When a Tree Isn’t a Tree

The small desert town of Twentynine Palms is the gateway to Southern California’s iconic Joshua Tree National Park.  The 1,200 square mile park straddles two distinct ecosystems: the Mojave and the Colorado deserts.  Its landscape features craggy rocks, jumbles of stacked boulders, and stark barren terrain dotted by Joshua Trees. The “Joshua Tree” was named by Mormons who settled the region in the mid-1800s.  To them, the upward twisting, bristled limbs evoked the biblical figure of Joshua praying.  Interestingly, they are actually yuccas (succulents), a member of the agave family, not trees.   

What To Do:

The top activities are hiking, camping, and rock climbing.  There are over 65 trails in Joshua Tree, ranging from less than a mile to 25 miles in length.  We were with family members so we had to plan activities for a range of ages.   We ended up hiking the following:  Barker Dam Nature Trail, Arches, and the loops around both Jumbo Skull and Jumbo Rocks. 

Skull Rock

Joshua Tree is a rock climber’s paradise; Indian Cove is a favored destination.  This is a Dark Night sky area, so brush up on your astronomy and pack binoculars.  Look for and learn about the desert wildflowers, plants, reptiles, birds, and animals that survive in the inhospitable environment.  Our grandson bounded up and down the boulders like a bighorn sheep (also an inhabitant of the area) in a new-ish sport referred to as parkour, derived from the French parcours du combattant for obstacle course. 

Planning Your Trip:  

A National Parks and Federal Lands Pass is required. An annual pass costs $80.  For seniors, a lifetime pass is $80 and an annual one $20.  Free passes for military are available.  They all allow access to more than 2,000 sites that include entrance fees at National Forests, National Grasslands, BLM Lands, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineering recreational areas. Passes can be purchased in advance at www.recreation.gov/pass.  They can also be purchased at the Oasis of Mara Visitor Center and main park entrance; while there, pick up a free map. Camping?  Our kids camped at Jumbo Rocks and their advice: make reservations!  The park is a busy place with only 500 campsites.  You can reserve a spot up to six months in advance at www.recreation.gov. Download the official National Park Service App online featuring over 420 parks.  It’s a valuable tool. Joshua Tree National Park is open 24 hours a day. Suggestion: enter early, before 10 AM; parking can be tricky.  A vehicle day pass into Joshua Tree is $30.  A Joshua Tree annual pass is $55.  There’s more information at www.joshuatree.org.

If you are packing food like we did, the Klean Kanteen Food Solutions are a must. Use them for lunch boxes, snacks, bento boxes, and to-go containers for meals while you are out hiking or sightseeing.  Additional essentials are Klean Kanteen’s vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottles available in all sizes and with a lifetime guarantee.

Where To Stay and What to Do In Twentynine Palms  

For my demographic (senior) staying at a vacation rental is easier and more comfortable than camping after an active day. The 29 Palms Homestead Vacations group specializes in the area. The delightful Cactus Adobe became our home for three nights.  Call 760-218-9714 or logon to www.29palmsvacation.rentals.  Hostess Patricia Knight will take excellent care of you.

In 29 Palms, there is an outdoor art gallery including 23 historic murals and nearly 40 public art installations.  Since we drove in, our car and coolers were packed for our three night stay.  However, a breakfast goody is always called for.  Try both the Campbell Hill Bakery and the Jelly Donut for an excellent array of morning treats. For more Twentynine Palms information go to www.visit29.org/visitor-center or call 760-358-6324.

Thanks to various websites for information, logos, etc.

Let’s go!

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