Other than U2’s hit album – The Joshua Tree (one of the world’s best-selling albums, released in ’87) – I wasn’t familiar with Joshua Tree’s or Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Trees are these cool gnarly looking trees that grow haphazardly in the desert, and the park offers a lot: hiking, climbing, biking, and plenty of sand.
It was roughly a 5 hour drive from San Luis Obispo. Leaving Friday morning, we made good time (took Route 166), deciding to stop for lunch at The Flame Broiler in Adelanto. A mix between fast food and health food, I was pleasantly surprised.
I ordered the Chicken plate; flame broiled sauce-basted chicken served over brown rice and steam vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, and carrots) with a side cabbage salad and half an orange.
Lunch for two was about $16, and we were served in less than 5 minutes! The food comes on this little tray reminding me of high school; segregated compartments for each item. The chicken was well cooked, juicy, and seasoned well. The rice was fluffy and the vegetables steamed perfectly.
I enjoyed the cabbage salad, a good change from iceberg or romaine. The sesame oil salad dressing was yummy! Even the orange was fresh and tasty. Good quality meal, served quickly and cheap – total score!
We arrived at The Mojave Sands Motel around 2:00 pm – a wonderful 5 room motel with a rustic modern décor. Complete with a lounging pool (don’t bring your bathing suite, it’s for looks only) and eclectic collection of necessities (e.g. record player and type writer), we were stoked!
After settling in, we plugged Joshua Tree into Google Maps and spent more time waiting to get into the park then driving there! They have one lane/booth to access the park (at this entrance) and it’s only until you get to the front that you can bypass the booth if you already bought a pass ($15 for 7 days).
Upon payment, you get a map and a newsletter. Sadly, the map has inaccuracies. It doesn’t list many of the hikes and destinations, a few it does list are incorrect. For example, Lost Horse Mine is described as a 4 mile loop trail, when it’s over 6 miles.
We traveled into a non-listed parking area on the map and started hiking into the desert. The landscape is level, sandy, and desolate. We passed a few people, saw a jackrabbit and enjoyed the serenity. We hiked up a rocky hill and looked out over the sunset – beautiful!
It started getting dark on our way back, so we broke out our flashlights and picked up the place. The stars weren’t as clear as expected, but we put the sunroof down and proceeded to exit the park. We got stuck in a long line of traffic on the way out – it seems there’s a stop sign upon exiting the park, and there’s only one lane out.
For dinner, we stopped at Sisters Natural Café and ordered sprout sandwiches and salad. Not the best dinner for our hikes ahead, but the salad was awesome! A nice blend of veggies and tasty salad dressing.
We woke up to beautiful weather and ate at Crossroads Café. I ordered pancakes and a couple eggs over easy. Nothing exceptional.
We arrived at the park around 9 – there was another line to get in (not as long as yesterday). We tried using the map to find a hike, but it wasn’t listed. Fortunately, I had cell service so we used Google Maps.
We pulled over close to the trailhead of Maze Trail, a 6 mile hike along flat terrain. We passed a few people upon getting started, then it was just us. I enjoyed the serenity and diversity of the trail. We passed interesting rock piles, plenty of Joshua trees, and slot canyons.
Next, we hightailed it to Barker Dam, a 1 mile in-and-out trail packed with people. We made quick time getting into the dam, and saw a few big horn sheep. The dam was low with a few feet of water. Really unimpressive.
We climbed up a boulder and ate a quick lunch then moved on to Keys View – a small parking area overlooking Coachella Valley, Mexico, and the Salton Sea. The parking area was jam-packed with cars. It took us a couple spins around to find a spot (there’s really nowhere else to park). I secretly decided to come back here for sunset!
On our way back from Keys View, we pulled into the dirt road for Lost Horse Mine, one of the longer hikes in the park (roughly 6.5 miles).
The mine was far off from the trail and fenced off. We decided to keep hiking rather than turning off to get a closer look at the mine. There was a couple behind us who were keeping up at a good pace and we didn’t want to play cat and mouse with them.
There wasn’t a lot of elevation change, but upon passing the mine, we started heading down. We passed a few people coming in from the other side of the loop, then a while later, passed a middle-aged couple unprepared for hiking. The women had on a pair of Toms, and the man a pair of slacks and a designer sweater. They were about 3 miles in and thought they were another mile from completion (as per the map).
I let them know they were only half way through and had an elevation change coming up. They weren’t deterred and pressed on (mind you it was getting late, another 2 hours and darkness would descend).
This loop trail was closer to 7 miles long and a lot of fun.
We made it out around 4:00 or so, and we headed back to Keys View for the sunset! It took us a few passes to find parking (there were a few other people who had the same idea).
The clouds were crisscrossed along the sky which made for an interesting view and perfect photo op. We hung out for awhile, and when it started getting cold, we packed it in and waited in line to exit the park.
I was torn on what to have for dinner. There were 3 options, and we went with Pizza for the People. A great choice! There was a line practically out the door, and I heard it could take 30 minutes to order a pie. Fortunately, this was a NY style pizza parlor, and they had slices. We ordered 5 slices to go (they were double the size of a NY slice) and picked up a 6 pack of beer.
The Pizza was delicious! The closest NY style pizza I’ve had since being out in Cali for over 8 years.
Upon waking up Sunday morning, the wind was wailing! Clouds were rolling in and it looked like rain – good thing we were leaving! We packed up all our gear and ordered breakfast at the Sisters Natural Café again.
Before leaving the area, we stopped by Noah Purifoy Foundation an art installation in the middle of a residential area. It’s a donation only self-guided tour of re-purposed junk. Very interesting, but not really my cup of tea. We jetted out of there in about 15 minutes.
On our way home, the rain started pouring – we encountered minimal traffic, and made good time. All in all, a wonderful trip!