US holidays - on the road, first impressions
Updated: Jan 18
I'm sitting in my car, it's pretty cosy as I use my sleeping bag as a blanket and my pillow as a back cushion and I'm waiting in the Red Rock Canyon area close to Las Vegas until the winter storm will calm down outside. The car is shaking due to the wind gusts and a lot of areas are flooded here, but it's nothing too bad so far.
I'm on the road for over a week, today is a national holiday in the US: it's Martin Luther King day, which is always on a Monday and everyone is in a holiday mood.
I haven't expected much out of my car in the beginning, but it turned out very well. It's so spacious that I fit all my stuff in there, I can sleep very comfortably and I enjoy spending time in the car. The Jetboil cooker which I bought here works perfectly and it's super compact and convenient to use. The only downside is long-distance driving, when one sits in the car for 4, 6 or 8 hours alone. It hurts - my back, my bum, my legs and my feet hurt and I also get bored and tired while driving alone in the end.
I hit the road exactly after 2 days spent in LA. I haven't seen much of the city, but it was a needed break to organize myself, go shopping and be able to get the ESTA immigration permit (you need to indicate a hotel or permanent address after arrival).
I haven't had a fixed plan for my travels, but the drive to Palm Springs from LA isn't long (3 hours) and the Joshua Tree National Park sounded like a great plan for a start.
The day when I wanted to start driving to Palm Springs, I spent on a hike in the Hollywood Hills in LA. The hike took much longer than expected and I started driving out of LA first during the sunset. I found a camping place in advance, which didn't seem to be far away from Palm Springs, but what I didn't know was that this camping is closed for winter and that this place is set high on a mountain. At 7 p.m. when it was dark, I drove up the pass road towards Mt. Jacinto state park and I realized, that everything was closed, the smaller roads were covered by snow and the road back to the valley was too long. I stopped at a not-so-busy road, parked where it was definitely not allowed and went to sleep. I was so scared that I slipped in the front seat early in the morning, drove to the first nice viewpoint back to the valley and made myself a hot coffee there.
Palm Springs in the morning with the sunshine seemed like heaven. I changed my clothes in a parking lot at a diner, where I had my first eggs benedict of this trip (eggs Benedict just make me happy :)). I bought a ticket for a film festival in Palm Springs which took place the following night and left for Joshua Tree for a small excursion.
Joshua Tree has 3 entrances, the Northern, then one smaller, also northern, but more to the East, and one Southern. The Nothern entrance is the most popular and also the busiest one. I bought the annual pass for all US National Parks there, it costs 80 USD and gives you unlimited access to all US National Parks. The following day, I used the southern entrance to the park close to Cottonwood and I liked this one way better. One is faster at the more interesting boulder areas in the park and the entrance is not occupied.
As a bonus, there's a nice camping spot for free just in front of the park. It's a parking spot within a desert with few bushes and lots of sand, but it's flat, it's a bit higher above the valley and the sunrise there is amazing. One can also book a spot at the camping places within the park (the rangers will check). These camping spots cost ca. 20-25 USD a spot and the only thing that you get in addition is a fireplace, a table with a bench and a basic toilet and a trash bin. And lots of neighbours :)
What I forgot to mention is that there's no mobile coverage in the park. It makes the stay very comfortable and you can focus on whatever you do at the moment, but it's also up to you to not get injured or lost or have an accident with your car.
After Joshua, I hit the road towards Phonenix and Flagstaff (Grand Canyon), but about this later...