California is a state that we want to truly visit one day. From north to south there are so many areas and cities we are excited about. Right now, with the craziness of Covid, we opted to avoid the majority of the state. We so wish we could have explored more, but it didn’t feel right. Our time in California consisted of a drama filled night in Joshua Tree National Park and a very quick drive through LA to Santa Monica (for a quick ocean view), and onto the next state. Because we only got out of the car while in the park, I am going to share about our camping experience in Joshua Tree. Oh, and an experience it was.
First of all, Joshua Tree is so much bigger than we expected! If you enter from the south through Cottonwood Canyon, you need to plan on an hour and a half or two to drive to the camping areas. The benefit to coming in from the south is that you get to see much of the park on your way in. You will also pass through varying landscapes. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true! We were surprised by how much the plant life changes from one end of Joshua Tree to the other. Even crazier is that when you enter from the south, it is a solid hour or more before you even see a joshua tree. Once you make it by Skull Rock, you know you are getting close to camping. We chose to stay at the Ryan Campground, and we were not at all disappointed in the sites.
Ryan Campground had multiple bathrooms, bear safe trashes, and each site had parking, a picnic table, sturdy fire pit and grate, and was huge. We stayed at site 9. Aside from each site being massive, the views are insane. You can see for what seems like almost ever, even though there are mountains in the distance. And the sunrise and sunset are unlike anywhere in the world. Also super unique is that is doesn’t ever get totally dark. The space is so open and the stars are so plentiful and so bright, that you can always see. Sounds amazing, I know, but that’s when things go a bit awry.
Next time (because we do intend on sleeping here again someday) we will opt for a rooftop tent, camper, or sleeping in the car. The animals in this park do not mess around at night. Sleep was not something we were able to have here. Once the sun went down, we first heard hissing next to our heads. Now the three foot snake two inches from our heads we could have handled, but that’s when the growls started. Unfortunately our tent was way too far from the car to attempt running. Fortunately, however, we had a knife, flashlight, and bear spray in the tent with us. PSA…Don’t travel to campgrounds or national parks without bear spray! Obviously we made it through the night, but the large cat that decided to take a stance by us remained next to the site, growling, pretty much the entire night. We are grateful it kept distance, but needless to say, Elliott was the only one who actually slept in California.