TOPIC: Weekend Getaways
LOCATION: 33.7884° N, 115.8982° W
PROJECT: #Radparks Field Notes, Guest Post by Kris Holbrook
Located in southeast California, Joshua Tree National Park is about 3000 - 4500 ft above sea level depending on where you are or what you've climbed on top of. Having an arid desert atmosphere, Joshua Tree is known for its spiky Joshua trees, giant molten-bubble-looking granite rock formations, gorgeous sunsets, and is a major rock climbing spot (both for bouldering, and traditional climbing). According to their brochure, 1.3 million visitors come through Joshua Tree a year.
My first night in Joshua Tree, I couldn't sleep at all. I dragged my sleeping pad and bag out of our massive shared tent and hung out under the sky, looking at the stars. They were very slowly moving. Incredibly slowly. Or rather, it was the earth rotating -something very interesting and easy to feel when you hold your breath. There were odd single stars taking quick walks across a portion of the sky before disappearing. There were shooting stars that zipped by, flashed, and went out. There was no moon. Eventually, the whole sky slowly started to glow a lighter shade of night and began waking up (the quietest miracle in the world).
What I found on my next trips out there was that Joshua Tree is a huge place. It's gorgeous, looks otherworldly because of the mounds of bubbly rock blobs, looks goofy because of the Joshua trees' arms reaching out to tease you, and somehow always feels so quiet. It has a pseudo-magical atmosphere of strangers. All sorts of visitors - people in massive RVs, dirtbags living in vans, sunburned rock climbers (who are often the ones in the vans), foreign tourists, hardcore cyclists, locals going for weekend walks, people passing through California on business trips, -and so much more. Everyone has different stories to share. And you will have something in common with every one that you come across - you made your way out to this weird dry rocky desert park with alien-looking plant life.
What's the greatest part about being in Joshua Tree? Probably the same for any place that's beautiful and a part of nature. That grounding lucky-feeling, the understanding reminder of how you are one person who gets to experience this great, big, living life thing - and also that apartness, that otherness which reveals again and again what's important to you, and what is fleeting. The openness of the ground and the sky, you can see what is constant and what is not. You can see and feel whatever you like. What's particular about Joshua Tree is that you can do that while sitting in a rock cave 50 feet off the ground.
What's important to remember is the reason so many people have been able to go to a gorgeous park like this throughout the years - the efforts made to preserve and protect the land; both by federal agencies, and by you! The visitor. Take care to pick up after yourself, stay on trails whenever possible, don't feed animals, and leave nature as it is - Leave No Trace. The lower impact we make on the park, the longer we'll be able to bask in its awesomeness.