After being in LA for a week, we decided it was time to take a road trip out into the deserts of California. Being the middle of summer here, I knew Pete would struggle as he is definitely not one for the heat, but he was keen and we started planning. I have been quite fascinated by the desert lately and have been longing to visit one. The idea of such a harsh environment with intense weather conditions intrigues me, and the fact that there’s really not much out there. The Joshua Tree National Park seemed like the perfect area to visit as it is only a 2 to 3 hour drive from LA. We were also lucky enough to have a huge van at our disposal and even camping gear to use.
Doing a lot of research, we quickly realised that the desert is no place to be unprepared, so we made sure we had plenty of water, as the website said we needed to drink at least 4 litres of water each per day, more if you’re hiking. We loaded up the van and headed out extremely excited. Joshua Tree was just as beautiful and wondrous as I had hoped. I was blown away by the desert’s beauty. The weather was just ridiculously hot at 40 degrees Celsius most days, but there is something so mystical and raw about such a desolate place. I went nuts with my new camera, snapping pictures of everything. Our first night, we camped at a place amongst the boulders called Jumbo Rocks and went on an evening hike to the famous Skull Rock and read about all the unique plant life on the signposts along the way. Back at camp we saw a snake, which was apparently a Red Racer, harmless to humans, and also meant that rattlesnakes wouldn’t be around. We also saw plenty of jack rabbits, ground squirrels and lizards. As the heat was so intense, we could only manage hiking in the mornings and evenings. We did a few beautiful hikes, each one so different to the last. Joshua Tree is named after the beautiful and unique Joshua trees that are found in the northern part of the park. It is made up of two deserts, the Mohave desert and the Colorado desert. Our second day there, we hiked in the Colorado section of the park which was very different to the Mohave part. The midday heat was so hectic, we ended up just lying on benches under the shade, drinking as much water as we could and wetting our hats to keep us cool. I have never experienced heat like that in my life.
After looking at the map, I noticed how close we were to the Salton Sea and an area I have long since wanted to visit, Salvation Mountain in Slab City. Although Pete was really battling with the heat, he was sweet enough to agree to go out there. We left early on our last day and sort of just followed our noses to find the Salton sea, which is the largest lake in California and is located directly on the San Andreas Fault. We had to drive around part of it to find the small town of Niland, where we had to engage with a few small town locals to find our way to Salvation Mountain. I had heard of Salvation Mountain long ago on TV and then later again in the movie, Into The Wild. I was always very curious about the man behind the mountain, Leonard Knight, and the place he resided, Slab City. Seeing Salvation Mountain and reading about Leonard Knight was really quite inspiring and moving. His mountain is truly a burst of colour with a simple message of love, in the middle of a dry, hot desert. I wish we could have met him. We aren’t religious at all, but his simple and strong message of love hit me deep and I could relate to the simplicity of his ideas. We then went into Slab city, a place I would describe as an intentional community of many different people, mostly RV owners staying for the warm winters and then moving on once summer comes. They live a simpler life out in the desert and learn to live off the grid. Slab City is actually the last free place people in America can live. It would have been great to camp out there and talk to some of the community. They even had their own library. It was an amazing experience and really got me reflecting on my own values. I admire those who need little to be happy.
We then headed home with the AC on full blast, feeling full of new experiences and stories to tell. I can honestly say that I have fallen in love with the desert. It was one of the best trips I have ever done and I hope to go back one day, but perhaps in winter next time.
So much beautiful desert plant life, and we saw this rad lizard, called a Zebra Lizard (I think).
Spot the snake.
Lost Horse Mine. Look up the story behind this, it’s pretty interesting.
The Salton Sea