When I stopped at the office in Joshua Tree National Park, I was given two warnings.
“You'll need to be self-sufficient in the park. There's no water in the campsites.” The ranger paused. “Also, this time of year it's mostly climbers. They tend to party pretty late. Don't know if that's your thing.”
It seems everywhere I camp there are wild animals. But at least these wouldn't steal my food. Probably. Like raccoons, climbers do have opposable thumbs.
Joshua Tree was other-worldly. I'm not a climber, and so my days were spent hiking through desert landscapes so surreal they were more dream than reality. None of the photos will do it justice. Wandering through stretches of land that seemed like the insides of someone's mind, or the underside of another planet.
The climbers were not the party animals the ranger described.
After a few days, I went to Vegas. Playing poker, I introduced myself to a fellow, Jay, sitting next to me. Turned out we're both doing the same thing, traveling. We were both in the same crappy motel across from the casino, paying $220 a week.
I told him about Joshua Tree. “You should try hiking there on acid,” he said. "It's even more incredible."
Jay had previously been in northern California, working on a pot farm. "It's good money. I just trimmed weed for eight hours a day," he said. We drank beers and played cards for a very long time.
Back at the motel, the faucet tasted disgusting and so I got water from the van and made soup. Self sufficient. I remembered the park ranger. It was 3 a.m. by this point, and I knew the climbers had been asleep for hours.