Day 98 (Christmas Day)
Joshua Tree National Park
We're hiking in Joshua Tree National Park on Christmas Day. It brings back
. But American. Which means you can drive to the start of the trail, the paths are clearly marked, and there's no one scamming you for money to use the toilet. Also, it only costs $15.
I'm incredibly ill-equipped for this. In a repeat of every hiking/tramping experience ever in my whole life, people with hardout gear pass me - hiking boots, walking sticks, zippy jackets with lots of pockets, wool hats. I looked outside, thought
and wandered off to Joshua Tree in shorts, a thin pink sweater, and my Vans.
Bad news. It's the coldest I've been since New York. I am actually running through a valley of cacti, joshua trees, sand and massive boulders, screaming swear words at the top of my lungs in a bid to hunker behind a boulder, sheltering from the wind.
In the morning, there were presents to open. We had the foresight to buy each other presents in New York. We were in Barnes and Nobles with US$10 each. I'm sure there were better stores to do this in but it made sense at the time. For me, there's a fluoro orange I (heart) NY mug, accompanied by a stern sticker that instructs me to Handwash Only. For Rob, there's erasers in the shape of skyscrapers and Florentine liquor snuck in, made by the monks of San Miniato,
We eat our ham and cheese sandwiches, Whole Foods chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, strawberries and blackberries, sitting on boulders in a valley used by cattle rustlers. If Cabazon and Palm Springs was Fallout New Vegas, Joshua Tree is straight out
In the parking lot, two disgruntled teenage girls are talking loud enough for their mum to hear. "This is such a typical family outing," one of them is saying. "You drive for ages and ages and you
get there and there's literally,
to do." The other one giggles. Their mother, walking ahead of them, turns around and says, "At least you guys got out of the house!" The mouthy one continues to mouth-off, "We could have just walked. around. THE BLOCK."
Obviously, we make a run for the hot tub once we get back from an emergency run to the 7-11 to get ice cream. I down three-quarters of a bottle of sparkly sweet wine and Rob is swilling beer. By the time I get out of there, the sun has gone down, I've spent about an hour listlessly looking up at the sky, and I am drunk and dehydrated. Rob cooks chicken, salad, and we microwave the cherry pie.
Being together for Christmas Day, in a stranger's pool house, far away from all our friends and family, is a combination of longing for other people's company, clinging to each other's, and luxuriating in the freedom from being subject to other people's whimsy. Perhaps these three forces even describe our entire trip.