When we entered the south end of Joshua Tree National Park early yesterday morning I wondered rather hopefully but doubtfully to myself if Susan and I would be so gifted as to see both a bighorn sheep AND a desert tortoise during what was our inaugural visit.
Then we went about making our way north through the park awed at the amazing scenery and solitude. By the late afternoon it was time to head home and pretty much as expected we hadn’t encountered either of the two animals. But then, at the last opportunity we literally intersected paths with a desert tortoise crossing the road about a mile from the exit at Joshua Tree.
Being a huge fan of Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” I immediately drew a parallel between this tortoise and the metaphorical one found crossing the highway in that book’s third chapter.
With a crowd of other passersby gathering there was concern the creature might stress and void its bladder (aka “drop its water”), which can often be a dehydration death sentence to a tortoise out there in the dry and wild. But any drama as to what to do with the tortoise who was really in no hurry to get off the warm asphalt, was nicely resolved when a park ranger happened upon the scene and moved it safely (and without dropping its water) well away from the other side of the road. What an awesome way to end our first visit to this amazing place. Next time: camping, for sure!