The desert of Joshua Tree is a terrible and beautiful place.
Joshua Tree National Park lies on the border of the Mojave and Colorado Desert, where Whiptail lizards, Cholla cacti, and of course, Joshua Trees thrive. These life forms have adapted to survive in the intense heat and dryness of the desert. We have not.
Trying to find a camp site in Joshua Tree is only done in vain after seven in the evening. After searching for about an hour or so within the park itself, we decided to try the advertised camping areas in the 29 Palms area.
Everything was filled. Campsites, hotels, and even cheap-looking motels and inns that didn’t seem to have much aesthetic quality had their “No Vacancy” signs proudly lit up in mocking neon. We finally walked into a Marriott after ten o’clock with low spirits, asking desperately if there was any vacancy.
To our unbelievable luck, there was one single room available. A trucker broke down on the highway and had to cancel just five minutes before we arrived at the hotel. We went to bed in a king sized room feeling relieved and truly blessed.
Jumbo Rocks Campground
In the morning we drove straight to the park and were able to find a campsite within minutes. Almost immediately after stepping out of the car my lips became chapped. I could already taste the sourness of my dry throat. The first day’s temperature was mild enough. We managed a short hike to Skull Rock from our campsite at Jumbo Rocks.
Along every trail, an occasional lizard would run out from under a bush to cross our path, stopping to do little push-ups in the sand. When two or more of these lizards meet, they size each other up in a frantic push-up contest in order to display their dominance.
We didn’t want to overdo ourselves on our first full day in the desert, so after our little hike we made a day out of driving to different sights worth seeing rather than doing much more walking. Along the roads throughout the park Joshua trees pose with their ragged trunks and sprawled branches, each of which topped with pointed leaves characteristic of these overgrown Yucca.
One of our first stops in the park was at the Cholla gardens, a serene field filled with Cholla cacti almost directly on the Mojave and Colorado Desert border. At sunset the cacti bathe in the golden light cast from behind the mountains in the west, begging to be looked at, but not touched.
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