As a dedicated planner and a very systematic person, last minute plans usually never end up panning out. However, over Spring Break, my boyfriend, boyfriend’s brother, and I decided to take an impromptu trip down to Joshua Tree. With one day’s notice, we packed up all the supplies we had and drove down to dessert. We camped at Jumbo Rocks Campground and found the perfect spot next to some enormous boulders. I have never camped at a first-come first-serve campground, so I was nervous that we would not find any spots and our two hour drive would be wasted. However, we were able to drive around the campsite and find a number of great spots. We picked the most private one behind a large boulder and set up camp. It felt as if we were in the Flinstone’s, and it was unlike any other camping experience I have had.
Most of my camping trips have either been at beach campgrounds or in the forest. We only decided to stay for a night because we did not bring enough food or supplies, but we got our fair share of the park. We summited Ryan Mountain, climbed around Skull Rock, and explored as many rock formations as we could. There were a number of large cairns at the top of Ryan Mountain, and we even built one of our own. The view from the top was incredible, although the hike was long and steep. Overall it was a good introduction to Joshua Tree, and I would like to go back and do some stargazing. Unfortunately, there was a full moon when we were there, so the skies were not dark enough to see all of the stars.
After a failed Camino, I really wanted to make good use of my backpacking backpack. I had spent a lot of money on that bag, and it had been demoted to a mere carry-on luggage for my random weekend trips and excursions. However, because of my awesome school, I was able to go on my first official backpacking trip. There is an outdoors club on campus, and I decided to sign up for a 2-day, 20 mile backpacking trip in the backcountry of Ojai. We met up Friday morning and drove out to the trailhead. As we were gearing up in the parking lot, an enormous tree toppled over right before our eyes. We were afraid it was a bad omen for the rest of our trip, but we set out anyways. 10 miles in, 10 miles out. I had about 15 pounds of gear with me, and the wrong hiking shoes (I left my boots at home). I only had my Timberlands at school so I was forced to wear those for the hike. Note to self: Always wear the proper shoes. My feet were blistered and swollen at the end of the day, but I survived.
A third of our hike was in the dark as we started relatively late in the afternoon. I also stupidly forgot to bring a headlamp so I had to rely on other people’s lights as I wandered my way through brush and teetered at the edge of high cliffs. I’m a relatively short person, and combined with the fact that it was my first backpacking trip and I was wearing the wrong shoes, I always found myself running to catch up with the group. That probably factored in to my sore feet at the end of the day. The scenery was pretty dry because of the California drought, and the weather was hot. However, I still had a great time hiking in the company of my expert friends. Our end goal was a hot spring about 10 miles in, but we ended up setting camp at 8 miles because it was already pretty late, and we were exhausted. We cooked some dinner, and rested our sore feet for the day. I always wondered why chili was such a popular camping food as it is known to upset the bowels, but nonetheless, we had mac n’ cheese and chili for dinner. After we ate, some people decided to head out to the springs for a night soak. I was too tired to go on, so I set up my sleeping bag on the hard ground and passed out.
We woke up bright and early, ate breakfast, and headed out for a soak at the hot springs. After two very steep miles, we made it to the springs and relaxed our tired muscles in the hot water. Now when I say hot springs, don’t get your hopes up. It wasn’t some beautiful waterfall of warm waters that created a perfect area to sit and soak. Back in the day, there was a steady stream of hot water at this site, and a couple of people decided to make a makeshift tub out of metal and plastic to collect that water. Although it wasn’t the prettiest site, the water was a welcome treat after our long journey. We spent about half an hour at the tub, and we headed back to our base camp. We packed up our stuff and headed out for a long five hour trek back to our cars. Magically, even with the improper shoes, I finished the trip with only one small blister.
All in all, it wasn’t the most beautiful backpacking trip, but it was a good first experience to the type of backcountry hiking that I hope to do in the future.
Over the Fourth of July Weekend, my family rented a cabin up in Big Bear. A couple of my cousins had never been there before, so we explored the town, ate good food, swam in the lake, and watched the fireworks. After my semester abroad, I thought that I could travel full time and live a nomadic life. However, after weekends like this, I realize that I could never be away from my family and friends for extremely long periods of time.