A Seussian Adventure in Joshua Tree


Last weekend we road tripped to Joshua Tree. Most people would have thought we were nuts to go to the middle of the desert in July. I mean, we were. We just got lucky.

We stayed in a little studio at the edge of town, right near the entrance of the park. Both mornings the room filled with light from the sun rising over the mountains and woke us up at 5:15. It was so quiet and still watching clouds roll through and the sky change from pink to orange to purple to white. We got started early both days with plenty of water in tow and camera and sketchbooks in hand, ready to explore the park.

Joshua trees are such nutty trees. We read in one of the books in the studio that early explorer, John C. Fremont once said that Joshua trees are, "the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom.” Guess he didn't think they were too charming... However, I like to think of them as awkward, hairy, expressive trees that just want to make you smile. They have this charming spirit about them, and despite their odd exterior, they can't help but draw you in. It seems like Dr. Seuss must've spent time in Joshua Tree between the funky trees, colorful chunky rocks, and whimsical plants. The landscape feels inspired and reflective of his books and illustrations.

We explored Hidden Valley and found Trojan Rock. Look how wise it looks! Chris was excited in case you can't tell. We sat on a big rock nearby and just overlooked the valley, sketching our view. My notebook is above. Then it rained. And rained. Then there was lightening. And thunder! It was pretty amazing. You could see the lightening flash across the sky, filling it as far as your eyes could see. It was magical. We still adventured to skull rock and raced along the nature path with our rain jackets on, listening to rain drops pattering on the rocks and sand beneath us.

We made it back to the studio to dry off, take naps, and do a little reading about the park. Then we geared up again and hoofed a half mile down the road to Coyote Hole to find the petroglyphs our host had told us about. We searched in the rain for remnants of the past. We found a few markings but there was a lot of graffiti unfortunately that made it a little hard to discern where the petroglyphs might be. I had fun just exploring in the rain. Oh, and I held up a boulder, no big deal.

We went to Pappy and Harriet's for dinner and had a blast. It's got this classic old-timey feel with live music, greasy mac n cheese, and wooden floors that creak when you walk on them. The shot above is from our drive out to Pioneertown.

The next day we woke up to sunshine! We put-putted to Keys Ranch Road, Baker Dam, and the Wall Street Mill Trail. We sat on rocks and sketched and I found a bun friend!!!!! He just sat below me and nibbled on some flowers/seeds. We became fast friends, I named him Sesame. It was great. Then there was this huge black lizard that got too close for comfort. It kept doing pushups in front of me. Not sure if that was to intimidate me... or if he was trying to perform some sort of mating ritual. In either case, he was a little too much of a reptile for my taste.

Saw a mini frog near the dam. See if you can spot him in the leaf picture below. :) We also saw more petroglyphs! Chris was reading one of the books in the studio that said a Hollywood film was shot out near the dam and they'd found the old petroglyphs and painted over them to make them stand out more. Sad they got ruined, but the rocks were pretty neat still.

This trip I tried filming a lot on my phone, just capturing little bits and fun moments. I put em all together and made a little video! If you wanna see highlights, check out the video below. (Menaka, you inspired me to try and make my own from all your great ones from your Nepal, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Korea adventures. Miss ya Mel!)

If you want to visit Joshua Tree, DO IT. It's so relaxing and out of this world. Definitely whacky and Dr. Seussian. Expect heat. And funky trees. And beautiful shots. And if you're lucky, a powerful sweet-rain-smelling thunderstorm.