Today we got out our tent from storage, and it bought back some wonderful memories of one of the best weekends we ever had.. sorry the post is long, I originally posted it in two parts ..
From Joshuia Tree, about 4 years ago :
Well, Mrs M and I decided that we had spent too many weekends at home, and we needed a week-end away from life. So, we have newly aquired camping gear, all virginal, and it all needed to be tested before we hit Yosemite in June, and Joshua Tree seemed the perfect location to ‘test-drive’ the gear. Joshua Tree is about 2 hours from home, and we knew that if we had forgotten anything then we had a town within 30 mins drive of the park …. “if we forgot something ????” … us …. no way !
We left on our way, coffee in hand for the simple drive out to the desert. All was going marvelously well, both excited by the challenge of camping, and reminiscing our stories from camping and trekking in Slovakia, Nepal, Morocco and Peru…. when we quite literally ‘hit’ a problem…. I was driving sensibly in the middle lane of a 5 lane highway, slowing ready to turn off to the I60 to Palm Springs when we had a small obstacle in the middle of the road … a chuffing foam mattress !!!!! lying smack in the middle of the highway. The car in front managed to avoid it, but I knew that I couldn’t. It’s surprising how quickly the brain, well, how quickly my brain, works. I held onto my coffee, made the decision that the mattress was indeed foam and soft, checked mirrors and decided that to swerve and avoid the foam would have been dangerous, told Mrs M that I was going to hit it and not to panic. Amazing what flashes through the mind ! So, WAMMO …I hit it, and like I thought, we rode over the top of it… no worries…. So I thought. Well, the foam manged to get caught under the car, so I slowed, indicated and pulled over, discovering I still held my coffee. I did this all ONE HANDED !. classy eh !. So, we jump out and discover quite how much of a pain in the arse a foam mattress can be. Luckily we were in the Jeep. The clearance is quite high, and the mattress had indeed gone under. If we had been in the Nissan, well, I believe a load of damage would have been done. So, the mattress had become lodged under the car, and wedged around the wheel and axle. It’s amazing how a soft foam mattress can become rock solid when compressed under a car ! So… what do you do ?
Well, luckily we had our camping gear, complete with some knives, and we started to just hack at the foam until we could rip parts of it out. This was slow, the sun was very hot, and on the hard shoulder of the freeway, no much fun ! Eventually, I took off the wheel, and we finally, after 1.5 hrs, we freed the foam. I would like to point out here, two other guys stopped to help us, with one of the taking away all the foam to stop it getting everywhere. Thanks guys, we really appreciate someone stopping to help strangers !
So, hot, sweaty, dirty and very thirsty (didn’t get to drink my coffee did I !!!!) we headed on to Joshua Tree. Here we relaxed, joked about how much worse this could have been, and thankful for our helpers, and the fact we were in the Jeep. We found a wonderful spot to camp. The whole of the park has designated camp grounds, and this one our spot was remote, hidden within the rocks, and was perfect for what I imagined this trip to be. Well…….
The wind blew and blew…. not good…. We had also started to realise some of the things we had forgotten. Nothing major, but … no chairs… So, we could light the fire, but we could not sit and enjoy it. Ok, no drama, we can go out of the park and get a couple from the local shops. Damn… the pump for the airbed (luxury huh!) had not charged!, damn it. So, I started to blow… wooo hoooo that made me really dizzy ! We got lucky, the shop had some chairs, and remarkably, for a store in the desert, they had a pump for kiddies pool toys !. So, back to the site, airbed pumped up, and we could start cooking. The wind blew and blew….. The stove was excellent, and I soon had dinner on the go. I sat down for 2 mins into the new chair, and the chuffing thing ripped beneath me !, I am not a huge fella, and the average American likes the occasional pie !… crap ! Back to the stove, the fire burning behind me, and Mrs M yelled… Moooooooon ……… The chair !?!?!??!
Awwww, crap again, the wind had managed to blow the chair onto the fire, and melted the seat … !
Ah well, what can you do ? dinner was served, lovely it was too !, and I decided to wash up, did it all, grabbed the grill of the portable stove. HOLY MUTHER F***ER…. bastard things was still chuffing hot…. So, now I have two wonderful burns across my thumb and finger … what a dick !
Right, thats it, going to bed !… and the wind blew and blew …. We are not experienced campers, so this was quite new to us. We got into the tent, snuggled down to sleep, and the wind blew and REALLY blew…. we just knew the tent was going to end up in Phoenix …. I can honestly say we got hardly any sleep at all, all night that wind just kept us awake …. we tossed and turned, and the noise of the wind, flapping at the tent kept us wide awake. I think we might had drifted off for about an hour as the wind finally dropped and the sun broke.
Camping = Fun ….. ???? Well, to be honest … oh yes, we loved it…. Part II to follow…
Part II ..
So, after the first day of ‘adventure’ and a very sleepless first night, I crawled out of the tent to discover that the wind had finally died off, and the sun was shinning. the desert of course of cool in the morning, so I brewed up some coffee, found a quiet spot and watch the sun rising. Perfect. This is exactly as I had imagined the week-end going. Some perfect peace and solitude. The birds had started to sing, just a few of them, no real tune, just chirps and hoots, and the soft wind blowing. Nothing else. no cars, no music, no phones. It so reminded me of my travels across Oz, the vast emptiness of a true wilderness.
Camping can bring you these moments. We could have easily stayed in a motel outside of the park for $50 a night, but that is not why we love the great outdoors. To be sat, on your own, with nothing to do buy lose yourself in the moment and the quietness of nature, just perfect. Mrs M arose soon after, and again, I lit the stove, cooked up some warming porridge, and we had breakfast planning the day. We have been to Joshua a few times before, but as a lazy tourist, so this time we donned our walking boots, and made plans for some treks. the first one we took on was a shortish trek, but finally took us away from any car parks and RV’s. We hiked along a deserted trail, slightly upwards into the desert. The desert this time of year is quite remarkable. Full of life, lizards, chipmunks, cacti blooming with flowers. Beautiful in it’s contrast with other natural forests and parks. Being a man, I needed to use the ‘restroom’ so I nipped of the path…as I did I finally heard something I always wanted to, but always dreaded hearing … the rattle…..HOLY MOTHER OF GOD !!, I jump a chuffing mile.. Mrs M did 20 yards in the opposite direction quicker than Linford Christie ! I did regain some composure, and managed a couple of pictures, but once he had coiled and was looking directly at me … time to move on. Wow, finally I had seen a true rattlesnake, in all it glory, in it’s natural habitat. The adrenaline was rushing through, and it set our conversation for our walk on nature, animals in their natural environment, and how and why people do get bitten, attacked, as they do not respect nature. We loved the walk, and returned back to camp in a wonderful mood.
The colours of the rocks, sand and desert flowers is stunning. The dominating boulders and rocks just amaze me, the way some of the rocks seemed to have been placed and balanced on each other is remarkable. They are so imposing, so enormous… just wonderful to walk between them, and marvel at the sheer enormity of this landscapes.
The evening passed un-eventfully, me cooking up a storm again, and giving Mrs M time to play with the camera. Sat by the fire, smoking a cigar, and Mrs M drinking a glass of red. The next morning, after a decent night sleep followed the same ideas. this time we found another trail, ending up at an old gold mine. Amazing how they found such riches in the middle of nowhere. We find that trekking gives us so much time to talk, discuss our childhoods of growing up with nature, our travels and of course our future plans. also, we saw another amazing site. Two large rattlers mating. What a spectacle. Observed from a safe distance, Mrs M having a small panic when taking a couple of shots and thinking they were as close as the zoom suggested. It was remarkable to watch these two creatures going through the mating courtship, and us being able to watch and listen to the rattles and the ‘fight’. Breathtaking.
Joshua Tree is a stunning National Park, looked after wonderfully well by the Rangers, and respected by the travelers. One of my favourite places on the wonderful planet.