I spent the first three days of the New Year camping in Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. It was my first time and I expected to be out in the middle of nowhere with just my friends and a few Joshua trees, enjoying the solitude of the desert. But on arriving, I was shocked and a little appalled at the urban sprawl that awaited me. Instead of a clear sky lit only by the stars and moon, our campsite had a great view of the lights of Joshua Tree City. Yet, as horrified as I was, I have to wonder how much do I contribute to this problem? I drove a good eight hours to spend some time with nature, and Joshua Tree is a popular destination for other like-minded travelers. But in our attempt to get away from it all, are we in fact encouraging harmful development?
We resisted the temptation, but waking up in below freezing weather, I have to admit a latte from the Starbucks just outside our campground sounded pretty good. And one night we almost stopped at Home Depot to pick up a few extra Java Logs so we could keep a campfire going an extra hour and even joked about the possibility of getting Papa Johns delivered straight to our campsite. Sprouting up along the park entrances are many outdoor stores, perfect for campers who forgot an extra warm layer, or who at the last minute want to buy new climbing shoes. So I have to wonder, as we try to leave our cities to find that “hidden gem” unspoiled by development, are we instead endangering the last pure enclaves of nature?