The Joshua tree is a yucca plant that can play basketball. You can tell that it’s not just an unusually tall yucca plant because, unlike the yucca, it doesn’t have little white vegetal hairs growing on the leaves. Early Mormon settles named it because it reminded them of someone with upstretched arms, like Rocky Balboa or some other winning boxer. It’s also the name of an album by U2 that got a lot of airplay back in the day.
Joshua Tree National Park did not yet exist when the U2 album came out. Before that, it was a National Monument! I’m guessing that the Irish band affected the history of America. Or at least the Park Service.
This place is a study in elevation.
Just outside of park is the Salton Sea, which is just a big lake 200 feet below sea level. Inside the park, peaks reach 5000 feet. In the lower parts of the park, there doesn’t seem to be much life. A little higher up you find the Cholla (which I would’ve spelled Choya) cactus. Some folks call it Teddy Bear cactus, but I don’t find it that cuddly. Cholla never starts a fight, but always ends them. Give it a wide right of way.
Then, way up there, at about 4000 feet, the Joshua trees take their stand. Joshua trees are social creatures. On the U2 album cover there’s a solitary tree. It must have gone rogue, because they usually travel in herds. Also, through their feet they can hear elephants from several miles away.
There are nine official campgrounds. Jumbo Rocks campground is pretty cool. It reminds me of New Mexico’s City of Rocks State Park.
And if you need to see something a little more pop culturey, there’s always Slab City, just a short drive away.