Our First Backpacking Trip: A Freezing Adventure
Backpacking. It's an intimidating idea. After car camping for almost a year, we've been dreaming of being away from established campgrounds and the noise and crowds that come with them. But how do you pack everything you need into a 60L backpack, when typically the car is stuffed to the brim with your camping "essentials". I read an article about this, and it said lay everything out that you think you need to bring, then cut it in half, then cut it in half again.
We ended up with about 20 pounds each in our backpacks. We haven't been purchasing a lot of ultralight equipment so it isn't surprising that our packs seems heavy and full. Eventually we might invest in some smaller, lighter equipment, but for now we are stuck carrying a bit of extra weight.
The plan was to #optoutside with all the rest of our fellow outdoor adventurers on black friday, but avoid the crowds and frustration of finding a campsite in Joshua Tree National Park. So we researched their backcountry boards, drove by one - Juniper Flats - and went for a little hike to scope it out. Juniper Flats has the perk of being off of Keys View Road so its in a little but quieter area of the park. It is also an area that has great "fields" of Joshua Tree's. Pitching the tent under a tree was definitely high on the priority list.
We started out at Juniper Flats Backcountry Board, filled out our overnight backpacking tags and headed West on the California Hiking and Riding trail. Knowing that we were only planning on going a mile or so out, we didn't do any hike preparation and it was definitely different hiking with all of that gear on our backs. Luckily the trail was pretty flat and well maintained. After about 1.5 miles, we cut south into a field of Joshua Trees and picked a level spot to pitch the tent.
With the tent pitched, we quickly climbed into our sleeping bags since the temperature was already in the low 40's. By the time the sun had set, we were both wearing all of the clothes we carried with us, and we were tucked into our sleeping bags in our tent. We hung out all evening like that, had freeze dried chili, played cards and finally decided to curl up and try to sleep to get warm.
After about an hour, around 9pm, we both rolled over and discussed how our feet and hands were numb and our hips seemed frozen. We decided to pack everything up and head back to the car. As we climbed out of the tent we noticed the fly was covered in frozen condensation. We rolled everything back into our backpacks and trekked the 1.5 miles back to the car with our headlights and lanterns on. When we got back to the car, it said the temperature outside was 22 degrees! We were definitely not prepared for a below freezing night. And we definitely feel like we made the right decision going back to the car, but the itch to going backcountry camping and not be uncomfortably cold, and enjoy the solitude has grown exponentially.