A 3 Day Tour :: From the Coast to Palm Springs, Joshua Tree and Back

DAY 1 :: We head out from home base in the Kukui Nut, our 1987 VW Vanagon and the latest edition to our wee fleet. We haven't camped in Kukui yet, and I, Diane, am curious to experience the 80's VW camp vibe as opposed to the 70's camping experience since I've already had plenty of those.

Our goal is to try to stay off of the main FRWYS, spend 3 days meandering without reservations or an agenda. Here we go...
 We drive south on back roads to HWY 74, turn left and head east.

Hurkey Creek is where we stopped for our first night. We've never stayed here before, located in a mountain plateau, over 100 camp sites and only a handful of us camping. Ahhhh, we have the place to ourselves! The first thing I notice is the sound of the wind in the Pines, and what's that I smell, fresh air? My senses haven't been stimulated like this for a long, long time. YES, there are showers, flush toilets, and a fresh water supply. Sites are $20. USD per night and an extra $1. per dog. No RV hook-ups.

DAY 2 :: We make breakfast, clean-up and pack-up. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to camp in these vans. They are self contained, it takes but a few minutes to set up camp and tear down camp. I only wish I had discovered this way of camping years ago, especially when I was single, I would have camped a whole lot more.

Back on HWY 74 we discover a lake just a short jaunt from our campsite, there are more campgrounds around the lake and this day there's a collection of folks fishing on it's banks.

We continue to wind our way along 74, up over the mountain pass and down into Palm Springs. We couldn't have asked for better weather, it's in the high 80's and it's mid December!

After poking around Palm Springs, happening upon an estate sale, and buying a new set of camp chairs (we forgot ours), we decide to head on over to Joshua Tree. We've camped at Jumbo Rocks before, so this time we're going to try a different campground.

This is it, White Tank, site #7, the last camp spot available. We roll in at dusk, pop the top, climb a jumbo granite rock and witness the most spectacular sunset EVER! Before the darkness of the night sets in we head back to our site, start the fire, feed the doggies, feed ourselves, reminisce around the campfire, star gaze, then head into the van and play Gin Rummy (neither one of us can remember the exact rules, and there's no phone service here, so no accessing the Internet to get the skinny on Gin Rummy rules).

While cooking our dinner a fellow camper comes on by and asks if we have any tea that we might spare. Oh yes, we have tea, in fact we have all kinds of tea! You see, we rent these vans to a host of European travelers who appreciate their tea, they buy it while on vacation in SoCal and then leave it in the vans for the following renter to enjoy (BTW-We Thank You!). So the fellow camper strikes it rich as I unload all of our tea upon him. He is most grateful and via our conversation we discover that he's from Israel! A student at UCLA studying for his PhD in History. I think camping is the best way to meet people... apart from owning a dog :)

Joshua Tree is an awesome place to camp in California's winter months. There's plenty of hiking and rock climbing here, spectacular sunsets and star gazing. It's unbelievably quiet too! It can get cold at night, so a down comforter is a good idea, however we didn't need one on this trip, nor did we need a portable heater.

A couple of things about Joshua Tree: You'll need to bring your own water, there isn't a hose bib in site. There aren't any showers, and toilets consist of pre-fab outhouses, extremely clean outhouses I might add. Camp fees are $10. USD at this time of the year.

DAY 3 :: Breakfast again, fresh coffee, sauteed spinach (leftover from last night's dinner), eggs, grated cheese, salsa, bread, grapes, a pear and some juice. We pack up and head out, good grief, it's only 7:30 am!

On our way out of the park we check out the other camp spots, yup Jumbo Rocks remains my favorite, it's like being on a Disney set, but these rocks are REAL! There's an overlook called Keys View, here you'll find a gorgeous view of the valley below; the Salton Sea, Palm Springs and a clear demarcation in the earth of the San Andreas fault line.

We leave the park on HWY 62, ditch the plans to drive the less traveled roads and head back to home base via the FRWYS. Fortunately it is early in the day Sunday and we don't have to contend with busy inbound LA traffic.

Back home again I realize we've been away but a few days but I feel as though it's been a solid week. Camping in the 80's van wasn't much different than the 70's vans. A little roomier and definitely more comfortable on the road, but this didn't alter the experience one bit. How refreshing that was, okay we need to do this more often!