As with vices of alcohol and chocolate, it's good to put internet and blog compulsions aside once in a while to see if you've crossed over the blurry line to "addiction." Joshua Tree National Park is an outstanding place to detox—to go "cold turkey"—for it has zero "bars" of Verizon. Not even Kareem Abdul "Wilson," our mighty signal magnet, could muster a connection with the World Wide Web of Malaise. And phones? Nope, no 911 net to break one's "fall," should they fall in Joshua. And trust me, there are no shortages of places to do just that.
Sometimes for better, sometimes worse, the inter-net becomes a mental, if not emotional, safety net. Don't believe me? Try spending a week or even a day without its "needle"—and force yourself to spend time with the last person on earth you want to be alone with, the one person with whom you've grown most out of touch with since the advent of broadband distractions. Yourself. If living without "Likes" and comments make you anxious, then perhaps you've crossed the line of addiction. Take a run on up to Joshua… see if you can stay a whole week.
Bobbie and I sure thawed out playing in and around the Colorado River Basin. Whew, the further south we traveled, the hotter it got… too hot, in fact. Temps climbed into the insufferable 80's, sometimes nudging 90, which tends to sap energy and limits our hiking/biking style. At nearly 5000 feet, Joshua's high temperatures rolled back to a comfortable 65 to 75 degrees. Perfect.
Our backroad approach to Joshua wandered across a bleak sea of absolute nothingness. There were occasional crossroad hovels—sun-beaten trailers and RV relics, melting into a dour, sun-scorched wasteland. We passed hodgepodge storage-shed shacks, adorned TV antenna masts bent askew by time and prevailing winds. What a blowtorch this place must be come June, July, and August. It bewilders me how and why some people choose to live in such barrenness, heat, and wind. It's not meant for habitation. Why choose a place that makes an already hard life harder? But, as they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Who am I to define "beauty?" Places like this proves that beauty does indeed lie in the eyes of the beholder.
Hostility and sterility eased as we approached 29 Palms, a desert burg that laps against a bouldered mountain upon which Joshua rests. At least it provides a modicum of visual relief. We gassed Goldie and treated ourselves to a cone at Foster's Freeze—a favorite ice-cream and burger joint, straight out of my Arizona based childhood.
Goldie grunted out the remaining thirty some uphill miles to Jumbo Rocks Campground. It was late afternoon by the time camp was set and we needed to stretch our legs before succumbing to Goldie's Lounge for the long dark night ahead. Bobbie and I chose to go separate ways, to explore and have some quality alone time.
I did a mile on a nice wide trail then headed off cross-country. The wind had abated to a light breeze, and the setting sun washed my granite-bouldered surround in golden light and long shadows. A refreshing chill raised a few bumps on forearms—a nice change after weeks in the fiery cauldron of the Colorado River Corridor. Coolness always recharges my energy levels. I looked forward to spending entire days exploring and photographing this magical, surreal place.
I made a long sweep through the desert in fading light, taking in the golden glory of Joshua's boulders and funky android-like trees. I figured this was our fifth visit to Joshua so I knew what to expect, number one, that at some point we would get lost… again. I don't know why I keep putting off buying a GPS. But I do. To make this matter worse, I had just replaced my iPhone with a new one, thus the emergency GPS app was gone. Oh well, we'll just carry extra water and food in our packs. If push comes to shove, we have those warm, snuggly space blankets to wrap up in at night.
Off-trail, and seemingly alone, I stopped to take a leak on a struggling Joshua tree that looked like it could use some water. As I zipped up, a female voice called out, "Hey there. Hell-ohhhh." I spied a lone figure on top of a grand boulder across the wash and returned the wave. But she wasn't done. The figure asked if I could come give a hand… that she wanted, of all things, for me to shoot a video of her dancing. "Would you mind?" Well what am I going to say, "No, lady… you scare me?" Jesus, what now.
On the way over I imagined all kinds of scenarios. What if it's some sort of lure, and like her boyfriend jumps out, hits me over the head and takes my wallet... leaving me for dead! There are a lot of desperate people in the deserts of California, only an hour from L A. One never knows. She was pulling up her pants when I climbed the last few steps up to her boulder. She went into detail, explained that she had sat on a yucca and it stabbed her butt... that a woman needed to watch where they peed around here. I smiled while looking for a machete wielding boyfriend.
"Lindsey," she said. "Mark," I replied. She handed me her iPhone and explained that she wanted me to video her while she danced and did some Yoga movements, "So I can send it to my people."
Her "People?" It was getting weirder by the minute, but she seemed sincere and was easy on the eyes.
This is how perfectly innocent men get into trouble.