September 16, 2018
Written by: Kayla
Colin and I are immensely different in more ways than one. If you read our introduction post, you know we tend to disagree on more than we agree on. However, there is one thing we always agree on - squeezing in an NPS site on every trip. That’s the wonderful part of having over 400 NPS sites within the United States; you typically are within driving distance of at least one. *Tip: always pull up a map before going on an adventure and see if you can hit any sites on the way. You may be surprised by what you can run into on the way to a friend’s house or during a work trip. Colin always Googles “[insert state here] NPS sites” and the NPS link pulls up a map with all the sites in that state!
During our road trip to San Diego (from Phoenix), we thought it would be great to add a National Park. Consequently, we entered Joshua Tree National Park in September of 2018. Here are a couple of facts about Joshua Trees:
1. Just like Rachel Green doesn’t like her boyfriend, Joshua, to be called Josh: Neither do Joshua Trees. Josh Tree National Park just doesn’t sound right, does it?
2. Joshua Trees may remind you of the whimsical Truffula trees from a Dr. Suess book. Seeing these trees is a great gauge that you are in the Mojave Desert.
3. Joshua Trees must rely on the perfect conditions to grow into their beautiful masterpieces. If you see trees that share an appearance with the Joshua Tree, but have no branches, this is because they never bloomed.
4. Joshua Trees provides shelter for a variety of animals in the desert.
Before heading into the park, we wanted to fuel up with food and ice-cold water (and by water, Colin means beer). We decided to stop at Joshua Tree Saloon for 2 reasons. 1) We figured it was the perfect place, given the name and 2) There was nothing else around. Our limited options could have created worry, in the likelihood of us not liking the restaurant. However, we right away we knew it was going to be somewhere we enjoyed.
Joshua Tree Saloon
We definitely recommend eating here if you are heading into the park from the Twentynine Palms Highway. The atmosphere is western and rustic, and gets you into the perfect mindset when heading into the park. Make sure you stock up on water before hitting the trails as well. It’s sunny, hot and there is limited shade. There is a little shop, Coyote Corner that is right next to the saloon and Joshua Tree Visitor Center is just across the street. We quickly stopped at both places to grab some waters, sunscreen and souvenirs.
Once we entered the park it was really easy to understand how the park received its name. There are thousands of Joshua Trees to observe while driving through the main road. We stopped at Keys View and it is breathtaking. It is labeled as a trail on the National Park webpage; however, it is so short, it is more a drive-off viewing, than a hike.
Keys View - Joshua Tree NP
Even though it was a really hot day, the hikes are fairly short and have easy terrain. We were able to see Keys View, the Barker Dam Loop and Skull Rock. During our hikes, we did not run into very many people. It was eerily quiet and peaceful. We had much of the trails to ourselves and could do some exploring and enjoy our day in the park. We really enjoyed Barker Dam Loop. The trail is not too difficult and there is a mixture of history and beauty throughout the path. You make your way down to a watering hole, which just seems bizarre since you are fully surrounded by dry desert. The views on this hike are not only beautiful, but also represents the diversity within the park. While much of the park holds true to its name, there is also a feel for mountains and valleys. We had so much fun exploring and observing something unlike any other park or site we have been to. And certainly unlike anything around our home state of Michigan.
Barker Dam Loop
Joshua Tree NP Mountains
Joshua Tree NP
Of course, we had to drive around searching for the perfect picture with our CMU Flag. There is an abundant amount of Joshua Trees, however we wanted to find one that really represented the beautiful agave family. We also needed a tree that gave us ample room to take the picture with the GoPro. We found a great spot and captured it with ease! The Joshua Trees are just so beautiful. One of my favorite photographs is our simple picture with just the tree, desert floor and blue skies. The picture just screams desert and perseverance. It is beautiful, simple and pure; much in the same way we felt in the park.
FIRE UP CHIPS!
The Joshua Tree
Further into the park, there is a really cool “hike” with a rock formation called Skull Rock. I have always loved skulls, so I was really excited to see this. The “hike” is very short, and you can see the skull from the road. We also happened to run into a snake here (we believe a Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake). Be sure to watch where you are placing your hands and feet!
SW Speckled Rattlesnake??
Joshua Tree National Park was definitely a great visit. Unless you plan on camping, the park is easy to see in one day. The views are beautiful, trees wondering and sun hot. We’d love to return and experience the park overnight!