Another break on my hands combined with my brother's recent move to Malibu resulted in a trip to tour the National Parks of Southern California. This was a short planning period so I need twice the sex with half the foreplay. I actually stole that line from Robert Redford, and like it so much I try to use wherever possible, usually in the wrong context and company. I am on this kick to hit all the parks in the lower 48 by the age of 40, and sleeping a night in each. With that as my skeleton I began to flesh it out. Below is a link to the details of the trip
The plan, as written, was to have the parents drop me at the airport at 5am after a good night's rest, but my trips rarely go as planned and that is the fun part. I ended up staying up all night hanging out with friends and rushed to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, changing clothes in the cell phone lot. I made the flight a few minutes before doors closed and settled in for a nap. I really don’t sleep well on planes because I move a lot when sleeping and always concerned I will punch the person next to me inadvertently. Don’t get me started on the seat recline etiquette, but that pretty much eliminated my ability to rest my head on the tray top. Around noon I ended up at LAX and had a couple hours to kill since my brother runs on his own agenda.
I grabbed my pack and started walking to LA. I ended up scaling a 6 foot fence, throwing my pack over at the feet of a cop. He was wondering what I was doing, and I had to wonder myself as I don’t really know why I was urban hiking. We parted ways and I kept up the search for a watering hole. I passed some construction workers who offered my some food and water, it doesn’t take much for me to look homeless I guess. I found a restaurant, met my brother, had lunch, spilled half of it on my clothes and we were off to Joshua Tree. Along the way we got lost and wandered into a wind farm. It was quite impressive, but also pretty ugly as they dominated the whole landscape.
We pulled into the park and the ranger said that all the campsites were taken and that we might have to backcountry camp for free, that would not be a problem, considering all that it required was walking 1 mile from the road, and by 1 mile I mean 1000 yards. The park is named for the tree that dominates the landscape. Here is good shot of one, if you want to read more about the tree, here is a link.
Here is a park map, we came in from the Northwest entrance.
It was getting dark so we wanted to hit the Keys View for sunset before setting up camp. The view was incredible, spoiled only by the hippies hooking up on a bench at the overlook.
It got dark quickly and we were left struggling to find the backcountry parking area. Once we got our bearings we packed up enough for the night and headed out. We walked for a bit until finding a group of boulders for shelter. I made us some dinner, had a few pulls from the flask, commented on the stars and climbed into bed.
At this point I will describe my new camping habits. Over the years I have become an ultra-light backpacker. Starting with everything possible in my pack a few years ago to basically a sleeping pad and cotton fleece sack today
I figured this is Southern California, it must be hot. I have not done much desert camping obviously or I would have known the error in my ways. I woke about midnight and made that all important decision to look at my watch. This is a gutsy call. It can ruin you. It might show 4am, or 10:30pm. I tried to ball up to get warm. I should also mention I brought no change of clothes and no jacket, like I said ultra-light. I could not get warm, then I heard this loud huffing sound. I looked over at my brother snoring away in his sleeping bag with a winter hat on and wanted to punch him in the mouth. I tried looking at the stars and use some new directional skills I picked up from backpacker magazine. I saw a shooting star, then another. I was about to wake my brother, but I figured I better wait for a couple more to be sure, or he would end up punching me in the face. I saw no more, and tried to get back to sleep. I ended up dumping my pack and putting my legs in it, which actually helped a bit.
Around 5am, the sun was rising but wasn’t not gonna reach us for another hour. I decided to hike up a nearby hill to get some exposure and warmth. It was amazing what sunlight can do, within 30 minutes I was shirtless and sweating.
I returned and cooked some breakfast and was actually feeling pretty good. We got back to the car and decided to hike an unpublished trail called the Maze that I found on the Internet
We found the trailhead and about 100 yards in a rattlesnake crossed our path, all coiled up and rattling away. Needless to say he was pissed. I could not get my camera out in time, but here is a shot of the bush he is in.
This was not an episode of Man vs Wild. I was not going to pull him out, risking my life for a shot. We continued on the wash trail and eventually got lost.
We figured we should just get to high ground not because we thought that was the best thing to do to scan the area, but rather we wanted some excitement. We got pretty high and I had my brother climb out on a rock to get what I think are a couple pretty cool shots
My brother has a framed picture of himself climbing Mt Washington. I figured he could blow up the one below and put it in his bedroom so that he can look at himself all the time.
Actually, when we did get to the top, we found the trail and reconnected with it. It was pretty cake from there. We were glad we got lost because it gave us a chance to boulder which in a park like Joshua, with all these fragmented rocks, is an incredible adventure.
We got back to the car after the quick 7 mile hike. I should mention that after we saw the snake we were very aware of every bush and every movement. The bitch of it is that there are thousands of lizards around and your fight or flight response kicks in faster than your brain can process the origin of the movement.
We had another 10 mile out and back hike ahead of us, but randomly decided to go bouldering instead. We saw some people rappelling from rocks and started heading up a different path
You can see them coming off the rock face in this shot
It was a pretty cool experience because instead of just blindly following a trail you need to use your brain a bit to plan out a route. You can see our cars in the distance from this shot from the top
Here are a few shots of my brother making his way around the rocks. The shot where he is coming through the cave is pretty interesting. When you decide to climb a route you sometimes wonder if there will be a dead end ahead because coming back the same way might not be possible..ie..your screwed. Each time we thought there was a dead end there was this cave or ledge that led to the next opportunity. Without getting philosophical, it reminded me of life as I was climbing, each time you think you are at a dead end, a new path emerges.
We got done around 4pm and headed back to his apartment for some soaking in the hot tub at the big pool. We were supposed to hike a mountain the next day but opted for an urban adventure around the Malibu, Santa Monica area instead.