May 4 – 5, 2013
A weekend with friends in Joshua Tree. Jarod, Carol, Ewa, Tomasz, Andrew, Tania, Arturo, and I checked out the desert and some jumbo rocks…
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After some deliberation about a route, we finally decided on a short hike that would allow us to camp at jumbo rocks. We shuttled cars and started at the Twin Tanks backcountry backpacking board. Hiking west, we camped about 3 miles up the trail. The next morning we hiked out about 1 mile to the Geology Tour Road board.
Max elevation: 4432 ft
Min elevation: 3848 ft
Total climbing: 4436 ft
Started:5/4/13, 3:22:06 PM PDT – (33.98883, -116.02289)
Ended:5/5/13, 12:22:41 PM PDT – (33.98525, -116.08200)
the way in
The trail was basically a straight shot through the desert between the two parking areas/backcountry boards. There was a mild ascent as we headed west, but it was barely noticeable. The well-maintained, sandy and pebbly trail cut through the vast, flat desert affording expansive views in all directions. Along the way there were plenty of chollas, joshua trees, and other desert life. Sadly, a lot of the vegetation seemed to either be dead or dormant, perhaps due to low amounts of rain over the winter. About 3 miles up the trail, we reached a rocky outcropping on the south side of the trail. We used that as our marker to get back to the trail in the morning which, in the largely unchanging landscape, could be tricky without some sort of signpost to guide us. Then we cut directly north through the desert toward the jumbo rocks. They were roughly 1/4 mile or so from the trail, though distance was tough to measure by eye. After crossing a large flash flood wash, we arrived at our rocks!
We scrambled up into the rocks in an attempt to find a nice, flat campsite. Jarod and Arturo went off in one direction, Andrew and I in another, while the rest of the gang took a breather and awaited our reports. Andrew and I came across a great little flat area squeezed in between two large outcroppings and decided it would make a great home for us for the night. At some point previous to our arrival, another group had had the same idea. There was a perfect little campsite and even a rock firepit there. We guided the crew over and set up camp.
After setting up camp, we all went off to explore the rocks. Scrambling around the rocky playground was incredible. Views in all directions spread out in front of us when reaching a high point. Small caves and crevices were tucked in here and there in between giant boulders. And in the flat lands in between, all kinds of desert life could be found. Again, though, a lot of the chollas, junipers, beavertail cactus, and other vegetation looked to be crippled by drought. There was a lot of evidence of coyote traffic among the plant life, too.
Back at the camp, we made dinner and before we realized it, the sun was setting. In an attempt to catch a glimpse of the show, we scrambled up the steep rocks to the west of our site. We caught the last tail end of the setting sun as we reached a flat outcropping. Across the desert, the sun was dipping below the mountains in the distance. It was certainly a beautiful sight to see.
In the morning, since we were in no rush, we had our breakfast, lounged around, and finally packed up camp. There was a convenient, narrow path between boulders that wound its way east from our site and back toward the open desert and our trail. Using our outcropping as a guide, we rejoined the trail and headed out.
the way out
The last little bit of trail on the way out was largely the same as the way in. We only had about a mile or so to hike to get to our cars, so it was a very leisurely stroll. Again, we were surrounded by a vast, flat landscape dotted with chollas, joshua trees, the occasional juniper, and other desert life. After getting back to the cars and getting shuttled back to our car, Jarod, Carol, Ewa, Tomasz, Andrew, and Tania headed back out the west gate while Arturo and I cruised through the rest of the park and headed toward the Salton Sea via the south gate. Along the way we stopped at the cholla gardens, a large field of tall and menacing chollas.
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No reservations needed for backcountry camping. Just sign in at one of the many backcountry boards.
Total Cost: $25/car entrance fee (As of May 2013).
No dogs allowed. Boo.
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