Home Trips Overland Trip: Joshua Tree Pt 1
Overland Trip: Joshua Tree Pt 1

Overland Trip: Joshua Tree Pt 1

I had never been to Joshua Tree and it has been on the list for far too long. It was time to make it happen.

Our Trip Route:  Joshua Tree Map (Please note, the section down Bardoo Trail Canyon is estimated on Google Maps. Do not follow this route when you are out on  the trail. A better map of that trail is located here: Bardoo Canyon Trail).

My gal told me about some hippy retreat she went on and how great it was, but the topper was a few months ago when my Brother went with his family, sharing pictures and posts of five-star resorts and aqua-blue swimming pools (oh, and an occasional cactus). I kid – this is an amazing shot from his trip which spurred me to action. +10 hick-points if you know what the “spurred to action” saying refers to.

Joshua Tree Sunset
Joshua Tree Sunset

I have probably mentioned this before, but I always get a little giddy the week before a big trip. The trip really starts the week before I go. I have everything pretty much set up and ready to go, but I like to plan, and review inventory, clean stuff off etc. etc. This is what the gear looks like packed away on top of kitchen storage:

Gear, packed away.
Gear, packed away.

During the week I had done a bunch of work on the truck including the installation of  a CB and properly wiring the lights. I connected the rack mounted spotlights to a separate switch from the bumper-mounted units for more control. The rack mounted units tend the splash down on the hood, which can be distracting on the trail.

Getting the lights wired and the CB installed.
Getting the lights wired and the CB installed.

After the equipment check, It was time for the packing. This doesn’t take very long. I’ve got a good setup and know what I need to bring – oh, except for that one time I forgot to pack a pad or sleeping bag for the girlfriend unit. Eeeesh!

Packing the rig!
Packing the rig!

When its just the gal and I, I use the back of the rig for packing as well. Easy access to our non-campsite gear. I have had up to eight people in the Land Cruiser, and in these situations, very little actually goes inside the truck. There is a little space in the back behind the rear jump seats but it doesn’t hold much!

Gear packed in back.
Gear packed in back.

It only took about an hour to be away from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area, out in yonder with the grasslands and lakes, but we had a lot of traveling to do on Day 1 so we kept it moving! Our goal was to to get to Joshua Tree in one day.

Grass and lakes

Now, the venerable Land Cruiser is one of the best overland vehicles ever produced. This is not an opinion. This is a fact, HOWEVER, there are a few drawbacks, one of which is the reliable rate of fuel consumption at 12 – 13 MPG. So we did a lot of this:

...and more fuel.
…and more fuel.

It’s always a great opportunity to meet and talk with folks also on the open road. Just when I’m about feeling bad-ass, I meet someone who says, “ya, I wish I would have had a rig like this when I crossed the Sahara”! I’m serious. I really did meet that person at this gas station. Great, though brief conversation. They could of wrote a book. We headed all the way down I-5 – then cut over for our last gas stop of the day around Calimesa, CA. A good leg stretch and sunset.

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We rolled on in to the Safari Motor in in Joshua Tree around 8:30. That night we went to The Joshua Tree Saloon. You should check out if you go. Joshua Tree Saloon Images A great local scene good food, and karaoke in the evening (not my thing but the little woman enjoyed herself). The next morning we got our caffeine and headed to the park. Before you enter, there is a Joshua Tree visitor center to warn you about all the rattlesnakes and coyotes that stay coiled up in the shadows ready to leap out and grab your wallet. There is some useful information there too, and plenty of friendly Ranger folk. I’d recommend stopping by.

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Once we entered the park, we were both struck by the rugged beauty of the place. If you haven’t been to red rock deserts, the first time is amazing. Rock formations, big sky, mountains, and all manner of alien vegetation dot the landscape. The next few hours were filled with awesome sites and discoveries.

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After seeing some sites close to the road, we figured it was time to head out on the trail and get even more remote. See some of the 4X4-only areas of the park. One of the areas recommended to us was the Bardoo Canyon Trail. We looked it up on our De Lorne trail map and headed in that general direction. Corrie was co-pilot, and kept us headed in the right general direction. Those with attention to detail will realize I grabbed this photo from a little later in the trip 🙂

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This was promising:

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Then we giggled a little when we saw a grader actively maintaining the road:

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With this pattern of misinformation established, I was really hoping the next sign didn’t saw, “This road is just fine. Don’t worry about it”.

OK, now we’re talkin:

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The Bardoo Canyon Trail road gradually deteriorates to dirt, then sand, and eventually some rock crawling. Now, when you hit the sand with a fully loaded rig you have to keep your speed up when it gets soft. That carries you through. Just remember, the faster you go in sand the less you steer. It’s more like making strong suggestions about where you’d like to go. For the most part, your rig will agree. We still see grater tracks here. This is easy going. Your Ford Focus will do just fine here.

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Gratuitous truck porn:

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After an hour or so of travel, the route turned interesting. It was a combination of rock crawling and dirt-track trail. Nothing over 10 MPH – usually at a crawl.

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Most of the driving looked like this. I nice cruise with the occasional barrier or challenging obstacle  Pro tip: This trail is hot in the middle of the day! Drink plenty of water. http://youtu.be/-A8LPYdMq70 After an hour or two of driving it was time for pilot and copilot to take a break.

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Now note, the rig is still heavily loaded. This was before we set up camp. The night before we had been in the Motel, so we still had everything loaded down on this trail. The rig performed admirably. We clocked over 300 miles that day, and made a pretty good loop back to our final destination for the day. After we imerged from the trail, we hit HWY 10 and headed back toward Yucca Valley. On the way, we happened by a real gem of a surplus store with just about everything you could imagine. I needed a new spout for my Jerry-cans. Did they have it? Yup.

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We headed to our campsite as the sun went down which led to some neat sights.

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We camped at Big Rock, and the camp sites were pretty darned cool. Now, at big rock, you are next to other campers, so know that in advance. Joshua Tree has some pretty strict regulations about where you can camp.

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The little critters are pretty curious, and we had jackrabbits in the camp. After a nice meal and quality time by the fire we turned in, ending day two of our journey.

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Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Until Part 2: Michael

Michael

Backwoods country bumpkin. Overland enthusiast and lover of the great outdoors.

Comment(0)

  1. We did this trip last year. We live just an hour from Joshua Tree and I had never gone. It was spectacular. We went started in the Desert Hot Springs area and took Berdoo Canyon into Joshua Tree. The views were amazing and we did a short hike to Baker Dam. We ended the night at Keys View for some star gazing. I really hope we can camp there soon!

    http://www.punkrockparents.net/2014/03/land-cruiser-adventures-joshua-tree_19.html
    http://www.punkrockparents.net/2014/03/land-cruiser-adventures-joshua-tree_25.html

  2. I grew up there! Was in the park or lake Havasu every weekend. It didn’t suck! I’m not a California fan but I really miss places like Joshua Tree and Coronado.

  3. Before it was a park i used to take my VW out there. We were there just last April/May for multiple nights and will go back for more hiking and rig travel. The Berdoo Canyon was fun. It is sad what becomes of the landscape once the the Park limit signs are passed. Trash everywhere. Next time we visit, we’ll go down through just passed the High Clearance 4×4 gantlet near the bottom, turn around and come back up.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I’m planning to spend a couple of days at Joshua Tree in mid January as a scenic trail and camp stop on the way back from a San Diego business conference. Any recommended “must sees” with a stock mid-size 4×4 truck?

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