Taking Cover at Joshua Tree

Posted March 20, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
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“The shock of the real.” 

      ― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Wow. Slab City seems like months ago. So much has happened in the last few weeks.

I almost titled this one, “When The Shit Hits The Fan In Beauty” but decided against because I don’t want to pile on any more media stress. Strange and uncertain times call for agility, clear-headedness, beer and corn chips … and we have all those things, including toilet paper.

We’re flush with the essentials way out here on the Colorado River.

On February 18th, as news broke about the coronavirus’ reach into California, we pulled out of Slab City. Heading north on Highway 111 after the brutal morning commute (haha).

We needed a place to stop and think this thing through. But the first priority was to find the necessary desert luxuries: a dump station, fuel, potable water and fresh produce.

The dump station on the east shore of the Salton Sea Recreation Area was open and, hopefully, still is. To contain the spread of COVID-19, state and national campgrounds are closing nationwide and now people who are isolating in RVs face unnessesary difficulties accessing facilities to properly manage their tanks.

With more people living mobile these days, it’s in the public interest to keep all existing RV service stations open. After all, social distancing in an RV is not only an effective solution to control the spread of alien viruses, it is the American Way.

Leaving the Salton Sea, we pulled into La Quinta – a resort town in Palm Desert with comforting snow-capped mountains swaddling the posh easy-going retiree community.

We found a rather tight place to park the rig at a bustling mall. Jim put a note on The Beast, “Please don’t tow. We’re shopping” and included our phone number. Then, we grabbed a bottle of hand sanitizer and walked to Soup Plantation where we grazed like a pair of starving borrego.

Almost seems like the good old days now, but after lunch we walked over to the fully stocked Costco and loaded up on supplies – and then we fueled up The Beast. All, in the same parking lot. Score!

La Quinta had plenty of fabulous RV resorts. After two weeks of dry camping we were tempted to stop and treat ourselves. But, with all of the virus news coming in, remote dry-camping would be more prudent.

Before retirement, Jim was a member of the “Group Eradicating Resilient Microorganisms (GERM) Commission” in San Diego, so he he had an idea about how swiftly this emergency could develop. To stay informed, we needed a place with a dependable Verizon signal and there’s little chance of adequate connectivity in a national park.

Like most SoCal residents, we’d never been to Joshua Tree. At lunch we read reviews and found a remote, free campground at Chiriaco Summit, just a couple of miles from the National Park’s South entrance (Cottonwood Visitor’s Center) behind the General Patton Memorial Museum.

Cool. Let’s check it out.

We took the historic Interstate 10 into the Orocopia Mountains Wilderness.

Chiriaco Summit

Between 1862 and 1877, The Bradshaw Trail was the main stagecoach and wagon route through Shaver Pass between SoCal and western Arizona. The historic and now extinct Hwy 60 crossed this pass (now called Chiriaco Summit) and Interstate 10 now absorbs this history.

In 1933, desert pioneers Joe and Ruth Chiriaco established a gas station and store on the pass and opened it the day Highway 60 was paved. It instantly became a destination and over the years, the family-owned compound has added a cafe and a few other concessions.

Today, Chiriaco Summit is an iconic Old California rest stop for travelers, truckers and desert day-trippers from the Los Angeles area.

Following signs, we passed the museum …

… and pulled into the campground which is about a half mile from the highway. After checking in, our camp host offered us any empty site of our choice. We snagged a nice spot backed up to the Eagle Mountains, a Joshua Tree National Park boundary.

The campground is small with only about twenty-five spacious and tidy primitive sites. They are evenly spaced along both sides of the unpaved road with a turn-around at the end. The road runs parallel to I-10 between the mountains along the gently sloping valley, or bajada, from the Eagle Mountains.

The south-facing natural landscape is rich with brittle bush, palo verde, ironwood and indigo. Joshua Trees do not grow on this side of the park, but that’s why there are so few tourists trampling this stunning landscape.

Joshua Tree National park does not allow dogs on any of the trails. But, with the full-time campground host at Chiriaco Summit, we felt safe leaving Pico in the trailer.

In the early mornings after Pico’s walk along the unpaved road that leads straight into Joshua Tree …

… we filled our day-pack with water and drove to the official park entrance, about five miles from Chiriaco Summit. General Patton, we learned, was an animal lover. Pico would be fine.

The hikes were rugged and long, and so beautiful that we forgot all the troubles of the world at …

Mastodon Peak

Lost Palms Oasis

Skull Rock

But we always managed to be home before dark – just in time for a spectacular sunset …

a hearty home-cooked meal …

and more distressing news.

Midweek, we had a thunderstorm so we went to the museum.

The Patton museum rewarded us with several lessons in California and Mexico history. It was an enlightening tribute to the kind of leadership the world so desperately needs …

… but the elevated map of the desert alone was worth the visit. We spent an hour studying this amazing project called, The Big Map.

While we toured the museum the storm abated, the clouds parted, and the sun broke through.

Then, later that night, from our mountainside hermitage, we observed the glittering flow of traffic on the I-10. The steady stream of headlights slithered down the mountain and curled behind a mesa – seemingly to penetrate a black hole – and, then remerged.

No. Not everyone will be fine, but life will move on.

Forces of nature will momentarily – and sometimes permanently – obscure the path, but the continuum is unbreakable and the journey is worth it.

All we can do is try to be the kind of soldiers who hold up a light in the darkness so others can find the way.

Just to clarify, we left the Joshua Tree area on February 25th and are now self-isolating in a dry-camping area in the Arizona desert, where our nearest neighbor is 100 yards away.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

34 thoughts on “Taking Cover at Joshua Tree

    1. Thank you, Lori! Always wonderful to hear from you. Wishing you peace and joy and good health during these uncertain times.

      Safe and Happy Travels,


    1. Hey Erin! Yes, these are strange and awkward times. We’d like to visit some friends who have fallen ill (not with the virus, but other things) but that would be irresponsible. Social media and FaceTime are our only outreach right now. Our son is working on the front lines at an urgent care clinic in San Diego and he feels it’s unsafe for us to have contact with him. So, yes … crazytimes are here and hopefully it will be over sooner than expected.

      Thank you for being with us.

      Safe and Happy Travels


  1. Hi Beaubeaus!! Good to know you are safe and enjoying our rapidly slowing life. We have our Libby back after almost 8 wks.in Ohio. The mothership does not rush. She’s lovely again. We are in Baton Rouge hunkered down for a little while before we hope to leave the state until we have to return in 2 months for cataract surgery for Susan. There’s a freeze now on elective surgery. Our kids and granddaughter are just an hour away in New Orleans but we will remain on FaceTime instead of in person as we all isolate in place. These are strange times. Enjoy your desert location. Carmen, your photos are just breathtaking…from one desert rat to another. Be well and know we think and speak about you often. Susan and Edmond Kibel. ;D

    1. Susan and Ed! Wonderful to hear from you. So happy to hear you have your baby back and she’s good as new. No, the mothership takes her time, but we love them because the work is superb and the customer service is top-notch. Is your son’s restaurant open? I hear New Orleans has some early cases of the virus. You two stay safe and let’s meet up in the desert sometime. The weather is scrumptious here.

      We’re in our second week of dry-camping in a very remote area – we have to walk a half-mile to see anyone – but the cell signal is fabulous. I go kayaking every day. Pico gets his desert sunbath and Jim is thrilled with the price, $5. There is a small but well-stocked campground store with one or two employees. Jim walked down there this morning and the clerk is expecting a shipment of eggs this afternoon. Yay!

      Again, we love you two and can’t wait to see you again.


      Carmen & Jim & Pico

    1. Hey Dana! Thanks for the compliment. Yes, got lucky with those gorgeous clouds. Storms were passing through all the time, but they mostly missed us. We will go back to Chiriaco again.

      Safe and Happy Travels,


  2. We stayed in Desert Hot Springs for three months this winter, and entered the National Park at Cottonwood also just before we left for Texas, in February. So beautiful. My sister camped where you are now. Lovely spot. With everything shutting down, it looks like you found the perfect place to settle in for awhile. If you have to leave, consider Sam’s Family Hot Water Spa and Resort in DHS. Reasonable monthly rates. Hot mineral water with no chlorine. Many municipalities are shutting RV parks down in an effort to halt travel. I’m not sure if they’re open. Good luck out there. Safe travel.

    1. Hey Susan! Always great to hear from you. Thank you for the tip about Sam’s. That sounds like our kind of place. Yes, we’re in an ideal location here on the river, its safe and beautiful we plan to stay as long as is necessary. I feel badly for all of the private campgrounds that are losing their seasonal residents. I hope they can recover the loss.

      Thanks for being with us, Susan.

      Safe and Happy Travels,


    1. Thank you for being with us. Enjoy your trip home. Be aware that rest stops are closed in many states.

      Safe and Happy Travels,


    1. Jan!!! Wonderful to hear from you. Oh, how I’d love to take a walk on the beach with you! All of our doc, dental and hair appointments were cancelled in San Diego, so we made a detour. Yes, things are quiet here on the river, as well. You are in our thoughts and prayers every single day. xoxo

      Carmen and Jim

    1. Cheryl, we’ve moved on to Arizona and we’re camping on the river now, but we hope to return to Chiriaco Summit someday. I hope all is well with you during this crazy time.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  3. As long as you are in the vicinity, outside the J.T. southside entrance, there are many great boondocking spots with fabulous I-10 cell signal. Water and dump station is available just around the corner from the visitor entrance, outside the campground.

    1. Hey Ben! Great to hear from you! Wow, that’s a great tip about the dump station. Thank you! Yes, we saw dozens of boondockers on the BLM land near the entrance. It was beautiful there too and a few miles closer to everything. But we didn’t feel okay to leave Pico there alone. The camp host at Chiriaco Summit was a big plus for us. He was always out taking care of the place and made it feel safe to leave Pico. It was also very convenient to walk to the store for ice and other essentials like soft-serve at Fosters 🙂

      Always great to hear from you, Ben. Be careful out there.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  4. Another great post. Michael and I love following your adventures. Fabulous pictures. Y’all stay safe and virus free!


    1. Judy and Michael, thank you so much for hanging with us. We really do need some face time – sooner the better.

      Enjoy your isolation time and Safe and Happy Travels,


      Carmen & Jim

  5. Thanks for another wonderful post. I hope you don’t mind, but we stole your photo idea.
    Here’s our “quarantine” photo.
    How long will they let you stay at the Patton museum?
    We’re at Lone Rock Beach near Page, AZ.

    Quarantine 2020

    1. So glad you liked the Joshua Tree post. A seven-day stay-limit was in effect for the Chiriaco Summit free campground behind the General Patton museum – but I don’t know if that holds for every season. There is also an abundance of boondocking on the BLM property near the entrance of the park and a dump station at the Cottonwood campground, but I don’t know if it is opened during the park closure. As of two weeks ago, we are avoiding the National Parks until end of the coronavirus emergency. There are plenty of beautiful and remote places to camp in the west and we’re taking advantage of the Colorado River area right now.

      Thank so much for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  6. Terrific post and pictures. I’m currently boondocking near the north entrance since February 1st. Loving the desert, thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Horace! Thanks for being with us. I think boondocking in the desert is the best way to hack this weird time. If this goes through summer, we’ll have to head for the mountains. But so far, we think we can hang here (on this desert oasis on the Colorado River) for another few weeks. We’re so happy we outfitted our trailer for long-term dry-camping.

      Stay healthy, Horace.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  7. Your post is perfectly timed. We are on day 8 or 9 of drab gray skies and occasional rain, and I was desperately in need of some sunshine and blue sky pictures. So, thank you. It looks like the sun will start shining here the day after tomorrow – but that will also bring temperatures in the 90’s. Ugh. Maybe we’ll get lucky and this virus will act as some others and give us a break with the warm weather. One can hope, anyway.

    It’s good to hear you’re safe and sound and, most importantly, well stocked. I’ve read a lot of panicky posts this week from RVers not sure where to go or what to do. Scary times, but your point is well taken: this too shall pass and life will go on.

    Stay well.

    1. It is our pleasure to give you a moment of sunshine, Laura. And it’s good to know that you three are in a safe place.

      Now, since we have nothing but time to think of things out, I’ve been wondering if all the marinas in America are locking the gates and forcing sailors to move into houses and hotels?

      Today I read an article about San Bernadino full-timers being forced out of the fairgrounds due to COVID-19 shut-downs of public facilities. I’m sure that very few RVers there have another alternative because … they’re living in the fairgrounds. It’s stunning, the disregard for people who are mobile. And I’m fascinated that public officials didn’t provide for mobile lifestyle in their highly detailed emergency scenarios.

      Also, I’m reading about quarantine camps of RV’s being set up to isolate people who have been exposed. So, I guess it is not ok to isolate in a RV if it’s your idea, but it is mandatory if it’s their idea?

      Yes, this will be over eventually, and it will be interesting to see what we’ve all learned from it.

      Be well, stay safe, and cheers!


  8. New subscribers to your blog. We’re on our 4th year fulltime in our truck camper. Best choice ever! Looking forward to catching up with your journey and hopefully we’ll meet up in the future.

    1. Hey Scott! We’re delighted to be a part of your full-time journey. Please drop by often and share your adventures. Maybe we can meet up sometime. Feel free to email us if you think we’re nearby. Yes, absolutely the “best choice ever.”

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  9. Thank you so much for your info. We start back full timing in September, leaving our sticks and bricks with one of our kids for about 7 years. Very helpful info.

    1. Hey Beth! Thank you for introducing yourselves. Preparing for the journey is so much fun. Blessings to you and your family during this exciting transition.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  10. Hi Jim,

    I had wondered how you’re traveling with the shelter-in-place order in place… Good to see you’re safe and sound. It looks so peaceful. You continue to take gorgeous pictures! (Living Beauty, indeed). Loved the one holding up the boulder. 🙂

    Stay safe & healthy,

    1. Nathalia, so great to hear from you. Glad you are safe and well during this COVID-19 pandemic.That boulder just looked like it needed my help! 🤣 Jim

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