Backpacking Joshua Tree, Part I

November 3, 2007 at 6:28 am

Photos from the weekend are up in the gallery!

Jim B (a fellow CSU atmos grad student) and I were sent out to an MJO workshop last week, so we did the usual thing and flew out a few days earlier to get in a little hiking and sight-seeing. Jim named Joshua Tree National Park as his destination of choice, and the next few weeks were spent trying to figure out what we wanted to do there. I was thinking about rock climbing, as it is such a beautiful place to do this, but Jim is afraid of heights and Bruce’s neighborhood nearly burned down, so we ended up doing a one night light-and-fast backpacking trip. This turned out to be a good plan, as our flight was late getting in and all of the camping in the park was full when we got there, plus there would not have been much time for climbing.

Joshua Tree

We left the car around 4p, and made good time on the flat and sandy Boy Scout trail in the north end of the park. This was Jim’s first trip to JTree, and he was having a great time enjoying the surreal landscape in this part of the park. We hiked for about 2 hours, stopping to take a lot of pictures, and probably made it about 3 miles down the trail before the sun started to get low. We picked a spot near a nice little pile of rocks, took a bunch of photos of the sunset, and set up camp in the dusk in the desert.

I have a small back and a small backpack, so to pack all of the stuff I needed for a weekend in the desert, I didn’t have space for our tent. Instead I brought a small tarp, and laid it out with my trekking poles as supports and prepared to sleep out under the stars. I was warm and comfy and sound asleep after about 10 minutes while Jim sat out in the desert taking long exposure shots of the stars.

Joshua Tree Sunset

Jim brought his own tent, which he set up further down the hill. After I’d been asleep about half an hour, and he headed to his own tent, the quiet of the desert was disturbed by what I can only describe as a “honking” noise. It sounded like a goose or bull frog was about 50-100ft south of me. I still have no idea what that noise was, or why it would have emerged from the silence of the desert and slapped me across the face the way it did. I laid in my tarp feeling exposed, and sure I had just heard a cougar or alien or creepy little guy in the darkness that I couldn’t see. 5 minutes later I grabbed my sleeping bag and trucked across the brush to Jim’s tent. He was nice enough to let me sleep in his shelter for the night instead. Yes, I’m a big wuss. But really, what honks in the desert? I know the tent is no less protective than sleeping outside, but I felt better and actually got good sleep in the end. Ah well, this is why they call it an Adventure, isn’t it?