Climbing became my passion when I was in my mid-30s. I watched others pursuing the sport and wondered if I could, too. It was a challenge I welcomed — I'm not great at more traditional sports: In junior high the football coach said I could be the team's water boy. Crybaby water boy became my nickname until I put an end to that (a story for another time)!
Now I'm into serious mountain climbing, and I have a huge goal: to lead and be part of the first African American team to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Out of the seven, my team has summited four: in Argentina, Russia, Tanzania and Australia. We've got three to go: in Antarctica, Nepal and Alaska.
I'll always hold Joshua Tree in my heart, though. Joshua's 12,000 square miles of California desert offer a wondrous landscape for hiking, biking, camping and driving. There are forests of Joshua trees, of course, the giant yuccas that gave the park its name. Fan palm oases and spring-flowering wildflowers stand against blue skies.
Still, for me, Joshua is all about the rocks; this beautiful park has always been my backyard playground. In 2014 and 2015, more than a million people visited, many of them to climb. Good practices and respect for the environment will preserve Joshua and all our national parks, I hope for centuries to come. —As told to Lynn Addison