Cottonwood Campground (Joshua Tree National Park)

Originally I thought we’d stop in Palm Desert, then a quick glance at the map and I realized it was right across the highway from Joshua Tree, ahh! One night of dry camping would be easy and the campground was first come first serve – and it was a Monday, in November, so chances were good we’d be fine. We needed it to be fine because it was the only campground on the southern side of the park and it would be a long slow 30 mile drive to the other campgrounds on the northern side… and there’s [little to] no cell service in the park to even come up with a plan b at the last minute.

The entry station was closed when we arrived at 6:30 so we just made our way to the campground loops and started looking for a spot on loop b. Now I guess the smart thing to do would be a quick walk around the loop to identify any potential navigation hazards and find a suitable site, but since it was a dead end one way loop, it probably didn’t matter a whole lot so here goes nothing! In the loop, there were parallel parking spots on the outside and short back in spots on the inside. It was clear that a parallel spot would be optimal but it still requires some clear space to maneuver the truck in the road so I kept going around. There were giant boulders everywhere – to keep vehicles off the landscaping/dirt. At the top corner of the loop I found myself sandwiched between boulders on my left and a giant fifth wheel that didn’t do a very good job of getting all the way into their parallel spot on my right. Commence freak out. The fifth wheel’s owner came out to help navigate and Tom hopped out at my barking and I made it through without incident, but I wasn’t about to try and squeeze through there again so I decided to take the next open spot I encountered. When I inspected this narrow passage in daylight the next morning I was rather impressed with myself. img_2798I also did quite a nice job with the parallel parking thank you very much. We didn’t even bother to unhitch, just got on some blocks, threw down the jacks, and cracked open a beer.

Tom made us a campfire then started on dinner – I am so spoiled. It was a perfect starry night and the desert landscape was lit up by the super moon – in this moment, the dream of being a full-time airstream dweller settled over me. This is what I’ve been craving. One little circle of campers in the middle of the desert, no cell service, no hook-ups, no highway sounds, just miles and miles of desert flora, piles of rocks, coyotes howling, campfire crackling – you feel me right?

img_2802I woke early to the glorious sunrise and hopped on my bike to check out the scene. There’s really just one road that goes north/south through the park from our location but I stopped at the Visitor Center to double check the map and pick a landmark to shoot for. We hadn’t paid our camping fees the night before so I asked the ranger if we could pay him but we could not – he said we could pay the station at the entrance but warned us we couldn’t leave that way til after 3pm. Hold up, say what? Yeah, apparently the California highway whoever were working on the on-ramps *both directions* and hadn’t put up any signs the night before warning people getting off that they couldn’t get back on! The sweet ranger said he was going to scout out a dirt road to see if it was navigable by a vehicle (and trailer) such as ours and we should check back after our bike ride. My legs felt like crud so I tried to keep the ride easy but there was a long climb back to the campground. Scenery was fantastic though – I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it kind of just looks like these giant heaps of rocks that someone discarded in the most artistic way. The sun felt so good on my skin but I can only imagine how brutal the climate can get in the summer.img_2792   img_2817

Back at the Visitor Center the ranger confirmed that we should be able to take the dirt road and pop out at the back of a rest stop several miles down the highway. Now that I had night driving under my belt I wanted to give daytime driving a go. Tom didn’t mind the break (he’s been the sole driver for almost 2 months now). Plus, the interstate is easy 🙂

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the dirt road

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