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 4] On the way back home

Today was our last day and we wished we could have stayed longer. We woke up in the morning, packed our stuff, and headed out. Before heading home, we stopped by the Glen Canyon Overview. It was walking distance from the hotel and this would have been a great place to see the sunrise/sunset. But we decided to hit it as our final destination before leaving Page. There is a small parking lot here and there was a small trail that led to the Canyon. The trail is a bit hilly/curvy and also has stairs.

The terrain here was really interesting and it was a bit challenging getting down. I tried to hold the railing but it was burning. The area was also dog friendly as we saw several dogs on a walk. This was a really short trail and I would recommend dropped by before leaving the city.

I wish I took a panorama photo to get the full canyon. The water was low but you could see the river connect all the way down. It would be amazing to see the dam open and seeing the water just pour into river. We sat on the edge of the Canyon and just took in the last fresh air and the view and headed out.

On the way home, we took in as much of the canyons as possible. We rolled down the windows as we drove by and we even stopped by the road to take some photos. Every moment was a different beauty .

We hade quiet drive to Las Vegas and we stopped by to have dinner with my college friend. We were on the outskirts of town and the restaurant we visited was great with social distancing and wearing masks. We took some time to relax, eat, and enjoy some good conversation. If we had more time and if everything was open normally, I would have visited some dessert places but we had to end on dinner. Till next time.

From Las Vegas to home, we stopped by the rest area to use the bathroom. From the highway, we noticed that only some rest stops were open and not all gas stations allowed the public to use their restrooms. We also carried a sanitizing wipe and cleaned everything before touching it. Best to be careful.

We didn’t get to use our Plan A but overall, it was a great trip! I would love to do this again and use my Plan A 🙂

[day 2] lottery and onwards to page, az

Today was a big day! Lottery day for the Coyote Buttes permit. According to their website, the lottery would take place daily at the Kanab Center at 8 am. Luckily, the Perry Lodge was walking distance (across the street!) from the Center so it was an easy walk. There is a parking lot at the Center if you are bringing your vehicle. At 8 am, they open the doors for people to fill out their application.

Things you need to know about the application

  • Bring your own pen/pencil
  • license plate number
  • emergency contact (someone who is not traveling with you)
  • cash or check of $7 per person in case you win the lottery

I arrived around 8:15 am and there was already several applicants. After filling out my application, I decided to wait in the room and ask some questions about the lottery. The rangers told me that only 20 people can enter per day and 10 are pre-selected from the online lottery and 10 are selected during the in-person lottery. For the in-person lottery, they keep picking groups until they hit 10 people, not 10 groups. Meaning, if the first lottery picked has 2 people, the rangers keep picking the lottery until 10 hits. And if they are at 9 people, and the next group picked has a group of 4, the group can decided to pass their chance or kick people off their group.

While waiting in the room, I noticed a lot of repeat applicants from the day before. The ranger mentioned that they keep the application since people do come for second and third rounds. The ranger also told me that the day before they had 82 applications and it was their busiest day so far.

At 9 am, the room was packed with applicants and the ranger did a roll-call and gave every applicant their lottery number. Today there were 75 applicants and I was number 50. The ranger asked if everyone remembered their number and there were several people who could not remember and the rangers provided the numbers again. The lottery proceeded quickly from here and unfortunately, I didn’t win. Sad but I guess more reason to come back 🙂 The ranger recommended several different local spots we could visit so we decided to pick one and go with it.

After not winning the lottery, I headed back to the lodge’s lobby and pick up our breakfast bag. Usually they would provide continental breakfast but since COVID, they were giving out small lunch bag. The Lodge’s bag wasn’t bad. It had yogurt, pastry, fruit bowl, juice, apple, string cheese, granola bar, and a water bottle. Not bad. We thought it was perfect to take it for our hikes. We packed our things and checked out and headed towards the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.

On our way, we made a pitstop to see the Sand Dune Arch. This wasn’t on Google maps but it was on the pamphlet that the ranger gave out. The direction on the handout wasn’t very clear so we got lost a bit but luckily, there was no one around and it made it feel like we owned the place. While following the google maps toward the Dunes, from HWY 89, you will make a left turn at Hancock road. From there, you have to park your car around 64B. Walk towards the bird-like rock (on google maps, this is the Lone Rock Overlook) and keep following the road to the left that goes down the hill. At the end of the hill, you should see the Arch. It wasn’t as grand as the name makes it to be.

It was a mid-sized arch. It looks pretty small in the picture but the hole in the center was about 5feet5inches. We spent some time here, climbing the Arch and looking around the area. But other than the Arch, this area was empty and no visitors. After seeing enough, we headed back to our vehicle and drove off to the Dunes. About 15 minutes in, we started to see the Dunes and lots of ATVs. And while driving, the GPS told us that we arrived but it was in the middle of the road?! Not even a parking lot! So we parked on the side of the street and walked into the Dunes. There were small trail like area so we followed that in.

Guys. The sand dunes are not something you should just walk into. We saw the high dunes and thought they were relatively close but it wasn’t. We ended up walking around 40 minutes to get to the bottom of the dunes. However, it was really impressive! The sand was really soft and as we climbed to the top, we kept sinking a bit. By the time we got to the top, we had sand in our pants and shoes! The sand waves were really pretty and from the top, you can see the other dunes and there were teams of people in ATVs and also sandboarding.

One thing to definitely consider is the sun. There were no shade and it was 98 degree sun just beating on us. After our climb, we headed back but we got lost. All the trails were starting to look the same and we ended up somewhere we didn’t pass. We were lucky we brought our water bottle but it was just too hot. We ended up following the sound of vehicles passing on the road and got out. I think if you were to walk, make sure you bring something to help you navigate (like strings you can tie around plants?).

After getting out of the maze-like Dunes, we headed to our next destination, Page, AZ. The drive to Page was very straight forward with lots of canyon views. The red colors of the canyons along the roads were a sight to see! And once at Page, we were amazed to see all the water from the Lake Powell into the canyons! We quickly checked into our hotel for the next 2 days, Sleep Inn & Suites, ate a quick lunch/dinner, and headed to Lake Powell.

We brought our swimsuits just in case and it was a good thing we did. The hotel gave us two options for swimming: The Wahweap Marina and The Chain. The Marina was a bit further but it has a beach and is part of the National Park. The Chain was more of a local people’s gathering area and was close to the dam. We decided to give The Chain a try and I’m so glad we did.

From the hotel, you have to follow signs/GPS to The Hanging Garden Trail. Do not park at the parking lot but keeping driving down until you see another parking lot (there is a small building at the end). Park here and you can follow the trail down to the bottom. It is about a 10-15 minute walk. Once at the bottom, you should see people swimming, fishing, and just enjoying themselves.

It was amazing to swim between the canyons! The colors were amazing and the water was just right. At some parts, it was shallow but it dips rather quickly so if you cannot swim, I would not recommend this place. On the deeper end, we noticed small motor boats driving by so watch out for those as well. This place was really peaceful and nice. No wonder the locals come here to relax! And I couldn’t believe we were able to swim so close to the dam! It was definitely an experience 🙂

We played in the waters until sundown. After getting out, we explored the area a bit before heading back. The view of the canyons along with the rock formations were just amazing. We didn’t want to leave! Plus, there were still several groups of people here when we left.

Once back at our hotel, we washed up, relaxed, and talked about our plans for the next day. Tomorrow was going to be our big day: Grand Canyon!