Getting Lost in Joshua Tree National Park
I had never been to Joshua Tree National Park before we arrived in our Airstream in January. We started our Great American Roadtrip in the Airstream in October 2016 and had criss-crossed the country by the time we arrived on the West Coast.
Joshua Tree was our first stop after crossing the Arizona–California border. We drove for long stretches down a two-lane road through the Mojave Desert, passing only a handful of cars. The road appeared to lift up into the sky at one point. As we neared the town of Twenty Nine Palms, we saw junk houses, mostly abandoned and reclaimed by the sand. It was a colorfully post-apocalyptic scene with the ghosts of residents past juxtaposed with a fresh crop of squatters and die-hards. Dead trailers, boats, and cars littered tiny roads named after owners.
Twenty Nine Palms, where our campground in Joshua Tree was located, had a quaint and low-key suburban vibe. We stopped to pick up groceries there and not much else.
We pulled into Black Rock Campground, less than a mile from the main road, to claim our spot in Joshua Tree National Park for the night. There were no hook-ups for electricity or water, but our Airstream is built for going off-grid. In January, temps were in the 40s, so I happily donned my new down coat, one of my first post-Guam purchases.
The next morning, we rose at the crack of dawn to capture some timelapse photography of the trees and sky. I was rewarded with a sunrise rainbow, which is every bit as fantastic as it sounds. I had never seen one, especially in a bright pink sky over a national park.
The Joshua Trees are pretty enigmatic. They feel almost human in their poses, no two trees alike.
After doing a live stream from my drone, I set out on a spontaneous five-mile hike on my own. I stopped to admire the frothy San Gorgonio Mountain in the far distance. Wild hares dashed across my path, but no sign of the coyotes I heard so clearly the night before.
My hiking path started out flat, but then wove through steep and dusty foothills. A handful of other hikers passed me at first, but then I realized I was definitely off the beaten path. I retraced my steps to find I had wandered past a poorly marked curve on the trail. Phew! That was a little nerve-wracking. I slid down a dusty hill, holding my camera dearly, and hoping I wouldn’t fall.
I stopped for photographs every time I saw a pretty piece of bark, a knotted tree trunk, or a bristle brush yucca plant. As I entered the flatlands again, I heard a group of noisy teenagers behind me and quickened my pace. Am I a miser for wanting to enjoy nature alone and in utter silence?
The sun was nearly setting when my husband texted me to see if I was okay. I told him I was fine, but at that point I was definitely heading off the trail home. I wasn’t scared or worried, but didn’t want to be wandering around in the dark. I retraced my steps again and saw an Airstream in the distance. It wasn’t ours, but at least it signified civilization.
I returned to my trailer exhausted but happy and with more incredible images than I can edit.