The trip to Joshua Tree was amazing. With 2.5 days of no cell phone service and no dogs (they were in good hands with our local dog sitter), we had a great time with our girls. The trip started off with a 5am departure to beat traffic, claim a coveted campsite, and drive while the girls would still be sleeping. Everything worked out perfectly and we found a great spot at Jumbo Rocks campground. There are over 100 sites at Jumbo Rocks, but when we got there around 7:30am on Friday, almost 80% were already claimed for the weekend. The site was up against a rock formation, so it was relatively quiet (and we only had neighbors on one side to potentially disturb with any crying babies). This was a big change from our site at San Onofre where we were right next to our neighbors.
This trip was also much different than our first national park, Grand Canyon, because we didn’t structure our days nearly as much. In fact, we did very little research in advance of the trip besides the campground. One reason was because we knew we wanted to relax a bit and we are still somewhat practicing tent camping with babies. We also learned from the first trip not to push the girls too hard or they will get overtired. The second was because we know we’ll be back to Joshua Tree in the future with it being our closest national park.
With that being said, we did do some really fun hikes. On Friday, we busted out the Kelty Kid carriers and took a 45 minute hike to Skull Rock. It was right near our campsite and gave us a short hike to test out my new hiking poles, also by Kelty. Everything worked great and the poles definitely help with balance with the higher center of gravity from the kid carrier. After that we found some shade at our campsite and let the girls play. We used our beach tent and a large tarp to create a play area for them. We then put a sleeping bag down in case anyone decided to topple over. It worked out great. After that, we waited around for sunset to turn the sky pink and orange.
Saturday gave us a nice sunrise and a relaxing start to the day. The girls got breakfast on the picnic table and then watched us make breakfast for ourselves. We strapped their chairs down to the table for safety. We then lounged around until lunch and had some real quality time before we drove to the southern end of the park to Cottonwood Spring. The neat thing about Joshua Tree is that is has two different deserts within its boundaries – the Mojave to the west and the Colorado to the east. Both have distinct plant and animal life. It’s amazing how different places can be when they’re only 30 miles apart.
We took a hike to Mastodon Mine while at Cottonwood Spring. It was a 2.4 mile loop and gave us some great views of the Salton Sea, wildlife (we saw a zebratail lizard), and some peace and quiet. That abruptly ended when the girls lost their minds on the ride back to our campsite and I had to jump in the back seat and make up songs while clapping and snapping. If there was video, it would either end up on Ellen or I would be committed.
Timing tends to be pretty critical with longer car rides at this age so we packed up in the morning on Sunday so we could load everyone in the van basically right at the post-lunch naptime in order to get home before their next feeding and/or a meltdown.
A little bit of trivia…
These plants are called ocotillo. I did not have my Spanish goggles on and consistently mispronounced this plant. It’s “oko-tee-yo”. Face-palm.
For some legit trivia, Joshua Trees are actually yuccas and they proliferated from giant ground sloths (extinct for the past 13,000 years) carrying their seeds.
The quintessence according to…
Sean: I am always pleasantly reminded that the desert is very much a vibrant ecosystem, with many plants and animals all thriving. It’s not a desolate place at all.
Mary: I loved how so many people dropped everything to post up on the rocks for sunsets. We should all take a little more time to immerse ourselves in something beautiful each day.
Pleasant and unpleasant surprises
A pleasant surprise was how many families with young children were at the Jumbo Rocks campground. It was great seeing kids running around and playing. We can’t wait for our girls to join in on the fun when they get older.
Our dinner planning was a huge success and we’ll talk more about it in a future post.
Unorganized camp box – we were constantly fishing around for stuff but already started brainstorming ways to fix this. This will be critical going forward because if there is a crying child, you want to know exactly where everything is to just grab it and go in a pinch.
Nap time – we had to resort to some creative measures to get the girls to settle down for naps. Basically we put them in their car seats and covered them with a muslin blanket to remove all of the stimulation. Luckily it worked like a charm but we’ll probably need to have a few more strategies for future trips.
Have you been to Joshua Tree? What did you think? What was your quintessence?
Here are some more pictures but if you want to see them larger go here.