Until recently, I’d never been a fan of camping. I like sleeping in a bed and showering every night. With a bit of cajoling from my husband and the promise of seeing lots of wildflowers, I’ve now been backcountry camping in Joshua Tree twice. In this post, I’ll share my experience at Joshua Tree National Park, how I came to tolerate backcountry camping, the various flora and fauna I encountered and a make of comfortable clothing called Stormie Dreams.
I was seven or eight when I first heard about Joshua Tree. I was flicking through my dad’s vinyl collection and found U2’s album, “The Joshua Tree.” The opening track, “Where the Streets Have No Name,” played in the background as my dad described the mysterious desert. I’ve wanted to visit ever since. Many years later, while driving through the Yucca brevifolia, the same track filled the car.
Joshua Tree is huge with 790,000 acres of desert. No water, food, phone service, lights, or electricity. A lot of the popular sites, such as Hidden Valley, attract many tourists but they’re worth braving the “crowds” for (when I say crowds, I don’t mean theme park sized ones. However, considering it’s the desert, there were more people than I imagined). I recommend visiting Skull Rock and the Cholla Cactus Garden. Don’t get too close to the “Jumping Cholla;” I found out the hard way how they earned their name.
If you’ve seen the film “Interstellar,” some of the rock formations in Joshua Tree reminded me of the planet Edmunds that Amelia lands on at the end of the film. Particularly once we’d got away from all the other hikers, it felt like we were on another planet.
Backcountry camping is free (there’s a small entrance fee to the park and another if you use one of the official campgrounds). You are required to park and register at a backcountry registration board. Unregistered vehicles left overnight can cause park rangers to worry about the vehicle owners. There are 13 registration boards throughout the park and you can find them here.
Setting up camp was pretty easy; we parked at Porcupine Wash both times and hiked to different areas. From a distance, Porcupine looks like a cluster of ugly rocks but close-up, it’s very pretty. Our water supply and the heat prevented us from going far, but a couple of miles into Porcupine gets you away from any other humans and into the land of tortoises and hares.
After setting up our tent and making some dinner, it was time to make my first s’mores! I’m happy to announce that vegetarian marshmallows become gooey like regular ones when toasted. We used Sweet & Sara’s vanilla marshmallows. If you’re looking for an easy but tasty meal, I was pleasantly surprised by Backpackers Pantry and their Chana Masala. It tastes more than edible and you just add boiling water.
To feel comfortable, I used a waterless body foam I brought over when we moved from England. It cleans and then evaporates. Flash Bath by Yuni Beauty sounds like it does the same thing.
Once the suns set, there’s not much else to do except sleep. I didn’t sleep much the first night because I kept fixating on the pitter patter of bugs crawling around and then I started imagining a bear biting my arm off (I know that’s irrational and they don’t live there – I have a vivid imagination). The second time we camped, I brought ear plugs. I decided if something was going to eat me, I’d rather not hear it happen. We planned to watch the sunrise but slept so well that we missed it. If you’re a light sleeper, I recommend ear plugs and a blow-up mat wouldn’t hurt for added comfort.
Fellow plant friends have said this year’s wild flowers were the best since 2010 thanks to all the rain this Winter. As we walked around, we saw explosions of colour and splashes of blues, purples, pinks, and yellows. There were clusters of blooms popping up everywhere! The field of wildflowers pictured below was at the entrance to Cottonwood Spring. The rest we spotted while hiking around.
Despite this year being one of the longest seasons of blooms, I think it’s finally over. For next year, I recommend checking the National Park Service Wildflower Report. During peak season, they updated what was blooming every fortnight.
My recollection of the desert wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some of the animals we saw. Between both trips, we were lucky enough to see a gopher tortoise, a kangaroo rat, multiple jack rabbits jumping around and various lizards. We even accidentally brought back a stowaway cricket in my backpack. I know other people have seen plenty of other animals and was surprised to learn the desert is even home to frogs and toads.
I must admit, I knew I’d be clambering over rocks getting dirty and sweaty, but I still wanted to look nice. My solution was a pair of black leggings which proved useful at preventing bramble scratches and a couple of airy tees from Stormie Dreams to keep the sun off me. My leggings were made by Girlfriend Collective, a new company turning plastic bottles into clothing and my t-shirts were made by Stormie Dreams, which is one of my favourite American clothing companies.
Stormie Dreams designs and makes their garments in LA which are all made from deadstock fabric. Using other companies’ leftover fabric prevents it from being dumped in a landfill and, because of the smaller amounts of each fabric, also results in a collection of unique pieces. They even have a zero-waste policy, which means everything they make is cut to order. I recommend checking them out if you’re looking for comfortable but contemporary fast fashion alternatives. If you find something you like, the code “ecolove” takes 20% off any order.
Now for some wildflower spam!
Gorgeous, take me to the desert and I’m a happy gal!
I feel the same now! Thanks for popping over lovely 🙂 xx
What an amazing experience. Your photos are so beautiful.
Thanks so much! So much flower spam 🙂
I love Joshua Tree and you capture its beauty spectacularly!! Love all of the macro flower shots. Nature at its best for sure.
Definitely nature at it’s best! Macro is so fun to play around with 🙂
Such a lovely post , sounds exciting. Love the photos . Xx
Thanks Leila! You’ll have to visit sometime! xx
What a gorgeous place though and fun to have experienced and done! Hahah I’m not for camping either, but can definitely do it every now and then and partly remember why I don’t lol haha! Xx
Haha! I’m so ready to go camping again but I’m sure as I’m trekking somewhere with my pack I’ll remember why I don’t do it very often ;p xxx
My dear, such a beautiful place and your photos are gorgeous! The same here, my hubby wanted to camp, I am not that into camping I didn’t sleep much either, cause I also started imagining what bad things could happen to me. In the end it was a nice experience. xoxo
Lol we sound so similar when it comes to camping! I’d imagine it’s not really possible to camp with your little one now so you have the perfect excuse for the next few years ;p xx
I think this has been my favourite post of yours so far! A beautiful location, beautiful flowers, beautiful animals and beautifully produced clothing! Thanks for the lovely read. X
Yay! I think this is my favoruite post so far too! I’m so happy to hear that enjoyed it 🙂 xx
OMG you got such great shots in Joshua Tree! Seriously putting me to shame since I literally live here and don’t even have these types of shots in my phone lol. Next time you come we should definitely explore together hehe 🙂 I’m glad you had fun! xo, sharon
Hehe, you’re too sweet! Thank you love. I’d definitely be up for that. We can go looking for lizards too! xx
Wow, this is definetly a place I would love to visit! Here in Germany this kind of nature is just not familiar to us and it attracts me a lot. I always loved how nature and landscapes in the US are so “wide”, like neverending. In Europe you do not have these kind of landscapes. Anyway, absolutely beautiful pictures! Beautiful post dear! Thank you a lot for your last comment on my blog : )
Sending much love!
Rosa Larissa Klara
My sister said something when she visited. The beaches are huge! I’m actually in the UK now and can’t help but notice how narrow the roads are here in the UK. I hope you can visit LA sometime soon 🙂 xxx
Your pictures are so beautiful!I can use your blog posts as my travel guide.
Thanks for sharing!
Hehe I would love that. Thank you! xx
Wow, such gorgeous photos Jessica! Especially the sunset and blooms. I’ve never been to Joshua Tree before, but this is confirmation that I need to visit. xo
I hope you do! I’m sure your girls will love it! xx
So glad I stopped by, Jess, because this post may just have convinced me to go camping! Such beautiful pictures and your experience sounds lovely (if not the most comfortable! ;)). Joshua Tree is high on our list of places to visit before the year ends, so definitely bookmarking this page for reference. 🙂
Eeek! I’m so excited to hear if you do! I know you said your hubby has mentioned it. If you head over this way I’d love to meet for a coffee or something. xxx
Such a lovely post and beautiful views, definitely not something you could find here in the UK! I applaud you for going camping, I love the idea of it but at the same time, I would just get really spooked at night! I stayed in a tent a couple of times and I just jumped at every little noise, haha. Still, it sounds like you had a wonderful time. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, lovely! xoxo
No, I don’t think you’d find something quite like JT but the Lake District is gorgeous! Aw I know that feeling, it was especially hard not to feel really jumpy when going for a pee in the night. Thankfully the moon kept me company xx
Looks like an incredible time! It’s all about not leaving a foot print. Great set of photos Jessica
It was really fun! Agreed – we always tried to make we didn’t leave any traces that we’d been there 🙂
Wonderful wild wild west countryside! Thank you for sharing these fantastic pictures!!
(P.S. I’m commenting from my new website!)
Thank you for checking them out! Going to have a look at your new site now. Exciting! xx
Lovely post and amazing pictures. Even though I am not a stranger to the california desert, I never made it to Joshua Tree – until last month. I completely fell in love in a heartbeat! If you’re open for desert vegetation the nature is stunning!! I wasn’t brave enough to camp out there and instead we rented an airbnb. Best decision though, cause the place was lovely. I didn’t get to see the wildflowers tough – so based on your amazing pictures I have to go back one day 🙂
Thank you so much! I just checked out your post about Joshua Tree – very cool. I definitely recommend heading back for wildflowers (hopefully we’ll get lots of rain again this Winter). I’d love to try an Airbnb over there. It would nice to dress in something other than hiking gear while there! xx