In the time it takes to drive from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park, my vacation auto-responder is sent out 83 times. As its message promises (Hi! My physician recently informed me that I'm severely deficient in Vitamin D so I'll be on the other side of the country, sitting in direct sunlight through May 14), I'm not watching my inbox. I'm soaking up the heat of the desert through the sunroof of a Toyota Highlander, watching palm trees become Yucca brevifolia—AKA the Joshua Tree—along the way.
My week begins this way: a few thousand miles from home, 4:30 AM on the road into the desert. Waking up at an hour that qualifies as the middle of the night isn’t the greatest feeling in the world, but turns out if you get to the park before 7:00 in the morning, you’re not likely to see another car or another person for hours and hours. It’ll just be you, your travel companion, and the entire place waiting to be explored. It won’t even matter when you drive 130 miles in the wrong direction and end up inches from Arizona, because by the time you actually realize where you are it's still not even noon. Plus, everything as far as you can see is new and stimulating and a little bit magical. David (travel companion) and I spend the whole day in our car in the sun with the windows down and our music playing loud enough to hear over the breeze which is sometimes more of a fresh gale and probably causes us chronic hearing loss. We stop anywhere we feel like it just to climb around on rocks, take photos and listen to the stillness of this place. God knows you can’t find silence like it in New York. We have a drink and watch the sun go down near Keys View, out of the way of other tourists. We build a fire, cook dinner, and sleep like babies in a yurt ("A yurt!!"—Tom) just outside the park.
The next morning, we make our way back to LA. We’re not in a rush; we have brunch in Palm Springs and explore for a bit, picturing this town in all its Hollywood glory of the '50s and '60s. Back in the city for the afternoon we shower and sort of brush the dust off everything. We’ll be out on the road again on our way to Big Sur early the next morning, so it’s nice to feel clean and relaxed 'till then. After ramen and a couple drinks with friends we pass out later than we should. We're up again at 3:45 in the morning anyway… at this point, I’m holding onto my East Coast jetlag for dear life because I have decided I don’t want to miss anything. I'll beg my body for forgiveness later.
Driving hundreds of miles up the West Coast will change your life. The further north you take Highway One, the more exciting the scenery gets. It’s a cloudy morning but the hills to our right are lush and green. To our left is the ocean, covered in fog, stretching out forever. We stop and watch elephant seals flop around on Elephant Seal Beach. Other times we pull over just to dramatically run along the water for no reason except that it feels good and we're having fun. Again, we’re taking our time. Part of Highway One remains temporarily closed, so when we get as far as we can go, we’re forced to detour up through central California and over to Monterey that way. It’s not the prettiest part of the drive, but this is fun too—the more variety the better.
As we finally drive into Big Sur from the North, I lose cell service just past Monterey and don’t get it back until we leave two days later. It’s nice: for the first time in months, I’m not distracted by anything, and I’m not even a little bit bored. I leave my phone in the glove box and hardly take it out for photos. Sometimes we turn off the music and drive to the sound of nothing. We stop to watch the surf at almost every turnout in Big Sur and on one occasion take a dirt road eastward where we find a couple baby deer strolling through the forest with their mom. Exploring the coast this way leaves room for a lot of discovery. It suits the wildness of Big Sur, too. Our nights up here are spent in a miniature cabin next to a river where everything smells like firewood and pine. I sleep better than ever. We make it back to Los Angeles in time for Sunday brunch before I fly out of LAX and I'm sad to leave, but happy I came.
I’m back in New York now. I know—I would be neglecting my duty as a beauty editor if I failed to mention my packing list. In a shockingly out-of-character move, I did not! overpack. Instead, I essentially wore the same pair of black denim shorts and a tank top all week. While on the road, I stored my pink pouch of skincare in the cooler alongside a packet of Tofurkey dogs, and most days I surprised myself by putting nothing more than Avéne Tolerance Lightweight Emulsion and La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF 60 on my face. On a couple occasions I dotted Laura Mercier concealer under my eyes and a Chanel powder blush on my cheeks, plus Glossier Lash Slick. Peach Slices Acne Spot Dots saved both our lives every day, and Le Labo’s Body-Hair-Face travel-sized products kept me from smelling bad the whole time. That’s no small feat in a desert.
Photographed by David Cortes.
In the mood to explore? More postcards to read, here.