Joshua Tree...A love-hate relationship

“This is the most fun I’ve had since our climbing gear was stolen.”
-Ben Eaton - Nov. 9, 2010

We ditched the comfy life of Upland, CA to head east and set up our tent in Joshua Tree National Park. Our plan was to check out the free camping at “The Pit” or just pay the fee to camp right below all the routes and boulders in the park.

The Pit was literally a hole in the ground. In the middle of all these houses and neighborhoods in the city of Joshua Tree is a man-made crater with fire pits, large swatches of carpet, some couches and a dumpster full of empty beer bottles. Not only did it look like a mix between a hostel and an outside bar/night club, it was 20 miles from the entrance of the park. So we decided to score a perfect campsite in the heart of the park for $10 a night, including restrooms and walking distances to routes.

Our first day in Joshua tree was spent setting up our elaborate base camp. Day Two was exploring the routes around the Hidden Valley Campground. We had finished sport climbing in the St George area for 1.5 weeks where we were using 5.10s to warm up. After sending a 5.10 trad crack for my first climb in the park, I realized that we weren’t sport climbing anymore and that I needed to shift gears since I don’t climb as hard on trad.

Sunrise to sunset at Hemingway Buttress was our Day Three. Day four was a rest day. Day five was a low-key day because some of us were sick. But we decided to end the day at Trash Can Rock and send a bouldery 5.11 crack route.

The route came pretty quickly for me and I was able to redpoint it on my third attempt. Jennilyn projected it and had the moves down and was ready for the redpoint on another day. We then played on a neighboring route with some friends till it got dark.

I was the last one to climb the route so that I could clean the top anchors and walk off the rock on the other side. After hiking down, we found that the end of the rope got stuck in the crack. So I went back around the rock and hiked up to try and get it unstuck. Once I got off the rock, after successfully dropping the rope, it was really dark, cold, and windy. I went quickly to the van, where Jennilyn and the boys were keeping warm. I threw my harness and climbing shoes in the back and we drove off to camp.

The next day we had a nice breakfast, dressed up in our Sunday best and headed to town for church and to wash our laundry. Upon reentering the park, I noticed that I hadn’t seen my backpack full of climbing hardware since the night before.

“Have you seen my backpack Jennilyn?”
“No. Did you put it in the van last night after climbing?”
“No. I thought you did when you cleaned up stuff when I was on the rock.”
“No. I threw all the hardware in your pack and left it at the base of the climb so that you could put your harness and shoes in it.”

Yep. I forget to take care of my own backpack and it sat overnight for anyone to grab. It didn’t just sit overnight; it sat over Saturday night. There were a lot of people in the park partying and climbing that night. I wasn’t surprised so see that it wasn’t there anymore.

We spent the rest of the time in the park posting notices on the message board and restrooms, filing reports with the park rangers and police, and filing the stolen property claim with our insurance provider.

We wanted to stay in Joshua Tree till they kicked us out. We were looking to stay around a month, even though there is a 14-day limit. But the theft of our gear made us unable to climb. So we decided to leave on Day Seven.

When we woke up on the morning of our last day we made a fire and ate breakfast. That is when Jennilyn voiced her brilliant idea. “Let’s just sit around the fire until it goes out, then we will pack up and leave.”

We only had two logs, so we both thought that it was going to be a short while until it went out. But then our neighbor brought over another log for us to burn. After those ran low, I perked up and announced that we had around 8 climbing magazines in the van that we could burn. So we sat until it was mid-day just burning one page at a time. We just sat there procrastinating leaving such a wonderful place.

I do have to say, it was a lot of fun. Being a pyro myself, it was just what the doctor ordered after having $3200 of climbing gear stolen.