Sweet site in a spectacular campground
There are few things in this life better than camping with good friends. This particular friend is pretty special. We are on a two year streak of getting to spend part of our xmas vacation with Francois and that is the best gift ever. Those familiar with Safari Condo are not surprised by the fact that this is more than just a company that makes awesome recreation vehicles. This is a family business and we feel very fortunate to count many of them as our family as well.
What? Looks fine to me.
This particular family member is more than a little crazy and covered an insane number of miles to get himself out to the west coast from Quebec for an epic winter trip. He hit Highway 1 from Crescent City all the way to Ventura and was able to head inland to hook up with us in Joshua Tree. Now, we had secured our reservations here maybe six months ago, painstakingly selecting the best sites and reserving one before it was scooped up. Did he? Nope. He arrived with no reservations whatsoever. But you know what? He was still able to camp with us for three nights in a row with no problems. We tried at first to cram all of us together in our 40′ site, and I think we were technically “within the lines,” but the camp hosts disagreed and said we had “too much equipment.” Whatevs. But you do not want to argue with camp hosts. They are just trying to make things safe and fair for all, and they want to help, so they found him alternate locations in three different spots. In fact, one night he camped right in front of us. We all wanted him to park in exactly the same way we had initially tried, when just his front bumper was over the line, as a subtle statement. But we did not, because we are not assholes.
Love this guy
Richard rode the park road from Black Rock to Jumbo Rocks and that is a stunning way to enter the park. I think last time we were here, we were trying to get a first come first serve site and we came in through the Twenty Nine Palms road. Taking the other route is a nicer introduction to the park and you get to see the vast fields of Joshua Trees unfold before you as you go. We were surprised (and pleased) that cell service could be obtained if you do just a little scrambling up rocks inside the campground. That makes everything easier in terms of knowing all is well at home, getting beta on the day’s activities, and coordinating with others. Although, did Francois communicate at all before he arrived? Nope. He just appeared. Like the Northern Lights. Always a potential on the horizon and a special treat when he makes an appearance.
Going up turns out to be the easy part.
One of the things on our List of Things To Do Today (ala “Frog and Toad”) was to go up and down Ryan Mountain. I was able to lug myself up that climb years ago, but I would not claim it was “fun.” We were both curious how it would go with me carrying a lot less excess weight up those rock stairs. And I was super pleased at the top that it wasn’t a killer event for me. I did not feel winded or spent up there and was riding that high until we had to stair step it all the way back down. I don’t care how much you weigh, that many steps down is just brutal. My thighs still feel it and I don’t think that gets any easier with age. We might just be calling it a “been there, done that” hike and bypass in the future. Nice views at the top though, to be sure.
Caution: Nerd Trap
After that, we hit the “Geological Tour” unpaved road. This is about a four mile out and back on a sandy, washboard surface. You can go further to add a much sandier one way loop out in the flats, but they do recommend 4WD and high clearance for that. There are numbered points of interest along the way and Richard had an app that tells you about what you are seeing. We got out at a couple spots, in particular the “Star Wars Rocks.” Nerds beware: “It’s a trap!” (IYKYK) There is no real connection to Star Wars here. It is just a formation of rocks that climbers randomly named in the theme. Like, one approach is called the “Lightsaber,” for reasons unknown. Richard got caught in the Nerd Trap and wandered around looking for something that looked like it was used in filming. He came back feeling duped and indignant.
When we returned to the campground, there we found the unmissable Safari Condo van and many hugs were had with the occupant inside. We spent the next three days together, sharing dinner, conversation, and nice bottles of wine. We took a day trip out to Keys View, where you get an amazing overlook of the whole Palm Springs and Salton Sea Valley. Richard rode out to meet us, and then we all rode in Francois’ van down to the Cholla Cactus Gardens, where the guys were not able to resist defying the signs saying not to touch the dangerous cactus. They are kind of cute though, so I get it. The standing ones do sort of live up to their name; Teddybear Cholla, while the ground is littered with little bulbs, resembling Danger Tribbles, to continue the nerd theme.
We also took a loop hike out to “Split Rock.” This is an easy loop of almost five miles if you leave from the campground. We pondered the various names of things, like “Skull Rock,” and “Face Rock,” agreeing with most designations in the end. We also came up with new names for other formations, like “Thumbs Up Rock” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Rock.” Someone will need to get on that in terms of proper signage. Richard was steadfastly against the resemblance of Skull Rock, until we made him go stand in front of it. Eventually, he conceded, which I’m sure comes as a relief to the National Park Service.
Morning coffee view through the windows
Francois departed on Christmas Eve, like a Ghost of Christmas Fun, leaving us with the bunnies and a lovely drive to our next destination. All told, this was a four night stay for us with no hookups or dumping of tanks. We could have gone another day or two actually, and this was with us taking a daily shower each. We have learned some tricks over the years in how to conserve waste water, and they served us well. One crucial trick is to use a bucket to catch the water from the shower head as it comes up, or down, to perfect temperature. That water is then dumped into the PUR water pitcher where it is used for filling of water bottles. Another trick, besides being conscientious about shower water, is for me to shampoo my hair every other day. That saves a lot in terms of rinse water. As for the batteries, we did pull out the generator once and ran it for two hours. That was enough to bump us back up. In the winter, the sun is just too low to keep everything topped up through the solar panels. Keep in mind though, we are running an espresso machine every morning, and watching projected shows every night. We are not roughing it here.
Super excellent pre-Christmas visit
Total miles from Black Rock: 29.9, 15.9 mpg, 2 hours 46 min with lots of photo stops. Site 85 no hookups. Pull along site. No water or dump. Vault toilets kept very clean and well stocked. Cell service only if you climb to the top of some rocks or find a couple of strategic places near the campground on Park Road. Also cell service on Ryan Mountain, but then you have to climb Ryan Mountain. Dumped at Cottonwood Campground for free. Good dump and nice looking campground with water and nice bathrooms. Will need to stay there sometime, but there is really no service or way to hit service for many miles.