A few days after Christmas I flew out to San Diego to help my friend Gary work out the remaining logistics for our two week Isla Angel de la Guarda Kayak Expedition (blog post coming soon). Several days of errands, running around town, and many California burritos later I was really aching to get out and see some of the California backcountry before we set out for Mexico on January 3rd. On New Year’s Eve Gary & I had to pick up our buddy Dan (another expedition member) at the bus terminal. Dan was due in at the station around 7:30pm so we decided that after picking Dan up we could manage the three hour-ish drive to Joshua Tree National Park before midnight to usher in the new year. Ironically (since he’s from New York and hasn’t seen her in years & I swear he knows everybody) Gary’s friend Amber , her boyfriend Ray & other friends were camping at J-Tree so we were hoping we could meetup and camp with them for the night. There’s no cell service in the park so were hoping that Amber had put the location they were camping on one of the park message boards.
We got to the park entrance around 11:00pm and set out on a race against the clock to try and find Amber before midnight. All we had to do is search for a note (that may or may not exist) on a message board in one of like six campgrounds covering an area of at least 30 miles. We head for the first message board and miraculously find a note from Amber telling us where they were camping. Excited that we’re going to make it before midnight we head off to their campsite, on our way we get stopped by a Ranger who informs us that if we don’t have a site that we have to leave, we tell him we’re headed to our campsite. We make it to the campsite with 20 minutes to spare and it’s….empty, our visions of a giant bonfire surrounded by dancing downclad hippies shattered. Dejected we try and find somewhere to park and wait for Amber & company, no such luck, there’s nowhere to park and the Ranger is patrolling and giving out tickets. With very few options left we did what any other sane person would do and hid from the rangers and the three of us brought in the new year with a case of Pacificos. We passed some more time doing some lightpainting and then were able find a place to park and ‘sleep’ for a few hours (I forgot to mention that since we didn’t plan for this venture we weren’t exactly prepared for the chilly mountain temps). Not at all what we had planned for the night but definitely one of my most memorable New Years Eves.
In the morning we were able to meetup with Amber. Apparently everyone had been at a giant bonfire a couple of miles away…Darn’t. We spent the rest of the morning doing some bouldering around the park and then snaked our way through the ‘Chasm of Doom’, a dark tight enclosed passageway through a pile of boulders climaxing at a viewpoint at the top of the boulder pile. We ended up having to leave after lunch to get back to San Diego & finish getting ready for Mexico. It was a much too short trip to J-Tree, can’t wait to get back there!