Thursday, February 25, 2021

Joshua Tree Camping Trip

As of this point (almost a full year after "the world closed down due to COVID19"), I can't even tell you how many trips and camping adventures we have had cancelled/ postponed {please hear me when I say, this is such a minor inconvenience, especially with people dying from the virus, so I'm in no way downplaying the seriousness or severity of what happened/ is happening, I'm simply sharing my story}. We've continued to schedule things, hopeful that we would have a handle on the virus (also giving us something to look forward to during these unprecedented and trying times), but in most cases it was all for naught and trip after trip was kaput. After another spike in California cases recently, we were "locked down" again until the health care professionals could get a better handle on everything. Thankfully the stay-at-home orders were lifted (both because that meant fewer people were contracting/ spreading the virus and because being locked down takes a mental toll on you {or at least it does for me!}) and with that, the campgrounds were reopened. The hubby had Presidents Day off of work (and I had requested it off as well just in case we'd be able to get a trip on the books) which meant ADVENTURE TIME! Luckily for us, we were able to snag a campsite in Joshua Tree and started planning the trip. 

Originally I had taken Friday off as well and the game plan was to camp Friday through Monday, but my boss was going to have to work by herself on Friday because no one else was available, so I offered to work it and head out the following morning instead. With that said, we packed up the AdventureMobile and hit the road Saturday morning! #TeamPlayer

All packed up and ready to hit the road!

Views from the road

The hubby loves to rock climb and the Indian Cove Campground (technically outside of the official National Park) has tons of it, so, whenever possible, we try to snag a spot there. Honestly, we could spend all of our time in the campground and not even have to go into the park. If you haven't checked out Indian Cove, I'd highly recommend it (although, a word of warning, trying to reserve a coveted spot can be extremely tough, especially on Saturdays, no matter the time of year!).

When we were planning our mini trip, we mentioned it to some friends and a couple was able to join the fun. They were able to book a site on Friday and were going to try to snag a first come-first serve spot on Saturday morning for the both of us. Since all of the spots were booked for Saturday night, we were planning to stay at a BLM spot, but figured if they could grab us an actual spot we were all in! We called when we were getting close and they said the ranger had told them to meet her at noon and she'd try to hook them up. We were STOKED to hear this because they were forecasting extremely high winds for the desert and having "shelter" in the rocks would definitely be prefered rather than open land. 

The winds were no joke!

We met our friends at the spot they had stayed in Friday night and just relaxed for a bit before driving to meet the ranger. After checking out a few spots, we were able to secure one that would fit both of our vehicles (they were car camping) and hadn't already been reserved - SCORE! The ranger mentioned the sand storms that were on the horizon and told us to be smart with the wind (watch any tent/ structure we might put up, don't have a fire if the winds were still gusting, etc).

Looking in one direction there was blue skies...

And in the other direction the blowing sand was causing a "haze" over the sky!

Once we were able to "set up camp" (for us, that really just means taking our camp chair out of the truck, since everything else is already set up inside the pop-up), we hung out for a bit and then went into "town". Some of the shops were closed due to COVID, which was sad to see, but most were open (with limited capacity). We loved checking in on our favorites. 

The Station is always a fun spot stop stop.

It looks like a vintage gas station, but it's got awesome wares inside for sale.

Love seeing all of the "art" around town!

And the murals/ paintings are always amazing too!

While we were wandering around the main drag, the sand storms blew through. The hubby had to scoop up Walt so he could keep his wiener dog face safe (otherwise he'd probably stare directly into the wind and get whipped with all of the debris). We were getting pelted with sand and pebbles, but eventually it let up and we hightailed it back to the truck.

The McDots with Murtle the Turtle

Walt might have been a little confused but Ry asked me to snap this shot of them ;)

The visitor center in town is pretty tiny, but we still like to stop by anyway.

Once we got back to the campsite we hunkered down inside the truck, hoping the wind would die down (the weather app said it would/ should by 8pm), but the howling never let up. We played a little Skip*Bo and hit the hay by 9:30 or so. 

It definitely could have been worse, that's for sure!

The views and surroundings did NOT suck!

Ryan's sister got Walt his own sleeping bag for Christmas and we got to demo it on this trip!

Saturday morning came around and we decided we would head into the park to hike Ryan Mountain. We hadn't done the hike before and seeing as the hubby's name is Ryan he thought it would be the perfect way to start the day ;) {Note: Dogs are NOT ALLOWED on the majority of trails within the National Park Service [a major bummer, in our opinion], so we decided to go as early as possible so it would be cool enough to keep Walt in the camper portion of the truck.}

Very good advice ;)

We kept our eyes peeled for the sheep but never saw any...

The hike to the summit was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, the wind was still whipping all around us, which added an extra element that we normally don't have to deal with. Second, although we've done our fair share of uphill hiking, this was the first trail (at least that sticks out in recent memory) that the route was made majority out of stairs. 

Trying not to blow away...

Up, up, up we go!

Roundtrip the hike was just under 3 miles, so we hit the peak right before my watch showed 1.5 miles. The climb didn't feel that terrible, even though we gained over 1,600 feet, but maybe that's because we had done the 5-Peaks Challenge a few weeks before so our perspective was a little warped ;) The wind on the top was so strong (the weather app was calling for 30-40 mph winds with gusts upwards of 70mph!) that the hubby was leaning into it and it was holding him up! 

I legit was trying not to get blown over at this point!

The views from the top

We did it!

On the way back down, we rounded a bend and there was JT! I had no idea he was in Joshua Tree for the weekend (I normally turn my phone on airplane mode when we go out of town so I can truly unplug) so when we came across him it was such an awesome surprise! We gave each other a BIG hug (golly gee have I missed hugging my friends!), did a little catching up, snapped a quick selfie and wished one another well. How random and amazing is that?!

After Ryan Mountain we were meeting our friends at Arch Rock. I don't remember doing this one before, but, to be honest, the arch isn't that amazing so we could have seen it in the past and I had just forgotten about it. Don't get me wrong, nature is awesome... we've just seen much more magical arches so it's hard to compare this one to others we've been to.

The hike was pretty busy, but we did our best to give everyone their space.

I love that Andy is hiding up in the upper part of the arch!

On the way back to the cars I ended up grabbing a ton of trash. GRRRR! I think I was maybe 100 feet from a dumpster when I grabbed the majority of the rubbish. I hate when people leave their garbage out and about. #DontBeTrashy

Maybe it's a good thing I have on glasses and a mask or else you'd see my "death stare"...

At least the views along the route made me smile... even if I was disappointed in mankind for trashing the natural beauty!

Can you see the smiling clouds through the rocks in the far right photo?!

Took off our masks for a quick selfie among the rocks.

By this time we were getting hungry so found a nice little spot to make our lunch and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings. We let the pups explore a bit and then decided to head to Hidden Valley Campground so they could get in a longer walk.

Taking shelter behind some rocks to give us a little reprieve from the wind

The rock formations are so amazing here!

Walt always looks "too cool for school" in any of our pictures, but I still love him anyway!

You better believe I kept my eyes peeled for the desert tortoises... but unfortunately we never saw any...

Eventually we made our way back to Indian Cove to max and relax. The hubby wanted to do some bouldering, so I decided to stay back in the truck with Walt and do some reading while he went and did some climbing. #WinWin

Just call him "Walt the Adventure Dog"

Thankfully the winds had finally died down and we were able to enjoy being outside without the threat of being blown away (or being constantly pelted with sticks, sand and stones). We made some dinner and took in our surroundings.

Hubby in his element

Can you see the tiny sliver of a moon a the top of the shot?

The AdventureMobile looks pretty perfect in the sunset glow if I do say so myself ;)

Anyone else love making funny panoramic photos like this?! No... just us?!

And a camping trip wouldn't be complete without a s'more or two ;) This trip I actually tried using PROBAR Chocolate Nut Butter in place of the standard filling - YUM! (I even wrote a whole post about it in case you wanna give it a read.)

This is completely plant-based, but you don't have to use vegan ingredients if you don't want


Although I probably should have been sleeping in on Monday morning, I set my alarm so I could wake up and see the sunrise (I might be alone in this, but I think I might love sunrises more than sunsets). Mother Nature definitely did NOT disappoint! I climbed around on the rocks near our site and just hung out, taking it the sights and sounds around me. 

Sunrises are just so peaceful... and beautiful!

All is calm, all is bright...

A panoramic view from my perch in the rocks, looking down at our campsite

Our reservation at the campsite officially ended at noon on Monday, so we decided we'd hang out and enjoy the area for as long as we could before leaving. After breakfast, the hubby and I took Walt on a long walk around the campground.

Walt pondering if he would rule the valley ;)

And obviously picking up trash along the way...

Then we hung out for a bit longer and played Rummikub with friends while the pups watched on in excitement napped ;)

Just in case you were wondering, yes, I did win all three games ;)

Puppy friends are the best friends!

On the way out of town (oh yeah, I didn't really talk about packing up, since our rig is super easy and all we really have to do is throw our camp chair back in the truck and lower the pop-up), we wanted to stop at Pappy + Harriet's for lunch. Since it was Presidents Day they weren't opening until noon, but we thought if we got there a few minutes early we'd be fine. Well, apparently everyone else had the same idea and there was a HUGE line outside. We decided if that we could get a table (all of the seating is outdoors, of course, but they have two huge patios so we were hoping we'd make the cut once they opened for the day), we'd eat there, but if we had to wait it would probably be at least 45 minutes since everyone sat at the same time so we'd bounce. Thankfully we got a seat in the first round and enjoyed a DELISH lunch. 

If you're ever in the area, you NEED to stop by!

During non-COVID times they have tons of live music! It's a hip-happenin' place to be!

Although everyone is doing their best to "get on with life" we still need
to make sure we are doing our part to keep everyone safe and healthy! 

I got the quesadilla and the hubby had the veggie burger... SCRUM-DIDILY-UMPTIOUS!

We walked around the Pioneertown once we were done so Walt could stretch his legs before we started the drive home.

How awesome are these cactus?!

There was quite a bit of traffic on the way home, so we decided to make a brief pit stop to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs. I had noticed on the way to Joshua Tree that they were "dressed up" in Valentine's Day gear, so we HAD TO stop ;) 

There were TONS of people, so we kept our distance, snapped our pictures and left...

Eventually we made it home (I think the traffic added an extra 45-60 minutes to the drive) safe and sound. We unpacked, wiped everything down, aired everything out, put everything away, got the laundry going and {finally} showered. The trip wasn't super long (we were gone for a total of about 55 hours), but it was something we needed for sure! But, let's be real, getting away, unplugging, enjoying nature and one another is never not needed in my book!

We may be covering the sign, but you get the idea ;)

While on this trip I asked the hubby if he'd like to start a new "tradition" with me. I want to start learning about the indigenous peoples who live/ lived on the land we were visiting. I asked him that on our coming trips if he'd be interested in digging deeper about the area we'd be staying on. Obviously he was all in! Since we didn't discuss this until we were already there, this round of research came after the trip, but on future trips we hope to do it before or while we are there (hopefully even searching out some of the history first hand). The NPS has some information about some of the history of the different indigenous peoples who inhabited the Joshua Tree area. Much of the information I found shows that the Serrano, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi and Mojave tribes are intimately connected to the land in and around Joshua Tree National Park. "In spite of the visually barren, seemingly inhospitable desert, these tribal groups recognized an abundance of available resources and made this area their transitional or long-term home long before the arrival of Europeans in 1769. These tribes were in tune with their land and made use of that which nature provided." {Sand to Stone}


Side Note: While in the park, everything felt super busy. Maybe it's because we've been used to being alone/ secluded for the past year, but there definitely seemed to be a lot of folks out and about. Everyone wore masks and tried to give others their 6 feet of space, but it was something both of us noticed so I wanted to mention it... If/ when you #OptOutside (since COVID, it seems as if more and more folks are finding the great outdoors), please do so respectfully and responsibly

Source: NPS's Facebook Page

Have you ever been to Joshua Tree before?

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