Monday, June 6, 2011

Joshua Tree (June 3-5, 2011)


Friday June 3
I awoke on June 3 immediately aware that a day I'd been awaiting for months had arrived: it was time to hit the desert! Kat and I took our previous trip to Joshua Tree National Park in October 2010, and we vowed to get back there as soon as possible. Well, this time, we took a pal: our great friend Jess Smith (aka Triana Caldera from SL) flew out from Minnesota and arrived in LA on Thursday night.

On Friday morning at about 10:30-ish -- vacation time being less precise than normal time -- Kat and Triana came by my place and I threw my gear into Kat's Jeep. After running a few errands, we got on the road from our home in the Beach Cities in LA's South Bay, and headed east.

On the road again. We were singing along with the radio, until we lost reception of LA stations and had to sing with Triana's iPod (eek). Photo by Triana.

We had a leisurely trip along the 91, 605, 60, 10, and 62 freeways (whew!) before once again finding ourselves back in Joshua Tree. Pulling off Park Blvd., we got to take Kat's new little Jeep Patriot off the paved roads for the first time, and I was really impressed with how it handled dirt, rocks, and bumpy terrain. Well hell, it is a Jeep. That's what they were made to do. Pulling up to the Desert Lily, we drove straight to the cabin we'd rented for the weekend: Casa Rosita. Carrie Yeager, who owns and operates the Desert Lily (which is both a bed & breakfast and a number of rental properties) was so cool that she allowed us to arrive well before the usual late-afternoon check-in. The great part about this was that we were able to arrive early enough to spend most of Friday just kicking back and relaxing on our little slice of desert heaven.

Casa Rosita at the Desert Lily, our home away from home. Photo by Triana.

After we got settled in, the first thing on the agenda was intensive kick-back sessions. Photo by Triana.

Even on vacation, I can't go very long without picking up a guitar. Photo by Kat.

The first thing you notice at the Desert Lily is that it's incredibly quiet. If you're coming from any kind of city or suburban area, the silence (interrupted only by the occasional call of a quail or the howl of a coyote) is blissful. After we got settled in, we made a run into town to get lunch (oh Taco Bell, how do I love thee?), and then to hit the grocery store to get supplies for our love shack in the desert. That evening, we relaxed on our patio, watching the desert animals walk, run, slither, and fly by. We ended the night with a couple of beers and a DVD of "Lord of the Rings", which seemed suitably kick-back for the moment.

The view from our side patio where we spent much of our relaxation time. Photo by Triana.

Saturday June 4
We awoke to a glorious morning in the Mojave, and started the day with Chef Zak in the kitchen, whipping up some bacon and eggs (my sous chef Jess delivered the toast). After coffee and showers, we put on the sunblock and headed for the park! A side note: the high temps while we were there in the high desert peaked at about 82ยบ, which is pretty amazing, considering it's June. The weather couldn't have possibly been better, and the western entrance to the park is only a couple of miles up from the Desert Lily.

Kat's Jeep at dawn on Saturday morning. Photo by Triana (the only one of us up that early!).

We drove for a few miles into the park, letting Jess (who'd never been there before) soak in the beauty, and then pulled off at one of the many roadside viewpoints to take a few pictures -- Joshua Tree practically begs to be photographed. Our first real stop to cruise around was at Quail Springs, but the really cool stuff started when we walked down the climber's path at Hemingway Buttress. As you step along the trail, lizards and kangaroo rats scurry ahead of you into the brush, and you're surrounded on all sides by cacti, yucca plants, and countless joshua trees. It's like an alien landscape at times. An awesome one.

Heading into the park. Photos simply can't reproduce the precise color of blue sky you can only see in the high desert. Photo by Triana.

Our first foray into the Hemingway Buttress climbing area. Photo by Triana.

As great as Hemingway was, it was time to show Jess our favorite area of JTNP: the Hidden Valley nature walk. This is a short (1-mile) hike that circles the bottom of a rock-enclosed valley. It's got a terrific up/down terrain that makes it especially fun to cruise through, and all around you is every conceivable desert plant and animal life. Amazing. We got lots of pics, but we were starting to get hungry, so we left the park to go get lunch. Kat wanted to drive up the road to Twentynine Palms to see what the lunch choices were (grim, as we discovered), so we stopped at a Burger King and had some laughs while chomping down some Whoppers.

Hiking through Hidden Valley. Photo by Triana.

Seriously, anyone who knows Triana can't be surprised that she ran over to spank the Butt Rock in Hidden Valley. Photo by Kat.

Back at the cabin, we showered off a few layers of desert grit and sunscreen, then kicked back for awhile... what's a vacation without some do-nothing time? During our relaxation times, we'd hang out on the patio of our little house, watching the animals scurry by while I'd strum the guitar I'd brought along for this purpose.

There was a constant stream of animal life cruising around our cabin. In addition to the dozens of lizards, we had a steady stream of desert birds, rabbits, and even a coyote within a dozen yards of our door. Here's a scrub jay that hung out with us for awhile. Photo by Triana.

One roadrunner seemed to view Casa Rosita as his home, as opposed to ours. Here he is on our railing in front. We'd just seen him walking by with a delicious desert rodent in his beak. Photo by Triana.

Casa Rosita has an outdoor bathtub (if you're into that kind of thing), but it was only used by this desert iguana, who hung out there for most of our stay. Photo by Kat.

Later that evening, not wanting to deal with big crowds at Pappy & Harriet's, we instead rolled down the street to the Joshua Tree Saloon and had some quite delicious steaks with sides of BBQ beans and cole slaw for dinner while enjoying the local flavor of Joshua Tree's residents out for some Saturday night fun. The food was quite good and the folks seemed friendly enough. Fun place, but do keep in mind if you're going to drop by: it is a saloon, with all that entails. We had a great time while devouring our food, and got back to our cabin around 10.

Our luxurious dinner spot for Saturday night, the Joshua Tree Saloon.

Carrie had provided us with a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and we drank a couple of glasses while playing a silly word-guessing game that we also found in the cabin. Eventually, exhausted from the full day, we called it a night.

Sunday June 5
We awoke and once again spent a leisurely morning enjoying coffee and the peaceful desert. Kat whipped up some bacon/onion/cheese scrambles which were unbelievably yummy, but we were in no big hurry. Carrie had let us know that we could leave whenever we felt like it, so there was no pressure to get packed up and out the door. We took our time as we got our stuff mostly packed up, and cleaned the cabin a bit before once again heading into the park.

Taking it easy like Sunday morning, sipping coffee and playing guitar on the patio. Photo by Kat.

Heading deeper into the park on Sunday in Kat's Jeep to visit Keys View and Cap Rock. Photo by Triana.

This time, we headed further in and started our day at Cap Rock, a little nature walk with some neat scenery. From there, it was straight up the road about 1,000 feet of elevation to the high point of Joshua Tree National Park: Keys View, which sits about a mile above sea level and offers amazing views of the entire Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, Mt. San Jacinto, and the San Andreas Fault.

Enjoying our stroll around Cap Rock. Photo by Triana.

No words to describe this. Kat strikes a pose at Cap Rock while I wonder why. Photo by Triana.

Kat and Triana, doing the desert thing.

Triana at the top of Keys View, which is a mile above sea level and overlooks the Coachella Valley.

After descending, we decided to make one more stop at Hemingway, and this time took the northern path, cruising in and climbing around the boulders and rock formations. It was a blast. As usual, we treated the desert with a lot of respect, meaning that we never take or leave anything while there, and that we always carried packs with plenty of water which we consumed almost continuously. While we were lucky enough to get relatively cool weather, the complete lack of humidity will cause you to dehydrate quickly if you're not careful.

Hemingway rocks. Literally. Photo by Triana.

I could try to tell you that I was doing some risky free climbing, but in reality I just scampered around a few boulders at the bottom. Photo by Triana.

Getting high in the desert can have multiple meanings. Photo by Triana.

We swung by the cabin one more time and Kat made sandwiches for lunch. After eating and throwing our stuff back in the Jeep, it was time for the 2+ hour drive back to LA. Other than some insane wind blasts as we headed down the 62 toward the 10 near Palm Springs, the drive home was smooth. I will admit, as much as I love the desert, the feel of standing in my own shower for as long as the hot water would last was pretty spectacular.

I could write some silly conclusion here to our June 2011 desert trip, but instead, I'd like to impart the sense of calmness and "being at one with the universe" one gets from spending time in the high desert. I'd like to, but it's nearly impossible to describe, so I'll end this long post by saying that I'm already thinking about the next trip to Joshua Tree. Even after two recent visits there, I barely feel that I've scratched the surface of that amazing place.

Zak, Kat and Triana with our happy Joshua Tree smiles. See you again soon, high desert!


Kirsten M. said...

Looks like it was a really fun trip! Makes me want to try a trip out west sometime and see for myself. Love the smiles at the end! Exactly how I always picture each of you.

Kirsten (Aurie)

Rachael/Thea said...

That is the BESTEST!! You guys look like you had a great time! I am hoping to make a similar journey to the Red Rocks in southern Utah (somewhere between Arches and Zion National Parks) this fall because you guys inspired me!