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  • Writer's pictureJ. F. Rowan

The Trees Of Joshua

Joshua Tree National Park
Morning fog receding into the lower desert. Joshua Tree National Park

Getting out of Los Angeles was noticeably less difficult than it was leaving San Francisco, especially when we got on the interstate. In town, it was about the same. Thankfully, it was a short drive from the point of departure to the entrance of the interstate.

Even though google gives you a pretty good idea as to the travel time when you use their maps-app, we've found it wise to add about 1 additional hour for every 3 hours of travel time for incidentals. Fuel stops, potty breaks, grocery re-load, etc., can add up while you're in transit. The trip to Joshua Tree NP took us about 5 hours, arriving about two hours before sunset.

Proposed route to Joshua Tree NP. When all is said and done, door to door it's about a 5 hour day.

Joshua Tree NP has about 4 different campgrounds within it's borders. Half of them are reservation-only, the other half are first come first serve (FCFS). We reserved a spot for two nights before our arrival. The plan was to get in our reserved spot, un-hook the trailer, then look around to see what first-come-first-serve FCFS spots were available. As it turned out, we found a better FCFS site and moved to it on the third day.

Joshua Tree NP
Our first campsite which we reserved online. A bit cramped and our surroundings were a bit more populated than we like.

Go figure. In the middle of the high desert not only did it rain a few times, but the temps dipped below freezing a few nights as well. Winds occasional reached 30 knots and we had to remind ourselves we were not back in Texas. The difference here ironically, we didn't experience as much dust.

Joshua Tree NP
Very rarely does it rain here. But when it does...

Joshua Tree NP
Our second camp site. A much better site (FCFS), but one we could only find using our method of reserving first, and then searching for options after we arrive.

This park is known not only for the alien-looking Joshua Tree, a member of the Yucca family, but also for the cool jumbo rock formations. Hiking through these unique features was pretty inspiring. However, many trailheads could only be reached by driving, with just a few which could be hiked right from camp. We did see a decent amount of wildlife in the park including birds, rabbits and coyotes.

One of the coolest moments was running into a coyote while we were hiking on the far side of Skull Rock Trial. It was as if the coyote had just gotten up from his nap, and we turned the corner, there he was just as you see in the photo below. We watched him for a minute or two and continued on leaving him to his routine. As we were walking away, I looked over my shoulder and saw him stretch just as any dog would, haunches in the air, stretching back on his front legs.

We did go into the town of “Twenty Nine Palms” a few times for lunch and some other errands. Cooler weather usually sets off a craving for soup and Yvette and I discovered a great little place in town called “The Jelly Donut.” Wait, what? Yep, that’s what it’s called. I never thought I would see a Vietnamese soup kitchen that also sold donuts. But probably a good business decision.

Pho Bo
The "Jelly Donut" made the best soup and donuts! A rich beefy broth properly anointed with hot Chile Oil.

It was awesome. So much so that when we had to return to town for propane a few days later, we stopped in again! AND, when we eventually left town, we bought two donuts for the road and they were great!

We had a great time in the park but we made a view observations:

-It seems as if the park was under-staffed within the park, and over-staffed in the visitors center (which was outside the park).

-Ranger presence seemed to be the lowest we've seen in all the national parks we've visited.

-A man by the name of Paul Miller went missing almost 2 years ago on one of the trails within the park. The only poster to this fact was at the visitors center outside the park. There were other areas where the poster could have been placed, trailhead kiosks, bathroom area bulletin boards etc. But none of these boards were utilized. As I write this, a few days ago human remains were found in the general area. If you would like more on this story, follow the link HERE.

-We used the north entrance frequently whenever we went to town to do errands. It was manned only half the time. People seemed to be able to come and go without much control(or payment). Again, a possible manning issue.

-To piggyback the "Ranger" issue, campers pretty much did whatever they wanted on the weekend without regard to damage to property, or regard to their neighbors.

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