Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Joshua Tree

We're all the way to January now! For Jenny's birthday (you might have figured out by now that Jenny and I are dating - good work) I decided to plan a backpacking trip to Joshua Tree National Park down in southeastern California. So the Friday of MLK weekend Jenny and I got on the train in San Jose at 3 PM and wound up in Fresno at 8:30. After stocking up on supplies we went to sleep early.

The next morning we were up at 5 and out the door by 6, for the 8 hour drive to Joshua Tree through Bakersfield and Barstow. After about four hours we go to the "desert," some salt flats near Barstow.



The desert is such a crazy place - I think over the past two quarters I've increased the time I've spent in the desert by 10,000% or so...

We got to our trailhead at around 2PM, the Coxcomb mountains, in the remote eastern part of Joshua Tree. You may not know (I sure didn't) that Joshua Tree is a national park because it's where the high-elevation, rainy-in-the-winter, Joshua Tree-filled Mohave Desert meets the low-elevation, rainy-in-the-summer, barren Colorado Desert. After hiking for a few minutes we stopped for a late lunch of Salami, bread, and parmesan (my backpacking lunch of choice). Mmm.



We followed a 4x4 road(ish) for a few hours and set up camp for the night in a large wash at the base of the mountains. The next morning was when I really appreciated the desert. When we woke up at 9 it was already a pleasant 70 and it only got up to about 80 in the day and 55 at night. Perfect. Even better, there's no bears so you don't have to go through all that annoying trouble of storing your food, and toothbrushes, and bug spray, and boots that your brother spilled his coffee on...

We packed up camp and then set off for a day of scrambling the nearby peaks. Sadly, the summits of all the peaks were a little too hard for us to comfortable scramble, so we mostly scrambled around peaks, but the views were incredible.





The basin we were looking out on was mind-blowingly flat. We also got to observe a sandstorm pass about 15 miles from us- a much better situation than watching a sandstorm pass directly over you...



After scrambling through canyons all afternoon, we came to this crazy man-made watering hole that our best guess was built to provide animals with a constant source of water year-round. It was a little creepy because there were animal bones all around although I did find a Bighorn Sheep horn!



True of False: Bighorn Sheep are endangered.

If you said false great job! Not only are they not endangered, they're not even threatened. Sadly, we (ahem) were convinced that they were endangered so I left my prize behind...I guess it was a national park after all.

We made it back to our original camp about 5, and then packed up and started walking back toward the road so our hike out the next day was shorter. Sunset was awesome- I swear it's not photoshoped...



Once we set up camp, we cooked another delicious dinner (on the stove Jenny got me for Christmas). And since it was a birthday celebration, I even brought along a little wine...



We woke up the next morning at 4:15, got the car at 5:30, and were back in Fresno at 1. From there we caught a 3 PM train back to San Francisco, which got in at 7:30, where we took an 8 Caltrain and were back on campus by 9:30. Whew. What a whirlwind.

All in all it was an awesome trip. Happy Birthday Jenny! The desert is an awesome place, and I have this sneaky feeling you might hear and see more about it in future posts...

Until then I'll leave you with my obligatory wilderness shot:

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