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We just returned from a relaxing trip to Joshua Tree National Park. We decided to go here because I thought it would be neat to get the kids out of the city and see the stars during a new moon. Joshua Tree is known as one of the best places in the country to stargaze.

Our trip started rocky though. Only a few minutes into the drive I recognized that I shouldn’t be driving because of how sleepy I felt from my medications. This has been a growing problem with me. It seems like I had gone awhile without being this brought down by my meds. I pulled off the highway so that my wife could drive.

My intent, after helping to navigate through a neighborhood to the on ramp was to stay awake and have a relaxing chat with my favorite person. A moment later she was waking me up to help with the map as we were entering the park. I had completely missed a great moment to enjoy some quiet time together while the kids slept. Instead my wife drove the whole way there essentially alone.

Spring break, great weather and a new moon meant for a crowded park. The park ranger at the gate wasn’t even nice about it, the campgrounds were full but we could drive around and see if anyone was leaving. Great, that was strike two.

But if this were a post about misadventures then it would be over now. Things turned around from there. At the second campground, we found a family that was leaving a great site. We had our own few boulders, close parking and easy access to some simple climbing for the kids. After setting up camp we headed off to the visitor center to get the kids into the Jr. Ranger program, find a few dog-friendly, kid-friendly hikes and a great place to see the stars.

Our hike that day was at Skull Rock, a rock that is shaped like a huge skull. To my delight it was obvious that it wasn’t a human skull it looked like but an alien skull complete with enlarged eyes and an elongated skull. This may have something to do with the fact that I am always looking for aliens in everything I do though. It’s only fair, since they are watching me.

This was a great place for us to hike. Once we got a little off to the side, away from other people I could let the full leash out on my over-friendly dog. We didn’t hike far at all because the kids found a bunch of great boulders for the kids to climb around on. My daughter, in typical form, found a rock that looked just like the head of a ninja… makes me proud. The rocks in Joshua Tree are very rough and great for grip. It made both my wife and I nervous that the kids could climb up higher and on steeper slopes.

That night we found ourselves in the very south end of the park in what the ranger called the “night side.” The stars did not disappoint at all. There were so many that it even became difficult to pick out some of the major constellations amongst them. I counted 10 Voorhees that night. After my wife and I watched all the Friday the 13th movies, including Jason X, we call all shooting stars Voorhees because you never know if it is “just” a shooting star or if it is a supernatural maniac killer. It’s always safe to assume the worst: a raining down of machete-slashing death.

The kids spent stargazing in the car since, even bundled in blankets, they were too cold in the wind and majorly disinterested. Well, we tried to give them a magical moment under the canopy. This made for a great moment for my wife and I to watch the stars together. It was a very relaxing experience. It helped that I had received a phone call with some great news on the way back from the ranger station. The VA, finally, had completed their major step in my case after 54 days of a supposedly 15-day process. Not only did they finish, but the numbers they came up with were even better than I was anticipating.

With so much pressure off my mental soundness, I slept great that night. There was an intense wind but it didn’t seem to bother any of us after my wife moved off her cot to the warm spot between the kids. I enjoyed staring through the screened roof of the tent at the stars above. I may not have seen any of the UFOs that I am always on the watch for, but I did see several more Voorhees.

The next day was a day we decided to pace based off the kids. We started off to a slow morning including climbing on the rocks around our campsite and Hot-Wheels in the dust. After a short hike with a lot of people we went looking for another short hike with no people. Then we were back off to the campsite early to play Exploding Kittens, watch the sunset and have dinner.

Good news can be just as triggering as bad news for me. I couldn’t sleep that night and had a severe insomnia night. I nodded off a couple of times for only a little bit. Normally I have lots of things to do on these nights like video games or watching Ancient Aliens. In a tent, I have nothing. Just my panicking schizophrenic mind. I tried to relax and watch the stars, but they didn’t help. I tried a walk, it didn’t help. Eventually, at 3:30 I gave up, grabbed the dog and drove into town 30 minutes away for our morning coffee. Ironically, I fell asleep when I came back.

The next day we drove back to our apartment in LA that I refuse to call home.
Our trip went better than either my wife or I could have imagined. The good news made for some relaxing time together. It gave me some head-space to enjoy the moments. Sure, I’ve found new things to be psyched-out about like I always will. But for a couple of days, we could experience what life will feel like after our transition out of the military is complete and I am into a civilian job.

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