I was camped again among friends near Joshua Tree National Park (Joshua Tree or JT). The plan was to explore the park from our boondocking base camp here. I had seen Joshua Trees before near Searchlight, NV but was informed that JT had much more dramatic hills and rocks as a backdrop for their trees. Having friends meant that I could hitch a ride some days with one of their cars, and use my motorcycle on others. Exploring with others for a change would be fun. Stay tuned to see what we found out here!
One can plan, but should plan that weather may change your plans. That certainly applied here, as shortly after my arrival a large weather system came in that blew much and rained a little. While I got out for a few short hikes in the wind, it was not pleasant for exploration and I only stayed out long enough to get a little exercise after a day of being cooped up inside. At least the weather made for some interesting photography as the storm left. You get some of your best sky pictures as storms come in and go.
Post storm, it was time to explore Joshua Tree National Park. The park is huge and really needs to be driven through to see the variety of environments. We were coming in on the south side of the park, which does not have any Joshua Trees. Despite the park’s name, a large portion of the park does not have any of its namesake trees. It is primarily the north side of the park that has the trees, if you come in that way you will see trees before you even enter the park.
The south side of the park does make up for its lack of trees with some cool rock formations. You can imagine all sorts of things in the rock shapes. The variety of shapes is endless. You can even camp among some of these rocks if you stay at White Tank or Belle Campground, where the rocks remind me of Bedrock, from “The Flintstones”. Be warned that while these campgrounds are not cheap, the bigger issues is just getting at spot – these campgrounds are popular. Even driving through to see the sites is forbidden by signs. We drove through during the week, but don’t try it on the weekends – rangers are parked at the entrances to make sure you are actually staying at the campground. Think about that, it is so busy just with people driving through that they have to restrict the traffic to customers. It is too bad, because the campgrounds are cool to look at, but I’m sure the campers get tired of cars constantly going by looking at the sites.
Skull Rock is probably the most famous rock in the park, at least judging by the number of people that stop to look at it. There are so many people that getting a shot of just the rock is quite challenging at times. We were there on a nice day during the week, during the weekend I’d say it’s near impossible to get a clear shot. I could have wished to be there a bit earlier to get better light on the left side of the “skull”, but I’ll take what I got.
I would suggest a random walk in any of the rocky areas. There are many cool rock shapes and hidey holes to discover among the formations. We found holes, passages through, and imagined forms of every type among the rocks of the area. The rocks are easy to climb on being quite grippy on the feet. I even ran into some rock climbers on a trip through the park with the motorcycle. Just don’t wander too far without paying attention to the way back – the rocks also can act as a maze, leaving you lost not sure which way to go to get back to your vehicle.
There is a really good Cholla patch in Joshua Tree. If you have spent any time in the desert, you will know these cacti by site, and fear them if you have ever brushed up against them with bare skin. This patch is thick enough that you’d have difficulty wandering between the plants without brushing them. Fortunately, a good loop path has been carved through that you can take without danger of touching one of these painful pointy things.
We did find the Joshua trees on the north side of the park. They are less impressive as a forest compared to Wee Thump that I had visited earlier, but the rocks surrounding them make for better backdrop photography. Everyone stops around the same area to get photos of the best trees with the rocks, there really should be some road side parking added there for safety. The good tree area is pretty small, perhaps there are other larger areas with Joshua trees. The park is big and we only explored the main roads.
Being with friends, there was some dining out done. In fact, I pretty much caught up my restaurant budget eating out over this time. Kitchen in the Desert was the first place we went. It is catering more towards the high end clientele, at least high end for this area. The prices and portions reflect this, lots of dollars for little food. My burger was generous size though. There are NO fries on the menu here. How can you serve a burger and not have fries?! There are good vegan options here though, they do know how to grill a mean vegetable, just put a little more on the plate though, these things are not that expensive! The outdoor seating area has a good vibe, although they need to level off the one table area – felt like I was being pushed into my table. We asked to be moved, telling them about the unlevel table. But they proceeded to seat the next set of guests there too. Can’t say I’ve ever had to complain about unlevel dining area before!
Edchada’s looked promising for some Mexican so we gave that a try. We had some awesome food, and good sized portions too at a reasonable price. Our server was new, but I think it was the manager that was pitch hitting to help her out. The service was excellent overall, with a great vibe at the place, but perhaps that was the margaritas talk’n?
I think my favorite place was the grnd sqrl. I’m not being lazy typing and using caps, that is the real spelling of this place’s name. The wall art is rad and required a fun picture with me and Sara. The beer selection is not huge, but has a proper range of selection. I started with the strong (10.5%) Stout. It was an excellent beer with a bit more of a caramel sweet than you’d usually get with a Stout. I think a Belgian brewer would make a stout like this.
I was not so hungry, so I had the grill cheese sandwich. It does NOT come with bacon, but you can add this on. You must add bacon to a grill cheese sandwich. Fries were available too, with parm! All of it was tasty.
The vegan with us order some pickled vegetables that were wonderful. I’m not a huge vegetable person, but I might order that as a side, they were so flavorful and just the right vinegar punch added on. I see from their website that they pride themselves on their pickled goods, and it shows! The service was awesome too, looked to be the owner serving us. If I come through Twentynine Palms again, I will stop here again, especially if I want a beer with my food.
Raven’s Book Shoppe was a stop our group wanted to make. Now, I’ve gotten rid of my library of books having moved out of a house, so I was resisting buying books. This resistance was tested by an excellent selection of used SciFi, so I just pushed three books to Aaron who was looking for something new to read. I’ll be most interested to see what he thought of Heinlein’s “To Sail Beyond the Sunset”, an eye opening favorite of mine. I enjoyed browsing through the store, especially the chaotic random nature of the place, maze like with nooks and crannies to find.
The Patton tank museum was a side stop on the way to not get gas. You read that right, I did not manage to fill up my Grom motorcycle thanks to California’s stupid ‘vapor seal’ gas nozzles. I can’t get the seal to work on my flip up lid, the lid is always in the way. Thanks to the delays with that, the tank museum only got a quick look on the outside. I wasn’t paying $15 for what would have been a quick tour with the time I had left that day.
I took a ton of pictures during this time around and in Joshua Tree. If you want to see them all, I created an album in Flickr you can browse through. It had been a fun busy week with people, but it was time to head to a new spot. Check out where I end up next, by water (of sorts) again!