Exploring Joshua Tree National Park | Christmas in the Mojave

Joshua Tree Visitor Guide

Keith and I had been sitting in our home over the month of December longing for warm weather. One evening we were purusing google maps. “Saguaro is 10 hours away”. “Big Bend is 15". “Theres some hipcamps we could scout in Taos”. So much searching and hoping and wishing that it just wasn’t 32 degrees outside and that it didn’t get dark at 4pm. We went to bed that night and three days later we settled on it.

We would go to Vegas.

It was a seven hour drive from our new home in Grand Junction (oh hey, did I mention that I left Denver?). And Joshua Tree was only three hours from the city. The city that Keiths parents just happened to be visiting for the holidays. I haven’t spent Christmas with family in 6 years and if you’re wondering if I cried at my first holiday with my boyfriends family, I did. There is nothing like spending the holidays with family and its a feeling I had let myself forget. Spending time with Keiths family, and meeting his grandmother was the sweetest gift, as its been 14 years since I said goodbye to mine.

So we spent a few days in Vegas. Playing bingo (Keith won!) and buying too many plants at the local nurseries. The day before Christmas Eve we packed everything out of our hotel room on the strip and headed south through the night. Unknowingly passing the silent sights of the Mojave Desert as we sped toward the National Park.

I had wanted to visit Joshua Tree for some time. The photographs of it seemed unreal. But you can see a thousand photos of a place and it still doesn’t take away from experiencing it on your own. The skies are that blue, and the yucca and Joshua trees are that green. The rock so course and gritty on your hands as you climb over and among it, a wonder that the area is a popular destination for climbers.

We ended the journey by heading back up to Valley of Fire state park. An area with giant red rocks to hide among and bighorn sheep running wild throughout the park. Surprisingly it was warmest here, as I spent our two nights here never even needing to put on a jacket. Weather that I dream about these days. Truly.

On another note; I’ve been hesitant to share this trip because of the recent issues regarding the government shutdown and national parks. We experienced the park very early in the shutdown and its heartbreaking hearing about the places I love being torn apart by carelessness. Looking back, I wish I would have stayed out of the park and just enjoyed the Mojave Desert instead. The Parks are losing thousands of dollars worth of entrance and campgrounds fees, and decades of work and research (and wildlife!) is being threatened.

If you need help finding some cool spots around where you live, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll help!