Day trip to Joshua Tree National Park

Myself and 2 other friends decided to drive to Joshua Tree for a short getaway trip. This was planned semi-last minute but it was still a blast. I know the title says that it was a day trip and technically, it was an overnight trip but it was something that could be done as a day trip. Of course my biggest reason for this trip was to see the stars so plan accordingly!

We planned on leaving SD at 10am but ending up leaving around 11am on Saturday. We all met at the meeting location on time but rearranging the icebox and things took longer than expected. However, we did not have any concrete plans for the day so we took it easy.

The road to our Airbnb (located near Palm Desert) was pretty clear and we were able to make it in no time. On our way, we saw the field of wind turbines and wow! That was a sight to see. The waves of white windmills, row by row. When we thought the field ended, another field started. We saw one being installed and I personally was glad to see them go up! I am all for alternative energy.

Once we arrived, we messaged the Airbnb host. We had previously arranged to arrive early with the host but when we arrived, the host messaged us saying that the house was not ready yet. So we decided to drive around and find a good stop to chill before getting access to our rental. We searched the web and ended up at the Town Square Park in hopes to find some peace and quiet, and we sure did.

It was almost 100 degrees outside and we were the only ones at the park. I was hoping to see the fountain in action as google maps showed but it was turned off. There were benches and shades (thank goodness!) and we were able to just relax here until it was time for us to check in to our airbnb.

After we checked in, we put all our food in the fridge, and took a small break before heading out to Joshua Tree National Park. We wanted to get there before sun down to walk around a bit. We did not realize that it would take so long at the entrance to get into the park! There was a line of cars, waiting to buy the pass, and we had to just wait. Once it was our turn to purchase, we noticed that the ranger was fully covered (including masks and gloves) and she used a pick up tool to take the credit card from us. What a smart way to stay safe!

Once in the Park, we drove in until we saw a good spot and walked around. We noticed a couple taking wedding photos and a group of friends picnic-ing. I do have to say that there were lots of people not wearing masks here. Maybe it is because it is the outdoors but compared to the other Nationals Parks I’ve been to since the pandemic, this place was full of people just walking around without masks on. I kepted mine on most of the time (excluding short moments when I took photos) and tried to keep my distance.

The sun was starting to set and we were able to see some beautiful colors next to the weird joshua trees. I find these trees really interesting as they grow in all shapes and sizes. I especially like ones that are tall and has lots of branches.

While walking around, we found some people rock climbing! There were several young kids too! They were fully geared up and ready to climb. We didn’t have anything to climb up as high as them but we found a nice, small rock to get on top of to enjoy the rest of the sunset.

Once the sunlight was gone, we headed back to our airbnb. We brought lots of food to cook and was able to enjoy a full feast! The airbnb was lacking in some utensils and we had forgotten some seasonings but we made it work. We all brought things we wanted to eat hence we have several variety of dishes. Of course our main dish was the meat. What is “camping” without some BBQ?

After the meal, we waited until it was late enough to see all the stars and headed back to the Park. It was around 11pm when we left the airbnb. And we weren’t the only ones going to the park to stargaze. We saw lots of cars parked in the lots and on the side of the road. We tried several spots and tried our best to stay away from people. I had a really hard time getting my camera to focus this time but at the end, I did manage to snap some star photos 🙂 Not the clearest photo but I still like it.

It was getting really cold around 1am and we headed back. We didn’t really have any plans for the next day but I asked if the girls were down for a small trail and they agreed. I looked at several locations but some of the places were closed due to covid (for example, the Coachella Valley Preserve). I found a place called Tahquitz Canyon and saw that they had a hike to a waterfall. Since it was really hot, I thought this might be a good idea and we agreed to go after checking out.

However, we all ended up getting up super early and ended up heading to the hike around 7am. This was a good call. When we got to the Tahquitz Canyon, there was a sign that said that the waterfall was dry! Since this Canyon had an entrance fee, we did not want to pay to see a dry waterfall.

We ended up doing Cactus to Clouds trail. This was part of a long trail but we only ended up doing the short version of it. We only climbed to the first peak that gave us a great view of the city. And we were really glad we came early! By the time we got to the top, the sun was beating down on us. The air was still cool but the sun was unforgiving. I mean, it is the desert. Our hike was about 1 hour long and it was a lot of zigzags to the top.

I’m not all that fit but this wasn’t a bad hike and I’m glad we were able to do it together. We came back to the airbnb, ate quick breakfast, packed our things, and checked out. We slowly made our way back home. Since it was still early (around 12pm), we thought it would be a quick drive back but there was massive traffic all the way and ended up taking double the time. But we were rocking our playlist and kept our conversations going. We had a great time and cannot wait for our next trip together!

[Day 3] Horseshoe bend and grand canyon

Today was our main event! We were planning on hitting 2 major view points in Arizona, Horseshoe Bend and Grand Canyon. The last time I visit this area was 4 years ago and at that time, we were only able to drive by Horseshoe Bend so this was my first time actually visiting. I was super excited for it.

Before heading out, we made samgak kimbap (triangular kimbap) for lunch/dinner/snack. It was our first time making it but it wasn’t too hard. We made Tuna-Mayo gimbap and kept it cool in the ice box. We weren’t sure what time we might arrive at Grand Canyon so we made sure to take enough food and drinks with us.

Our first stop was Horseshoe bend. There were several changes since 3 years ago! They now had a paid parking lot with a gate and had a $10 per vehicle entry fee. And the trail down to the overlook was all new as well. Before, there was no actual trail but a sandy path that people took. The new trail was great, with a few stopping points, as well as, semi-fenced path. The path itself took longer than before since it wrapped around but it felt more safer. This was also pet-friendly area as I saw several dogs on the trail, all leashed.

Once we got to the edge, I noticed that they fenced off the main area, making the place safer for families with children. There were several spaces, left and right, that did not have the fence and people were sitting on the edge, all enjoying the view. And I don’t blame them! It was beautiful.

We visited in the morning but I would recommend visiting during the afternoon to avoid the shadows shown in the picture. However, it was still amazing to see it in person. Just watching the boats go by and enjoying the sun and wind made things very serene. The horizontal line that split the canyon and the sky, the view of the river… I definitely could have just sat here for hours.

Also, visiting at 10am, there wasn’t a lot of people at the Bend. We were able to take pictures without people in it and enjoy the scene quietly. I cannot say for sure how busy the afternoon gets. But my guess is that it will be slightly more busy to see the Bend without the shadows.

After taking in the scene, we headed out to Grand Canyon North rim. This was my first time going to the North rim so I was super excited to see the difference. Everyone told me that they enjoyed the South rim more but I wanted to see it with my own eyes. On the way to Grand Canyon, we passed by the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs wilderness area. Only if we had won the lottery. I will have to try again next time 🙂

The drive to Grand Canyon was longer than expected but quite surprising. We were driving through the desert one moment and next, we were passing through a forest! There were so many trees! We rolled down our windows and enjoyed the cool, fresh air. Also, from the welcome sign and entrance booth, the canyon was another 30-40 minute drive! Due to Covid, they were not accepting cash/credit card at the booth. You had to purchase the pass from their website. The park ranger handed us a map with the website’s QR code.

We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the rim but we wanted to do at least do one trail. And there must have been several people who visited the Rim with the same idea because they had a sign for it!

We decided to do the shortest one so we can have lots of time for photos and it was the right choice. Once we were on the Bright Angel Point trail, every few steps, we ended up stopping and taking photos because it was just breathtaking. The depth, the colors, the ridges… it was all just amazing.

I really loved seeing all the red shades! Just wow. Just these simple glimpse were enough to make the trip worth it. The North rim had its own kind of beauty and I would not compare it to the South rim. However, personally, I think I prefer the North rim. Getting here is troublesome but the view really took my heart away.

We had to walk a bit more to reach the end of the trail. The trail itself is not hard but there are small ups and downs. Several area did not have railings and were a bit narrow as well. But the view at the end made it all worth the walk.

The camera does not do it justice! The 360 view of the Canyon was amazing. Plus, when we got to the end, there were only a handful of people. Most of them were wearing masks and just taking pictures. We ended up doing the same. It was amazing to see the red and the green together. We both stood here in awe for a few moments.

After taking in the view, we headed back to the parking lot and found a picnic area to eat our packed lunch. And the view from the picnic area was amazing too. We were able to eat while enjoying the Canyon and the fresh air! The openness really made my cabin fever go away.

On our way out, we saw some buffalo and deer. The cars in front of us stopped and for a moment, we didn’t know why. We only noticed when people started to get out of their cars to take photos. It was pretty cool. We didn’t want to disturb them so we drove off slowly. The sun started to set as we got out of the forest area and the way the sunset light was beaming on the canyon was something that just made us pull over.

Just looking at this, I was mesmerized. I started to wonder what the sunset would be like at the Grand Canyon North rim and told myself that next time, I will try to spend a night at the rim. Once the sun started to set, the light was gone quick! We ended up arriving at our hotel in the dark! But we both agreed that it was all worth it.

We took a break and rested a bit before heading out again. This time, to see the stars! I love stargazing and it is definitely better in the dark. We left the hotel around 11pm and drove into the darkness. And while driving out, we were able to see stars brightly shining in the sky. It was just amazing. We parked safely and viewed the stars. Because we were on the road, we had cars go by but only a few and it didn’t bother us. We were able to see the Milky Way with our naked eyes and it came out even more clearly in the photos. What a great way to end the night!