After our trip to Palm Springs, we made our way to Joshua Tree. Our talented friends, Sara and Rich Combs, had recently bought and renovated a 1949 hacienda right next to “downtown” Joshua Tree. We were excited to spend 2 nights at their beautiful new place and get to checkout the area with some locals. We had the best time staying at their house. It’s a photographer’s dream and perfect for a quick getaway. We spent one night fireside, bundled in throw blankets with a glass of wine in hand while playing Cards Against Humanity and another wandering out into the park to star gaze. It’s an absolutely magical place! Another cool fact about The Joshua Tree House is that they have over 100 Joshua Trees on the property. Sara and Rich were saying that this was extremely rare, partly because you have to build on property that already has Joshua Trees on them since it’s illegal to cut them down or transplant them.
We didn’t know much about Joshua Tree prior to our trip, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We were greeted to a stillness in the air that brought a calming ease and peace, and we instantly knew we were going to like this place. It is truly special and one of a kind. I kept saying how it felt like we were on another planet! We can’t wait to venture back in the summer.
We played the vintage records, that Sara and Rich have collected for the place, every night while we sat by the fire.
Joshua Tree is a great place for hiking. The Hidden Valley Loop Trail is a fun hike, especially if you are limited with time or an inexperienced hiker. We wandered around, checking out all of the different cacti and succulents while basking in the afternoon sun. Joshua Tree is about 10-15 degrees (or more) cooler than Palm Springs, so be prepared with layers.
A good spot for coffee is Joshua Tree Coffee Company, where we stopped after an early morning sunrise to warm up.
We stayed at The Joshua Tree House with our friends, Sara and Rich Combs (center), talented designers whom I mentioned bought the house last year and Jessica and Travis Wright (left), Jessica runs the travel blog Bon Traveler. Jessica, Sara, Rich, Thomas and I are all working on Will Journey together with a few other members that were not able to make it, stay tuned for our launch soon!
Joshua Tree has some good options for food. This picture was from Country Kitchen, which was actually featured on one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows. It was everything you could want out of a breakfast without being flashy – fluffy chocolate chip pancakes and delicious egg dishes that hit the spot. Some other restaurants we stopped to eat at were Pappy & Harriet’s for Dinner (this is a must-go), Crossroad Cafe for Lunch and Sam’s Pizza for Indian Food.
We made the best of the beautiful light in Joshua Tree. We woke up very early our first morning and drove about 50 minutes to watch the sunrise at Jumbo Rocks inside the park. As we were driving in the car we watched the temperature dipped into the low 20s. We hopped around the boulders just to keep warm as the sun slowly rose. If you’ve never seen a dessert sunrise or sunset, they are truly special. They have such unique shades of colors, thanks to the crystal clear sky. The sunrise that morning started off orange and yellow, then turned into a gentle pink and purple, eventually become almost neon bright. As soon as we got a glimpse of the sun we sprinted for the car and blasted the heater, finally getting the feeling back into our fingers and toes.
There’s also a hike to Arch Rock (seen above) within the park. The shapes of the rocks were out of the ordinary, and what make Joshua Tree so unique (especially juxtaposed with the Joshua trees). In the middle of the western part of Joshua Tree are large hills and boulder piles scattered almost at random along the desert floor. Their placement was so peculiar that Thomas said that they looked like a giant had gathered all of the boulders in the area and then stacked them into piles.
The Cholla Cactus Garden was one of our favorite spots in Joshua Tree. The entire garden looks like a coral reef above water. While the sun is up, these Cholla Cactus glow yellow, almost like a light bulb. At sunset (which was when we were there), they become a neon green and yellow shade against the purple sky. Just be careful how close you come to them because the spikes are painful and hard to remove.
One of the best features of The Joshua Tree House was the hot tub. It was just the perfect thing to come back to and enjoy after a bone chilling sunrise exploration to take a nightly dip under the stars.
The “tent room” at the Joshua Tree house is my favorite. Such a creative concept!
Our final stop in Joshua Tree was the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Sculpture Museum, a cool place to check out if you have some extra time.
Prior to arriving, we had looked up some of the beautiful Long Exposure photos taken in the park. When we arrived to The Joshua Tree House, Thomas just happened to take a look at the Joshua Tree Map and Trail Guide that you pickup when you enter the National Park. The article on the front was about why Joshua Tree was such a unique and great place to see the stars. It also talked about where in the park had the least amount of light pollution from neighboring cities. Finally, we just happened to notice it was the day after a New Moon, basically the 2nd darkest night of the month. We jumped in the car at 10:30pm and drove into the park and just kept going. The hard part about taking long exposures during the darkest time of the night during the darkest time of the month is that it’s almost impossible to know where to setup to take photos. Luckily, I had just given Thomas a flashlight for Christmas just for this purpose. So we stumbled through the desert shining our one flashlight for 4 people looking for a cool tree to shoot. Finally, we settled on this spot, where we took the picture above. We experimented a little bit to try and get the best shot possible, but the 30F temperatures was not that enjoyable to be out in, plus it was nearing midnight, so we decided to turn back with only taking a total of 6 pictures. It was probably the fewest we’ve ever taken in one single photoshoot, but the outcome was amazing!