Joshua Tree: Rooted in Resilience
In early 2019, an Instagram post by Jessica Honegger caught my eye. She was revealing a sneak-peak for Noonday Collection’s Fall 2019 lookbook. As I was looking at the photo I recognized that desert glow, and I felt my heart skip a beat when I saw a Joshua Tree in the background! At that time, I had just recently returned from a family vacation to Joshua Tree National Park. Why, I wondered, did Noonday choose this same location to showcase the new Fall 2019 collection?
My family had very specific reasons for choosing Joshua Tree for our vacation: we were seeking a destination that would be relatively warm in early winter but also offer rock-climbing, which is our favorite outdoor activity to share together. My son also loves to collect stamps in his National Park Passport, so finding a park with these criteria was my priority. We had never been to Joshua Tree, but it seemed like the perfect choice.
In May of 2018, I began planning our cross-country journey. I found affordable flights to Las Vegas, and we decided the drive from Vegas through the Mojave Desert would add to the sense of adventure. Although there are several campgrounds in the park, as well as a few chain hotels to choose from, the Airbnb options in the Joshua Tree community are numerous and felt better suited for our planned week-long stay. Wanting to avoid packing our own heavy climbing gear in our luggage, we decided to focus on a form of climbing called bouldering. There are over 3,000 named bouldering “problems” in Joshua Tree National Park. With bouldering, it is standard is to carry “crash pads” to cushion your landings (or falls). Thankfully, a quick internet search found outfitters with crash pad rentals just outside the park.
By June, all necessary reservations were secured. I smugly believed that my preparation was foolproof. There was nothing more to do except wait out the remaining six months. We ordered the bouldering guide books and started dreaming about which area of the park we would focus on each day. Our anticipation grew as the months passed.
Resilience: “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” – Mirriam-Webster Dictionary
On December 22, just 6 days before our planned departure, the federal government shut down. We learned that although the National Parks would remain open, facilities in the parks were closed. Anxious thoughts took root… our entire reason for this trip was to experience this park. Would it be complete anarchy? Would we be safe? Would it be poor judgement to visit during the shutdown? Some friends suggested we cancel our trip. We decided to press on.
Early on December 28, the day of our scheduled departure, a heavy thunderstorm rolled in. Around 4 a.m. I thought I heard a faint dripping sound. My heart sank when I discovered the source: our roof was leaking. The most logical thing to do at this point was to cancel our trip; we needed to be on the road by 6 a.m. to catch our flight, which was now impossible. Unwilling to give up, I frantically called our airline and rebooked us for the next available outgoing flight, which was three days away on New Year’s Eve. We could not find a professional roofer to work over the holiday weekend, so we spent the next 72 hours working on our own to patch the roof. Cautiously hopeful, we kept our fingers crossed that our repair would hold.
Finally, on New Year’s Eve, we made it to Las Vegas. As the sun set on the horizon, we drove southwest across the Mojave Desert singing along to U2’s iconic Joshua Tree album. We rolled into town several hours later, ringing in the New Year exhausted but relieved to have finally made it to our destination.
New Year’s Day was bright and sunny, with brilliant blue skies, but near freezing temperatures. The outfitter with whom we reserved our crash pads six months previously was now closed for the holiday, so we were left to abandon our bouldering plans for the day. Driving through the vacant visitor center and entrance booth, signs were posted warning us about lack of water, facilities, and law enforcement. My doubt in our decision grew.
Once inside the park, it felt like we were in the middle of Dr. Seuss’s book, The Lorax. However, instead of speaking for the trees, as the character the Lorax is famously known for, these trees were speaking to me, offering reassurance that the stress of our recent journey was worth it.
A tree with a sloping trunk reminded me to just relax and lean in to the journey. We explored with an aimless agenda. Our only goal was to see where the next step took us. We scrambled up countless rock formations, taking in the expansive views from the top. At dusk we watched as twilight shadows cast a magical glow over the desert cacti.
The next day, the local outfitter opened, and we picked up our reserved crash pads. We tried to squeeze in our planned week of bouldering into the two days that remained. We got lost looking for the “Chocolate” boulders. At Turtle Rock we met and chatted with another climbing family who came all the way from Canada. Tunnels through the rock formed a maze beckoning us to explore further after a full day of bouldering in Hidden Valley.
Despite the federal shutdown, the park was full of people just like us, visitors from near and far who wanted to experience the magic of this unique landscape. Our truncated vacation flew by, and before we were ready, it was time to return home to the demands of work and school. We had three precious days together as a family exploring a land previously unknown to us.
No doubt, the colorful hues of the desert landscape were inspiration for the new pieces in Noonday Collection’s Fall 2019 collection. However, now I understand another inspiration: the Joshua trees are also perfect symbols of resilience. They stand tall in an otherwise dry and desolate landscape. Their uplifted branches model hope and faith in the midst of adversity. What better symbol to represent the resilience and tenacity of our Artisan Business Partners? Through persistence and dedication they have created sustainable jobs which help their communities flourish in otherwise vulnerable places. As I look through the fall lookbook, every image is now a reminder to me of just how strong and resilient these Artisans are, and I could not feel more pride in my role as their Ambassador.
If you are inspired to take your own adventure journey to Joshua Tree National Park, these were our favorite places to stay, eat, and shop:
- Lodging: Our Air BNB on Indian Cove Road had a game room complete with a pool table, foosball, and air hockey. This was an ideal place to play together and connect as a family while unwinding from our outdoor adventures during the day.
- Morning Coffee: Joshua Tree Coffee Company – plan to sip your fair-trade, freshly roasted coffee on the outdoor patio.
- Evening Dining Out: Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza – this small, unimposing diner boasts tasty curries, tandoori, naan, and wood-oven fired pizza.
- Rock Climbing: Climbing season in the park is from mid-October to mid-April. For those new to climbing, I recommend starting with one of the many guide services licensed to operate in the park. For seasoned boulderers, Joshua Tree Outfitters offers crash pad rentals. They also offer a curated selection of local art and hand-made souvenirs.
A special thank you to the Friends of Joshua Tree, a team of local volunteers who helped keep the park open and safe during the prolonged federal government shutdown.