I grew up spending a lot of time in the natural environment and I’ve always loved it. Over the years my time in nature has taken many forms – cutting grass for my family’s goats and sheep (or watching while that was done), hiking with the Barbados National Trust, walking 5ks, 10ks, and 60 milers for charity, walking/hiking/visiting parks wherever I travel, camping, and more. From childhood until now, my love of the natural environment has not waned; rather it has grown exponentially as I’ve continued to spend time outdoors. However, my love of the natural environment is now tempered by my increasing alarm and sometimes despair over how human activities are changing what I love. But I’ll blog about those concerns another day. Right now I’m focusing on the joy.
Living in California and meeting my outdoor tribe has allowed me to indulge and spend a lot more time hiking and camping in the last few year and as the title for this post suggests, I don’t always have to travel far from home to enjoy these activities. In fact I spent this past weekend in Joshua Tree National Park (JOTR), enjoying all of the benefits of being a nature-based tourist without the hassle of long-distanced travel. JOTR started its existence as a National Monument in 1936 and it was not until 1994 that it was elevated to a National Park. In 2018 it was the 11th most visited of the 60 national parks in the US, with 2,942,382 recreation visitors or 3.5% of all recreation visits to national parks (NPS, 2019).
Last weekend was my second time in JOTR but because the park is huge (792,623 acres of which 591,624 is wilderness (NPS, 2019)) I was in a different spot to my previous visit. The hike I did in 2011 was at a high enough elevation to see Joshua trees, but not this one. This time around my friends and I started from the Cottonwood Spring trailhead and hiked the Lost Palms Oasis Trail – around 8 miles round trip of awesomeness. Words like beautiful, majestic, and magnificent are insufficient to describe the grandeur of JOTR’s landscapes, so hopefully my photos will give some sense of what I enjoyed during the hike. I’ll just note that whether or not one believes in God (or any higher power), the vistas of JOTR assured me that there is some being out there that is far greater than I am, than we are. Plus they made waking up before the crack of dawn totally worth it!
It would be remiss of me to visit JOTR and not acknowledge the Native Americans – the Cahuillas – whose land I visited. Fortunately at the beginning of the trail the NPS provided some interpretation to help me to understand the people to whom I owe gratitude for taking good enough care of these lands that current visitors can still enjoy them.
A lot goes through my mind when I’m hiking. Some thoughts I share with my friends, some I don’t. Here are some of the things I pondered (all of these I could write individual posts about). Guess which ones I shared 🙂
- Why would people want to destroy natural resources rather than take care of them and use responsibly?
- What if I fall?
- Never hike alone.
- Why do I spin the day before I hike?
- What if people could read my thoughts?
- Am I going to make it?
- Are we there yet?
- About these hiking pants though – loose in the waist, tight in the hips, long in the crotch. What body shape were they made for?
- Black people don’t hike/camp? Hmmm …
- I remember when I didn’t take selfies … but got into the habit because I frequently travel alone.