Andy McKay

Dec 18, 2023

Trip - Joshua Tree

In my new job I had five days of vacation to spend by the end of the year. So I took a week and went to Palm Springs and then to Joshua Tree with a friend. The original plan was a few days in Joshua Tree National Park followed by a day or two in Mojave Desert with overnights each way in Palm Springs.

A few days before leaving we were trudging knee deep through snow at the top of Mount Seymour in North Vancouver. This trip turned out to be quite a contrast.

For this trip I made a couple of additions to my gear because I was concerned about night time temperatures for camping which drop below zero.

  • I finally got a puffy style jacket to keep me warm, I’ve seen these on a bunch of trails and always thought they were a bit weird, preferring layers instead. Would recommend.
  • I got a sleeping bag liner which adds another 15c to the sleeping bag range. Would also recommend.

Day 1

Organizing, car rental, fuel and food stock up - that sort of thing.

Day 2

Our first hike was in Joshua Tree from the Blackrock campground. A 13km hike up over two small peaks, this was mostly our just breaking in hike.

It was a good hike with some nice views, but not too serious elevation. It turns out there wasn’t too much else from this campsite. So we moved on the next day to the park “for reals” and Ryan campground.

But of course, we had to take bunch of photos in the dark and the sunset. This was probably more fun than the hiking for this day 😀

It was cold overnight.

Day 3

After moving to our next campsite, Ryan Campground we did some hiking around a mine or something.

There were horses. This was a nicer hike deeper into the desert with more Joshua Trees (which aren’t trees). Hiking out along a dry river bed (deep sand) was ugh. Was starting to get the vibes that the desert is pretty same same at this point.

One of obligatory night time photos 👇

Was getting colder overnight, I was feeling it, but still doing ok.

Day 4

We didn’t move campsites so were able two really good hikes in. First was a short hike around a dam, although empty at the moment causes a distinct change in the flora and fauna, plus cool rocks and so on. Was pretty cool actually and our favourite hike to date.

We then had the time to do another hike and this was really good too. Had some hiking, decent elevation, abandoned mines, great rocks, some cool cacti and so on. Enjoyed this one too:

This night was really cold. I didn’t look at a thermometer, but I really felt it this time, having cold legs. Woke up to ice covering the tent. That was enough of that.

Day 5

We gave up on going to Mojave desert as we felt we’d seen the desert now, although I know they are different, we were feeling kinda done. Also we couldn’t do another night in the cold so we went to a hotel for the night and had some margarita’s.

Day 6

We took the gondola up to San Jacinto up to about 2,500m. Then we walked from there to the peak of the mountain at 3,300m over 6.5 hours.

This is so different to the desert, the heat and the fauna. It’s much drier but with tall trees everywhere and absolutely stunning views out to the Pacific at the end, this was absolutely worth it and just made the whole trip worthwhile.

We made the second tram up at 10:15am, then spoke to the super nice ranger to get our permit and then set off. But because of the time of year, we ended back at the tram just as darkness was falling. It was close.

The trail had ice bits on it where streams crossed, but overall it was clear and I didn’t need spikes at all.

It just felt so much like it’s own little ecosystem up there at 3,000m and I ❤️ it. Would do again. Also the highest mountain I’ve peaked (3x higher than Seymour, 1.5x higher than Mt Rohr) even though I didn’t do all the elevation in one go.

That’s it. Had a good trip and really enjoyed it. San Jacinto was definitely the highlight for me. Would think twice about going back, would only really be interested when its more likely to rain, because for that period the desert comes alive (apparently).