For the last three years, we’ve been remodeling our humble abode in Hollywood. Well, New Year’s came and my resolution was to have an outdoor life again — no more saving for the house, no more working on the house, just fun. Since we haven’t taken a vacation for the last five years, I granted the family an overnight retreat to Joshua Tree National Park, 2.5 hours from Los Angeles.
Thinking myself pretty smart, we missed the holiday crowd and I signed us up for the Chevy Chase vacation at the Super 8. We left Los Angeles around 9:30 pm and drove on the empty freeways past Morango Casino and out into the great wide open desert. Our beautiful Super 8 room awaited us and we made it there by 12:30. Our 9 month-old was having so much fun with her new surroundings that we didn’t get to sleep until 2 a.m. No worries, the Super 8 life is great. My back is still killing me.
We awoke around 8:30 a.m. and headed down for our wonderful toast and jelly continental breakfast served by the Gujurati Indian manager. How was I going to carry her in the Baby Bjorn? I already have a spazzed-out back and she hardly fits in the thing anymore, the mutant. She’s gigantic, and if it wasn’t for a week of diarrhea, she probably would be even larger.
It was a sunny and warm day for the winter desert, remarkably so; global warming must have been on our side. Oh boy, we stopped at the Walmart and the Big 5 and nobody in Yucca Valley carries a backpack-style baby carrier. We thought we had to keep her out of the sun or give her some breathing room, enough to suit the wife, so we moved on to the veggie kitchen “Natural Sisters” in Joshua Tree to pick up our take-out sandwiches for the hike.
Which hike? I had been scouring the Internet for the best hike in this desert wonderland I only knew about from U2 and Gram Parsons and my friend Barney. Barney said he had done acid there a couple of times and just giggled, worth the trip, he snickered, lot of help that was; now he spends most of his time watching TV on the couch and writing scripts. U2 had never really been there, it was a picture from another desert they used. Gram Parson had died in Josh Tree hotel from a morphine and pill overdose and had been kinda cremated in a great fireball his friends set after they stole his body from the morgue in LA and attempted to create his ashes there as seen in the film “Grand Theft Parsons.”
I was just anxious to get back in the bush after living and working the films and TV shows in Hollywood for so long. Like one friend said, he walked into the studio, blinked his eyes once and had been there 23 years. I was looking for a way out, a place to clear my head from the incessant battle to survive in the City of Angels. I was hoping to escape, not just for one day, but for eternity. I love LA as a city, but it doesn’t do anything for the soul. Nature is everywhere in LA, but it doesn’t creep into the consciousness of the Angelenos, they are too concerned with the competition for money, I guess, unless they are surfers with their heads in the freezing water. It was a beautiful 70 degrees with a 5-10 mph wind. Blue and clean, clear sky, wow.
We stopped at the Park Service Headquarters that was more like a well-designed Quonset hut. Nice warm feeling, but they couldn’t give me any idea of an off the track hike I could do with my baby girl and my lovely, happy post-Brazilian wife. It was noon and we still hadn’t hit the trail, what a sloth I am.
I still haven’t gotten over the time it takes to get the baby going with the food getting tossed around, the toys falling out of the door and the diarrhea. We stopped in the conveniently located camping/climbing store. It was a paradise. They had two baby carriers, each over 250 bucks. Beautiful with a German name and the cutest toys already inside of it. My wife was ready to buy one, but I thought my back was hurting less and we could just carry her. I saw La Sportiva shoes and boots, I’ve been looking for those ever since I gave the pair I coveted so much to some girl in the Amazon to take back to my friends in Quito to store for me. Of course, they never showed up.I bought a pair of trail shoes for her and sunglasses and hat for the baby and some GU and a PowerBar. Precious info gathered from the climbing girl at the store led us to one of two hikes, Boy Scout or Pine City. Pine has more mountains and is shorter and is alleged to be an old mining encampment with an old Model T. Boy Scout is longer and has the wonderland of rocks you can get lost amongst. Always a reason to carry breadcrumbs. I had the trusty topo map from the Park Service and so I wasn’t worried.
I asked my wife, but she wasn’t concentrated on either. The climbing girl said Pine is more remote and you have to take a dirt road to the trailhead. On either you can drive the Bob Baby Carriage, the mountain bike of all baby carriages. Yes! No baby bjorn, no baby backpack, just a push and schlog through the sand and rocks and cactus.
The drive through the park was amazing, Joshua trees and lots of cool foliage and rocks and climbers and not so many people. It was a Tuesday, how awesome. I love weekdays. Joshua trees add to the area’s unique flora. It looked like we just landed on a planet where Captain Kirk would be shooting laser guns. My wife exclaimed, “It’s worth it even if we had to go home now, I’m just loving it.” Being from Sao Paulo, one of the most polluted cities on the planet, it’s not hard to please her if you take her anywhere natural.
We finally reached the trailhead… (stay tuned for Part II)