I almost forgot to post this -- we spent New Year's Eve at California's Joshua Tree National Park, near Palm Springs. It was one of our best family days ever. Ever ever ever.
If your child with autism likes to hike and boulder, I couldn't imagine a better place to go -- as long as you're prepared. Joshua Tree is high desert, and in December that means ow-my-nose cold temperatures. If you go, check the weather report beforehand, take it seriously, and dress appropriately!
For hiking, I'd recommend the Barker Dam trail. It is a relatively flat 1.5 mile loop -- flat in terms of elevation gain, not footing. There were many bouldery moments, which as a family of billy goats we all loved.
|Barker Dam trail - outbound|
|We found snow! And ice! Mali is holding up a small slab of frozen H20.|
|Iz testing the lake to verify that yes, indeed, it is frozen.|
|The reservoir created by Barker Dam is small but lovely. It attracts the area's fauna, but to Seymour's disappointment we did not see any Desert Big Horn sheep.|
|Iz pushing her personal bouldering limits.|
|There's always time for a game of "my cheeks make excellent bellows"|
|See? Joshua trees! Return leg from Barker Dam.|
|There were even petroglyphs. Though these ones have been messed with.|
We hit several other sites in the park, but the kids' favorite was Skull Rock and the bouldering behind it. The rough-textured granite rocks make climbing easy -- almost too easy. Your kids may get over-confident about their new super human climbing abilities, so mind them closely. There are many sharp drop offs on boulder backsides, and kids may not notice how high up they are climbing, and could get stranded.
|Leo billy-goating -- with close supervision.|
We stayed nearby in TwentyNine Palms, at the Fairfield Marriott Inn. The hotel seemed set up for families, with complimentary breakfast, huge clean new rooms, and free wireless. Score! Recommended, especially with a spanking AAA discount rate.
I think we'll be going back. A single day, no matter how full, was insufficient to appreciate this beautiful park. We're hoping to come back, possibly even camp (!).
Have you ever been to Joshua Tree National Park? What did you think?