When thinking of a family vacation, the word ‘desert’ probably doesn’t come in on the list of Top Five Places. It’s time to rethink that outdated list and discover the beauty of the southern California high desert. From big, clean skies to awesome murals and landscapes, the desert has something for absolutely everyone.
The Seasons Rock – The best thing about the high desert is the temperature in every season that is not the summer. Spring is obviously the most vibrant. After a nice, wet winter, the desert floor is often coated in a yellow blanket of wildflowers. The fall air in the high desert is crisp and cool, a distinctive feeling that comes around right before the temperatures begin to drop. High desert winters, unlike the lower Colorado desert, get cold enough for snowfall, which usually happens once or twice over the season. It’s a marvelous sight, the Joshua trees all covered in white snow. Such a beautiful contrast. The summers are usually hot, but not unbelievable like Palm Springs. Tent camping is totally possible and comfortable virtually year-round.
Joshua Trees – One of my favorite things about the high desert are the Joshua trees. They are fickle and need a particular amount of dryness, rain, and elevation to prosper. They are only found in the Mojave Desert, making them a bucket list must see. They look weird, almost human like, which is how they got their name. They resembled Joshua from Biblical times reaching up toward Heaven. However, once you realize they only grow in a certain area, you will begin to realize Hollywood uses that desert for everything. In Kill Bill, the church they go to is supposedly in Texas, but there are Joshua trees surrounding it. Sorry, guys.
Music and Art – Unless you lived under a rock in 2014, you probably heard about the show Dave Grohl made which features recording studios from across the country. It was called Sonic Highways and they recorded a majority of the Los Angeles episode in Joshua Tree at a small house/studio called Rancho De La Luna. Joshua Tree has an incredibly developed, rich artistic community. There are numerous art shops in unincorporated Joshua Tree, as well as neighboring Yucca Valley. The local honky tonk is exploding in the LA music scene, as well as the local music scene, which now sports an online radio station. There are murals galore in every city in the Morongo Basin. There are local art tours, world renowned mural artists, writers, and soon there will even be an International Film Festival. There is always something going on, so when you’re in town, don’t forget to take a look on a “what’s happening” cork board, of which there are quite of in Joshua Tree alone.
Smog-Free Skies – An extreme rarity in Southern California, the Morongo Basin sky lacks smog, revealing itself in all its glory. The Milky Way drapes across, behind Joshua trees and cactus, the moon peeking through Yucca leaves. During the day, your family can enjoy hiking in clean air at an elevation that is not unkind to young lungs. While other attractions across Southern California are in the middle of traffic-heavy cities, Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding areas maintain cerulean blue skies filled with fresh, minimally polluted air.
Unplugging is Good for Your Soul – Unplugging from the digital world and plugging into the real world via a trip to Joshua Tree is the perfect way to bring everyone closer together. From pictographs left behind by the Serrano Indians to rock climbers highlining between rock formations, the sights around you will keep your face from being buried in your phone. Like many places that have been relatively untouched, the desert possesses a certain magic and it’s palpable from the minute you arrive. The sights and sounds, even the glorious smell of creosote after a good rain all mix together and give the air an almost electric feel.
There really is nothing like the desert, especially a place like Joshua Tree National Park. Don’t be afraid to venture out and see why this is one of America’s most beloved national parks and why people from all over the world come to stay. Show your soul a place more inhabited by wildlife and plants than by people.