Joshua Tree Stole my Heart

Moving to California, away from our family, means it can be hard to get some child free time. However, when we do have family to visit, we like to try to escape for a day or two. Right now, my father in law is here so we had booked a trip on Airbnb to stay in a converted airstream on the Malibu hills. Sadly, the airstream was destroyed in the fires so that trip was cancelled, but we still really wanted to get away.

Joshua Tree popped into my head. It looked amazing in the pictures I had seen, so we booked another Airbnb. This time in a very remote area in Joshua Tree along a dirt road that required us to hire a truck. Well we didn’t have to, but my husband wanted to test one out, so this seemed a good opportunity.jtree
It’s around two hours’ drive away, so once the kids were off to school we headed out late morning on our road trip in the Ram.  We decided to stop off in Pioneertown on the way and I am so pleased we did. This place was created in the 1940s as a movie set for westerns, and over two hundred movies have been filmed there. It has been beautifully maintained, and we even saw a cowboy riding through on his horse. I’m not sure if that is a common occurrence in those parts but it certainly added to the atmosphere. Pioneertown is very cool and definitely worth a visit if you are in that area.

From there we headed to Yucca Valley, mainly because we needed coffee but decided it was time for lunch too. We bypassed the many fast food chains and headed to a Mexican place called La Palapa, that had been recommended to us. When we arrived we almost turned away because the run down looking outside did not look promising. We were starving so we decided to try it anyway and the food was great. Cheap authentic Mexican food and the waitress was helpful and friendly.

After picking up some (more!) food for later, we headed to our Airbnb in Joshua Tree as we wanted to arrive before sunset. It was lucky we did as I’m not sure we would have made our way there in the dark. It was in the middle of nowhere, up a hill via a dirt track. I was glad I wasn’t driving.
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The place was amazing, small but perfectly formed, lovingly renovated by its owner with lots of handmade furniture. The best bit without a doubt though was of course the view, absolutely breath-taking. We took a quick hike around the mountain and explored a rundown shack nearby. We both struggled to sleep at first. The knowledge of being in such a remote place was keeping us awake and seeing a coyote near the Airbnb earlier did nothing to calm our minds.

The next morning we got up before sunrise and headed to the top of the hill in our pjs to watch the sunrise in silence. Silence is such a rare gift these days, so I appreciated every second of it.  Instead of going back to bed, we decided to get on with our day and by 8am we had already left our cosy Airbnb to head to the main event.

We drove to the West entrance of the Joshua Tree National Park, on Park Boulevard. I honestly didn’t realize how massive the park is. We drove in (paying the $30 entrance fee) and headed for Hidden Valley so we could hike the one-mile loop trail through the huge boulders in this legendary cattle rustlers’ hideout. It would have been one mile if we hadn’t had the urge to climb the boulders, but we did. We climbed till we couldn’t climb any higher (formally known as bouldering) and sat on the top of boulders up high to take in the awe inspiring 360-degree views. I know I’m going to come off all hippie saying this, but I felt like it was such a spiritual place. I’ve never felt so at peace, so content. I could have sat on one of those rocks all day, but it was time to move on to our next stop, Key View.
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Here you get views from an elevation of 5,185 feet. You can see the San Andreas Fault in the valley, as well as mountains and desert. We sat on the back of our truck and ate our packed lunch, I’d like to say we had a tail gate party, but it was only a party of two, and we mostly just stared at the incredible views in silence whilst eating.

Lastly, we wanted to see Skull Rock which is near Jumbo Rocks. The clue is in the name, it’s a rock that looks like a skull. We managed to get a bit more bouldering in there before reluctantly heading back to Orange County. The park was surprisingly not busy but that may be because it was a Thursday in November. The climate was just right, comfortably hot in the sunshine with a slight chill in the shade. The toilets were very deep holes in the ground where I had to use all the thigh muscles I could muster to stay as far away from the seat as possible. This was mainly because I had convinced myself that a tarantula was going to climb out and bite me (I’m happy to report that no tarantulas were spotted!).
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Days have passed since we got back, and I still cannot seem to get Joshua Tree out of my head. It’s a special place. Much of the National Park lies in the overlap of the Mojave and Colorado desert and because of that you get to see a real variation in terrains. You feel like you’re on the set of a movie, in a place that can’t possibly be real. I felt safe and relaxed and even though I’m really not into camping, I’m desperate to go back there and camp below the dark sky full of stars. I felt inspired and empowered there, I forgot my many health issues (although I paid for that the next day!) and just got swept away by the magical place. Joshua Tree I think you have stolen my heart, but I will keep an open mind because in the next few months I’ll be visiting Santa Barbara, Lake Arrowhead and Temecula to see what they have to offer. 

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