Joshua Tree National Park

Whilst we originally planned to head to Yosemite national park and up through the centre of California, the current Ferguson wildfire has prevented us from taking this route. Much of Yosemite is closed and the surrounding parks are experiencing a drop in air quality so we decided to head up the coastal road in the hope the fires would burn out, and then back down through the centre. Before heading up however, we had to hang around LA for a couple of days to get Annie’s phone fixed and decided to head to the nearby Joshua Tree National Park.


Entering the park.

We hadn’t heard of the national park before leaving for our trip, but it had come up numerous times when we met locals from every state – you can’t miss Joshua Tree! With no idea what we were heading towards, we put the park in the sat nav and pointed ourselves towards the park. 


Common signs around the park.

One thing we hadn’t realised, nor had we missed for that matter, was the heat. The park is quite literally a desert, and it reminded us of being back in the Grand Canyon, only without the altitude. Betty overheated trying to get towards the park, and we decided we would leave out the death valley drive to keep the van as healthy as possible! 


This has become quite a common position for the van!

A side effect of the heat was the fact that the park was actually in low season. The car parks were empty, and our first stop at the cottonwood spring was pleasantly empty. Something that wouldn’t be of huge interest usually – a pool of water – looks and feels a lot more special in the middle of a desert. The only trees for miles (except the aqua frugal Joshua Trees) were able to survive solely due to the small spring of water. So small we couldn’t even see it, but were able to marvel at the greenery it produced.


Cottonwood Spring.

After the spring we headed to the Cholla cactus garden, to wonder round some densely packed cacti. It was strange to actually see a cactus outside of a tank, and pretty interesting. There were signs warning about the bees as they are attracted to the moisture on you & in your car but another perk of being off season was that they were nowhere to be seen!


Luckily it was off-season for them!


Cholla cactus garden


Yes they were sharp!

Then we headed to our camp for the night, a small spot right outside the park next to an observatory. We’d heard the park was supposed to be wonderful for stargazing but the light pollution from the nearby town made it difficult to make much out. Despite the secluded and peaceful location the heat made the night pretty unbearable. We both woke up after a terrible nights sleep and vowed we’d see the rest of the park in a day and head back to the coastal breeze…


Camping next to an Observatory.


Skull rock

The next morning we decided to hike up Ryan Mountain, a relatively short hike which gave us breathtaking views over the park. We left for the hike at 8am, which was already too late as by the time we were walking up we agreed we should have left much earlier. After the 10am heatwave we headed out of the park, via skull rock, and up big bear lake. It’s basically a ski resort, 7,000ft high where we went to run away from the heat. It did provide us with a lovely cool evening, however at a small cost as the engine overheated running up the incredible steep incline!


On the way up the mountain


View from the top of Ryan mountain.

We spent the next day enjoying the cool breeze and working on our own mosquito net solution. We fitted magnets around the door and put corresponding magnets on a piece of netting we’d bought from a fabric store – it is much more fiddly than it sounds! Then that evening we were greeted back into mountain weather with a monsoon so we swiftly packed up our things and headed back down to LA. From here we’re starting our trip up the Pacific Coast Highway for cool ocean breeze, easy beach camping and world class surfing.


Making our DIY mosquito door netting

It’s our turn to experience the vagabond mecca, the California coastline.

One thought on “Joshua Tree National Park

  1. Michael Connolly says:

    Another part to the great adventure!
    I don’t know where you find the time to write these blogs with all your adventures and van issues,
    Glad you do though, very interesting reading.
    lots of love
    Dad c xxxx


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