tldr; curry pizza > Joshua Tree.
We spent the week after our snowy weekend in Joshua Tree working from a Hipcamp (like Airbnb for campsites) in Desert Hot Springs, about an hour from the park. (We’ll do a whole post later about how the “working from the van” experience is going.)
Our campsite was very nice, with a surprisingly hot outdoor shower, a very clean porta-potty, and even an outdoor kitchen with a view of the mountains. Our only complaint was the rather rough dirt road that led to this peaceful little campsite. After just a few minutes driving down the road to our campsite, we would turn around to find everything in total disarray; curtains fallen from the walls, clothes bumped off the shelves, drawers opened, my tiny cactus plants thrown onto the floor, the list goes on.
Sleeping in the van was warm and cozy, but the first hour or so after waking up was cold. I was working Pacific Time during the week so I kicked off almost every day that week with a little run to warm my body up before starting work for the day. Choi, on the other hand, bundled up in our puffy blanket and his many layers as he hopped on his first call of the day, his breath coming out in little puffs. While these mornings were a little bit trying, the sun would usually come out by mid-morning and we could start to thaw out.
On Thursday, we headed back up to the park to climb in the afternoon. We hit the road early and arrived at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center before most of the other hikers and climbers showed up. We spent the day parked at the Visitor Center, joining our Zoom meetings and working from inside the van.
Once we were off work we headed back to Gunsmoke, the very long traverse that we had attempted the weekend before. Since the climb is deemed a “classic”, it’s a fun area to meet other boulderers. Like us, most of these climbers just make little bits of progress each session on the 75ft long traverse while other (much stronger) climbers, cruise through the boulder, doing laps back and forth and even a couple of pull-ups at the end to test their endurance. With sore muscles, thin fingertips, and a glimmer of hope to send our project the next week, we headed back to our campsite in Desert Hot Springs.
Saturday morning we said goodbye to our campsite and headed off to Joshua Tree to visit a local farmers market in the morning and spend the whole weekend climbing. We were lucky to have incredible weather and got to try out lots of new climbs and also make progress on our projects from the weekend before.
Sunday evening, after a long week of working and weekend of climbing, we decided that we’d earned a meal out. I had noticed a nondescript building called “The Jelly Donut” on our drives in and out of the park and, after a quick google search, we found that this was not only a highly-rated donut shop, but also a restaurant that served Pho and something called “dumpling tacos”. The building itself was in an old gas station with outdoor seating on somewhat grungy looking tables placed among the abandoned gas pumps. We had to go.
The food was greasy and very flavorful, just what we needed. We hopped into the van, full and tired, and made our way to our new campsite for the week, another Hipcamp that was a bit closer to the park. This new campsite had a similar setup with an outdoor shower, composting toilet, and outdoor kitchen. We spent the week working from the property, took a few runs in the morning, and a bike ride one evening. The host of the campsite, Aidan, is also a van-dweller and gave us some tips on where to stay when we make it to the California coast later this year. Thanks, Aidan!
Like the week before, we headed back to Joshua Tree on Thursday for another afternoon climbing session. This time, we finally had a breakthrough on Gunsmoke. I sent it on my second try of the day and even managed to make a second lap after an hour or so of rest. Choi *very nearly* sent the climb right after me. Crushingly, he barely miscalculated his last move and fell just inches from the pipe that signals the end of the climb. Regardless, it was a win and a very near win for both of us.
As a reward to ourselves, we picked up what turned out to be a life-changing treat from Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza, a local restaurant.
Curry. Pizza. If you ever find yourself anywhere near Joshua Tree you need to head immediately to Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza. When I say that I have thought about that curry pizza every day since eating it, I’m not exaggerating. It was incredible and we certainly hope to end up back in Joshua Tree soon, if not for the climbing than at least for that curry pizza!
On Friday, we made yet another wonderful discovery, the Joshua Tree Oasis Visitor Center. A welcoming place with picnic tables galore, outlets, free wifi, very clean bathrooms, and a beautiful view of the mountains. As we were both nearing the end of our hotspot data for the month and I have been having computer charging issues in the van, this setup was just what we needed to end the week.
Once Choi finished up work, he took advantage of the beautiful day and headed back to Gunsmoke while I finished up my work day at the visitor center. When he came back to meet me a couple of hours later, he was tired but elated, having finally sent Gunsmoke Traverse. A perfect finale to our two weeks in Joshua Tree!
Joshua Tree, we’re enchanted by your wacky trees, your dramatic weather, and your incredible climbing. We’ll definitely be back. Along We Go!