Not since we drove from St. Augustine, FL to Boston, MA four years ago have we been on the road together (driving from LA to San Francisco or Vegas doesn’t really count). This time, our target is 15 cities around the southern half of the United States in three weeks. Our first stop is the Joshua Tree National Park.
We pulled out of the driveway at exactly 6am on July 18, 2010. It’s a Sunday. The car is packed with luggage, food, drinks, and pillows for the long journey ahead.
Not since we drove from St. Augustine, FL to Boston, MA four years ago have we been on the road together (driving from LA to San Francisco or Vegas doesn’t really count). This time, our target was 15 cities around the southern half of the United States in three weeks.
I know what you’re thinking. Three weeks is barely enough time. I assure you it is doable. We have done this kind of time-sensitive trip before so I’m confident we could give Mr. Phileas Fogg a run for his money.
Interstate 10 (I-10), which stretches from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, CA to Jacksonville, FL, is the main highway that we took for the largest part of our drive to Florida. It’s a good kind of highway. It spans 8 states through miles of desert, wide-open spaces, plateaus, and bayous. It comes close to the US-Mexico border, crosses the Continental Divide and offers a great view of the Gulf of Mexico.
To get to I-10 East from Burbank, we took the Golden State Freeway (I-5) heading south. Our first stop is the Joshua Tree National Park. After three hours of driving non-stop, we took exit 168 off of I-10 and turned left on Cottonwood Springs Rd. This road took us directly to the southern entrance of the park.
The northern part of this park is different from its southern part. The northern area in the Mojave Desert is where the Joshua Trees, as well as the 49 Palms Oasis, the Jumbo Rocks and the Desert Queen Ranch and Mine, are found. The best way to get there is from California 62 (CA-62) where there are two park entrances – in Joshua Tree, CA and in Twentynine Palms, CA.
The southern area – where we went – is less interesting but equally worth the drive. This area of the park is already part of the Colorado Desert. As we drove through, we found ocotillo plants which have spiny-like branches that bloom red flowers at their tips, different cacti, and other amazing desert plants.
A few minutes away from the visitor center is the Mastodon Peak, which is a quartz monzonite formation that offers an excellent view of the park. However, since it is in the middle of summer and we are in the middle of a desert, we decided to opt out of hiking to the top.
Instead, we drove a mile or two from the southern entrance to the Lost Palms Oasis, home to over a hundred California Fan Palm trees which are being supported to life by a subterranean spring. Pools from this spring, I am told, appear above ground in the cooler part of the year. Unfortunately, it is – we found out as we get out of the car – also home to a few hundred bees and wasps imaginable.
The oasis, however, is definitely breathtaking. I walked into it and felt like I was transported to a different place, in a different time – perhaps the prehistoric era.
We only stayed for two hours. I wish we could have stayed longer – for maybe a couple of days or more – as there are more places to see especially in the northern part but the road is waiting to take us east and we have a schedule to keep. So we decided to just come back to this place when the weather is less harsh and we can get back on the road.
The Joshua Tree National Park is open all year long. There is a fee of $15 per vehicle for a seven-day access.