It's nearly a century since the wonderland of the Devil's Garden, a fantastic jumble of cacti and ocotillo just east of San Gorgonio Pass, was utterly obliterated by collectors looking to populate fashionable Los Angeles desert gardens. Horrified by the destruction, Pasadena socialite Minerva Hamilton Hoyt started campaigning to protect what was left of Southern California's desert.
After founding the founded the International Deserts Conservation League, Hoyt was asked by seminal landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead to serve on a state commission to chart a desert parks policy. That commission eventually gave birth to large parks in Death Valley and at Anza Borrego, and in the Little San Bernardino Mountains northeast of the devastated Devil's Garden.
That last park became a reality on August 10, 1936, when -- succumbing to Hoyt's persistent lobbying -- FDR created the Joshua Tree National Monument.
That's 75 years ago this Wednesday, and Joshua Tree -- upgraded to National Park status in 1994 -- is celebrating its birthday with a whole day of events, starting off with an 8 a.m. ceremony and culminating in a astronomy program at the Hidden Valley picnic area at 9 pm. In between, cultural events from a book signing to Cahuilla Bird Singers will take place at a range of locations throughout the park and surroundings.
If you can get away mid-week, it's worth checking out, and don't forget as you navigate the giant windmills en route to give thanks to the Devil's Garden they now occupy, which gave its life to shock desert defenders into action.