After a mere two months of LA living, I was ready for an adventure. One complete with fresh air, the smell of crackling fire, and a moment to assess my new life. After trudging across the country with my dear friend, Jenny, she had caught the bug. Yes, the camping/outdoor adventuring bug. With this new adventurer by my side, I planned a weekend escape to Joshua Tree National Park. Driving about two hours west we found ourselves in the sparse, colorful desert. Arriving mid-day Saturday, we entered the park eager for a campsite (all campgrounds at Joshua Tree are first come/first serve). Ending up at Jumbo Rocks Campground, a tranquil area with campsites nestled in between massive rock formations, we setup camp and journeyed on.
I haven't camped in the desert for a couple of years and had to reacquaint myself. IT IS HOT. As it was already mid-afternoon, we chose a few smaller hikes to start off our Joshua Tree adventure. I had never seen a Joshua Tree, but I've seen plants resembling them in Dr. Seuss books. They look like part palm tree/part Lorax and cover the park as far as the eye can see. We first drove to Keys View, the small nature trail with a lookout towards Mexico. It's about 95 miles from the top of a short path and is easily visible. Marveling from afar, I added another place on my list I have yet to visit.
Then we drove towards Hidden Valley. It's the most popular campground and has a few great trails nearby. We started on the main trail, only to find people surrounding us from the major rock formations above. Veering off course, we started climbing rocks to reach the highest point possible. With the help of my Merrell hiking boots, it was so easy to scale the grainy textured rocks and find my way to the top of odd-shaped nooks. We spotted numerous groups of REAL rock climbers and watched them from our conquered rock formations.
The sun sets early these days, and when mountainous rocks surround you on all sides, it's even earlier. We managed to make it back to camp with some sunlight, but not long after, a luminous glow appeared behind the rock face nearby. We were confused by it's bright light and decided it could not possibly be the moon. And yet, the moon slowly rose and lit up the sky. It was a full moon and its presence served as our glorified night light.
In a city like LA, the skyline lights become the stars and the real ones aren't visible. After spending two nights in Joshua Tree, my mission was complete. The sky was saturated with stars and my soul was saturated with clarity. It's amazing how the simple dots in the sky can really calm you down.
The next day we awoke with the rise of the sun as it flooded our tent with light and brought the temperature up 30 degrees in 3 minutes. We spent the rest of our day winding through the park and stopping for cool rocks and cacti. This park is a grandiose jungle gym and after climbing a rock I would then see a more complex rock in the distance and go climb that one too. That went on for a while.
I've never been more intrigued by rocks. The entire park is covered in climbable rocks of crazy shapes with smooth surfaces from once being under water. We even climbed into the eye sockets of skull rock - Jenny got stuck.
Ending the night back at camp, we made nachos and a batch of gluhwein - my favorite German invention. We shared with our neighbors and received a few inquiries from others as the night went on.
Sitting on the rocks surrounding our campsite, we watched the desert transform from day into night in under 10 minutes. Young kids climbed the rocks around us, bedecked in their headlamps, and we sipped the rest of our hot-spiced wine until it got cold. As we looked out into nothing, we talked through our fears of post-college life, our successes, and how we have so much to look forward to.
Disappearing into the wild for a few days always sets me straight, and after too many s'mores, I am revamped and ready to continue my new life in my new city.