It has been many full moons since Denise and I last visited Joshua Tree National Park. Recently we returned.
Having lived in Southern California in the 1960’s and 70’s, my brother Sam and I have a long history of visiting this high desert mecca. My family has considered this park their weekend playground since the mid 70’s.
Thanks to our great National Park System the park remains the same but not surprisingly the surrounding communities have grown extensively.
Visitation has also steadily grown and it is now the place to be in the winter months especially if you are a rock climber.
Today Hidden Valley Campground, the heart of most climbing activity, is basically a climbers only campground and is usually fully occupied most of the winter.
In the early 1970’s my brother and I would leave work on a Friday night and drive our vintage VW vans at a steady 60 mph from Ventura County to the high desert.
We would often roll into Hidden Valley Campground around midnight and have the place to ourselves.
Throughout the weekend we would only see a few other campers/climbers. Often we would run into the Desert Rats, the original Joshua Tree dirtbag climbers.
It was great fun to try and follow them on their cutting edge bouldering moves and try duplicating some of their first ascents.
Later in the mid 70’s and early 80’s we enticed our families to go camping in this wonderland of rocks. It didn’t take long before they were hooked.
Sometimes there would be 4 or more VW camper vans at our campsite. Midnight full moon walks, boulder scrambles and campfire stories were just some of the fun we had.
We would spend our days climbing and wandering around the fantastically shaped boulders.
Evenings would be spent around the campfire under unbelievable star filled night skies long before local light pollution was a problem.
Denise and I continued to climb at JT into the 80’s and 90’s enjoying the fabulous winter weather and exciting short climbs.
Some 25 years later we return to this wonderful place to reminisce and once again take in the splendor of this high desert paradise.
We now travel with 2 big dogs and the size of our camper has increased but our enthusiasm remains the same.
The mystique and magic of this place continues to draw us. Not only does Joshua Tree hold many great memories for us, it continues to inspire us. There is something very special about this place.
And maybe most importantly the climate is currently far more pleasant than at our home in Alaska.
We were very lucky to have spent our youth in such a place. Undoubtably JT will continue to be an important recreation destination as California continues to grow, but we are glad to have been part of its early days.
If you haven’t visited Joshua Tree National Park we highly recommend it. During the winter months expect very busy campgrounds and trails. But if you are willing to wander off trail you can easily loose the crowds and possibly….yourself.
We would like to thank Sam and Chris Taylor for the use of their old photos within this blog. They sure bring back great memories.
Don’t miss our newest video “Return to Joshua Tree”. Slip in the ear buds and crank up the music, the soundtrack is great!
A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to All !!!