EXPLORING JOSHUA TREE | SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PHOTOGRAPHER
I take so many photos while traveling, whether it's a couple hours away or in a different time zone, but often feel really limited when sharing them on social media since no one wants their Instagram feed bombarded by one person's vacation photos lol. Additionally, I'm trying really hard to be more present in the moment when on break and not be tied to my phone documenting my every move. While I realize that is probably a controversial strategy (because isn't that what social media is all about), I feel it's the only way to really "see" and experience travel, and respect the time and presence of those I am traveling with.
 Super cool mural at the entrance of Slab City

Super cool mural at the entrance of Slab City

 Not terrifying at all....I'm not afraid, not afraid, not afraid...

Not terrifying at all....I'm not afraid, not afraid, not afraid...

Anywho, so a couple weeks ago a few friends and I piled into a large, white, 12 passenger van and headed out to the desert. I've only ever been to Joshua Tree once on a day trip, and I wanted to share that experience with my friends. So we found a super cute Airbnb called Luna Llena Casa that was situated like 5 mins from the park entrance and with a great coffee shop and pizza place within walking distance.

The host was an absolute dream. She was super accommodating, had great recommendations for food, and her place, aside from being like something out of Apartment Therapy, was really cozy and comfortable. 

The group and I got an early start to explore the Desert. We had a few locations on the agenda, the first being Salvation Mountain. It is a tribute to God and his gift to the world, built by artist, Leonard Knight. This place is so massive and it extends far beyond just the main, large "mountain." 

The amount of care that was put into creating this is apparent at every corner. You can feel the calm and joy the artist felt while building it. All of the colors swirled together made me feel like I'd just walked into a story out of a Dr. Suess book. I do, however, have to get on my soapbox for a moment and just tell everyone to please be respectful of the space. There are signs posted to stay in or off certain areas to preserve the mountain. An instagrammable photo is not worth disrespecting the art. 

Salvation Mountain is found inside an area known as Slab City. This is a community made up of people living off the grid in their RVs, squatters, and artists. We drove through to reach the second location on our itinerary for the day.

East Jesus is an experimental, sustainable and habitable art installation located in Slab City, and despite it's proximity to Salvation Mountain, there is no religious connotation with the name. "East Jesus" is actually is a colloquialism for a place in the middle of nowhere beyond the edge of service availability, and it was started by Charlie Russell in 2007 when he left his job and moved to Slab City. 

I was a little nervous bringing my friends here, since we'd never really been to an art gallery together and this was my first time visiting so I had no idea what to expect. I was completely blown away by the massive amount of mixed media murals and sculptures made with found objects. Although we didn't meet any of the artists, it was still a really cool experience to see what you can do with things that have been thrown away and would otherwise be regarded as trash.

The main event was Joshua Tree National Park where we hoped to hike, climb, and basically feel small and insignificant in the best way possible. I enjoy that feeling, to be able to marvel at something. Mission accomplished. This park definitely brings out the kid in you, and the little voice inside that says, "I can climb that."

 I mean, how amazing is this view?! Keys View, Joshua Tree

I mean, how amazing is this view?! Keys View, Joshua Tree

After a few hours of exploring, driving, hiking, and climbing, we were all pretty tuckered out. We picked up a couple pizzas at the local Pie for the People and headed to our home for the night to relax. 

The next morning, we ended our time in Joshua Tree with a visit to Joshua Tree Coffee Co. The shop's patio was super cute and their cold brew on nitro was AMAZING! I bought two bags of beans that I've been enjoying every morning since.

Have you been to Joshua Tree? What was your experience? What should I explore next time I'm in the area? I'd love to hear from y'all, so leave some love below.