Joshua Tree: A Geology Motor Tour

Behold some epic boulders as you wend through the national park.


THAT ONE-WORD CHANT: Pull into any national park and you're bound to feel happily overcome by a particular sight you've longed to see. You might even begin to chant the word of that sight, as you line up at the entrance gate, for chanting "waterfalls" outside of Yosemite National Park or "bats" while driving up to Pinnacles National Park only serves to stoke that excitement further. If you're in the excited chanting, can't-wait-to-get-inside camp of travelers, and you love yourself some serious desert vistas, what is the word you sing over and over again as you toodle for Joshua Tree National Park? "Chollas" is a fine choice, as is "oasis," but we have to guess that many a buff is warbling the word "boulders" as they enter the arid-amazing wonderland. Boulders rule Joshua Tree, in so many shapes and forms and hues, and to not let the rocks rock your world is to not give your heart fully over to the experience, be your visit there an hour or a week. There are many ways to get to know these very old, very photographable, very iconic shapes of the national park during your sojourn, but one of the very best involves a bit of driving, stopping, and deep looking. It's the...

GEOLOGY MOTOR TOUR: And it involves you and your vehicle, lest you wondered, for a moment, if this was a dealie you needed to sign up for, with a ranger-led group. Nope: You're on your own schedule here, with your own pals. Just be prepared on the time-spent and gas front, as this park-big wend winds for 18 miles. There are almost as many stops as miles -- 16 in all -- and they cover Joshua Tree's "most fascinating landscapes." Erosional levels of the granite boulders, rock piles, rock sculptures, dry lakes, and the formation of valleys are some of the topics that the online brochure touches upon. The brochure also recommends setting a side of a couple of hours for this fact-filled adventure, and where to begin your outing. Will you, though, love these boulders even more after you're done? If such a thing is possible? If you're the sort of Joshua Tree regular who chants "boulders, boulders" as you approach the gate, clearly you need to strengthen your ties to these great granite behemoths. This is a fine start.

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