Relentless sun, little water and summer temps reaching over 100 degrees; with over 792,000 acres where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge, you will find Joshua Tree National Park. As much as I love the water, this is a favorite amongst places in the world to just lose yourself. Three hours east of Los Angeles, the masses of people and traffic fall to the wayside when you enter this high desert oasis.
I recommend sleeping under the stars in the park itself....
though you can find plenty of accommodation options in the towns nearby, a number of which are located within a 50 mile radius. Weekends can be busy, so plan accordingly. The park officially closed this past June 6th for the summer, so I nearly had the place to myself. A welcome relief from the past few days in the traffic packed and surprisingly rainy LA. Having recently arrived from Australia and with only a few bags of clothes, I was quite unprepared for "camping" yet still managed just fine. After purchasing some groceries, wood, tin foil, water, camp chair and a pillow, I was quite comfortable snuggling up in my down comforter ( which I always travel with) next to my fire, under the full moon and glorious stars.
It could take a lifetime to explore this incredible space properly, but even in my 24 hours, I was able to: hike a few trails, see a rattlesnake, watch both the sunset and sunrise, scare off a coyote, listen to a number of charming birds, and entertain myself with a variety of lizards and desert hares. Geological faults crisscross the park. When groundwater comes in contact with these fault lines, steam is created which rises to the surface, allowing for Palm Trees to grow in islands, this lush vegetation creates a refuge from the extreme heat of the desert. An oasis for any number of animals and plants. Located at close to 3,000 feet, this also means the high desert cools off quite a bit at night, giving much needed relief for the many plants and animals which live here, including the Joshua Tree (which is really a Yucca and not a tree at all).
The rock formations inside Joshua Tree are simply incredible. Small boulders sitting precariously atop a larger hunk of granite, as if a giant from childhood fairy tales took to creating the landscape during a play date. Every turn, every corner, a new mythological outcropping more fabulous than the last. One even looks like a skull! There is an area called the "Hall of Horrors" and another designated "Oyster Bar".
Our Nation has so many parks, it is difficult to call out the few which truly make your heart swell. Living in the west gives us so many opportunities, and I was lucky to grow up in a household which believed in exploring, watching the stars and feeling the sand between your toes. From Glacier National Park, to Olympic National Park, the vast red rocks of south eastern Utah...and Joshua Tree. To the spaces in between, GO..venture forth. Turn off your phone, turn on your imagination. Take yourself, take your family....go. Enjoy. Report back! I can't wait to hear from you!