A million-dollar view and we own it. Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderland. We have no electricity, no water, no sewer, no cell phone coverage, and no computers. It sounds like the introduction theme to Gilligan’s Island. We do have a view. Wow-what a view out our window. You can’t buy such a view, but you can rent it and it really isn’t that expensive. It is also in a nice neighborhood full of people, whose primary objective is to have fun, and they are happy, about where they are, and what they are doing. They greeted us with the statement, welcome to your national park when we arrive. It is ours, we’re here to enjoy it.
We departed the marina in San Diego last week and we are finally traveling. Our first stop was a San Diego County park, in the desert called Agua Caliente, which means “hot water” in English. Our stop there was part of our plan of slow travel and this seemed like a good place, with a natural hot spring and spa-like setting to get moving east. It was not too far, we already knew from our Solar Eclipse journey that we didn’t want to travel very far and we didn’t want to travel every day.
We crossed the mountains east of San Diego on Interstate 8 and after descending the steep grade out of the mountains we turned north in Ocotillo on State Route 52. This road is first named the Imperial Highway then changes its name to the Sweeny Pass Road. Eventually, the name changes again to its historic name, The Great Southern Overland Stage Route. This road leads to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and one of the first possible stops is Agua Caliente.
Agua Caliente is at the western edge of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It is pretty much surrounded by the park but is operated by San Diego County. In Agua Caliente, there are camping sites and pools. In the summer, it is very hot at Augu Caliente thankfully we were there in the middle of the winter. While we were there we drove to the town of Borrego Springs and saw some of the local desert locations. Overall it was good enough for our first trip as full-time RVers and a good kicking off point for locations further east.
As much as I wanted to love it, Agua Caliente was disappointing. The number one thing that wasn’t to our liking was that the pools had very restricted hours, I didn’t want to sit in the sun in a hot spring, I far preferred watching a sunset from a hot spring, easing myself into the evening. Not only that, but the hot springs were not really that hot, they were warm enough to be enjoyable, but they were not hot.
At Agua Caliente, if you want cell phone service, you have to drive about five miles outside the campground to make a call. This may have only been an AT&T issue. Reports are that Verizon doesn’t work either. From there we wandered across the desert northbound to Borrego Springs and then further north through Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park.
To Joshua tree via Palm Springs
Going to Joshua Tree, Jumbo Rocks Campground via Palm Springs isn’t the most direct route. One of our plans was to spend the night at the first come first serve Cottonwood Campground in south Joshua Tree, but that didn’t happen. One benefit of going the long way around was the stop for groceries on our way to the park. Overall we spent four nights in Joshua Tree after spending three nights in Agua Caliente, all without sewer, and at Joshua Tree without electricity. We don’t at this point how long we can go without sewer all of this is part of getting used to the RV life.
A million-dollar view and we own it
We have two more days at Joshua Tree. We are camping at the Jumbo Rocks campground in the middle of the desert at the beginning of the wildflower season. We got our reservation on the very first day, during the first minute, that reservations were available. It would have been foolhardy to show up at Jumbo Rocks only a month earlier, especially in a 35-foot RV, hoping to snag a spot that would be suitable for us and our car. But because this was the first offering ever for reservations, we couldn’t really pass up this opportunity. Better enjoy it now; it will be much harder to come back in the future.
Our successful Joshua Tree campground pick was done by comparing the satellite picture to the campground map and then picking a site with good access with an easy entrance and exit. This usually works and we check this nearly every time we go somewhere. One of the things you can’t learn is — how steep is the parking spot. (At Joshua Tree it was nearly level.) Nor can you see under trees but it is way better than not checking.
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Here is a link to the google map for the area.
Link to our route from San Diego to Las Vegas.
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