The sun was setting, and it was happening quickly.
It was an early November evening on the winter side of daylight savings time, and we had places to be. As we sped down Twentynine Palms Highway, the sky turned gold and shadows turned the sandy landscape to a dusty brown. A desert fox crossed our path. Two miles turned to five, and we cursed the LA traffic for making us so terribly late.
We had flown to California to ring in the dawn of my thirties. My only goal? To spend some time meditating on the close of a roller-coaster decade. What we got was five days of pure California sunshine and enough warm desert vibes to bring good juju for the next ten years of my life.
We finally did reach our destination that first night. When we arrived, it was at the intersection of an iridescent sunset and a full moon rising in the middle of the Joshua Tree National Park. And that's exactly where I found myself at the on the last day of my twenty-ninth year with the man I love and a brand new plan to build our lives together.
Joshua Tree National Park, and the surrounding Yucca Valley, are beautiful and arid. We spent several more days enjoying the vastness of the space, the warm Mojave Desert air and the sheer delicious silence about the place.
What to Do
Hike, hike, hike. And take the opportunity to simply get lost.
Joshua Tree is expansive and full of diverse hiking experiences. On our first day out, we hiked a few miles of the Boy Scout Trail, which leads hikers through typical flat dry terrain which is dotted with monzogranite boulders piled like mountains of clay throughout the trail. On our second day, we trekked up Ryan Mountain, which was quick, but challenging, due to the harsh mid-day rays and dry heat. The views at the top were jaw-dropping, and on a clear day you can see straight through to Mount San Jacinto.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to get your brain tickled, this is exactly what an afternoon at The Integratron in Landers, CA feels like. North of Yucca Valley, in the middle of Landers, the street names are as celestial as the landscape. The Integratron was built in the 1950s through a combination of Boeing-engineered design and alien technology (you read that right). Today, the acoustically perfect dome is home to daily "sound baths," where visitors can transcend space and time while being serenaded by the vibrational sounds of quartz-crystal singing bowls. After an hour long aural massage, we stumbled out into the sunlight rejuvenated, invigorated and awesomely elevated.
Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum
Back in Joshua Tree, we visited artist Noah Purifoy's homage to assemblage art and desert sculpture. Purifoy's art is political, cheeky, and when placed in the middle of a desert landscape, even more striking than expected. It's a sanctuary of sorts, quiet and reflective, which is exactly what I think Purifoy intended it to be.
Where to Eat
Pie for the People: On our first night in the desert, we had news to celebrate, so we picked up a bottle of bubbly and a pizza in town and brought it back to our rental house. Pie For the People is a New York-style pizza joint slash yoga studio (as you do, California) and it serves up delicious and unique pies in the middle of the desert.
Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace: Weekly nightlife is limited in Joshua Tree, but Pappy & Harriet's is always rocking out. We grabbed a plate of BBQ and margaritas and grooved along to sassy siren Dominique Pruitt's tunes as the stars shone above the valley.
Where to Stay
Joshua Tree is a fantastic place to camp, but, given that we were celebrating, we opted for a rental home.
Yucca Valley and the towns surrounding the park are chocked full of thoughtfully designed homes to rent, so check out AirBnB, HomeAway and VRBO. We hit the jackpot with the Joshua Tree GreenHaus, due to its private nature, modern architecture and a pretty luxurious hot tub out back. It was the perfect space for meditation and celebration alike.
Our time in Joshua Tree was sacred, both for the relaxation we experienced and the monumental milestones we celebrated there in the stories of life and love. I look forward to returning someday, not only to relive the memories, but to immerse myself in those good desert vibes.