The Place I didn't Want to be


I entered Joshua Tree National Park, a desert in California, to find a beautiful landscape with immense boulders and amazingly diverse cacti scattered all around. But at that moment, uncomfortably shivering at night in the 29 degree Fahrenheit temperature in late May, it was not a place Iíd like to be at.
One month prior to this trip I had applied to an alternative spring break trip, and had been chosen among 30 other college students to travel to Joshua Tree National Park to partake in environmental volunteer work. When I asked about accommodations I thought we would stay indoors, but as it turns out, we would be sleeping in tents the whole week. And when I asked about using an electric razor, and I was told that this would be a good time for me to grow a beard!
The company that sponsored us flew me and the rest of the students to Palm Springs, California. There I met up with the crew and the other students, and we made our way from the Palm Springs airport into the Mojave desert. It was hot, although it didnít feel incredibly hot because of the lack of humidity, I could tell because of how thirsty I was all the time. The cacti were spectacular, especially the Joshua tree cacti, which were enormous. Most of them where taller than a person, and had knife like thorns that we were told the locals used to use to tattoo themselves.
I got to know the other students and learned more about what we would be doing during the week; which would include planting trees and doing a turtle survey. But soon the sun was starting to go down, so we put up the tents, and got put in groups of 3 to stay in each tent. The temperature went from being blistering hot, to now being rather cold. I was told ahead of time that it would be like this, but until you experience desert life, itís hard to imagine the rapid change in temperature.
With the sun down, I got ready to go to sleep with my newly acquired friends. At this point I was wearing thermal underwear, pants, 2 pairs of socks, 3 shirts, a winter jacket, winter gloves, and a winter hat. I slept in a mummy bag, which is a type of sleeping bag that is tight fitting and warm. I thought I was prepared, but that night I found out I was not.
I could feel the temperature dropping throughout the night, and I kept pulling my mummy bag higher up until I was completely cocooned in it. Our tent also happened to be on a slight tilt, which may not seem problematic, but when you feel yourself slowing tilting over to one side, itís actually quite uncomfortable. And even though I had a sleeping mat as well, I could feel the hard bumpy ground beneath me. Now, I think I still could have handled this, but one of my tent mates happened to be a loud snorer. At this point, I thought to myself, how in the world am I going to handle this all week!
That night I did not sleep, but when the sun finally came up, I was so happy to feel warmth and to be able to get out of my overly claustrophobic mummy bag! I actually felt so good to be up and moving around, that the next night I felt I could handle the sleeping situation. I learned to put clothes under myself to relieve the force of the bumpy and tilted ground, and my friend and I in the tent took turns shaking our third tent mate to get him to stop snoring. I was still cold at night, but I was able to sleep much better than I had the first night. I ended up having one of the most amazing times of my life doing volunteer work at Joshua Tree National Park.



B Panno

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