Back into the land of Dr. Seuss trees

We love Joshua Tree National Park! And we’re so glad we returned after refuelling and relaxing in the little town of Twenty Nine Palms.
 On our way up to the park we bought a 5 gallon garafon that we’d fill at the Visitor Centre.

The night before, Derek and Anna Sierra went grocery shopping and picked up all kinds of delicious, healthy food including honey.

The plan was to ride to the Visitor Centre and see if we could meet another camper heading to Jumbo Rocks who wouldn’t mind carrying out water and extra food up to the campground for us so that we could manage the ascent.
Back in Ottawa, when we ski into a cabin for an overnight with friends, there are a number of parks – like Gatineau and Papineau Labelle – where you can pay a fee per bag (usually $25) to have your supplies delivered to the cabin by snowmobile.
In the Grand Canyon you can also get bags brought down to the campgrounds by mule train for a fee. We had been hoping to find something like this in Joshua Tree, that would make it easier to enjoy the park and stay overnight without a personal motorized vehicle, but hadn’t.
One of the more inspiring sustainable transportation initiatives I’ve seen in the last few years is Park Bus, an initiative from Toronto’s Transportation Options. This is a bus service that started by picking folks up (along with their camping equipment) in downtown Toronto and makes several stops in Algonquin Park.
After the first wildly successful season of car free camping, the service expanded to other parks and began partnering with MEC so beginner campers could learn how to use a stove, set up a tent and other camping basics. Within the park there are food lockers so chipmunks won’t get into food not stored In a trunk. And you can arrange to rent a canoe or kayak and have it delivered to your campsite, further eliminating the need for a personal vehicle. A few summers ago, I took the service from Ottawa to Algonquin Park and was able to bring my bike under the bus.
Even though there’s not a Park Bus in Joshua Tree, we were pretty confident we could have a great time returning for another few days with some help from friendly fellow visitors. As soon as we’d filled all our bottles, Jasper started asking people admiring our bikes if they were going into the park or out of the park. The second group he spoke with said they were going into the park and past Jumbo Rocks and agreed to deliver our water and food to the first picnic table they found, so we loaded the supplies into their trunk and started up the hill.

 The ride was lovely! There was a slight tailwind and the climb, though steady, was at a very manageable grade. Psychologically, I think we also found it easier knowing we were goi g to be climbing the whole ride. So as we rounded corners we wouldn’t be hoping to see the route level off or go downhill.
Before we knew it we were passing Skull Rock and then arriving at Jumbo Rocks where our food and water were waiting in the shade on a picnic table!
The kids started clambering over the rocks right away. Covered with a stucco-like surface of grippy pebbles, you really feel like Spiderman as you climb up and over steep slopes easily. I loved setting up our sage green tent in a nook between two giant rocks while listening to the kids’ voices echo off the rocks as they found trails high above us.
The next day after a leisurely breakfast, we biked over to Ryan Mountain for one of the park’s most iconic hikes. The views all the way to the peak were spectacular! Anna Sierra picked the hike and it was beautiful.
The kids love the freedom of hiking on ahead, chatting, meeting other hikers and waiting for us every once in a while. It’s a lovely change – especially for Jasper who is on the tandem with Derek – from biking where we need to be more mindful of traffic and the kids stick closer to us.
The day finished with Derek and I going to bed at 7:30 and the kids heading off in the dark with a headlamp for light and a sleeping bag for warmth to listen to a Ranger talk about the desert tortoise.
People often ask us if the kids are being homeschooled. We may not be following the curriculum very closely but those kids never miss an opportunity to learn. Whether it’s building a fire (Jasper), reading a map (both kids), meal planning (Anna Sierra), natural history and geography, Spanish and French (both kids), or all the social skills involved in meeting new people, they’re so eager to master the skills and stretch themselves. I’m learning that as well as teaching them, we need to get out of their way so they have room to practice.
Sending best wishes from the desert!


P.S. We have just heard that there’s going to be a new tracked cross country ski path along the Ottawa River that is about a 20 minute walk from our house! Pretty exciting news! We can’t wait to try it out next winter.


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