We had it all planned. Six months ago to the day, we reserved camp sites at Joshua Tree National Park for our family and 11 other families for last weekend. It was our third year taking the trip and the group has kept getting bigger and bigger. I had arranged with Ford to get a 2014 Explorer with a trailer hitch for review so we could pull our tent trailer on the 4-hour drive to the park.
Then the government shut down not just government offices, but also the National Parks. Joshua Tree was closed and like many Americans we were shut out of the National Parks, monuments, and forests. The kids were extremely disappointed, but there was nothing we could do. We had a hard time finding a state park that could take our group so instead we went to a private campground, Ventura Ranch KOA, in Santa Paula. I had been “glamping*” there before so I knew it was very kid friendly and they had running water and nice bathrooms.
The campground was set up differently than Joshua Tree so if we took our tent trailer we would have had to park away from our friends (some had dropped out). No tent trailer for us but our bike rack fit nicely on the trailer hitch.
And surprisingly, all of our gear fit in the back as well. I can’t believe we got all of it in the car.
The Explorer was excellent to drive. Smooth and powerful. And it was heavy, which came in handy during the windstorm we encountered on the drive up (and throughout the weekend). We could see other cars having a hard time on the road, but not so for us.
The campsite was beautiful and we had a nice communal area to cook and build a campfire. Sadly, there was a high fire warning because of the wind and dry conditions so there was no campfire for us.
But at least we were able to cook on our camp stoves.
And go on hikes.
The car was pretty dusty at the end of the weekend, but that’s what an Explorer is great for: Adventure. I loved driving it and was a little sad to have to give it back.
We are still disappointed that we could not go to Joshua Tree, but we ended up having a really nice weekend. We continue to be outraged and saddened that Congress can’t get its act together. It may have been inconvenient for us to miss out on a National Park weekend, but unbelievably harder for all of the park service workers who are furloughed and not getting paid.
Disclosure: I was not compensated, but I was loaned a Ford Explorer for review. All opinions are my own.
*Glamping is where you sleep off the ground in a cabin, yurt, or teepee. It’s awesome because there’s running water, maybe a refrigerator, and sometimes electricity and wifi.