Back to Mars


Last week I had a chance to travel (for my third time) to Joshua Tree National Park in the Yucca Valley of South-Eastern California, about 1 hour east of Palm Springs (you know, near where Coachella happens?).

I first visited JT in 2010 when I took a trip with two friends from college. We took a Toyota Corolla and not nearly enough water into 40+ Celsius August heat to what appeared to be a completely different planet. I'd never seen anything like the physical landscape that makes up Hidden Valley and Jumbo Rocks. If I'm being honest, my first thought was "Flintstones".

That first trip started a love affair with this place. Most people travel to California looking for surf, palms and vibes and don't get me wrong, I do too but there is something about the desert that has always intrigued and fascinated me. I think its something about the relative peace and quiet that it comes with. JT is a relatively well visited park, easily accessible by your standard sedan and it hosts a lot of visitors, but most of them aren't adventurous enough to travel far from their air conditioned vehicles and water coolers to find some fun.

So, for my third trip to CA with my wife (and last for a little while), I told her we had to make the trip to JT so I could have one last moment with my favourite spot (so far) in the United States. 3.5 hours one-way from San Diego was all it took, thanks love! :)

One thing I did differently this time was take a deeper look into what Bono and the gang in U2 were actually getting at with their famous 1987 album of the same title "The Joshua Tree" (listen for yourself). I've never been a huge fan of U2 but, I gave it another spin just to see if I could understand the themes and how they actually related to what I felt when I first visited here. 

"The desert was immensely inspirational to us as a mental image for this record. Most people would take the desert on face value and think it's some kind of barren place, which of course is true. But in the right frame of mind, it's also a very positive image, because you can actually do something with blank canvas, which is effectively what the desert is." - Adam Clayton     

According to the Wiki page, the album juxtaposes antipathy towards the United States against the band's deep fascination with the country, its open spaces, freedoms, and ideals. An interesting time to be back in an America where the same feelings can be found 31 years later. I suppose, I can feel some of the way Bono was feeling as an outsider to America back in 1987, visiting and seeing all the amazing things it has to offer like Joshua Tree, and that maybe this place is a little bit of a symbol or blank canvas to show that there's still great things, people and places about that country, no matter who is currently running it. 

Tangents aside, since first coming in 2010 I've developed another love - climbing. Unfortunately, this trip didn't leave me enough space to pack my climbing gear and I am also wildly inexperienced for what it would take to tackle the gritty monzogranite (basically ancient volcano rocks) that make up the the incredible array of climbing that can be done here. JT boasts 5,831 total climbs as listed on It is simply an endless playground of opportunity waiting to be discovered. If you plan come out, I highly reccommend bringing a friend (because the hospital is pretty far!) lots of water and good sense of your ability. Here's some photos of me just playing around in my sneakers, trying to get a feel of just how difficult it is to hang onto these rocks for extended periods of time. I hope to come back here in a few years with a bit more gym climbing experience with some fellow climbers and make a proper go at it, it would be an incredible personal accomplishment. 

Thanks for reading! Hit me up on twitter if you want to know anything about visiting the park and getting there. Photos by Julie Lavender. 

*Note cock graffiti ^    


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