The first time I visited Joshua Tree National Park was on my 30th birthday. We rented a mini-van and six of us trekked to the desert to commemorate the passing of my second decade. We stayed at my all-time favorite desert spot, the 29 Palms Inn, and partied under the stars until sunrise.
I remember sitting in the desert in the deepest night with my friends and listening to the coyotes yipping — they couldn’t have been more than 20 yards away. That primal sound makes the hairs on my neck stand on end. It reminds me of the wildness that resides deep inside of us all; something that we abandoned thousands of years ago.
Flash forward 16 years and I’m out in the desert again. It’s Coachella weekend and about 20 miles over the Cottonwood Mountains there are thousands of people partying their pretty asses off. But not us, we’re back in 29 Palms with my in-laws (two of the best road-trip buddies a girl could ask for), and this trip couldn’t be more unlike the one I took back in 1995. We rise at a decent hour to soak up as much desert scenery/bird watching as possible and we are back in the motel by 8pm playing gin rummy. After a few hands and a glass of wine, I’m ready for bed. I’m asleep by 11pm with visions of black phoebes hopping in my head.
So it’s happened. The slow march of time has left its indelible mark and I am no longer able (or willing) to party all night long. A part of me is a little sad to see the end of an era, but there’s one thing that won’t ever change: the howls of those coyotes will always send shivers up my spine.
If you haven’t been, please plan a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. And on the way, make sure you get off the freeway. The desert is filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. Maybe you’ll see a gray fox trotting along the desert floor or stumble upon the fabulous Elmer’s Bottle Ranch on old Route 66. If you’re lucky, like we were, you might even get to meet Elmer himself — a great desert character if ever there was one.
Oh, and don’t forget to bring a copy of U2′s Joshua Tree and blast it while you’re driving beneath the desert sky.
Tags: 29 Palms Inn, Coachella, Joshua Tree