As luck would have it I had the good fortune to spend the last two weekends in Joshua Tree National Park. J-Tree is my home away from home. When the days begin to grow cooler is when I begin to feel the draw of the high desert. I go to climb, to feel the sun on my skin, to smell the creosote bush.
I grew up Catholic; the most vivid memory I have of church is the smell of incense, frankincense and myrrh, which filled the isles, saturating the old worn wooden pews. The fragrant incense was not always burned, but it is what stands out in my memory. The Catholic church: breeding incense burning hippies before it was cool. My religion is now tied to the wilds of the world, every time I take the drive up the hill to the high desert I feel a weight lift off my shoulders. When I drive into the campground at night and smell the smoke of the campfire mixed with the lingering moisture of a thunderstorm on the creosote and sage I am once again sitting on a cold wooden pew, my lungs engulfed by frankincense.
I am in my tent the rain pelts the thin nylon fabric above me. This is where I am happy. I hear the thunder above my head, I see the flashes of lighting, my belly full of good cheep wine, my mouth dry from hours of good conversation with friends around the campfire. The next few days are spent chasing the shade, climbing as much as we can, eating parking lot lunches and sneaking cans of beer into the spare spaces of our packs.
Joshua Tree is magic. The bulbous mounds of rocks red and golden against the blue sky, Cholla gardens, arroyos, and joshua tree forest, the yuccas crazily pointing up the the sky, all the elements of an otherworldly fairy tail. I will never grow tired of this place.
We end our time in the park with an transcendental sunset, the sky aflame in shades of pink as an almost full moon rises from the east. Day and night holding hands in the high desert. After cooking dinner in the parking lot we all head back down the hill away from Joshua Tree, already planning on returning as soon as we can.