Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Oh!" for Orchids

I had some friends come over for dinner last night. And one of them brought for me this huge tray full of the most lovely flowers - Orchids.

It took me quite a while to snip and snap the stems and arrange the flowers in the different vases ( I was able to fill up 6 bud vases in all) and even after that I had a small tray of flowers left over.

But once it was all done, they made a pretty sight. And I went "Oh!" for Orchids.

P.S. Love the flowers - thanks Rosalyn.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Joshua Tree National Park - The Colorado Desert

As I mentioned in my last post, JTNP is the location where 2 different desert ecosystems come together, the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. While the Mojave Desert is at higher elevations (above 3000ft) and is characterized by the Joshua Trees, the lower elevations (less than 3000 ft) is part of the Colorado Desert and home to some very interesting cactii species.

The Pinto Basin

We entered the part from the North Entrance (Twentynine Palms) and very soon we were surrounded by the vastness of the Colorado Desert. As we drove along, and took mini-trails to capture the scenes into our camera, we realized that the camera was not doing justice to the views. The panoramic views of the Pinto basin, for example, as captured by the camera were not half as good as the actual views themselves. Now that may be our camera (we have a point and shoot and not a digital SLR and I have been making a case to my husband to buy a DSLR) or it maybe the fact that the field of vision of the human eye is much bigger than what any camera has.

The Cholla Cactus Garden

In any case, as we saw the Pinto Basin in the distance and drove towards it, we noticed a cactii "garden" of sorts on our right hand side. I call it a garden because it was actually a fairly small concentrated patch, in the middle of nowhere, of these strange looking cactii called the Cholla (its not pronounced chholla, but rather choya). They had dark brown trunks and yellowish green prickly tips.

A closer look at this strange cactus

There were warning signs telling us to keep to the path because the prickly tops "fly" (break and even a slight wind draft is enough to carry them into the air) and stick to passerbys. The needles apparently are a pain to take out.

The Octillo Cactus

Next to the Cholla garden were also these Octillo cactii - now these I am sure I had seen before in the Anza Borrego Desert. Actually I saw one of them there and here they were in plenty.

I was definitely more impressed by the Joshua tree but the Cholla cactii were also nice and different to look at. And so though there was not much to see in the lower elevations of the park, the time spent there was not totally wasted. Plus the view of the Pinto Basin was enough for me to go "wow! that is huge".

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Joshua Tree National Park

This weekend we travelled to the Joshua Tree National Park.

It was my idea. And my husband just played along. I had gotten a book recently from Barnes and Noble on the National Parks of US and while going through it, I realized that we were just a 2.5 hour drive from this park. So I waited eagerly for the right weather and some free time, and off we went.

From San Diego, we started early in the morning and reached the north entrance visitor centre at about 11 in the morning. To be honest, there was not much I expected - from the pictures in the book it was not a typical desert with sand dunes and unlike Rajasthan back in India, it did not even have forts to offer. It was more out of curiosity - after all the most scenic spots in US are preserved as National Parks.

When we finally entered the park and drove through the place, what greeted us totally took us by surprise. I am sure my husband shared my feelings - he mentioned he was glad to come to the Park after every 20-30 minutes.

As I mentioned, the vastness of the place totally took us by surprise. The stark browns against the clear blue skies were really pleasant to look at. A quick reading of the information at the visitor centre told us that the Park contained 2 distinct desert eco-systems out of the 4 major deserts in US - the Colorado desert at the lower elevations and the Mojave desert at the higher elevations.

Our first sight of the Joshua tree completely awed us. Not a typical tree loaded with leaves and not a typical cactus with stocky, green stems and thorns. They looked like a blend of both, with trunks and branches like those of trees and bunches of cactus on the tips of branches. Joshua trees were located in the Mojave part of the park, at higher elevations. And they were all around in that area. One of the strangest looking tree we had seen.

I need to write more on this trip, about the Colorado part of the desert, but thats for a later post.