Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark

Okay, okay.  I have to be upfront here -- this wasn't THE Joshua Tree National Park.  I'm still in Utah, not down in California's Mojave Desert.  But luckily, Utah has its own mini J-Tree down in the far southwest corner of the state.  Jordan had to work on the first day of my weekend, so I took the Jeep, blasted a certain U2 album, and went on a mini-roadtrip.

I saw my first Joshua tree on our initial visit down to St. George, and I've been fixated ever since.  Joshua trees are basically gigantic yuccas found chiefly in the Mojave Desert.  Utah's Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark is the only Joshua tree forest in Utah and the northernmost significant stand of tree yuccas in the US.  Ironically, most of the trees burned down within the official boundaries during a 2006 range fire, but there are still a bunch in the surrounding area.  Don't worry -- it's still worth it!

I drove a 32-mile loop, starting near the Shivwits Indian Reservation, then scooting south on the Mojave Desert Joshua Tree Road Scenic Backway, and finally heading north back home along Old Highway 91.  This is a totally different type of desert.  Instead of sheer red cliffs, the landscape was surrounded by huge limestone knolls.  The prickly pears were in bloom, and the gray landscape was dotted with gaudy fuchsia blossoms.  All in all, this trip was a great introduction to the Mojave Desert.  It's a totally different beast, and I'm excited to dig in and explore.

map credit:  blm.gov