Southern California

Isn't it true that when you grow up in a certain area there are local, touristy things that you never get to experience? I'm not sure why this happens, but I think everyone has a similar story. One of these places for me is Joshua Tree. CA. As a kid we drove past the exit for Joshua Tree a thousand times on our way out I-10 to Havasu. I saw the signs, knew what a Joshua Tree was- in fact, I had friends that camped out there quite often, but it wasn't a place my family ever ventured to. Why?

Well, for starters, there's no water there. When you own a boat and have kids who love to ski and tube, water is a necessity. It certainly wasn't the idea of camping that scared us. When we first got our boat we camped on the shore of the Colorado River in tents. While the luxury of a motor home awaited us down the road, some of my fondest memories of camping days happened while we were in a tent.

I have a vivid memory of someone stepping on hot coals, and my little brother solving the problem by dousing the coals with his own urine. We had windstorms to deal with, extremely hot days and chilly nights, cramped quarters and slim-pickings for food. The tent story to end all tent stories, however, is one I still re-tell to this day.

I'm not sure where we were (my mom could tell you better) but I know it wasn't the Colorado River. I believe we were up at Lake Nacimiento and my uncle was due to arrive sometime late one evening. My mom, dad, brother and I were all sleeping shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the tent when morning rolled around. Still groggy, I turned over to see a strange man sleeping in between me and my mom- a total STRANGER! In shock and panic, I woke my mom. Mistakenly, she thought it was just my uncle who must have snuck in sometime in the night. Quickly enough, she realized this was no one we knew and starts screaming at my dad "Ron, Ron, wake up Ron! There's strange man in our tent!" My dad, being the ever laid-back dude that he is, casually stands up and starts tapping the man on the shoulder- "sir, sir" he says "excuse me, sir." he continues "please get up, sir" but his kindness is not working- for ANYONE. My mom is ticked and takes off out of the tent to fetch some friends who will undoubtedly be a little firmer with this man. In roll, my uncle and family friend who start calling this guy every name in the book and yanking him out by the arm. Needless to say, the dude had been wasted and lost, and in his drunkenness wandered into our tent and passed out. Who in the world knows how long he had been sleeping nose to nose with the four of us. Crazy!

I believe that might have been the beginning of the end of our tent days. Soon thereafter, we had a motor home- comfy beds, room to spread out a little, AC on hot days, a way to cook our food, and most important, a front door that locked. With that jalopy came a whole new set of problems, as we spent countless hours broke down in the desert waiting on a tow. One time, we even managed to leave our beloved Cocker Spaniel at a gas station and drive several hours away before we ever knew he was missing- this new square footage had its disadvantages as well.

These crazy camping memories continued through high school, ending when my parents got divorced senior year. I graduated college, moved away and have spent the last twenty four years visiting as often as possible. Despite the visits, and the fact that we no longer have a boat and seek out water, we still never made it to Joshua Tree. Thanks to The Unraveled Academy that was about to change.

I have been dying to shoot at Joshua Tree and am obsessed with the work of Mari Trancoso. Unraveled announced that they'd be hosting a shootout, led by Mari in Joshua Tree. Sign me up! Nothing was gonna stop me. I recruited my besties- Ashley and Sarah- and a plan was hatched.

Last Friday night was spent in the park with a vintage Thunderbird, shooting a gorgeous couple Kamelia Vahneshan and Faraz Behkarfar. Mari was so open with her process, willing to share her knowledge, methods and game plan. She staged numerous set-ups, made sure we all got equal opportunity to shoot, and coached us all the way through. The night was pure magic and one I will never forget!

The girls and I spent a short night at a super cute Air BNB- I highly recommend this tiny place if you're ever passing through. Got up early to watch the sunrise, enjoyed some coffee, then headed off to the second half of our Mari shootout- an in-home session. I'll post more about that one later.

In the meantime, I am still enjoying the taste of this weekend that lingers in my mouth. I hope it stays for a while. I know I say it often, but I am truly so grateful for the community Unraveled has created. While I brought some friends with me, I also got the chance to meet new friends- people I feel like I've known virtually for some time. I laughed my ass off, felt free of responsibility, enjoyed girl time, warm weather and beautiful scenery. Most important, I fed my creative soul and that felt so good. Sometimes we have to do things that are just for us, and not feel guilty about it! Until the next time, Joshua Tree.