Dear Blue and Wheels,
This past week we took a family trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
It’s a hidden gem of Southern California. A little more than two hours east of LA, and perched on a plateau above Palm Springs, it’s the overlooked cousin to the more glamorous parks like Yosemite and Sequoia up north.
We love it there. The rock outcroppings make it feel like you’re walking on Mars, and at night, the sky is so clear you can actually see Mars. There are all kinds of trails, but there are also plenty of stop off points for just playing around on rocks.
Which is exactly what we did after almost three hours of driving in the car. Wheels, you were great. You traveled well. Blue, you were fascinated by the “choo choo” we saw along the 10 freeway, and could not stop talking about it for the rest of the trip.
A quick rule of thumb for traveling with children, guys: be prepared to spend twice as long getting there, and half as long staying before you come back.
We had planned to stay there through the late morning and into the early evening before heading home. Instead, this is what happened. We arrived at Joshua Tree around 11:30, bought a pass, and then drove into the park. We drove for about ten miles and then parked near a huge outcropping called “Hemingway.” People like to climb it, which we proceeded to do as well. Blue, you had a great time exploring a boulder and attempting to illegal pick federally protected wildflowers.
After about a half hour of exploring, we all piled back into the car.
Mom says, “I’m sore. I don’t think I can walk anymore.”
Blue, you take one look at her, yawn, and then promptly crash in your car seat from exhaustion.
Just like that, our foray into Joshua Tree National Park is over. Good thing I scored plenty of good shots at the first stop.
In my younger years, I might have been a little frustrated. And by a little, I mean very. We just spent 3 hours and $20 in gas to get here. We did not get our money’s worth. As I’ve aged and hopefully matured, however, I realize that you can’t measure the value of trips by how much something costs versus how much time you spent doing it. Instead, the value of any experience should be measured by the quality of the experience itself, and what I find to be true is that the quality of experiences is rarely connected to how much time was spent on it or how much it cost. What it is connected to is the people you spend that time with, and even the most fleeting of experiences can be incredibly valuable if it stays with you.
The power of “Remember when…” is all that should be measured on any trip. If you have at least one of those, then you have had a good trip.
So, remember when we drove 2 and a half hours to spend a half hour climbing rocks before you fell asleep and we came back home?
Of course you don’t. But we do. And it was worth it.