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Joshua Tree – Ryan Mountain

 

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Whilst I’m sitting here listening to the rain fall against my window, heater on, cup of tea in hand, dreams of the desert call to me.

One of the most highly anticipated stops along our road trip was none other than the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. We said a reluctant goodbye to our beautiful room at Ace Hotel Palm Springs, vowing to return one day, and sprang into our car, heading on to our next destination. We had a carefully laid out plan. Since we were travelling light(ish), we were going to check out the town, grab some supplies and hire a tent from Joshua Tree Outfitters before heading into the park to bags a campsite and squeeze in a quick hike.

One unforeseen problem – it was Wednesday. And why was that a biiiiiiig problem? Joshua Tree Outfitters don’t open on Wednesdays. And no one else in the tiny town hired out camp equipment. Stride-broken and crestfallen we commiserated our sad fate together in the car. We were contemplating sleeping out in the open (in rattle snake country) or at least in our car, when we went and did what non-delirious totally sensible people would do.

We bought a tent. That’s right, we bought a tent.

Cue carefree, jangly guitar road trip music again!

Driving into the park is like entering another world. Being from Australia, we’re no strangers to desert landscapes but we’d never seen anything like this. I distinctly remember letting out an involuntary, “Woooooah…” when we first caught sight of it. Dry, hulking mountains look down upon you and the numerous oddly shaped Joshua trees dominate your view for miles and miles.

Just a quick look at the nitty gritty for those keen to visit. Joshua Tree National Park is an extremely well-tended and well-loved park with great facilities for campers. You can traverse it with a regular car as all the necessary access roads are sealed and the campsites are pristinely clean. There are plenty of drop toilets, but no running water or electricity (I think there are one or two specific sites that do have these if you need them).

We found our perfect spot at the Jumbo Rocks Campground and pitched our tent quick smart in order to have enough time to embark on a hike up Ryan Mountain. Ryan Mountain is a 3 mile there-and-back hike that ascends 1070 feet (325 metres). Being crazy and highly excited noobs we set out in the middle of the afternoon whilst the sun baked down on us but we made do with plenty of water and in that heat even the ridiculously smallest of shrubs shed the most luxurious shade. The hike is not too long in terms of distance but it does ascend quite rapidly with very few flat spots for respite.

We were rewarded above and beyond our expectations and efforts. Due to the elevation, you get the most incredible views of the park from above, its mountains and unusual rock formations. Enduring the afternoon sun meant that we made it to the peak as the sun was beginning to set behind distant mountains – we were speechless for a while. I think it was just that beautiful and we were just that pooped. The golden hour in this part of the world during Fall lasts a long time but be sure to bring torches to ensure that your descent is safe.

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Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

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About a month ago now, I went adventuring – with my parents! And I left poor Jinn at home. Yes, I know I know, most of you are wondering what on earth possessed me and there were indeed some moments I asked myself the same. Being of the incredibly strong, stoic and self-sacrificing species that is commonly known as “the migrant parent” (holler if you know what I mean), my folks have never travelled a great deal, choosing to pour all their money and resources into funding my and my brothers’ education. I’d long promised to take them somewhere different, somewhere exciting, and these were a couple of our favourite stops.

The Grand Canyon is one of those places of such vastness and great age that you can’t help but see yourself and your place in this gigantic world with renewed perspective. Discovering that the beautiful natural phenomenon was created out of countless layers of soil laid over millions of years and then eroded and carved away by the Colorado River for millions more makes me realise that I’m barely a twinkle, a flash of a shooting star, across the face of this earth. And if that wasn’t enough self-contemplation to make me burst, we arrived to be welcomed by some rather inclement weather, causing me to bitterly rail against our tough luck. I was convinced that our trip was “ruined”! However the upshot was that mist, rain and unseasonal snow shrouded the iconic crags and knolls to create some truly spectacular sunrises, silencing my selfish complaints to a simple, awed “thank you”. (Props to Dad for getting up with me everyday in the subzero temperatures and pitch black dawn!)

Zipping down a few very picturesque highways to the border of Arizona and Utah into the heart of Navajo country, we made our way to the very different but equally striking Monument Valley, which was equal parts cultural experience as it was visual adventure. It’s no surprise that every western movie ever (plus probably every Jeep ad ever) was filmed right here. As we wound through the strangely shaped mesas and buttes, past herds of mustangs grazing and hear the unmistakable sound of coyotes howling in the distance you truly feel like you’re deep in another land. We spent the evening watching sunset’s dying light play shadow puppets with the unusual rock formations, and listening to the songs and stories of our local Navajo guide, Will Cowboy. (His real name, I kid you not.)

There was so much more I wish I could have seen and done, and after seeing these photos Jinn made me swear to return. There are worse promises I could make.

Finding Salvation

salvation-mountain-4 salvation-mountain-1salvation-mountain-1-5salvation-mountain-8salvation-mountain-7salvation-mountain-9 salvation-mountain-10 salvation-mountain-15salvation-mountain-13salvation-mountain-18salvation-mountain-11salvation-mountain-20salvation-mountain-16salvation-mountain-21 salvation-mountain-22 salvation-mountain-24 salvation-mountain-25Emerging out from the stark and sandy Colorado desert, Salvation Mountain stands as one man’s bold and beautiful message of love. Profoundly unusual yet moving at the same time, the monument is frequented by religious and unreligious folk alike. Leonard Knight began this work in 1984, continuously expanded and elaborated upon it until his health failed him and he passed away last year aged 83. He deeply believed that love for his fellow human beings was the answer to peace, and to that I say aaaa-men.

Salvation Mountain / near Niland, California / Bring plenty of water, it is hot!

 

 

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