Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Joshua Tree Incident

Back in January I spent two weekends in Joshua Tree National Park. The first weekend was uneventful, the biggest challenge was learning to play chess during breakfast one morning. That game is mentally taxing. The second weekend was like something out of Man vs. Wild. I love that show, but I am not qualified to be lost in the wilderness like Bear Grylls. I do not have it in me to eat yak eyeballs or drink my own urine, though thankfully survival on this trip didn't come to that.

We set out early on a Saturday morning through the Wonderland of Rocks. The Wonderland is amazing. Piles and piles of boulders to play on and once you get over the crest of the hill of rocks-- more piles and piles of rocks to play on! The goal was to get from the Indian Cove Campsite to the Boyscout trail where we left half of our cars. Now, somewhere in the middle of navigating toward the trail, we walked up the wrong pile of rocks. And then we walked down the wrong pile of rocks. And then we (there were 9 of us) walked up and down a few more wrong piles of rocks and at this point we started to realize we're all bruised and bleeding and, though we're still in good spirits, we're fast approaching exhaustion. And the sun is setting. And then the sun actually sets. And then there are the nine of us, huddled on a boulder in the middle of the desert, getting mighty chilly and raiding everyone's bags for emergency supplies. And even though it was 35 degrees out and all I could think about was that down jacket I left in the car, the stars were breathtaking. Of course no one could sleep because you'd have that dream where you're falling and you wake up with your heart racing... and realize that you really could have fallen 20 feet and broken your leg! Not conducive to sweet dreams.

Around 4:30am everyone gave up on sleep and waited patiently for the sun to rise. The group decision was to retrace our steps back to the camp we set out from and that was all well and good, but there were spots where the "solve" for getting off a boulder was-- I kid you not-- grab this tree, swing to the right, balance on this ledge, then jump the four feet to the next one. I wouldn't do that if my legs DIDN'T look like they'd been beaten with a baseball bat. But you learn to ask for help and rely on other people and we all got back to the bottom by mid-morning. Upon arrival at camp we kissed the ground and broke out the food. Oh the food! The cookies and salami and eggs and bacon and doughnuts and coffee and beer and water without iodine! And then everyone passed out in the sand. I believe I used a rock for a pillow because after that night, it seemed downright comfortable.SO, the lessons we have learned: Always go hiking with emergency supplies. It gets bloody cold in the desert at night. And you should never wear a skirt when your legs look like this: It brings up uncomfortable questions about domestic violence and the answer "I fell off a rock and landed in a cactus" never really sounds legit.

1 comment:

Simon said...

This entertained me a lot. Also, thank you for posting the picture of BOTH legs rather than the picture of ONE leg that you sent me at the time, which made it seem like things had gone drastically, drastically wrong.