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 Just A Sliver...

Joshua Tree National Park

Hiking Under the Joshua Trees
Their branches wind all funky-like skyward and do not provide any shade from the stunning sun. The Joshua Tree and namesake of the National Park, line the hiking trails prevalent throughout the park.

The Keys View trail is the shortest at just a quarter mile, but provides an expansive view of the San Andreas fault and desert plains. Hike the Hidden Valley trail to navigate in and out of boulders and find that elusive shade.

Joshua Tree National Park - Brothers Of The Rock
I love Joshua Tree National Park. If you ever get the chance to visit – go!

It’s a playground for adults and children alike and is one of my favorite spots in California. The landscape is unique – part barren desert, part larger than life boulders all dotted with snarled Joshua Trees that sprout up randomly. It’s a little bit unearthly and a little bit magical at the same time. If you go, try to camp at Jumbo Rocks. It’s one of the several campgrounds within the park and looks just like it sounds. Giant boulders make up the campground and embody the perfect background for tents, campfire stories and starry nights. They also make for great climbing material. You can climb on them for hours on end – literally spending full days exploring new heights and jumping between rocks. Last year Randy and I took Chachy (our dog) to Joshua Tree and we all ran around the rocks. Chachy loves climbing rocks and he took off like a rocket as soon as we got out of the car.

It was about sundown when I spotted these two boys in the distance. They appeared to be brothers and one was showing the other something he had found. They were standing on top of a very large boulder as the sun drifted off below them. I love this photo because even though I don’t know who they are and I only occupied the same boulder with them for a few minutes I can understand the sense of wonder they share in this photo.

If you visit Joshua Tree I guarantee you’ll feel the same way.

Backpacking in Seuss-land
We felt as if we had stepped into a Dr. Seuss book. The trees dotting the desert landscape looked like a strange hybrid of cactus and palm tree—some shooting straight up out of the ground barely six feet high, and others towering over us with mangled “branches” jutting out in every direction. We had just begun our 20-mile backpacking adventure through California’s Joshua Tree National Park.

Over the course of two days, we climbed through boulder-strewn canyons, trekked across juniper-covered plateaus, and wandered through Joshua tree forests along the California Riding and Hiking Trail. We hiked only the first half the trail, which cuts a 37-mile path across the northern stretch of the park from Black Rock Campground to the North Entrance Station and segments of which can be done as day hikes.

Aside from the occasional jack rabbit or horned lizard, we didn’t see a soul on our trek. In such lonely, inhospitable, otherworldly terrain, you feel at once very in touch with the world and very far from it.

Joshua Tree, Very Pretty
Located just a short drive -- by California Standards -- from the desert oasis of Palm Springs, lies the Joshua Tree National Park.

When we talk about escaping from the world, Joshua Tree is one of those places that automatically ought to come to mind. A beautiful, remote and somewhat otherworldly landscape, Joshua Tree lets you leave the world behind the gates and discover an open and ethereal setting of strange trees and bizarre boulder formations.

The park is a land of the lost in many respects, though with a large number of campgrounds and well-paved roads.

The park is especially appealing to younger children with plenty of places for them to explore and climb rocks (though make sure you keep a watchful and parental eye on them, the nearest hospital is -- obviously -- miles away). They will love the stark landscapes and oddly shaped Joshua Trees.

As noted, there are many camping areas. It's best to consult the website and make reservations during the high season. My own favorite time to visit is in the late winter, before the crowds and heat can invade the park.

In planning your visit, make sure to include the side trip up to Keys View -- it looks to be well out of the way on the map, but the ten minutes each direction are more than worth the stunning view overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains with the Palm Springs metro area at their base.