It all began…with The History of the Eagles. I’ll pause to let all who are so inclined acknowledge that we’re lame and uncool, but yes, a few months back Sarah and I sat down on a night like any other night to watch the Eagles’ tell-all documentary on Netflix.
Little did we know that this seemingly insignificant decision would lead us down an insane fan girl spiral of 70s nostalgia–vinyl, vintage iron-ons, the whole nine yards, which included an itch to go to California, convene with nature, and in general, be, like, “free, man.”
But really, the California tourism board couldn’t have planned it any better if they had tried.
A couple of weeks ago, we packed our bags–two bulging backpacks of clothes and one suitcase full of camping gear (i.e. an old Eureka two-man tent that’s basically a family heirloom at this point, two sleeping bags, our dad’s old Whisperlite stove, and some cooking supplies), and got on a plane to LAX.
The plan was as follows: Fly into LAX, rent a car, drive to Joshua Tree, go see the giant sequoias and looming Sierra Nevada Mountains in Sequoia National Park, and then tackle stops along the Pacific Coast Highway, finishing the trip by flying out of San Francisco. It turned out to be an amazing trip, and we have a lot to share with you guys –– even a recipe for all you campers and/or instant ramen lovers! –– over the next few days.
In completely atypical fashion the day before our trip, we pulled an INSANE all-nighter to prepare––the result of our status as busy pretend-adults. Sarah had her Macy’s event that day, and we were both tying up loose ends at work. By the time we got home, we still hadn’t packed or cleaned up the apartment. We ended up staying up from the moment we opened our eyes that morning until 5am the next day when we boarded the plane. Not an advisable practice.
When we landed, needless to say, we picked up the car––a sensible Toyota Camry in what we took to be a very “California Gurls” white––and immediately drove to an In-n-Out to ward off our 26-hour hangover with animal-style burgers and fries.
From there, we embarked on the drive to Joshua Tree. The smoggy flat expanse of LA gave way to two-lane highways, and eventually the desert landscape peppered with scrubby shrubs, flowers that were the color of a dusty desert rose, and spiky Joshua trees stretching up from the horizon.
There’s something strange and powerful about Joshua Tree National Park–the trees are weird and not at all like the trees most of us are used to seeing. Some of them are drooped over like parched tulips, and others fall down and harden, bleached by the sun over time.
It’s no wonder that it was a popular spot for musicians in the 70s. We even had a long conversation with a Park Ranger at the visitor’s center about the park’s storied rock and roll past when we stopped to pick up some firewood.
We took a scenic drive through the park, stopping to climb up on the huge boulders to check out the views and soak up some sun, making it back to the campground before nightfall to make camp and throw together a Trader Joe’s-enabled dinner of rice, beans, Tuscan kale, and carnitas. It’s a little more semi-homemade than we normally roll, but delicious doesn’t really begin to describe it––especially after a long day of driving and hiking.
And if we can make perfect (and I mean PERFECT) rice over a CAMPFIRE, we’re pretty sure you can make it on the stove.
The sun set over the Joshua trees, and our campfire provided much-needed warmth to counter the cold spring night. We were told that it was unseasonably cold for May, when temperatures usually hovered in the 90s. While we were there, daytime temperatures were in the low 70s, and at night, it was dropping to the 40s. Needless to say, we were in bed by 9:30.
After a restful night’s sleep, we took off for another day of driving through the park and hiking the trails. The pictures pretty much speak for themselves.
After a flight, sleeping on the ground, a long day of hiking, and having desert dust blown all over you, the only sure thing there is in life is a shower. There were no showers in the campground, so we paid for 7-minute showers at Coyote Corner, a local miscellaneous souvenir/camping shop.
In an attempt to conserve water, we rinsed off as quickly as we could. Nevertheless, it was the best shower either of us had had in days! And just like that, our magical 24 hours in Joshua Tree were over.
Next stop: Sequoia National Park, and a nostalgia-filled camping ramen recipe!