Our map shows a trail to an old mine near the north entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, but when we arrive we find ourselves wandering up a wide, braided arroyo. I soon give up barefooting after having to pull two cactus fruits out of my foot in quick succession.
We look up to the ridge and take a guess which canyon contains the mine. We pick the wrong canyon for that, but the right one for many vibrant, healthy cacti: red barrel, pencil cholla, spiny star, and teddy bear cholla to name a few.
There’s not much doubt that we’re in the wrong canyon – there’s no sign of human activity in it. That gives it some charm, so we continue until it’s time to turn around and head back toward the valley, watching the sunlight empty out of it.