Waking up was difficult, after a decent night of sleep and temperatures in the forties I was warm in my bag and had only minimal tossing and turning. I had only needed to leave the comfort of my bag once in the night to pee (peeing is worth it so you don’t waste calories keeping it warm in you and being uncomfortable). But my body was feeling every bit of the nineteen miles the day before.
We had made good time and decided to push past our original camp and do the thirty-seven and a half miles in two days. I really had not backpacked in a few months, so this was my back in the saddle hike, I had actually had concerns about the distance in three days since I was not feeling like a super hiker. Fortunately, the trail conditions where great and the relative downhill hiking made for good time. Good time was still around eleven hours on the trail with breaks.
Now day two I wasn’t felling super excited even though we were halfway done, probably because I knew what getting halfway felt like. We were sleeping in, of course the being a relative term. Once the area began to lighten up and we didn’t need headlamps we started the process of breaking out of our warm “comfortable” bags and the camp chores at hand. We had to clean up make some breakfast and pack up, I was not moving fast.
But with warm chow and a little caffeine it got easier and easier to get around, my body did not hurt as much as I thought it would, probably in part because it knew we still had a way to go and that the brain was being a wuss, ha-ha. But it was time to get moving and we stepped off from Ryan camp for the final push.
Day two was a Saturday and we saw a lot more traffic on the trail from the one person we say on Friday to many backpackers and day hikers due to the proximity to the trail heads and the paved roads than run through the park. It started to feel a little more congested and the isolation we had the previous day was all but gone for the first half of the day. But this is the time of year to visit so it made sense and was pretty cool seeing all the climbers playing around on the rocks.
We made good time to Geology Tour our third (of four) water drop and again I was very appreciative of the Mikes setting out the water drops; this really is what makes this hike doable because there is no water other than what you set out. Because they set our so much water we really didn’t have to stress it either which was a first for me desert backpacking since usually we have to carry all of our own.
At this point the desert really seemed to flatten out more and you can tell the elevation loss by going this way was noticeable, the rocky hills and thick groves of Joshua Trees changed to boulders and a more arid landscape. The trail remained easy to follow and easy to hike on which contributed to the fast pace and lower stress levels from not having to navigate constantly instead occasionally checking the map and following the mile markers.
It was a little over four miles from Geology Tour to Twin Tanks our final water drops, not a significant distance but the miles where adding up and it was nice not to have to keep full canteens until then. Twin Tanks was the last water drop and real milestone location until we finished the remaining seven miles to the North Gate entrance. It was nice to be there and know we had one last push, but that push was a seven mile stretch all be it downhill. With thirty miles behind us it was time to get motivated.
I am a big dumb animal, and my hiking style could be best described as lumbering, the Mikes moved quickly like some sort of desert mammal they would maintain the lead. Maybe it’s because it was the end of the trail but the last seven miles where kinda eh, it’s that lower desert kind of look and for a portion of it you parallel the road out so you can see and hear the traffic, I guess it’s their way of saying snap out of it time to get back into society. Across the valley you can start to see 29 Palms the famous United States Marine Corps base where many of us trained at some point in our Marine Corps career.
As I started to feel a little sorry for myself with achy joints and tired from the hike, I could make out the tell-tale dust of a convey at 29 palms miles away coming back on the late afternoon on a Saturday, later I looked up after hearing the tell-tale rumble of CH-53 helicopters (one of the aircraft I worked on) and couldn’t help but to think to myself “sucks to be them”, ha-ha. That last push of motivation at their expense got me going (I’m kidding by the way).
Moving down hill was hard because I was tired, but I had momentum and I had the mile marker signs to help me count down, I was playing mental games. I won’t count down until five miles to go, ok just gotta get to three miles then two, awesome I’m almost there! At the one mile mark the Mikes where taking a break and waiting for me so we could all finish as a team (I also had the car keys, life hack if you are a slow hiker keep the keys). We finished out the last mile uneventfully and made it to the car around sundown.
Although finishing the trail and finishing the tip are two separate things, first we had to head into 29 Palms for the healing powers of Del taco. After we recharged with food it was off to get Mike’s car and find a room in Yucca Valley. We were tired and that is one major take away from all these trips is making sure you have a plan for fatigue and how you are going to get home safely. Fifteen years ago, we would be out drinking beers now its Advil and Denny’s via door dash, ha-ha. We woke up Sunday and took our time getting on the road I still had a three-hour drive home and was feeling every bit of the trip.
It’s now a week and half later I’m sitting here really reminiscing about an amazing trip with good friends on a new trail and how it was totally worth it. Making memories like this and accomplishing something is important what’s the use of all the cool gear if you are not out doing cool stuff with cool people. I was lucky to have a great crew and am very thankful for the hard work they put into the planning of this trip and letting me tag along, I am thankful for the awesome couple who hooked us up with the camping spot and the cold beer. I’m very thankful to be able to get out to do adventures like this and the opportunity to share them with you.