First off let me just say, we all love Joshua Tree National Park. After our stay last winter, the children all asked to come back. This year we chose to try something new and parked ourselves on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land right outside the park entrance. For Canadian friends, this land is similar to Crown Land in Canada.
Our spot was beautiful. Our large window faced south over the valley and the view of the Colorado Desert was breathtaking. On the door side of the trailer (north), we had shade from the sun and two small Ironwood trees. We loved the feeling of absolute privacy, of not being afraid of how loud we were being, or feeling like we were on display. Actually, in this regard, it reminded us of our former home in the woods. Nice and quiet with neighbours far enough (but not too far) away. There are probably at least 10 other camping units out here with us scattered up and down the dirt road.
We were also extremely privileged to see the desert in bloom this year. After such a white winter, I just loved all the variations in colour!
Our first day in the park we went immediately towards the Skull Rock trail. There were a lot of people there (all the campgrounds were full in the park) so we went back towards a smaller day use area and just walked straight out from the side of the van and had a whole boulder climbing area to ourselves. Everyone was so happy and excited to be there. This was something that the kids had all be waiting to do. As a parent, it reminded me of the Bible verse where it says, “The Lord delights in giving good gifts to his children.” They all were having a ton of fun and it was so great to watch them enjoying themselves. After several hours of climbing, we went back towards the visitor centre picnic area for lunch with the intention of doing another hike in that part of the park, but the sun and challenging exercise of boulder climbing had really zapped everyone of their energy. We decided to go relax at the trailer for the rest of the afternoon.
We really wanted to go see Key Vista which overlooks the San Andreas Fault and the whole valley during the sunset, but we headed out too late. The park is over 700,000 acres and we misjudged just how long it would take to get there. We drove as far as the Pinto Valley from the south entrance and enjoyed the incredible view of the sun’s glow on the distant mountains. It is really so peaceful at Joshua Tree National Park…so very quiet (well not in our van or trailer, but outside. :-P) When we saw a sign that it was another 38 miles to Key Vista, we knew it was time to turn around! I think it may be something like two hours driving from where we were camping. Yikes! If you are coming…make sure your gas tanks are full! Honestly, you are so busy looking out the window, you are totally unaware of time or how long you have been driving. The scenery is so varied and so beautiful.
The next day we returned to Joshua Tree and ended up chatting with a couple who were boondocking next to us. We ended up on the same hike and after a little bit learned that they had been coming to the park for 35 years. We could have spoken with them for hours but ended up going in a different direction part way up the trail. If you are reading this Phyllis and Keith, it was lovely to meet you! Thank you for taking our family picture!
Notes about Boondocking: We did not fill our tanks with water. We took the children for a swim and shower at a public pool in Palm Springs the afternoon of our last day. We used 6 one-gallon jugs of water which we refilled at the dump station at Joshua Tree each day. We dumped our tanks at the same dump station before we headed out on the road. We have a National Parks pass. :-)