Jumbo Rocks: Joshua Tree National Park

Located only 140 miles east of the seemingly endless cityscape that is Southern California, the pristine desert wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park serves as the perfect getaway for city dwelling weekend warriors. Declared as a melting pot of biodiversity, the park occupies the southern region of California’s Transverse mountain ranges where the expansive low-lying Colorado Desert meets the neighboring high Mojave Desert.

After a two hour drive from San Diego I found myself enamoring at mammoth granite rock formations as I scrambled to erect my tent against rapidly fading daylight. I don’t know why this always seems to be the case. From what I was able to take in during those few fleeting moments I was immensely excited and surprised at the dynamic angles of and textures of the rock features which entered my eye in a way I’d never seen before. The Campsite “Jumbo Rocks” located near the parks north entrance was incredibly clean and affordable. No reservations were necessary and the fees were collected on the honor system via fixed drop boxes at the gate.

The next day I awoke to the sight of this. What a back drop! The previous night I bravely or perhaps fool-hardily scaled these rocks with my headlamp to take in the view of the stars at nearly 3000 feet. The moon had yet to rise allowing for some spectacular star gazing and I’ll admit that I made my fair share of wishes on passing shooting stars.

With my Camelbak full and pockets stuffed with trail mix I headed out into the park to hit the endless network of trails that traverse Joshua Tree’s varied typography. The low level composition of this shot provides a unique perspective, reminiscent of the Diamond Back Rattlesnake which is commonly spotted in these regions. I had an encounter with one such serpent that was far too close for comfort. As I paused to catch my breath in a shady alcove I noticed my silent neighbor at an arms length distance, attentively observing my presence in its domain. I think my next words were something along the lines of “Holly Shit!” From that point on I made a concerted effort to watch my footing around the cracks and crevasses along the way.

Hiking along I discovered this feature. An iconic geological coincidence labeled this large stone obelisk “Skull Rock”. The trail to skull rock is easily located just off of the road leading in from the park’s north entrance only a few hundred meters from the Jumbo Rocks Campground. It’s a fun area to explore and bolder around on the rock faces pretending you’re a kid again.

After capturing my fill of hiking and general monkey business I decided it was time to catch some relief from the midday heat ducking into this shady little spot where I had all the time in the world to clear my thoughts and enjoy the beauty around me.

With thoughts clear and bones rested I carried on completing my hike to Barker Dam where I encountered a group of big horn sheep. Although I had a 200 mm telephoto lens they were still pretty far away and the photos came out less than impressive. I could’ve risked getting closer but they’re pretty sturdy looking animals and I had a flashback to the time I got head butted by a cow in Guatemala. I couldn’t imagine adding enormous horns to that equation. The hike to the dam was a pretty short one but I snapped these images along the path.

One of my main goals was to try and capture a shot of an incredible sunset before I left and judging by my experience the day before I was in for quite an opportunity. Yet as the day progressed the clouds began to take a less defined and overcast tone. I was pretty certain I was about to get skunked despite my efforts at planning and scouting. These are the shots I took leading up to the sunset at Joshua Tree.

After only two days in Joshua Tree I felt like I’d barely scratched the surface, but unfortunately I had to hit the road. In the future I’d love to come back and learn more about the park and how I can contribute to it’s preservation. It really is a rare find here in California. I know it wont be long before I’m back.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed my photo’s or story, please help me out by sharing via Facebook, or Twitter. -Bear

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Author:Barry Hackett

Barry is a wedding & lifestyle photographer with a passion for environmental and philanthropic issues. He currently resides in Long Beach, CA. You can view his other work at www.barryhackett.com and www.hitchedphoto.com

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