Our bags and our car were packed. And when I say packed, I just mean that we had basically thrown everything into our car at record speed with complete disregard for any type of organization. And when I say we, I really mean Ryan. Yes, Ryan lovingly threw everything into our car at record speed while I sat in the driver seat and defrosted myself. We were frozen. It was freezing. We were freezing.
Once everything was “packed up,” there were really only two things left for us to do. The first was to do a walk-through of our site to make sure that we hadn’t forgotten anything like tent stakes or tools. And the second was to wash our faces and brush our teeth. Showering was out of the question, because no, there is no running water in Joshua Tree National Park. (So make sure to pack and plan accordingly.) But despite our lack of sleep and cramped bodies, we were still committed to maintaining some sort of mild level of hygiene.
As I cupped the water and tossed it against my face, it felt like I was throwing a bucket of ice against my body just for the heck of it. Immediately my head pounded. This was the coldest water that I had ever willingly and purposely used on my body. Scratch that. This was the coldest water to ever touch my body period. Even the paper towels that I used to dry my face agreed (seeing as how they practically stuck to my frozen face). And so I decided that my teeth did not need to be brushed. Brushing teeth and hygiene suddenly seemed completely overrated when faced with a gallon of water that had been sitting out in the twenty degree weather all night. Yep, hygiene could definitely wait.
So stinky breath and all, we cozied up into our comfy car, we blasted the heat, we drank some coffee (that we had so cleverly made the night before and kept piping hot in this thermos), and we devised a plan. Yes, we were going to be going home. But believe it or not, we both felt like we had a little adventure left in us. You may have tested us with your high winds, your cold weather, and your lack of campsites. You may have challenged us with your ice and frost, and your coyotes and shrieking prey. And yes, you may have scarred me with the mice in the “bathroom.” But nope, you can’t keep us down Joshua Tree! (Well, not yet at least.)
It was early and the roads were quiet. Dead in fact. I guess that is one benefit to not being able to sleep, and to literally getting up with the sun. I think that we had passed only one car during our 45 minute drive down to the Cholla Cactus Garden. But that was perfect. After the past 48 hours, traffic was the last thing that either one of us would have had the patience for.
Since we had forgotten to pack a guide book, and (as a reminder) had zero cellular reception, aside from admiring that early morning sun hitting the Joshua Trees, we debated. Challah? Holla? Jolla, as in La Jolla? My vote was for challah or holla for sure. Both of which Ryan felt pretty confident that I was wrong about. Because as he pointed out, the Park most likely did not name a cactus garden after a traditional Jewish bread, or a song by Gwen Stefani.
As you probably already guessed, yes, Ryan was right and I was most definitely wrong. When we arrived and read the little visitor plaque, we learned that “choy-ah” is the correct pronunciation. The pronunciation most definitely starts with a “ch” sound, like cheese. Or choo choo train. Or chihuahua. (Although I am still partial to holla.)
We walked the trail of the Cholla Cactus Garden slowly. And although I’d like to say that we were taking our time to come up with clever historic backstories for each numbered stop (because unfortunately there were no guides left), we were just tired. It’s sort of funny how camping works. You spend all of this time preparing and getting everything ready, you carefully pack up your car, and then you go out into the wild. For us at least, we mostly don’t sleep at all, and then we pack the car back up, go home, clean everything and then put it all away. Somehow it seems like an awful lot of work for such a short amount of time. But what I’ve realized, is that camping is a bit like the Cholla Cactus. It can be a little prickly, but it is always a worthwhile and beautiful experience.