Joshua Tree National Park is a strange beast; and not just because of the alien-looking trees that give the park its name. Arriving at the park, it's not immediately obvious what makes it National Park worthy. There’s no deep canyon to peer into, no snow-capped mountains to summit, no herds of bison roaming along the plains.
Yosemite welcomes over 4,000,000 visitors every year. You wouldn’t believe that number if you visit in the middle of February, though. Roaming the park in the dead of winter gives you the same feeling of being alone with unspoiled nature as John Muir felt when he first wandered into Yosemite valley over a century ago.
On a recent visit to Utah, we ended up getting to Arches National Park right at the tail-end of the of the recent government shutdown. That meant the parks were “open” (because it’s impossible to physically close a 120 square mile swath of red-rock canyons) but not exactly “open for business.”