1 Night and 0 Cell Service in Joshua Tree, CA
When was the last time you heard absolutely nothing? Is what my boyfriend inquisitively pressed, when we stopped along a stretch of road that runs through the expansive Joshua Tree National Park to take in the panoramic view.
With a mention in passing that Joshua Tree had reopened while I scrolled Instagram, the wheels were set in motion for an impromptu camping trip. Within a few hours we were packed with the essentials and the car fully loaded for our early morning departure into the desert for my first ever visit to the national park.
Joshua Tree National Park expands widely across two deserts—the Mojave and the Colorado—and is situated between the high desert towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms in Southern California. The park's scope is massive and temperatures easily reach above 100 degrees. Fortunately for us, the temperatures didn't rise above the high 80s.
Despite being pretty congested with travelers, we made it inside the park with good timing and we finally came upon our new home for the weekend—the Jumbo Rocks campground. However, not before unwittingly trying to navigate our way through the park without cell service or a trusty map in tow. *Note to self: write down ye olde driving instructions before driving into the cell service dead zone of Joshua Tree next time.
Jumbo Rocks is aptly named for the physical nature of exactly that—they're jumbo rocks which makes them extra cool and it's exactly why we decided on this memorable campground. The campground was nearly full but you wouldn't sense it because the large rocks worked as a sound and privacy barrier between campsites, so at times it felt like it was just you and sounds of the wild there. In under thirty minutes our campsite was all set up and we were ready to explore the surrounding terrain.
While hiking to the adjacent Skull Rock formation, we veered off the trail and took a detour to climb some (you guessed it), jumbo rocks. As we climbed higher and our elevation increased, my scaredy pants kicked in and I started to panic. My mans remained unfazed climbing higher and leaping faster as he enthusiastically treated the detour as a geology lesson, identifying each mineral and rock that he recognized on the way up. I voiced that we were too high up and he agreed so we slowly made the descent back to the trail. The peculiar thing about the rocks is that they only look smooth, but in actuality they're quite rough which made them perfect for providing traction to hike.
After some open-air exploring and some very mature photo ops, we made our way back to the campsite for some wilderness beers and sandwiches.
Chili, Tequila, and Space Food
The sun was high, the beers were cold, and the vibes were right. It felt great to be unplugged from society and the internet, if only for a day and a half. And once the sun went down, the tequila came out for a boozy night cap near the fire.
Chili was on the menu for dinner, and possibly due to the Patron, it tasted ten times better. In a fit of the drunchies, I also demanded we make me some of the freeze dried rice and beans (space food). In retrospect, it wasn't the wisest choice.
Joshua Tree was a beautiful escape from the chaos of civilization in the age of the pandemic. Though there were campers scattered around us, they were distant enough to feel like we were in our own bubble. Sitting by the crackling fire, with the stars peeking above, and zero ties to the outside world is an experience I won't forget and long for again.
As we drove out of the dead zone of Joshua Tree and our phones began pinging, we were shocked to observe that a new sociopolitical uprising had taken form in the two days we were gone. It's surreal to reflect on the rapidness of change and the subjective nature of time. I knew leaving Joshua Tree, we were headed into a vastly different world than when we left—and maybe this time it'll be for the better.