Each year in the early spring, we take a trip out to California to restock our wine cabinet, hike all the things, and eat basically every tapas plate that exists in the state. And each year, we try to add a little bit of flair to change the trip up. Several times, we’ve taken the train. We’ve stopped to visit friends in Los Angeles, drove north to San Francisco, and the past two years, we have visited my favorite National Park, Joshua Tree.
Last year was our first visit, and we didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew I had this feeling in my heart that I NEEDED to see this place. And we arrived, and even though it was the first time I’d ever been there, it somehow felt like coming home. This year, I was determined to make a longer trip and stay overnight so we could stargaze. Joshua Tree is known for its fabulous night skies, and I wanted to make sure we were there to experience it.
We did NOT plan on experiencing 70mph winds the night we were there.
It was GORGEOUS and 88 degrees during the day while we were hiking, in the park, but it was too windy for us to set up our tripod, and thus there are no photos of us together. When we went back after dark to stargaze, it was a frigid 46 degrees (35 with windchill!!!!), and the winds were gusting between 70-80mph, so we struggled to get any decent night sky shots. The wind shook the tripod way too hard for long exposures.
So, because there are only a handful of salvageable stargazing shots, I’ll share with you some of the other awesome things we experienced in our short 24 hours in Joshua Tree National Park as well.
In the afternoon when we arrived, we ate a picnic lunch and then hit Mastodon Peak for a hike. It was incredible, required a bit of rockclimbing, and was full of a number of ‘omg the wind is so high we are going to blow right off these rocks’ moments. But this moment was pretty much one of the best of my whole life.
After we hiked, we checked into our hotel in the town of Joshua Tree and got dinner at Crossroads Cafe. Oh man, the food here was EXCELLENT. It gets a little crowded, so if you come to town, expect a bit of a wait, but it’s so worth it. This portobella burger was so juicy and meaty and perfect.
After dinner, it was time to brave the cold and attempt to stargaze. There were two other cars out with us, and the sky was breathtaking. Unfortunately, the tripod shook so much in the wind gusts that the long exposure time of the photos really suffered. We came up with the following workable photos:
The main roads remain open at all time, but they recommend that you only park for stargazing in the main parking areas, for safety. But you can drive through the park day or night.
The following morning, we discovered that you can get tacos, 24 hours a day, from a drivethru window in town called Castaneda’s. AND THEY WERE AMAZING TACOS. They might have been deep-fried. I don’t even know, but I was in love.
And finally, perhaps the greatest moment of all time, I got to eat my favorite Salsa Verde Doritos (which you can only find on the West Coast) while in my favorite National Park in front of my favorite member of the agave family. Dream. Come. True.
Please. If you are anywhere in a reasonable driving distance (5 hours or less, for sure) from Joshua Tree, make the trip. It is incredible. I love all of my National Parks, but there is something special about this one. I am so glad we were able to visit it, and do some stargazing, although we must return for a less-gusty day in the near future.