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Travel

Joshua Tree shows off its piece of the super bloom, eclipsing its winter woes

Hikers pause among spring blooms, including a few poppies, along Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree Nat
Hikers pause among spring blooms along Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Spring has given Joshua Tree National Park its own piece of the super bloom, bringing not only wildflowers but also big, white blossoms on the Joshua trees.

I grabbed these shots on a 24-hour visit March 26 and 27, sharing the trails with flower people and the park’s usual spring rush of rock climbers and families on vacation.

Bajada trail, near Cottonwood Springs entrance, Joshua Tree National Park.
Bajada trail, near the Cottonwood Springs entrance in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Where is the damage from all the things that went wrong during last winter’s partial government shutdown? Invisible to most visitors.

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Traces remain, rangers say, as a result of a park that was open but largely untended. But thanks to a few rainy months and many community volunteers who stepped up to clean the place in late December and much of January, most visitors now see only gorgeous spring scenery and many other visitors.

In the end, park spokesman George Land said, the total number of Joshua trees known to have been killed as a result of the 35-day federal shutdown, which ended Jan. 25, is probably zero or one.

It’s fairly easy to find a dead Joshua tree in the park, but that’s part of the usual cycle. Another story on the park is scheduled for April 14 in the print Travel section.

Spring blooms line the hiking trail near Cottonwood Spring at the south end of Joshua Tree National
Spring blooms line the hiking trail near Cottonwood Spring at the south end of Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

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I started around noon at the south end of the park, at Cottonwood Visitor Center at Pinto Basin Road. Yes, I carried lots of water and sunscreen, dressed in layers and stepped carefully.

For further hints on how not to behave in the park, consult the Instagram account JoshuaTreeHatesYou.

Because this area is at lower elevation, it got the wildflower blooms first. It was about 70 degrees, basically a perfect early spring day.

Cholla Cactus Garden is along Pinto Basin Road in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park. The hills
The Cholla Cactus Garden is along Pinto Basin Road in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park. The hills beyond the chollas are dotted with yellow spring blooms.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

As I gained in altitude and reached the middle regions of the park, I saw fewer yellow and blue blooms, more granite and legions of Joshua trees.

Their blossoms were out in force — white eruptions about the size of your head, with a texture like popcorn on a stick.

New blooms poke out from a Joshua tree along Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park.
New blooms poke out from a Joshua tree along Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

In the minutes before sunset on that first day, I climbed a rocky hill a few miles south of the park’s main entrance — in the town of Joshua Tree — and watched the shadows lengthen.

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Visitors explore formations and Joshua trees protrude near Skull Rock and the Jumbo Rocks Campground
Visitors explore (and pose for photos) at Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
Cap Rock, Joshua Tree National Park.
Hikers pass a fallen Joshua tree at Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
Hikers, lizards and ducks share Barker Dam, near the Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree Nationa
A hiker leaps from rock to rock at Barker Dam, near the Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. He landed successfully.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
Near Cap Rock, Joshua Tree National Park.
Near Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

The next morning, after a night in a Joshua Tree motel, I returned to the park by way of its northern entrance, in Twentynine Palms, roamed over to Cap Rock (locally famed for its Gram Parsons connection), then stopped by Hidden Valley. All the campsites were spoken for, and had been for weeks, rangers said.

Aloog Park Boulevard, northwest of Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park.
Cars head north on Park Boulevard, northwest of Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

I left a little after noon — almost exactly 24 hours after arriving — by way of the main entrance.

Along Park Boulevard, northwest of Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park. Blooming Joshua tree.
A Joshua tree blooms along Park Boulevard, northwest of Hidden Valley, in Joshua Tree National Park.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
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christopher.reynolds@latimes.com

Twitter: @MrCSReynolds


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