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Joshua Tree, Ca. 40 miles, 2/16-2/17/08
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Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
Joshua Tree, Ca. 40 miles, 2/16-2/17/08 on 02/20/2008 13:45:34 MST Print View

Joshua Tree, Ca, USA:
40 miles from the Black Rock Canyon trail head of the CRHT to the North Entrance: two days, one night. With a water resupply midway. And a beer supply buried at the end. WOO HOO!

I posted my intended trip to JT here on BPL, and I'd promised a beautiful, "easy" 37.5 miles over two weekend days. Doug Johnson from Phoenix, AZ was immediately on board. I've been fortunate to take full advantage of our community efforts here at BPL to meet some of the personalities face to face. There's always a moment when you consider what it will be like to share the trail with, essentially, a stranger, but I haven't been let down yet. This trip was no exception.

There's something extraordinary about hiking 20+ miles a day. You visit extreme conditions that are an opportunity for self-discovery and maybe bonding. The challenge is mostly mental, if you're lucky, but any physical issues are an unfortunate downturn, as Doug can attest to. Once again, it's the mental game, and he trooped through with hardly a whisper of complaint. I'm still impressed.

It's interesting to note, the nearer we came to our destination, the further it appeared. This occurred on both days, nearing the end points. We just couldn't help but painfully feel every mile, every yard, with the end in sight. And this describes just one aspect of the mental trials encountered by such long, wearisome miles. But that same challenge is what opens some very surprising personal resources and leads the way to wonderful moments of self-discovery. And I believe that's why I put myself into the fray.

This is my second such "big miles" endeavor, the first time was solo, and I have to admit, having a good buddy helped immensely. Thanks Sponge! See you next time brother! And, hopefully, I'll see more of you BPL'ers sometime soon.

Picture set:

-Michael "sawchuck"

Edited by sharalds on 02/20/2008 17:49:33 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Joshua Tree, Ca. 40 miles, 2/16-2/17/08 on 02/20/2008 17:55:25 MST Print View

Another fine trip report and photo set, Michael.

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Did someone say blisters? on 02/20/2008 18:23:34 MST Print View

It was really no big deal:

Margaret Snyder
(jetcash) - F

Locale: Southern Arizona
Re: Did someone say blisters? on 02/20/2008 19:10:27 MST Print View

I bet the Newcastle fixed that right up.

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Joshua Tree trip report on 02/20/2008 19:48:10 MST Print View

Here's my account of the trip:

I saw Michael's post about Joshua Tree, and I was already looking for a place to go during the 3-day weekend. I'd never been to J Tree before and I always wanted to check it out.

The mileage was way more than I've ever done before, but I'm in decent shape, and I felt I could handle it. Plus, it would give me a chance to try out new gear that I had slowly been collecting in my garage. I had just received my ULA Conduit that Thursday, and my Hardrocks came in Friday night...I was literally waiting for the UPS truck to show up so I could get outta Phoenix and head down there! I know, I know, it's a REALLY bad idea to go on a 40-mile backpacking trip with a spankin' new pair of shoes. I'd heard the Hardrocks were very comfortable, and needed virtually no break in...HA! My heels would disagree with that statement!

I showed up at the campground around 11PM, and Sawchuck said he was running late due to traffic. I decided to try and get a little shut eye while I waited for him. I was excited and restless, so sleep was not working out for me at this point. Mike showed up around 1AM, and we quickly shuttled my car down to the end of the trail, dropped it off, and headed back over to Ryan where we stashed some water. By the time we got back to camp and I setup my tent, it was around 3:30AM. The temp dipped down to around 38F, and my Marmot Atom combined with my Prolite 3 short were no match. I was REALLY cold, and didn't sleep a wink! Stupid me had a micropuff vest in my stuff sack as a pillow and never thought to put it on!

I arose to the sound of Sawchuck beating on my tent to get up...I complied, and we ate some breakfast and hit the trail around 9AM. The first couple of miles the pack felt heavy (23lbs at the house with 8lbs of water), and I could tell pretty quick that my heels weren't liking the Hardrocks too much. I tried to put some athletic tape on the hot spots, but it slipped off and probably made things worse. Over the next few miles, my feet hurt more with each step. Around mile 8, at the top of a long uphill slog, I stopped to examine. Nickel-size blisters on both feet! I put some moleskin on the wounds and off we went. It was shortly thereafter that I realized we weren't even half-way into the days trek. I wasn't too happy at this point to say the least! I tried to keep my spirits up, and ignore the pain, but by mile 9 I was in need of a break and we stopped for lunch. The moleskin had slid off my heels adding more insult to the mess that was the back of my foot, and I began considering a medi-vac outta there! OK, maybe that's a stretch, but I was feeling a bit low. I added more moleskin and a mess of athletic tape to hold it in place, and off we went!

The next 12 or so miles were pretty blurry...lots of up and down and painful steps. We pulled into Ryan (half-way) around 6PM, and Sawchuck immediately headed for a nice roaring camp fire that was being tended by a nice couple from LA. They put up with us for awhile, and then we found a stealthy spot to setup camp. Food was consumed in great haste, and a few nips of whiskey to dull the pains of the day. Sawchuck lent me all of his extra clothing (down inner-vest, wool sweater, merino wool shirt) and I made a warmer den to crash into. I passed out pretty quick, only waking up a few times that night. We scarfed breakfast down, and we were off like a heard of turtles!

I did a better patch job on the feet the second day, and the pain was mostly tolerable for the the first 12 miles. We were in high spirits, bounding from rock to rock, soaking up the winter sun (literally-REI sun-block is worthless!). We stopped at another campground for lunch, forgot the name, but it was very picturesque. I took a mean nap in the sand, and at this point my right knee was swelling and aching quite a bit. We headed North trying to find the trail, eventually landing on it by a stroke of navigational prowess, and soldiered on for the rest of the way. By the end, I felt like a 90-year-old man with two cains and a bum knee! We had numerous "false summits" or false "your car is right there dude!" moments, but finally made it in around 6PM. The Newcastle was pure gold, and Pizza Hut got ransacked by two grubby dudes who were curiously swapping drinks...(Sawchuck forgot his ID card in his car).

All in all, a trip I won't soon forget, and a good number of lessons learned for this UL newbie! Sawchuck, thanks for setting up the trip, and it was great to hang with you for the weekend!

My gear List:
Click here

Things that exceeded my expectations:
ULA Conduit - 23 lbs at start with 8lb water. Definitely felt the weight until pack was at 20lbs or less. From then on, carried exceptionally well using Prolite 3 short as the frame. Very durable and well built.
Petzl E-Lite - Decent light output that didn't fade. Clipped to my hat brim well, and proved very useful.
Simblissity Gaiters - Kept out all trail debris over the 2 days. Easy to put on/take off.
Buff - Versatile, useful bit of gear. Worked very well as headgear/neck gaiter/sunglass wrap/pot lifter/etc.
Patagonia Micropuff vest - Very wam for 10 oz. Was a furnace when worm in sleeping bag.
BD Contour flicklock poles - Easy to adjust, comfortable, VERY durable. I tortured these things after my heel blisters appeared!
Mike's Heiniken Pot/cone/alky stove combo - Worked very well for him, I need to get more practice with alky.
Mike's Montbell pillow. Wow, that thing is comfy!
Clif MOJO bars - Ate one for lunch, filled me up until dinner. Salty, crunchy, and tasty!

Things that performed as advertised:
Montrail Hardrock - Good stablility, decent cushioning, and felt connected. Gave me heel blisters after 5 mi. but were brand new. Worked well with Simblissity Gaiters.
SMD Lunar SoloE - Easy to setup (when not exhausted). Some condensation formed on night 2 which affected warmth, and water seeped up from the ground also with UL floor. Seemed to be overkill for JT conditions.
Marmot Atom - On the first night, I froze my A## off at 38F with light poly top/bottom,wool socks, fleece hat. Lost most of the heat through the ground, and was unable to get warm. The second night was 40-42F, used Mike's extra clothing as insulation under bag, slept well until condensation started to dampen bag at 3AM. I was using my micropuff vest as a pillow, didn't think to put it doubt would've had a huge impact on my comfort!
MSR Titan Kettle - Worked great, no complaints! Easy to pour with built-in spout.
Platypus 1L and 3L narrow-mouth bottles. Worked well, no leaks.
Brunton Crux - Heated 16 oz. in about 3 1/2 min. No fuss. Heavy setup with canister though.
Brunton foldable ti spoon - light, easy to store, but hard to reach the bottom of food bag and keep clean.

Things that did not live up to my expectations:
REI SPF 30+ waterproof/sweatproof sunblock - Useless! Applied 3X/day and still burned.
Prolite 3 short - R value for me = zero. It provided decent cushioning, but I was losing a LOT of heat through this pad. It was only 40 degrees in the desert, and it felt like 10 degrees in the rockies.
My legs/feet - 15 Mi/day seems to be my sweet spot with my current fitness level. The last 5 miles on the second day were BRUTAL. It was a good test of endurance, and I learned a lot about how my body handles that much mileage.
OR Omni windstopper gloves - Too bulky, heavy for the performance I got out of them. Glow-in-the-dark palms didn't do much.
Thermarest stuff sack pillow - Used for clothes storage and pillow, lined w/fleece, comfy and heavy.
Duofold poly bottoms - Provided very little insulation.

Things that will not be taken on/or replaced before next trip:
Prolite 3 (too cold)
Marmot Atom (too cold)
OR Gloves (too bulky)
REI Sunblock (useless)
Brunton Crux/canister (heavy)
Lunar SoloE (overkill)

Things that will be purchased/used on next trip:
Bivy/tarp combo
Warmer bag/pad combo
BD or Marmot powerstretch gloves
Tri-ti system
Montbell pillow
Reflectex for cozies
Some sort of mug for hot drinks
L/S wool zip-top/bottoms for stink free warmth
GSI rehydrate lexan spoon

Edited by Sponge on 02/20/2008 19:53:03 MST.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Joshua Tree trip report on 02/20/2008 20:04:02 MST Print View


Thanks for sharing your trip experience with us. Very interesting and well written!

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Re: Joshua Tree trip report on 02/20/2008 20:45:47 MST Print View


Diddo thanks for sharing...

I wasnt aware there was a trail more then 23 miles long (must of did a little cross country and combined 2)

How's the blisters healing

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Joshua Tree trip report on 02/20/2008 21:01:02 MST Print View

You are Sawchuck are nuts!! Get well soon.

Douglas Johnson
(Sponge) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Roger on 02/20/2008 21:07:21 MST Print View


Yes, the first day was 20 miles I believe, but Sawchuck likes to get "creative", and say things like,"Hey, we should just cross through here to save some time..." We calculated it added about 1.5 miles the first day, and another 1 to 1.5 on day 2!

Joshua Billings
(Joshua) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz,Ca
Nice trip fellas on 02/20/2008 21:24:43 MST Print View

Sounds like you had a great time. I love that area. Sawchuck has stuck I guess. Sounds like a great trail name.

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
CRHT 37.5 miles on 02/20/2008 23:37:27 MST Print View


The CHRT (California Riding and Hiking Trail) is a continuous trail from Black Rock Canyon Campground to the North Entrance of the park. TTL distance is 37.5 miles. You can see it on any park map but it isn't often recognized. I definitely led us on a couple "short cuts" and some sight seeing trips that added the extra miles.

Nathan V
(Junk) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lake State
Re: Joshua Tree trip report on 02/21/2008 07:26:16 MST Print View

I have a suggestion for your sleeping pad.
Instead of just replacing the prolite 3, try adding a thinlight pad from gossamer gear under the prolite.
They work quite well at blocking the cold from coming up from the ground.
It doesn't even add much weight either, about 2 oz.
If you want even more warmth/padding add a nightlight torso pad also.
This combo works well for me when it's cold.

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
Joshua Tree, Ca. 40 miles, 2/16-2/17/08 on 02/21/2008 08:34:59 MST Print View


The Thinlight is an amazing, lightweight addition to any sleep system. I went from a Torsolite to a Nightlight and when I started losing heat thru my pads I then added the Thinlight, and brought the combo down to 20degrees. Doug and I talked about this during the trip and he's picking up the Thinlight while I ship him my Torsolite for testing.

Edited by uberkatzen on 02/21/2008 08:36:04 MST.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 02/21/2008 10:38:38 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 22:39:29 MST.