BY JESSICA DA SILVA
This past weekend I decided to take a break from studying to visit a friend in Palm Desert. Living in Los Angeles, we’re able to drive to the snow or to the desert in a just a matter of hours. It took me precisely 1 hour and 56 minutes to get to Palm Desert from Venice Beach and then another hour to drive into Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree is by far one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. It’s a $20 fee to enter the park, however it’s valid for 1 week and once you’re in, you have 800,000 acres of land to discover. While driving, you notice the difference in ecosystems which primarily have to do with the elevation of the two contrasting deserts within the park. On the eastern side you have The Colorado Desert which features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo, and cholla cactus. The higher, slightly cooler Mojave Desert features dazzling vistas of Joshua trees and yucca. Visiting during this time of year was perfect in terms of temperature, however during the summers, it’s brutally hot.
When I’ve visited in the past, I would enter through the Mojave Desert to see the Joshua trees and visit the shops in Yucca Valley. Pioneertown (in Yucca Valley) also has one of my favorite restaurants Pappy and Harriets, which you must visit if you are on that side. There chili is amazing!
This past weekend was a different experience as we entered through the eastern side. If you enter through this way, remember to pack a lot of water and snacks! Unlike the other side, there are no nearby towns and absolutely no stores inside of the park. Driving in, I was confused as to why I didn’t see any Joshua trees, however later learned about the difference in environments. I was in awe by the quantity of cholla cactuses I saw and how fascinating they looked. I was also amazed by the differences in terrain and the beautiful boulders that people were climbing on. We stopped at White Tank Campground and began to climb the rocks. I was a bit nervous wearing my New Balances, but the rocks were so smooth and easy to climb that I was a pro by the end of the day.
We drove to Skull Rock to watch the sunset. With plenty of people having the same idea, we found an empty rock and sat there for a while admiring the vast beauty all around us. As the sun was setting, the sky would transition into different shades of pinks, purples, oranges and blues. My favorite part was seeing the silhouettes of the boulders and admiring how large and powerful they looked against the sky. As it started to get dark, people began to leave. All of a sudden the distant echoes began to fade and we realized we were the only ones left in the area. We stayed and gazed at the sky as the stars appeared. It was breath taking. The amount of stars you could see from there was unbelievable. Obviously, being in the presence of utter mystery and magnificence, it brought up so many conversations regarding life and the meaning of it. I personally love these topics of conversation and appreciate environments that inspire them. I feel that any setting that involves pure nature, organically brings you back to your natural state of being and evokes feelings and emotions associated with it. By immersing ourselves in natural settings, it reminds us that we are are human…That we don’t have all the answers…That we are a part of a greater universe. It makes us thankful that we get to experience this thing called life, for whatever reason it may be.