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THE MYSTICAL BOULDERS OF THE MOJAVE DESERT HAVE LONG LURED FREE-SPIRITED CITY SLICKERS FROM LA BUT, IF IT'S YOUR FIRST TRIP TO JOSHUA TREE, IT HELPS TO PLAN AHEAD A LITTLE.
So, here's the ultimate go-to guide to visiting Joshua Tree...
Approximately three hours from LA, but seemingly a universe away from reality, Joshua Tree has long been the high-desert town with lo-fi antidote to the frenetic, hyper-commercial muscle that powers the city.
It's a place that fuses adventure with soul-stirring scenery. Stand on a ridge at Keys View and tempt fate, staring right into the clashing plates of the San Andreas Fault or, play guitar by the fire-hugged ancient granite.
BUT, LIKE ANY DATE WITH A DESERT, YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU.
"TREAT HER WITH RESPECT AND SHE'LL REWARD YOU WITH SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND SUNSETS THAT'LL RENDER YOU SPEECHLESS. TAKE HER FOR GRANTED AND YOU'LL FIND YOURSELF BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WITH NO FUEL, VERY LITTLE PHONE RECEPTION, SQUINTING INTO THE HORIZON WONDERING WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG"
LESSON 1 | CAMPING IS COMPETITIVE
It's no secret - Joshua Tree National Park is a place that actively encourages fending for yourself.
From climbing prehistoric, Flintstone-like boulders to night hikes with a head torch - the democratic approach also extends to the rules of the campsite.
It's first come, first served.
14 days max.
The result, is a park that's shrewdly protected from long-term campers, you know the type - the ones who find the best spots and never leave...
We won't lie, finding a campsite, will be hard. It's almost as if it were a game...
Option 1: getting lucky and finding a spot at Jumbo Rocks campsite. Option 2: parking your camper van underneath the cold, dewy glow of a Walmart streetlamp, because you didn't realise that a National Park could be busier than Jurassic World with a blackout. It happens.
LESSON 2 | WEEKENDS, ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND
Simon and Garfunkel weren't kidding; the sound of silence is seriously something to sing about...
But if you're dreaming of a Thursday to Sunday vision-quest under the moonlight then we hate to be the bearer of bad news - weekends are full of families and humming camper van generators that go with them.
There's a real tranquility that seems supernatural about a mid-week camp, though.
LESSON 3 | CASH, IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
You don't need a lot of money to enjoy Joshua Tree's mystical beauty...
You do however, need to have it on-hand. At the entrance of each campsite, you'll find a noticeboard where mini-envelopes are kept. Insert the cash for your stay, write your name and chosen campsite on the front and then place it into the lock box which should be nearby.
It's old-school and completely reliant on trust.
LESSON 4 | WATER, GAS, FIREWOOD. DEFINITELY FIREWOOD
Your campsite will be equipped with a fire pit, a picnic table, and well, yeah that's probably about it. Think: Bear Grylls adventure...
Dry camping is pretty much all about taking things back to basics and if you're a gap year student - finding yourself. No electricity, no bottled water, no toilets.
Half the magic of Joshua Tree is sitting by the flames watching the light reflect onto the rocks and telling old war tales. There’s nowhere to buy wood once you enter the park though, so stock up in town and buy enough for a few nights.
LESSON 5 | HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
So what if date restrictions mean you’ve found yourself stuck in the desert, knee-deep in screaming families on some major US public holiday? Never fear.
Even though you might not find a spot within the park proper, there’s an abundance of privately run RV parks, such as Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground, which has everything (including a kitchen sink, if required) as well as being near by one of the most unique experiences you can have while in town; The Joshua Tree Astronomy Arts Theatre.
This way you get to capitalise on the majesty of the Californian desert while still revelling in the wonder of electricity and a hot shower.
You can think of it as Joshua Tree Lite.