By Layla Zomorod
The Airbnb was booked and my friends and I were set to spend two days in Joshua Tree National Park. I was mistakenly under the impression that Joshua Tree equated to a smaller-scale Yosemite, and prepared for hiking trails that met cascading waterfalls to the backdrop of evergreen trees and whiffs of pine needles. I hoped to take a nap on a bed of moss or dip my toes in a flowing river; a sweet ending to my summer. Little did I know, I was heading to the extreme opposite. In actuality, I was walking into an endless desert, littered with sparse shrubs and various types of cacti. Despite an underwhelming sense of disappointment that this was not the picturesque nature I had envisioned, I was on this trip with ten of my favorite people, so I gave Joshua Tree a chance. The house itself was an architectural labyrinth, built by a rock climber in the 2000’s. Slate walls and strategically placed geometric windows filtered natural light and balanced the Mojave themed furniture. Shoes in the house were recommended by our Airbnb hosts because cactus pricks tend to trail in and fire ants posed painful surprises. A shower with a sliding door to a balcony, a newly fastened ring of hammocks in the front yard, a working record player, and spiraling staircases; turns out, exploring the house was half the fun and certainly a modern oasis in this dust bowl of a national park.
Naturally, we began to cook a truly continental breakfast to the blaring tunes of our favorite 90’s hip hop jams. A platter of avocado toast sprinkled with radishes and sunny side up eggs hit the table alongside roasted Potatoes O’Brien and turkey bacon. We feasted and exchanged antics, I would safely say we made King Arthur’s round table jealous.
Once the afternoon hit, and the sauna-esque temperatures subsided, we ventured outside our Airbnb haven and into the actual national park boundaries. The rocks turned to boulders and the army of Yucca trees doubled. I opened the car windows wide and stuck my head out like an eager dog, hungry for the thrill of rushing wind and dry eyes. We passed a boulder formation appropriately named Skull Rock and hiked a short trail.
As the sun set, my friends and I dashed to the top of the boulders, determined to catch the last bits of sunlight. Dawned in handkerchiefs and holding onto our hats, we darted in between sharp bushes and lunged across the boulders. It was as if we were amateur cryptologists in National Treasure, racing the sun and chasing Nicholas Cage out of his horrible movie. We hollered and ran, my friends seamlessly grabbed my hands to cross the final gap between the rocks. And there we stood still on the highest peak and watched the sun melt away and wink goodbye against a glinting, purple haze. On top of the world, I found the magic and grandeur that is Joshua Tree. The inexplicable joy that comes to life, sweetened in a barren land. And that evening I laid, in a special space, where hammock and night sky collide. With my friends laying beside me, I knew I was too quick to judge Joshua Tree.
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons
Layla is a junior studying International Relations (Global Business). Born and raised in Los Angeles, she is especially gifted at parallel parking. Having grown up with immigrant parents, she understands the patience necessary to guide her German and Persian parents in the foreign art of sending emails and overcomes communication barriers with humor! She also loves cooking bomb meals and exercising creative juices. On top of that, Layla recently started practicing yoga. “Ommmmmm.” She has lived in an Asian community most of her life and has even picked up some Mandarin expressions, wishing to learn more in order to impress her friends’ parents and travel to China/Asia in the near future.