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This is a Joshua Tree.  It is not actually a tree, but a yucca - and what's a yucca you say?  Well I am not really sure what you could compare a yucca too... they have spiky leaves and spongy centers - not rings like a tree has.  It took the name ``Joshua`` in the mid 19th century when Mormon immigrants saw the tree and its outstretched limbs appeared to reaching out to the sky in prayer... or something like that.  

The trees have been used by people throughout time - Native Americans wove its tough leaves into baskets and sandals and ate both the seeds and flower buds.  Homesteaders used them for fencing and corals and miners used them as fuel for the steam engines.  

We also learnt in our geography class this year that birds use their sword-like leaves to impale their prey - lizards.  Although I was really hoping to either see this in action, or see the aftermath, I saw neither.  

I did however see an abundance of rabbits (I counted 8 one morning), two massive birds which I with no knowledge of the subject, classified as owls, as well as a coyote (prowling around the campground).  

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My favorite place in Joshua Tree was the Wonderland of Rocks and more specifically hiking around Rattlesnake Canyon (yes there are rattlesnakes there, but not very active in winter).  Anyway this place was amazing - I had heard it was one of the best hiking spots in the park - and I was happy to discover that this `hike` had no trails, no route, no destination.  It was simply miles and miles of massive boulders to climb on!  I had so much fun... and not even once (well for more than a microsecond) scared for my life.  After my little incident in Death Valley, I was much, much more careful to make sure I could come down everything I went up.   

I also loved the teddybear cholla (a type of cactus) garden.  I loved it purely because it blew my expectations out of the water.  I was expecting some little cacti you might miss if you didn`t look close enough, but in reality, I drove around a corner and boom - massive cuddly looking cacti everywhere!  Unlike anything I have ever seen before.  There were numerous warnings that although these things look approachable, you should not touch them in anyway because their thorns will find a way to burrow into your skin.  Quite lovely.  

I camped my second night in Hidden Valley, which was a beautiful yet very windy spot.  The first site I chose was so windy that despite having put 3 large rocks in my tent, it started to blow away as I went back to the car.  I had to sprint across the campground and grab it out of the air.  Seriously.  It was on a mission for freedom.  I am sure I was quite the site for the guys hanging out in their truck right beside me.... I tried to look non-phased, like this happened to me all the time.  

 


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