Desert Escape: In Search of Joshua Trees and Salvation
Up ahead, and seemingly out of nowhere appeared what seemed to be thousands and thousands of windmills. "Ah, yes! We were close." For those familiar with taking the journey east down Interstate 10 from California towards Arizona, know that this endless array of windmills is an indication that you've just about arrived in Palm Springs. Only, we wouldn't be going to Palm Springs this time — no poolside cocktails in hundred degree whether for us. Instead, we took exit 117 in search of Joshua Trees.
For me the desert has always been a place of refuge. An escape from the loud and fast-paced city life. Some may not always understand the beauty that a desert landscape has to offer, but amidst the dryness is an oasis of calmness. Luckily for my girlfriend and I, Joshua Tree National Park is located less than two hours from our home.
Once we had arrived we were immediately awestruck by the incredible amount of Joshua Trees — hints the name. We were told by a Ranger that the Joshua Tree is the largest of the yuccas and grows only in the Mojave Desert. Mormon pioneers are said to have named this species "Joshua" tree because it mimicked the Old Testament prophet Joshua waving to them, with upraised arms, on toward the promised land.
Despite what most may think, Joshua Tree offers a great deal of diversity. It's not just a page out of a Dr. Seuss book — from its flat valleys to its rugged mountains and its granitic monoliths known for world-class rock climbs. Unfortunately I'm not a world-class climber, but I am a modern day explorer. A walk through the Cholla Cactus Garden can clear even the most cluttered mind.
As beautiful as the desert is during the day, the magic occurred as the sun went down. The sky suddenly became filled with pinks and blues, as if painted by the strokes of an artist. Within a short time the night sky had become the darkest I had ever witnessed and it glittered with stars and planets. For centuries our ancestors had been able to experience a dark night sky just like this. Unfortunately, this has changed over the past few generations, denying us our chance of marveling up at the heavens.
After a night of sleeping under the stars, we woke up to the beating desert sun piercing through our tents. A stark contrast to the day before, where the day had been mostly filled with clouds. After making some breakfast hash, we decided to take a quick trip south in search of some salvation.
Located an hour south of Joshua Tree National Park is a place that is both strange and inspiring. Its name is Salvation Mountain and it's the work of Leonard Knight. In the mid-80's, Leonard had set out to the desert to create a monument showing his unwavering love for God and spreading love.
It's really an incredible sight to see, which does start off a bit eerie. From the apocalyptic drive along the once great Salton Sea to the bleak town of Niland — not to mention Slab City.
However, one can't help but to feel at peace and appreciate the hard work and dedication that Knight had towards such a noble cause. Although he passed away in early 2014, his mission and legacy continue to live on.
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About The Author
In 2015, Founder of TMDE Paul Martinez left a career in sales for a life of exploring. In just a matter of months he had visited over 10 countries, 30 cities, 10 states, countless national parks, taken thousands of photographs, and did a ton of soul-searching. His search uncovered a deep passion for exploration; which he now believes to be the essence of the human spirit, and led to the birth of The Modern Day Explorer. You can follow him on his personal journey by visiting his Instagram, and hopefully continue to support TMDE by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.