What a Solo Trip to Joshua Tree Can Do for You

“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.”

I’ve only gone camping with a group or one other person, never by myself. I’m guessing that’s how most people do it, but this past October I decided to go to Joshua Tree for a few days on my own before the rest of my friends joined for Halloween weekend.

I was excited to be self-reliant, fend for myself, and prove that I can survive in the “wilderness”. While Joshua Tree is a far cry from the actual wilderness, I was looking forward to spending some alone time in one of the most magical places that is just a short drive from LA.

Before heading out to the desert, I made sure to meal prep as much as I could. I bought this cookbook, Dirty Gourmet, a few years back and it has become my go-to for camping food inspo. Most of the meals are vegetarian, so they serve as a good base for meals. I ate most meals twice to save myself from doing a ton of work but switched up lunch so I wouldn’t get too bored.

Here’s a Breakdown of What I Ate That Weekend

Breaky

  • English muffins with strawberry skillet jam, breakfast sausage, and scrambled eggs

Lunch

  • Lentil farro salad with tofu
  • Citrus miso quinoa salad with tofu

Dinner

  • Coconut curry with chicken served with rice

While prepping the meals before the trip took a lot of time, I was grateful for all the planning when it came time to eat. Less slicing and dicing at the campsite means more time spent stargazing and relaxing.

What I did in Joshua Tree

Ryan Mountain Trail

I wanted to do two things during my trip – explore more of the park and boulder. On my first full day there I decided to spend the morning hiking Ryan Mountain and then explore the surrounding areas. I got to the parking lot around 8:30 a.m., and there were only a few more spots left. I thought the trail was going to be busy, judging by the lot, but on the contrary. Most people were spaced out fairly well (good for social distancing), and almost everyone wore a mask. This trail is mostly uphill switchbacks, so bringing enough water is key. There’s also not much reprieve from the sun, so a hat, sunnies, and sun shirt are a must! As you slowly climb the mountain, the desert floor slowly fades away revealing the stoney terrain and desert blooms.

Upon reaching the top, I was immediately blown away by the 360-degree view of the park. The boulders and climbing routes that seemed impossibly steep looked less intimidating.

While I rested before heading down the trail, I had a quick bite to eat and soaked up the view. Did you know that Joshua Tree has about 300 abandoned mines throughout the park? I had in mind to check out a couple of them this trip but ran out of time. Next time I’m there, I’d love to observe some of them, from a distance, of course.

After hiking down Ryan trail, I walked around what used to be a Native American house. Even though most of it has fallen away, its walls are still standing. I’m sure there are other parts of the park that have houses like this, and if there are I’d like to explore them. I think Native American history is incredibly interesting!

Bouldering in Joshua Tree

Bouldering by yourself is definitely not the same when you’re with a group. For starters, it’s a lot scarier knowing that nobody is standing behind you to brace your fall or move the crash pad around. Also, the stoke factor isn’t there. It’s easier to talk your self away from a climb than when your friends are there encouraging you forward. Regardless, I actually enjoyed the challenge of seeing what routes I could try and how far I could push myself.

What Joshua Tree Taught Me

I admit, the level of this trip probably wouldn’t rank very high on ‘Survivor’, but I was proud of my accomplishments. Building a fire on my own (no gas or cheap tricks here!), setting up the tent, cooking up a storm, hiking in new areas, and bouldering on problems I had never tried before.

I grew up rather sheltered where outdoor activities weren’t encouraged. The fact that I could motivate myself up Ryan Mountain even when I got tired was a way of me pushing through that childhood barrier. Part of me could hear those old voices in my head telling me to turn around, I could never make it to the top, why bother? But I pressed on and made it. When that voice told me I wasn’t strong enough to finish that climb on my own, that I needed someone else’s support, I grabbed those sharp crimps, pulled hard, and made it up to the top. And before I even attempted at building my campfire, that same voice told me I wasn’t smart enough to do it and to just give up. And you know what, I built the damn fire anyway.

So, what did I find in the desert? I found that I am stronger than what my mind whispers to me, that I am braver than I give myself credit, and that I’m content being on my own. And, I found that I still have a lot to learn, both about myself and doing things on my own. I can either succumb to the conditions my mind was raised in or, I can challenge myself and ask, “Why do I think this way? Let’s see if that’s true and something I honestly believe”.

In Hindsight

When I drove out to Joshua Tree that weekend, I was nervous to be there on my own. I began to question my reason for doing it in the first place, finding anything to talk myself out of it. The scared part of me overshadowed the excited, gleeful part who was excited for the experience ahead. On the drive home, I was smiling ear to ear feeling so proud of myself. “I really did it”, I kept saying to myself. “I was worried I couldn’t, but I did…so, where to next?”

Next time I’m en route to another adventure and I find myself anxious about what’s ahead, I’ll remind myself to not be afraid of a journey I know nothing about the destination. I hope those words help you too.

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