You're probably familiar with tribbles. You know, those furry eggplant-shaped critters from Star Trek who purr like little adorable alien kittens. Unfortunately, they also breed like evil alien rabbits and, before you know it, they can take over your spaceship and eat up all of your food. Because I don't currently have a spaceship, I never actually thought I would get to see a tribble in real life. And I still haven't seen a real tribble, but I have seen their cousins at Joshua Tree National Park (located 140 miles east of LA). Turns out, they're pretty evil too.
Here, take a look. Same eggplant shape as their outer space cousins, but instead of soft fur, they're covered in spiky things. This should have been my first clue as to their evil nature.
Their official name is Cylindropuntia bigelovii, which of course is Latin for evil tribble. As tempting as it might be, you really don't want to touch one of these or even brush up against them. At the slightest touch, the spines will grab onto you and pierce your flesh. You'll be in pain. You'll scream. You'll cry. And you'll curse the evil tribbles as you try to remove them.
They even have warning signs about how dangerous these creatures are.
Their reproduction is a bit different than their furry tribble cousins. They grow on a type of cactus and then detach themselves and fall to the ground where they generate new plants.
They're pretty creepy looking. There are a lot of them breeding like crazy in the Cholla Cactus Garden on the western rim of the Pinto Basin. There is just enough water and drainage on this slope to keep them happy. Because even evil needs water.
But don't let the evil tribbles put you off from visiting Joshua Tree National Park. They're pretty well confined to one area of the park, so as long as you stay vigilant, you can safely visit the rest of the park and see neat things, like really big rocks. There are all sorts of boulders stacked everywhere, courtesy of volcanic activity ages ago.
And you can see cacti - after all, the park is located in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Don't worry, they're the kind that won't attack you, unlike the Cholla Cactus (aka evil tribble).
And of course, there are the Joshua trees. The trees got their name from Mormon pioneers who thought the trees, with their outstretched limbs, resembled the biblical Joshua beckoning them westward. We got to camp in the midst of Joshua Trees at the Black Rock Campground. Pretty spectacular. While we were sitting around the campfire, some creature ran past my foot. I have no idea what it was. It kind of freaked me out.
You can pretend you're a cattle rustler in Hidden Valley. It is an easy one mile loop trail which takes you through an enclosed hidden valley, where 19th century cattle rustlers were rumored to have hidden their cows. Nowadays, you can wander around and watch rock climbers scale the different formations.
That's me walking through Hidden Valley. It looks like I have a month's supply of chocolate chip cookies in that backpack.
And one final shot of some really big rocks.
We avoided the evil tribbles and played among the big rocks at Joshua Tree National Park on 31 October and 1 November 2014.
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