High Desert Small Business Feature with Marisa McDonald Photography: Joshua Tree Excursions
If you’ve been following me for a little bit I hope you know that Marisa McDonald Photography loves a good adventure in the high desert! In fact I thought this post was the perfect place to feature one of my favorite images from a recent “rock climbing” session with a family who most definitely knows how to experience the desert to the fullest! That’s why I am super excited to bring you a new small business feature today with Joshua Tree Excursions. Joshua Tree Excursions offers customized, private hiking, camping, and backpacking trips and special events. I’ve had a chance to get to know owner Kelly Crawford lately and I can tell you he has a great love for our desert and National Park and is so passionate about sharing adventures with you! Are you a little intimidated by exploring the desert? Worried about safety? Don’t let those things keep you from experiencing this amazing place we live. Joshua Tree Excursions can handle the parts that intimidate you and guide you through the beauty of the desert! The Joshua Tree Excursions office is conveniently located in the heart of the town of Joshua Tree right on the 62. Visit them on the web, on facebook or instagram or stop in and plan your next adventure today! I hope you will enjoy this interview with Kelly.
Who are your clients and what do you love about them?
Our clients represent a cross section of the world. From novice, first time hikers to experienced outdoor enthusiasts at all ages and stages of life. Because we customize each trip, based on the individual clients desires, there is something for everyone here at Joshua Tree Excursions. Most of our clients are small groups and families looking to explore nature and have a memorable experience. However, we are always excited to put together amazing outings for Home School groups, Church camps and non-profit organizations like The Wilderness Society. In addition to our community clients we have had the opportunity to support the needs of corporate groups as well including: Dom Perignon, Toms Shoes, Pearson’s English, Synergy Meeting Solutions, Hunts Unlimited, and David Rogers Inc. We love the fact that our clients represent the best in what makes us human. Adventurous, inquisitive, passionate with a desire to experience, protect and enjoy all that the natural world has to offer. So many of our guests live and work in large metropolitan areas it is an amazing feeling to be able to share the quiet solitude that Joshua Tree National Park provides.
Why did you decide to start this kind of business?
Joshua Tree Excursions was started as a whimsical idea based on my own travel experiences here in the US and around the world; to provide people who love travel and the outdoors, with customizable, personalized and private journeys of Joshua Tree National Park, The Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park. Not to mention a host of unique sites and points of interest in the surrounding area. Our guiding principle in everything we do is; “Life is all about journeys, not destinations”. We all spend so much time worrying about where we are going, that we often forget that some of the best experiences in life were those that occurred on a whim or when we took a wrong turn. We have all been on tours before, some better than others. But often, it was all about what the tour operator put together and rarely was there any input from clients regarding time, sights or other interests. You simply show up and are taken on a predesignated route to predesignated sites. While we believe that there is a market and a need for these operations. We wanted to give our clients a much more personalized, private and memorable experience. People often have a vision in their head, of what they would like their trip to look like and the experiences they would like to have. Therefore, what we do is try to make the experience here at Joshua Tree Excursions, match that vision as closely as possible. Because of this, every outing can be completely different than the previous one. Different locations, activities and time based on the interests, desires, fitness level and timeline provide to us by the client. Having grown up in Oregon; hiking and climbing the Cascade range. And after a career in the military and 36 countries later, Joshua Tree offers me an incredible experience every time I enter it. It is truly a captivating place and no day is ever the same. Simply the time of day, direction of the sun and direction of travel can turn a place you’ve visited 100 times into a whole new experience. The endless nooks and crannies to explore, the Native American and early western history that abounds; not to mention the incredible and unique wildlife that calls the Mojave Desert home. I guess there is no one single thing that does it…. it is definitely the holistic experience of it all, that calls me back every day to try and discover something new. My office is the great outdoors and I get to spend my days, hiking, backpacking and exploring. Sharing these experiences with others is one of the greatest pleasures I can take part in.
What is the most rewarding thing about your business?
The most rewarding thing about the work we do is sharing incredible experiences with some of the most interesting people in the world. Every trip and every client or group is different and I have found that as much as I educate our guests on the wonders of nature and the park, they all teach me something new as well. Through them I become a better version of myself everyday and hopefully we leave them feeling like they have grown as well. In a sense, we get to experience and explore the world, its cultures, opinions and diversity everyday, without ever stepping foot on a plane.
What is your biggest challenge?
I would say that the biggest positive challenge we face is ensuring that each and every trip is uniquely based on the desires and wishes of our clients. It would be easy to build standard tours and run them in a fashion similar to other tour guides. But thats not what draws people to us. The fact that we customize each and every outing with that particular client in mind is what sets us apart from other organizations. We can be hiking one day, camping the next and taking a group backpacking the following day. Maybe it’s setting up rock climbing or a land navigation class to providing a client with a unique photo safari. Essentially we take the vision of our clients and make it a reality to the best of our ability. After all, its about the experience our guests would like to have, not what would be easiest for us.
What do your clients love most about you?
To narrow down what our clients love about us would be difficult. However, I believe that they appreciate the fact that we make the trip about them in every way. We allow them to have an experience that they might not otherwise have. They feel safe and secure, knowing that we put their safety and security above everything else which allows them to just enjoy the trip, knowing we have their backs at all times. That we will safely take them outside of their comfort zone and introduce them to things that they might never have tried on their own. But mostly, I feel that they love the fact that they leave here more enriched than when they arrived. A better version of themselves, with a new appreciation for nature and its wonders having had an epic experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
What are you most proud of as a business owner?
We are most proud of the fact that we have taken a unique concept and made it a reality. We have grown this business into a well known and respected organization both in the community and amongst our global clients. As much as we like to think that we have done it all on our own, the reality is that it has been a collaborative success between us, the community and our clients. For without them, we would not be where we are today. This is reflected in our great reviews, referrals and thoughtful thanks from those we have had the pleasure of hosting. It has not always been an easy journey and being a small business, we face the realities that all small businesses face in this area. However, we continue to re-invent ourselves and evolve as the needs of our clients change. We are looking forward to many years of providing unparalleled adventures and journeys here in the Joshua Tree area.
What are some of your favorite small businesses in the High Desert?
We have discovered that there are a host of wonderful businesses and organizations here in the Morongo basin. From restaurants to lodging facilities to activities and community services. Many of whom, have helped us achieve the success we enjoy today. To name only a few would not adequately reflect our appreciation of all of the local businesses who have encouraged and supported us on our journey.
About Kelly Crawford
In this case I don’t want you to just know about the business…I want you to know about the guy behind the business because he is pretty remarkable. Kelly Crawford is the Founder and CEO of 29 Trail Tours LLC, (DBA Joshua Tree Excursions) a veteran-owned and operated concierge outdoor adventure tour company. He served, honorably, in the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army National Guard and the United States Marine Corps for 23 years. The bulk of his time in the service was spent with the USMC as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technician, where he supported both military and law enforcement organizations around the world, to include several combat deployments to Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the service, but prior to founding 29 Trail Tours, Kelly was the Director of Business Development and Training for 6th Wave Innovations Corp, a nano-technology product development company. Kelly decided to leave the corporate world to pursue his love of the outdoors and nature and explore the planet with other like-minded individuals. Kelly spent his formative years in the mountains and valleys of Oregon. He has travelled extensively around the world exploring and discovering the hidden wonders of our amazing planet. Kelly resides in 29 Palms, CA – One of the gateways to Joshua Tree National park. He lives by the motto that, “Life is a journey and not a destination.” He possesses a wealth of leadership experience, is an avid outdoorsman and an expert in survival, navigation and backcountry expeditions. He is a certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR) with physician level CPR and first aid. His adventures, training and operations have taken him to through virtually every clime and place the world has to offer. From the deserts of the U.S., Middle East, Asia and Africa to the Jungles of Southeast Asia and Central America. From the Cascades and Rockies in North America to the Alps and the Dolomites of Europe. He looks forward to sharing his stories, experience and the next journey with you.
Thanks for joining me for this High Desert Small Business Feature with Marisa McDonald Photography and Joshua Tree Excursions! See you soon for another adventure!!