When I told people that Mike and I were heading out to Joshua Tree for my 30th birthday, the response was a resounding "huh?" If you're from the East Coast, you've likely never heard of Joshua Tree outside of U2. For those in the know, it's fast becoming a hipster retreat, so I wanted to get out there before it was completely saturated with overpriced artisanal jams and wares.
You already know about the nightmare enducing travel part of the trip, so now its time for the fun part: the desert adventures!
I can't say enough good things about our Airbnb rental. The first night went a little bonkers -- the toilet flooded the entire bathroom and adjacent bedroom (due to previous problems with the septic tank). I wrote to the hosts and they instantly wrote back assuring us that the plumber would be out the next morning and that we could move into the main house (upgrade!). The design in the guest house was beautiful, but it was nothing compared to the main house. The location was perfect for exploring Joshua Tree Park (a five-minure trip), the Salton Sea area (1.5 hours), and the local town. It was far enough away from the town to make for some great stargazing at night. We even saw some friendly wildlife on the property including rabbits and a coyote.
The park is beautiful in this alien, grotesque way. It's so hard to describe because there's really nothing to compare it to. Each change in elevation came with a totally new landscape (and temperature) ranging from cactus gardens to a "wonderland of rocks" to panoramic views into Mexico. The best part was that the park was so empty, it felt like we has it all to ourselves. We picnicked next to boulders, hiked to a real-life desert oasis, and even made friends with a tarantula!
THE SALTON SEA, SALVATION MOUNTAIN, + SLAB CITY
Since we weren't sure when we were ever going to be back out in the area, we took a day to drive out to the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach, Salvation Mountain, and Slab City. The entire area (just an hour and change) south of Joshua Tree is bizarre. First up was the Salton Sea: a smelly gigantic rift lake (it's located directly on the San Andreas Fault) that also happens to be a "crown jewel of avian biodiversity," so you know, there were tons of cool birds. For reasons still somewhat unclear to me, the "sand" is made up of fish bones that get larger and larger as you approach the lake. Gotta love that grotesque beauty, amiright? We drove through the weirdo Americana trailer park of Bombay Beach before reaching a highlight of the trip: Salvation Mountain.
Salvation Mountain was a place multiple people told me to visit and I totally get why. The story behind the visionary hill is interesting enough, but seeing it in person was sort of mindblowing. If you're anywhere near this place, see it immediately.
A few minutes beyond Salvation Mountain is Slab City, a place Vice called the last free place in America. To be honest, we were a little terrified to get out of our car, so we only explored this place by vehicle. The "lawless" lands of Slab City were covered in garbage (no government means no trash pickup), vacant buses, and RV homes. There were also like 10 signs for a library that we were certain was some sort of trap. We drove to the the outskirts of the "city" and reached East Jesus, an experimental art center created entirely of found objects. Again, we stayed in the car, but I hear a man offers tours every now and then to visitors.
I only wish we had one or two more days to explore the surrounding town of Joshua Tree and soak in all the nature (ie: we really wanted to see a bobcat.) I really hope to go back there soon -- next time we see a $150 R/T flight out there, I'm all over it!
NOTE FROM STACI: It's come to my attention following Tuesday's post that some people thing I am like anti giving or something. I was clearly...um...unclear. Giving is great. Give your little hearts out. I personally give all the time when someone runs a race to combat diabetes or someone grows a mustache in the name of prostate cancer. I think it's fucking great, I really do. The issue I have is with this nebulous idea of a "Giving" day AFTER we've all blown our bank accounts on absurd consumerism. Rather...I'd encourage everyone to give thoughtfully, purposefully, and wholeheartedly and not just so you can post on social media to say you did. Don't make it an afterthought to make yourself feel better after you've trampled some poor Walmart greeter at 5 am in search of the cheapest flat screen. That is all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯