Beatty Clan Spring Desert Trip, Part Two: Joshua Tree

(This post has 80 photos. I admit it. It's so over the top that I can't even apologize. You all know, these posts are my very long-winded diary of road trip life.)

It was a dramatic entrance into Joshua Tree! Our campground was located on the far west side of the park just south of the town of Yucca Valley, so past two other park entrances as we came in from the east; thus, Joey and Em made a long detour through the park. We all arrived after dark to Black Rock Canyon Campground, and the tiny dirt roads looping past the sites were indistinguishable from parking spots sometimes. In the night, it was difficult to discern site numbers. It took about a half hour of slow, bumpy traversing before we found our sites located on a slope on the western loop. 

Then, as we tumbled out of our cars, so ready for camp set-up and dinner, we discovered that the winds roaring through the canyon were about 20 miles per hour. Darin and I have a new, slightly larger tent that could not withstand these winds. Also, this entire area of campground was on a hillside, so all the tents were sloped. As soon as Darin would have ours set up and staked down, it would pull up and be blowing away, even with all our stuff inside! This terrified the girls (they were tired too) as they screamed, "No more wind!" and tried to hold onto the tent. I was afraid the poles would break. Meanwhile, I was in charge of the group dinner that night, as I really wanted to use the raw walnut taco mix that I had prepared ahead of time and was carting around on ice in the cooler, as well as fresh salsa that was not looking so fresh anymore, a cashew cream sauce, and all the fixings. 

Luckily, Addie and Art had arrived in their motorhome, so the little ones and some of the adults sought refuge inside from the wind as Art helped me prepare dinner so I wouldn't have to light up the propane stove. Our angels!

Darin and the girls ended up going to sleep before dinner even got dished up. I brought some to the tent but they were too tired/asleep by that point to eat. I ate three tacos at 11 pm by myself in the corner of the tent; we held down our tent with our body weight as the wind blew wildly all around. 
It was late before everything was situated in camp enough to know we'd make it through the night!

After a rough, wakeful night, the morning dawned peacefully with a soft peachy golden sunlight and no wind. The Joshua trees waved their funny arms and the birds made their funny, lilting calls and it was heaven. Matt made his delicious french toast for the whole group, with loaves of bread from Schaats and Great Basin Bakery.  

We met up with Addie and Art to make plans for the day and drink more coffee at our old favorite, Ma Rouge Coffeehouse. This is a place Darin and I have enjoyed greatly on past visits to Joshua Tree, so it was a shock to find out that they will be closing down at their current location due to inability to renew their lease. The closing was scheduled to happen the Saturday following our visit, so we felt very lucky to spend a couple mornings there. It's a grand place for the kids to hang out: spacious, comfortable, forgiving. Darin and I love how you can get a full french press of coffee, perfect for a couple to share, and there are delicious baked goods for snacking.

All seven of the little Beatty cousins in a row!

After we got it together and made plans, we headed into Joshua Tree National Park via the west entrance. We stopped at the visitor center to get maps and fill water bottles. Since Polly was napping in the car, Tootie came in with me and I let her pick out a special souvenir stuffed animal for herself,  a desert kangaroo rat, and one for her sister, a little desert tortoise. Polly was so pleased and proud when she woke up and saw what her sister chose for her, espcecially because Oey loved the tortoise too, but Polly was the only one who got it. These critters accompanied the girls everywhere for the duration of our trip! 

We headed out to the old Barker Dam, had quick sandwiches on tailgates, then set out for the beautiful loop hike past blooming cacti and clambering rocks. It was a perfectly glorious day to wander.

Mojave yucca.

Examining desert pincushion together. I hope theses little sisters will always be hiking buddies.

Ravens circling, calling. Children laughing. Wind blowing over the sand. Peaceful, mesmerizing sounds of life.

Mojave mound cactus.

Canterbury Bells.

Before we got to the pictographs, we discovered that Tootie had lost her new kangaroo rat toy along the trail, so Matt ran back to retrieve it. Before long, as we moved on, the rest of us realized that actually Addie was carrying it, just a bit in front of us, and meanwhile Matt made the whole loop back around and joined us from the other side near the pictographs. These are the kinds of escapades that happen when hiking with toddlers. Matt and Orion headed back up to the little dam, which actually had some water in it this time, and Oey even got his feet wet. 

Sisters, pictographs, desert toys.

Little desert clamberers: Utah, Polly and Lucy.

And little desert witches: Addie, Bella and Amy.

Next we headed down the road to Jumbo Rocks and Skull Rock. Just off the road we parked and let the kids, and grown ups, roam. Desert dwellers with sandy hair and dusty knees, scrambling over rocks, through tunnels and crevices, leaping across gaps between boulders, finding footholds and handholds and pushing up to the sky.

Darin takes dreamy photos of weird rocks.

Skidding down a big rock alleyway, Tootie fell and skinned her knee. End of the world. The howls echoed through the land. Everyone in the family came hurrying to help. Em brought a first aid kit from her car and carefully calmed her down with soothing words and balms. It was quite a scene, a full family affair.

We were set to meet up at the Joshua Tree Saloon on our way out of the park, but as we gathered in the parking lot there we promptly realized it was not kid friendly. 

So after some running around and yelp searches, we found Pie for the People across the boulevard. Huge slices of delicious cheap pizza and totally affordable big, beautiful salads. First we were dismayed to see they didn't sell beer, but then we found out it's BYOB and you just buy beer across the street at the liquor store. Win/win! Totally casual, totally ready to accommodate our huge group, although after tables filled up we felt a bit pressed for space and eventually gave up our table to a standing bunch of college kids.  We loved it there. The little girls kept looking up at the strings of colored lights and going "AHHHH!!!" 

That night was mercifully wind free so we made a campfire and settled in for a true camping hang out. Some of us (which included all three of Matt's bigger kids) stayed up pretty late talking and laughing and telling Beatty tales, so that around 11 pm we just might have gotten a stern talking-to from the camp host! And this was even with Joey constantly shushing us because Scout was asleep just a few feet away. We are not quiet people by nature, sad to say. The way he approached us at first, which we will never forget: "I'm gonna save you guys some money; you're outta here!" and threatening to kick us out, surprised us so much at first we thought he was joking. He surely was not, and we scrambled to assure him we are good people who just got carried away. But in our secret hearts, maybe just the tiniest bit proud that we are still capable of stirring things up like a bunch of rowdy high schoolers. Just having a little too much fun!

The winds kicked up in high gear early in the morning and persisted. With them they brought a chill in the air, so none of us felt like getting out of our tents. Matt made the rounds and we agreed to just head down to Ma Rouge again for coffee and breakfast. Strawberry waffles sounded fine to me! 

Bella got a new tie dye hat next door at Hoof and Horn that she was totally enamored with. Later, as we left, it blew away into the boulevard and, after asking "Where's your dad?!" and then realizing I was the adult close by, I ran after it to retrieve it for her. I guess I'm taking hero lessons from my brother Matt. ;)

These two littlest cousins have become so utterly, perfectly sweet with each other. They hold hands and hug all the time. They play together so nicely, share, and chit chat. Being around them is such a cute sight it's nearly unbearable. 

While some of us hit up the grocery store for provisions, the rest of the gang went to the raddest park in Yucca Valley, with an adjoining skate park. We were the only people there and we went wild.

After everyone had gathered back together, we headed into Joshua Tree again. We planned to hike to some old ruins after driving down the bumpy dirt road to Desert Queen Mine. As we arrived at the trailhead and met up with Joey and Em there, guess who else had arrived to join with us?! Mikie and Marisa!!! Our group was finally complete and it felt so good.

Tootie was working hard on her junior ranger program at this point. Daydreaming about what it felt like to be a lizard in the sun. Paying attention to the sounds, the sights, the smells of this wild land. 

Never to be outdone, Polly does her part as a junior ranger too.

We poked around the stark ruins of this old stone cabin.

Let's move in! We'll have cactus for breakfast and sunlight for a quilt.

Scarlet locoweed.  Toxic to humans and animals! 

There is so much life in the desert. And the life here is startling, bold, vigorous, confident. I find these attributes incredibly alluring and beautiful.

Totally spontaneously holding hands, the cutest little cousin hikers!

Addie and Art had left just ahead of the group to go meet up with friends in Joshua Tree, while the rest of us planned to possibly do another quick hike to the ruins of Pine City. All the sudden, as the rest of us reassembled in the trailhead parking lot, Art came running back up the dirt road on foot. Loretta the Motorhome had broken down just a half mile up or so, unable to start again. Joey drove him back up to try jumping it, to no avail. Eventually we were all there stopped on this tiny dirt road in the desert, the men brainstorming and trying every automotive trick they could think up to try to get the motorhome working again. Nothing helped. 

There is always an incident like this on our trips. We made the most of it.

After all, what better place to be stopped?

The kids found hollow cholla stems and yucca hiding spots. 

Evenutally Addie went with Mikie and Marisa back to town to call AAA and get a tow. It was getting dark so the rest of us made a quick decision to eat out again, since it was also shaping up to be windy again. We chose Crossroads Cafe this time, and filled the whole back corner. We loved their delicious vegetarian foods, like the seitan Philly Darin ordered and my awesome vegan Soyrizo quesadilla. The girls loved the funky decor: toy ponies, antlers, cowboy photos and a real stuffed bobcat. 

The girls were asleep by the time we got back to camp. Everyone went straight into their tents, exhausted and full and cold from the wind. 
After my earlier bedtime, I found myself awake before the sun for one of the rare times of my life. I slipped on my sweater and pulled a quilt around me too. I unzipped the tent as quietly as possible, took my camera and my journal. I boiled water and made coffee and sat in the open area between our sites, watching the moon go down to the west, and the sun rise in the east. It had been a full moon and her glowing orb still had great power as she set. I can't remember if I've ever witnessed that before, and it was pretty magical.

I also watched a family of Gambel's quails scurry through the campsite, making their funny little caring squeaks to each other as if gently scolding their teenage kids. (You can hear it here, second one down) They gave me the most perfect feeling of harmony and happiness, seeing their plump velvety spotted bodies move gracefully around as though on invisible wheels, watching their funny little topknots bob. But mostly I loved the way they all stick together, taking care of each other, finding comfort and, I'd like to think, joy, in being together and foraging early in the morning before the sun even rises. 
I took a little walk up the trail and looped around the hillside. I surprised a huge jackrabbit making his rounds, fresh morning sun glinting through his large luminescent ears. His body was so sturdy, his gait so confident: the sight of him filled me with vigor.

Back at camp a half hour later I found some stirring. I asked Mikie if I'd woken him with my coffee preparations; he answered, "It was kind of like a squirrel in camp." Could be worse, I guess!

Our last morning in Joshua Tree we were lucky to have sunshine and no wind. The girls greet each other exuberantly every morning: maybe the most addictive part of camping together. 

We took some time (like usual) figuring out what was going on and what to do next. We had all wanted to go to Pappy and Harriet's but it was closed during our visit. We debated stopping by Pioneertown anyway, but decided we'd rather do some last hiking in Joshua Tree. Addie and Art were having their alternator rebuilt and would meet up with us down south. The rest of us hit the road, heading south through the national park to come out on the southern end by the Cottonwood visitor center. 

We stopped to hike through the little wash behind White Tank campground and see Arch Rock. 

I have not yet mentioned that ever since the Death Valley portion of our trip, Darin's ankles had become badly swollen and it was not going away. They were tender and aching due to the swelling, red in color, and had developed red bumps under the skin. We thought at first it had to do with the elevation and perhaps dehydration, so he focused on plenty of water and put them up whenever he could. But unfortunately, this plagued him for the whole rest of our trip and made hiking nearly impossible. It was a devastating turn of events for him, since we were road tripping through some of his favorite places on earth. Since we've been back he's had numerous tests done and the doctor seems a bit baffled. They have ruled out gout, infection, and blood clotting in his legs. His ankles are still swollen and painful and the only thing he can do is take pain medication every day and wear compression stockings. It has been hard on him and all of us are troubled. If anyone reading this has suggestions or ideas, please let me know!

We all crawled through this tunnel near the arch...just a tad claustrophobic for me!

I can't believe it, but I did not get a photo of the arch! Here is one I stole from Matt (@mooncowboy on instagram):

Beautiful blooming beavertail brightening the trail.

Mikie had a *very special* rock he wanted to show us: here he invokes the masculine to balance the feminine. ;)

We stopped to wander through the cholla garden. How lucky and impressed I felt to see their glorious unique lime-green blossoms!

Hitching a ride on Papa.

We had to stop just down the road again, to photograph the tall and otherworldly ocotillos in bright coral-colored bloom. Marisa, who grew up in Arizona, laughed and said she had one of those growing in her front yard as a kid, amused by how mystical they seemed to us.

Cute Amy, always dazzled by the natural world. 

Little did we know that when we made it to our beloved group site at Anza Borrego (next up) we'd be surrounded by these beauties! And so much more....


Rachel Weaver said…
I don't even know where to start. This is full of so much love and goodness.
First, I love all the "hiking gear." There is nary a North Face jacket in sight. All vintage dresses and sandals and cut off shorts.
Second, I love that you got yelled at for too much merriment. I never understand the people who get so upset over things. I'm sure the camp host could have politely told you guys it was getting late, to settle down. Nah-- better to threaten to kick out families full of babies in the middle of the night.
Your description of the confident beauty of the desert made me ache to see it with my own two eyes.
Finally, I hope you find out what's going on with Darrin's ankles. What terrible timing.
cyndywehr said…
For Darrin's ankles - check out cellulitis. Read Mockingbird Cottage blog. Her husband just had it and sounds like same thing.
Angie said…
I was about to suggest cellulitis also. Sounds and looks like a fabulous trip that I would have loved every minute of. :D
Lindy from Washington said…
Hi Heather, I also was going to say cellulitis. Also, I agree with Rachel above, what a jerk to want to kick out a family with babies! And the clothes are as always to die for! I loved the peach hat with the white top and peach skirt! I also love that you all care so deeply for animals, and are vegetarian. Good on ya! the world would be a better place if we did away with that type of cruelty. Your story telling is so beautiful, and the pictures, and the desert, swoon!!!!! I've followed your blog for a long time, and feel like I know your family! You are all caring dwellers of the earth, and I love the respect you have for mother nature, and the way you speak of her. Your babes will be raised in that light, and you should feel most proud. We need more Beatty's in this world!

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