My latest adventure was to Joshua Tree National Park. Coming from Oakland turned out to be an exhausting but fascinating 9-hour drive. For the past 10 years, California has experienced a dreadful drought. The lack of rain has caused visual pain for anyone traveling through the central valley along I-5. I’ve named it the dreadful drive. Something's different this year and the exquisite colorful countryside is the proof.
Have colorful flower photos with the hashtag super bloom popped up in your social media feed this spring? Californians have lost control. What is supposed to be the normal floral bloom during springtime has been forgotten by some and never experienced by our younger generations. A decade of mother nature withholding its true beauty can cause confusion for some. For me, this was my first road trip to Southern California that was enjoyable.
I won't lie, entering a vibrant floral covered desert was confusing but I was able to keep it together. I was on a mission and it was to find the campground before the sun went down. Emily and I had reservations at Black Rock Campground which was on the outskirts of Joshua Tree National Park. Just a reminder to anyone with a disability, with the right documentation you can score a free national parks pass. Free park entry isn’t the only perk. If you reserve a campsite in a national park using the national park website, you camp for free! Reservations go fast so make sure to plan way into the future. After setting up camp late in the evening Emily and I used our jetboil to cook up a Mountain House meal.
After eating we anxiously went to sleep early.
We woke up to a cool spring desert morning. The sun was shining the birds were singing and we realized we had forgotten to pack some essential cooking items. Luckily, we’ve learned to go with the flow especially when traveling. We discussed our options and came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to waste time going to the store and then back to camp just to cook breakfast. The desert trails were calling our names and we wanted to maximize our hiking time. We loaded our day pack, filled our hydration pack and hopped into the car. We may or may not have stopped at Starbucks on the way to the entrance of the park.
I’m always scanning through social media in search of like-minded people to follow. A few months ago I found an inter-abled couple on Instagram that looked like they were kicking ass in life.
I was drawn to how they showcased their problem-solving skills on the trail. Like me, Jesus uses a wheelchair and doesn’t let it limit him from living his life. Like Emily, Christie is right by Jesus’ side to assist if needed. Couples like us are true teammates. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We help each other when and where needed. Some support can be seen by the public and some cannot. I have to tip my hat to these strong, intelligent and motivational women.
Jesus and Christie were at Joshua Tree a few weeks ago so I reached out for trail recommendations. I do like to “wing it” for the most part because planning always turns into over planning. In this case, I was pleased knowing Joshua Tree has trails for my hiking ability. Our first hike was on a trail called; The Boy Scout Trail.
When it comes to accessibility, Joshua Tree is quite sedentary. According to the accessibility page on JTs website, only two trails are accessible. Out of the 1,235 square miles of the park, less than 5% of the park is accessible. These are only ADAs standards. My standards are adjustable. I love that nature doesn’t care about accommodations but I would like to experience nature as much as my able-bodied peers do. Boy Scout trail turned out to be perfect for me. I would recommend using mountain bike tires and a Free Wheel attachment or you’re going to get tired fast. The hike may be possible without them depending on trail conditions or if you have a little help from a friend. Again, if you have the right equipment your hike will be more enjoyable and most likely longer.
The wildflowers had Emily and me speechless at times. By the end of the hike, we had counted over 20 different flowers. Some were large and some were microscopic. What they all had in common was their beauty.
After our hike, we returned to camp for dinner. We forgot about stopping by a store for the essential cooking items so we had to do some MacGyvering. It was strange to us that we didn’t pack cooking utensils, our camping bowls or eating utensils but we did pack a cast iron skillet.
This is our MO. We always forget something that we think is crucial to our trip. At the end of the day, we find out we need much less to survive. We aren’t always comfortable but we survive.
I forgot to mention that I was coming down with a nasty infection. By this time I was coughing uncontrollably. Emily describes my cough to gunshots. Apparently, it’s annoyingly loud. I didn’t get much sleep because of it and it caused Emily to retreat to the car for half the night. I wouldn’t doubt it kept up other campers around us. Sorry about that…. The next morning was rough for both of us. Again, we realized breakfast wasn’t going to happen at camp. I somehow convinced Emily IHOP was our best option.
Restaurant breakfast was what I needed. I wasn’t ready to hike in my condition. We agreed to keep it easy by driving around the park instead of hiking around. This turned out to be a great idea and because my body was fatigued.
We stopped at Keys View where the view was breathtaking. The view wasn’t the only thing breathtaking.
The push to it was too. The .1 mile trail had to be at a 30% grade. The website may say it’s accessible but I disagree. I’m a strong dude but the incline was too much for me. Emily had to help push me to the top. Once we caught our breath we hopped back into the car.
Our next stop was the Cholla Cactus Garden. This trail was amazing and very accessible.
It isn’t a long trail but it was fun. After leaving the park for the day we wanted to check out the visitor center that had the accessible trail. It was really frustrating to see the only real accessible trail was outside the park in a different landscape. I see both the good and the bad of this situation.
It’s awesome that people with disabilities have an option but like most options we have, they suck and are not equal to the rest of the community. The plant life was completely different from what's inside the park. This is something that needs to be addressed.
My infection wasn’t the only thing developing. The wind was growing stronger every night. I would wake up to a layer of sand on everything in my tent. It was annoying especially while being sick. On our way out of the park, Emily tossed out the idea to get a hotel for our last night at Joshua Tree National Park. I succeeded to her idea with no hesitation. I’m not proud of my choices but being comfortable at this time was necessary. We booked the last available room at the Holiday Inn in 29 palms and then shot over to the campground to pack up.
This trip turned out to be nothing like what we planned. I secretly love when this happens. It shows how adaptable we can be. I highly recommend visiting Joshua Tree National Park. I suggest planning your visit during Spring and remember to apply for that disability parks pass!