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Camping Under the Stars - Joshua Tree National Park

Arid air, crisp autumn nights, and full campgrounds are a few symptoms of fall in Joshua Tree National Park. In October, Joshua Tree averages 81°F/52°F making it one of the most temperate times of year to visit. Of course, this also means it’s one of the most difficult seasons to get a campsite. Naturally, the National Park campgrounds were all full, but we stayed at a site on Hipcamp called Camp Nylen. It’s off the beaten path (a little off-roading just means more adventure) past kitsch Pioneertown, a private campground out in the desert.

At Camp Nylen, pitch your tent on top of a rock, in a watershed, next to the iconic Joshua Trees, or any combination of these. Just by pitching the tent away from the car made it seem like you were farther away from civilization and closer to nature. The campground features a shaded area with picnic tables, a gas fire table, rocks to climb on, a port of potty, and lots of Joshua trees. Our brew club, the OC Mashups, reserved the site for the weekend to camp, drink beer, and enjoy the outdoors (which is exactly what we did).

On Saturday, we cruised through Joshua Tree National Park for some hiking and photography. The last time we visited was in January, frigid air and voracious winds were plentiful, but the October weather presented pleasant sunshine and very little breeze. In January, Barker dam had a medium-sized reservoir, enough for a swimmer to swim the partially frozen pool. Shockingly, in October, there wasn’t a drop of water to be found in the basin overlooked by the now desolate dam wall.

Throughout the day, we hiked Barker Dam, Skull Rock, and the Cholla Cactus Gardens, eventually ending at Arch Rock for some night photography. Once we found the trail to Arch Rock, it was a short 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the Arch. Once the camera equipment was set up, we chilled as the sunset on our beautiful day in the park. Then, the hunter’s moon rose overhead! It brightened the landscape and night sky so much that you almost didn’t need a headlamp. If you’re not prepared for the brightness of the moon, your photos can be overexposed. Luckily, the camera’s frame wasn’t directly hit by the light of the full Hunter’s moon.

With the moon came the desert chill, the temperature drops quickly. Everyone rushes to put on pants, sweatshirts, beanies, and anything else that will keep your body warm. After feeling the cold a little too strongly the first night, we picked up some inexpensive hand warmers. Putting them in our pockets, we were able to keep our hands warm. At the end of the night, we tossed the hand warmers into our sleeping bags to become feet warmers. The now feet warmers worked great, keeping us warm throughout the night.

Sunday came too soon, hearkening us back to Orange County for another week of work. The autumnal temperatures and the hunter’s moon made it an easy and memorable camping trip. It was also fun to share the experience with the OC Mashups and my brother. Now to plan the next camping trip.


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