We had to escape. San Diego was sucking us dry emotionally and financially and with the addition of a rainy weekend forecast, we knew it was head out or lose our minds. The answer: Joshua Tree.
We had heard of Joshua Tree National Park, of course, and Ken and Wendy had stopped by there on the way home from Baja two years prior and loved it. A little over 3 hours out of San Diego and we would have cheap camping, amazing hiking, and a drier forecast. We were in.
The drive out was unpleasant. Silly us, we had left the GPS on “avoid toll roads” and so we spent over an hour crisscrossing residential areas before we realized our error. Once Jim changed the settings we were already well into a long drive with much further to go. GPS corrected… we continued onward.
Even though it was a Thursday, even with rain the night before and more in the forecast, the campgrounds were all full. Rangers suggested the near certainty of openings in the morning, however, so we decided to wait to head into the park until then. Where to camp that night? Well, we had no interest in heading to one of the nearby RV parks. We had left San Diego partially to avoid expensive parks. That left BLM land on the north side of the park, BLM land that turned out to be a dry lake bed, the earth hardpacked and cracked but showing many obvious signs of truck tire sucking mud tracks.
With rain clouds threatening, Jim was hesitant, the idea of getting trapped in a mud bath apparently unappealing. I was unfazed for, at the very worst, if the rain began in the middle of the night we would just get in and leave. What began was, shall we say, not a very relaxing night. We settled in for the evening, mostly packed up and preparing to depart at a minutes notice. At 2am we were awakened with a bright light shining directly into our camper window. Disoriented, I wondered if we hadn’t heard the rain and someone was coming to advise we head out. Instead we discovered that, in the middle of easily a 40-acre field, a new couple decided parking 20feet from us and turning on all of their outside lights while they got settled seemed like a good idea. Swearing, I pulled the shades down and settled back into a restless sleep.
And then the rain began. At 5am we noticed one or two other campers heading out. At 520am Jim started to get nervous but we decided to wait until dawn was breaking for an easier departure. At 6am we quickly discovered the dry lake bed was now an inch or two of soul sucking mud and decided Aspen and I would remain in the camper while Jim drove us to pavement. The best idea of the adventure up to that point. As Aspen and I bumped and bounced in back, we slid about repeatedly in the slick, thick mud. Luckily, it was a short trip to pavement where we checked out the damage. Jim’s chacos were pounds heavier and 2 inches taller, the soles thoroughly and deeply caked in mud. The truck tires thumped heavily as we continued down the pavement, throwing off huge chunks of debris.
Having survived the restless night, we breakfasted in the Visitors Center parking lot and entered the park. Fantastic! Johsua Tree was all we hoped and more. Stunning scenery, great hiking, lovely and inexpensive campgrounds and a campsite for us by 9am as some soggy tent campers gave up on the idea of a weekend in the wild.
We spent three days hiking on the dirt roads with Aspen, sneaking her on to a few short trails around camp, sleeping amazingly well, and rock climbing the numerous natural adult jungle gyms. While it did rain some each day, much of our time was sunny or, at worst, simply overcast which was actually a blessing for comfortable hiking weather.
Sadly, Sunday morning arrived and we had to head back into town, glad we got to explore such a marvelous area.