Happy New Years to Joshua Tree, Government Shutdowns, & Persistent Wind!
The last adventure of 2018 was a weekend trip to Joshua Tree National Park just prior to New Years. The plan was to camp, climb, and hike our way to the New Year. Early Friday morning, we drove from Orange County to the North entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. We arrived at the entrance station at approximately 8 am. To our surprise, the entrance was unmanned with a sign posted explaining that a Government Shutdown was taking place. Due to the Government Shutdown, the park wasn't collecting fees and there would be very little management/supervision until the shutdown ended. SWEET, I thought, now let's find a campsite and have an awesome weekend! After checking a few campgrounds for availability, we eventually found a site at Belle campground.
Thrilled that we had a place to camp for the weekend, we didn't notice the blistering cold wind for about 15 minutes. After those 15 minutes, the cold was our constant companion for the next 2 days in Joshua Tree National Park. The wind and nightly below freezing temperatures turned our camping holiday into an adventure.
The adventure of getting/staying warm was difficult. First, we attempted to build a campfire. However, after using 1/2 a liter of lighter fluid and full bundle of wood, we were no closer to building a fire. The wind whipped through the flames before the wood could catch a spark. To combat the wind's turbulent nature, we positioned the tent directly in the wind's path. The tent, as a wind barrier, worked. Within five minutes, a fire roared giving us warmth, comfort, and most importantly food. The other critical time to keep warm was at night. After feeling the wind and hearing anecdotes from other campers, we converted the truck bed camper into our sleeping quarters. To insure our warmth through the night, we sealed the cab of the truck to the camper shell using half a roll of "duct tape" so we could run the heater of the truck and warm the camper. The positioning of the tent and the converted camper/sleeping quarters kept us warm enough to camp for 2 nights in some pretty cold conditions and enjoy our time in Joshua Tree.
During the day we hiked and bouldered at the Archway, Cholla Gardens, Barker Dam, and Skull Rock. We marveled at the bizarre landscape of Joshua trees and geologic rock structures. Overall the alien beauty of the park took my breath away and made for a very enjoyable trip.
The lack of rangers and park employees, decreased the cost of going to Joshua Tree, but emboldened some people to camp in undesignated areas and bring dogs to "No Dog" zones. While we were there, someone refilled the toilet paper at the campground bathrooms and a ranger patrolled the park. I didn't see anyone leaving trash or making his or her own trails. Most people appeared to abide by the park rules and were courteous and respectful to others.