It’s been exactly 30 years since the band U2 released their iconic album The Joshua Tree. The Joshua Tree is one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling 25 million copies. The record featured an edgy rock vibe and catapulted the Irish band into superstardom. All the cool people in 1987 had one. So as we approached Joshua Tree National Park, we were wondering about the reason for the album’s name and cover photo of the band standing near a lone Joshua tree. We later learned that the photo was taken off Highway 190 near Death Valley, about 200 miles from the national park. Oh well, maybe they got lost because its ‘Where the streets have no name…’
We entered the park on a Thursday afternoon and were surprised to find out that campgrounds generally fill up for the weekends by Thursday night. We decided to check out Jumbo Rocks Campground first, having been told by a fellow camper that it was one of the better and larger ones. The park staff wasn’t exaggerating – the place was packed. We started to think that we’d have to move on when we spied an empty site with a tag, so decided to check. Sure enough the tag was blank so we moved in, taking the last site in the 117-space campground. It was a great location with our own private rock garden and sand pitch for the Bear to roam around in. Sites were $15/night and our NP pass saved us the $25 entrance fee.
Jumbo Rocks was fantastic. Not only was it an unusual area to stay – camping in and among the huge boulders and rock formations – there were Joshua trees everywhere.
Besides the national park, Joshua trees grow throughout the Mojave Desert. A Joshua tree can grow as high as 40 feet, has spiky leaves but interestingly, it is not a cactus; it’s a member of the agave family.
According to the park brochure, the name comes from Mormon pioneers who thought the limbs of the trees resembled the outstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land…
Joshua Tree National Park was terrific (except the typical NP restrictions on dogs being on nature trails). The scenery was amazing and for us, it was nice to be among young campers again instead of a gaggle of Snowbirds. We enjoyed hanging out by the fire and swapping beer with our neighbours: Krista (campbuymelove.com) and her partner Gerard.
The park has lots to see – climbing and hiking being the most featured attractions. The boulders and rock formations, despite looking like sandstone layers, are actually a form of granite. We did a fair bit of exploring, including a hike over to Skull Rock.
Joshua Tree NP was definitely worth a visit, with a lot more interesting sights than the typical desert topography. For us, and borrowing from one of U2’s hits off the album, we were ‘In God’s Country.’