Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WBC: Joshua Tree Backcountry

A little late in posting this!

About 3.5 weeks ago, there were news reports saying that some gnarly storm was coming into SoCal, and that we should prepare for the worst.  Grocery stores starting running out of food, those in the east county started gathering supplies like Burt and Reba from Tremors, snow levels were going to drop to lower elevations, screams of "hide ya wife, hide ya kids" could be heard 'round the county, and so on.  Ok, a little much, but it was the usual exaggerated SoCal-doomsday-weather-forecast-just-because-we're-getting-wind-and-rain.

Well, that weekend was our scheduled land navigation camping trip, and this time, we chose the back country of Joshua Tree.  Friday night camping would be at 3300ft, and after navigating through some back country, we'd finally setup camp around 4200ft.  The main attraction for the trip was the top notch bouldering we'd encounter, along with fine tuning my rusty navigation skills.

Knowing that the snow level was indeed dropping that weekend, along with lots of wind (up to 50mph gusts), rain and even snow, even I was a little concerned.  Partly because my winter gear hadn't come in yet, leaving me with a long sleeve running jersey and a wind/water resistant cycling jacket to fend the elements with, and partly because I didn't want to be miserable all weekend.  Fortunately, I learned later, my friend Erin was going to let me borrow some Gore-tex bad ass jacket to keep me warm.

Friday morning, an email came out from WBC saying that all camping trips were canceled.  15 minutes later, our group leader emails us all says: "I don't cancel my trips, game on!"  Time to man up!

The drive out had a few highlights.  The visual highlight was driving past the base on San Jacinto, which was covered in snow, and just after sunset, had a majestic feel to it.  The audio highlight is another story.  After passing by a local casino, they were advertising that both Huey Lewis and the news, and even Meatloaf were going to be playing there soon.  This prompted an immediate need to hear things like Paradise by the dashboard light, and The Power of Love and This is it.  Go ahead, click those links, I dare you.  Unfortunately, this song also came on, and it stayed stuck in my head nearly all weekend.  I highly advise that you not watch that video.

Anyhow, enough text, more pictures!

Saturday morning wake up view:

The next 2 pictures are for when I was sitting in my car because some people wanted to leave a campsite to drive 20 minutes into town to go to starbucks, and then come back to the campsite.  I thought that was a bit "much" in a Wilderness Basics Course, so I opted to stick around (but was completely OK with them bringing me coffee).  So, I sat in my car, out of the rain, when it was 39 degrees...

... and proceeded to eat Peanut Butter and Jelly straight from both jars, with the same spoon, going back and forth.  Personally, having PB and J in one spoonful is optimal!

At the start of the hike, I had to bundle up...

This is Michelle's first "run" in with the Jumping Cholla tree.  After this, we both have been very diligent not to run into these, nor let them run into us.  They have the "Jumping" in their name for a reason!  Mind you, having not been attacked by one yet, she yelled out a scream, so naturally I was like "stay there, don't move - let me get a picture!" not knowing how painful it was for her.  After I carefully pulled it out, it actually landed on me, and my respect for the Cholla grew!  Damn that hurt!

The desert can be a rough place for some...

High Desert

It was snowing in this picture. For real.

I had the responsibility of navigating from here, to somewhere over "there"... always fun off trail!

Snow covered mountains in the distance...

After we got to our destination, which is this big rock structure in the middle of the valley to shield us from the howling winds, we started eating dinner.  Let me tell you, when you are living outside and its that cold, people will still walk 75ft away from camp, just to be in the sun a little bit longer for some warmth...

Some gnarly boulders we just, um, bouldered.  FUN!

Where I needed to go:

Some of the gnarlyness we just bouldered down...

Even though I had my reservations about the weather, and even though Saturday was one of the worst nights of "sleep" I've ever had, I had an absolute blast during this weekend meeting new people, and learning new things.

Notes and Lessons Learned:
There are no fires permitted in the back country, and when its in the 20's, buddy burners don't do squat!

When its cold out, and you are cold, the last thing you feel like eating is cold food.  Bring some sort of stove, and make some hot food!

Sleeping outside when its 23 degrees takes a little getting used to!

When its cold and you are near "elevation", drink more water, or headaches are imminent!

Bouldering is a ton of fun, and might have ignited a desire to rock climb!


jameson said...

that cold... and NO fires.... NO thanks!

sounds like you guys had a good time. what's up next?

MichelleG said...

great recap babe!

'Roo said...

Jumbo Rocks?

My last time at J Tree:


Matt Simpson said...

Holy Jumping Cholla!

Slater Fletcher said...


I have been missing out reading about your adventures. Awesome post and you always have killer pictures!

That video of "hide ya wife, hide ya kids" is enough to get me off the couch and out in the wild with a smile alone but add PB&J, supported starbucks run, unknown weather elements and good people and it sounds irresistible!

Good stuff bro. Hope to join you someday soon on a trip like this.

bty - did you know the best way to get those Jumping Cholla tree bombs is with an old fashion flat

hair comb? Works great every time.