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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 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 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....

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