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Blood, Sweat and Rocks

(3/26/08) Written by Larry C.

Photo Credits: Larry C. and Glen O.

Perfect weather greeted the second annual Scramble into the Jaws of Death at Joshua Tree (3/7 - 3/9). Seriously, the rock scrambling is a blast and a wonderful adrenaline rush; it just requires careful attention. This year's trip was made even more pleasant, thanks to not just one but two separate water caches on this otherwise dry trip. (You can squeeze blood from a rock, but not water.) Andy, Glen, Hut and Jeremy did all the heavy lifting by carrying in dozens of gallons of water the day before the backpack started and depositing them at strategic locations. In fact, we had more water than we knew what to do with this time. It was comforting to know they were working hard, as some of us idled Friday away by driving around and photographing wildflowers, which were in abundance at the south end of the Park. (I actually thought I deserved that break, having just endured a harrowing drive through Indio in search of a Taco Bell.)

Saturday's hike up the Boy Scout Trail to the wilderness campsite was a relative breeze. After we arrived, we climbed up a small rocky hill, which Glen still believes to be a major mountain peak (Ryan Mountain or Quail Mountain or, most appropriately, Queen Mountain). Since none of us wanted to burst Glen's bubble, we let him keep thinking he was right (you're not reading this Glen, are you?). Later that afternoon, Erez and Larry took a stroll over to the Big Pine trail spur, which involved about 5 miles of hiking to see one pine tree, which was dead at that (but it was big). Then we joined the rest of the group at the top of a rocky vantage point in time to see the sunset.

The evening involved Glen's usual superb culinary exploits, which were so memorable I had to check the trip notes to remember what it was - some kind of chicken or maybe it was tuna. Seriously, it was gingery and delicious, reminding me exactly of Southern Thailand (where I've never been). After dinner, a few of us engaged in serious epistemological religious debate (the atheists won). Most instructive for me, though, was a display of lightweight gear technology. Glen, gansta that he is, modeled an R-1 Hoodie, which turns out to be an incredibly warm upper garment that's about as thick as tissue paper. I was also amazed by the Marmot sleeping bags several people had, which were so light they were literally blowing away in the breeze. Scrambling down the rocks the next day, with the heaviest pack of the bunch, I began thinking it was time to splurge on some new gear.

On the other hand, one of us took the lightweight packing a bit too extreme, and ended up being too cold that night to get any sleep at all. Sleep-deprived as he was, he understandably decided to hike back the way he came in order to avoid the next day's scrambling. Juan was nice enough to accompany him, seeing it as an opportunity to take photos at a leisurely pace. Apparently, when they got back to the cars, they passed the time waiting for the rest of us by hitting on some hot guy...whenever his girlfriend turned her back.

But the real trip began after the rest of hiked to Willow Hole and then began the descent down a canyon through the Wonderland of Rocks. Actually, the real trip began when I walked straight into a boulder and bashed my knee. As Andy said, "a Perfect Pace trip doesn't begin until Larry starts bleeding." Always happy to oblige. Fortunately, there was little or no blood the rest of the way, despite the challenging scrambling ahead. This stretch was little more than a mile, but owing to its semi-technical nature took several hours to maneuver. Everyone navigated without incident, and Rudel got ample opportunity to show off his rock climbing moves. In fact, the pace was far faster than I remembered from the year before.

Finally at the bottom of the canyon, we reached the second water cache, only to find no one wanted any of it. So we had loads of fun mutilating the excess water bottles on some agave spikes to let the water (and weight) out. A long but easy walk across the flat desert brought us back to the cars, where Glen's usual sumptuous array of post-hike snacks and drinks awaited. Following that we drove over to a post-trip meal at the Crossroads Cafe. The food was surprisingly excellent for the crossroads of nowhere. But I'm still kind of longing for that Taco Bell that I know is hiding somewhere in Indio.