Mark and I took a trip to Joshua Tree over the previous weekend. We hiked in towards Pine City on Friday night and set up the tent near the edge of the day use area. It took us about 10 minutes of wandering in the dark with head lamps to find an area that was far enough off the trail and appeared to be flat and rock-free enough to set up a tent. Mark happened to find a miniature cholla cactus in the dark and of course managed to stab himself with it, which added to the excitement of setting up the tent.
When the sun came up the next day, we were finally able to see where we had actually set up camp. A series of amazing bolders were to the south east of our campsite, and we spent some time in the morning exploring them as we finished off our slightly smushed pop tarts.
We then packed up the tent and our bags and took off to see Pine City itself (which is in the day use area). It appears to be called that because of a few ancient conifers which have managed to survive in the desert, though I'm only guessing based on what I saw.
From Pine City, we took off cross country heading north-west towards Queen Mountain, where we wandered around through a ton of gullies and dry washes. (Note of caution: be very careful in areas like this during the rainy season. Rain miles away can cause flash floods.) Eventually we found a neat place to camp around noon a bit south east of Queen Mountain.
We set up the tent, dropped off the packs and then went wandering around to boulder some of the neat rock formations and lollygag about looking at the neat scenery. During this entire time, the only evidence of humans we had seen were a few footprints on the trail into Pine City, a couple balloons in advanced decomposition, and a single glint off a car windshield more than 10 miles in the distance.
The next day, we hiked back to the car, and drove back into civiliation. It's been a while since I've been to Joshua Tree, but I've remembered now why I like the place. It's really hard to beat for getting away from human presence into a relatively pristine environment. [The closer to summer you go, the harder it is to handle, and consequently, the fewer people you're going to see.]