Joshua Tree National Park
and the Palm Spring Area
April 1999

This is a Joshua Tree.   Two deserts come together in Joshua Tree National Park, the lower, drier Mojave and higher altitude Colorado. 

Here the Joshua Tree of the high desert and the Yucca cactus of the lower desert grow together
 

We also saw a story book style oasis in the desert.  Here the San Andreas fault pushes water up to the surface. 
The was also many different rock formations here.  These rocks are made of small crumbly crystals.  They are rounded and easily eroded by the wind and rain. 

Between the large rocks is a layer of harder material that can be seen by Max's head. This layer was once molten lava that was squeezed between cracks in the rocks.  We saw huge rocks laying on the desert floor that had slid off this harder material.
 

This is an Ocotillo cactus.  They grow about ten feet tall.  In the spring they have red blossoms.  We are in an area with hundreds of these. 

There were spots that had just the right conditions for a particular species of plant.  This one for the Ocotillo, another for Choila Teddy Bear cactus and one for Joshua trees.

 This is Choila Teddy Bear cactus.  There was a small dirt trail that winded through thousands of this type. 

We saw some that had died and discovered that the dried trunks look similar to the rain sticks we see in stores.
 

This is the blossoms on the Choila Teddy Bear cactus.  The blossom at the bottom of the picture is fully opened. 

Parts off this cactus fall to the ground and eventually sprout roots and turn into another cactus.

 Notice the bush that is covered by the pieces of Teddy Bear cactus that have fallen.  This is the home of the desert Wood Rat.  These critters will collect hundreds of these balls and pack them into the small bush to make a nest. Other animals won't to go into this rat's house.  This protects them from everything except the snakes. 
  We learned that each barb of this cactus has little microscopic spines.  If you bump into this fellow you can pull out the large spines but the little ones will irritate your skin for days.

No, we learned this the easy way, by reading the park information.

Another nice oasis in the desert.  This one is called Palm Springs. 

Palm Springs is tucked behind the San Jacinto Mountains.  A narrow gap between mountain ranges, just north of Palm Springs is a main corridor for the cooler coastal air.  This cooler air often rushes in at thirty to fifty mile per hour. 


 These winds blow 364 days a year making it an ideal place for wind farms, a clean energy source that supplies the entire Palm Springs area with electricity.  There are over four thousand wind mills here.

One night driving back from Joshua Tree National Park, Ed told the kids to stick their heads out the truck window.  Max thought this was to experience the tremendous 50 MPH winds. 

Since we were also traveling 50 MPH the kids were quite surprised when the put their heads out the window and felt absolutely nothing.  It felt as if we were standing still.
 
The nacelle, cover, is off of this wind powered generator.  Click here to go to a webpage with a lot of good technical information about this technology and it's future. 

Some of the largest generators here are the size of a railroad boxcar.

 

 Here is a smaller generator with the nacelle opened up.  To perform maintenance or repair the generator or gearbox, a repair man climbs the tower, crawls through an access hole and opens the nacelle. 

Quite often they have to work in very windy conditions.

Max is checking to see how heavy this blade is.  Since it wouldn't move, all we know is that it's real heavy.

This one is 70 feet long.  The longer ones in this area are 110 feet.  They are made mostly of fiberglass.

 

 
 
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