Day 12. 1/22/2016. Starting Odometer: 144253. Final Odometer: 144547. Mileage: 287. Total Mileage 2374.
When dawn came, I made my way to the Joshua Tree National Park visitor center in 29 Palms. They hadn’t opened yet, which bummed me out, because I’d hoped to be able to get a patch and stamp. My idea was I’d get a patch of the national park’s logo, and then get the national park passport book stamped at every park I visited, and had been successful at Great Basin and Death Valley. Knowing I had a long way to go before the end of the day, I fretted that this might be the first park I missed out on this personal challenge. Ah well. They still had a wonderful collection of desert flora and interesting information about the people who’d help protect, preserve, and then establish this park.
I took a couple of pictures and then headed in.
One thing I read on the informative signs I’d seen at the visitor center, was that Joshua Tree had two very distinct desert ecosystems. I was entering through the Mojave desert, and it extended into the park, but ran smack into the Colorado desert halfway through. What this meant for me was that the first half of my trip through the park was just what I’d seen before. Joshua trees and lots of them, and then boulders. Like BOULDERS. Honest to God, I thought I was in Bedrock, home of the Flinstones. I thought that at any corner I would round a bend and see Brontosauruses lumbering through the terrain. It was surreal.
I had lunch at a picnic spot underneath towering boulders, and basked in the winter sun. This would be the first park I did not stay overnight in, since the trip got cut short. From this point on, my compass was pointing toward home, and I wondered if like Joshua Tree, split in half by two competing deserts, did the park also split my road trip in half? One half a lonely march away from life, love and responsibility and the other half a breakneck race back to the same? What had this road trip accomplished, if anything?
U2’s Joshua Tree was still playing in the cabin of the RV when I packed everything back up, and I listened for a while, understanding, not understanding, satisfied with where I was, unsatisfied with where I was heading, confused as to whether or not the choice to come home was the right one, but committed to do it anyway. The music washed over me, I kicked the engine into gear, and headed for the coast. My next stop was a national park 30 miles off the coast of California, and the boat was sailing on the morn.
The universe sent me little messages that everything would be ok as the day progressed. I paid off two major debts holding over my head. I got my patch and stamp at the other end of the park. I made it to Ventura without major traffic and got to spend the sunset watching waves press the shore with their own questions, only to retreat back to the sea whether they had been answered or not.