In California: Joshua Tree National Park

John Turner

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The national parks of the United States are among the nation's great treasures, and one of the lesser known but still sparkling gems is the Joshua Tree N.P. located about seventy-five miles northeast of Los Angeles.

There in the high desert are great piles of bizarrely shaped rocks, reminding one of the hundreds of cowboy movies of his youth. And sprouting up in their thousands all amongst them are the Joshua Trees themselves, a form of Yucca, which take on intricate patterns and in some cases rise thirty to forty feet in the air.

The park stretches out over more than a million acres, and actually stretches down into the lower desert of the Colorado River, where the Joshua Trees disappear to be replaced by strange species of cacti, which seem at a distance like spun silver but closer up reveal deadly spikes.

The Park Service has done a good job of providing many unobtrusive parking areas flanked by camping sites and picnic areas. If you want to spend some days wandering through a brilliant landscape where the air seems to have descended from a paradise  of purity, I can think of no better place to do it.
Harvard Square Commentary, January 22, 2007