Mid Day at the Oasis

At the northeastern tip of Joshua Tree National Park, four miles west of 29 Palms town, lies a real desert oasis and a well marked trail to it from a parking lot at the end of Canyon Road, which joins Highway 62 within 29 Palms. I hiked there with a friend on New Years Eve day. In this photo I’m at the top of a ridge overlooking the town. It’s mostly down hill from there to the oasis.

A distant view of the tops of the fan palms of 49 Palms Oasis, one of five fan palm oases in Joshua Tree National Park, and one of 158 in North America.

We are getting closer to the oasis! How mysterious to see a grove of green trees in the midst of miles of bare rock.

One of the pools of the oasis. There is evidence of a forest fire on the tree trunks. The desert fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, is a southern California native, and rarely killed by fires, as it contains vascular bundles that carry water and nutrients from its abundant, pencil thin rootlets that reach into the crevices and suck up the water of the oasis. This makes the palms quite top heavy, up to three tons, and therefore vulnerable to destruction by flash floods.

Another pool of the oasis. What an amazing environment, I thought. People must have been coming here since prehistoric times. Well, yeah. Native Americans, particularly the Cahuillas, ate the fruit of the fan palm, used the fronds to build waterproof dwellings, and planted the seeds in locations likely to support palms. While coyote, quail and bighorn sheep visit oases, some animals live nowhere else – the western yellow bat, the hooded oriole, and the giant palm-boring beetle, which only kills the old trees, keeping the palm population youthful and healthy.

A natural abstract painting by lichens on the granite boulders along the trail.

After an hour of uphill walking, we see the view of 29 Palms town again.