Joshua Tree National Park, California
Distance: 7.6 Miles
Traveled: Boy Scout Trail to Willow Hole
My good friend and I decided to go on a very last-minute overnight trip to Joshua Tree National Park – which is only about 3 hours south of here. At 10 PM the night before I checked the weather (which, of course, I neglected to do any sooner than when I was already totally packed and in bed…) and the weather forecast called for a miserable-sounding wind advisory. Wind gusts as high as 60 mph, with an average wind of 25-35 mph. Ugh. Wind in the desert can be a miserable experience – as there no shelter, nothing to break the wind, and endless amounts of dust and sand to be whipped up and flung at you from every direction.
Nevertheless, we braved it and hit the road at 7am to head south. I had never been to Joshua Tree before. I had spent much time camping in the backcountry along Lake Mojave, done desert hiking there, and seen my fair share of Joshua Trees. I always noticed of Joshua Trees that as you drove by them at night, and they touch the edges of your headlights reach, they give you the illusion that they’re moving – as if you caught them in motion and they suddenly froze..it gives the desert a very mysterious feel at night. But, I was eager to experience what it was about Joshua Tree that warranted it being named a National Park. A thing I have come to realize about national parks, that is truly just stating the obvious, is that they all hold a beauty that can’t be explained in full until you experience them in-person. In all my experience, there truly is magic beyond those Park Service booths where you pay your entry fee. I knew Joshua Tree would be no different – and it did not disappoint.
We stopped at Natural Sisters Cafe just outside of the park to fuel up with some excellent health-infested vegan foods before our wandering (it took us 4.5 hours to get there, so we were definitely weary from driving).
The park was as jaw-droppingly beautiful as I expected. Though the joshua trees themselves are always a spectacle on their own, seeing them with the backdrop of huge hills of boulders, and rock formations was incredible. The scale of some of the geologic features is tough to capture in photos (isn’t it always?).
After winding our was through the park, we finally parked my truck and set out on the trail.
The comical moment was when we actually got out of the car. The wind was so strong it practically blew us over (the weather report was clearly correct). But it caught us off guard because from the car we could not tell at all that it was windy – the desert landscape doesn’t offer up many things that move much in the wind to give you a visual clue that it’s windy. Unless you see tumbleweeds, or dust clouds – you really can’t tell from a car window if there are raging winds outside when in the desert. Nevertheless, we set out in the wind and bright desert sun to make the most of the short day we had left in the park.
We were enamored with the scenery – the giant mountains of boulders, and the different shapes of the trees.We were also very aware of how with the wind, we were drying out quick. We drank way more water than usual on a hike.
The trail was very flat, other than a very brief small hill, the trail was pretty consistently flat and sandy. The miles flew by.
Turning down towards Willow Hole, there were some very beautiful cactuses. This area was particularly beautiful.
By the time we stopped to turn around we could tell we were running low on daylight hours. The shadows were long, and the temperature was starting to drop.
The clouds were forming some beautiful formations above us, and I knew it was likely going to be an incredible sunset.
When we finally made it to the car, the sun had dropped low and it was cold. We drove to the campground we had planned to stay at, but when we got there we got out of the car and it was so windy we could barely stand, and so cold all of our layers were barely keeping us warm. We got in the car and talked about it, and decided we would just drive back home to Santa Barbara that night – it was too miserable out to really enjoy a night under the stars.
Before heading home we found a beautiful (and still unbearably cold) overlook to see the sunset, the view was stunning, but it was hard to enjoy when we started losing sensation in our faces and fingers from the cold wind!
Though, we were sad the weather didn’t cooperate, we still had an amazing time! One day we will go back and make up for the night under the desert stars that we missed out on!