Joshua Tree National Park, plus a birthday

This weekend was all about camping, dessert wine with desert smores, midnight birthday trade-offs, and tutus paired with hiking boots.

I turned 24 on Sunday (yay! hello, new year!) and spent my first few hours of this life phase in the dust of Joshua Tree National Park. My friend Tessa and I filled up my car with granny smith apples, coconut water, and batteries, and made the three-hour drive out to the Mojave Desert. 

A few months ago, I joined a wonderful group called the Ziji Collective, which consists of 20 and 30-somethings with an appreciation for honest conversation and finding mindfulness in everyday life. We planned this little camping trip in order to celebrate one another and the entrance into Fall. Party favors would include vegetarian hobo packs and spirit animal discovery circles, so I was more than happy to make the venture out into the desert wilderness. (As a former girl scout, I will always have a soft spot for the hobo pack.)

 The town of Joshua Tree is sparsely divine. Along the main road sits a handful of coffee shops, yoga studios, and nutritional grocery stores. Tessa and I stopped at Joshua Tree Outfitters to rent a tent ($17 for a two person, woo!) and “paid” the entrance fee (FREE for camper's appreciation day, woo #2),  and then there was nothing left to do but lose our cell phone service and drive into the desert. We did it in style; blasting gypsy music and clapping our hands with glee.  It felt like Thelma and Louise, minus the whole running-from-the-law-to-avoid-a-lifetime-in-jail kinda thing. (Though that would have been kinda cool.)

The beauty of Joshua Tree upon the entrance into evening is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. Cacti pop up in random clusters, their spindly arms reaching towards the sky. It's hard for a plant out there, and one hundred percent survival of the fittest. The depression of the day's sun painted a golden light on the smooth rocks, allowing the silhouettes of evening hikers to decorate the horizon.

We didn’t meditate while I was there, but camping by itself instills a wonderful sense of mindfulness. It's impossible to think of anything in the past or future, because everything in the moment is just so darn beautiful. The air smells like fire and wood and the silence plays in a melody thick as molasses.  When the clock struck midnight, the sky was spray-painted with stars, and there were still plenty of logs to toss in the fire. It was very good.

 As for the rest of the day, I drove as newly-24-year-old  from the Mojave Desert to Venice Beach, all the way singing loud rock music and loving the Chai latte season. One year older! Cool! This time last year I was working at the Pennsylvania Faire, celebrating as Lorna “Doom” O’Carroll and crushing on Ketel One like there was no tomorrow. Funny how things work out.

As 24 morphed into 24-and-a-day, I sat in the living room of our Palms apartment for the Sunday Night Cozy Party. It seemed very appropriate to spend half my birthday exposed to nature and the other half nestled in literal blanket nest.  My friends and I played board games and drank wine, and I was grateful for the moment we all decided to take the West Coast plunge

 Looking back, the whole weekend was very symbolic of the things I want. And that’s comforting to say because I don’t think I’m a person who always knows what she wants.  I do, however, know that I want exploration, good friends, starry skies, a well-crafted egg roll, and lots and lots of blankets.

So hello HELLO, New Year! I can now say I’ve seen the Milky Way for REAL and that I’ve lived on more than one coast of the United States. I’m so excited that I’m squealing.

-stay cozy