5 Day Adventure in Joshua Tree National Park

One of the Golden Rules in camping is to arrive at your campsite well before the sun sets so you have ample time to set up said site. This is extremely important when driving a 32 foot RV while towing a Jeep and entering a National Park to boondock…no light posts, no camp hosts to lead the way in their little golf cart, and no idea where you are going. But that didn’t deter us…not in the least.

It’s a funny thing…that 30 minute window of time between “what a beautiful sunset” to “I can’t f*cking see where I’m going…are you just gonna sit there or you gonna help me park this effing thing?!?!”. Yes, that 30 minutes can mean the difference between toasting a lovely {plastic} glass of Petite Syrah with your loved one and wondering how secluded tomorrow’s hike really is and how long it might take before 'they' find his (or her) body. Oh camping…how do we love thee.

Well, we arrived at Joshua Tree just as the sun was setting (don't let the above picture fool you...I took it the following morning, when it was light out). We managed to get to Jumbo Rock Campground and find an open spot big enough for the Mutiny but our nerves were on edge, Clark was tired of driving, I was freaking out about running the generator during non-generator hours (we had to if we wanted to set up and eat)...and right away Joshua Tree became my new least favorite place. Until...

What?! This is our amazing camp site and we didn't even know it until the sun came up??

I woke up early the next morning and was greeted with the most amazing view. We were surrounded by enormous rock formations and the sky was already a brilliant blue. The contrast was stunning. I hopped on my bike and road around the small camp ground completely in awe of the scenery. I also noted that there was a stream of cars, trucks and RVs desperately looking for any available campsite.

We had completely lucked out by leaving Bullhead a day early and securing a most coveted spot in the park. I guess we kind of forgot that it was the weekend and since the park doesn't take reservations, the first-come first-served rule actually worked in our favor. There was no way we were going to leave now. I immediately went up to the kiosk and paid for 4 more nights {only $10 per night} before one of the late-comers tried to snag our spot right out from under us (yes, people were getting out of their vehicles and checking exit dates on the camp posts and 'hovering' in an attempt to snatch a spot).

At Jumbo Rocks Campground:

It turned out to be a great decision. Like Death Valley, Joshua Tree has amazing geological formations and a kind of peaceful energy to it. However, the trails, rocks and points of interest are all much closer together and there are opportunities for shorter hikes, which Clark appreciated.

Magical (along Hidden Valley loop):


There's something surreal about Tibetan monks and the sunset on Jumbo Rocks:

Lots of bouldering and short hikes leading to amazing formations and views Arch Rock):

Skull Rock:

Face Rock at Split Rock Loop:
Hanging out on the rocks:

Cholla (aka Teddy Bear) Cactus Garden:
It might just be me, but the desert does something to me. Like an old, wise sage it sits silent allowing for a lot of contemplation. It affords brilliant sun rises and sunsets and you may catch yourself wondering how the hell anything can survive, let alone thrive out there. It makes you feel small but not quite insignificant...although it certainly puts your trivial problems into perspective. 
So, if you're wondering, Joshua Tree is a more-than-worthy destination whether by RV, tent or just a day visit. Don't think you can get away with just driving by on Interstate 10...that drive does it absolutely no justice. Go inside and feel it for yourself.

* Dates of Joshua Tree visit Nov. 15-19, 2012

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