It’s been three weeks since we kicked off our multi-year travel adventure, and we’re loving it.
After just a couple days with friends and family in the Northwest, we took the van a thousand miles south to warmer weather, spending a weekend with family in Los Angeles and then heading east.
We started in Joshua Tree National Park, a stunning landscape straddling the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Though I grew up in California, this part of the state is new territory for me. The more time we’ve spent in this terrain, the more we’ve come to appreciate the subtle differences in plant and animal life dictated by different elevations and climates. It’s a fascinating and beautiful place.
From Joshua Tree, we drove south to Palm Springs for a night in civilization, then camped in Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument on the way down to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Situated in the Colorado Desert just a few miles north of the Mexican border, Anza-Borrego is the second largest state park in the lower 48, stretching across a vast expanse of desert washes, towering mountains, and eroded badlands. We spent two nights in the park’s primitive Blair Valley Campground, enjoying near-solitude at the attractive price of $0/night.
We haven’t been without our fair share of mishaps, of course. April Fools’ Day didn’t treat us particularly well. Daniel kicked off our morning hike by impaling his hand on a spiny cactus, then we returned to our campsite a few hours later to find our water container swarmed by dozens of extremely aggressive bees. We ended up abandoning the campsite until nightfall when we could recover it safely. Lesson learned about packing up everything each morning.
With one more night to ourselves before meeting up with my parents in Death Valley, we pulled out our road atlas and noticed the enormous Mojave National Preserve along our route. “Sure, let’s check it out!” Though we didn’t see nearly everything (we later learned that it’s the third largest unit of the National Park System in the contiguous United States), we enjoyed a beautiful night of primitive camping and a long morning hike near the popular Hole-in-the-Wall Campground.
From Mojave, we drove north to Death Valley National Park, where we met up with my recently-retired parents for five nights. Even in early April, the basin of the Valley was hot as hell, but the park was more varied in terrain and climate than we expected – everything from crusty salt flats and sweeping sand dunes to wooded hillsides and massive volcanic craters.