We decided to take a little detour on our trip around the U.S. to head back to our starting point in southern California for a couple months to take care of doctor/dentist/vision appointments, see friends, and build Angie’s essential oil business.
Our first stop, Joshua Tree National Park. This is our 18th national park or national monument since we started full-timing in May. The kids are really starting to rack up the Junior Ranger badges.
General Patton Museum
We were using Google Maps on my phone to navigate to our campground at Joshua Tree. I unknowingly had the wrong destination (we were headed to Cottonwood Springs Campground inside the national park, but I had entered Cottonwood Campground, which turned out to be in Indio, about 30 minutes further down the I-10). As we were driving west on I-10 from Phoenix, we noticed the exit for Joshua Tree and just missed it. We soon figured out the mistake in Google Maps and turned around at the next exit. Luckily we only lost about 20 minutes.
Since the campground was 8 miles off the interstate, we decided to stop and fill up the truck with diesel before taking the Joshua Tree exit, so we got off at Chiriaco Summit hoping to find a gas station. There was a gas station and we were able to fill up, but the great part is we noticed a field covered with old WWII tanks and trucks. Then we saw there was a musuem there in the middle of nowhere, the General Patton Memorial Musuem. These are the kind of gems we love to find as we travel. The little places you’ve never heard of until you stumble across them.
Of course, we had to stop at the museum and go through it. What a neat place! It turns out the musuem is there because the general area was the site of the Desert Training Center in WWII. This 18,000 square mile training area was selected and used by General Patton to train American forces prior to going up against Rommel in North Africa. The museum was outstanding, with plenty of original exhibits including tanks, jeeps, trucks, all kinds of guns and equipment, uniforms, and a huge terrain model map from 1942 of the training area. We highly recommend visiting this musuem if you’re ever taking I-10 through the Mojave desert area.
Exploring Joshua Tree National Park
After the musuem, we got back on the road and were at our campsite in the park within 30 minutes. The Cottonwood Springs campground is first-come, so we were a little worried about getting a spot, but since it was the middle of the week, it was nearly empty. We set up and ate dinner, then went outside for some spectacular stargazing.
We spent the next day driving through the park and exploring many of the stopping points and a few hiking trails. Our favorite spots were the Cholla Cactus Garden and Skull Rock. The kids enjoyed climbing over the rocks, and we saw several rock climbers tackling the larger rocks. We saw a coyote wandering along the road, but no other wildlife. We figured most of the critters must be hibernating.
Our timing for stargazing was perfect. We’ve been in several national parks that get very dark, but we’ve mostly hit them near the full moon so the stargazing hasn’t been that good. This time, we hit the park just right. It is getting dark early and the moon wasn’t out until early in the morning, so we got some really dark skies. We spent two nights in the park and got clear dark skies both nights. The Milky Way was easily seen. It was dark enough we were able to spot the Andromeda Galaxy without a telescope. The first night, we saw several nice shooting stars and found some of the constellations. We got the telescope out the second night and found the star clusters in Perseus, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Orion Nebula. Too bad we couldn’t take pictures.