Backpacking Joshua Tree

Last week was another great adventure, the week prior we were getting our snow camp on In Eager AZ and then in a span of a week we were back in the desert backpacking Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree and the surrounding area have a lot of memories, visiting my grandparents in Yucca Valley and not so fond memories like back-to-back combined arms exercises at 29 Palms, ha-ha.  I know this area and have overnighted in Joshua Tree on my way to other adventures but never really explored it. When Mike and Mike planned a trip, I couldn’t pass it up.

This would be the same Mike and Mike made famous-ish by our summit of Mt Charleston this last October (read about it here). So, upside I had two capable experienced hikes and I got to be the slow one this time again.  They drove up early Thursday and did a quick recon of the area, we would be Hiking the California Hiking and Riding Trail section that goes through the park. At around 37.5 miles through the desert, we would have to stage water at selected points along the route. Lucky for us this isn’t anything new and traveling the backcountry of Joshua Tree is a pretty common thing and the system they have set up is really nice especially for social distancing.

The permit system is done at the Kiosks located in the park along the trails and are close to road access so it’s easy to pick them up and stage your water. This time of the year is some perfect weather for exploring J Tree and the backcountry really gets you away from the traffic (J Tree Backcountry Info here). Lucky for me the Mikes took care of this all I had to do was meet them at the hotel.

After unloading all my gear and grabbing some dinner we broke out the map and went of our plan to hike the trail in three sections for two nights and three days. We also went over the water drops and the plans for the car shuffle in the morning. It was early to bed as we had a four am wake up so we could get on the road.

We woke up grabbed some breakfast burritos and where off, first stagging my car at the North Gate entrance and then loaded up in Mike’s car to drive down to Black Rock Canyon. When all was said and done it was about seven thirty when we got on the trail and started our climb, and by climb it was about a thousand feet. We hiked along until we hit the canyon and dipped into it stopped for a bit and started our hike out.

The trails where awesome and easy to navigate and hike along with signs every mile marking the distance and for the most art this route took us down a steady decline. We were making really good time and while chatting the possibility of doing the hike in two days with pizza and a hotel instead of camping Sunday night came up, we were sold, two day it was. This though meant some long days and miles.

This would mean we are going to do around nineteen miles day one- and eighteen-mile day two, how hard can it be… We hit our first water drop at Covington Flats loaded up and hydrated before stepping off again. I was carrying five liters on me, so I had plenty of water and was also carrying a canteen of electrolyte mix. It was really nice not to have the feeling of “I hope water is available soon” instead we felt confident in hitting the miles hard.

Our next water point was around ten miles away at Juniper Flat and the day was going well. One of the amazing things is I think we only saw one person on Friday and the interior of the park was very peaceful and you felt a million miles from everywhere.  One thing that added to that that I will note is the lack of cell service there and when it was available, I would call it spotty at best.

At around the fourteen-mile mark I’m not going to lie I was starting to feel the miles, I started to tell myself “only five miles to go” well five. Iles might not be that much by itself, stacked onto the previous miles it was a little rough, ha-ha. We loaded up water before the final push to Ryan campsite to figure out our plan for the night. Ryan was a developed site with toilets and dumpsters so we could lighten our loads, but J Tree is a popular destination especially this time of year and all the sites where booked up.

Why I love the outdoor community, well this awesome couple had an extra site and gave it to us to camp, it was amazing! We were tired and having a table and flat place by the bathroom was a wish come true ha-ha. We took to setting up camp and cleaning up, dinner was a high priority and we as down to enjoy our rehydrated meals, all of a sudden, the couple, these trail angels came up to us with some ice-cold Miller Lites, they are the greatest people on the planet I still can’t thank them enough.

We hit the rack because we had another long day ahead of us, day two is another story.

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