State #38 California – Interrupted

We were pretty excited about crossing into California. It’s one of the states that none of us had ever been to. So it’s pretty cool for all of us to see it together for the first time.

Our first stop was for lunch and we chose Jack in the Box. Okay, so we don’t normally eat this much fast food but after the disappointing Whataburger, we thought about other fast food chain burger joints that we hadn’t tried but heard of, so when Jack In The Box popped up on the GPS about 30 minutes past the state line, we knew we needed to try it. All I could remember about Jack In The Box was the 1993 E. Coli outbreak from their hamburger patties. So I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. But, hey, that’s been 27 years so I’m pretty sure we’re safe. 🙂 We ordered our burgers and I had a coupon for free nuggets. Our general consensus was – Jack was way better than Whataburger.

With our bellies full, we headed to Twentynine Palms. Why, you ask? To visit Joshua Tree National Park, of course. When entering the park from the east it feels like the middle of nowhere and I mean nowhere. Miles and miles of this….

When those mountains in the distance draw near you know you’re getting closer to the park.

The park has three visitor centers. We visited the two on the north side. We didn’t make it down to Cottonwood in the south.

Joshua Tree National Park is comprised of two areas – the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The story goes that the Joshua trees got their name from a group of Morman settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century who were reminded of Joshua, from the Bible, raising his hands in prayer for an extended time to guide the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. The trunks consists of small fibers, as opposed to annual growth rings, making their age hard to determine.

The original plan, since we had such a long drive, was to go to the visitor center, get our park information, and the Jr Ranger program stuff, and then head to our hotel. However, two things happened. One, we got there earlier than we thought (partly in thanks to another time change). Two, the boys saw big rocks and boulders. Once they saw them, all we heard from the backseat was -“Pull over, those look great for climbing! Stop, you’re passing them!! Please let us climb!!!” I mean, all the boys wanted to do was climb, so we let them. Don’t worry, the park is cool with that. We have been to many parks were you can’t touch this or can’t get off the trail, etc. But Joshua Tree is mostly wilderness with very few marked trails, and it is known for their rock climbing. So the boys couldn’t have been more excited.

I know it’s really hard to tell in these pictures, but the boys scrambled pretty high up. I was near the bottom but if you enlarge the picture, you will see at least one of my kiddos or my hubby in each of the pictures. Kind of like a Where’s Waldo for you’re viewing pleasure.

Why am I not up there when I’m the one who likes heights, you ask? Well, remember, I told you our original plan was just to stop by the visitor center? I had on the wrong shoes, capris, and shirt that wasn’t stretchy for moving. Total mom fail. I would be prepared the next day. No worries.

Though, I was bummed about not climbing with my boys, the boys were having a great time. It was fun watching them. They were already saying this park moved up to number two as their favorite climbing park.

Trev went scrambling with them and was a trooper about it.

It’s kind of crazy to see all these Joshua trees here and not elsewhere. I know it has to do with climate and how they propagate but it’s just crazy.

After the boys scrambled over and down the back side of the outcropping….

we watched some people actually mountain climbing with climbing gear before we headed to our hotel.

The next morning the boys were so ready to head back to the park. This time we stopped at the Oasis Visitor Center and the boys turned in their ranger books. Mason’s face and his ranger hat are cracking me up.

There are no services inside the park so you have to bring water, food, etc. They do have a few potties scattered around the road. But nothing else away from the road as it is designated as wilderness. So with bladders empty, water bottles full, and a cooler of food, we set out for rock climbing. I looked up actual real rock climbing. I thought that would be a lot of fun. There are several guides in the area that do trips in Joshua Tree even for beginning families like us. It’s about $150 or so a person for a 3-4 hours depending on which guide you choose. I was all for it but I was the only one. The boys don’t like heights so it wasn’t worth paying. They just wanted to climb, so we did…all day long.

We started with a 2.5 mile moderate hike out Split Rock. The boys loved the rocks with places to hid inside.

I liked when we climbed up high in between boulders. I tried to take a selfie with the boys but you can’t tell how high we were. Trev stayed on the ground that time. You can see them climbing down in the second collage (bottom right) to kind of give you an idea. It was a great day with three people that I love so much.

Towards the end of the Split Rock trail, we split up. Tuck didn’t want to hike to Skull Rock but Mason did. Trev and Tuck finished Split Rock and Mason and I took the Discovery trail over to Skull Rock; which was cool because we got to see Face Rock (top pic below) and walk through a short slot canyon.

We saw a desert cottontail (pic above). I thought it was a black-tailed jackrabbit until we got closer. We met up at Skull Rock and hiked out to Jumbo Rocks campground and then finished the loop back to Skull Rock.

This is Skull Rock and it gets real busy at this rock because it is right off the side of the road. Mason and I thought Face Rock was way cooler and not anywhere near as crowded.

The rocks look rounded and smooth but they are actually very rough, like hard compact chunks of sand.

After a couple days at the park the boys were in love. It has now moved up to the number one spot. Neither of them wanted to leave but we had other places to see.

If you remember back at Thanksgiving, we got that awesome deal on Legoland passes. Well, part of the reason we bought them was because we knew we were headed to California and could use them there too. So the park was free! Yay! And Legoland is right beside a Sea Life Aquarium. So it was also free. Double Yay! We needed those to be free because our room was expensive because we broke from our Comfort and Hamptons to stay at the Legoland Resort. It is by far the boys absolute favorite place to stay, except for Legoland Florida Resort. We all agreed the Florida Resort is WAY better than the California one!! It’s cleaner, newer, bigger, has a better flow, and is managed better.

I love the Legoland Resorts too because its the only place I feel like I’m not constantly shhhing and reminding the boys that people in the other rooms don’t want to hear them horsing around. The place is geared to kids. They don’t care about kids running, being loud, just being kids. They have legos everywhere to build with, the rooms are decked out in lego decor, the buffet is at their height, there’s a disco elevator, a talking whoopee cushion, a scavenger hunt, with a small lego gift everyday. They boys love it. They like the hotel better than the park. Mason was making vegetables like a tomato and a beet so some reason. With legos the creativity is endless.

The rooms are lego themed. We were in the adventure themed room. We’ve stayed in pirate themed and kingdom themed rooms in Florida. Florida has Lego movie and California has Ninjago themed rooms but those cost even more so we skipped those. The bathroom even has a step stool and a toddler potty seat if your kiddos are younger. So kid friendly. The boys used the code from the scavenger hunt to open the treasure chest to get their little lego set. This time it was a cat. The next day they got a new mini figure. We get the bunk bed room so we get a king bed, on one side and the bunk room on the other side is separated by the bathroom so everyone get some privacy. You also get two bottles of water and Honest Kids juice pouches in your room each day. And a pretty good breakfast is included. Lego style. I didn’t take lots of pictures at the hotel because the decor is pretty much the same as Florida, but now that’s I’m describing it, I wish I had pictures to show you.

So when you stay at the resort you get in 30 minutes early, which you think would be cool. But only part of the park is open early so everyone is herded to just a couple rides and the lines get long. Just skip the early part and play at the hotel longer. After the whole park opened the lines were way shorter.

While Tuck and I were waiting to ride the only early opened roller coaster, Trev and Mason went on a storybook boat ride. HA! You can tell from Mason’s face, he’s loving this kiddie ride.

We enjoyed the Deep Sea Adventure ride in California. They don’t have that in Florida. You get into a little submarine and get to look for lego treasure in the water but there are lots of real fish and sting rays in the water too. So cool. We rode this ride a lot.

It just happened to be Ninjago Days the first day we were there. The park was handing out free little Ninjago sets (bottom right pic) plus the boys bought a lego set to share with some birthday money (Thanks Gran!). They were super excited because other than their pins and keychains we don’t buy stuff on the trip. Where in the world would we put it? So this was a pretty special treat.

Here are my brave knights being oh so serious. Sort of.

Tuck loved the Aquaracer Ride.

There are tons of legos to build with at the hotel. We all made our own shields and swords. Well, technically, Mason made a mace and not a sword.

Like I mentioned, SeaLife is right outside the resort to the left of the park, so we walked over one morning and took a stroll through.

The aquarium is small but the staff is great. They love what they do and are happy to answer any questions you might have about the marine life there. Like, why does the zebra shark have spots?

Back at the park, we got to see the actual set from the Lego Movie 2. Kinda cool.

We took a little “cruise” in the park. Some of the lego builds are amazing. The New York City portion used eight million lego bricks alone. You can’t tell in the pictures but most every decoration/prop is made of lego bricks.

We have lots more to do in California but like I said, this is California interrupted. We are headed back east a couple states before hitting the rest of California but first we have a flight to catch to our next state. Beach, ukulele music, luaus, and palm trees. Where or where could it be?

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