pandemic diaries: week 12

Confession: we broke quarantine to go to Joshua Tree. 

More accurately, we relocated our shelter-in-place operation to Joshua Tree. Planned several weeks in advance to create some sort of break between 11 weeks of distance learning and 10 weeks of summer "break" (not to mention the mystery that is the next school year beginning on August 10th), while successful on that front, it was nevertheless a surreal experience to be in the middle of the desert with so much going on in the country and back at home in Oakland. And I have more to say about that in a separate update. For now, while I think you're technically not supposed to travel for non-essential reasons (oops!), here's what we did, what worked well, and what I'd avoid or minimize if I did it again.

We drove down on a Sunday and came home on a Friday so that our hiking days would be weekdays, hopefully avoiding any potential crowding in the park itself. That worked well. More on the hikes in a minute, but I can easily count on two hands the number of other hikers we saw - not even necessarily passed - on any given hike. We packed almost all the food we needed for our five nights in JT, including lunch for the drive down plus breakfasts, lunches, snacks, beer/wine, etc., while there. 

We ventured out for takeout on three nights and had leftovers the other two. We also popped out one time on the first night, on the way to pick up that first takeout dinner, to buy a handful of perishable grocery items we didn't want to drive with. We even managed to find some totally vegan pie in town!

We wore masks everywhere, obviously. 

Other than takeout and daily hikes, plus a milkshake pit stop in Palm Springs on the way back up from the southern exit of the park, we hunkered down at our Airbnb. 

We stayed at this house for our Spring Break trip last year. The kids enjoyed the hot tub then and this time, considerably warmer in June than it is in March/April, we paid a little extra to fill the "cowboy tub" as well. 

The only thing I'll say about that, while the kids loved it, is that the water was a little murky after about two days. If I had to do it again, I'd pay double to empty and refill once halfway through the week. The inside of the house is roomy, the evaporative cooler worked surprisingly well, and we discovered that if you give a 7 year old access to a record player, she'll play music at every opportunity.

The hikes were magical. It was pretty hot most of the time we were there, so we hiked in the morning and evening (our evening hike at 49 Palms was by far my favorite), when it was cooler (hitting several hikes along the northern edge of the park that we didn't get to last time), and then on the two hottest days we essentially drove through the park, just popping out along the way for shorter 1/2 to 1-mile loops.

The sunsets did not disappoint. 

On our final morning, since I wanted to get an early start anyway, we decided to get up early to watch the sunrise. Because there are no buildings (or fog) blocking the view, sunrise this time of year basically begins around 5 am (although, technically speaking, the sun rose at 5:34 am that morning). Listen to the desert waking up:

As for the drive itself, I recommend rest areas over gas stations as much as possible. Very few people were wearing masks at the latter, while the former tend to be more open and almost everyone wore masks. In short, minimize stops as much as possible. And if you can make it to your destination and back on one tank of gas, even better!

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