Current Location: Rocky Point Oregon Current temperature: 45 degrees F and clear
Can you see all the magical people in this pile of rocks? Look close.
When Judy (bird lady of blogland) and I were visiting, we talked about our blogging habits and one of the thoughts that came up was how important it is to write when everything is fresh. Some folks are diligent about this, writing everything on the same day in first person present tense. Others are the opposite extreme, waiting sometimes months to get back to a special trip with tons of information and magnificent photos.
I fall somewhere in between. If we are traveling, I try hard to keep up, but on almost every extended outing, I’ll get behind. Such is the case today. I am once again at home, sitting at the office window looking out through the forest, trying to slip back into how it felt to be camping in the dry sunny almost warmth of Joshua Tree National Park.
Mo and I love to visit Joshua Tree. In 2008, when we first brought the MoHo home to Oregon from Texas, we stopped for a a bit of exploring around the Joshua Tree campgrounds, and almost got ourselves into a tight situation on one of the Jumbo Rocks campground loops.
In 2013, even though we were camped at Desert Hot Springs, we spent some time exploring the National Park and loved every minute of it. I made a mental note that we should try to camp in Jumbo Rocks campground on our trip south in 2014. My planning wasn’t too great, however, since we arrived on New Years Day, and the campground, which has no reservations, was jam packed for the holiday.
We solved that problem with a terrific time boondocking outside the park just south of the southern entrance, within view of I-10. What a great way to see in the new year.
This year, we saved our Joshua Tree time for last. It was hard leaving Arizona after such a short time, but miscellaneous home issues required that we get back on the road north in short order. Finally, after all these years, we managed a night of beautiful dry camping in the Jumbo Rocks Campground at Joshua Tree National Park.
I somehow expected that in mid January, after all the holidays were over, the park would be quiet. While it was much quieter than last year, there were still many people exploring, and we were lucky to find a spot long enough for the MoHo when we arrived around 3 in the afternoon. With a short stop in Quartzite, I was still drooling over some of the new Class A rigs that we toured at La Mesa RV. In spite of all that glass, and all that space, I still love tucking my little 26 footer into tight spaces in national parks, state parks, and forest service campgrounds.
The campground is long, with winding roads and a few side loops, but the majority of sites are sized for tent camping. Sites that are large enough for bigger rigs are built parallel to the road, and require some forethought and jockeying to settle in properly.
We figured out that in order to get our slide out on the private side away from the road, we would have to park facing the opposite direction and accept the slight inconvenience of the doorway opening directly into the road.
It worked out just fine, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be any longer. There were a few big rigs in some of the areas at the far end of the park, but I would imagine that they had to wait around to get a site big enough to accommodate their size.
Both of us have always wanted to camp among the beautiful boulders, and with our windows opening up to a giant jumbled pile of wonderfulness, we watched the evening light shifting colors on the granite, and the next morning enjoyed the changing light of sunrise.
The night was cold, with frost on the car when morning broke. There were people in tents nearby and I was reminded of days camping in cold tents and warm sleeping bags, trying to keep warm making coffee over the fire. Such luxury. I snuggled back into the down comforter, enjoying the morning with no hurry to beat the sunrise. I planned to hike, but I didn’t need to do it while the frost was still hanging around.
The other interesting tidbit about Jumbo Rocks is the generator rules. Generators can be run from 7 to 9 am, from 12 to 2 pm, and from 6 to 8 pm. Different. We still had a good charge, even with our furnace running, but it was nice to top it off with an hour of generator time around 9 am before we took off hiking.
The hike to Skull Rock from the campground is well marked, however it was easy to wind between the rocks from our campsite until we intercepted the trail meandering east toward the attraction. At only 1.3 miles, when we found Skull Rock, we weren’t ready to quit, so Mo and I wandered around the boulders for a time, enjoying all the shapes and shadows of the crazy beautiful landscape.
What a wonderful place! In all our years passing by this trailhead, we had never actually seen Skull Rock. I had no clue until we almost ran into it that the famous face is very close to the parking area right on the main park road.
This section of Joshua Tree is filled with fantasmagoric boulders that people young and old love to climb and explore. It is almost like a giant jungle gym for grownups, or maybe not so grownups. We saw some teenagers doing scary things on high boulders that made me wonder if this park has a high incidence of injuries and rescues. We everything from old folks meandering around the rocks to the aforementioned teenagers, to professional free climbers with some equipment, and other climbers with a ton of equipment.
Once again, we passed many sights on our way out that reminded us to put at least a week of dry camping here on the agenda the next time we travel south in the winter.
As I was walking along behind Mo in the morning sunlight, I felt myself slip into a state of wonder that is a bit hard to fathom or explain. I was just so incredibly happy, so very much in that moment, so high on the light and the rocks and the sandy trail in front of me. I hope I can remember that moment at times when I am feeling low or bored with the everydayness of life in general. Moments like that are rare and wonderful. Most of the time I am in good spirits, but this was somehow different. Call it Bliss, I suppose, I was there!
We had a wonderful breakfast, a wonderful hike, and a wonderful morning to slip under the belt before we had to leave the clear beautiful desert behind us and head west into the foggy dreariness of the Central Valley of California. Only thing that made the drive tolerable was the anticipation of spending time with friends on our way home.