Joshua Tree hug Jumbo Rock
Blog, Travel

Whimsical Trees and Jumbo Rocks…5 Things Not to Miss in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park has always had a special place in my heart. I am an ocean lover at heart,  the connection I feel with peaceful red rocks and the desert sun is undeniable.

This was my third time going to Joshua Tree, and my first time camping in the park. My friend Adam and I drove from Los Angeles and had some good old fashioned fun ranging from hiking in the blazing sun at day to stargazing at night. Here’s a few highlights of our trip that I highly recommend.

This video below is from our drive through the park on our way to Cap Rock. Pardon the poor quality…but you get the point 🙂

1. Bread Rocks and Fuzzy Trees

Joshua Tree National Park is well suited for the guessing game. What does that rock look like to you? The usual answer for me was something in the carb family; a loaf of bread, or pizza dough that someone just threw randomly from the sky. Although there is a scientific explanation for the rock formations, there is no need to overthink  it; just let yourself marvel at the spectacle. The trees are trippy, the cacti abound, and you will spot rabbits, coyotes, and if you’re lucky even desert turtles. To grasp the true essence of the park head to the Western Entrance, walk Hidden Valley, stop by the Wonderland of Rocks or take the 1.7 mile loop that starts at Skull Rock.

On the drive out from LA
Cool windmills on the way to Joshua Tree from Los Angeles
Adam Joshua Tree Cap Rock
Adam gazing out to the Joshua Trees
Little cactus Joshua Tree
Little but prickly cactus!
Joshua Tree Jumbo Rock trail
Doesn’t this rock remind you of an english muffin?
Joshua Tree hug Jumbo Rock
I’m a tree hugger

2. Indian Cove Campground

We camped at Indian Cove campground because it was close enough to town that we could easily go in  for a hot meal at night. It also offers a great scenery of cool rocks and a younger, rock climber crowd. There are no flush toilets nor showers, but water is conveniently available at the ranger station at the entrance of Indian Cove Road, so bring containers. We brought a solar heated camping shower which, after being hung from just about any rock, provided for glorious showers with amazing views.

Other feasible options for camping are Black Rock campground (which is the only campground in JT that has flush toilets and running water on site). I got the impression that campground was a bit more family oriented and also farther from town. If you’re wanting to really dig in the real camping experience and be more inside the park (so bring your own water and food) definitely consider camping at Sheep Pass campground, Jumbo rock, or Belle.

If you’re wanting something more home like, I highly recommend Desert Lily. The several  cabins to pick from are uber cute and all decorated different. The rustic B’iltomore Bunkhouse, my favorite,  has a cowboy spa, which consists of a horse trough where I spent unforgettable afternoons soaking in cool water during the sweltering desert afternoons.

Our campsite at Indian Cove
Our campsite at Indian Cove
Adam stretching camping Joshua Tree
Nothing better than a morning stretch above the rocks

Some of the best afternoons ever spent at the Desert Lily's in Joshua Tree National Park
Back in 2012 enjoying some of the best afternoons ever spent soaking in the Desert Lily’s repurposed horse trough while gazing in the desert, sipping Chardonnay and reading the Picture of Dorian Grey again since high school.

3. 49 Palm Oasis

Hiking in the park abounds, and besides the bread rock formations, plenty of other cool, more mountainy scenery can be found through the park just a few miles drive away. The 49 palm oasis trail leads you through a cactus filled valley to a small oasis with lush green fan palms. The Lost Horse Mine trail takes you to an old gold mine, and the views are stunning. The other hike that I would have gladly checked out given more time would have been Cotton Wood Springs Lost Oasis trail  (further south in the park where you can find views of the Coachella Valley and different types of palms) and Boy-scout trail (a 16 mile out and back trail that stars near indian Cove campground.)

Stunning views from the Lost Horse Mine trail
Stunning views from the Lost Horse Mine trail
49 palm Oasis joshua tree
Taking a little rest by 49 Palm Oasis

4. Joshua Tree Saloon

When you enter the Joshua Tree Saloon , you’ll feel you entered some kind of western movie, except for the hipster crowd of rock climbers from LA and Colorado. The saloon has Blue Moon beer on tap, and that was enough to make me want to go back every night. The BBQ bacon burger is heavenly and you can’t go wrong with the molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Play of game of pool with the locals or listen to the Spaghetti Wrestler live band and you got yourself a fulfilling night out in the desert.  Another good place to eat is Crossroad Cafe, which, as the name suggests, has more of a cafe-y feel and less people watching than the saloon. Pie for the People pizza has good reviews (although we felt that pizza was too much for desert dryness). The Health Foods market is a good option for stocking up on food but it closes early (6pm).

The Joshua Tree Saloon Billboard
The Joshua Tree Saloon Billboard
The Joshua Tree Saloon's chocolate lava cake
The Joshua Tree Saloon’s chocolate lava cake

5. All Things Rock-From Climbing to Sunsetting

Whether it’s to find a place to hang your shower, or take a photograph, or goof around, when you’re in Joshua Tree National Park your life becomes rock-centered. My other three favorite rock related activities were picnicking on rocks,trying  some baby-climbing and suntanning on rocks. There is nothing more rewarding that going for a long hike (or as most of the guides described them- moderately strenuous)  and treating yourself to a picnic with a view. We brought avocado, tomatoes, crackers, lots of fruit and of course water.

The other cool thing to do while you are surrounded by the magnificent JT rocks is to climb them. Those rocks are asking to be climbed. And even for someone like me who is deathly afraid of heights, a little “bouldering” comes easy thanks to the roughness of the rocks surface and the myriad of ways in which they are placed. But my ultimate favorite activity is to lay on big slabs of rocks, lizard like, to suntan or take naps. That one is pretty explanatory.

I would say Cap Rock  and Jumbo rock are excellent for all those activities above, as well as the Barker Dam loop hike. Also catching the sunset  while you are in the park is a must. Key Views trail offers a great panoramic of the whole valley at sunset, but if you’re like me and prefer rocks and solitude, you can avoid the crowds and climb just about anywhere to enjoy your private sunset watch.

Bouldering Joshua Tree Cap Rock
Trying a little bouldering in Cap Rock
Joshua Tree Jumbo Rock Adam Climb
More climbing by Jumbo Rock
Taking a nap by Skull Rock Joshua Tree
Taking a nap by Skull Rock
Sunset from Indian Cove Campground
Sunset from Indian Cove Campground

For more pictures of my trip check out MY INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT or Joshua Tree National Park’s INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT.

Blog, The Interview Series

Interview with Erin Cookston

The first time I took Erin’s class I thought I was going to die.

No music and long held planks combined with simple, almost spartan sequencing  made me miss the virtually alignment-free, fast flowing power yoga classes in  Miami Beach.

I said to myself:”Every second of this class is so excruciating, I will never come back!” But deep inside myself I knew that it was exactly what I needed. Because, unfortunate but true,  sometimes the least pleasant things in life are the more rewarding ones in the end.  So I went back for more.

And I give her credit for revolutionizing my practice and inspiring a much more still, focused me. I now prefer to practice without music, just listening to my breath. I flow a lot less and hold a lot more. And I question the purpose and structure of each posture instead of half-heartedly breezing my way through them.

Erin reminds me a lot of my friend Sally. Very energetic, independent, with a big infectious laugh, in love with life, and unpredictable in a fun, refreshing way.  You always sort of wonder what she’s thinking only to realize she’s transparent and straight-forward. Erin strikes me as someone very disciplined and driven when it comes to yoga. And possibly as someone who unknowingly deceives a really big heart in a bit of a tough exterior. Her knowledge of yoga spans far beyond anatomy and alignment; she is so wise in all  aspects of the  practice, ranging from the process of learning and applying principles to all the mental and physical challenges along the way. Her classes are great if you are wiling to take your practice very seriously at times (like in downward facing dog), and not too seriously at others (when you are approaching your 4th chair pose hold in a row).

Erin gives it a 100% in everything she does, and she did the same in this interview. Enjoy!

Erin Cookston Washington DC

Name: Erin Cookston

Hometown: Vacaville, CA

Profession: Yoga Teacher

Favorite Book: I’m a huge book worm, so the list is long. But two of my favorites are “Light on Life” by B.K.S Iyengar, and “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld

Favorite Movie: The Godfather

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

If I were to be anything other then myself I would want to be my dog Ellie, she’s my super sweet Chihuahua Minpin rescue pup. Like most rescues she spent the first year of her life abused and mistreated; but even with all her previous misfortune she is completely trusting and generous with her love. She is the most vulnerable, nurturing, and courageous soul I’ve ever met. And she’s a energy firecracker and a ton of fun. I’d love to have all those qualities.

Erin Cookston and her dog Ellie
Erin with her dog Ellie

​What’s your favorite yoga pose​ and why​?​​ 

I think we all go through phases with postures, finding ones we enjoy more than others at different times in our lives. Since beginning my practice, Downward Facing Dog has been my ultimate ‘go to’ posture. If I can only do one posture, Down Dog is the one. It requires so much focus and attention to subtlety that it instantly brings me into the present moment, and it balances out and refreshes my whole body.

If you could gain any one quality, what would it be?

I’m a pretty patient person with others, but I’d like to develop more patience with myself. When I’m working on something that inspires and intrigues me I sometimes fall into the “I want it to happen now” or ” I’m ready now” mindset, and that can easily turn into an self-degrading struggle.

Also, I’m not sure if it qualifies as a quality, but I’d love to be more musically inclined. I’d love to learn to play the piano.

What is your favorite ​spot in ​Marin County?

To be honest, I really love bumming around San Rafael. But my favorite spot in Marin is definitely Tennessee Valley, it has become my reset button. Running and hiking there a few times a week is my salvation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I’ve been given A LOT of really stellar advice throughout my life. The piece that’s coming to be now is something a friend said to me a few weeks ago, ” If you always do the same thing, you’ll always get the same thing.” -Basically, it’s encouragement to try new things and to be open to your own spontaneity; have the courage to be different, instead of always keeping things ‘predictable’ and comfy. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, but if you want to change something about yourself or your life you have to be willing to step outside of that zone and try doing things a different way.

Tell me about ​one of ​your greatest accomplishment​s​

This is a difficult one. Well, one of my greatest accomplishments at this juncture in my life is living alone, and being on my own. Up until a year ago I never had lived on my own; I’d always lived with family, friends, or partners. And not only had a never lived alone before, but my own fear persuaded me into believing I couldn’t live alone. I was convinced I would be scared, lonely, and poor. Needless to say, I really intimidated myself about it. That said, I’ve currently been living on my own for about a year and it’s been really empowering. Overcoming that fear of being alone has helped me develop so much more clarity and confidence in my life.

What has yoga taught you about life? 

That my greatest gift is my Attention. My practice continues to show me that when I direct my attention with care and specificity everything is possible. Yoga has taught me that I can create the life I want to live.

What is the most challenging experience you’ve had in your yoga journey?

Becoming a teacher. It’s not always easy being the new kid on the block. Teaching is a HUGE part of my practice.

Tell me about your personal practice. How often do you practice, for how long, where?​

I’m up at 5:30am to teach most mornings, so my preferred practice time is in the evening once my work day is over and the sun has gone down. I’ve been a home practitioner pretty exclusively for quite a while, so the duration and intensity depends on how I’m feeling that day; sometimes I practice for 2 hours, sometimes I practice for 20 minutes. As far as postures go, Inversions are a huge part of my daily asana practice, as well as more passive Yin Yoga postures. I’m a huge prop enthusiast; I love exploring new ways to use props and I regularly use blocks, blankets, bolsters, a chair, straps and acupressure balls.

I pretty much spend all my nonworking daylight time outside either hiking, running, or hanging out at ocean. So naturally, I love taking my asana practice into nature. Nothing beats a mid hike yoga practice at the top of a mountain.

Your teaching style could be considered very alignment based. Has it always been that way? How has your teaching style evolved over time? 

I’ve been a student of Yoga for around 10 years and teaching for about 3.5 years, and both my practice and my teaching has changed considerably over the years. I’ve always been pretty alignment based, but my specificity and clarity with respect to alignment has definitely increased over the years. When I first started teaching I was very ‘by the books’ for lack of a better word, as a brand new teacher I was way to nervous to teach intricate postures/transitions or to be creative in sequencing. Now a days, more of my creativity comes out while I’m teaching, and I definitely have lower inhibitions. I love exploring new, and sometimes abstract, ways to articulate mental and physical alignment cues.

Find more of Erin:

Her website

Instagram

YogaWorks Profile

Erin Cookston Headstand Valentina Rose
Erin and I doing a headstand pike. She looks so tiny compared to me!
Dani Kosmalski Yoga Santa Cruz
Blog, The Interview Series

Interview with Dani Kosmalski

When I moved to Santa Cruz,  I started taking yoga because I wanted to stretch after running. But then I started doing more and more yoga because…I fell in love with my beautiful, angelic, Polish-looking-but-Portuguese-speaking Brazilian instructor Daniela Kosmalski.  Her voice is so soothing and I  just couldn’t get enough of her classes. At the time I was going through a heartbreak and everything she said resonated with me so much, it really helped me heal.

She is the first instructor I ever took yoga seriously with, and she is the person who inspired me the most in my yoga journey. The thing about Daniela is that she is so incredibly humble. There is no ego with her, only transparency. No pretense or arrogance, only deep awareness and a sense of kindness that transpires from her body language, her words and her entire being. She is genuine, so knowledgeable, but still blushes when she teaches a class which is the most endearing thing ever.

It actually wasn’t easy to approach her in the beginning, I think because she is a little bit shy. So for a long time I never did. One time, I was really tired and I went to Dani’s class at 7:30pm. During shavasana I fell asleep hard. I woke up one hour after the class ended, in complete darkness. I couldn’t believe it. I had slept through everyone “oming” at end the class, getting up and putting their mats away and leaving! I was so embarrassed. You’re not supposed to sleep in Shavasana!!!!!! I was wondering what she would think of me. But then I realized Dani genuinely is not a judgmental person. Nothing seems to bother her in class. People coming late, phones ringing…she is unfazed, because she has found a place that is so far beyond those minuscule aspects of existence. She is more concerned about something that is far greater than those little details. That, right there, is true yoga.

Dani Kosmalski Yoga Santa Cruz
Dani practicing with her husband

Name

Daniela Kosmalski

Hometown

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Profession

 Yoga Instructor 

Favorite Book

hum…so many, but 2 came to my mind now: I am reading “If the Buddha had kids” and “The Heart of Yoga” by Desikachar

Favorite Movie

anything comedy/romantic or with a positive lesson

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

hahaha!!….maybe a Dolphin…whether it’s jumping with the waves or swimming freely through in the ocean, they live every day to the fullest!

What is your favorite spot in ​Santa Cruz?

The ocean, and I am very lucky to live couple blocks away.

Being from Brazil but having now lived in the U.S. since 2006, do you feel you belong to one culture more than the other?

Not at all….I love this diversity and I feel that I am a human being FOR the world doesn’t matter where I am living.

What are the challenges you find about living far from your home country?

Family: it’s always a challenge for me: I miss them EVERY second.I am grateful to go back to it every year or always have a member of my beautiful family here in the US.

 Tell me about a fond childhood memory

Beach morning weekends with my mom, dad, sister and brother.

Beach dinner weekends with cousins, ants, uncles.

Sand castles, ice cream, smiles, good food and lots of love….

 What or who inspires you the most in your yoga journey?

The path of Yoga inspires me, My Guru motivates me.

And to know how much I have to learn….and knowledge is infinite and enriching.

What has yoga taught you about life?

To live in the present moment, to be more focused and patient. I have also learned to watch myself (conditionings and patterns)… I’ve always been very critical and demanding with myself, and this beautiful practice showed me to deal with equilibrium all my imperfections and imbalances of life.

 What is the most challenging experience you’ve had in your yoga journey?

To teach in English…I studied by myself a lot: reading, watching videos, using many dictionary, asking few American friends to help me with vocalization….It s still not perfect but I am grateful that things happen naturally and gradually, like life should be huh? spontaneously and without charge…

Tell me about your personal practice. How often do you practice, for how long, where?​

I have a daily Yoga practice with my children and husband. Asanas and Pranayama 2-4 times a week and I practice Ashtanga Method when by myself where is available(beach, studio after my classes, in the living room, drop in a class)  – at this moment in my life it s not easy to wake up 5am to practice, so if I have a gap of schedules in between pick-ups at school, other mom duties, privates lessons, etc., I do it for sure. Meditation everyday!

 Here’s a piece of a quote I read from Daniela’s Facebook that I would like to share:

“The magic 40 minutes of total focus, concentration , trust and surrender to this practice that I teach, was a reminder that Yoga is not an experience, is not a journey, is not a thing that you do on your mat and forget when enter in your car, is not fad, it’s not  just asana. it is an attitude.”

Find more of Dani Kosmalski here

Or look at her teaching schedule to practice with her in Santa Cruz.

Dani Kosmalski Yoga Santa Cruz
Daniela meditating in Brazil