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Sunday, April 24, 2011

More Joshua Tree Day 2


To the toppermost of the poppermost!
panorama shot

High view of Barker Damn
Soon after breakfast we made our first hike of the day....the small trek out to Barker Damn; the only place in Joshua Tree with water seemingly. We parked and set out on the journey and followed the well manicured path. Some paths went up rocks, some around rock piles, some up, some down, some all around. We missed a turnoff somewhere along the way but fortunately realized our mistake before we were too far off the beaten path.
A couple of minutes later.....like 90 minutes to be exact we finally found our way to the damn. The path to the water meandering around rocks and up a bit seemed silly when we could clearly see the water. We made our way to the waters edge and visually the water was...not exactly pristine but once could guess that since god only knows how many animals and people have fouled the water over the years. Alex's keen eye picked up a couple of frogs getting nasty....we told him they were giving piggyback rides.

As we walked around the entire damn area Tomoko made a brilliant point about the fun of Joshua Tree. Whereas other places to camp and hike have somewhat limited areas to hike, climb, and take in the view and almost every trail is clearly marked.....Joshua Tree is campings equivalent to "free styling." If you see a rocky outcrop out on the horizon....no reason you cant simply walk out to it. It is clearly one of the most liberating camping excursions you can take as the vastness and openness of the area really allows you to do whatever the heck you want, when you want, and how you want to do it. Better yet...what look like impenetrable massive stone piles can be easily climbed by kids as well. Sure there is the odd risk of spider or snake bite...but its all good fun.

We made it back to camp and rested a bit. While sitting at the campsite table I decided to make some use of the time and began working on cutting down the IKEA wooden bed slats and had taken with us figuring they would be of some type of use. And true to form.....I ripped off some of the slats to use for campfire and left 5 or 6 on the string to use as a place mat in front of the tent. Worked great as it provided some lift off the dusty desert floor and made an ideal place to see shoes and stand outside the tent without fear of tracking dirt.

The remainder of the slats I cut in half and stacked on our firewood that I had purchased previously at O'neill Park back in OC. Why you ask? Because you can get a huge canvas bag of thick dense wood for 5 bucks and most places around camp areas tent to gouge you a bit on the wood overcharging while underwhelming in the field of quantity. The Ikea Slats were also convenient in that as they were stringed together and rolled up made packing the van a bit easier. I used a pocket saw to cut and notch in the side and then proceeded to use my boot to break it half. After that I took one small slat and smacked it with the claw end of the hammer to bust it into smaller wood pieces that I figured would make some good kindling for later in the evening.

We then drove to the very end of our campsite to do our last hike of the day at Indian Cove Trail. Parking in the unpaved lot we noticed a lot of hippy/deadhead type people in the area. It was at that point I made use of the dried shitaki mushrooms Tomoko brought for her Soba Noodles and was able to pawn them off on a red headed guy in a VW bus with Coexist and greenpeace stickers adorning the back end. Theres a sucker born every minute and twenty bucks is twenty bucks.  I asked whether he was coming from Coachella, being the big festival was held that same weekend. He acknowledged that in fact there was big yoga/new age festival(bahkti, bakti? sp) being held in Yucca Valley. After hearing that I felt bad.....bad that I didnt try and get $40 for the shrooms.

We made our way out to the trail head and being the trail was less then a mile the fact it was nearly sundown didnt diminish our interest in conquring the trail known to locals as "flat easy nancy" and "the yuppie trail."
True to form....the redeeming value of the trail was the fact it had a semi nice view of the city(well city of yucca valley/joshua tree standards.) As we made the 1/2 way point Alex and I saw the largest out crop in the area. We had to climb it...wasnt even a question. I gave tomoko the camera so she could capture the moment....and as soon as we made the top I let out a primal howl of exhuberance the echoed and reverberated throughout the valley. We posed as Tomoko snapped a picture.....later to find that she zoomed in on the picture that pretty much wiped out the entire idea of the picture that was me and Alex on a huge rock. Good times.

We made it back to camp and started dinner....chili dogs! And after that I have nothing clever to say. we did stay up and I drank a beer followed by a glass of Bota Box Malbec. Just like the night before it was incredibly dark once the sun went down but two hours later was as bright as it can get on a moonlit night. We got the kids to bed and sat by the campfire chatting. We were both tired and figured it must have been late but looking at the time on my cell phone found it was only 9pm. Two things that come to mind here; A)it always seems later then it really is when you are camping and B) Joshua Tree get wondeful cell phone coverage. Had I brought my laptop and had an air card I probably could have gotten my email and been able to watch the NHL playoffs online....just like the pioneers did on their first trip out west.

To the tent we went for the last night of our trip in a semi cold slumber.

The Conclusion of our desert odyssey can be found here....
http://hipchecksblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/joshua-tree-epilogue.html

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Joshua Tree- day 2

It was a cold night. Well not Idaho cold but CA cold anyhow. I was warm enough provided I stayed in the fetal position long enough for my body heat to warm the blanket but any movement negated any progress I made on the warmth scale and meant having to start over again. I was woken up early by Alex who said he had to use the restroom. I threw on some clothes, unzipped the tent, and out into the brisk desert morn I went. You could see the first hazy ray of sun climbing and enlightening the rocky horizon landscape for but not yet to the point where there was any type of bonafide sunrise.

I looked around the other campsites and being no one else yet was up was hoping Alex would take advantage of the many discreet locations and choose one of the many flora and fauna for him to pee on but Alex is more Felix Unger than Survivorman so I had to trek up the road to the campsite outhouse....which was relatively clean by desert outhouse standards with no running water or any type. The entire site was still cast in shadows and the brisk morning had me wondering whether to go back in the tent or simpley get started on the day. Looking eastward I saw the shadows receding and the rocks on the adjacent side of the camp change their hue from shades of gray to burning gold. I could almost feel the welcoming morning sun on my face and longed to experience it.

I sprayed some Purell on Alex's hand and put his shoes on so we can make a small climb up one of the rocky outcrops and witness the sunrise. We made out way a bit up the rock into the path of the sunrays and saw the first sliver of sun epoch the skyline. I was beginning to bask in the moment where natures brings the new day and the vastness of the Mojave with its lack of High Rises, Strip Malls, Starbucks, and Freeways stirred some type of premortal spirit deep inside of me. The moment of quiet, with a slight breeze on my face was interrupted however when Alex started questions about Club Penguin and the LA Kings AHL minor league franchise.

The Adventure Continues here....
http://hipchecksblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/more-joshua-tree-day-2.html

More to Follow....


The Kids and I at Barker Damn.












A Couple of Frogs...it was so cute as 1 frog was giving another frog a "piggyback ride."












The Fam












This huge boulder was rolling down the hill....good thing the Kids and I got there just in the nick of time.












Kings of the Hill

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vacation Fun- The Family Goes to Joshua Tree

Being as I got such great feedback from my last family vacation and being as once again I found myself with some time off I decided to blog about the little trip I took a few days ago to Joshua Tree.

DAY 1

Our trip started on Sunday Afternoon and we packed up the family truckster and headed eastward. Leaving on Sunday meant no traffic and presumably a smooth trip to the desert. My oldest son Alex decided that the 3 hour drive out would be as good as time as any to ask me somethings that were on his mind......so I spent almost the entire trip answering questions about the Beatles, Hockey, the Desert, the Automobile, and the Time Space/Black Hole Quantum Physics Theory. Being that I had the time and wasnt going anywhere and deciding it would be better to answer the question as opposed to barking at him to be quiet I simply answered all of this questions. And if you were wondering.....
The Song Yesterday was written by Bon Jovi. The Automobile was invented by John Candy. The Desert was once home to many indigenous Oompa Loompa, and I was once a member of NASA who lived in Area51 and invented a ray gun that shot Chocolate Zingers.

Once we entered Yucca Valley we saw the sign for the California Tourism Office which always means a relatively clean bathroom, Air Conditioning, and water so we pulled into the driveway.
After taking the kids to the restroom Tomoko noticed a hissing sound out of the back of the car.
Women know nothing about Cars.....I told her it probably had something to do the with the AC.

We then continued down the road and found the Yucca Valley Food4Less we always stop at when we make this trip. We bought some coffee cake, some assorted fruits and veggies and what not. As we made it back to the car I still heard the hissing sound and noticed the back rear tire starting to look like a failed souffle.

Now Yucca Valley isnt exactly the big city and being in was last Sunday Afternoon and having a van packed with camping equipment and a back tire with a puncture wound and a couple of additional nails in it for good measure-I simply called AAA and let the chips fall.

One Hour and 2 Subway Sandwiches bought at the Yucca Valley Chevron later we were back on the road and praying to be at the campsite by sundown.....I was left going 55MPH on cruise control now my left rear tire was that of the temporary small donut variety. Good Times.

Story Continues here....
http://hipchecksblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/joshua-tree-day-2.html

No trip to the area is complete without the Windmills and always reminds me of the scenes from "Rainman" and "Less Than Zero."


Mission Accomplished- Roasted Marshmallows!

Cheap Digital Cameras arent exactly optimal for catching night pictures.

Tons of Ghost Orbs at our campsite....or just the tons of dust kicked up by the kids; I'll go with the latter.

Once again showing the limitation of the digital camera....our first night campfire shows mighty unimpressive.