First of all, Joshua trees are cool. A Joshua tree is not a tree, per se, it’s a yucca. Unlike the Joshua trees we’ve seen elsewhere, the Joshua trees we saw in and around Joshua Tree National Park were of tree size — they were huge! Joshua trees are not limited to the park — they can be found anywhere in the Mohave desert. But these were by far the biggest we’ve ever seen.
So I think we can all agree that Joshua trees are great. But Joshua Tree National Park (I’m going to call it JTNP from now on), on the other hand, we’re sad to say, was not so great for us. JTNP is mainly patronized by climbers and people from LA. We have nothing against either group, but we also can’t identify with either group. We’re looking for different things out of a park — specifically, a hospitable place to stay for multiple days, lots of hiking, and chances to get off the beaten path.
But in JTNP, we felt hemmed in and unwelcome. Most roads are tightly lined with curbs so that you can only pull over where a pull-off has been created. The limited number of trails are very carefully edged with rocks and downed trees. Signs keep you moving in the right direction. I get it — the environment is fragile and they probably want to prevent people from getting lost, since it is such a strange, confusing landscape. But the effect is very constraining.
Because there have been past issues with climbers “trampling” paths to the popular features, it now feels like everyone is presumed guilty until proven innocent. And, there’s no running water inside the park, so at the end of five days without showers, much less running water, we were stinky, stinky peeps. AND, there are issues with Africanized honeybees at the interior campgrounds (our campsite especially, it seemed). It felt like everything was against us.
Don’t get me wrong, JTNP is still a neat place. It just feels more like a drive-through or a two-nighter (maximum) place than a place you can explore for a week or two, which is what we were hoping to do. I haven’t felt this ready to leave any other place yet — we have only kept moving because we’re irresistibly curious about the next spot — but I was ready to leave JTNP on day three.