There comes an important turning point in the year for your average Southern Californian. It’s not the moment you realize you already broke your New Years Resolution 2 months in, or the panic in misplacing your W-2s when taxes are due. It’s a yawning rodent emerging from the earth, deciding whether or not you are free to put shorts on and get outside.
That being said, with common knowledge, wave after wave of spring breakers flood to the coast in a frenzy. Craving some amount of ‘out’, we left in the opposite direction for Joshua Tree.
Two and half hours later past the hormonal traffic and crowded sidewalks… we revisit a blank canvas that has only occurred in our youth.
Depending on a steady tide of seasonal tourism among the regular backpackers, returning campers, climbers; Joshua Tree has accumulated only a growing crowd. Largely, dare I say it, due to social media exploitation?… But on a nobler side, bringing a more consistent economic growth through Yucca Valley, booming unto Joshua Tree and simmering down at the beginning of Wonder Valley (29 Palms).
As there are so many events happening now at the crossroads of Spring & Summer, so includes a pinch of must-sees & should-dos for your weekend out, at the start of Spring when the weather isn’t so bitter at night or hostile during the day. If you’ve never been, or even have just half a day to spare, a simple route can take you above the whole park.
The park entrance fee is $20 and that permit lasts about a week, but for just $10 more you can have an annual pass (don’t be a fool). There was a light breeze this weekend, temperature up in the high 70s, low 80s. Following the road through the valley, past Boy Scout campground, Hidden Valley, and scattered herds of climbers, we hit Ryan Mountain trailhead. It’s a 3-mile roundtrip hike takes you up above the desert floor along a nicely packed trail with numerous stone steps. It’s probably the best summit providing a great panoramic view of the desert and the dismantled/conjoined rock formations below in the heart of the park. Tall misshapen granite seemingly marks the start of the hike, and the trail is fairly sun-exposed. Keep right, past the sign ‘Sheep Pass Group Camp’; that’s just another starting point for the hike, and you’ll be continuing on toward the ‘Wonderland of Rocks’ defining the classic Joshua Tree landscape.
On a clear day, you can see southwest toward Mount San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio. Southwest of Ryan Mountain, is the campground and the remains of Ryan Ranch; and Lost Horse Mountain standing above the other summits, completing the view.
If you have the time, The Chasm of Doom is worth checking out, especially if this is just a weekend trip (let alone last minute trip) and you don’t find yourselves as far inland. You can ask the ranger at the entrance how to get to Real Hidden Valley. Once you park there you will find other groups looking for the entrance…just follow them and try to find it – it’s fun just to look for it! However, it is very tight in certain places and you can’t take anything with you (no, not even your phone, so you can forget about anybody believing you were there if it wasn’t snapchatted).
Honestly, the best way to do Joshua Tree is to find a crazy lookin’ pile of rocks and scramble on upwards; of course, with water, “snacks”, a camera, whatever else you may like to amuse yourself with, and stay at the top for a hot minute. Listen to the desert from up there – the silence is deafening in the most calming way.
Some might say that there’s nothing to do out in the desert other than pool parties, glamorous semi-low-maintenance-lifestyle photography and getting incredibly sun burnt. But, if you could go with open intentions, and be aware of your time, instead of racing the sun, you can see what you want to see…
Article by ALEX Ambassador and Extraordinary Human Kimmy Le