Last weekend, I spent 72 hours in Joshua Tree — not enough, obviously, but a good taste of a beautiful place. These are the five things I loved best, including a video tour that I made myself and is basically broadcast quality.
1. Joshua Tree National Park: Sunset
Obviously: This was my whole reason for coming out. It is beautiful and amazing. I chose my Airbnb (see below) based on proximity to the park. A few things:
1. I’m glad I came as early in the season — the first weekend in February — as I did. It was definitely cold as soon as the sun went down, but the smaller crowds more than made up for it. (One ranger told me that in three weeks, there’d be an hour-long wait to get into the park and that it’d be hard to find parking.) As it was, it was hard to find a space for hiking Ryan Mountain, and the wait was about 15 minutes to enter the park (at 10 A.M.) and 30 minutes to leave (right after sunset), both at the Joshua Tree (rather than Twentynine Palms) exit.
2. I asked in the gift shop if I should pay the admission’s fee there, instead of at the kiosk set up at the entrance, and was told it wouldn’t make any difference. This, as it turned out, was wrong — the prepaid line moved much faster.
3. I didn’t have time to camp, so I decided on a day hike (see below), a driving tour, and a couple scattershot explorations, let’s say, of some of the rock formations. The best thing I did, though, was to come back after my day hike and watch the sun go down, snapping pictures as I went. The way the sky changed from bright blue to pale blue to purple and pink — it was worth the drive from Palm Springs just to see it. Amazing.
2. Joshua Tree National Park: Ryan Mountain
I’m sure you could spend a week at Joshua Tree, but I only had a couple days, and I wanted a hike that was hard (enough), views-y, and well-trafficked, since I’d be hiking by myself. Ryan Mountain was perfect for this — about 90 minutes up, 30 minutes down. Easy peasy. Also overhead:a Los Angeleno hiking with two New Yorker friends: “You guys are all about aggression-aggression. We’re about passive aggression — like, ‘I’m just sending you good vibes’ but you’re really saying ‘I’m going to murder you.'”
3. Country Kitchen
I have a very special place in my heart for a tiny breakfast place that let a party of one sit at a table with four chairs for as long as she wanted on a Saturday morning. Bravo, Country Kitchen! If you don’t believe me, believe Anthony Bourdain (in video above).
I also ate at the Joshua Tree Saloon three times because that is how professional saloon reviewers review a saloon. A+ for sociability and music and B+ for my barbecue ribs and maybe eating there fewer than three times would have been a better decision.
Above: my first video tour! It’s extremely professional.
5. BKB Ceramics
Honest to goodness one of the best ceramics/gift shops I’ve ever been in. Just a top-notch selection of Joshua Tree-made and -themed pieces, including wall hangings, letterpress postcards, jewelry, magazines (I bought two), and more.