Ahhh… spring break. This year I struggled with the difficult decision of staying home and spring cleaning or going camping. Luckily, Dave managed to sneak away from work and drive us down to Southern California for some camping in Joshua Trees!
As a kid, I went camping over spring break every year in Arches National Park. It’s been at least a decade since I was there last, and I miss it sorely. But given that it’s about a 17-hour drive from here, it wasn’t feasible. So I thought Joshua Trees, with it’s desert landscape and gobs of rocks to climb around on, would fit the bill. It pretty much did. It didn’t hold all the memories, but it did have a lot of the same fun.
It was so nice to spend the time together as a family, away from computers and homework and schedules and laundry and shopping and all that business of daily life. It kind of cracks me up that we find camping to be something fun to do…. giving up most of our modern conveniences, sleeping on the ground, eating fairly sub-par food and getting sunburned and wind-blown and in this case, rained and snowed on. But I guess it just goes to show that it isn’t all the “stuff” that makes you happy, but the people. And that is for sure the case. I have the best people around. Also, the fact that it is temporary is a plus. I doubt I would enjoy living like this if it was my only option.
Joshua Tree feels like another planet. One with its own kind of beauty. This is the view that greeted us as we set up camp, the view looking to the west from our campsite.
Dave and I learned to love each other at the end of our rope. I just made that up, but it seems like a really good analogy. The way we spent our time together as we got to know each other (I’d say dating, but it wasn’t really… we were just friends for a long time) was rock climbing. Every chance we got, we’d head to the crag, lace up our shoes, and climb. It was his greatest love (until I began to compete for his heart). But alas. Kids came along. And climbing became a huge hassle (not to mention a bit unsafe) with little kids toddling around the base of a rock, so we have rarely climbed together since having kids. But now, they’re finally big enough. They’re all old enough, brave enough, coordinated enough to participate on their own.
I loved seeing how happy it made Dave to see his kids pull off a tough move or even power through fear to make it further than they thought they could. I loved seeing how happy it made my kids to make their dad and themselves proud. I loved feeling the sun freckle my face as I laid on my back on a rock at the base, feeling exactly like a lizard warming itself, as I watched our children do, successfully, what we first loved together.
We also hiked around Ryan Ranch:
Matthew especially loved climbing. I think he read the guidebook cover to cover and begged for more climbing time, even when the rest of us were begging to just head home and out of the wind. Speaking of the wind… our last night there was crazy. After a morning of climbing, the clouds began to roll in. We knew that rain was in the forecast, so this wasn’t a surprise. We decided to just get in the car and take a drive for a while. We visited Keys Point, then went to a visitors center (where Shelby learned that Joshua Trees are actually lillies, not trees) and to the nearest town for Mexican food.
(Key’s Point, taken with iPhone using Instagram)
By the time we got back to camp, it was cold enough and windy enough and rainy enough and late enough that we decided to just go to bed. The wind was crazy (plus the rain and SNOW), but our tent is a good one, and we knew we’d be fine. Sophia spent much of her night fearing the tent would break, as it did for one of our neighbors. Dave and Matthew got up to help them move about a dozen kids into the van, while the mom packed up, fearing that her lantern would very likely set their tent ablaze. Luckily, it did not. They were from a nearby town, and I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I wasn’t her, where a night setting up camp by myself with all my kids in the wind and rain and cold felt like a better option than being home. [Although, I guess in some ways, that is exactly what I did as well, except for setting up and tearing down camp by myself in the worst conditions.]
After the night of dismal sleep, we awoke to more wind, and by the time we finished breakfast, we decided to just head home a bit earlier than planned. The drive home was beautiful. It really made me appreciate California, how diverse and beautiful it is. I’m feeling glad we didn’t move. A few shots from the road:
I always feel refreshed and appreciative of my life when I get back from spending a good deal of time outdoors. There is just something about being out in nature that is restorative to ones’ soul and mood and stress level.