Archive for the ‘Joshua Tree - Jan, 2006’ Category.

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Our flight home from Palm Springs was late enough on Saturday to allow for another day of climbing and cavorting in the dry, warm desert. Andrew did a great job of selecting routes that would challenge Mrs. Perils, and even kept a couple aside that would not completely emasculate dear old Dad.
This one is a fun, easy one called “Cyclops”. It starts out in an enclosure that looks like the skull of some dead avian creature, and finishes through a tunnel-like structure that looks like an eye upon a piece of the landscape.
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We got to the airport in Palm Springs in plenty of time, as our flight was delayed an hour. We ducked into a cafe in the airport for dinner, and caught the last few minutes of the NFL game between St. Louis and the Seahawks. The most salient piece of information we gleaned was that it was still rainy and cold in Seattle.
Sometime during dinner the Most Recently Former Republican Senator from Washington took a table in the cafe, ordered a beer and read a book. The only other time I’d seen him in person was in the mid-70s when I was organizing the Whidbey Island Century bicycle ride for Cascade Bicycle Club, and the MRFRSFW graciously allowed us to use his Mutiny Bay beach cottage as a rest stop. He was a sometime bicycle enthusiast and had ridden across the country during the BikeCentennial days. At that time, he was the state attorney General, and one of a group of moderate Republicans, along with Dan Evans, whose good-government and positive environmental leanings I had respected. I was always puzzled by the MRFRSFW’s hard right turn and environmentalist-baiting when he became a Senator. In the cafe in the here-and-now, I had to short-leash Mrs. Perils, as she was starting to snarl and paw the ground menacingly.
From all the flying around I’ve been doing, I have platinum frequent-flyer status with Northwest, and, since Alaska Airlines code-shares with them, I can sometimes get upgrades if there’s space. When we’d checked in, the agent told me my fare classes were too low to honor my NWA certificates, but I decided to ingratiate myself with the gate agent when we got there anyway. At the last minute, it turned out that there was first-class space available, and he reticketed both of us, to my delight. Our seats, as fortune would have it, were one seat behind the MRFRSFW. I chuckled to myself a little as I wondered if Mrs. Perils perceived the irony in her desire to launch a populist putsch against the ostentatious gluttony of the Republican regime from seat 2D of our 737.
My turn to be abashed came as we were exiting the plane and a former boss a couple of seats over recognized me and proffered his hand. We had not, of course, had any opportunity to shower or otherwise prepare ourselves to return to civilization (let alone a first class cabin), and I looked approximately like this:
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What the camera doesn’t disclose are the cartoon stink waves that are certainly emanating from me and everything I was wearing.

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Since we’ve returned to Seattle, it’s rained almost non-stop, and the memory of our short visit to the desert has taken on a fever-dream unreality. I’m glad I have the photos - they’re an antidote some days to the drip and shiver. To see a larger collection of these photos, click here.
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More Joshua Tree

Wednesday was sort of frustrating for me. I had left a couple of things unsettled, workwise, and once I ascertained that there was no - no - cell phone access from within the park, I knew I’d have to drive out until I got a signal.
Once I got my phone message, it turned out I needed to go online to fix something for a client who urgently needed it, so I headed down to the town of Joshua Tree and settled at the Beatnik Cafe to guiltily buy a double espresso and connect my laptop to their dsl line. I fixed that client, made sure everyone else was fire-banked, recorded a “gone fishin’” message on my cell phone, turned it resolutely off for the duration and headed back to camp.
I got back in time to take a long walk in the desert, and seeing the sunset soothed my sense of having wasted a valuable few hours. (As always, click to enlarge.)
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The next day, our son was determined to find at least one climbing route that both Mrs. Perils and I could essay. We ended up on this one, called The Bong, I think because it requires possessing (or developing in an awful damn hurry) crack climbing techniques. Well, to my great surprise, I smoked it! Well, that’s a bit of overstatement. More than a bit. I carefully picked my way up while, as you can see, my son kept me very tightly roped. So tightly roped that, if I’d fallen off the rock, I’d have actually ascended rather than descended. After I was done, he walked up the route and collected the gear without any rope support. Still, it was my first completion of an outdoor route. I rock!
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After a day’s climbing and hiking around, we head back to camp. The moon was tending towards full, and just rising as we neared camp.
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One of our delights was clambering up the rocks behind our camp to a place about 60 feet above our site that they called the “porch”, in order to watch the sunset in the west…
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…and the moonrise in the east.
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After the sun goes down, the temperature plummets quickly to somewhere near 35F. While our meals were cooked on a propane camp stove, a campfire makes it possible to linger for a while before rolling into the tent. There’s no source of wood in the park, but someone had bought some firewood on their last trip to town. In order to start a fire, however, you need a certain amount of kindling. None of us had any wood-splitting tools with us (I could just see TSA’s reaction to the Xray image of a hatchet and array of wedges in our luggage), so we riffed through our rental cars and found some barely adequate hardware with which to flay a block of wood that was reluctant to part with any useable splinters.
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Dinner was a delightful Thai dish prepared by J, one of our son’s camp acquaintances. J lives…pretty much wherever she is. She doesn’t have a car, own or rent a house or apartment or, apparently possess anything that can’t be packed up in her backpack and carted off to her next adventure. She earns money periodically by leading Outward Bound expeditions. This lifestyle has made her into a fantastic camp cook. Our Thai dinner consisted of Asian noodles, vegetables and sauteed ginger, garlic, and other mysterious spices that she seemed to have in abundance in sealed plastic bundles.
Her piece de resistance each night, however, was/were the desserts she prepared in a cast-iron Dutch oven. Here she’s preparing one of these delights. Once assembled, the Dutch oven is placed in the campfire amongst the coals, there to incubate until its essences can no longer be contained under the lid, and the aroma of chocolate-banana-oat-cranberry concoction overwhelmed us and we greedily fell to it.
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JTree - Day One

Our trip began with a shuttle pickup at 5 am Tuesday for a 7:50 flight to Palm Springs. I had been up pretty late the night before completing work that I should have had done (natch) the previous week. So, I’d had about 2 hours’ sleep when the alarm went off.
Once in the air, I consulted my Palm Pilot and realized that I hadn’t entered my car rental information. Since I’d made the reservation a couple weeks ago, and since I rent cars so frequently from several different companies, I had no idea whom I’d rented from. I had my laptop along, but it was no help because I have all my commercial mail go to my Yahoo mail address, which is not available offline.
When we landed in Palm Springs, I opened my laptop to search for free wifi. I got a signal, but they wanted $8 to connect, so I demurred. We walked to baggage claim, and the now-daunting row of car rental agencies stretched off into the distance. If I close my right eye and squint just right, my left eye becomes something like the Magic 8-Ball, with all its attendant reliability. With no other option, I rolled my head to the ceiling and awaited the pentagonal proclamation.
Unfortunately, my cranial typefonts have not enlarged themselves to compensate for my presbyopsy, and I squinted as the milky message morphed from “Dollar beers at the bar” to “Dollar Rent-A-Car.” I was dubious, as I seldom rent from them, but, since they also had the shortest line, I headed to their kiosk. I fully expected to have to peregrinate from car company to car company armed with nothing but a cheesy smile and a nubile, scantily-clad credit card that begged to be abused, but this time I lucked out - my reservation popped right up at the Dollar window, and I had my keys well before our luggage arrived. I knew it all along.
(As with almost all of my photos, click to enlarge)

A lot of the terminal space at the Palm Springs airport is open-air, and if it’s all you experience of the desert, there’s enough kitsch around to placate you, not the least of which is this peyote-dream of a bighorn sheep.
Moving on - we drove around a bit in Palm Springs as I looked for a place to buy a spare CF memory card for my camera. I may die of thirst once we get to the park, but I won’t run out of space to record the event. Driving out of Palm Springs, we encountered a surreal windmill forest populated by wind turbines of myriad heights and sizes, their blades rotating languidly.
Our route to the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park took us through hard-scrabble desert towns that brought to mind the kind of parish where Robert DeNiro ended up in the movie version of John Gregory Dunne’s novel True Confessions after his ill-fated tilt at the corrupt nexus of religio-political power in film noir LA.
We had received some vague shopping instructions from our son, and stopped in at the grocery store in Yucca Valley that he had specified. Vague as his needs were, ours were pretty specific: 4 dinners, 5 lunches, 4 breakfasts. This task was complicated by the fact that we would have only the water that we carried in with us, and no refrigeration. And by the fact that Mrs. Perils seldom shops for more than one meal at a time, since we have the luxury of living within walking distance of our grocery store. For a while, these factors combined to flummox us, but we eventually filled a cart with a creditable camp larder, and headed into the park.
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The landscape in the park is a bit reminiscent of what you’d expect of an African savannah (never been there, so it’s idle speculation on my part). Carroll the Blogless, in a comment below, rightly described it as a Dr. Seuss-scape. The Joshua Trees and rock formations seem born of a fever dream.
We found our son’s campsite, reunited with him, met some of his friends and went about setting up our campsite. As we were arranging our tent and acquainting ourselves with the essentials that we had - and hadn’t - brought, I kept hearing what sounded like fiddle music of a sort some distance away. As it turned out, two of our son’s campsite companions and climbing buddies were accomplished classical musicians, one a double-bass player studying at Boston University and the other a cellist studying at the Juilliard School in New York.
The “fiddle music” I had heard turned out to be the bass player practicing on a fascinating portable cello belonging to the cello player. This tableau added to the sense of a Seuss-scape, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Horton’s elephantine visage above the rocks.

It was barely midday when we got our camp situated, and our son was keen to show us around and to get Mrs. Perils onto a climb. Accordingly, we hiked a half mile or so to a bolted climb called The Loose Lady. Perils Fils led, placing gear on the bolts for Mrs. Perils to follow. What the hell is he standing on here? Notice he’s trailing the rope, and vulnerable to a fall back to the last point where he placed gear. He would tell you that he’s safer on that piece of rock than I am climbing the stairs to bed, and on some nights I’m sure he’s right.
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Mrs. Perils followed him into the cloudless blue ceiling as I photographed and soaked up the warmth of the sun and the rocks and stayed the hell out of the way.

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When Perils Fils (okay, that’s the last time I’ll do that) left Seattle for JTree in his VW Fox, he was ferrying two friends and all their gear, and reluctantly had to leave his guitar behind. We arranged our affairs so that we could bring it down as carry-on baggage, and he rewarded us throughout the trip with eclectic acoustic jazz riffs.

Hunger comes on as quickly as desert nightfall when you’re camping, and our son, perhaps apprehending that we had no clue what shape dinner should take, chopped potatoes, onion, squash and prepared a delicious stir-fry dinner. Later, the moon, 3 days short of being full, rose over the rocks towering above our campsite and provided so much light you’d swear, once your eyes adjusted, that it was high noon.
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We’re Ba-a-a-a-ack!

Travelogue and more pictures tomorrow

Off to Milder (instead of Mildew) Climes

We’re flying off today to Palm Springs to golf and lounge in a spa airport, and will head off to Joshua Tree National Park, where our son has been camping and rock climbing since Christmas. The plan was for Mrs. Perils to avail herself of a free guide service (Andrew) while I hiked around and relaxed.
There’s a rumor afloat that I will be coaxed onto the rocks as well. In my kayak, “coaxed onto the rocks” means I forgot my supply of earwax, but in their lexicon it’s supposed to be cathartic. We’ll see.
We’re camping, which I haven’t done since my kayak trip in Baja a couple of years ago. We bought a new tent over a year ago, and it hasn’t been out of its package. Let’s see if we set out to learn how it works before nightfall.
Not much, if any, outside contact available there, I hear, so probably no blogging here until Sunday - we fly home Saturday night, and I’ll need the night and morning to shower.