Greetings from Joshua Tree National Park

When I first arrived in Joshua Tree so many months ago, I was reeling from a bitter breakup and divorce, vitamin D deficient and chilled to the bone from 13+ years of living under the “gray ceiling” of the Pacific Northwest. I had been to Joshua Tree once before. That experience stayed with me. In fact, whenever I visited any desert, the open space, the silence, the night sky, the warmth… it all lingered in my soul. I kept my desert memories tucked away for days when I needed them most. And eventually, a day came when the memories were not enough. I needed to be here. I needed to touch the desert. I needed to sit with myself in the stillness. I needed to cry out loud in the open. I needed to heal. Joshua Tree National Park seemed to be the perfect place for this. Even the Joshua trees themselves seemed to be beckoning to me with their open, arm-like branches. Joshua Tree was the open door I needed to walk through to get back to me and to become whole again. In fact, the journey back to me is still underway after almost two years. The park continues to be my laboratory, my playground, my refuge, my sanctuary. Here I have gone face-to-face with my fears and my scars. I have sat with my journal and let the pain flow out onto the paper. I have tested my physical abilities too; climbing boulders is one of my favorite things to do in the park. The park has helped me feel like a kid again. I often catch myself laughing out loud at random things while hiking and that feels good. Just sitting with my back up against the granite is comforting–little compares to being held by several million years of geologic history. Talk about grounding! I could go on and on about my relationship with Joshua Tree. But I will close my little story by saying that this place has helped me see, through my own experience, that national parks can be whatever we need them to be. National parks are ours. They are here for us. They belong to us. They are our inheritance. We get to choose what our experience will be like within their boundaries. For those us who do a deeper dive, these places can become part of our fabric. They have the potential to build us back up. They can help make us whole again.

Sincerely,
Shane

Joshua Tree National Park

This iconic park preserves portions of two spectacular desert ecosystems. The Colorado Desert in the eastern portion of the park features natural gardens of creosote bush, ocotillo and cholla cactus. The higher, slightly cooler Mojave Desert offers dazzling vistas of Joshua trees and yucca. The vast park also contains spectacularly sculpted formations of a type of rock known as monzogranite and is a mecca for rock climbers around the world.

State(s): California

Established: 1994

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