finally... For years and many trips we have driven all around joshua tree. We've passed it on all sides and never ventured in. Part in fear of the crowds we've been told about and in part completely accidental or bad timing... but we were excited to finally spend some time in the park.
We actually pulled in fairly late after the park was closed, and based upon those stories of massive crowds i mentioned we decided to not drive all the way through the park looking for camping. In fact, we were entering the park from the southern end and opted to simply boondock on the BLM land between the park and the highway. Basically a completely legal and way to stay in (okay, just outside of) Joshua Tree for free!
There was a lot of open space here depending on how far off the road you wanted to drive, but all the other campers we saw flocked together in one small space north of the road. We obviously turned south instead.
No facilities here, nothing fancy or magical, but a pretty awesome spot in the middle if the desert with the freeway far enough away it couldn't be heard and really only became a distant light show as the semis passing by turned into glowing millipede along the horizon.
The next day we entered the park, took a welcome shower (the facilities here are actually terrific if you hit one of the campgrounds or welcome stations that offer them) and then proceeded to drive through the park.
We were only a few days before the long weekend and just assumed crowds would be even worse than normal...but as we drove through almost every campground had a couple of spots open. Being our first time we risked that changing and drove through all of them looking for the best spot and finally nested up among a giant rock outcropping for the night.
We hung out in the shade by the van loving the crazy landscape and watching coyotes and other desert critters play while the humans hid from the heat during the day.
It was absolutely fantastic. The type of landscape we could spend days (or weeks) in and never stop taking photos from new angles or as new sun angles changes the lighting.
Our little camp was almost completely surrounded by a rock outcropping so despite being in the middle of a campground (something we rarely do) we felt private and alone most of the day.
We did have a few random groups come by, talking about the van and mesmerized by the awning, and ecstatic when we invited them in for a tour. This... this is how we pictured marketing our new business back at its inception. This one on one meetings with people drawn to the van (and to the outdoors) is much more what we had in mind rather than the 1000s of people we talked to at expo last week.
We left camp later in the days to explore other reaches of the park and take in how completely the landscape and terrain changes from one part to another, but we never seemed to stay gone too long as we missed our little private oasis in the desert.
Were it not for on loud "frat party" type of camp (there's always one it seems, and probably the biggest reason we don't frequent campgrounds)... we like our nature natural and quiet and if were going to pay for it we prefer others are looking for the same) across the way from our camp we probably could have made ourselves believe that we were the only ones there.
Depending on how lost youre looking to get...JT may be perfect (or horrible) for you. There's absolutely zero cell reception in most of the park, which was both pleasant and ensured we couldn't (at least right now) stay for weeks on end.
In fact...we've been out of Flagstaff for almost a week and our van still hasn't been picked up- so we have important business to attend to! =/
There's no doubt we'll return to the Park. It's a magical place and the landscape speaks to us and is pure eye candy. That being said...it also brought back fond memories of a similar landscape, without the park fees and without the frat party. One where we literally slept alone in the desert next to giant boulders and were literally the only ones there. Ah, mexico... our hearts are still with you! ;)