Sheep Hole Valley lies adjacent and north of Joshua Tree National Park, with Highway 62 as its shared border. In 1994, as part of the California Desert Act, the area was designated as an official Wilderness area.
The western boundary is the Sheep Hole Mountains, which at their highest point, rise about 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The southern end of these mountains terminates at Highway 62. The eastern boundary of the Wilderness is the smaller Calumet Mountains. Sheep Hole Valley, contained by these two small mountain ranges is an alluvial plain that slowly descends to Bristol Dry Lake. For most people there are no outstanding scenic features in the area. For me it is an outstanding area that is rarely visited; remote, and desert.
Five days earlier I had hidden 3 gallons of water and food at this southern terminus of the Sheep Hole Mountains, covering, protecting, and camouflaging them under a pile of rocks. My cache consisted of two 1-gallon containers of water, four one quart plastic bottles of water, and five days of food. The food was in an empty 1-gallon water container I had cut open and then taped shut with duct tape. All food was in Ziploc bags to protect and minimize any odors that might attract animals, rodents, or insects. There are more secure and wildlife-proof containers to protect a cache, all of which weigh much, much more. I could have left any cache containers it this point, which would have required me to come back and pick them up. That wasn’t a practical solution.
Many backpackers with blogs do an end of the year review of their favorite gear. I spent most of the end of 2014 backpacking and camping, so there was no time or Internet access to write one.
Many of these bloggers’ favorite gear review includes only their favorite NEW gear of the year. And every year they have a dozen or so NEW pieces of gear to share. What’s up with that?
Alas, it has been almost two years since I purchased my last new gear item, a Victorinox “Little Vickie” paring knife for $9.95. I rarely take it backpacking; only on trips where I need to cut salami or spread peanut butter and honey. On most trips my knife is a lowly and simple single edge razor blade.
I have replaced a few inexpensive items that have worn out with the exact same thing, and I have bought a few items to repair or maintain gear: a couple tarp poles, some down wash, silicone sealer, guylines and linelocs. I call these “maintenance” purchases.
Backpacking gear is just a means to an end; the end being a safe trip with the lightest pack weight one cam assemble. I figure that if you know what you are doing and you backpack often, you don’t have time to be searching for the newest wonder gear, and you should probably have your gear dialed in so there is nothing you really need to buy.
It seems everyone has some sort of yearly recap on his or her blog. These recaps are typically interesting. So I thought I would do a little recap here. The best of 2014 actually occurred on Jan 1, 2015 when I woke up above ground. I think making it through the year intact and alive is a good thing.
In 2014 I was able to get in a lot of camping, hiking and even some biking. So it was a very successful year. Since I write about both backpacking and camping, I expect that there will be many more view of things camping related, which actually happened. But there was one big surprise…
In 1995, during a 3 month period, Cheryl Strayed hiked 1,100 miles of the 2,663 mile Pacific Crest Trail. In 2012 she published Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. After an endorsement from Oprah, Wild topped the best seller lists. Cheryl became famous. She is a hero to many people.
In 2014 Wild was released as a motion picture, starring Reese Weatherspoon as Cheryl Strayed.
The online backpacking community (whatever that is) has been less than enthusiastic about Wild. Normally I don’t read these kinds of books – you know, the journey of self-discovery where nature solves all of a person’s problems.
My usual backpacking preference is going solo. I’m not anti-social; it just works out better. It is easy for me to just take off alone. No advance planning, no comparing schedules with hiking partners, no discussion of potential destinations.
Having said the above, there are three people who I have hiked with a few times over the past several years. Each of them is a great hiking partner and every trip with them has been excellent. It had been almost 3 years since I had gone backpacking with Ojas, longer than the other two partners, so it was time for another adventure. Our last trip had been a cold one with lots of snow. So with temperatures forecasted in the high 70’s and lows in the high 40’s (F), Anza Borrego State Park was a perfect destination.
I don’t read magazines or newspapers. I don’t read much on the Internet, unless I am researching something and most of the time you can’t trust what you read. I do, as time permits, read a few backpacking blogs, mostly those based in the UK, and especially a few Scottish hill walkers (apparently they don’t call themselves backpackers). What appeals to me about these UK walkers is the usually dreadful weather they walk in, their propensity to ignore bad weather, and their blog posts seem to focus more on their trips; not their gear.
It has been a while since the big “blow out” over the TGO awards, but I just read about it because I was on vacation for an extended period, during which time all of this transpired.
Returning from my backpacking trip to the Muddy Mountains Wilderness, I spent Christmas with Joyce. Mr Weatherman predicted a winter storm heading towards Nevada with possible snow in the forecast. I hate cold.
So we decided to make haste to Joshua Tree for a little (hopefully) warmer weather.
The weather was warm and balmy, but the cold front hit us the day before New Year’s Eve.
After spending a day with my wife after the December Anza Borrego Trip, I decided to head to Nevada to do a 3-day backpacking trip in the Muddy Mountains Wilderness. The boss said I had to come back by Christmas Eve and be available for Christmas. That sounded fair enough.
The weather forecast was better than what I had just experienced in Southern California, so switched out the Trailstar for my Hexamid shelter. All other gear remained the same, for simplicity and because it would be perfect for this trip as well.
I have spent quite a bit of time in the Muddy Mountains, so part of the trip would be an encore and another part would be exploration of parts new to me. I had a fully charged battery in the camera, new AAA’s in the headlamp, and again took my solar Casio watch. There was no time to replace the battery in the Timex Expedition. Also, as I did on my last trip, I did not bring a map. It is pretty easy to get “unlost” in this area. All major washes flow all the way to Lake Mead. So follow any major wash and you will end up at the main road through the northern section of Lake Mead Recreation Area. There is a certain sharpness of mind that is created when you know you do not have a map to reference.
I am not inclined to write another comprehensive trip report, so this will be more of a pictorial tour.
Writing backpacking trip reports can be a pain in the ass. If I wrote a report for every trip I did I would probably quit backpacking or quit writing. However, it is a semi-tradition for me to write a lengthy report for my kids at the end of each year.