Dan and I spent this past Saturday exploring the beauty of Joshua Tree. We wanted to get away for the three day weekend but we didn’t want to spend too much money since we are flying out to Cancun this coming Tuesday.
In short, Joshua Tree was amazing. We drove for approximately two and a half hours from Culver City and stopped once along the way to fill up on gas and water. Note – you definitely want to stock up on water, especially this time of the year.
When we reached the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, I was surprised by the number of tourists inside! I should have guessed, it being Memorial Day weekend, but I didn’t realize Joshua Tree was that popular of a destination. Compared to all the other national parks, Joshua Tree seemed underwhelming and lacked the “awe” factor that takes your breath away (like when you first see the Grand Canyon). But to my surprise, I was so wrong! There is a different kind of beauty to explore at Joshua Tree that is extremely refreshing, leaving your soul replenished with new inspiration.
To enter the park, you need to purchase and display a pass for your vehicle. A weekly pass is sold at $25.00 per vehicle (daily passes are not offered), an annual pass sold at $40.00, and a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands annual pass is available for $80.00. The cashier didn’t have to try very hard to up-sell before we decided to purchase the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands annual pass. I’ve been wanting to travel more, Yosemite being at the top of my list, and this pass is the perfect way to motivate ourselves.
Our first stop was Jumbo Rocks. Have you ever tried to imagine what it would look like to live on another planet? Surreal and exotic. Jumbo rocks was just that, mountains composed of smaller rocks piled up against each other as if we stepped into the world of Dr. Seuss. The rocks are so perfectly positioned, as if God was playing with rocks and ended up creating a masterpiece. We got out of our car and began to crawl over the rocks like ants. It was extremely difficult getting around and I would recommend wearing long, durable pants and even gloves for your hands if you really want to explore the terrain. The rocks are rough and can rip your clothes if you are not careful.
We spent the majority of our time exploring Jumbo Rocks before moving onto Keys View. Keys View was about a 20 minute drive further south from Jumbo Rocks. It is Joshua Tree’s highest viewpoint and is perched on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, allowing the visitor to catch panoramic views of Coachella Valley. It was an amazing site and reminded me a bit of the Grand Canyon.
Our last stop was Barker Dam. The path was a bit difficult to find but it’s worth the confusion if you want a quick work-out. The dusty trail led us to a dam, known as Barker Dam. It was built in 1990 by early cattlemen and has since remained and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. In 2013, Joshua Tree National Park closed access to the dam due to the numerous amounts of vandalism and carvings on the wood panels. Luckily, it has been restored and is open for the public to enjoy again. The dam itself is not an amazing site, the water mirky and depleted. But ultimately, I could appreciate that it was there, that someone created it, and that it is still here because of the park’s preservation efforts.
I almost forgot, but the most iconic part of Joshua Tree is scattered all throughout the winding roads of the park. We stopped and pulled over to meet the Joshua Tree, a beautiful and uniquely strange beast covered in thorns, twisted and bent over this way and that. From afar, it could be mistaken as a type of cactus. From up-close, it’s a tree that provides shade.
It was a short trip, but I returned to Los Angeles inspired by the desert landscapes, the rocks, and the trees. I hope to report back after other National Park excursions so that I can collect and document these memories here. Until then, I hope these pictures do justice to the beauty of Joshua Tree.