Joshua Tree & Salvation Mountain

Happy New Year everyone! As we’re all setting our intentions for good habits and goals in a promising 2019, I wanted to share a couple of the most special places on our road trip with you.

Our week in the desert was a little bittersweet because it meant our time in California was almost over. We spent about a month in this state, but it flew right by. I’m in love with these last stops – Joshua Tree and Salvation Mountain. These are easily two of the most beautiful and tranquil places we visited on this road trip.

We drove in to Salvation Mountain as the sun was setting. This gave us the most incredible candy purple sky that heightened the already magical place. We parked off the road and walked out to the colorful hills. You first come to this large joyful welcome sign proclaiming God Never Fails.

salvation mountain salvation mtn

Salvation Mountain is the neurotic vision brought to life by Leonard Knight. In the middle of his life he found God and remained passionate and tenacious in his beliefs until he died. He built a mountain before this one that actually collapsed. He believed this was God’s way of telling him the mountain was unsafe and that he must be smarter when rebuilding. He succeeded, but these intricate details require constant upkeep due to the harsh weather.

You can find Leonard’s ultimate message of love again and again throughout the area. He thought that love connected all humans and hoped that his message would inspire people to show more love and kindness to each other. I’m not sure if his primary motivation in designing the mountain was to serve God or to reach other people. Maybe it was both.

Even if you don’t find meaning in the prominent cross or the biblical verses featured, it’s striking. Here you drive in to what feels like a ghost town. All around are mostly boarded up businesses and open land. And suddenly (when you’re desperately hoping you’re on the right dirt road) these colorful hills appear with old buses and vans scattered everywhere. You’re enveloped in one man’s world. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it was so quiet and still, with only a couple other people there, but it was moving to be among this beautiful dream for the world. There had just been a lot of rain and the volunteers were repainting so we weren’t allowed to walk in it. I know there was probably a lot more to see up close, but I think I like it better that way. It felt more sacred and serene. There’s nothing that kills the beauty of a place faster than watching hoards of people line up for the perfect picture that’s been taken 1000x before.

Maybe they should just keep a wet-paint sign up.

Joshua Tree

After Salvation Mountain, we made our way to Joshua Tree – the National Park of photo shoots and rock climbers. When we drove in on Sunday, I couldn’t tell you how many people looked like they were out shooting their Spring ‘19 collection. While we couldn’t even find a parking spot at trails on Sunday, during the week it was deserted. Since we arrived at peak season and campsites can’t be reserved we decided to Airbnb and found a stunning airstream. If we met before the trip I probably showed you pictures of this because I was SO EXCITED. My excitement even grew after our plans changed and we got to stay in another Airstream in Spokane (it was nothing short of perfect). Unfortunately, our Joshua Tree stay wasn’t as glowing, but we did have the ultimate zen patio which made it all worth it. We watched the moon rise here and I actually got up twice (against all odds) to watch the sun rise over the mountain tops.

The southern half of the park was closed due to flooding a couple weeks before we arrived. We were able to go as far as the Cholla Cactus Garden. Here there is an endless maze of tiny cacti. They look soft and cuddly from a distance but rest assured they will mess. you. up. Beyond this, the landscape changes to vast mountains, not exactly what most people think of as Joshua Tree.

We spent four days here to leisurely enjoy the peace of the park. This was one of the few places where we weren’t struggling to squeeze in everything we wanted to do. I woke up to soak up some sunshine each day before we hiked and enjoyed the sunset in the park. I’ve heard the stars are amazing here, but we were fortunate enough to have a full moon during our stay to illuminate the Joshua Trees.

Maybe this year I can bring some of the peace and mindfulness I felt in this place to more stressful moments. I already feel relaxed just by writing this, so I think it’s working? Oh, and drinking less soda would be good too. What are your goals for this year? Are there any travel spots you’re checking off your bucket list? These two are easily worth a stop, and both are places I could visit again and again. I just don’t see how this sunset could get old!!

Next Up: Back to the Cold – Nevada & Utah National Parks

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