Day 1 - Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
The first night was cold. Super cold! I'm not used to being cold in the desert, somehow I usually end up there in the summer. But in the winter, as soon as the sun sets in the cloudless, dry desert sky the temperatures quickly drop below freezing. It's like being on Mars. The sun went down at 4:30, and by 7:00 we were in the tent, bundled in sleeping bags. That was just a couple hours before the 40 mile an hour wind came up and flattened the tent into a flapping nylon tarp on the ground...
My old coworker Lianne had come out from Washington DC to visit some of her old friends here and one of the things on her list was to see Joshua Tree National Monument. It's about 5 hours from San Diego, 7 if you make stops on the way (I'm master of making stops.
The ride up is pleasant - well, you start off in horrible Riverside County, some of the worst urban sprawl in the world, but progressively head into more open space. First the narrow Morango Valley opens up into the Coachella Valley, near Palm Springs, where the hills are encrusted with slowly spinning windmills, generating a quiet roar on the hillsides. Entering the high desert, the first Joshua trees, 30-foot tall giant succulents in an otherwise low scrubland.
Well, after a lunch stop, we rolled into the park only about an hour and a half before sundown. Fortunately, the main sight in the park is the hugeness and openness of the park itself. You can look to the horizon in a lot of places there without seeing power lines, hotels, roads.... just endless rocks, scrub, and Joshua trees. After a quick look around, we found a campsite, wanting to get the tent up in the last daylight.
The tent was interesting. See, instead of just going and buying a tent like a normal person, I found one at the swap meet.
It was great! I mean, you can stand up and walk around in the thing. It was great until the wind came up at about 10pm... In the desert things happen fast. It gets dark within seconds of the sun going behind the mountains. It gets really cold a few minutes later. When the cold air starts contracting somewhere to the east... it get windy really fast! Next thing we knew the high profile tent was flattened and holding us against the ground.
In the morning we quickly stuffed everything into the car with our numb fingers, I mean even the tent with all the stuff in it just got stuffed into the back seat and we headed out to Amboy Crater, about 50 miles to the north.