No Rattlesnakes, No Water, No Fun


Great ideas pop up in my head around 2 am. They hit me like a thunderbolt, instantly wake me up, and I immediately take survey of the idea; usually sitting up to give the idea the respect it deserves. There are three courses of actions I can take regarding these great ideas:

  1. Tell myself that I will evaluate the idea in the morning to see if it still holds water as a great idea, and go back to sleep. This doesn’t work out well most of the time. I forget what the idea was completely, or misplace it in the hidden folds of my brain and sometimes find it again at a later date — sometimes more than a year later. I rarely use this option.
  2. Analyze the idea while it is still fresh in my mind. This is often a poor method of handling the idea, because, more often than not, I end up playing with the idea until it is time to get up.
  3. Get up, write the idea down, and go back to sleep. Of all the idea handling options this one is the best.

In the morning, if the idea still exists, it is examined for clarity and sanity. If it passes both tests, the idea is placed in a holding pattern. If after 7 days the idea stands this test of time, a plan is put into action to bring the idea to fruition.

This is how the Rattlesnake Canyon Loop hike was created.

I would have to park my SUV just outside the Joshua Tree National Park boundary (not overnight parking allowed in this part of the park), hike in to the mouth of Rattlesnake Canyon, hike up the canyon, then hike eastward until I could descend into Fortynine Palms Canyon. Once at the palm oasis, there is a two mile trail that would take me to a paved road, out of the park, where I could hike cross country back to my vehicle.

Bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon
Bottom of Rattlesnake Canyon

It had been many, many years since I had hike up Rattlesnake, and I don’t remember it being particularly tough. Sometimes the sharp edges of those really difficult hikes are weathered, eroded, and then smoothed with the passage of time. Sometimes the achievement surpasses the intricate details. Maybe I am getting old. Perhaps it was a combination of both. Whatever it was, this was one strenuous, crawl on all fours, navigation intensive, sweaty, and thirsty hike.

In one simple short, concise, succinct sentence:

It kicked my ass.

I probably won’t do it again, unless those sharp edges get worn by time.

I think it is unlikely. I didn’t take many pictures, there were too many more pressing and important things to take care of, such as making sure I didn’t kill myself in boulder filled canyons and loose scree. Also by the time I got out of Rattlesnake Canyon, a venture that took about a factor of 5 times more than I had planned, the fact that I needed to consume just about all my water just getting to the top of the canyon, and complete fatigue and exhaustion; picture taking was about the absolute lowest priority in my life.

General route of the Rattlesnake Canyon Loop
General route of the Rattlesnake Canyon Loop

Once out of the canyon, I headed westerly in the Wonderland of Rocks to Willow Hole. From there I zig-zagged my way to the head of Fortynine Palms Canyon where I would descend (hopefully) to find water. The hike required several false routes as the terrain was too steep in places to descend. Finally, and in one piece, I got to Fortynine Palms Oasis, where there was plenty of water.

One of several pools of water.
One of several pools of water.
More water -- this pool was cleaner.
More water — this pool was cleaner.
Looking back at the oasis after resting and re-hydrating and filling my water bottles.
Looking back at the oasis after resting and re-hydrating and filling my water bottles.

Oh, and I didn’t see any rattlesnakes the entire trip.

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