This past weekend, I was out in California to be a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding. The wedding was in Temecula, California which is about an hour northeast of San Diego. I figured while I’m out there I GUESSSSSSSSS I should visit Joshua Tree National Park.
The wedding was on Saturday and I planned Joshua Tree for Sunday, but everyone else was flying home on Sunday so I decided I was going to go it alone. I know this might be frowned upon… I mean two people just DIED there. But like….. it looked really cool and like when am I going to be within a 100 mile radius of Joshua Tree ever again!? Worth potentially dying.
Obviously, I mapped out my entire route for the day and which trails I would be doing. I planned on going into the west entrance, through the northern part of the park, and then out through the north entrance. Unfortunately, the time changed that day and the sun was setting at 4:45 FOUR FORTY FIVE. THAT IS SO EARLY. So I had to plan around that too.
ANYWAY. I started my journey at Skull Rock. When you go in through the west entrance, it was only a couple of miles down the road on the left. There’s plenty of signage and a little pull off area for you to park. I guess there was a trail here, but like, I was already at the Skull Rock? So I didn’t really feel the need to do the trail. It was cool though. Plenty of rocks to climb around and OF COURSE a rock that looked like a skull!
The next stop I went to was Jumbo Rocks, this was about another mile down the road from Skull Rock. You guessed it…. there were quite a few large rocks. Again, I don’t know if there was a trail here. There was a campground though! It would be cool to camp here because the sites were between huge boulders so you would have some privacy! I climbed around some of the rocks and then headed towards my next stop: Ryan Mountain.
Ryan Mountain is a mountain. It was 1.5 miles up and then 1.5 miles down and pretty steep the whole time and it took me a good while to do because it’s so uphill. I only passed a few other people while I was going up which was good because I was embarrassingly out of breath. Like I thought I was going to die. I think it was harder than a half Ironman! Anyway, it was worth it though, because once I got to the top, the view was awesome and made even better by enjoying a nut butter-filled Clif Bar (this post isn’t sponsored, I just think those Clif Bars are hella good).
I descended the mountain which took A LOT less time. When I was close to the bottom and had maybe 10 minutes to go, I passed this mom going up the mountain with her very angry daughter. The girl was bitching about being tired and wanted to stop and take break. They hadn’t even reached the steep part yet! Like okay sweet cheeks, you still have another 45 minutes of uphill hiking so you better suck it up.
My next trail was Lost Horse Mine. I didn’t know much about Lost Horse, except the fact that I THOUGHT it was 4 miles long. I THOUGHT. But I was wrong. I began walking down the trail which was basically flat and through the desert for the first 1.5-2 miles. It was beautiful and there were Joshua Trees (imagine that!) all around me. It was kind of creepy though, because I only passed maybe 3 other people the whole length of the trail. It was super quiet and kind of spooky.
The trail through the first, flat part was just sand, so it’s kind of hard to follow considering that I was in the desert and there is sand just about everywhere. The only thing that reassured me I was still on the trail was that I could see the imprints of the bottoms of shoes on the trail. At one point, I was derping around and I saw people passing me like 30 feet to my right. I SWEAR I was still on the trail but I called over to them and asked if they were on the Lost Horse trail (I thought maybe another trail passed close by) and they said yes. Thank god I saw them and got back onto the trail because otherwise I probably would have kept walking off trail and probably would have died.
ANYWAY, after that little mishap I paid way more attention to the trail. At one point, I walked up a slight hill and I was on the side of a damn mountain? It was weird because the trail had been so flat up to that point but I was happy about a change of scenery. Now the trail was along the side of a mountain and the view was beautiful! After walking for about another 2 miles, I calculated that I should be done soon. See, the thing about Joshua Tree is that they don’t really have any signage telling you how far you are from the end. I was getting paranoid that I had somehow walked so far that I ended up on a different trail than Lost Horse. I also hadn’t passed anyone in forever.
FINALLY, this very old couple (they were seriously like 80 and hiking a rigorous trail… old people goals) passed me. I asked them if they were on the Lost Horse Mine trail and they said yes! Thank god. I asked how much further until the end, I had been walking FOREVER. They said I was only about SEVENTY PERCENT DONE WITH THE TRAIL. WHAT. I told them I thought the trail was FOUR MILES. NOPE. NOPE. I AM AN IDIOT. IT WAS 6.2 MILES. I sighed at my stupidity and the old man asked if I had enough water to finish (SO NICE), I told him I did and carried on.
Call me a basic bitch, but at this point I was literally sooo over it. After talking with the old people, the trail had become rockier and VERY steep. Steeper than the damn Ryan Mountain trail! It also became VERY windy. Like windy to the point that my eyes were watering, I was cold, and very annoyed. Finally, I made it back to semi-flat land and it was less windy. I still had like 2 miles to walk though and I was getting very bored of my own thoughts. Anyone who knows me knows I am definitely an extrovert and need some sort of human contact most of the time. Anyway, about 45 minutes later I finally finished the trail.
I think I would have enjoyed the trail much more if I had actually mentally prepared myself for that long and steep of a hike.
The next place I went was called Keys View. This was VERY easy. I drove my car up the road to a little lookout area where the only walking I had to do was about 10 feet down a sidewalk. The view was incredible! From here, I could see Palm Springs, Coachella Valley (I could almost smell the flower crowns), AAAAAAND THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT. HOW COOL IS THAT. Although, I’m gonna be honest with ya, I knew it was somewhere down below but I don’t think I could point out exactly where. BUT STILL WHATEVER. I SAW THE SAN ANDREAS FAULT.
I finished my day with a short 1-mile hike on a trail called Barker Dam. This one was nice because it was short, but there were also a bunch of people on this trail so I wasn’t stuck alone with my thoughts the whole time. This trail led back to a little lake which was p cool, I mean you don’t see water in the desert that often!
So anyway. The moral of this story is that if you’re ever in southern California, you should try to make a trip to go to Joshua Tree. The other moral is, if you do go make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into!