Dining with a Zebra-Tailed Lizard


Lunch for the trail: salty pistachios, juicy tomatoes, and a light (but flavorful) sandwich.

It’s National Park Week, and yesterday, I headed to a Ranger Program in Joshua Tree National Park. It was a desert adaptations-themed walk through Silvia’s Wash, a sandy channel where water flows after a heavy rain. The ranger transformed the canyon and the wash into the perfect outdoor classroom. We paused underneath shady trees, including blooming desert willows and palo verdes, and discussed the vibrant life of the desert.


Palo verde tree growing in the boulders above Silvia’s Wash, Joshua Tree National Park.


After the program, I continued on for a longer hike and enjoyed a late lunch on some water-worn boulders. While I ate, a north-blowing breeze carried the scent of desert lavender up to my lunch spot, and a little zebra-tailed lizard scurried around in the sand below my feet.

The Menu:

  • Sweet & Salty Snack
  • Cheese Sandwich with Tarragon and Artichoke Hummus

I liked to pack salty and sweet whole foods on hikes. Today I chose shelled pistachios for a salt and electrolyte recharge and cherry tomatoes for a sugar boost.

Cheese Sandwich with Tarragon and Artichoke Hummus:

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 5-6 thin slices of Tillamook cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbs of artichoke hummus (to make, add 2 cups of chickpeas to this recipe)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon, rinsed
  • 1 pinch of paprika and black pepper


  1. Spread the artichoke hummus on both slices of bread.
  2. On one slice of bread, sprinkle paprika and black pepper on top of hummus. Top with evenly spaced leaves of tarragon.
  3. On the other slice of bread, evenly spread the thin slices of cheddar cheese.
  4. Put the pieces of bread together, and store the sandwich in a reusable baggy.

A fine lunch companion, this zebra-tailed lizard visited the sand below my feet a few times while I ate.


How does it grow in the rocks? This barrel cactus has a super efficient shallow root system, so it can take root in little crevices with barely a layer of sand. Plus, I learned during the ranger program, its accordion-fold “skin” allows it to expand and store lot of water.


Desert lavender.


Desert willow tree fragrant with blooms.


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