Weekend Window: Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the jewels of the Mojave desert and is located in southern California.

And from the beginning, the region's look proved to be a distinctive marker, because of one unusual looking plant, in particular.

"The Joshua tree was named by Mormons, who were traveling westward, and they felt that the arms or branches of the tree were stretched upward. And that's why they were inspired to name the tree Joshua," said Deborah DeMeo, of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Now, long after the travelers who named the tree have gone, its influence continues on present-day visitors.

"The Joshua trees inspire people to be creative and to think about themselves," DeMeo said.

The strange look of the Joshua tree gives the park part of its charm.

"Some people have said they have a Dr. Seuss sort of quality to them," said park ranger Joe Zarki. "They just look sort of strange. They look different to us."

And the arid locale is uncommon, even compared with other deserts.

"The landscapes, even though they are stark, are inspiring," DeMeo said. "You have to be in the middle of the landscape so you can sense the enormity, and sense your relative insignificance. Joshua Tree National Park restores my sense of peace."

Along with the Joshua tree, the park has other unique attractions.

"The rock piles are granite formations; they're what are known as plutons. They were molten masses, maybe several miles in diameter, that formed underground," said Zarki. "The strange shapes that they have — the sort of jumble and tumbled appearances to them — those boulders were formed when they were still deep below the surface."

And a simple sunset can reveal more of the park's charm than meets the eye.

"At sunset, the colors intensify in the desert," DeMeo said. "What might have looked bland at noon looks rich and red and purple at sunset. So, the mountains will take on a pink cast that you wouldn't see during the daytime."