JOSHUA TREE Reconnaissance – Parks Project

JOSHUA TREE Reconnaissance

TOPIC: Weekend Getaways Rule!

PROJECT: #Radparks Field Notes 

Located in southeast California, Joshua Tree National Park is about 3000 - 4500 ft above sea level depending on where you are or what you climbed on top of. Having an arid desert atmosphere, Joshua Tree is known for its spiky teasing Joshua trees, giant molten-bubble-looking rock formations, gorgeous sunsets, and is a major rock climbing spot (both for bouldering, and traditional climbing). 

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. Very boringly just laid there. Then I put on my glasses and paid attention to the stars. They were very slowly moving. Very very slowly. 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). 

A friend had invited me to join on her last-minute trip, so I drove the 2.5 hours from LA to meet her and a couple other girls. I had heard of Joshua Tree from rock climber friends who said it was a great place, but I hadn't been yet. It was dark in the park by the time we arrived, but we managed to set up our massive tent, get a campfire going, and still had plenty of time to eat, drink, and chat before it got too late. I was only there for that one (sleepless) night before I had to leave in the morning. 

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 fully prepared for any emergency, hardcore cyclists, locals going for weekend walks, photographers, people passing through California on business trips, college kids on school breaks. And so much more. Everyone has such 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. And in Joshua Tree, you can do that while sitting in a rock cave 50 feet off the ground. 


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