Fragments from a trip in Joshua Tree earlier this year, which was actually my wife’s first backpacking trip.
One thing we’ve always shared is a love for the desert; we were married inside Joshua Tree at sunrise in 2000. The desert can be an acquired taste, especially when leaving developed camp sites, cars, water jugs and shade structures behind and shouldering a pack instead.
We managed to catch the backcountry in full bloom. The desert is deceiving, boasting more color and more diversity than other environments- if you know where to look. Built for the sun and heat; she can soak in it all day, recharging, never getting tired of it.
My favorite approach- wandering washes and valleys until you find a place that looks good enough to rest.
I was hardly surprised at her ability to sit in the sand and slurp noodles beside me. I remember a trip to Utah in the winter in our early days. I rolled over early in the morning to find ice all over our bags; she was at least 7 months pregnant; I was not surprised in the slightest that she had no qualms laying our bags down in a wash and sleeping out.
It’s easy to get greedy.
Tom had a partner bail and I was planning a solo on the same weekend. Fast forward a few days and a few emails and Tom emerges from the dust, walking down the road from our exit pass and second vehicle. Pack on, trekking poles in hand. Ready to go. I turn the car around and we arrive at our entrance location in minutes. Climbing up towards the setting sun, scrambling through brush and stream crossings now, it’s hard to imagine I was at work 6 hours ago.
I’ve come to realize that it’s imperative to know people that know how to hit the trail at the drop of a hat, competent people that only have to be told when and where. For any aspiring outdoorsperson, a few words of advice: get comfortable going solo, and if not, surround yourself with reliable people that know how to plan and show up on time.
The pass is wild, eyes of deer reflected in the dark everywhere. The air is getting crisp, noticeably cooler than just a few weeks ago. Snowstorms will soon be upon these hills, you can hear it in the pines, feel it carried in the morning wind when drawing your sleeping bag just a little tighter against a draft.
I brought in a sickness from the city, a beginning of the school year bug that settled somewhere in my sinuses and upper lungs. Ill in paradise, likely better than healthy at work; the passes were especially slow and taxing for my energy level.
Wonderings and wanderings, I believe it is safe to say that Tom and I have become well acquainted with each other’s rhythms in the mountains. Aside from reliability, compatibility is a partner trait of the utmost importance, one you should consider yourself very lucky to find when it presents itself.
I know many good people in this world, but not all are suited for company day after day in the mountains. I’ve experienced everything from subtle clashes of egos to simple errors in chemistry- these things have nothing to do with the quality of a person’s character, but spring from the lack of some elusive and intangible thing who’s presence builds solid relationships. Something that is either there or it is not.