In 2017, I visited the Golden State for the first time. It was my second desert trip and I absolutely fell in love with Southern California. I loved the people, the culture and the food, but most of all, I loved the desert and close proximity to the ocean.
Then, when I volunteered at a local beach cleanup, I was flabbergasted by how unbelievably clean the beach already was. We barely found anything. Meanwhile, Cali people drove by and honked, shouting, “You guys are amazing! Thank you so much for keeping our beaches clean!”
At the time, I attributed these things to San Diego. However, the more I’ve learned about California in the past few years, the more I’ve come to realise that San Diego is no anomaly here. Californians are a whole different breed—in a good way.
So, when it came time to pick a new potential home state, it was only natural that California would make the shortlist. Now I’m here celebrating my 30th birthday and the potential for new beginnings.
Picking the Hiking Trail
After chatting with the locals at a bar last night, they recommended the 49 Palms Oasis Trail. Having not yet decided what to do on my birthday, I decided I would tackle the trail the following evening. I hadn’t slept since Sunday night, so I went to bed before 0300 AM, which is pretty early for me.
At around 0600 AM, a strange sound woke me and I noticed the beautiful colours streaming in through the window. I was so spellbound that I grabbed the phone and went outside.
The desert sunrise unfolds spectacularly slow and fills the entire sky, uninterrupted by clouds. It’s eerie how beautiful it is. Having greeted the sunset with a dead phone the evening before, I was glad to finally have some evidence to share with my family and friends of how beautiful this place is.
As you can imagine, I was wide awake now, so I decided it only made sense to get ready and leave for the park. I took some time to chat, get breakfast, and pack. By 0800 AM, I was pulling onto the street to the trailhead for 49 Palms Canyon Oasis Trail.
First Impressions of 49 Palms
As I pulled into the park, the very first words to escape my lips were, “Oh my God, I’m so moving!” The view was breathtaking and I could feel my heart going bumpity-bump in my chest for all the right reasons.
Unfortunately, the road was narrow and there was nowhere to pull over, so I have no photos to share before getting to the parking lot. The scenery is about the same as what I saw driving in.
Early Safety Warnings
When I got to the start of the trail, I was first greeted with safety warnings. One of the things I have always found interesting about hiking out west is how blatantly they tell you, you might not make it back. So much for being sensitive snowflakes, eh?
To the right was some information about the park itself.
To the left of this was a reminder that a Canadian hiker by the name of Paul Miller was still missing. He went out for a short hike by himself one morning in the summer of 2018. He was never seen again.
This isn’t the most comforting thing one might want to see when hiking alone in unfamiliar territory as a woman. “Well, this is a wonderful introduction to the trail,” I said to a Canadian woman who was also reading the signs.
“Yes,” she agreed with a bit of a grimace. “But don’t worry, we’ll keep an eye out for you!” Her partner from the UK was close by getting the last of his things ready for the hike. They went up ahead of me, while I went to see if I could get a quick peek at 29 Palms.
Down below, you can see the city of 29 Palms. This city is Joshua Tree’s closest neighbour to the east and with whom it shares the Joshua Tree National Park.
Starting the Trail
Having caught my quick peek of the city and towns below, I started the trek to the desert oasis. It was a six-mile roundtrip with 300 feet of elevation both ways. Having done a few mountain hikes before, I knew it would be challenging, but also that the view would be worth it.
What I didn’t expect was the wildlife and the variety of colours.
The view was also spectacular! Below is the best panoramic shot I got of 29 Palms and Joshua Tree.
To provide a reference for how far up I got, try to spot the parking lot in the picture below. This was maybe just a quarter or a third of the way there.
This next one was of the view a little more to the right.
Coming Upon the Oasis
I rounded a bend and suddenly, there was no longer just mountain ranges of rock and gravel, but trees!
Here, it was much cooler than the rest of the hike. Even the rock I sat on was cool to the touch. I stayed there for about fifteen minutes or so, listening to the sound of birds. Then, I realized it was 0924 AM.
If you remember the sign at the start of the trail, the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM were considered the most dangerous for hikers. So, I started the trek back. The return trip seemed a lot shorter than the hike to the oasis, but there’s no downplaying three miles of hiking up and down slopes.
Needless to say, I was happy to make my way back to the car with a few minutes to spare. After a long hike on very little sleep, I was ready to get some rest. I caught up with birthday messages and calls from family and friends, then had lunch, jumped into the shower, and went right to bed.
Strolling Into My 30s
As the PST midnight hour draws close, I can say with certainty that I had a wonderful birthday. I am also looking forward to my 30s more than ever.
I’ve spent my 20s putting in a lot of hard work, and while I imagine I won’t be slowing down much in my 30s, I nonetheless finally get to reap the fruits of my 20s-labour, so far.
Here’s to a new decade ahead of happiness! Happy birthday to me!