Category Archives: Camping

Joshua Tree, March 2019 – The superbloom

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Thursday through Sunday, 21-Mar to 24-Mar-2019

Ohh man, we’re going climbing!!!

It’s been ages since Sarah and I were able to go on a dedicated climbing trip together – with the New Year successfully rung in, vacation days saved up, and strength and health in our limbs, it was time to get back on the plane and get some rock under our feet.  I set up flights, rented a truck, and we set off toward Joshua Tree…

This post will be broken up into three sections: Joshua Tree itself, Climbing, and the superbloom.  We took a lot of pictures, so… trust me.  This is for the best.

 

Joshua tree has a superbloom going on.  Or, while we were there, there was a superbloom.

Basically, the desert got a lot more rain than usual (Congrats California!), and everything decided, “Hey, now’s a pretty good time to flower and grow and be all kinds of energetic!”.  And so all the plans were happy.  And the Sarah was happy, because Sarah’s love flowers.  And the Ben was happy, because Ben’s also love flowers, and also also love seeing happy Sarahs!

We frolicked, and took pictures, and saw sunsets, and… well, the photos speak for themselves.  It was amazing, and intensely beautiful – it seriously looked like the entire desert had been invaded by growth – from the huge pineapple-sized flowers on the Joshua Trees to the tiny little while blossoms in the desert…

 

 

Joshua Tree, March 2019 – Joshua Tree National Park

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Thursday through Sunday, 21-Mar to 24-Mar-2019

Ohh man, we’re going climbing!!!

It’s been ages since Sarah and I were able to go on a dedicated climbing trip together – with the New Year successfully rung in, vacation days saved up, and strength and health in our limbs, it was time to get back on the plane and get some rock under our feet.  I set up flights, rented a truck, and we set off toward Joshua Tree…

This post will be broken up into three sections: Joshua Tree itself, Climbing, and the superbloom.  We took a lot of pictures, so… trust me.  This is for the best.

 

Thursday:

We went full-power on this trip – I took a half day from work, and we got on the plane on Thursday afternoon.  The plan was to fly into LAX, rent a truck, and then drive to Hidden Valley campground in the middle of Joshua Tree, about three and a half hours away.  We’d sleep in the bed of the truck, and be able to get onto the rock early in the morning.

Of course, we flew into LAX.  Ideally we’d have gotten flights to Oakland or something, but… we were a bit too late for that, and all the seats had been booked.  So getting out of the airport and picking up our rental took a bit longer than planned.  Picking up the truck was an adventure all of its own too – We took a bus to a random parking lot, where we waited for an unmarked white van to pick us up and bring us to the rental agency.  Not… quite standard, but we’d been warned about it, so it wasn’t unexpected.

After we drove through a dimly lit industrial park and picked up our monstrously large vehicle, we needed dinner and groceries.  Groceries were found an Winco, and dinner was devoured in the bed of the truck outside of an In&Out burger.  Good start to the trip, if I may say so.

The trip did run into its first challenge as we drove into the National Park though – There was a big sign saying “All campgrounds full”.  Not quite what we were expecting to see late on a Thursday evening (actually early on Friday morning at that point, but who’s counting?)  Where did we end up sleeping?  In the parking lot of one of the back country trails, of course!

Not ideal, but hey – that was the whole point of having the truck, right?  And I’ll admit, it was definitely a comfortable bed after spending almost 4 hours driving…

 

 

Friday:

I woke up on Friday to see that Sarah was already awake.

In fact, she’d been awake for a while, stressfully keeping watch and waiting for the Rangers to show up and arrest us for sleeping in the parking lot.  Possible just shoot us, and save themselves the worry of arresting the two terrible outlaws.

Thankfully, we were able to stay one step ahead of the law, and didn’t get thrown in the pokey just yet.  The trick, you see, is to get to them before they can get to you.  As soon as I was mobile, we headed back to the entrance to pay our park pass and ask about where to camp.  It went really well – they requested that we pay when leaving, thanks to the long line of cars trying to get into the park.  And for camping, they suggested just going into the back country, and camping out in some of the camping-allowed sections of desert.

Simple and easy.  The ranger even told us where to find her favorite section of wildflowers!

 

By now, it was breakfast time.  So we made us up a rather intense amount of oatmeal, complete with blueberries and sausage, and got ourselves onto the rock.

The specific details of the climbs will be in a future post.  Suffice it to say that it was glorious.  And offwidthy.  Which was less glorious.  But still pretty great.

We climbed, we had lunch, we ate cheetos, and I was even told that my… peculiar… style of eating cheetos was (in a full-on Cali surfer accent) a “power move, brah”.  All because I was eating them with tongs and not by hand.  Eating them by hand gets dust all over my fingers, which is gross even when they’re not covered in climbing chalk.  Come on, people.  It’s just smart to use tongs.

 

Anyways, we climbed, we enjoyed, and then we made dinner in the back of the truck – searing up a few steaks, some asparagus, and some mac and cheese.  Yeah, you read that right.  We eat well on the road.  Gotta get those calories for the climbs!

Then, we packed up our gear and hiked into the desert.

We… probably could have packed a little better, as the pictures show, but you know what?  We were only walking in a mile, so we weren’t particularly concerned with the efficiency of our packs.  It was simple, beautiful, and a gorgeous night.  Instead of cinching our backpacks down, we spent the extra time stargazing and enjoying the Joshua trees in the dark.  They were flowering.

 

We laid out our sleeping pads under the desert moon.  It smelled like flowers and dust.  The air was cold.  It was perfect.

 

 

Saturday:

Our main goal for today was to climb, and then get to the camping area that the Ranger had told us about the morning before.  But first, we had to pack up from our desert nest and walk back to the parking lot – which was honestly a really nice task to start the day with.

The desert was vibrant.  I’ve mentioned “superbloom” before, but the backstory is that Joshua Tree had gotten a LOT of rain over the winter.  Maybe not a lot in comparison to Oregon, but it was enough to get the whole desert growing and flowering – and we could absolutely tell from where we were camping.  The whole area felt alive, and you could smell the new growth in the air.  Packing up and walking out was pleasant, and honestly a very enjoyable experience.

The climbing of the day was amazing, I’ll tell you all about it later, but suffice it to say that we both enjoyed it, and what’s more important: Sarah got her first trad lead in post-injury!  She crushed it!

 

After climbing, we stuffed everything into the truck and headed back out onto the open highway.  Our goal was Turkey Flats, the back country area that the ranger had mentioned to us.

On the way, we found flowers.

We stopped, and I am supremely thankful that we did – we thought we’d just seen a small patch, but instead we found ourselves in a massive riverbed full of wildflowers, right at the golden hour.  Again, I’ll talk more about it in a future post… but understand that this was probably the most beautiful place I’ve been.

 

Dinner was at the parking lot for Turkey Flats – we had chili dogs, and hung out with some college kids from LA who’d decided to come out to stargaze.  They were unbelievably cute in their naive, city-kid ways, and made Sarah and I feel like true dirtbag adventurers.

Then, we walked into the desert again, found a perfect little patch of dirt, laid out our bedrolls, and slept under the stars.

 

 

Sunday:

Sunday was our hiking day, the day for Sarah to track down the best photos of the Superbloom possible.  I’ll post all of the pictures in a future post (and trust me, there were more than a few pictures), but suffice it to say that we found some beauty out in the desert.

First, our campsite.  When we woke up and did a bit of exploring, we found that we’d camped in a perfect location – We were fully surrounded by thousands of tiny little white flowers popping out of the sand.  And, in the distance, there was a sand dune that had been scraped off the top of the mountains by a glacier in eons past…

So clearly our first order of business was to hike deeper into the desert and see the dune!

 

The sand dune itself wasn’t quite what you’re probably imagining – instead of a Sahara-Desert style thing, it was just a big long mound of sand with plants all over it.  Honestly, it was a bit hard to see, but looking close we could definitely notice the change in terrain as we explored farther inbound.

From there, we headed back to the truck, and then back again to the place we’d explored the previous day.  It definitely looked quite different in the morning light, but still – endless fields of wildflowers.  You can’t say no to that.

Then, Cholla patch.  Ocatillo gardens, and the Cottonwood ranger station.

The ranger station was the biggest event, to be honest, though the Cholla and Ocatillo were pretty cool too.  I mean, who doesn’t love spiky doom balls with spines that can pierce right through my heavy hiking boots?  Ohh, that’d be me.  It was impressive.  But hey – after a while with the tweezers I was able to pull the spines out, so… that’d good, right?

Anyways, Cottonwood.

 

We needed a nice and shaded place to repack the truck, get ourselves ready to fly, and divest ourselves of all the extra food and water that we’d brought with us.  Turns out, we packed WAY too much extra food and water… but you know what?  I absolutely prefer that option versus the alternative.  Next time, we’ll know how much to bring.  And this time, we were able to help out a push-start VW minibus full of hippies.

Yep, you read that right.  A VW minibus that had to be pushed to start.

Full of every archtype of hippie you could imagine.  It was awesome, watching them pile out of the van and guessing who we’d see next, or what type of tie-dye they’d have on.

 

After hooking the hippies up with some water and cheetos, we headed back to LA through the brutal traffic.  It honestly went pretty well, all things considered.  We made it back in time, hopped on a plane, and careened our way back to the wet Northwest, away from the beautiful desert rocks.

Climbing at Vantage, with Daniel!

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Thursday, 11-Oct-2018 through Monday, 15-Oct-2018

 

Quotes from the weekend (overheard from others):

“well, we’ve got straight vodka!”

  • A group climbing, debating what they have to eat/drink at the cliff.

“Yeah, I know how to belay… You just pull it through right?”

  • A person nearby, who we later learned hadn’t ever been outside before

“Ohh it’ll be fine! What’s the worst that can happen?”

  • The worst thing you can ever hear. We kept an eye on them…

 

Daniel came out to visit! Yay Daniel!

It’d been a while since we’d hosted guests, so we were pretty excited for this chance to show off, adventure, and be a bit more sociable.  Our plans were pretty simple – meet Daniel at the airport, cook a fancy dinner, climb in Washington, and then explore Portland.  Those can be the best plans, honestly… simple, straightforward, and clean.

So we stuck with the plans!

 

Thursday

Picked up Daniel, ate stuffed acorn squash.  It was glorious. Tried to scare him with an animatronic Santa, but unfortunately that didn’t quite work… I think he expected something, and so wasn’t surprised when he found out what that something was. Went to bed early, so that we’d be ready for the weekend of adventure coming up.

 

Friday

Packed up the car, drove to Vantage. It was a surprisingly long drive… though the technical duration of the drive was exactly what we’d expected, it somehow seemed to take way longer… It wasn’t a bad drive, by far, but it definitely wasn’t a super fun one. I think it was tough because we were all so excited, honestly.

Once we arrived, we did a quick unpacking and then headed in to climb a bit, specifically at the feathers, where Sarah got in her first post-injury rock climb! We didn’t do a ton of climbing, thanks to the sun setting on us, but what we did get to was quite excellent – I actually ended up working a 5.10 by accident! I didn’t quite finish it on lead, but then Sarah came in and wrapped up her post-recovery climbing by crushing it – on top rope, since she wasn’t quite cleared for taking falls yet, but still. No issue, clean movements… she cruised up the route that had just thrown me off.

 

After climbing, we headed back to camp to finish setting up. Once done, we cooked (and then ate, of course) a delicious steak and zucchini dinner, around a fire, with whiskey!  It was glorious!

 

Saturday

Had a relaxed morning, ate breakfast, and hiked out to the Sunshine wall once it was warm enough out.  Before we left though, Sarah did a bit of exploring and scavenging, and found us a rather impressive amount of firewood for the evening… we’d brought some of our own, but you know how it is. There’s never enough firewood, and having that little bit extra can be the difference between a pleasant evening, and going to bed before the conversation gets really good. Once it was warm enough though, we headed to the Sunshine wall to get in some serious climbing.

Climbing was excellent – it was somehow almost too warm, at times, and beautifully sunny. There were a lot of people around, but thankfully we were able to work around most of them and get in a quite legitimate number of routes. See below for specifics:

  • Ride ’em cowboy
  • short trad line
  • cool arrete
  • other climb
  • trad version of other climb
  • boshido

Honestly, we should have brought more water though. As the day went on, we snacked and sipped, but the sipping ended far before the snacking did… and thanks to that bright sun (hence: “sunshine wall”) we were quite dehydrated by the afternoon. Instead of trying to push for more routes, we took the better part of valor and headed back to camp for some well-earned rest.

At camp, we enjoyed the rest of the evening – chopping firewood, cooking dinner, stargazing, all of those good things.

 

Sunday

Vantage is pretty awesome and all, but there’s a lot to do in Portland too. As such, we packed up fairly early and headed out, after grabbing a few small branches of sage to bring home.

On the way we did stop for a quick snack in The Dalles, but aside from that it was pretty much a straight burn home… quicker driving this time, but it’s still an impressively long drive. That drive makes me miss the comparatively short ride out the North Conway.

At home, we didn’t stay for long. We did a quick unpack, set Ollie up with a nice place to relax and unwind from the drive, and headed back out for a bit of adventure!

We:

Ate Apple Cider Donuts!

Went to the Pendleton store!

Walked around downtown a bit!

Ate conveyor belt sushi!

After sushi was done, we were all pretty well worn down… but Daniel was visiting! And I wasn’t going to give up on bro-time just yet! We dropped Sarah off at the house, since she was crashing pretty hard, and went out on the town, finally settling into a small basement bar called “The Caves”.

Spooky, right?

Well, it wasn’t that spooky. In fact, it was really cool – I learned about yellow wine, and orange wine, and we got to sit in a tiny little alcove beside the bar. It was lovely, and honestly a perfect bro-down time. Which is a little strange, honestly. I guess Daniel’s finally corrupted me into accepting that sometimes it’s acceptable to just sit down, relax, and sip a fancy wine.

It’s very acceptable, as a note. An extremely good cap to an excellent visit full of excellent adventures!