Joshua Tree National Park is…OK

26 Jan
2012
Posted in: California, Parks
By    4 Comments

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.

Rocky dwarfed by J-trees at our first campsite.

Rocky dwarfed by J-trees at our first campsite.

That's a lot of rope.

That's a lot of rope.

A mysterious cairn garden we stumbled upon.

A mysterious cairn garden we stumbled upon.

Hazy view over Palm Desert/Springs.

Hazy view over Palm Desert/Springs.

One of my favorite J-trees in the park.

One of my favorite J-trees in the park.

Our second campground, where we weathered a pretty major windstorm.

Our second campground, where we weathered a pretty major windstorm. Our neighbor's tent took a beating.

Sunset in the rearview mirror.

Sunset in the rearview mirror.

This was a major bummer.

This was a major bummer. Storm damage and heavy metal contamination...

  • Try a cool little Filipino restaurant in 29 Palms (town just on North border) called Mango Hut. Good Filipino, Hawaiian, Guam food. 

    And yes, the park is a bit commercial or busy. It’s a photo wonderland for tourists. Try some canyon hikes near Salton sea maybe. Good high vista views.

  • Lisa Wooton

    Awesome pictures. You should publish a book after this :-)

  • Gary & Sara

    Sara’s “cousin” Carol lives in Yucca Valley and Sgt Crandall aka Melissa spent a stint at 29 Palms after her basic training – so we are familiar with the area – Sara visited – I did not-
    Curious google map of the area with Joshua Tree a big green space and the USMC combat air training ground a non-descript – don’t go there grey tone without  any details.

  • Barb

    It looks like you still found some fascinating country.  Curious…why stay 5 days if you are ready to leave after three?