I’ve lost count of how many times I have visited Joshua Tree National Park. I live less than 2 hours drive away so it makes sense that this would be my go to weekend getaway.

This last weekend I headed out around noon thinking it was early enough to get lucky with finding a campsite (like I always do). I was unaware though, that JT had switched Jumbo Rocks Campground from a walk-in to a reservation only campground in February. Previously, only large group campgrounds had been by reservation only. What does this mean practically for me? Well… the campground with the highest number of sites (124) is closed and I’m left to search out the smaller campgrounds… along with every other person that showed up not realizing that Jumbo was closed. It was a clusterf***.

This was the first time in my relationship with this park that I was unable to score a spot. This was frustrating for a few reasons. Let me explain why:

Joshua Tree is magic. It has some of the best campsite vibes and friendliest people. It has a hippy commune type feel. I’ve never gone to JT and not made friends with neighboring campers. Also, within the past year or so, I haven’t camped at JT without sharing my site. I know how difficult it can be to get a spot and MOST of them are large. They’re able to comfortably fit 3 decent sized tents. When I see vehicles passing by, desparately looking for a spot, I can’t just sit by. I stop the vehicles and offer a space. Food, drinks, and a campfire is shared. That’s the magic of Joshua Tree. There is just so much good juju going around!

What I noticed on this last trip was how many motorhomes were taking up spaces and not utilizing any of their campground space. They didn’t need the table, they didn’t use the tent area and the campfire was never lit. I noticed these large campers booking the spaces around the so they wouldn’t have neighbors. I saw single tents on large spaces, unwilling to share their spot.

After camping outside the park, we journeyed back in, confident we’d find a spot. It turns out there were people smarter than us! The day before, people had found campsites leaving on Saturday and prepaid for the spot for the following day and then tucked their tag under the current one. It meant that all the sites I had thought would come available, were not. We hit Hidden Valley, Ryan’s Head, checked Jumbo just in case someone didn’t make their reservation, and then finally found a spot in Belle.

The previous day could have made me jaded. I could have decided to no longer share my spot because to hell with it. No one helped me the night before! But I’ll be damned if some large RV hogging, rude camping, non good juju giving people are going to ruin it for me.

I was still waiting for the previous campers to clear out the space when a car full of women slowly creeped by. I walked over to their vehicle, and offered to share my spot. Turns out they were unable to find one the previous night either. They were so grateful, they told the neighboring spots that I had shared. As I was leaving, one of them came over and said it hadn’t occurred to them to offer to share. It was the nicest thing they’ve seen anyone do in awhile and they’d be sure to do the same in the future.

The magic of Joshua Tree is still there.