Pictured: Men’s Original Universals in Mashup Blue
Unless you hail from southern California, there’s a solid chance you’ve yet to explore the splattering of desert areas the region has to offer. Even if you’re from the area, like Dylan Bellingan, it can be hard to find the time to make it out to the southeastern part of the state.
“I had a week of free time on my hands, so I convinced by buddy Matt to join me on a camping tour through Death Valley, the Mojave desert, and the famous Joshua Tree,” the photographer says. Want to follow his van tire tracks? Here, Bellingan shares his Field Notes from his park-to-park road trip.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a below-sea-level basin, giving it a reputation for extreme temperatures and insane landscapes. After paying the entrance fee of $20, there are a ton of places to camp (both free and paid). Shell out $12 to camp in a designated campground with picnic tables and flushing toilets, or do what Matt and I did and save the money by heading out into the backcountry. Be sure to check the weather before you go because the temperature can dip below freezing at night yet climb extremely high during the day. Make sure to pack for both extremities. My Teva Originals came in handy during the day, but as soon as the sun dropped I warmed up with socks and my Teva boots—both suitable to handle the rugged desert conditions.
Mojave National Preserve
Next stop was the Mojave National Preserve, about an hour and a half directly south. There is currently no entrance fee, so make sure to explore this rugged area before there is! Unfortunately, the roads down the western side of the Mojave are awful, so drive slow and be careful of tortoises! (You will know what I mean once you see the signs.) With the bonus of zero entrance fees there is also free camping everywhere. The sunsets here are unreal: beautiful pinks and oranges painted across the empty sky, making it a wonderful place for pictures.
Joshua Tree National Park
Continuing south out of the preserve, you will immediately see signs for our next stop: Joshua Tree. You’ll pay another $20 to get in, unless you have the “America the Beautiful” parks pass, which you can pick up for an inexpensive $80 (you can also use this to enter Death Valley). The camping is $15 per night at any of the campsites. Hidden Valley is my personal favorite as it’s always filled with young adults and rock climbers with unique camper vans. There are many campsites surrounded by crazy rock formations with tons of places to find your mini adventure, so be sure to look around. Scramble around on the large boulders all day or hike to a high point around sunset—either way you will never go wrong with a few nights spent in Joshua Tree.
Ready to take your adventure international? Read up on Meg Haywood-Sullivan and Charles Post’s New Zealand expedition on the Teva blog.