As I spend more time exploring Joshua Tree and the areas around it, I really find myself tuning in to the places I connect with the most. I certainly do love the northern and western areas of the park with the namesake Joshua trees and the surrounding rock formations. They are truly special and most deserving of park status. But still… the areas I’m most strongly drawn to are down on the low side of the park — the area around Pinto Basin and Smoke Tree Wash in particular.
It’s not as visually stunning as the Mojave side of the park. It’s not the photogenic side of Joshua Tree that we all see in photographs. Compared to that it looks barren and empty, but that’s an illusion. When I walk out into this Colorado Desert landscape, among the creosote bush and Mojave yucca, the smoke trees and great boulder fields, I can feel a change come over me. The desert stretches out for miles before me. Barren, rubble strewn mountains rim the horizon. The sun hammers down relentlessly, even in winter, and water becomes my best friend. Yet I open up, and rather than merely standing there in dumb wonder I want to shout in the sheer joy and gratitude of being alive and being a living part of such a powerful place. It’s like a magnetic force that’s inexorably drawing me in.
Rarely have I felt such an immediate and gut-level connection to a place as I’ve experienced here. My spirit has found a home.