My next big scheme has percolated into my brain. I’ve been looking at Joshua Tree National Park closely. There is a trail from the entrance at Black Rock Campground to the Northern Entrance Station known as the California Riding and Hiking Trail. Depending on who is telling you, it is anywhere from 36 to 39 miles long. I have a 65th birthday coming up in April and I am not getting any younger. It looks like a not-to-difficult backpack and something my knees wouldn’t mind. Between careful exercise and regular cortisone injections, they have become more robust.

This is the official NPS map of the northwestern part of the park. Click for larger image.

Unless you want to hike a complete out-and=back, the standard procedure is to leave your car near the North Entrance, hire an Uber over to the Black Rock trailhead, and then hike back west to east. Makes perfect sense. Downhill is always easier.

Click for larger image

As you can see from the profile, there are no monster hills. No place where I have to gain or lose 1000 ft. in a mile. Part of me is saying, maybe I should do that long gradual uphill at the start while I am still fresh. Hike it east to west. That would give me a day or so for a shake-down without ever being very far from civilization in case I fall apart.

JTNP is a global rock climbing Mecca.

Of course, you meet many more people when you hike against the flow. OTOH, you can usually see them before they see you. The passing is quick and then you are alone again. Going the other way, while you’ll encounter fewer hikers/riders, the ones moving faster than you will be watching your rear for miles before they finally catch up and you may be following others for a long time before you catch up to them.

Which route does one select for maximum alone time? I have seen a bit of casual nudity out there and if the weather is fair I’ll want to do some freehiking.

Hiking in April ought to provide clement temperatures and maybe an occasional shower if you are lucky. Wrong time of the year for the monsoons. It is generally the time of maximum wildflower display. Due to the elevation difference, the temperatures at the lower end will be 10-12 degrees warmer than the higher end.

This is the map I’ll be using. Click to enlarge.

I went to Cal Topo, which is where I do all my mapping, and generated this map. I will be hiking through desert, the southernmost edge of the Mojave. My plan is to do it in 4 days. Most people do it in three but this aging hero is becoming overly cautious.

More interesting rock formations.

On this map, you’ll see circles with letters. A “B” is a backcountry registry board. These are where the trail intersects a road of some significance. You can park your car here and register for the backcountry. JTNP wants to keep track of all the souls wandering around in their desert. It is required. You can cache water at this location. They want you to label the container with your name, address, and date. A lot of people abandon their unused cache and empty containers. This would eventually create an ugly mess, so they remove any water that is there for more than 2 weeks.

The pace where the Joshua Trees of the Mojave overlap with the jumping cholla of the Sonoran.

A “W” is a good place to leave a cache of water because the trail intersects some kind of road a vehicle is actually allowed to drive on but not important enough to create a Backcountry Board for. There are a couple of trails marked in green. Those are little detours that look cool for both isolation and scenic enjoyment. If I am feeling frisky, the weather is good, and the water situation is good, I’ll probably wander down those.

It could take most of a day driving around, just to place my water caches. No gallon jugs for me, I’ll be using washed-out 2-liter soda bottles. There’s one section in the middle where the boards are 11 miles apart. I’ll have to carry extra water there if I want to do any side trips.

I’ve had big dreams before of wilderness adventure where I had to turn back, either because of a violent illness or my knees wouldn’t work. I’m trying to plan this carefully, with places I can do an “easy out” if I need to without ruining the whole trip. This hero is overly cautious because he is no longer overpowered.

Looking south-west from Eureka Mountain towards Palm Springs and Mt. San Jacinto. The city is probably 20 straight line miles away.