(Tuesday, August 21st, 2012)

National Parks Love Wheelchair People


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Last week Cory and I went to Palm Springs to check out possible wedding venues. Why Palm Springs? Because it’s kind of like the land time forgot about. Palm Springs is retro, hip and there are plenty of tall, skinny palm trees and mountains to gaze upon. Plus to be fair, we wanted guests from both coasts to have to travel to a destination in order to stay in one hotel together. Selfish, yes. But that’s how we imagine our wedding week–friends and family by a pool.

During our quick overnight trip we also made the effort to go to Joshua Tree National Park. If we’re going to suggest ‘Things To Do’ to our guest, I feel like we needed to know what we’re talking about. So like crazy tourist we plunged ourselves into the desert during the hottest month of the year. In tote was Riley, our 135-pound St. Bernard. Zola, our two-year-old manx cat, stayed home to hold down the fort (But could you imagine a cat on a leash in a National Park? Every time I think about it, I can’t help but laugh. Cory has been trying to convince me for some time now that pets doing human tasks are among one of the funniest categories of comedy. I think he may be right).

This is what I imagined Zola was doing while we were gone. Funny, right?

Until our maiden voyage into Joshua Tree, I always associated the National Park with one of U2’s album titles. So I asked Cory on the car ride over if he knew why U2 did that. He is the human encyclopedia of weird facts and usually knows the answers to these kinds of random questions. But for once, he didn’t have the answer. So I pulled up wikipedia on my iPhone, which we all know can’t be trusted but hopefully can agree on its convenience, and learned the title had something to do with Bono wanting there to be a cinematic feel/image to go along with the music and he thought the American desert showed that strength. The answer disappointed me considering these guys are from Ireland. Had they even visited the park besides the album cover shoot? The article didn’t say. But regardless of U2’s intent, I really liked Joshua Tree the album so consequently Joshua Tree the National Park quickly became a place I wanted to visit.

U2’s Joshua Tree

Upon paying our $15 carload entry fee, my expectations were low, like so low I thought I might just have to sit in the van and point at the pretty scenery from afar. After all, National Parks are not known for wheelchair accessibility. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Joshua Tree was very wheelchair friendly. There were plenty of wheelchair parking spaces at scenery stops, extra large bathrooms and the desert sand was so compact I could freely explore any place I wanted. Just short of climbing ricks, in Joshua Park I was free. “This is so much fun,” I kept repeating aloud. On the east coast, sand is soft and fluffy and something I must avoid. In the desert, the sand is hard, compact and much more welcoming. The newness of the adventure gave me the sudden urge to take photos. So I pulled out my iPhone and made Cory and Riley climb rocks and pose together beside cacti, something I’m sure he secretly dreaded until he saw the results. I’ve always dreamed of creating my own personal Anthropologie catalogue. Thanks to my Instagram app, I feel like I somewhat accomplished that goal.

In Joshua Tree, even I can climb mini-mountains.

On top of the world.

Cory + Riley

Caught up in all the excitement and like dummies, we didn’t check to see how much gas we had before entering the park. Now aware of the issue we noticed there was just under a quarter of a tank, which ultimately made us cut our trip short. Joshua Tree may be cool, but certainly not the kind of place you want to break down without resources. So we waited for the gas light to turn on and then made a quick bee-line for the exit of the park.  Still, in just a few short hours, we got the gist of Joshua Tree and I’m happy to report it’s awesome.

One of my favorite moments of the exploration was experiencing a desert rain shower. The shower came upon us quickly and stemmed from nowhere.  One second I was facing East taking a picture, and then the next I turned around to see dark clouds rumbling towards us. Seconds after, fat, sploshy rain drops began to fall fast and hard. Since the sunroof in the van was open, we had to scurry back to shut it. It wasn’t even two minutes later while driving down the designated driveway that the shower stopped. Surprisingly, the desert appeared dry and undisturbed. The rain did cause the desert temperature to drop to a cool 80 degrees, which was relief because I thought for sure my body would overheat from the desert temps. I was fine, but Riley is not used to being outside for long periods of time now that she’s a high-rise city puppy. So she panted until she had consumed all of our water supply (another item to bring more of next time). Then still, panted some more.

On the way out of the park, Cory and I stopped at the Visitor’s Center to see if there was a Joshua Tree patch he could buy to add to his summer hat. Inside the ranger told us I received a FREE lifetime pass to all National Parks thanks to my disability. All that was needed was my signature to ensure I was disabled (or not telling a lie, which I think the wheelchair validated the issue). Once I signed my name to the list, the ranger kindly handed over my credit card sized lifetime membership. And just like that, my opportunity to visit any National Park suddenly became endless because the card is accepted at every National Park in the United States.

Needless to say, I recently became a huge fan of Joshua Tree (the National Park, not just the album) and I think you should too. National Parks are treasures so easily forgotten but really the best gift to us all. Click here to be inspired!

3 Responses to “National Parks Love Wheelchair People”

  1. Kay says:

    It’s such a sweet idea to reward you with a lifetime free entry to national parks, wheelchair, no wheelchair national parks are for everyone 🙂 Did you find any nice wedding venue in Palm Springs? We’re going to California with my boyfriend in three weeks and Joshua Tree and Palm Springs are on our top list of things to see. We have been to Niagara Falls recently since my friend was chosen to made a photo essay about it and it was beautiful! Maybe you, Cory and Riley can visit as well, it’s another wheelchair friendly place.

  2. Leslie says:

    Dear Jana,

    Thanks so much for replying to my tweets today. I was so excited to find your blog post about the accessibility of Joshua tree! I am hoping to go this week with a good friend of mine. It’s supposed to be close to 90° there this week so I was worried that I (and my dog) might overheat too much though. This wasn’t a problem for you? Also, do you remember what area of the park you were in? And did you have any trouble finding places to roll where dogs were allowed? I had read that dogs were not allowed on marked trails so I was stoked to see you took your pup. Thanks for any advice you gave for me!

    <3 leslie

    • Jana Waring says:

      Can’t wait to hear your stories of Joshua Tree, Leslie! And in the future I’ll try to post more traveling pieces because I know I always like having a heads up if possible.

      xoxo, Jana

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