On May 25th at 4pm in the afternoon we picked up our van from ADF Sprinter in San Fernando CA, we wanted to get the heck out of the LA area for memorial day weekend. So, we loaded up on groceries at Trader Joe’s (our favorite), made a few pit stops (at REI and Wal-Mart) and headed towards the desert.
After a few hours of driving through LA traffic, and high winds in Palm Springs, we arrived at the Southern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park.
We picked this entrance because we had recently seen a post from another “Van-lifer” (now I don’t recall who posted) regarding full LTE and Boondocking on BLM land here. As we pulled up were pleasantly surprised to find plenty of room and a handful of fellow campers, some in vans, some in RVs.
On an awesome note… Joe and I both had full LTE on AT&T and Verizon, so we picked our spot in the sand and set up camp!
Guess what… it was hot. Really hot, now I know that’s probably obvious given we are in the desert. But us Pacific Northwesterners are really not used to 108 degree dry heat. Not at all. The heat, and lack of shade, made motivation tough but we banged out a few full 8 hour work days and even completed Murph, a CrossFit Hero workout that is traditionally done on Memorial Day to honor fallen soldiers.
What we learn in the desert
Now in the desert we learned a few things, given this was our first time in the completed van for multiple days and our first day Boondocking. (No bathrooms, no water/electrical hook-ups.) Here are some things we learned:
* Always top off your water tank no matter how empty it is (we ran out of water, but we did have a few gallons of back up that we had bought at the grocery store before heading out).
* Carry extra water.
* There aren’t a lot of trees/bushes in the desert for privacy (get a she-pee and learn how your toilet works before you need it).
* The starry nights are top notch.
* Working in a hot van with no AC is challenging, but doable.
* Get a bug screen door. Here’s the one we have.
All in all, we had a super positive experience for our first whack at boondocking and enjoyed our time in the Desert.
On Memorial day, after we completed Murph at 7am, we drove into Joshua Tree National Park.
We entered the park from the South and drove through the entire park. And stopped at the Cholla Cactus Garden (see photo below) and the Hall of Horrors Climbing Area. The rocks around here are incredible and the landscape is way different than anything we are used to in Seattle!
For lunch, we stopped in the Ryan Campground and snagged an empty campsite for an hour (or so). Side note… Sometime when we don’t need cell service and it’s not 100 degrees we will come back to camp here!
Joshua Tree National Park Hikes
Since we were trying to get back to LA to have our rear bench seat finished up we didn’t have a ton of time inside the park for adventuring. So, we looked at a number of hikes to decide what sounded like the most fun, and the how can you go wrong with a mine?!
We weren’t disappointed!
The Lost Horse Mine was a relatively easy 4 mile out and back hike. It can also be done as a 6 mile loop, but having done the CrossFit workout Murph earlier in the day, we decided to keep it on the short side.
The hike is full of rolling hills that are very runnable, and if you like to peek into the past, you will love seeing the old mining structures that are still in fantastic shape.
Even though we didn’t get to do much hiking in Joshua Tree National Park the Lost Horse Mine trail got us excited to go back!
We exited the park in the town of Joshua Tree, grabbed some phenomenal pizza at Pie For The People and headed up to the Joshua Tree Lake RV Park (we had to work Tuesday and needed cell service). For two days we camped out here and worked before heading back to LA on Wednesday.
Side note: on the the way out of town we stopped at the Joshua Tree Coffee Company and had the most AMAZING nitro cold brew and bought a bag of coffee beans. If you are in town, stopping here is a must!