Joshua Tree Rocks

March 25, Friday

It’s been sunny and breezy at my camp near Joshua Tree, CA. While the sunsets haven’t been as spectacular the past couple days, the golden hour never disappoints.


joshua-tree-rocks-2I like the town, too. It has a quirky combination of thrift and vintage stores, outfitters, artsy shops and cafes, and three highly rated restaurants. Two friends I worked with at Amazon last fall arrived on Wednesday and we hit up Pie for the People, a pizza joint. It was delicious, although the outdoor seating area has a direct view inside the yoga studio next door, and watching them exercise made me feel a little bad about consuming so many carbs. Only a little though.

Today I’m taking a break from writing, and visiting the park. Being stuck behind a computer screen for this long has me climbing the walls, figuratively speaking. Now it’s time to climb the walls, literally speaking. I’m talking about rock climbing, or bouldering really because I don’t have rock climbing gear.

I hop inside Bertha and motor east on 62 into the town of Twentynine Palms. Their welcome sign advertises murals, and it’s quite accurate. Some depict scenes of the desert, some focus on plants or animals, and some show the mining roots of the area. I fill up on gas ($2.48 – I’m happy to be visiting California at a time when gas is cheaper) and take a right into the northeast entrance into the park.


Hope you like pictures of boulders, because there’s a lot of them coming. My first stop is Split Rock picnic area.


The unique rock formations seen inside Joshua Tree national park are made out of granite, not sandstone as many think. Ready for a geology lesson? Tectonic movement and stresses created sets of fractures in the rock when it was still underground long ago. Water filtered down through these cracks and started breaking the rock down, rounding off the edges. Erosion carried away the small rock particles, exposing the rounded rocks. Pretty cool stuff.


Next stop is Skull Rock, which isn’t marked on the map but I couldn’t resist a name like that. The afternoon lighting is perfect for making the rock look like its namesake.


Flowers abound. It’s not a carpet, but patches of them can be found all over.


In other areas of the park, the Joshua Trees cover valleys in what I would call a savannah. Grass, brush, trees.


There are also two more campgrounds along this route. Jumbo Rocks which seems to be first come first served, and Sheep Pass which is by reservation only and mostly if not all group sites. They’re both set among the rocks and have the the iconic trees, but are tight like Cottonwood campground at the south end of the park.


Most sites are walk in and don’t have parking areas big enough for larger RVs. I recall on my last visit to Joshua Tree that there were only two campgrounds in the park that could officially take my 35 foot total length when the truck and trailer were added together. Some of these spots could take 35 feet of rig, but you’d be parking parallel to and right on top of the road. A lot of vans are out here and it’s about the perfect size for them. There are pit toilets but no water spigots or dump station, no electric, and like most of the park no Verizon signal.


Past those campgrounds is a rock climber area called Hall of Horrors, where climbs have names like “Exorcist” and “Diamond Dog”. That’s way beyond my level, but there are smaller tamer piles of boulders to clamber on, and I do so out of sight of the professionals at the top of the ‘real’ climbs who’d likely point and laugh at my play.


If you’re looking for sweeping vistas in Joshua Tree without a hike, Keys View is the place to go. At 5185 feet, it offers a great panorama of the Coachella Valley and San Andreas Fault. Since the view is to the southwest, early morning would be the ideal time to come for good lighting, but late afternoon when I show up isn’t bad.


It is often hazy though, a product of dust kicked up by wind and air pollution. The Salton Sea is barely visible and there isn’t much detail to the valley.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Back at the RV, I take my phone off of airplane mode (a great way to conserve the battery when there’s no signal to be had) and check my e-mail and voicemail. Nothing yet, which isn’t surprising given I only submitted the form this morning. I’m expecting to be contacted by someone soon and the results of that call will determine my travel plans after Joshua Tree. Yes, there’s something big in the works but I’m not ready to spill the details just yet…


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  1. SnJ on March 29, 2016 at 11:49 am

    There are so many things to see out in the desert. Giant Rock, The Integratron and Pioneer Town are just a few places to see. If you don’t go, there is always interesting reading out on the web. You just never know who you will run into either, many musicians and artists have regular visits in the area, some having permanent residences there. Keep your eyes open while visiting the local coffee haunts, you may recognize someone siting around reading the paper having a cup (we have had this happen).


    • Becky on March 29, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      Interesting SnJ, thanks for sharing. I definitely agree that there’s plenty to do in the area. 🙂

  2. Jeff on March 28, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Great timing! We were so close when in Mecca last weekend but did not stop even tho I had read the flowers were to be at their peak. Thanks for capturing and sharing what we missed!

    • Becky on March 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      You’re welcome Jeff, sorry you missed them but glad I helped fill in the gap. 🙂

  3. Terri on March 28, 2016 at 8:12 am

    I’m so happy for you that you are having this time to enjoy boondocking and not working so hard like you have the past few summers. Now that I’ve been at the campground for a few weeks, I have a very healthy respect for what you have done and put up with!

    Your photos are beautiful as always. Hope you had fun bouldering!!

    • Becky on March 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks Terri! I’ve actually never done true campground hosting the way you are, the closest I got was that summer at Zion that I did reservations and check ins but my site wasn’t marked so no one bothered me at the RV. And again volunteering at that state park in Texas I cleaned bathrooms and fire pits but wasn’t parked in the campground and no one bothered me at my site. I hope it’s working out well for you, congrats on the new apartment.

  4. MB from VA on March 27, 2016 at 7:35 am

    OK….so now Joshua Tree goes on my list. It is a park I’ve never seen but now I will. 🙂 And thanks for the info about the rock formations. I love learning about those kinds of things. I’m one of the weirdos who actually stops to read the “info signs”. Have fun!

    • Becky on March 27, 2016 at 2:49 pm

      Me too MB! And then I forget what I’ve read before I can get home and write about it, so I take a picture of the plaque with my phone so I can read it again, haha.

  5. Dawn on March 27, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Well now I have another park to put on my bucket list! This place looks great! Thanks for the geology lesson too.

    • Becky on March 27, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      You’re welcome Dawn, I like keeping it educational when I can, haha. I’d recommend coming in the spring if you have the option, the flowers make it so much better.

  6. Ron on March 26, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    Are you going to stop at the Slabs? Awaiting your surprise plans?

    • Becky on March 27, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      I’ll be hanging out in this area until I get that phone call Ron, all other plans are subject to it. I’ve heard a lot about the Slabs from other RVers and it’s on my list for someday.

  7. Wendy on March 26, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Don’t you just love secret surprises? Since you’re not planning on workamping this summer, what is it? Your book? A speaking engagement? I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.

    • Becky on March 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      Thanks Wendy, hope you’re having a good holiday weekend.

  8. Pamelab on March 26, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Becky – thanks for the geology lesson. I’m always curious about different rock formations. It’s good to know how they were made and of what substance. Cool photos. Do you use an attached lense on your phone camera? Joshua Tree is now on my “must see” list. Happy travels.

    • Becky on March 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Nope Pamela, no lense or apps for my phone camera, it’s all stock. Joshua Tree is a pretty amazing place, you’ll like it. 🙂

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