Phil Lee


Joshua's Crazy Park

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

- Henry David Thoreau 

The quote above will be relevant by the end :)

There were a total of 11 friends coming on this trip to the desert and it all began a little late into the night on Friday. Having had to wait for a friend in Riverside, CA to carpool, I was the last car to arrive at the campgrounds at 10:00 PM. The others had already gotten there before us and started cooking about an hour earlier. The food consisted of your traditional Korean eats such as pork belly, beef brisket, rice, and a various assortment of vegetables to go with it. At the moment, there wasn't much else to do other than talk, catch-up, eat, and play music. So for the next few hours, the good vibes rolled around the campsite and the eleven of us soaked it all in. 

After dinner, a few of us headed out to the big boulders outside of the camp to catch some stars while the others gathered around the campfire to relax. One of the amazing things about Joshua Tree National Park is the beautiful night-sky. On a good day, you'll be able to see the Milky Way galaxy stretch across the entire sky with your naked eye. There aren't too many places in Southern California where this is possible because of all the light pollution so I would have to say that Joshua Tree is a true gem.

One of my favorite shots from J.T.N.P. | Susan by the campfire a little before 5:00 AM.

Throughout the night, we cooked potatoes, corn, and s'mores over the campfire while striking conversations of all topics. It wasn't long before we realized that the two bundles of firewood we bought wasn't going to be enough to last the night, so we sent a car out to buy some more. Later into the night, half of the group decided to head out and take photos of the Milky Way because it was starting to become vertical in the sky. The rest of us either decided to go to sleep or stay up by the campfire to stargaze. It's always a good feeling when you see your first shooting star and a few of our friends were experiencing that moment for the first time. 

It wasn't long before everyone slowly started to check out and only two of us remained at the campfire. For a while, I paced back and forth debating whether or not to throw in the last unopened bundle of firewood. In the end, I decided against it. Knowing that sunrise was just around the corner, I took a jacket and walked out into the wilderness to explore. I wasn't sure when the others would come back from shooting the Milky Way so I tried planning for some sort of landscape shot. Fortunately, when I came back to the campsite, the others were just coming in as well and my friend was willing to go back out with me! You'll notice that I haven't mentioned anything about sleeping myself, and that's because I didn't sleep at all Friday night. I'm still unsure of what it was, but I only remember being wide awake. It allowed me to be up for sunrise though, and there was some awesome light coming over the mountains that morning. Here's a few photos from that shoot!

We took Saturday morning slow and let everyone awake when they wanted to because of the night before. All we had to do was check-out of our campground by noon so there was no real rush in getting out of the site. While everyone slept, I cooked myself a few quesadillas and bell peppers since I was starving by the time we came back from shooting sunrise. I don't quite remember what else I did until everyone woke up, but it was a nice morning as temperatures lingered around 70 degrees. When everyone else slowly started getting up, the guys cooked breakfast which was essentially breakfast burritos. The two hours we spent cooking was probably the funniest and funnest morning I've ever had in my life. Hopefully some of you caught my Instagram story when it happened, but we were all just dancing and grooving to some old school music. Unfortunately, I didn't document any of this because I was too busy dancing myself!

These photos were taken by a friend playing with my camera!

After breakfast and cleaning up the camp, we left for the nearest Starbucks to get our fix of coffee before really starting the day. A few cold brews later, we were finally driving down the main road through Joshua Tree National Park. The day was fairly simple and there was no real plan to follow. With a map in hand, the eleven of us stopped by some of the major hikes/vistas such as Barker Dam, Hall of Horrors, and Arch Rock. There's not much more to say other than that we explored as much as we could in the handful of hours we had left before sunset. I felt my energy slowly draining by around 2:30 PM and ended up sleeping in the car between destinations. Our trip to Joshua Tree ended at Arch Rock as we caught sunset, took group pictures, and relaxed as the last hours of our trip dawned on us. The quick two day trip reminded me of how much I missed camping with friends. There's something about being in the wilderness that always reminds me of where and who I am. But let me also be honest here for a second and refer back to the quote I began this post with.

When I first came to Joshua Tree National Park a few years ago in college, I was very underwhelmed at what I was looking at. I had set preconceived notions in my head of what a National Park should be, so I left very little room to see what Joshua Tree had to offer. Yet for some reason, I always found myself coming back to Joshua Tree at least once, if not twice a year. Five trips later, I can confidently say that I've fallen in love with this park. There's a special feeling when you get to nestle between the large Gneiss boulders and have your campfire illuminate it's facades. At night, there's a stillness in Joshua Tree where you're able to sit in solitude under the stars and remember that the world is so much bigger than us. It's the perfect formula for self-reflecting and taking a breather before going back into all the realities of life. The quote above this entry not only pertains to Joshua Tree, but also to life as a whole. Looking at something and seeing it, are too completely different things. Hopefully, we all learn to do the latter and realize that there's much more to life than meets the eye.

Thanks for tuning in! Wishing you guys the best week! Until next time, God bless and see you later.

Phil Lee