An unforgettable weekend at Joshua Tree National Park, CA, USA
I simply couldn't have had a better weekend to celebrate my birthday last Saturday, on April 29th.
Exploring Joshua Tree National Park has been a dream of mine since the very first time I found out about the park, thanks to an U2 album named after the park.
So when Aleja told me we were going to spend the weekend there for my birthday, I was obviously super stoked.
The park is actually not far from San Diego (about 100 miles) and with the hybrid car we have we are able to drive as much as 60 miles w/ one gallon of gas, so it was pretty cheap for us to get there. Plus, I love road trips.
We left everything ready on Friday night and on Saturday we left our place at 4.30am. The few stars we can still see around here were still up in the sky when we loaded the car and left. It took us two and half hours to get there. The first hour, on freeways, was not the most exciting, but the final leg was certainly more interesting, with the Sun rising behind dry, arid mountains. We were getting closer.
When we got to the town of Joshua Tree we were both starving so after a quick search on the Internet for the best places to eat in town, we found this charming little cafe just across the road where we were parked at.
So after this delicious and unforgettable burrito, and four or five cups of black coffee, we were ready to go. It was still early, around 7am, so the light was still beautiful for the photographs I was hoping to make in the park.
The weekly pass costs 25$ while the annual one is sold for 40$, so we obviously got the second as even before entering the park we knew we wanted to be back there this year.
We took the Park Boulevard Rd. that cuts through the park and for the first part of the day we drove around and made a few stops for pictures. We did two short loop-hikes, the Hidden Valley Trail and the Barker Dam Nature Trail, and we drove up to Keys View.
In the gallery below you can find some of the pictures we made at Hidden Valley Nature Trail.
And here are some from Keys View and Barker Dam Nature Trail.
After spending the whole morning driving around and doing some easy, short hikes, it was time to rest a bit from the heat and the Sun, and eat some of the food we had prepared and taken with us.
We stopped at a picnic spot near huge boulders where different groups of climbers were trying to make their way up.
We rested a bit, watched the climbers for a little while and then we drove to the parking area where we would park the car and leave for our overnight backcountry camping. It was about 2pm when we locked the car and began our hike.
We found what seemed to be the perfect spot for our camping after about 1h30 - 2h of hiking. We could indeed have gone further but our goal was not to hike as much as we could but to relax, enjoy the scenery, wander around, take pictures...I have been teaching Aleja some photography and she is only getting better and better :)
We set up our tent, organized our stuff inside and then wander around for a bit before finding some shade...we both had precious naps, meditated and contemplated in silence all the beauty around us, listening to the many sounds of Nature...the wind blowing and making leaves sing, the birds...and we saw plenty of beautiful and big-eared Black-tailed jackrabbit.
So after our first round of pictures, and our power naps and meditation, the light only got better so we were running around like crazy, trying to capture that gorgeous place made even more special with that golden light.
When the Sun set and the stars slowly began to appear in the blue sky, we set up our tripod and made a few pictures of that gorgeous transition from day to night. I also wanted to give a sense of place to our camping adventure so I was happy to have that higher point to show the vastness of the area surrounding us.
It was probably just after 10pm when we finally got in our tent, had our dinner, enjoyed our wine and shared our gratitude for the unforgettable day we've just had. I think it's safe to say I was tired cause Aleja kept waking me up and telling me to stop snoring haha :D
Apart from that, we slept really well and woke up the next day right on time to enjoy sunrise...
We then started packing our stuff and got ready to start our hike back to the car...
We had a pleasant hike back to the car, loaded everything and drove towards the other end of the park, as we wanted to cross it entirely so we could also see the Colorado desert that dominates the eastern side of the park.
It is a very different environment, and you don't find Joshua trees over there but it has its own beauty and there is also plenty to do and to see over there.
It was only after we visited the Skull Rock when we stopped at some pretty interesting rock formations to have our breakfast: some ham/cheese croissants, granola w/ milk and a few chocolate cookies :D
We then stopped at the Cholla Cactus Garden; although I couldn't really explore it...
Still, we walked a bit and made a few pictures before carrying on...
Our final stop in the park was to see the Ocotillo, a very interesting plant that gets really big...
We then drove until we left the park (Aleja having her occasional naps) and we took a different route from the one we had taken to go to the park, one that was way more interesting and took us across the Anza-Borrego desert all the way until the charming Julian, where we had coffee and chocolate-apple cakes for brunch before heading back home...
That was a memorable weekend, one that I will never forget. It was certainly one of the very best birthday days I've ever had and I feel very fortunate for being with a wonderful woman who knows exactly what I like....Ale, I love you! Thank you so much for the amazing, unforgettable trip, and I am already looking forward to the next ones!
I hope you guys have enjoyed seeing these pictures, I thank everyone who sent me birthday messages, and I express here my gratitude for having you all as part of my photography journey.
I'll be back here soon...