Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Trip to Joshua Tree


For thanksgiving this year, a couple of our friends asked if we wanted to join them in Joshua tree - this sounded like an awesome idea, so we jumped on the opportunity.

The idea was to hang out in Joshua tree, climb, and cook lots of food. I don't have much outdoor experience, so it was a chance to build a bit on those skills, and Jess had never climbed outdoor (or at least... not per say with a rope etc.)

Joshua tree, if you didn't know, is pretty much the Mecca for climbers. The rock is amazingly sticky crystalline stuff that's just amazing for smearing, and all the towers of rock make for tons of short and fun routes without dealing with multipitch climbing, many of which even have walk-offs (I.E. you can top-rope them without a lead climber around).


Jess and I drove down to Joshua tree on wednesday. We packed all our climbing gear. Including shoes, harnesses, helmets, beaners, purcell prusiks, 10.2mm dynamic rope, my quickdraws, and 2 30ft lengths of webbing. We also packed all our cast iron. Jess worked with Lizza to plan food, and packed a box with spices etc. Wondering about water, I looked up how much is recommended for burning man, and we brought that much 2.5 gallons per person per day. 4 days, 2 people, we needed 20 gallons. I picked up 4 collapsible 5 gallon containers which we filled with water and put in the back of the truck. Lastly we packed camping/backpacking gear, a few spare bit, travel guitars, and lots of warm clothing since it's winter in the desert.
As it turns out 15 gallons was enough for about 5 people for that time, but at least we didn't run out.

On wednesday we left the house ~9:00, stopped at safeway to buy food, wood and charcoal. We then stopped by the ham radio outlet for a new antenna (I have no idea but somehow it got lost in the garage... silly, but whatever). The truck was pretty loaded and kinda sluggish, but still okay. It's still got the old springs, so it was riding a bit low with all that water food, wood, and gear. We drove all day and got there around ~8:30. Not bad actually.

This was also an opportunity to do a longer road trip in our truck, and test out the sleeping platform and gear storage on a more car-camping type trip. It's a 9 hour drive from Mountain View to Joshua Tree, so Jane got quite the workout. Turns out you have to bring the engine to 4500rpm in 3'rd gear to get it to pass at 55 in any reasonable amount of time :P. But she never overheated even doing that through the desert loaded with all of the stuff described above and the sleeping platform.

We'd forgotten the tarp poles so at first we used the platforms from the truck, but they fell over ever 12 hours or so whatever I did (I was staking into sand) so I gave up and borrowed hiking poles from Brian. They did *work* though, just suboptimal. We decided tarp poles should live in the truck in the future.


Brian had landed the spot the day before and let another group join us. They were climbers who'd flown out from north carolina. They were massively confused by the piles of food :P. I *think* I have this right:

wednesday night:
Lizza didn't get in till the middle of the night
desert: smores

On thursday we ate
brunch: fritata
dinner: baked chicken, green jello, cranberry relish, fresh baked bread, potato leak soup

breakfast: cranberry pancakes
dinner: pizza
desert: peach cobbler

breakfast: peach cobbler
dinner: corn bread, chili, baked potatoes, some duck brought by friends of the north carolinans, garlic mashed potatoes
desert: bavarian apple tart

breakfast: last of the corn bread, vegetarian catastrophe (potatoes, eggs, cheese, and, veggie sausage)

We climbed a number of routes. Mostly in the 5.7 range. I'm really not used to outdoor climbing and Joshua tree is especially interesting with the super-high friction rock (I climb 5.11'ish indoor). I learned a lot about doing "trad" (traditional climbing), that's where there aren't bolts in the rock, instead you put cams and nuts and stuff in cracks and use those to clip your rope into. I didn't actually do any leading since we were doing all trad routes, but I'm now pretty confident in my ability to lead though anyway. Had we stuck around another day I probably would've tried leading a trad route. I plan to teach Jess a little lead belay, then we can do some sport lead routes up at castle rock (sport being with pre-placed bolts), I'm tempted to pick up a few cams and nuts just for setting top-rope anchors in places where I can't sling a rock or tree.

Brian and Lizza brought along their bangel cat Milo (he's an F5, or 5 generations from a wild-cat. He's super fun and playful). He got cold and Brian put a down jacket over him, he quickly learned about this and started burrowing into jackets whenever he was cold... SOOO cute, also jess isn't allergic to him. We'd bring him to the foot of the climbs on a leash.


On friday night though Milo got sick and couldn't keep food down. He threw up a couple of times, and that night peed on Lizza and Brian's sleeping bags. Until bedtime they'd been trying to keep him warm by running the heater in the car and were force-feeding him a water solution with salt etc. on the theory that he was dehydrated.

On saturday they went into town and took Milo to the vet. The vet didn't find anything specific, but it's likely that it's due to a camelback bite-valve he'd eaten a week prior - some sort of blockage. They were going to pick up Milo on their way home. Hopefully he's okay.

Jess and I hit traffic on the way home on sunday and didn't make it. I was getting too tired to drive as we passed henry-coe so I pulled in there and found a spot on a road where we wouldn't bug anyone. Jess was already asleep on and off, we tried sleeping in the seats for a bit to recover but it wasn't enough for either of us. So, we pulled out our sleeping bags and crashed in the back. It was super foggy for some reason (over almost the entire route back actually). So we just opened the side sliding window's to the screens so we wouldn't end up soaked in the truck. We got up ~5:00am, drove the last bit and crashed at home for a few hours before work. I was in work a little late, but not too bad. We got home safe, thanks to the sleeping platform.

All in all it was an awesome trip. We used our truck for driving everyone around to the climbs because we could just throw the climbing gear in on top of everything else with space to spare, then pile into the cab. So the truck was super win. It was great to hang out with cool folks, and now were really inspired to try dutch oven cooking.

Lizza has this aluminum dutch oven, it cooks almost identically to a cast-iron one, but heats up in a tiny fraction of the time, and you can easily lift it when it's full of food... awesome!

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