Joshua Tree & Unsuspecting Victims

joshua tree Yucca brevifoliaAbove: Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is celebrating its 75th anniversary throughout 2011 but the reason I am here at the moment is because a couple of my Big Bear buddies have left the mountain life for that of the desert. Instead of pondering things after the family memorial and a visit to my coastal home town, I came here for a bit of recovery.

As a child, my family visited the desert for the therapeutic pools and the dry air. To this day I find being in the mineral water soothing but it isn’t a place I would fancy living, however I find myself in the desert quite a bit. Come to think about it, once I thought I would never leave the life nestled on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean so it is a bit odd to find myself living in the mountains above a lake. Anyway, for the moment I am here where the scenery is different but breathtaking in its own way.

Desert folks have inhabited the Joshua Tree area for at least 5,000 years according to the lore. The first residential group was the Pinto Culture, followed by the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla. Then the cattlemen moved in and allowed their animals to gobble up the ample grass (available at the time) followed by the miners who unearthed various areas in the search for gold in the 1800s. Homesteaders began filing claims in the 1900s and all contributed to the rich cultural history of Joshua Tree National Park.

At the moment you can find 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, and 19 cultural landscapes but the park is fairly young, only becoming a national monument in 1936 and upgraded to national park status in 1994. The area is named after the Joshua Trees found throughout the region. Identified as Yucca brevifolia, it resembles a tree and is known by many names including Joshua tree, yucca palm, tree yucca, and palm tree yucca. It is a protected species and can be found listed in the threatened and endangered species list.

Surrounding the park are different conglomerations of desert dwellers, I used to call them desert rats but the folks I’ve befriended don’t fit into that category. This area is filled with congenial folks of advanced ages with a variety of hobbies that consist of feeding the birds, holding parties for almost any reason, and getting together with the neighbors who are spread widely apart on acres of land.

Much like the mountains, the desert has its own initiation and many unsuspecting victims find they get a rude introduction through the torment by straight, barbed, curved and hooked spines of the desert plants. Spines are actually cleverly adapted leaves but they can be a challenge and such was the discussion last night.

For instance, cutting through the terrain at night is NOT a good idea after a cocktail (or even before) and it is best to use the established roads or paths. Closed shoes are a good idea as well. Why? Because when you encounter cacti and other desert plants, you might have a problem and so it is vital to know a few things.

How to Remove Cactus Spines

First, don’t ever use your hands to dislodge the spines because they will get barbed and don’t even think of sucking on the wound because your mouth and tongue get barbed!

Next, if you try to brush the spines away they will spread to other parts of your body, and if you have animals that are allowed upon your furniture, well you just might get a barb in your butt or other appendages when you least suspect it.

Of course if you bend over to pick something up from the ground and happen to be sporting any neck decor (such as a scarf or cloth pouch) you are likely to get speared when you stand up if the piece has hit the ground and snagged a spiked hitchhiker. This means it could end up in your chest–and that can be painful.

Now, being a cub reporter and all, this got me to thinking about just the right way to rid yourself of such painful spines. Locals all have their ideas about such things, but much of that advice is bad because it doesn’t usually work.

For instance, using broad tape to pull out the stickers. Mostly it doesn’t work. To save you such trial and error, I thought I would share how to remove the little suckers.

The few ideas that seem to work the best include the old standard tweezers–which can be a problem if you have less than great eyesight but okay if you have a good magnifying glass. So put that in your First-Aid Kit right away.

The other two sound a bit bizarre but work. White glue (Elmer’s for instance) can be spread thinly and once dry pulled off complete with the spines. Another trick is to use the glue and then cover with gauze for easier removal.

However, the tool of choice seems to be the standard men’s hair comb. It keeps your hands away from the spines while snagging them and pulling them out. I think I will invest in one with a thin, long handle to keep a distance from my hand.

Once removed antiseptic cleansing is a good idea. If you get seriously impaled it is always good to see a doctor to avoid any challenges from festering spines.

So, I am glad to have been able to share such vital information with you and it certainly was a lively discussion filled with laughter as everyone shared their stories. As always, when you integrate into a new environment, such wisdom can come in handy. I’ll be home soon…in the meantime, check out some of these cactus spines!



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This entry was posted on Friday, January 28th, 2011 and is filed under GG's Day Trips, Mountain Lake Resort, Small Town Living.

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2 Responses to “Joshua Tree & Unsuspecting Victims

  • 1
    tm
    January 28th, 2011 11:38

    Glue – very interesting advice. I used candle wax before to remove cactus spines (or even glass wool). To cover the glue with gauze and use this as handle reminds me of epilation – you know, with wax or sugar 😉

  • 2
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    January 29th, 2011 08:40

    Hmm, waxing products might work. Hot candle wax doesn’t sound to enticing. People have tried facial products (masks) but reported that they don’t work so well but I am guessing the hair wax products would. Thanks for the tip!