Big Furry Trees and Moonlight

We have a longtime tradition of ringing in the new year with big furry trees and moonlight with 20+ friends. The exodus to Joshua Tree begins shortly after Christmas and continues to New Year's Day.

There we camp en masse, relax from familial festivities, prepare and eat meals you'd usually find prepared in restaurants, drink good beer and climb some of the best rocks in the world. It's a compelling way to bring in the new year, with skinned knees during the day, stinging cheeks at night and eyefuls of uncanny scenery that startle and soothe, simultaneously.

JoshuaTree_TamMakDave.jpgThis year, we cheated. We "camped" at Joshua Tree and slept warm and toasty at at Le Motel Six at night. This sort of behavior would normally set us up for relentless jeering from the hardcore campers in our lot, but the fact we were carting around a 15-pound, 3-month-old starfish-baby in windy, sub-40-degree weather instead inspired nods of understanding.

And a good thing, too. I doubt any of the fellas would be stoked to peel their warm fleshy bits from beneath layers of fleece and have it quick-frozen in layers of saliva. (Hmm. Perhaps I should rephrase that... You do know I was talking about breastfeeding here, right?) JoshuaTree_CampsitePM.jpgAnd while the idea of cooking, discussing Dutch Ovens of all varieties and babysitting al fresco may not sound like your idea of fun, you might think again if you could see Joshua Tree lit up by moonlight and campfire as you swilled hot Ghiradelli chocolate with mint.

As we see a few members of this crew but once a year, it's become an interesting social study. It's hard to ignore that the number of children in attendance each year increases. It's a mathematical fact. As it does so, the amount of alcohol drunk and number of partygoers left standing at midnight on New Year's Eve decreases. It's an equation that has just one inevitable solution - a proof, actually - that we're all old farts. JoshuaTree_CaptainObvious.jpg

The next generation is upon us, campers. And we're the ones responsible for their upbringing. If that's not enough to make you crap your pants, try this one on for size: These are the same people who will be taking care of us in our old folks' homes. Think of it as parenting incentive.

Seriously, though. One part of it I don't miss is that I'm no longer expected to stay up all night partying - and my friends (Jenny!) don't even bother to razz me about it. Not even on New Year's Eve. I've never been one for late-night partying, really. I'm a morning person, through-and-through. JoshuaTree_Crew.jpgSo I, for one, am feeling fine with the idea of handing over the hangover reins and snuggling a little deeper into my sleeping bag on New Year's Eve. (Or Motel Six polyester bedspread as was the case this year.) It seems that the fellas are kicking a bit harder against the inevitable, however. I understand. It's a big leap that takes time to make. Plus, they don't call it the Peter Pan Syndrome for nothing. JoshuaTree_DustyClimbs.jpgEven for me, a chick through-and-through, it was a shock to realize I'd cashed in my share of partying-to-excess chips years ago. Sure, I might find the occasional unspent party ticket and let 'er rip every now and again, but mostly I'm left with memories and some wonderful, nearly unbelievable stories.

One of the best actually occurred in Joshua Tree, with a band of great repute and an entirely different crew of friends. But that was fifteen years ago now, way back in the early '90s - and those are stories best left for around the campfire. After all the kids are asleep.


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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >