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The California desert welcomes spring

Mission Creek Preserve, brittlebush 3 3-18-15 - Copy.JPG
Brittlebush lines the easy start to the Mission Creek Preserve trail near Morongo.


Mission Creek Preserve trail, blue phacelia, desert dandelion, Fremont pincushion 3-18-15 - Copy.JPG
The trail wanders toward San Gorgonio Mountain en route to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail.


misletoe, 1; mesquite tree, 0 3-18-15 - Copy.JPG
Mistletoe: 1; mesquite tree: 0. The Cahuilla Indians used the parasite's leaves to make dye for basket and pots. Beware the berries--many varieties are poisonous.


Mission Creek Preserve trail hornworm 4 3-18-15 - Copy.JPG
Voracious hornworms proliferate. Soon, they'll metamorphose into hawkmoths.


Mission Creek Preserve gopher snake1 3-15 - Copy.JPG
Why did the gopher snake cross the trail? ...


Mission Creek Preserve gopher snake2 3-15 - Copy.JPG
...to get to the other side.


junction Mission Creek Preserve and Pac Crest trails5 3-18-15 - Copy.JPG
A fork in the road. Any route you take is the right one.


JT, Mastodon Peak trail sign67 3-15 - Copy.JPG
In Joshua Tree, you're always between a rock and a beautiful place.


JT, Mastodon Mine trail bird on yucca55 3-15 - Copy.JPG
A Phainopepla perched atop a yucca is less inclined to sing than survey.


JT, Mastodon Peak, western whiptail18 3-15 - Copy.JPG
The whiptail lizard is quick, but we were quicker. Or maybe just lucky.


JT,Mastodon Mine trail heliotrope49 3-15 - Copy.JPG
The heliotrope thrives in sandy washes, a splash of color tarting up the terrain.


JT, Mastodon Peak just below summit9 3-15 - Copy.JPG
Rock (quartz monzonite) against sky (blue. Unrelenting blue.)


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The summit of Mastodon Peak, where you are queen of the realm. Because no one's there to argue otherwise.


JT, chuckwalla tail in crevice, Mastodon Peak27 3-15 - Copy.JPG
Chuckwallas scurry into crevices when they feel threatened, but this one forgot to hide his tail.


JT, chuckwalla, Mastodon Peak35 3-15 - Copy.JPG
Apparently, we're not that intimidating--soon, he emerged to say hello.


Photos: Ellen Alperstein


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