Joshua Tree National park
Named after this tall spiny member of the agave family, Joshua Tree National Park exists where the Colorado and Mojave deserts meet. It is known for its surreal geological features, as well as its wide variety of animal and plant life. The unique cacti found here lead to an influx of cactus poaching in the early 1900s. The plants were being taken from here and being transplanted into landscaping and gardens in the Los Angeles area. Minerva Hoyt, a Pasadena resident who was extremely fond of desert plants, became concerned about the removal of cacti. Her tireless efforts to protect this area culminated in 825,000 acres being set aside as Joshua Tree National Monument which is now Joshua Tree National Park.
We spent two days here which was plenty of time to see what we wanted to see. Because this park is located in a harsh desert environment, most of the hikes are relatively short and can be accessed easily from the main road. We had also just finished backpacking Santa Cruz island so the drivability of the park was welcome. We saw jack rabbits, frogs, kangaroo rats, lizards, and a surprising number of hummingbirds. The sun here is brutal, even in February, so if you find yourself here be sure to cover up and wear sunscreen.
My personal favorite experience here was watching the sunset at the Cholla Cactus Garden. Cholla Cactus are commonly referred to as "Teddy bear cactus." They are like burrs. but instead of sticking to your shoelaces they will stick directly into your skin. There were many signs around the area warning visitors not to touch them. Regardless, they are beautiful to look at, and this particular spot is known for having incredible sunsets. It was absolutely breathtaking.