It was time to take a break from everyday life and head out into the desert. The four-day Thanksgiving weekend was beckoning to us and we were on our way to Joshua Tree National Park. This gem about 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles, just north of Palm Springs, features both the Colorado and Mojave deserts and is a rockclimber's paradise. Hence we weren't too surprised to find all campgrounds full when we reached the park on Thursday afternoon. Undeterred, we made our way along the unpaved Black Eagle Mine Road across the park boundaries into BLM land and set up camp there. Since we sleep in our Jeep, we don't need much for the night and keep impact to a minimum. We enjoyed a mild evening under the marvelous desert sky for hours. SPACESPAC

Back in the park, we explored the Cholla Cactus Gardens, a dense growth of cholla cacti that support a surprising wealth of wildlife. Then we tried our luck again at some of the campgrounds and found a beautiful spot at Belle. While checking out the area, we met a nice couple from Switzerland who had bought a used car in Canada and had been touring the Western USA for the last 3 months. We traded a few travel tips and experiences, then watched some rock climbers try their skills on the wall opposite our site. Once the sun set, it got pretty cold and the wind picked up, making any outside activities rather uncomfortable.

On Saturday, we undertook the 18 mile Geology Tour Road to learn about some of the park's most fascinating rock formations and history. The gravel road was in better condition than expected and didn't require 4wheel drive despite the warning signs. It was another gorgeous day and we enjoyed the solitude and beauty of the park and its famous Joshua trees, which - suprisingly - are related neither to the cactus nor the yucca, but are a member of the lily family! Go figure.

This evening, the wind developed into a full-blown gale which kicked up sand all over the campground. Temperatures dropped close to freezing after sunset and a warming campfire was out of the question. The plight of the few tent campers that had braved this weather and stayed reminded us of a trip to Mojave Desert many years back when our tent was almost blown to pieces by the storm and we were forced to spend the night in the handicapped bathroom as our soft-top Wrangler didn't offer much shelter. How glad were we this time to have our comfortable bed set up in the back of our Jeep! Nevertheless, we spent a somewhat restless night, what with all the howling and rattling all around! When we left the campground quite groggy early next morning, we found all but one group of tent campers had left - they must have packed up in the middle of the night!

We exited the park through the East Entrance, fueled up with gas and caffeine, then entered the park again from La Contenta Road west of the West Entrance to explore Covington Flats. We had read in the park brochure that Eureka Peak offered incredible vistas over Palm Springs, the Morongo Basin and the surrounding mountains and didn't want to miss this view despite the cold. The dirt path was easy to navigate but when we took a wrong turn we encountered some sections that would be impassible to a 2WD. We soon joined the main trail again and made our way through some of the thickest growths of Joshuas in the park to Eureka Peak. The view from up there is indeed breathtaking, and due to the high winds, the visibility was incredible. Thoroughly chilled, we turned our Jeep back towards Los Angeles and luckily made it back without too much traffic.

Aside from a wonderfully relaxing get-away, this trip provided us with an opportunity to test our newest modification: a new radiator from Custom Aluminum Radiators ( Recommended to us by a fellow writer of Offroad Adventures Magazine, this radiator finally solved our overheating problem which had kept us baffled for years.