After getting back from the Balloon Fiesta in October, we planned to spend most of our time in the southwestern part of the country until Summer 2014 comes around. As much as we love traveling the rest of the country, there is so much to see here that we have neglected because of its proximity. We are going to do a much better job exploring around these western states.
Last year was actually the first time we have ever visited Joshua Tree National Park. Being the closest National Park to where we are from, it was really kind of shameful on our part. After a couple of weeks at Marlene’s parents house, we went back out.
Unfortuantely, the winter in the California desert is a super busy time. We got to Joshua Tree and there were no campsites available. The ranger at the gate pointed us to the nearlest BLM land which is basically just a dry lake bed just outside of town.
As flat and big as the lake bed is, we had a hard time figuring out exactly where we wanted to camp. Everything looks the same from a distance but just as you thought you were at the perfect spot, another one down the lake just happens to look slightly better. You know what they say, dirt is always browner on the other side.
Even though this is BLM land, we are pretty close to the cities of Joshua Tree, 29 Palms and Yucca Valley. There are lots of stores and restaurants to visit while we are here. The best is that we have full bars of 4G LTE for those work days.
The dry lake bed is open not only to camping but also OHV (off highway vehicle) riding. There was a cluster of campers in the distance and every now and then a 4-wheeler will come zipping out of there.
After spending a night at the dry lake bed, we gave Joshua Tree another shot. It was Sunday so we felt that the first-come-first-serve campgrounds must have some openings by now.
We were able to snag a spot at Jumbo Rocks inside the park for the night. We have been to the area dozens of times but have never camped inside the park. There is absolutely no phone or Internet service in here. There isn’t even access to water.
That made it a perfect place for us to just relax and hang out with each other.
We took a hike from Jumbo Rocks campground to Skull Rock. It was a little over a mile and the girls did it without much complaining.
But it was hard to feel that we had accomplished much when we got to the rock since it is actually right along the road through the park. Many people are just pulling over in their cars to take pictures with it.
The trail heading back to the campground.
We spent just a night in the park and left fairly early the next morning so I can get some Internet access for work.
We are rarely rolling when the sun is this low on the horizon in the morning.
I don’t think the girls are suppose to bend a joshua tree over like this. Ava is heavier than she looks.
As we made it out of the gate of the park, we headed to Black Rock Campground. Even though it is a Joshua Tree National Park campground, it is not actually in the gates of the park. You go down a county maintained road full of pot holes to get to it.
The campground is beautiful and up on the hills just south of the town of Joshua Tree. There is a dump station and solid 4G internet access.
Every time we come here, we have to go visit our favorite pretend western ghost town.
This is Pioneertown, CA.
We usually dry camp for $15 a night in the parking lot of the Pioneertown Motel next door but it is close enough to just come for the day.
Of course we also have to eat at the famous Pappy and Harriet’s.
We had planned to stay a few more nights at Black Rock Campground but a couple of us somehow developed stomach flus. It is times like these that makes you glad that you are near family and you can just zip back over there and have them take care of you for a few days.
After recuperating for a few nights in LA, we headed back out to Joshua Tree. Because you know what? We were not quite done with you.
This time, we met up with a couple of our best friends who are also married to each other that we have known since college. When we leave southern California it is them and our family we miss the most. In this last year, his parents bought a travel trailer and decided to make a maiden voyage with us out to the desert.
This is our usual spot at Pioneertown Motel. Not too shabby.
Our friends Dan and Michelle have two kids. Grace and Cole. Grace is Ava’s oldest friend. She visited her at the hospital the day she was born.
Cole is a year older than Mila and is super glad that there is finally another boy to play with. Even if he is 4 years younger.
He might be the littlest one but he is probably the coolest.
“Hey! Get off my lawn!!”
Ava was reunited with this pup named Jessie she played catch with last year when we came here. Jessie is not helping us trying to convince her we don’t need a dog right now.
After a few more nights in the desert, we are finally satiated with its beauty. At least for now.
We will be back.
over and out,