Camp in Joshua Tree National Park ✓

June 5, 2017

The first day in Joshua Tree was ah-mazing.

Blast Johnny Cash and drive a Bronco through the desert? Check!

Stick our heads out the window? Check!

Wear matching bandanas and pretend we are cowgirls? Check!

Read, watch the sunset, set up a tent? Check, check, check!

But as night rolled around, our campsite turned into a party. We had three campsites and twenty people, so this wasn’t surprising. “Can’t we all just be peaceful and listen to the nature?” My little sister, Erisy, announced, as my brother cackled because that just wasn’t going to happen. Not at this campsite.

In the morning, I woke up on the wrong side of the sleeping pad. It was 5:30 am and I was hot, hungover, and filthy. My little sister had to drive back to Santa Barbara for work, and I was supposed to camp another night, but all I wanted was to leave.

Do I just….leave? I wondered. I could think of dozens of reasons to leave. Work. Writing. Breakfast. Coffee. Wifi. Shower. I wanted to clean my room and wash my hands.  I had things to do! Did I actually want to spend another night in the desert? I watched my little sister pack up her car, and didn’t know what to do. Erisy was too busy packing to listen to my indecisiveness. So, I climbed to the top of a boulder to sit for a moment and figure it out.

“Okay, desert. What do I do?” I asked, standing on a hill overlooking a bunch of those adorable, ziggy-zaggy Joshua Trees that look like they might get up and walk away at any second. I listened, but an answer didn’t come. “C’mon desert,” I reasoned, realizing the absurdity of making requests to such a dry, rugged landscape. I watched the sunrise in the distance hoping for some sort of sign. But…nothing. So, I headed back down the hill, and just as I was about to tell my sister I was coming with her, a song popped in my head. A Rihanna song.

“I want you to staaaaaaay.”

I stopped in my tracks. Well, I guess that will do for a sign, I thought. I never listen to this song, and in that moment I did kind of wish “Bye bye bye” or “Leaving on a Jet plane” would have gotten stuck in my head. But nonetheless, I had my answer. I was staying.

That day I tried to make the best of my decision. I drove into town and went to a coffee shop. (Best Coffee in J- Tree: Joshua Tree Coffee Company. They roast their own organic beans AND have nitro iced coffee), wrote in my journal, read my horoscope, and hiked with Bette. We did the Lost Horse Mine Hike, and the name was quite fitting, because we did, in fact, get lost. But that was okay– it was SO beautiful! 

When we got back to the campsite, I found myself circled around a bright orange crackling campfire with my family and friends, eating red meat and drinking red wine, with my Bette in my lap and a ukulele by my side. And in true cowboy fashion, we also had a flask of bourbon we passed around.

And soon ….we were singing. Soon we broke out into our very own A cappella rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with air guitars and lap drums. And just as we were finished, we heard the sound of footsteps approaching until a woman stood in front of us with her hands on her hips and a disapproved look on her face. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, you guys sound great,” she admonished, “but you literally just woke up like 50 campsites. You’re lucky no one has called the park ranger.” We looked at our watches. It was 4 in the morning. We apologized, pinched our lips together, and tiptoed away to our tents.

That night, I fell asleep with Bette cuddled in my sleeping bag. I couldn’t believe I almost traded in this adventure so I could go home to work and shower. Sometimes I get so caught up the little things I “have to be doing” or “should be doing,” that I forget to think about the bigger picture of my life. And I know that when I’m 80, I won’t remember the weekends I stayed in to work or sleep in my own bed. I’ll remember the nights I drank whiskey around a campfire like a cowgirl, slept in a tent with my dog, and got scolded in the desert for singing Bohemian Rhapsody at 3:45am. It’s total nonsense, but nonsense that makes life worth living