A couple of weekends ago, Alex went climbing in Malibu with a friend from the gym and as soon as he came home he started looking at our calendar to see when we could go climbing next.
Fast forward to a pre-dawn alarm going off to get us out of bed to go climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. We packed for both top rope climbing and for bouldering, just in case the routes we wanted to climb were taken by the time we arrived at the park. We didn’t pack much the night before so we were running a little later than we wanted and we still needed to make a quick pit stop for breakfast and to pick up our crash pads.
The traffic was great as we headed east to Joshua Tree…or at least that’s what I assume since I slept for most of the drive. Alex was a champ and listened to podcasts as his useless navigator slept in the passenger’s seat next to him. We went straight to the East Entrance for the park, which leads to Indian Cove Campground to see if we could get on some of the easier top rope routes there. Our late start ruined our changes of getting anything so we headed back to town in search of some caffeine on our way to the main entrance to the park.
We stopped at Natural Sisters Cafe for coffee, iced tea, a muffin and a turtle bar (total magic, buy one if you get a chance). This was exactly what we needed before getting out of the warm car and heading over to the bouldering area at the Quail Springs picnic area (known as Trashcan in the Joshua Tree bouldering book). We also packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, and a handful of other snacks to keep us going so we wouldn’t need to leave the park until it was time to go home.
We spent time at Trashcan, Split Boulder, and Hemingway Boulders. It was a quick trip and we wanted to spend time on some of the boulder problems we knew we could safely tackle with a tight schedule. I struggled with a few different routes but managed to make good progress on them and send (make it to the top) one before I had to call it quits when I started getting too much pain from my shoes (I had a big scrape on my Achilles that was getting aggravated by my shoes). The area around Hemingway Boulders is very well marked and the access trails are well-kept so there’s no reason to go off-trail if you can help it. Climbing is a huge draw for this park, so the rangers try to work with the climbing community to keep things running smoothly, you can even have coffee with the rangers some mornings as one of the ranger programs.
The granite felt great under my hands and being able to “see” the routes more than I did a few years ago gave me a lot more confidence in climbing outdoors. I learned a few things that will help me next time: don’t bring old shoes that are too loose, don’t leave all the snacks in the car, don’t worry about the route ratings.
We normally eat at Crossroads Cafe when we are in the area, but decided to grab a quick meal at Pie for the People since we’ve heard about the pizza place for years from other climbers. The slices of pizza are giant and there are lots of different combinations from which to choose…if you are with a big group, expect your large pizza to run around $20. You may also want to ask for extra napkins if you prefer to “blot” your pizza before chowing down…these NY style slices drip with greasy goodness.
Alex and I are so lucky to live close enough to Joshua Tree to visit for a day and climb and enjoy the park without needing to make an extended weekend of it. This time of the year is popular with climbers because the weather is cool but the climbing is still possible because it rains very little in the desert. If you plan on visiting any National Parks this year, consider purchasing a National Parks pass. These passes are extra helpful if you go to the parks often or are planning big trips that hit more than one park.
I am a few weeks away from participating in the Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop and I’m really happy Alex suggested we get out of the gym so I could remind my hands what real rock feels like before I get to the festival. I’m very nervous!