Trip Log: Faux Backpacking in Joshua Tree

Barker dam trail

Trip: Faux Backpacking in Joshua Tree

Mileage: 6.0  // Time: 5 hours with lots of driving and breaks

Hiking Party: Shawnté and The Pilgrim

At the end of a long week, there’s nothing I love more than throwing an unnecessarily heavy pack over my shoulders and hustling my buns off to the desert. This may sound vaguely masochistic, but since I’m training for a 3-day backpacking trip in the snowy Sierras and because I suffer from a rather intense case of Joshua Tree Addiction, I loaded up my 65-liter pack and conscripted The Pilgrim to join me on an all-day adventure amongst the freaky trees and jumbly rocks.

We began our sojourn with the exceptional North View Trail, which offers almost nothing in the way of human traffic and everything in the way of awesomeness. Behold:

Clouds awesome

BW J Tree

While hiking amongst All Of The Wondrous Beauty, I relayed the story of my first trip to Joshua Tree, where I found myself kind of stupidly lost on this very same trail. However, I explained to The Pilgrim, we will stay found this time because I learned all of The Navigation in this awesome class I’m taking, and we’ll put it to good use right now.

Thusly, I whipped out my handy map (which I used to plan the day’s hikes) and explained to The Pilgrim what important things one looks for on a map, including contour lines, contour line intervals, elevation markings, scale, how to measure slope, how to measure distance and such, then demonstrated how to orient the map using my compass (set for the correct declination), and then how to take a bearing both on the map and in the field. To really drive the point home, once we dropped into a wash full of several deceptive little faux-trails, I brought out the map and kept us on track. According to The Pilgrim (in a direct quote from Facebook, where it shall be preserved for all of time): “Shawnté can navigate like nobody’s business.”

Look at that – I just completed Explorer Badge requirement #2: Explain how to read a road map, city map, geological survey map, chart, or timetable. Demonstrate your ability to use it by planning and going on a trip with your family or troop. Winner!

I mean – look at The Pilgrim, secure in the fact that she knows exactly where she is:


Our first mission accomplished, we took a break for lunch. Here, I busted out my hard-won Jetboil stove, my super-awesome prize for acing my navigation quiz in class! (Seriously, guys – the Wilderness Travel Course is awesome; sign up for it next year!) Since it was a bit chilly, I fired ‘er up and in under two minutes, we were cradling exceptionally tasty cups of hot chocolate.


Bellies full of warm chocolatey memories, we drove over to Keys View to take in the, errrrrr, view, which was a bit muffled with funky post-storm sky stuff – but we still got a peek at Mt. San Jacinto and the Salton Sea:

San Jacinto

Salton Sea

Since this was The Pilgrim’s first trip to Joshua Tree, we decided to round out our day by heading over to Barker Dam to take in one of the park’s most iconic trails. At this point, the sky morphed into a strange brew of clouds and moodiness, making for a very scenic final jaunt in the park:

Barker Dam

pilgrim jhikes storm

And so it went, another awesome day spent exploring the beautiful wilds of Southern California. Next up: camping in snow, with a chance to (finally) accomplish some winter sports – send warm thoughts!


(If you’ll recall, I’m getting my Ultimate Scoutiness on via the Explorer Badge, so this post puts me two-fifths of the way towards fulfilling requirement #1: Go on five all-day exploration trips under proper leadership, using three or more different types of transportation.)


  1. Sue Stutchman · ·

    Wow! My first chance to read the blog. I am impressed with your great adventure and wished I could have gone with you! The pictures are beautiful enough to hang in a gallery!

  2. […] there was the Malibu Creek Death March, followed by a taste-testing of Joshua Tree National Park. Then, because I am a complete sucker for massive boulders, undulating vistas, and cacti attacks, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: