Desert Solitude – A Week in Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree National Park is one of those timeless landscapes that hard-wires me to my inner core. Towering starry skies where the wisdom of light years rains down. Crisp silent mornings as the sun brightens dew drops on Cholla cacti barbs and sparks fires on giant weathered granite boulders scattered to the horizon. And don’t forget the Joshua trees themselves, those Dr. Seussian cousins of the Yucca with their branching arms and unmistakable silhouette. The park is a stunning place to explore physically on foot, bike or vertically via rock climbing. Or it’s simply a place to sit and think deeply, and to laugh with new friends as camp fire shadows dance on the granite walls.
Subtleties are the binding agent for the park’s magnificence. Like a good concerto, the silence informs the sounds. A cool breeze whispering to the rocks. A solo hummingbird staking out his Ocotillo plant or a desert tortoise plodding back to his hideout in the sandy ground. Similar to the redwood forests of Northern California and the limitless Pacific waves, deserts carve out the oceanic feeling in my soul, that feeling of being part of something infinitely bigger, older and wiser than myself. They remind me of my status as a speck suspended in this giant universe, tugging Muir-like with my actions at every other strand of this web.
I think we all crave a sense of place and history, which is likely why new suburbs make us feel uneasy. A collection of homes, dropped from above as if by a lead-addled king’s whim. They lack any sense of creation or connection to the landscape and leave us adrift and lost in cul-de-sacs of desperation. The interwoven facets of a desert, evolved and battle-tested through eons of blasting weather, from the out-stretched arms of the Joshua tree down to the wood rat nesting at the base of its trunk, are a foundation of truth where we can plant our feet and draw a source of strength straight from the bedrock to clear away the haze of day-to-day worry beneath clear blue skies.
Solace and peace wash over me in places like this. Business deals raking my mind over the coals are superseded by peaceful slumber after a walk under the Milky Way. While we visited, there was a fantastic two days of thunderstorms that piled dark thunderheads high in the sky and raged wind and water, cleansing the land and reasserting just how powerful nature is. Yet the Joshua tree, starting as a small seedling on a sheltering nurse log, grow in a hostile environment and stand for centuries beneath baking sun, gusting wind and occasionally pouring rain, all with shallow roots no larger than a finger. My life is so easy in comparison. I am lucky to breathe deeply and take in a sunset vista after a boulder-hopping ascent to the top of a valley and take these centuries of effort in.
We’ve been on the road for four months exactly as I write this and yet the journey, wherever it takes us, is just unfolding. Traipsing is “to travel about without apparent plan, with or without a purpose.” My time in the high desert presented beautiful hikes and bikes rides, scintillating sunsets and limitless night skies. Beyond that, it yielded important clarity for me, blooming in sync with the rain-soaked desert at the end of our visit. I’m feeling new focus and priorities in my life, an upswell I’ve kept at bay with excuses too long. The time is now, always, to pursue passion and challenge myself, excuses be damned. This trip, originally slated to end March 1st, continues. Onward into the unknown we tread!
Ciao from Julian, quaint city in the mountains just northeast of San Diego famous for delicious apple pies. In the words of my good friend Ryan, NOMNOMNOM.
P.S. More pictures below!