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  • Sunset at Mojave Desert in Twentynine Palms, CA

Take a long weekend getaway to Twentynine Palms! The fall season is the perfect time to explore and discover the wonders of the Mojave Desert. With the weather cooling off and the city coming to life with events, there has never been a better time to visit and enjoy all Twentynine Palms has to offer.

Outdoor Adventure

Take a walk in nature and explore Joshua Tree National Park. With over 2.4 million visitors in 2020, Joshua Tree National Park was named the 10th Most Visited National Park in the U.S. by the National Park Service. Encompassing nearly 800,000 acres of protected land, visitors can explore both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts while taking part in several activities. From hiking to rock climbing to just enjoying the beautiful desert scenery, this is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With the long weekend, it will be busy in the National Park, so here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you are ready for your trip:

Indian Cove Picnic Area

Use the Twentynine Palms entrance. Wait times at the West Entrance in Joshua Tree can reach upwards of 1 hour. If you are traveling eastbound on the highway, keep driving 15 more minutes and enter the park through the North entrance in Twentynine Palms. Not only is the wait time much shorter at the North entrance, but you can also visit the Oasis Visitor Center on National Park Drive before heading up to the park.

Purchase your pass online. It is now easier than ever to buy your park pass. Not only can you purchase your entrance pass online, but you can also reserve your camping site. Go online to recreation.gov and get your pass in advance.

Download the NPS app. With no cell service in the park, it can be difficult to navigate where you’re going with your phone. Luckily, the NPS app allows you to download park info to make sure you can find your way around the park while offline. With interactive maps, tours of park places, and more, download the NPS app and make the most of your visit.

Plan Like a Park Ranger. The staff at JTNP have put together an incredible article to help you travel like an expert when you visit the park. To help you plan your trip even more, here are the Top 10 Tips for Visiting Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Arts, Culture, & History

This long weekend is the perfect time to dive into the rich arts, culture, and history that make Twentynine Palms the cultural oasis it is today. The Joshua Tree Music Festival kicks off the weekend beginning Thursday, October 7th with their first festival since October 2019. With the pandemic having shut down their festivals for two years, JTMF is ready to get the community back to the “Heart of the Matter” with artists from all over the world performing for one weekend only.

October 9th and 10th mark the first weekend for the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours. Now in its 20th year, the Art Tours take place all over the Morongo Basin. This self-guided tour will take visitors on a journey to each of the artists’ studios to see where the magic happens. With 18 artists in Twentynine Palms opening their doors, tour-goers will get a glimpse into the worlds of renowned artists such as Perry Hoffman, Anna Stump, Elisabeth Pollnow, Anne Lear, and many more.

For all the history buffs out there, the Old Schoolhouse Museum is the place to be. With a mission to collect, preserve, and display information, artifacts, and memorabilia, the Twentynine Palms Historical Society has been educating visitors for almost 30 years. This weekend, join artist Barbara Gothard as she discusses her Art+Humanities project, “Contradictions – Bringing the Past Forward,” as the 2nd Friday Lecture Series continues on Friday, October 8th.

If you are curious about the nature of the area, the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park will be hosting a special class this weekend as part of their Fall Field Class schedule. Learn all about the Insects and Arthropods of the Morongo Basin with Kurt Leuschner as he explores the lives of the largest group of animals in the world. Participants will learn to identify and distinguish insects from other arthropods and then practice their skills in the field. Field observations will include desert, dune, and riparian habitats, as well as a special night session with black lights at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

 

Shop & Dine

Fuel up for the weekend ahead with some great eats at one of our local, family-owned restaurants! For breakfast, Campbell Hill Bakery is every pastry lover’s dream for the best croissants, coffee cake, and scones in town. Take your taste buds on an adventure at Cactus Trails Café and try their Cactus Omelette with their Prickly Pear Lemonade. For a big, hearty breakfast, head on over to John’s Place and order John’s Farm Breakfast Special loaded with eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy.

When you’re ready for lunch, head on over to FANS Sports Bar and Grill for some great all-American burgers, wings, hot dogs, and more. Mexican Street Tacos is home to the famous David Tran Plate and their always delicious street tacos. If you like spicy food, check out Thai Café and all of their delicious curries including their Roasted Duck and Siam Gulf curries.

Spend your evening dining at one of our great eating establishments. Have some good old-fashioned barbecue with Rib Co.‘s grilled jalapenos and Triple Threat ribs. Stop by Edchadas and get your hands on their Amigo Burrito and pair it with one of their famous margaritas. Twentynine Palms’ newest gastropub GRND SQRL has great new food for visitors and locals to enjoy like their Shanghai Wings, SQRL Burger, and, our personal favorite, the Jalla Sandwich. End your evening with the last cold beer on Highway 62 at the newest neighborhood bar on the corner of National Park Drive and the Highway, Out There Bar.

Spend the weekend shopping around town and shop small at our local retail stores! If you’re downtown, stop by White Label VinylHi-Desert DaydreamDonahlue Clothing Co.The Lobby by Desert Beacon, and more along the highway. When you’re out and about on Adobe Road, stop in and check out Copy Center Plus, and further down in the Historic Plaza you’ll find Perfectly Unique. These are only a handful of the many locally-owned stores you can find in Twentynine Palms, so be sure to stop in and say hi to us at the 29 Palms Visitor Center to find out what other gems we have hiding in our city.

 

Stargazing & Astronomy

This long weekend will make for the perfect opportunity to get out into nature in the late evening to enjoy a spectacular display of astronomical events. The Draconid meteor shower will peak on October 8th. Unlike most meteor showers, the Draconids are short-lived. You will want to look towards the constellation Draco the Dragon to watch the shower. Luckily, the thin waxing crescent moon will make for good visibility this year.

Get out the telescope because stargazers will have a great view of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Great Square of Pegasus throughout the fall season. Being the closest large spiral galaxy to our Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant thing we can see with the unaided eye. This weekend, you will be able to view the galaxy in the eastern sky at nightfall before it makes its trek to the western sky by dawn. Part of the constellation Pegasus, the Great Square of Pegasus can also be seen ascending into the eastern sky in the early evenings this season. Made of four stars of nearly equal brightness, the Great Square is a landmark of the Northern Hemisphere’s autumn sky.

Plan your night under the stars with our guide to stargazing in Twentynine Palms.

We hope to see you in Twentynine Palms enjoying all our city has to offer! From exploring Joshua Tree National Park to gazing up at the desert night sky, there is something for everyone to enjoy this holiday weekend. Be sure to stop by the 29 Palms Visitor Center for any information you may need during your visit.

 

 

Stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park Photo by Jack Fusco

 

It’s that time of year again! The annual Perseids meteor shower will be gracing our desert night skies once again this August in all its out-of-this-world glory. Boasting some of the darkest night skies in southern California and bordering Joshua Tree National Park, an International Dark Sky Park, 29 Palms is the ideal destination for observing the Perseids this summer!

Producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak and known for its massive fireballs which are larger explosions of light and color that last longer than the average meteor streak, the Perseids are a sight to behold and one of the most exciting meteor showers to observe. These fireballs leave “long ‘wakes’ of light and color behind them,” according to NASA. Named after the constellation Perseus, NASA reports the Perseids originate from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862 by astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. With the meteors appearing in all parts of the sky, this shower will be easy to witness with the naked eye. Plus, with the waxing crescent moon setting in the early evening, viewers will be left with gorgeous dark skies for what is sure to be an excellent show!

There are a few things you’ll want to bring with you to make your meteor shower watch party a memorable experience, starting with a comfortable chair. A reclining lawn chair would be best as it allows you to sit back, look up, and enjoy the show.

Because it will be a late night, be sure to pack all your favorite late-night snacks and lots of water. We can’t emphasize the importance of water and staying hydrated enough, even for nighttime adventures! It’s easy to underestimate the effects of the summer heat at night and even if you don’t feel thirsty, it’s important to keep your water intake up. A gallon per day/per person is always recommended. It’s also a good idea to have a few extra layers of warm clothing handy as evening temperatures do drop and you’ll want to stay comfortable.

Another key item to have with you is a red flashlight. It is recommended that you do not use bright white flashlights, headlamps, or cell phones when getting ready to stargaze. It takes approximately 20-30 for the human eye to fully adjust to these types of low light conditions. Don’t have red lights? No problem! You can turn any regular flashlight into a red-light flashlight by covering it with red cellophane, tape, paper, fabric, or any other similar materials.

This red flashlight will also help you watch your step while getting settled at your viewing spot, and help you avoid stepping on cacti, desert critters, and uneven surfaces that can be difficult to see at night. Wearing closed-toe shoes is also highly recommended.

Plan on giving yourself at least one hour of viewing time as meteors are known to come in spurts with interspersed lulls. The optimal viewing time for the Perseids meteor shower will be between midnight and dawn, with the peaks expected on the mornings of August 11, 12, 13.

While many focus on this peak time, remember that meteor showers typically last weeks! According to EarthSky.org, the Perseids can be visible for up to 10 or more days following the peak, so if you can’t make it out to 29 Palms between August 11-13, you can certainly still plan a trip shortly after!

One of the common questions we get asked is where the best place to stargaze is, and fortunately, due to the lack of light pollution in our area, the opportunities are endless! Many of the hotels and vacation rentals in our city offer great views of the night sky so it can be as easy as pulling a chair out to the patio or backyard.

Designated as an official International Dark Sky Park in 2017, Joshua Tree National Park is the best (and most popular) place for stargazing in southern California, offering visitors incredible stargazing opportunities year-round. Do expect the park to be busy during the annual Perseid meteor shower and as always, take the time to plan out your visit in advance. With cell reception extremely limited in Joshua Tree National Park it’s important to download the new National Park Service mobile app as it provides the ability to download and save park maps and helpful visitor resources for offline use. Also, remember you can now purchase your park pass online and in advance by visiting www.recreation.gov.

*Please note, if you are planning on watching the Perseids from within Joshua Tree National Park, there is a temporary fire restriction in place, and all fires are banned until further notice. The restrictions include campgrounds, residential areas, and the backcountry, and bans campfires, barbeques, outdoor smoking, and other fire hazards.

Summer is here in the Mojave Desert, and we are ready for all that’s in store. From starry nights to annual meteor showers, make Twentynine Palms your destination for your out-of-this-world adventures this summer!

June gave us some of the most gorgeous evenings for stargazing. We started off with a third quarter moon meaning a new moon was right around the corner. With moonless nights on the horizon, it was the perfect opportunity for us to get out our telescopes and observe some deep sky targets. The day of the new moon also marked the first solar eclipse of 2021. Just days before the Summer Solstice, the moon popped back out after completing its first quarter of its orbit around the Earth on June 17. On June 20, we officially entered summer as the sun reached its northernmost declination for the year resulting in the longest daylight hours of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Shortly after the Summer Solstice, the moon was in full force showing us what its capable of when it reaches its full phase.

July is an exciting month for many different reasons. The kids are still on summer vacation, the weather is perfect for taking a dip in the pool, and the night sky will be lit up twice! While the sky was lit up for the 4th of July festivities, the end of the month will give us a different light show: the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower! At its peak, this shower can produce up 20 meteors per hour. Even though the nearly full moon will keep us from seeing some of the faintest meteors, we will still get a great glimpse at the shower the night of July 28. To get the best view, it is recommended to watch from a dark location after midnight. Lucky for us, Joshua Tree National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. Grab the family and head on up to the park for a late-night meteor shower watch party.

August will bring another meteor shower for our night sky viewing pleasure. The Perseids Meteor Shower is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. With the waxing crescent moon setting in the early evening, viewers will be left with gorgeous dark skies for what is sure to be an excellent show. For the best viewing experience, be sure to watch from a dark location after midnight. Maybe this time, head out to the Mojave National Preserve or Mojave Trails National Monument to have a quiet, peaceful evening watching one of the best meteor showers of the year. Before heading into September, August will also give us our third full moon of the season, also known as a blue moon.

September brings us to the end of our summer nights in the desert. Before heading into the fall season, we will be graced with our fourth and final full moon of the season. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September Equinox each year. This year, it will occur on September 20. With the equinox coming in on September 22, it’s time for us to get ready for shorter days and longer nights. Of course, longer nights means more time to gaze up at the beautiful desert night sky. Our summer nights in the desert may be coming to an end, but that does not mean our galactic adventures end with it. Gear up! Grab your blankets and your hot cocoa. Winter is coming.

Hi everyone! My name is Jack Fusco, I’m a professional astrophotographer based out of San Diego. So much of my work involves planning out images weeks or months in advance for everything to come together. Some of my images from Southern California have been featured by National Geographic, NASA APOD, BBC and many others. I’m excited to share some of the planning I did to take some of my images around the 29 Palms area.

When it comes to astrophotography, or stargazing in general, you have a lot of things to consider and plan out. Of all the things you need to factor in, dark skies will always be the most important. The further you can get from light pollution the more incredible the night sky will appear. It’s guaranteed to be an experience you won’t forget.

One of the issues that can often come with finding dark skies is the remote location you need to travel to find them. Long drives before or after your stargazing session aren’t always easy or the safest option. Because it’s just a short drive from San Diego, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas and is right in the middle of some amazing stargazing locations, 29 Palms made for the perfect night sky home base for a long weekend of stargazing.

After making the drive from San Diego, I mapped out 3 nights and 3 locations of stargazing. With each location, I’ll share some both tips for photographing and stargazing.

Night 1 – Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from 29 Palms: 5 miles
Approximate Drive Time: 5 minutes

Starting in 29 Palms, I was literally 5 minutes to the North entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, an International Dark Sky Park. If you’re not familiar, an International Dark Sky Park is certification given to land with exceptional and protected views of the night sky.

Jack Fusco Joshua Tree Arch

The North entrance to Joshua Tree is closest to some of the most iconic locations in the park, like Arch Rock at the White Tank Campground, Skull Rock, Barker Dam (closed at night, but worth the day trip!), and the Jumbo Rock area.

I decided to start my night sky weekend by visiting the Skull Rock area to do some exploring of the nearby trails.

Jack Fusco - Joshua Tree Moonlit

For this area, I decided to bring a 14mm wide angle lens as the trail was right next to beautiful rock formations that I wanted capture. The wide angle allows for both the rocks and a large portion of the night sky to be caught in the same frame.

With the wide-angle lens, I was using exposure times of around 10-15 seconds. This will vary a bit from camera to camera, but it allows for a lot of light to be captured while keeping the stars looking pin point sharp!

This area of the park is a fantastic choice for stargazing as well. I recommend bringing along a headlamp with a red light to help preserve your night vision. Skull Rock has roadside parking that’s just a short walk to the trails. Once you’re a bit further from the road, you can protect your vision from any passing headlights. This will help make sure you can see the greatest number of stars possible!

Night 2 – Kelso Sand Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

Distance from 29 Palms: 85 miles
Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Jack Fusco - Kelso Dunes Milky Way

Located in Mojave National Preserve, I was very excited to make my first trip out to the Kelso Sand Dunes. Although you can’t possibly be closer than Joshua Tree to 29 Palms, the drive is still very easy to make to the dunes. If you enter “Kelso Dunes Trail” on Google Maps, it will bring you right to the trail head. The last short bit is technically off-road, but is still accessible taking your time with 2wd cars.

As with all locations, I strongly suggest arriving well before dark so you can familiarize yourself with the area and the trails. Because the trail here is across sand, it can be a bit harder to follow on windy days or even in the dark. Using an offline GPS map on your phone (in case you lose service) will help make sure you stay safe.

Jack Fusco Kelso Dunes MW Stargazer

The hike to the dunes isn’t a long one, but can be tiring once you start walking on the areas with soft sand. The dunes rise 650 feet above the desert, so making your way up hill can also be on the strenuous side.  If the idea of climbing up huge sand dunes doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are still absolutely incredible to see without heading up hill! Whether you plan on making your way to the top or just close enough for a great view, be sure to bring plenty of water.

The view of the surrounding Providence Mountains is almost as beautiful as the dunes and they also help block out light pollution. This means not only do you have an incredible view of the stars, but the surrounding area is very dark as well. The dunes can be very tricky to navigate in total darkness, so plan on exploring while the sun is out and keeping closer the trail once it’s dark.

Use an app like StarWalk or Sky Guide to help locate any visible planets or the Milky Way while you’re here! No matter what you’re looking for should be easily visible.

For photographing this area, I mainly stuck with lenses that were 35mm or wider. Depending on your distance to the dunes, a 50 or 85mm lens would capture the curves in the dunes wonderfully.

A wide-angle lens in this location will mean getting really low to the sand to pick up some of that awesome texture and lines created by the wind!

Night 3 – Amboy Crater, Mojave Trails National Monument

Distance from 29 Palms: 50 miles
Approximate Drive Time: 50 minutes

Recently designated as a National Recreation Trail, Amboy Crater offers an easy hike through a lava field straight to the edge, and even in to, an extinct cinder cone volcano. I planned my hike here to be lit by the rising Moon so I could take photos both leading up to the crater and inside and have them well lit. Although it washes out a bit of the stars, the Moon can provide enough light so you can see detail in even dark foregrounds like the lava field surrounding the crater.

Jack Fusco - Amboy Crater Jupiter Saturn Above Mojave Trails National Monument

As with all desert locations, be aware of temperatures and conditions before heading out. Warm conditions can continue in to the night, so be sure to bring enough water. Proving the temperatures are suitable for outdoor activity, the hike to the crate is just over a mile and approachable for all levels. It’s very well defined through most of the trail and easy to keep your way. The approach to the rim or interior of the crate isn’t particularly difficult, but it does get somewhat steep. The lava rocks can be sharp and lose in certain areas. At night, this can make coming down much more difficult than going up. If you’re not comfortable, the view outside of the crate is still spectacular.

One of the highlights of being at the Amboy Crater is the nearly 360 view of the night sky while you’re there. Because the crater sits in the middle of a large lava field, you’ll have an amazing unobstructed view of the night sky from horizon to horizon.

Jack Fusco - Amboy Crater Mojave Trails National Monument

For taking photos, your focal length will likely vary depending on how close to the crater you’re setting up. From further away, a wide-angle lens will make the volcano look small in your frame and capture a huge portion of the sky above and around.

To set up along the trail, try using a lens 35mm or above if you want the crater to appear larger in your photo. As you approach or enter in to the crater, a wide-angle lens will help capture your surrounding area and still show off the incredible landscape.

No matter what location you decide on, you’re sure to come home with a unique and unforgettable stargazing experience. Although I live close enough to make the drive to any one of these locations, I’m happy I chose to stay in 29 Palms to start my adventure. Being able to cut a few hours off my drive each way allowed me the time and energy to explore these incredible areas. These are locations I will 100% be returning to in the near future and can’t wait to share more photos! Follow me over on Instagram (@jackfusco) to see all my new photos from around the 29 Palms area!

If you visit and get a great photo, be sure to tag @visit29palms and #visit29palms for a chance to have your photo featured!

Jack Fusco Visit 29 Palms

Jack Fusco is a landscape astrophotographer / timelapser based out of San Diego, California. What began as a way purely to document his travels as a touring musician, photography has become his mainform of creative expression.

On his often-sleepless journey, he strives to share the wonder of the night sky with as many people as possible. Whether chasing the Milky Way along coast lines or capturing the Northern lights in unforgiving remote locations you’re sure to find him coffee in hand, smiling up at the stars.

Many of Jack’s images are often planned days, weeks, or even months in advance while waiting for weather and celestial objects to align. The resulting work shows a true and complete dedication to his craft. His work has been featured by National Geographic, TEDx, LA Times, NASA APOD, BBC, Forbes and many more. Find his work at www.jackfusco.com |www.instagram.com/jackfusco  

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