Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Thanksgiving in California: A Day in Joshua Tree National Park

I didn't photograph every single Joshua tree, but not for lack of trying.

Here's our first day in California--at the beach!
Here's our second day in California--in San Diego!

After leaving the dog beach in San Diego, we took the long drive to Joshua Tree National Park. On the way, we managed to eat at the grossest roadside restaurant that I have ever tasted--seriously, two of us couldn't even eat our meals, they were so gross--and we managed to see the grossest tourist site that I have ever seen. Salton Sea is foul, smells like death, and the children legitimately thought that we were going to die there, so that was pretty fun.

Oh, and this happened:

This is actually just a photo that I accidentally took as I was turning off the video feature on my camera as we were leaving a border patrol checkpoint. I'm just going to come out and say it: I am filled with righteous anger at the border patrol. I think they overstep their authority and contribute to the nationalistic, xenophobic mindset that's just a baby step away from Nazis in the streets. Back before the kids and I went to Canada I figured out (thanks to the ACLU) my strategy of noncompliance if I encountered them--no, I will not show you my driver's license. Am I free to go? No, I do not consent to a search of my car. Am I free to go?, etc.--but we thankfully didn't happen upon any during our trip, even though they were, indeed, blocking entire highways for hours at a time up in Maine where we were traveling.

But of course southern California is practically the axis mundi of Trump's nationalistic, xenophobic bullying, so of course the entire highway that we were on was shut down, cars at a standstill, for a border patrol checkpoint. 

Friends, I was loaded for bear. I was ready for noncompliance. Honestly, I was probably going to lose my temper, call the border patrol agent a baby jailer, and go to jail, myself, but whatever. The fact is, though, that I'd forgotten that my family consists of, like, the whitest Americans in America, practically. I'm the only one of us who isn't blonde! So the car hadn't even rolled to a complete stop when the border patrol agent peeked through the driver's side window and simply waved us on.

The car just in front of us, though? The drug sniffing dog started barking its head off at THAT car, it pulled off to the side, and the kids practically glued themselves to the windows to see what was going down as we passed.

Having accomplished practically every headache to be found in Southern California, we booked it towards Joshua Tree with the goal of stargazing that night. Unfortunately, as with the other National Dark Sky Preserve that the kids and I visited just a few months ago, it was too cloudy to see much, and we couldn't quite manage to navigate to a good stargazing spot. Still, we gave it plenty of effort, didn't completely freeze our buns off, I took this one photo that I actually like quite a lot:

That's me, without a tripod, using my car as a stationery object and failing to photograph Orion.

Fortunately, the next day was absolutely perfect. Just beautiful.

Will had been longing to see the desert. I think that an entire landscape of cacti will suit nicely!

Matt is only pretending to touch the cactus... I think:

There's for sure nothing blossoming back in Indiana in November!

Will is the worst person to hike with. As soon as you hit the trail, she takes off as far ahead as she can get:

Probably so she can sneak off and TOUCH THE CACTI!!!

Our first desert critter!

There are tons of short hikes to take and places to explore along the main roads through Joshua Tree. We hopped out several times to explore:

The kids' favorite activity by far was scrambling around the giant boulders and hills:

And, of course, I photographed NEARLY every single Joshua tree in the park, or at least I did my best to!

All that climbing wore the kids out so badly that they were decidedly unenthusiastic about the mill hike that the adults wanted to go on (and to be fair, hiking through sand SUCKS!), but they slogged along with us anyway:

There are all these abandoned artifacts off the trail, just left where they are to weather and look picturesque:

We didn't actually die on the trail, although it kind of felt like we would at times, but instead we made it safely back to the ranger station. A couple of us had business to attend to there!

Important Point: when you're offered the opportunity to wear a paper Park Ranger hat, you ALWAYS wear the hat.

The kids completed the Junior Paleontologist badge books at home, but I dragged them with us so that they could also turn them in at Joshua Tree. That's why each girl is wearing TWO badges!

From Joshua Tree National Park, it was essentially a straight shot to Anaheim. But what's that off in the distance?


Detour time!!!

Shockingly True Story: the dinosaurs are now owned by Young Earth Creationists, of all people, and you can go into the gift shop, look up and around, and see where they've tried to paint over the plaques displaying the succession of human evolution that the original owner created. We did that, but otherwise tried to ignore the rhetoric, and we certainly didn't give them any money! You can take all the photos that you want of these sweet babies for free!


Anyway, after we finally tore ourselves away from our sweet, sweet dinosaurs, we continued on our straight shot to Anaheim. We checked into our hotel, just a mile and a half walk from the entrance to Disneyland, and we went to bed early. Because it was the night before Thanksgiving, and the next day, Thanksgiving Day, we were going to celebrate the holiday in the most American way possible:

We were going to spend 16 hours in the happiest place on Earth!

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