Joshua Tree National Park at Sunset
I remember waking up around 1 a.m. from my sleeping bag stupor. It wasn’t the cool air or silence that woke me, (I normally sleep with a blaring fan for white noise) but instead, the Subaru’s headlights bleeding through our transparent tent.
We were camping in Joshua Tree National Park, a park that I didn’t know existed when I first found U2’s album as a teenager.
Who shines their lights on someone's tent late at night? And why were they setting up their tent within 20 feet of us? Maybe they read the campsite number incorrectly?
For the next hour, I stared up at the stars through our tent fabric, while they took their time setting up their campsite in the dark.
Earlier that day, we drove into the park and stared at the fantastically smooth wall of rocks. The campground was aptly named Jumbo Rocks Park, and I couldn’t wait to set up our site. It’s my OCD when traveling. If I’m traveling anywhere, the first thing I do is spill out the contents of my bag and start hanging things immediately. Same goes for a campsite. I’m like a yoga trainee at the end of the chaotic ordeal, patiently waiting to find my center after the mess has dissolved. But not quite finding it.
God help me when I decide to have kids.
In the campground, most of the campsites lined the sides of the road. Some were nestled farther off the road; some right in plain sight. So, forgive me when I get too focused on thinking that the parking space number correlated to the campsite number.
Site #5. Right in front of our parking spot. Perfect.
What I failed to notice, or consciously care, was the number “7” painted on the picnic table that was the true campsite number.
After getting everything organized, we checked out the other sites to compare privacy, and to watch the sunset. We then drove 20 minutes to Twenty-Nine Palms and caught an unforgiving movie at the drive-in. We built a fire and drank boxed red wine.
We went to bed.
When we woke in the morning, our new neighbors were still fast asleep. I built a fire and read for a bit.
A woman appeared from the tent and asked, “What campsite are you?”
“5,” I said.
“Oh, we’re 7,” as she pointed at the picnic table that also said 7.
“Ah, yeah, the tables don’t correspond to the parking signs signifying the sites.”
“Shit. I guess we’ll have to move our stuff.”
I was sure that we were right and then watched as 5 other weary-eyed campers exited their tent and were told that they needed to move their tent over a couple spots.
I’ll admit, we were finding humor in the fact that they had to do the move. Partly because I barely could get any sleep after waking up to the car headlights, and the incredibly loud snoring coming from their tent. I would soon have my ego checked.
After letting our neighbors know confidently that they were indeed in the wrong spot, we noticed the park ranger going site to site to double check everyone's space.
As the ranger walks up, she asks for our names and then draws a line down her clipboard with her finger.
“Kadlac. You’re in the wrong spot. You’re supposed to be in spot number 5,” pointing to a location about 30 yards from where we set up camp.
“Oh shit,” I thought.
I realized that we had been in the wrong spot the entire time, and had unflinchingly told our neighbors to pick up and haul ass over to the wrong site.
After walking over to apologize for completely fucking up, we did the tent walk of shame into our newly secluded spot.