I almost ran off the road a few times trying to look while also navigating the map. We were already running late in the day because I thought it would be better for Lucy and I to beat the heat of the day but this also caused a lot of hassle. First, the Cottonwood visitor’s center was closed at 4pm so I could not ask them advice about the best campsites or get a map. Then the drive into the park was at least an hour with me stopping only once at the Cholla Catcus Gardens. As I finally arrived to my originally planned campsites (White Tank and Bella as they are smaller with very few sites nestled in between the huge boulders), both were closed probably because the park is so dead during the weekdays. So I made my way to one of the larger campgrounds, Jumbo Rocks, which out of forty plus site, only had about seven other groups so I drove around and picked my stop. Then went back to pay. As I returned to start unloading, bees started coming from everywhere and Lucy was trying to catch the bees, which at this point were in the car. I drove back to the payment box to see if I could get my money slip back but now I am out of $10 and see a sign that aggressive, African honey bees are in the area and very territorial. I usually can remain calm but after such a long day, things started to pile up. I got in my car and drove off to start the whole process over at a new campsite. It is about 7pm now and getting dark. I headed back the way I came until I realized all the other campgrounds were the other way so I had to turn around. I was almost at my breaking point as I was trying to take in the sites while not speeding to much through the 35mph curves and bends as you cut through range after range, losing all sense of direction.
Well it was turning out to be a long, hard day I still stayed calm because when I am alone there is no point to be overwhelmed or even moody as then nothing will get better. I pasted a few more closed campsites and finally got to Hidden Valley (my original plan after Jumbo Rocks was Black Rock Canyon which was another hour away but at some point to must just settle in). But I did not settle immediately after finding the number site I wanted to enjoy the rest of my day out of the car. I set up my tent and took my camera, some water and Lucy and started to climb these gigantic smooth boulders towards the sunset (Photo#6, 7 & 8). It was so nice, peaceful and bee-free. Things couldn’t get better at that point and I had a wonderful night with Lucy cutting in and out of boulder caves and taking in all the one of a kind flora and fauna all around me.
This park is one of the less popular ones like the Petrified Forest in Arizona and like the latter, it is turning out to be one of my favorites. It is one of the most beautifully odd places I’ve seen and the activities are endless and childlike as you climb over the huge boulders to the tippy top with ease and slide down without a problem. It is more fun then climbing trees or hiking as it mixes both activities and I really hope to come here again with friends and no dog so I can really explore the maze of rocks (note I do not hike off paths or climb too high as if I fell it is not likely someone would find me and there is no cell reception). While this may have seemed a little whiny, I need to share to mishaps and annoyances of a road trip just as much as the beauty and uniqueness.
I woke up before the sun to get some good photos and watch the jumbo rocks turn from purple to pink to yellow as the sun rose in the sky (Photo #9, 10 & 11). Overall Joshua Tree National park was a peaceful, quiet, removed and spacious park with tons of great campgrounds each with there own activities to explore. Everyone and anyone can play on the boulders from beginners to expert climbers and even Lucy. I did not think I would enjoy desert camping at all but later in the day the temperature gets perfect and there are no mosquito. Life is flourishing everywhere across this desert backdrop where the Sonoran and Mojave deserts meet. The flora and fauna is one of a kind and cannot be duplicated anywhere else.
On my way out of the West Entrance this morning, I saw the larger Visitor’s Center with a gift shop that sold firewood at the corner of Park Road and 29 Palms Highway, which appeared to be the only place and therefore left me with cereal to eat for dinner the night before. I had all day to get to Oceanside, so I decided to detour a little and take the scenic route, 243 Firefighter’s Memorial Highway to 74 Florida Avenue through the San Bernardino National Forest (Photo #12 &13). As I drove into the San Bernardino region, there were endless fields of wind turbines that were oddly beautiful. As I started to climb through the mountains, it was an enjoyable ride as white rock walls with lush green trees hugged the road and small boulders dotted the land. I was very happy I went the extra hour out of the way as I approached Lake Fulmor. You will miss it if you don’t look but it is a must stop for a lunch or walk (Photo #14, 15 & 16). There are also many easy, short trails along with camping within the whole region. As you start to descend, you cut through Idllywild, a cute mountain town at the top with lots of outdoor activities. As I approached Oceanside, I got on 76 South for the last bit with lots strawberry farms and fresh markets on the side of the road. I have only ate my snacks all day so no food porn but lots of great pictures have been added to my photography gallery pages, at the end.