twice the normal speed. The music in the background is Cake Parade by Georgie James.
When you get to the YouTube page, I suggest that you click on the “Watch in HD” link just below the video.
It was four years ago this month that I made my first trip to Joshua Tree National Park. I remember how bizarre the desert landscape appeared upon arrival, with its huge boulders the size of buildings and strangely formed “trees.” It was like walking into a Dr. Seuss book.
Since then, I have been back to the park over a dozen times, learning something new about desert life with every visit. For instance, I never knew that the desert could be so full of life year round. I’ve been to Joshua Tree while the land is baking in triple-digit temperatures of the summer. I’ve also had the luck and privilege of seeing snow fall on the park. Whatever the weather, life seems to keep going in the desert through even the harshest of conditions.
For this blog post, I wanted to share the life cycle of the Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) in photos I have taken the last four years. With my last trip, I’ve now captured most of the stages of the yucca.
It all starts with a seed…
The photo above shows a single yucca seed still in a pod. They have the shape and texture of a watermelon seed, but are slightly flatter and rounder.
Although it is called a tree, it is actually a member of the lily family. Its white and rubbery flower is visited by many different insects, but pollination is done by the yucca moth. While laying its eggs in the flower, gathering pollen in the process.
In the summer, green bulbous pods about the size of avocados begin to grow on the tree.
By the fall, the pods have dried out and become very brittle.
Eventually the pods – as well as the flowers – fall off of the tree. The pods are indehiscent and cannot naturally release its seed. Researchers at the USGS and the University of Nevada, Reno reported in 2007 that they believe the seeds are disbursed by rodents who tear open the pods and collect the seeds. During the Ice Age, scientists believe that Joshua Trees were disbursed by Giant Sloths.
Here is a pod husk after the seeds have been taken.
Research has found that a winter freeze will stunt the growth of a tree in a way that will cause the tree to grow in a new direction.
Joshua Trees grow at an extremely slow rate. For the first few years, it might not reach a height of 12 inches. After that, it tends to grow just an inch or two a year on average. Since they do not have growth rings like a tree do, it is hard to measure the age of a Joshua Tree, but those in the know say that the oldest living Joshua Tree is close to 1,000 years old and stands over forty feet in height!
The largest I have found in the park is just east of Sheep Pass and could easily be over 800 years old:
The future of the Joshua Tree does not look good. Reports suggest that global warming might cause the tree to die off. In 2006, a fire killed many trees in the park.
Until that day, when Joshua Tree National Park might need to be renamed “The National Park That Once Had Joshua Trees”, I’ll be making as many visits as possible to study and photograph these unique plants.
I created a page for posting my videos. I’ll be adding more as I create them, but for now you’ll find a high-resolution video of my Joshua Tree National Park trip. If you’re bored, you can read that trip’s report here.
This summer, Outsider Magazine will release their annual Summer Buyer’s Guide. On the cover in all of it’s glory is one of the best tools I’ve owned: The Leatherman Skeletool CX.
I purchased the multi tool recently from REI.com, which had it on back order for weeks. My first impression is of the design – almost a piece of artwork, especially when compared to the boxy design of earlier versions of the Leatherman. When I received it, I was impressed by how light they made it. Weighing in at just 5 ounces, clip it into a belt loop and you’ll forget you are wearing it. Holding it feels like it was designed for my hand.
My only concern is the bit connection, where the Phillips #1 and #2 bits and 3/16 in. and 1/4 in. flathead bits (included) connect into the end of the tool. It would seem that an active hiker like me could easily knock it out and lose it forever. For this reason, I usually leave the Phillips bits at home and keep the flathead bits in the secured slit within the handle. (Who uses a screwdriver while camping/hiking/backpacking anyway?)
I first tested this tool in the wild while in Joshua Tree National Park last weekend (see last post). One of the very first uses was well worth the price of the tool. And I just happen to be holding my video camera when it all went down:
I’ve returned from a long weekend in Joshua Tree and have been basking in the memories. It was one of my most enjoyable trips to the national park. The weather was in the mid-80° F, a full 10° cooler than in Los Angeles that weekend. Wildflowers were in bloom, some for the first time in years. And the desert creatures! I have been in Southern California for 16 years and had only seen two snakes in that time (a Desert Nightsnake and a Mountain Kingsnake). This last weekend, I saw FOUR Speckled Rattlesnakes and two Glossy Snakes (one alive, one roadkill). I also spotted a Chuckwalla from 40 feet away and spent 20 minutes with my friend photographing the big beautiful lizard, the second largest in the United States. Fourteen friends made it out to the desert, where we camped at Jumbo Rock campground, made hotdogs and s’mores under the starry night, and went on a few hikes in the area. Here’s a video I made of the weekend:
Flickr recently started allowing video posting. I don’t think they’ll replace the juggernaut that is YouTube, but I thought I’d give it a go. Here’s a video I took in May, 2004 in the beautiful country of Montenegro:
One my my favorite photos was taken from the same spot: