Travelogue: Joshua Tree National Park

First off, I have to say Joshua Tree has the happiest rangers in the world. I have been around a lot of rangers in my day, but their enthusiasm just bounded out of the entrance station and into your car wrapping you up in a giant invisible hug. And it wasn’t just one. We went in and out of the park at least four times, and they were all like that. They must be doing something right at JT cuz 29 Palms is certainly not a hot bed of excitement.

It’s been almost 10 years since I was in Joshua Tree, and it seemed like a completely different place to me. I couldn’t recognize anywhere we went as some place I had been to before, although I know I must have, since I came here on several trips as a kid. I learned how to rock climb on these rocks in middle school with my school and church. I found the skills I learned then are still there in my brain as I thoroughly enjoyed scrambling over the rocks near our campground, Jumbo Rocks. I wanted to climb all day, the thrill of adventure and puzzling out a route. Testing your confidence when it comes to going up, but not being so sure about going down. It’s been so long since I challenged myself in that way. And I was thrilled that my creaky middle-aged self with my cranky barely functioning knee could still scramble over rocks like a monkey.

We camped at Jumbo Rocks which I highly recommend. The landscape of rocks makes it so that most sites are protected from each other. It definitely does not feel like a giant campground. The eastern end of the campground is more open and provides a clearer view to the sky for telescopes and astral photography. A nice botanical trail leads from the campground amphitheater area to a jumble of rocks that are fun to climb and even have one that looks like a skull straight out of a pirate adventure.

The sky is not as dark as Death Valley, but still provided a great view of the Milky Way and far more stars than one sees in the city. We didn’t have much time to stay in the park, but we drove through the central part of the park and got to see the forest of Joshua Trees and a lovely picnic ground. Hidden Valley campground also looked like a good spot to enjoy an evening. We drove out of the park through the south and passed from the Mojave into the Colorado Desert. Joshua Tree is unique in that it straddles two deserts and includes a transition zone between the two where you can see a little bit of everything. We can’t wait to get back for a longer trip and just enjoy the outdoors again.