When contemplating California, if you think only of Hollywood and beaches, be forewarned: Joshua Tree National Park (JT to the locals) is anything but that! The Pacific Ocean and Hollywood are only about 150 miles away, but JT seems like another planet.
JT is a desert enchantment located in southeastern California and seemingly created specifically for motorcyclists. No matter that we need to share this locale with all others who venture here, you’ll know when you arrive that it had to have been created by and for bikers.
At nearly 800,000 acres, most of it is not available to explore by those riders desiring to stay on the pavement. But the views along the roads are uniquely otherworldly and the roads themselves are two-lane, weaving stretches of gently twisting pavement, with hardly anyone on them in the early and late-day hours during the winter times I’ve rode here, including this trip.
Not only is JT a location where two deserts of different elevations meet (Colorado and Mojave deserts), it’s a wild landscape with bizarre trees and outrageous rock formations. You’d think some inter-galactic, child-giant stopped by to play with a bunch of roughly-hewn, mountain marbles and then got called away for lunch before he could complete the construction of his imaginative geological fantasyland.
Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert (also known as the High Desert) is the habitat of the park’s namesake Joshua Trees.
And all this for the admission price of a $5.00, 7-day pass, for a single motorcyclist. Toss a passenger on the back to enjoy the ride and your entrance fee is only $10.00. There is very little that I consider the government does right, but this is one of them!
I thank all those who had the foresight and persistence to set aside the National Parks in North America for the enjoyment of future motorcycle riders who would be the primary beneficiaries of these geo-jewels. In addition, if you are one of those fortunate enough to ride here during any off-peak season, then all-the-more splendor for your wandering spirit.
The timing for riding through American deserts is ideal in the late winter or early spring, not only because the temperatures are moderate, but also the prospect of having your scenery painted with the multi-colored hues of the local spring wildflowers only adds more inspiration to any motorcycle voyage.
The average temperatures of JT are 43-75 degrees in March and 49-83 in April. This weekend I set up my tent at the Belle campground, under a Joshua Tree and next to a cluster of boulders the size of a 3-story building. I was greeted with overnight lows dipping well into the 30’s, by virtue of some frozen water containers neighbors left outside. Moreover, I don’t believe the mercury managed to make its way all the way to 70, but it probably got close. Although these California bones of mine were at the edge of their overnight comfort zone, I’m ready to do it again!
Note: It doesn’t matter what time of year you ride to the desert, bring water. And drink it before you get thirsty. It’s easy to become enthralled by the bold and rugged landscape of the Southwest America deserts, as well as its immense quietude. However, getting dehydrated is not recommended.