We arrived on Tuesday after what felt like a really long drive. We have 2 cars for this leg of the trip, so I’m driving our Honda Civic with both boys and Kevin is driving the truck with the house. Let me tell you, driving for four hours alone with two year old twins who refuse to nap isn’t a walk in the park. We made the best of it though and checked into our campsite at Jumbo Rocks around 4. The boys played in the dirt and climbed on the rocks as we got settled and prepped dinner. It was our first time ever camping without hook-ups and it wasn’t feeling much different (more on boondocking with the tiny below).
Wednesday morning went off without a hitch. The boys woke up and were in awe of our view. They played with their trains and watched the sun move along the rocks as we cooked breakfast. The stones in Joshua Tree are unlike anything you’ve ever seen; they are giant boulders stacked on top of each other in a precariously looking way, but in reality, are incredibly strong and stable. It’s a work of art. We had complete freedom… The whole day ahead of us to wander around the desert, spy on lizards and climb on boulders with 2 year old twins. What could go wrong?
After breakfast the boys were excited to strap on their new toddler Camelbaks and carry their own water, so we threw it all in the car and drove five minutes to Hall of Horrors (great name, right?) to explore. It was the boys’ first trip to a National Park, so we were ready with mini ranger vests and cameras to document every joyous moment. We had only walked 30 feet on the trail when I saw a Beaver Tail cactus that had just started to bloom it’s beautiful large, pink flowers. They had seen a few other cactus and were admiring their spikes without touching, but the Beaver Tail is sneaky. She camouflages herself as an inviting, soft as a blanket plant to love on and touch. It isn’t until a minute or two later that your hands feel like they’re on fire, only to look closer and see a million, tiny hairs with barbs lodged in your hands. Well, guess who pet that cactus with both hands? River!
Neither of us saw it happen (we were both standing right there, but we somehow missed it), so when he started screaming and held out his hands, I immediately brushed them off, thinking he didn’t like that they were dirty. That’s when my hands felt like they were on fire too and we realized what had happened. We ran the 30 feet we had walked back to the car with 2 screaming toddlers (one because his hands were on fire and the other because he was genuinely confused). I was actually grateful my hands were burning too because I knew what would make them feel better. I threw a pot of water on to boil and got some hot water and essential oils in a baking pan. For the next 2 hours River soaked his hands in that hot water (constantly needing refills of course) while I meticulously worked with tweezers to get each individual hair out. The random bouts of screaming in pain and the same two Paw Patrols playing over and over (the only two I downloaded in preparation for no cell service) almost made me lose my mind, but we persevered. I even had to feed him his lunch through sobs and boogers as he refused to pick anything up. I don’t think any parent in the history of the world has been as ready for nap as I was. Bodhi was still ready to hike, so Kevin took him out for short walks peaking his head in every so often to check in on the situation.
River woke up in much better spirits. We used duct tape to get the last few stingers out, which seemed to work. He watched one more Paw Patrol curled up in a ball on the couch and then came out for the rest of the afternoon to play. He rode his bike and roasted marshmallows without a single whimper… We were in the clear! Although our day didn’t go as planned, it was still an adventure and we didn’t have to leave early, so we were grateful for more short hikes near our campsite and another night of playing around the campfire. No one said camping in the desert is easy, and it’s particularly challenging with curious twins, but a positive outlook and determination can help get you through almost anything.
Now, onto boondocking with the tiny house… Things actually went incredibly smoothly. We were able to cook using our stove and oven because they run on propane, which was helpful and meant that we didn’t have to set up an outdoor kitchen. We have 35 gallon fresh and grey water tanks, though I do wish we would have gone a bit bigger. With extreme conserving I do think we could go 4 days without a refill. We brought extra jugs for drinking water and set up a hand-washing station outside as well, so that helped. The one thing we knew was going to be a problem was our refrigerator. We went with an electric fridge because we had heard such controversial things about the ones that switch between propane and electric. Since we haven’t gotten a battery/solar system to power it yet, we bought 3 huge bricks of ice, put them on baking sheets and stuck them in the fridge. They actually did a great job of keeping things cold, but they did start to melt and we had to dump them often so they didn’t overflow and leave everything sopping in the fridge. It worked, but we definitely want a battery/inverter system for the fridge now. Lanterns for light worked great and we made sure to go during a temperate time so we wouldn’t need to heat or cool the house.
We stayed in Joshua Tree for three days and two nights and we could have stayed longer without hookups without any problems. It’s encouraging to know that we can do it now that we’ve had the experience and we can easily fix the fridge situation with a few purchases. We do have a generator, but prefer not to use it if we can, especially when in nature since they are loud and such gas guzzlers. All in all it was a great trip, (besides River’s incident of course) and we can’t wait to find our next scenic spot to dry camp again!
Do you have any additional tips or tricks to share when it comes to dry camping or National Parks with toddlers? Please share in the comments if you do. It takes a village!