Current location: Santa Monica, California
Miles traveled since last update: 460+
Max miles traveled in one day on this leg: 235
Total miles traveled: 6650+
I'm STILL in California! There is something about this state that makes it hard to leave. Maybe it's the friends who live here or the amazing weather, but I'm still here. I even backtracked four hours towards LA to squeeze in a visit with these beautiful people. How could I not? Look at them! :)
Joshua Tree and My First Visit to the Desert
The desert, oh my lord, the desert. Visiting a place like this for the first time opened my eyes and gave me a new found respect for this climate. You really can't understand it until you are there exploring and taking things in. There is so much beauty in the way things survive out here, so many little details that you can't appreciate until you see it with your own eyes.
The day I arrived to Joshua Tree it was raining. It was the first rain I've had while camping in my nearly 60 days on the road. I was grateful that I've been very lucky to go this long with absolutely no rain and ideal weather in most places. I set up my tent in the wetness and went to bed relatively dry, and when I woke up I could still hear the rain falling against my tent. In that moment I felt frustration. I wanted to explore the desert today! It wasn't raining hard but it was on and off at times. I saw a ranger making the rounds and waved him down to ask what the weather looked like for the rest of the day. "Like this" he said. "It's a rare day to have rain like this so we love it. This place would be cookin' otherwise". Just then I realized I should be thankful for this day. I could explore the desert when it wasn't blazing hot, take my time, and enjoy the place in a way that most don't. And in that moment my frustration turned to joy. Of course a place that rarely gets rain would have it in the short time I was there. That is how things have been going on this journey.
The yucca cactus (above) is all over Joshua Tree and helps give the park a distinct look. Sage bushes and other desert plants sprawl across the land and with the rain, the strongest smell of sage and yucca was everywhere. It was so nice to be breathing air like this for a couple days. But yes, the desert! I was in awe the entire time I walked around this place. With the cloudy and rainy haze the trails were mostly all mine. I could climb a rock and spend a while taking things in while not worrying about getting overheated. Coming from large forests in the mid and pacific northwest the desert was such a change. In my opinion the forests are a dense area where you mostly stick to trail hiking, yet here in Joshua Tree it's as if desert says "this is all of me, open to exploration, walk where you like, explore me and explore yourself". And I did just that.
I dipped in and out of the trails, taking things slow, climbing rocks, and breathing it all in. With the high heat that comes to the area there are signs of previous fires everywhere. And even in the burned out areas of trees and shrubs, there is beauty in the way the life finds a way to survive here.
Later in the evening the rain faded and I was treated to an amazing sunset which I watched from the top of my campsite in Jumbo Rocks Campground (highly recommend if you ever get the chance to go!).
On my final day I took a trip to a cactus garden, a field covered in cholla cacti which were remarkable.
My final stop on the way out was a trail called High View which looked above the entire valley. It was an awesome way to finish out my visit to this special place. I'll never forget my time here. It has been one of the top three places I've seen along my way and I hope to visit again in the future.
To take a look at all of my Joshua Tree pictures, head on over to my Flickr page.
Next stop is Arizona where I'll explore the grand canyon area. Looking forward to more desert experiences!