Located in California‘s high desert, Joshua Tree is one of those places that epitomizes the term “starkly beautiful.” With harsh landscapes that are nevertheless filled with life, it is a destination that offers a peaceful solitude unlike any other that I have experienced in my travels. But to truly experience its full majesty visitors need to wait until after sunset. On a clear night the skies will reveal a billion stars overhead and make you feel humbled at their staggering luminescence. That feeling is captured oh so well in this short time-lapse video that was recently shot in Joshua Tree. It begins with ominous looking clouds that soon give way to a brilliant display of the heavens above. It is a remarkable reminder of just how beautiful our world can truly be if we just remember to take time to look at it every once in awhile.
Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, and the summer travel season is officially upon us, many travelers will be planning their annual escapes. For more than a few, that will mean a summertime visit to one of America’s national parks, which continue to be favorite destinations amongst travelers everywhere.
With this in mind, REI Adventures, the travel arm of the popular gear stores, has put together a host of great itineraries for travelers looking to visit a national park this year, without having to deal with the hassle of planning for it themselves. The company offers 20 unique trips to some of the best national parks in the U.S. system, including Alaska’s Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, and more.
While these trips do indeed offer the classic national park experience, such as backpacking the Grand Canyon or kayaking in Yellowstone, there are a number of them that are unique and adventurous. For example, REI offers a four-day cycling tour of Death Valley, as well as backcountry climbing in Joshua Tree. There is even an option for a family-centric trip through Great Smokey Mountains, the most popular national park of them all.
These tours vary in degree of difficulty and scheduled activities, but they all offer a great national park adventure. So instead of stressing over your summertime plans, let REI Adventures take care of all the details for you. Then, when you’re ready to go, you can simply enjoy the trip, while someone else takes care of the rest.
View the full list of available itineraries here.
As we’ve mentioned on several occasions recently, Saturday kicked off National Parks Week here in the U.S. To help celebrate, Nature Valley, in conjunction with the National Parks Conservation Association, launched their 2011 Preserve the Parks campaign in the beautiful desert near Joshua Tree in California.
Nature Valley started the campaign last year after their customers expressed how much they loved the national parks. In 2010, the Preserve the Parks program raised $400,000 for the NPCA, with those funds going directly to protect national parks from a variety of threats. The 2011 edition of Preserve the Parks hopes to raise even more money, while also taking a more direct, active role in the preservation of these fantastic natural spaces.
This year, Preserve the Parks has a charismatic and charming spokesman to help spread the word about the campaign. Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on the television show Lost, is an avid outdoorsman who also happens to love America’s national parks. He was on hand for the kickoff event this past weekend to not only help get the festivities underway, but to also get a little dirty too. Holloway joined a host of volunteers who went to work building trails and helping to protect the habitat of desert tortoises that inhabit the region around Joshua Tree.I had the opportunity to chat with Josh on several occasions throughout the day and came away quite impressed. This isn’t the case of a celebrity spokesperson slapping their name on a project and paying lip service to it. Josh truly does have a love for the outdoors and was eager to lend a hand in the actual physical work of the day. For most of the morning he had a shovel, rake, or other tool in his hand, and was doing his part alongside the rest of the volunteers who were there to take part in a restoration project.
Despite the warm weather (temperatures approached 95 degrees Fahrenheit) the Nature Valley event drew an impressive turnout from volunteers. After a brief orientation about the area, including instructions on how to avoid stepping on a tortoise den, we were off on a mile long hike to the various work sites. Once there, we broke into teams that took on a variety of projects that included clearing trails of plants and other debris to more clearly define where to walk, as well as restructuring part of the landscape to allow water to flow naturally, without causing undue erosion. These simple efforts can go a long way toward protecting the area and ensuring that those who visit it can pass through without endangering the creatures that live there.
Nature Valley has a number of other similar events planned for the summer ahead, when the program will really kick into high gear. Those events will take place in Yellowstone, Acadia, Biscayne and several other national parks. Details on those events has yet to be completed, but you can watch the Preserve the Parks website for details on when they’ll be occurring and how you might be able to join in.
National Parks Week is a time that is dedicated to celebrating the spectacular natural beauty that exists inside America’s wilderness wonderlands. It is also a great time to acknowledge some of the threats that face the parks, such as environmental concerns, land management issues, lack of funding, and more. Organizations like Nature Valley and the NPCA recognize the importance of the parks on American culture and are working hard to protect them for future generations to enjoy as well. Programs such as the Preserve the Parks campaign are a perfect model of how businesses, non-profits, and grassroots activists can all work together to improve and protect the parks.
Some of the special events scheduled to take place during Parks Week include a celebration of nature at NatureFest 2011 in the Congaree National Park, training junior rangers at the Explore, Learn Project in Shenandoah NP, and a birthday party for John Muir at the Muir Woods National Monument in California. Muir was an early proponent of the parks and instrumental in getting the U.S. Government to protect those lands.
In addition to the official park events, a number of affiliated organizations are also offering some great deals for visitors to the parks this week. For instance, the Grand Canyon Lodges are offering a “buy one, get one free” deal on their sunset tours of the West Rim, and there are discounts available on lodging near a variety of parks throughout the U.S. Click here to view a list of special offers and discounts that are available.
As for me, I’m heading to Joshua Tree to attend an event that is being sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. I’ve never been to this particular park before, so I’m looking forward to the visit, during which I’ll be helping to preserve the habitat of the endangered desert tortoises that live there.
So? Do you have any plans to take advantage of National Parks Week? Where are you going?
Trailer parks get a bad rap. They’re the punchlines of tornado jokes and referenced in conversations about rednecks. Sadly, modern-day trailers are pretty devoid of personality and feed into the stereotypes. There was a time, however, when trailers seemed like magical devices. They even looked futuristic. Those were the golden (are should I say silver) days of the Airstream.
There are still Airstreams on the road. However, if owning a trailer is not for you, you can simply head to Hicksville Trailer Park in Joshua Tree, California. That’s what you see in this photo by Flickr user Amy Widdowson (Full disclosure: Amy is a friend of mine and one of the talented people behind NileGuide. Did you know that they are running an awesome holiday contest right now?). At Hicksville, you can sleep in an Airstream, bone up on your archery and just enjoy the chromed-out nostalgia of it all. Not a bad way to spend a weekend if you ask me.
Taken any great photos of trailer parks? Or maybe just some interesting travel photos in general? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.