It's been awhile since we let Herman feel the open road, so for Presidents Day weekend we decided to head south for the winter, escaping the rain for a few days.
While Steve and I both grew up in southern California, even spending a weekend or two in Palm Springs, neither of us had ever been to Joshua Tree National Park. With beautiful weather forecasted that weekend, we packed up the westy and hit the road late Friday night stopping at a truck stop off highway 99 just outside of Fresno for a few zzz's.
On Saturday, we decided to familiarize ourselves with all things modern and spent the afternoon in Palm Springs. Modernism Week was in full swing when we arrived. While we couldn't get any tickets for the home tours, we did get to meet a few designers, took advantage of their knowledge, got some good ideas, and ended the day with a night out on the town.
Having no idea what to expect, we drove into Joshua Tree NP Sunday afternoon. The warm sun on our skin felt so good, instantly mood lifting, and the ombre blue sky and white puffy clouds gave us a glimpse of spring.
As we drove through Twentynine Palms we caught sight of a counterculture of bygone days. One house in particular caught our eye, although with the 'wall of many colors' how could it not. The traditional bright colors of Palm Springs and the baby blue camper parked out back made us turn around and snap a picture; I was completely drawn to it.
Continuing across highway 62, we entered the park at the north entrance. However, if you visit for the first time, drive through the west entrance and stop at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center and look for volunteer Jerry. He will give you detailed directions, marking every landmark and Joshua Tree in bloom on the map. He even has a small photo album of pictures he's taken throughout the park of what you will be seeing so you know what to look for. And he is full of lesser-known tips too. For example, part of the Barker Dam trail takes you out to view the petroglyphs. While the sign talks about the Indians and how they used these marks to communicate, it was Jerry that spilled the beans and told us it was actually the Walt Disney company that painted them there for a movie. And if movies are your thing, Jerry will point you in the direction of Pioneer Town where there are a small cluster of buildings built for John Wayne movies; the only western buildings at that time that were not facades. Jerry is a sweet retiree with a lot of knowledge and a heart for helping; worth the stop.
Another tidbit from the visitor center was about the Joshua Tree and how it does not flower annually. In fact, no one really knows when it will bloom or if it will bloom. The weather has to be the right conditions, even freezing, to produce the soft off-white bulb atop the prickly Dr. Seuss looking tree. If you are lucky enough to be there at the right time, take the time to stop...it is nature at it's best.
In fact, in my opinion, the desert is one of mother nature's greatest landscapes. As you drive through the NP you notice all the different ecosystems from one mile to the next. If you hike the 49 palms trail, an easy 3-miles roundtrip, you will see a couple dozen fan palms and a small pool of water in the middle of these rocky hills. As I stand there I wonder, a) who found this oasis, and b) how did they get there? Whatever the answers are to these questions, take advantage of what nature has to offer. #optoutside
During the day, Joshua Tree is also a rock climbers playground, and as night falls you look up and catch your breath as you take in the silence of the darkness and the canopy of stars twinkling above.
As I bring this memory to a close, we are both glad to have taken the opportunity to cross another NP off our list and look forward to the next - Canada eh?
So, until then...