Friday, June 21, 2013

Joshua Tree

Two weekends ago, my coworker, and friend, Nena, came down with one of her friends, Sara, and we went camping!  We had been planning the trip for a few months and we were all very excited (and a little nervous).  It wasn't until the weekend before that we actually sat down and discussed what we were going to bring and do.  And it wasn't until that weekend that we really looked at the weather, and remembered that we were planning a camping trip to the desert in June (thus the nervousness).

I picked my two co-campers up in Palm Springs around 9pm on Friday night, and just stepping out of the car was shocking.  Even though it was 9pm, it was still about 85 degrees out.  And we were in an oasis- not even the real desert yet! There was some nervous laughter.

We drove for about another hour to get into the National Park, and we managed to really freak ourselves out.  We saw no cars for a really long time, and decided that there was probably some big heat or fire warning that we had missed.  And then we saw one car, and decided that they were probably going to kill us.  We discussed the bear spray that we didn't bring, and the mallet that we did, as possible defense strategies.  Even the shadowy Joshua Trees and ginormous boulders were a little freaky in the dark.

Fortunately, when we got to the site, there was a reasonable amount of cars and groups, and we were able to stop worrying about the one random psycho that would probably be in the site next to us.  We drove around for a bit, probably blinding all of our sleeping neighbors, as we looked for the perfect site.  We found a great spot with a couple of boulders (the site was aptly called Jumbo Rocks), which we figured would keep our tents in the shade during the morning so that we could sleep in.  We sent up the tents, munched on some apricots, and went to bed.  Oh and I had my first experience trying to projectile spit my toothpaste to "lower my impact".  I pretty much drooled it down my chin, and it landed in a "high impact" blob at my feet.  Still learning.

The next morning, we realized that we were wrong about which way the sun came up, when we were awoken at 5am by the light and heat.  Oops.  We quickly ate breakfast and decided to find a new site... and coffee.  Yeah, we're those kind of campers.  We relocated to a spot with some actual morning shade and found a bunny and a roadrunner!  We named the bunny, Flopsy.

We headed into town to get coffee (iced, for sure) and made one of our poorer decisions of the trip when we decided to go for a quick hike.  It was actually a very beautiful and unique 3 mile round trip hike to an oasis, but it was ridiculously hot.  We brought a large load of water with us and some snacks, and set out. 

Sara and Nena, before heat stroke
For the first part of the hike, it felt like we just kept going up and up this mountain.  When we finally reached the top, we realized we had to go all the way back down to get into the oasis.  Which meant we had to hike back up on the way out. :(

However, the view was pretty awesome.  I wish I knew the physics of how an oasis develops, but I imagine it has something to do with how the local geology holds water for the palm trees to grow.  It was just crazy to me how we were in this unbelievably hot desert (heat stroke!), and yet this dense stand of palm trees was just springing up in the middle of it all.

When we got there, red-faced and out of breath, we took a much needed break to cool down.  There was a nice breeze and the temperature was tolerable in the shade.  We snacked on nuts and granola bars and drank a lot of water.  There was a lot of dreading the return hike going on and some consideration of staying in the oasis until after sunset (it was like 11 am at this point).  We somehow pulled ourselves together and made the hike back.

Afterwards, we returned to the Circle K, where we had found our iced coffee, and got ice cream (obviously).  We also did some pretty spectacular people-watching.  Joshua Tree is home to a unique crowd, for sure.

We decided to make one more stop at a cactus garden, before returning to our site.  These Cholla cacti were pretty awesome.  (As a side note, anytime I hear the word "cacti" I think of the end of the Hey Dude theme song "...and that killer cac-tiiiiii".  Anyone else?)

When we got back to our campsite, my tent was blowing around like a sail, lost at sea.  While I was fighting to keep it in place, I looked over and saw Sara and Nena with their backs up against one of the giant rocks, about 4 sites over.  They had spotted a tiny sliver of shade and weren't leaving it.  I joined them.

We happily devoured some 5 layer dip and drank some beer in our growing patch of shade.  I was pretty much in a bush at one point, but it was cooler there.

We had another bunny friend come visit us.  His name was Allen.   

After a few hours of headachy-recovery from our hike, we started thinking about dinner.  Nena and Sara agreed to let me make a fire, despite the heat, to cook dinner.  I really like making fires and sitting by them, so I was a happy camper (ehh?!)  We warmed up some sausages and cooked corn and some veggie skewers.  Delicious!

And what camping trip is complete without smores?  I forgot to put the chocolate in the cooler, so it was in liquid form, by that point.  We cut one of the corners off and drizzled it on the graham crackers- I consider this a huge improvement on the traditional smore- no awkwardly hard chocolate in the middle of the perfectly gooey mess.  Heavenly!

I had chocolate all over my hands and didn't know it until I took this picture!

Sara and I ended up sitting by the fire for a while longer, while Nena, sadly, went to bed to beat her headache.  It was great- lots of stars, good company, and a mesmerizing fire.  Just what camping should be.

The next morning we had plenty of shade (hurray!) and slept in a bit longer than the morning before.  I got up a little before the others, and read for a while.  It was lovely.

We were pretty over the heat, so we packed up and decided to make one more stop before leaving the park.  We drove up to this beautiful outlook, which on a clear day you can supposedly see the Salton Sea (my next trip?).  It was a little hazy, so we couldn't see it.  We could see the San Andreas fault, and even Palm Springs.  It was a stunning view.

On our way out, we pulled over to take pictures of the park's namesake, the Joshua Trees!!  They are so weird and curious.  Someone described them to me as something out of Dr. Seuss, and it's so true.

We headed back to San Diego and did a little sight seeing here, before a low-key Thai dinner.  It was fun being able to show Sara and Nena around my new home, and I don't think I've ever enjoyed the sea breeze as much.  Back to June Gloom here!


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