I soon felt antsy in Vegas and knew it was time to go. I filled up my water pack and two bottles of water and headed out for a long day driving through the desert. That day was one of the best days! I drove down isolated roads with the windows rolled down blasting my newly charged iPod. Everything was so desolate in Mojave, yet so beautiful. I felt like the landscape, free with all cares abandoned.
Around lunch time, I pulled into the old train station visitor’s Center and looked around the abandoned town of Kelso. The visitor’s center was a little oasis of grass. I’m not sure how and I’m not sure if it was real or Astroturf, but it looked like the sort of place where a water fountain might lurk Kelso was a proper town at one point (I think it was around WWII) with a proper post office, general store and two cell jail. The jail cells looked pretty bad. Luckily, they only had to lock up a few rowdy drunks over night every once in a while. I was fortunate enough to witness the passing of a Union Pacific train while standing in front of the depot.
While in Mojave, I drove up as close as I could to a sand dune and joined a tour group that had been driven there by a park ranger SUV. I got to hear some useful information about the site, while eavesdropping from my car and then I wandered out to join them. Hiking up a sand dune is just like going to the beach in Florida. The plants that grow on the dunes are pretty similar, the environment looks the same, but in Florida you know you are going to finally climb over that dune and see the ocean. In Mojave, the dune is all there is. I it was pretty cool to look at, but I wished I had a sled or something. There’s not a whole lot you can do at a dune and walking uphill through sand is fairly strenuous without having some sort of future goal in mind.
After I left Mojave, I drove through a few little Californian towns before getting to Joshua Tree. The largest town I drove through was Twenty-nine Palms. I stopped and took some pictures at one little town, because it was so retro!
When I finally got to Joshua Tree the sun was setting and all the camping sites in the park were filled. The ranger at the entrance then introduced me to my new favorite campsite alternative, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Located right outside one of the park entrances are areas to camp for free. They don’t have any facilities, but you can pretty much park next to a campfire area and claim it as yours. It was dark when I found the BLM area and I thought I was the only person out there. It was a little creepy to be all by myself, but I sleep in my car anyway. The funny thing was when I woke up in the morning and drove out I actually saw three other occupied campsites, so there were other campers, I was just staying far off from the rest of them.
Joshua Tree was pretty packed for a national park. There were many weekend warrior types coming in with their families and friends. The vegetation and rocks look like something from a Dr. Seuss book. I decided to wear my Lorax shirt a second day, as it felt most appropriate. It’s named Joshua Tree after all the trees that grow there. They are actually a type of Yucca. I wonder what they taste like! I love mashed Yucca and Yucca fries! The Mormons named the tree the Joshua Tree, because the branches reminded them of Joshua reaching his hands up in prayer.
I was a little disappointed when I realized I was in the Coachella Valley the same weekend as the Coachella Music Festival. Most all my favorite bands were playing there. I looked into tickets before I even left Georgia, but it is ridiculously expensive to attend. I got to look over part of the valley from a viewing point at the park. It’s a great view, but all viewpoints in southern California are obstructed by smog. You really start to realize the importance of decreasing your emissions and protecting natural areas when the air is so thick.