California Deserts, August 1999
page 6 of 7
A Few More Hours in Joshua Tree National Park
Heading back north from Ocotillo Wells in the general direction of home, I passed through beautiful Box Canyon just south of Joshua Tree National Park. Though remarkably lizard-free, it did feature gorgeous boulders and pockmarked cliffs highlighted by ghostly smoke trees.
A brief hike up Cottonwood Springs trail in Joshua Tree National Park revealed that the local zebra-tailed lizards were perfectly colored to blend in with the local sand and rock colors. The ones at Ocotillo Wells had been much whiter, to match the white sand there. This young one has some bright orange mites on its neck (click the photo for an enlarged view where the mites are more visible).
As sunset approached I found myself in Cholla Garden, an area in the park right near the dividing line between the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Cholla Garden is thick with teddy bear cholla plants. This plant has littered the nearby ground with spiny segments, each one of which could establish itself as another plant.
As the shadows grew longer the sky grew more beautiful. The previous week had seen some rain, unusual for July, so the cacti and other plants were greener than normal for this time of year.

The next morning I had a couple of hours available in the morning before I had to finish the long drive back home. I decided to try for the fringe-toed lizard trifecta. The Lizard-Watching Guide told me where to look for the Mojave fringe-toed lizard, near the north end of Joshua Tree National Park, so that's where I headed. And what do you suppose I found there?

Next: One Last Lizard?