I first visited Joshua Tree Country on a Spring Break college road trip in 1990. Two buddies and I camped out for a few days in a tent, cooked our meals on a Coleman stove, and spent our days climbing the famous rock formations and our nights staring with wonder at the multitude of stars, making a game of picking out the satellites. No plant life caught my eye on this visit other than the iconic Joshua Tree itself which at the time we all associated with the recent U2 album of the same name. Though our journey had started in Northfield, Minnesota, and had exposed us to countless sights of beauty and wonder, the desert made the biggest impression on me.
Nearly a decade later, in 1999, I had not forgotten Joshua Tree Country and I returned on another road trip, this time with a girlfriend and from further away yet: Boston, Massachusetts. We camped for a couple days near the Cottonwood Springs entrance of what was then still Joshua Tree National Monument, again in a tent with a Coleman. As in 1990, the Joshua Trees were the only flora that got my attention.
Skip ahead to 2015 for visit number three, which turned into a stay of nearly four months. This time I was accompanied by my farming partner of the last few years and we stayed in a rambling house on the edge of the village of Joshua Tree. The large windows featured a grand view of the hills on the north side of what was now Joshua Tree National Park and of the Creosote Bush scrub rolling away to the east where it met a blurry seam of mountains on the horizon. Over the past ten years, I had been supporting myself as a farmer, herbalist, and seedsman, so on this visit all the plants seized my attention, not just the Joshua Tree.
As when one falls in love and is intrigued by every detail of a new lover’s body and being, I was entranced by the flora and fauna of Joshua Tree Country.