I’ve lived in the desert most of my life but I have never actually visited Joshua Tree National Park before. I’ve seen plenty of Joshua Trees in my travels along the side of the freeway but that’s not the same at all. And you know what’s even better than visiting the park? Actually staying overnight there.
Technically we didn’t stay in the park but we were really really close. Payam and I were super lucky to be invited to stay in a really nice airbnb near Pioneertown. It was a dream come true for me. Right outside the doors of this modern little fortress to the sun were miles and miles of desert. Nothing but rocks and cacti and Joshua Trees as far as the eye could see. The magic of actually staying here is that I could follow the light. There was no rush to catch golden because I was there all day. I could watch the light move across the landscape and paint pictures along its way. The light is what really makes the desert beautiful.
The desert is very inhospitable. It’s spiky-sharp, harsh and dry. Not anywhere you want to be in the summer when it’s 120 degrees and the sun beats down relentlessly…
In winter, however, the desert is BEAUTIFUL! It’s a sunny 60 degrees, almost chilly but the sun warms your back like a cozy blanket. Just like the ocean, the desert commands respect with its vastness. You really feel how small you are and how desperate you would be if you were stranded without food and water. It makes you pause.
We were far from stranded. Even though our airbnb seemed quite remote there were other houses dotting the landscape all around us. They just blended in. I have to give desert-dwellers credit for choosing color palettes that match their environment.
The first morning we were there I woke up early and rushed outside to scout around. You can imagine my surprise when I scaled a small rocky hill behind our airbnb and found this little gathering of blue chairs, glowing in the morning twilight!
It was a bit disconcerting to stumble across remnants of others when you thought you were all alone. I worried that I might be trespassing but then I though, Eh, they can’t be that mad at me. Obviously we must be kindred spirits with the choice of blue chairs and all… The desert seems to attract artsy sorts. I could definitely live here. It’s just the flooding and the 120 degree heat I’m not so sure about.
On the other hand, I did not feel like I was very welcome when I crouched under this cholla bush to take a picture and a large thorn pieced the soft sole of my Ugg boots like it was slicing through butter. My foot was fine but it reminded me that I was far off the path. That’s what you get for stealing photos! the bushes seemed to say, laughing at me. Get back on the trail, city slicker!
I love this rust-colored sage flower. All the plants remind me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. They are almost surreal in how different they are from the flora where I live. There weren’t any wildflowers out yet but I got the feeling they were just around the corner. I’d love to come back here in Spring, that is if everybody else isn’t planning to be there too. I hear it can be quite over-touristed.
So we took advantage of it not being busy and Payam and I hiked all over. It was all so pretty.
Inhospitable but pretty. Good thing I wore my army boots!
No cozy wooded meadows here!
We scrambled over rocks and took pictures of each other pretending to be King of the Mountain.
Or in my case, a little field mouse hiding in the rocks.
Rocks and more rocks… Have you seen those posters making fun of bad yelp reviews of National Parks? Nothing to see here but a bunch of rocks!
But how magical are all these rocks?!!! If you look close enough you can see tiny people scrambling up the sides of them.
They are so tiny they reminded me of the miniature photography of Tanaka Tatsuya . Check out the rope walker above.
The morning light and the evening light was the prettiest. But the strong harsh shadows of mid-day also played at my imagination.
In the middle of the day old dead tress threw black spidery shadows against soft sandstone. And then as the sun slowly set again, the light softened into dreamy atmospheric shades of sunset. We didn’t get any crazy magnificent colorful sunsets but that didn’t bother us at all.
Soft subtle sunsets sooth the soul just as well when you have the luxury of not having to do anything but enjoy them.