Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park.jpg

Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two very distinct desert ecosystems. The harsh and unforgiving climates are surprisingly rich in biodiversity and home to many species. This past November I spent a beautiful Saturday with Logan exploring the Joshua Tree National Park.

HLA Joshua Tree.jpg

I have been flying out to the Los Angeles (LA) area every 3-4 months for business the last couple years. I counted, and it came to 14 trips in total out to LA. Not bad for someone who 3 years ago had never set foot in California huh?!

At the end of the work week, Logan flew out to L.A. and we spent the weekend exploring east of the city. I finally took advantage of being that close! It was my last scheduled trip of the year with the holidays coming up and I wanted to make the most of it.

Joshua Tree.jpg

The desert gets more and more beautiful each time I visit. I used to look out at deserts and see a dry dead wasteland with no beauty. Of course that wasn’t true. Sure, the desert isn’t a vibrantly colored, obvious, in your face type of pretty…but if you look a little deeper than the surface, you’ll see it.

IMG_2453.jpg

Mojave Desert

Once I took the time to really look, a palette of earth tones, calming and soothing rushed over me. As I looked even harder I could see life thriving, under the harshest of conditions. Fighting everyday to survive, never knowing when or if the next rain would bring relief from the constant heat. Our journey in the park started north, in the cooler Mojave.

As the temperature of our planet continues to rise, the deserts will become hotter, experiencing more droughts, and threatening the survival of the parks plants and animals. These conditions will likely affect the species that have inspired the namesake of the park itself- the Joshua tree. The bursting Joshua trees and other yuccas indicated we were still in the Mojave as we continued our drive south.

DSC_0242.jpg

The Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a member of the Agave family and is a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert. However you may also find it growing in the   Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Keys View Joshua Tree.jpg

Keys View

 As we drove south through the park, we stopped to take in the breathtaking views of “Keys View”. Unfortunately in fear of being blown over the cliff by the gail force winds, we weren’t able to stay long.

Keys View.jpg

It was incredible to watch the transformation of the desert as we drove through the park. Descending into the Colorado desert, you could feel the temperature rise, as we said goodbye to the Mojave. The variety of plants and animals are what make the Mojave Desert distinguishable from the Colorado as you drive throughout the park.

DSC_0328.jpg

Colorado Desert

Climate change could affect more than just the beloved Joshua Tree. Rainfall in the desert is critical to the survival of the desert tortoise and the bighorn sheep that call the park home. Severe drought will force the animals into higher elevations where more rainfall is likely.

DSC_0283.jpg

Cholla Cactus Garden

These species have adapted over centuries in order to survive the harsh conditions of the two deserts. It’s truly a remarkable, magical place, the desert.

DSC_0265.jpg

I hope you enjoyed my journey through Joshua Tree National Park. I would love to hear your comments below.

Check out my post for the Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park!

Death Valley Cover

Advertisements

The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s UP Eastern Region

The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two. My favorite time to visit the UP is the fall season, when the trees are bursting with bright colors. A year ago, my boyfriend Logan and I went camping in the eastern region of the UP.

Lake Superior Fall Colors

It was the end of the season in late October, we had JUST made it to see the fall colors. It was the last weekend the campground was open, and we were the only ones crazy enough to be camping there.

Find out why, in this edition of THE PERFECT WEEKEND featuring Michigan’s UP Eastern Region!

Tahquamenon Falls Michigan

Where To Camp

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

We camped directly on Lake Superior at Brimley State Park, one of the oldest parks in the UP. In typical Logan/Chelsea fashion we arrived at our campsite in the dark. Setting up at night was never a concern of mine, in fact I kind of like it… waking up in a new place, really seeing it for the first time that morning. It’s like a surprise, or a present waiting to be unwrapped.

Lake Superior

Our gift the first morning was waking up to a snow-covered tent… in October. Really neither of us were surprised…welcome to The UP. 

Brimley State Park

Take a Drive

Tunnel of Trees Michigan

Freezing and in desperate need of caffeine we went in search of coffee. We fueled up and hit the road, enjoying the views as we sipped our way back to warmth.

Michigan Fall Colors

Pro Tip: Take the scenic route along W Lakeshore Dr on your way to Tahquamenon Falls. This route will take you along Whitefish Bay giving you gorgeous lake views and the opportunity to see a lighthouse! 

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Just a short 15 minute drive from Brimley, this historic lighthouse is worth the stop. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic back in 1975. Its name meaning “Place of Iroquois Bones” derived from a battle fought back in 1662 by local Native American’s of the Chippewa and Iroquois. The lighthouse was closed for the season so we couldn’t climb the tower but we were able to explore the grounds.

Logan Fall Colors

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls

Located in Paradise, Michigan- this state park is one you won’t want to miss. Experience one of the largest waterfalls this side of the Mississippi- Tahquamenon Falls. It’s beautiful rust colored falls are caused from leached tannins of the cedar swamps which the river drains. Explore the park, and stop into the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub for some local made beer!

Go on a Hike

Prayer of the Woods

There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails throughout the eastern region of the UP. Hiking in the fall is my ideal hiking conditions- beautiful fall colors, crisp air, lower temperatures.

Trailhead

UP NEXT: What to do in Michigan’s UP Central Region!

img_0879

Lake Michigan touches four US states- Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Around 12 million people reside on this magnificent great lake. It’s crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with 275,000 acres of sand dunes, making it the largest freshwater dune system in the world! Lake Michigan has so many beaches it’s often referred to as “The Third Coast” of the United States. In my completely unbiased opinion, it’s the best of the coasts. The fresh water lake comes shark and salt free!

Lake Michigan South Haven Beach

This past weekend Logan and I explored a new part of Michigan with his family, complete with fur babies and adorable nephews. We headed to the west coast over to Warren Dunes State Park where we camped for the weekend. The west side of the state is so beautiful, and just a short drive from Detroit or Chicago.

Where to Camp

Warren Dunes State Park Pet Friendly beach

As if setting up in the dark isn’t bad enough, it started to monsoon type rain as soon as we pulled into our campsite (and every weekend we camp, ever). Once again Logan and I questioned if tent camping was still our best option. We’ve been debating all summer if we should bite the bullet and buy a used camper to keep us dry on the rainy weekends (all in favor, say “i”). There are state campgrounds all up the coastline, here’s some of my favorites I’ve camped at along Lake Michigan.

Drone shot of Lake Michigan colors

Warren Dunes State Park: Three miles of rare PET FRIENDLY shoreline along gorgeous Lake Michigan. The park also includes around six miles of hiking trails through forest and sand dunes. Modern & rustic sites available.

Ludington State Park: My favorite Michigan state park has everything- a lighthouse, hiking trails, lakes, sand dunes, dense forest, adventure activities and so much more. This is a must visit park! Check out my post on 5 Reason’s to Love Ludington. Modern & rustic sites.

Leelanau State Park: Another park home to a magnificent lighthouse. The drive up the peninsula to Leelanau State Park takes you through Michigan’s wine country with water views on both sides. Rustic campground.

Wilderness State Park: This park is a night photographers dream spot, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive from Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Modern & rustic sites.

Lighthouse Hunting

Lighthouse hunting on Lake Michigan

Take a drive along the coast and explore the waterfront towns while looking for lighthouses. The western coast of Michigan is dotted with around 35 lighthouses. Two of those reside side by side in the town of St. Joseph. It was about a 30 minute drive from our campground, 80 f degrees and the sun was shining. Perfect lighthouse hunting weather!

South Haven Lighthouse, Michigan

Each lighthouse is unique and has its own fascinating history, road tripping around the shorelines of Michigan you’re bound to run into a lighthouse or two.

St. Joseph North Pier

Saint Joseph Lighthouses, Michigan

South Haven South Pier

South Haven Lighthouse, Michigan   

Go for a Swim

Lake Michigan Swim

Like I mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake that comes salt and shark free. Immerse yourself in the crystal clear blue waters to cool down from the summer sun and Michigan humidity.

Search for Petoskey Stones

Petoskey stone, Michigan state stone

Searching for stones as you walk along the beach shore was a tradition growing up. If you were lucky, you would find a Petoskey stone- the Michigan state stone. The stones are unique to the Great Lakes, and can only be found along the shores of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

dsc_0788

The lake temperatures range from 60s in early summer to high 70s in late summer. The beach entrance at Warren Dunes State park has a sign showing the water temp each day so you can plan accordingly.

Relax on the Beach

dsc_0816

Pack a beach bag, your furry friend or adorable nephew, and a picnic lunch- then head to the beach. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can hike to the beach on one of the many trails that runs through Warren Dunes State Park.

Hike a Sand Dune

Sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan

Enjoy the world’s largest dune system, and go for a hike! At 400 ft the highest dune resides in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The dune formation pictured above was the largest at Warren Dunes State park. The dune rises 260 feet above the water with Lake Michigan views from the top.

Drink Local

three blondes brewery.jpg

We stopped at the local Three Blonde’s Brewing for lunch and a drink to cool down. Michigan’s west coast is crawling with local watering holes. Beer, Wine, Cider. We do them all impeccably well. The craft beer craze has swept through the state like wildfire, with hundreds of local breweries statewide. Just as Michigan has its own west coast, we have our own wine country, much of which resides on the beautiful Lake Michigan. You haven’t tasted anything like the sweet nectar Michigan’s cideries create. Cider is easily my beverage of choice, and I would highly recommend any produced locally, a few of my favorites include Blakes, JK Scrumpys, and Vandermill.

Treat Yourself

img_0916

After our boozy lunch we decided dessert was a must. Good thing icecream is yet another thing Michigan is awesome at. There was a local dairy farm mere seconds away from the brewery we ate lunch at. Sherman’s Dairy Bar didn’t disappoint. I had a hard time deciding between the yellow cake batter flavor and the birthday cake. With over 70 different flavors of homemade recipes featuring all the Michigan classics, can you blame me? (I went with yellow cake batter 😊)

dsc_0654

 

 

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed my post, you might also be interested in The Perfect Weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!