4:00 AM–Thank God I packed up the car before going to sleep just six hours ago. Trying to hitch the bike rack up is a chore and a half but it’s before long that we find ourselves on the road to Joshua Tree Nat’l Park. Leaving this early makes the drive through the desert a little more tolerable. Soon enough we’re entering Twenty-nine Palms with its interesting murals with just a few more miles to go before the turn off. Then the wheel is turned onto a dirt road that takes us into the backside of the park through Bureau of Land Management acres. The trail proves that any 4X or skilled SUV driver can cruise on these bumpy and sandy roads. This area is known for the many mining sites that have either been abandoned or are still in operation along the hillsides and canyons. Some of them date back more than fifty years. Evidence to their boom years are evident everywhere, cabin structures with bullet marks, rusting steel laying all over the place, gapping holes in the earth partly filled in with boulders or covered up with strong steel mesh covering all entrance into the ground. This is done to prevent the novice climber from making the wrong mistake of even thinking about a descend into the earth. Here is where my girlfriend and I decide to set up camp on the edge of the park boundaries. Most of this area is completely desolate and even in the 90-degree heat proves to keep us searching for shade. There are plenty of trails to explore by foot or bike, but as you travel on the road through the park, the sandy bottom tests our endurance as it becomes harder and harder to petal along the road. Best bet if your head bent on doing this is to start out earlier to avoid heat exhaustion or fatigue. The desert sky at night becomes envelopes into million of glittering stars with a noticeable satellite cruising the heavens on its pre destined course. A telescope will maximize this view which wouldn’t be so spectacular if observed in the city with its constant hazy glare at night. Driving through Joshua Tree gives the travelers the awesome feeling of desert tranquility. The Ocotillo trees sway in the afternoon breeze, lizards scurry in every walk of life, desert wildflowers adds color and diversity to such an dry, monotonous landscape. Even the mighty Joshua Tree forest astonishing the traveler with awe, realizing how many years it took for them to grow over the many hundreds of years to be the height they are here in this arid place.From our next campsite, White Tank, we climbed around the rock formations that had been weathered by the elements. A nice workout on Mother Natures Playground is what I like to consider it with tons of excitement for the naturalist and avid explorer-climber. Everyone getting his or her kicks hanging off some slab of rock some seventy feet off the desert floor. If you like to go off-roading, there are plenty of roads around the mining areas with some nice terrain that isn’t too hairy for travelling on. Within the park boundaries, there are nice vantage points to view the Palm Springs Valley from a far as well as Mount Jacinto in the distance. One such viewing point is called Keys View. Campgrounds inside the park can range between ten to a hundred-fifty sites so make sure you know which campsite you would prefer before settling for the first empty site you come across.
If you want some privacy, be sure you ask the ranger about availability before setting up camp. You could have to listen to families and yahoo chatter all night if you don’t plan ahead of the ruckus.