Cholla Cactus Garden at Sunset

A friend recommended that I visit Joshua Tree’s Cholla Cactus Garden just before sunset. He said it was the best part of his trip, so that was enough of an endorsement for me. I had previous spotted this plant the day of my arrival and was instantly captivated by its charm. I wanted to see more.

After two moderately strenuous hikes during the day in Joshua Tree, we headed to the Cholla Cactus Garden (pronounced “choy-ya”). In our red Jeep, we arrived about an hour before sunset. A few minutes before the parking area, we noticed that the landscape had very suddenly changed. Instead of the smattering of various desert plants relatively spread out, it was all cholla.

Cholla cacti in the sunset

In the short walk around the garden, not only are you surrounding by these joyous, densely packed chollas, but they appear to be glowing. The sun, just over the horizon, hits the green and brown spikes on the edges in a magical way. It’s reminiscent of Pandora, the planet on Avatar where everything is colorful and glowing. Remember, the movie where someone coined the term Avatar Blues, referring to depression that some people felt after seeing the it because reality was not as beautiful? That’s how stunning this garden was.

Easily the most breathtaking part of the day, I wandered the cholla garden for about half an hour until sunset. As is the innate human desire to preserve beauty, I took as many pictures as I could. My iPhone 6 camera could not do the glowing scene justice, but I did the best that I could. I’ve posted some of my favorite photos below, with a gallery underneath with all of them. Take a look, and if you ever visit Joshua Tree, definitely don’t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise.

If the plant bears any helpful or even innocent part of the scheme of things on this planet, I should be glad to hear of it.

J Smeaton Chase, California Dessert Trails, 1919

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