In my recent business trip to California, I took a couple of extra days to spend time with my sister. We both grew up in Iran at the base of the Alborz mountains and many weekends outside of the winter season, my father insisted that we accompany him on his hiking trips up the mountains.
I wasn’t exactly a fit kid, so I would try any excuse I could think of to get out of them. On those occasions that I couldn’t wriggle myself out I can describe the hiking experiences as a mixture of torture, sadism, profuse sweating, and exhaustion. Well, at least one of us (my sister) had my father’s pride most of the time.
Times have changed and my father’s semi-tyranny has paid off quite handsomely. If I see a mountain now, usually my first inkling is to scale it.
We hadn’t intended to visit the Joshua Tree National Park on this visit but on a quest to find a decent hiking spot, one road led to another and we ended driving to the park. We entered from the west entrance and almost from the start I was intrigued. This was my first time seeing Joshua trees with their think prickly leaves. The state park resembles the pictures beamed pack from Mars. There were huge boulders piled on top of each other everywhere in the desert and they extended all the way to the horizon.
Happily, the park was relatively devoid of crowds. On the advice of the ranger at the entrance, who collected the $15 entrance fee, we headed for the Ryan Mountain, but not before stopping for a quick walk in the desert. It’s an enthralling yet terrifying experience. There’s absolute stillness and desert beauty, yet you realize that disorientation due to heat and dehydration could lead to death. Who’s ever going find a lost person in that vastness?
Ryan Mountain turned out to be a good choice. We somehow missed the trailhead and wondered about for a bit but eventually picked up the trail further up. There are no real tall mountains in the park. Ryan Mountain, at around 5,500 feet, is probably one of tallest. It offered a relatively steep climb and at the top we were rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and an incessant but pleasant wind. Now I know why there are so many wind farms in the area.
I would have loved to spend more time exploring this splendid place, but time was short. The Joshua Tree national park is one of those places that leaves an indelible mark on your mind. It sure made a unforgettable impression on me, leaving me with the desire to come back again for another visit.