Joshua Tree National Park is a place I love like no other. I fell in love with the park and the village in 2006, long before it became a desert destination of ever increasing crowds, cars and short term vacation rentals. Which is why it’s maddening to see the willful damage of this environmentally sensitive area caused by people during the partial government shutdown across the United States.
These trees, intentionally cut down by ignorant people, will never grow again to this size in my lifetime. People are making their own roads where there is no business being a road. People are camping where ever they feel like it.
Close the park, for the good of the Joshua Trees and the land
The reality is, the park just doesn’t have enough resources to stop this nonsense. Groups of volunteers are helping to clean bathrooms, replenish toilet paper and supplies, clean up piles of garbages. But, they shouldn’t have to. Other groups, like the Mojave Desert Land Trust, are calling for the park to be temporarily closed during the showdown in order to protect the land… from humans.
Throughout 2019 I’ll be writing a local travel column for The Community Edition, a print publication in the region of Waterloo. The column will feature excursions, day trips, weekend getaways or hidden gems within the urban and rural geography of our region. Each month I’ll highlight something noteworthy within each of the three cities (Cambridge, Kitchener & Waterloo), all four townships (Wellesley, Wilmot, Woolwich and North Dumfries), along with a couple weekend outings to nearby communities.
Just because you live here doesn’t mean you can’t learn from or appreciate what we have with a traveller’s eye and thrill.
I grew up in Wellesley Township and I now like in Kitchener. But, I suffer from wanderlust so I’ve travelled to 19 different countries, almost all Canadian provinces and territories and one third of US states. I will likely add 3-5 more countries to my list by the end of 2019. I’m privileged to travel.
But who’s to say far-flung destinations equals the definition of travel? I believe we can travel wherever we are – travelling is a mindset and an attitude as much as the movement of our body to different timezone.
Journey with me in 2019 for some backyard travel in our Waterloo region.
Local travel has some genuine benefits; visit destinations in your own community with a traveller’s curiosity and sense of adventure and there’s a good chance you will see things from a different perspective. Guaranteed, you will find places you didn’t know existed.
Sometimes it pays to follow niche Instagram accounts, like the Stratford Writers Festival. I spotted a post in mid-August that mentioned a “Museum of the Moon” installation in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is a 40-minute drive from my home in Kitchener and the photos alone were enough to convince me that I needed to visit the moon.
Even travels close to home can be exciting!
I discovered the installation was up for 10 days, until Sunday August 26. I had very few evenings available when I could go see it. Happily, both my husband and I found ourselves available on a Monday evening and it became an impromptu date night!
We grabbed a pizza from Pazzo Taverna + Pizzeria for a picnic by the Avon River, then crossed the footbridge to Tom Patterson Island to wait for darkness to settle.
As it grew dark, the 23′ diameter moon began to glow. The surface of the earth-bound moon is an exact reproduction of the celestial moon based on photos from NASA cameras. Artist Luke Jerram assembled the images into this stunning work that draws an admiring crowd, just like a spectacular full moon does. The Museum of the Moon was part of the brilliant programming for the Stratford Summer Music 2018 festival.
Everyone could take a 360-degree walk around the suspended moon to catch a glimpse of the sides we normally can’t see from earth.
My date, who always travels with a sketchbook, pen, ink and watercolours, had time for some night sketches.
I spent my time people watching, photographing the moon and writing “Moon Messages,” which visitors were invited to share with everyone. Reading all of the messages was entertaining and insightful! The Stratford Writers Festival encouraged sharing the messages on social media for a chance to win tickets and prize packages to their October Writers Festival events. Did I? Of course, I did.
A Silent Disco took over the Tom Patterson Island to close out the night; a pretty perfect way to host a dance party, without all the noise issues!
As children, my two sisters and I lived for the annual summer “family beach day” on Lake Huon, one of three Great Lakes we can flee to in south western Ontario. Aunts, uncles and a rowdy contingent of cousins made it an extended family affair.
Being rural farm families, our parents pre-planned the much anticipated excursion date, typically, the first Sunday in August. With one chance for a beach day each summer, we packed the car with coolers of hamburgers and hotdogs on ice, BBQ grills, bathing suits, every inflatable toy imaginable leaving barely enough room for passengers.
“But, don’t you remember shivering in the wind, wrapped in towels?” my middle sister asked recently. I do remember, all too well. Beach day was never, ever cancelled due to less than ideal weather.
We went to the beach, regardless of the weather.
Now, in my adult life and fully in charge of my own schedule, I relish the freedom of a last minute weekend at the beach when the forecast boasts sun, hot temperatures, the promise of a world-famous sunset and not a hint of rain.
The beaches of Lake Huron are the best place to relive summer memories, without the regrettable weather.
I wrote a guide to Lake Huron Beaches for The Globe and Mail, which appeared in the Pursuits section of the paper on Saturday August 4, 2018.
We covered the basics of composition for creating a striking black & white photo; rule of thirds, frames within frames, use of negative space, getting super close to a subject, interesting perspectives and creating a depth of field.
I really enjoyed our explorations of contrast and shadows, lines and patterns and textures and details. We spent time outside taking a few photos and finished the workshop with a critique of two – three photos from each person.
Also, go visit the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Their exhibitions are impressive. If you ever have the chance to attend one of their vault tours, do it!
At the top, my travel companion presented me with a congratulatory summit sketch to recognize my accomplishment.
As you can see, it was a fine day atop Ryan Mountain with clear views of San Jacinto Peak to the southwest, San Gorgonio Mountain to the north west, Juniper Flats and the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
There’s always a cool refreshing breeze at the summit of Ryan Mountain to dry the sweat from the climb. I always take breaks on the way to the top to notice the rock piles, wild flowers and small wildlife. There are a few Joshua Trees beside the trail and one of my favourite things is to listen to the whistle of the wind through the needles. Careful you don’t get poked in the ear, the needles are sharp!
Back at the JTNP Visitor Centre, I received my official 100-mile sticker. Thank goodness they still had some two years after the Centennial Hiking Challenge wrapped up. Disappointment would have been an understatement if I didn’t get my stickers. I was weirdly attached to getting the final one for my set.
So, now that I’ve completed my 100 miles… what next?? I have in mind that I want to climb all the named peaks in my guidebook. I’ve done quite a few already – the easy ones I feel confident doing on my own. It’s all the big ones – Pinto Mountain, Quail Mountain, Eagle Peak – that are left. I think I’ll need some help with these.
In the past five years, I’ve traveled to Joshua Tree, California five times.
Yes, that’s right, five times in five years. With another trip planned for early 2018. This fact surprises even me since I’ve always said I wouldn’t return to the same destination more than once. because there are so many places to see in the world: ‘Why waste time going back when there are so many more places to see in the world?!?!’
“Back to Joshua Tree again?” friends and family ask every year.
So, I can completely identify with David Gillett’s article in The Globe and Mail this weekend, “There and back again.” Gillett writes about his multiple trips to England’s Lake District.
He acknowledges that some people travel to check sites and locations off their bucket list and proclaim they’ve, “done England!” or “seen everything in Newfoundland!” leaving no reason to return.
But for some travellers, Gillett acknowledges being “pulled back by some unseen gravitational force time and again to a particular place.”
That’s how I feel about Joshua Tree and I’ve got some new insight from a fellow traveller and travel writer about why this happens to some of us.
Although, I have to say, it is hurting my country count… just a little bit!