VISIT JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
A Multi-Generational Experience
by Adrianne Morrison
Grab your travel bag and let’s take a road-trip. Yes, even you, Grandma!
Whether you’re an active or non-active person, you can experience a wonderful visit to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. This park isn’t just for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a scenic experience no one should miss.
I got to thinking about multi-gen vacations recently when a dear friend shared she was spending Christmas alone because her son and family were off camping. What if she had stayed close-by at our friend’s new Airbnb, The Cabin at Windy Gap? She could happily participate in some of her family’s camping vacation, sans the tent part, of course. While her loved ones were happily climbing into their sleeping bags, she could have easily headed back to her cozy, comfy bed at the cabin and everyone would fully enjoy their camping holiday. Totally doable.
The Cabin at Windy Gap feels remote yet it’s only 5-minutes from Joshua Tree Village and an easy 15-minute drive to the park’s West entrance. This 50’s era desert cabin offers a remodeled interior and garage space in a private and gated setting on a 10-acre property with amazing views. It’s not made for wheelchairs as it has a step-up to the kitchen and step-down to the bedroom/bath, but if you can handle these, a short uphill walk, your stay here is sure to enchant. The owners, Micha and Nicole are friendly, as is their doggie-greeter, Sahara—together they boast a 5-Star rating from their growing list of happy Airbnb guests.
Temperatures in Joshua Tree vary from the low 40’s to 100, so if you visit in the wintertime be sure to wear layers, and in summertime bring your sunscreen and sun-hats! There is limited to NO cell service so keep your maps handy and observe desert and park safety rules. Note, park campground reservations are recommended (campsite # and location are mandatory if planning a meet-up), and remember no pets are allowed on park trails so plan accordingly.
As you enter the park you receive an informative quarterly newspaper showcasing all that is special about Joshua Tree National Park, a map, and listing of current park events. This park appeals to active people as it’s a perfect place for hiking and boulder/rock climbing with campsites in-between the unique rock formations. Plus, it’s open for equestrian use and backcountry roading and camping. But if you’re not into these activities, that shouldn’t stop your visit.
From the West entrance, it’s a breathtaking, often surreal drive where you will feel as if you are inside a terrarium or a dream—am I in God’s experimental garden, or a giant child’s playground? The rock formations morph before your eyes into all kinds of images (they’re called, Mimetoliths). Then the road opens up to vast vistas. My Navy-veteran son and escort for my first drive-thru visit observed “the clouds float along the horizon just like they do in the middle of the ocean.”
My advice for the non-active visit: Set your alarm to see the desert sunrise, head to Joshua Tree Village for breakfast at Crossroads Cafe, grab an organic JT coffee for the ride, and pick-up Subways for lunch. Leisurely drive through the park. Stop at the points of interest for a stretch and take lots of pictures. Find a place to lunch where you can watch the awesome rock climbers, then continue on your exploration with an eye towards experiencing the Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset—simply gorgeous. The cacti take on a secret glow as the sun sets—are there hidden fairy lights in this garden?
With the family or friends camping nearby in the park, you can meet-up for a campsite dinner, search the dark skies for UFOs, and sing campfire ‘Kumbaya.’ Or, head out of the park towards the North entrance and dine at The Rib Company in Twentynine Palms—be sure to have the cheesecake or take it to go! Once back at The Cabin you can relax, stargaze and climb into your cozy, comfy bed.
Staying at The Cabin at Windy Gap in Joshua Tree is my idea of a “camping holiday.” It takes a little more planning and coordination for a multi-gen/multi-activity-level vacation but well worth the effort and memories. A visit to Joshua Tree National Park is a great place to give it a try.
As my son says, “YOLO” (You Only Live Once!) Indeed. Jason purchased the “Interagency Annual Pass: $80—a huge bargain IMO since it allows access to any “federally-managed recreation sites that charge an Entrance Fee.” I purchased the $10 Lifetime Senior Pass—I know I’ll be back this Spring—California’s Wildflowers will be profuse this year after all the rain—sounds like a great time to book a stay in The Cabin at Windy Gap.