Through a rather happy coincidence, our move inland through the beautiful Southwest of America also coincided with National Park Week. Marking a centenary of the National Park Service, this week offered free entry – a nicely timed saving. We decided to take a sampler approach to visiting the parks, and so began a long week of driving, camping, and exploring one corner of America.
Starting in San Diego, we kicked off the week by visiting Cabrillo National Monument. Site of the first landing of a European explorer to America, the park included an interesting history exhibition and some nice examples of historic restoration of the lighthouse. If you visit at the right time (February/March) then you might even get lucky and see migrating whales.
Cabrillo was our last outing in San Diego, and early on Sunday morning we packed up the car and got back on the road. Our first stop: Joshua Tree National Park. Now, when I hear Joshua Tree it is actually my Dad that first comes to mind. I remember U2’s album of the same name being played often when I was a kid, and the imagery of that tree on the cover. Well, I can report that the trees are definitely rather unusual looking things.
Heading into the desert proper was an entertaining drive, as we said our farewells to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, we got to see how America is making some headway into alternate energy sources. A massive wind farm and later a solar farm were interesting examples. While gas is still astoundingly cheap for my foreign eyes (at least once you leave California), the prevalence of change in this country has surprised me. In California, it is not unusual to see places in parking lots where you can plug your electric car in, and the massive investment into the wind farm and solar farm we saw suggests there is an appreciation of the need for change.
We made good time to Joshua Tree National Park, and snagged a nice little campsite amongst the boulders. There is nothing I have seen the is quite as otherworldly as this National Park. At times, it was reminiscent of just what I imagined the moon surface to be like. Combined with the surrealism of the Joshua Tree itself, and it was like something from a Dr Seuss book.
The set up at the National Park campsites really is quite lovely. Each site is given plenty of space, and there is normally a fire pit and some kind of grill set-up. Whilst the desert campsites do not have showers, there are toilet facilities. We spent sometime exploring as the sun set, taking the opportunity to do some rock clambering. Luckily for me, Ashby is a much better photographer than I am – so there are plenty of photos to share.
It was a lovely start to National Park week, and set us up nicely for the next stage – Lake Mead National Park (and the Hoover Dam), and the triple threat of Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon.