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Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Mar 6 - Mar 13, 2021 -- $1325 ★★

Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California features a desert landscape whose signature plant is the rare and beautiful Joshua Tree. The park boasts unique geological formations such as granite monoliths and rugged canyons, plus a variety of wildlife including bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, and coyotes. March is a great time to escape your frigid climate and explore the arid and rocky Mojave desert.

Our route is new to Fatpacking and features off-trail travel for some (if not most) of the trip. This a great trip for navigation weenies. We will navigate by the sun, dead reckoning, map, compass and GPS. We will begin near the Pleasant Valley Backcountry Board (like anyone knows where that is) and then head due East on the Fried Liver Wash "Trail". It's officially a trail, but is generally not well-defined, other than it's a wash inside of a canyon.

We'll eventually cross the Pinto Basin Park Road and pick up our first cache of water. Then we travel across the desert with no trail whatsoever. In the desert, we should expect nothing but rocks, sand and solitude although we will cross the Old Dale dirt road track. Eventually, we'll reach another dirt track, Black Eagle Mine Road where we pick up our 2nd water cache.

The final "section" of the trip will head down the remote 17-mile long Big Wash Trail, dumping us at the park boundary.

Some of the trails will be rugged, much of them exposed to the sun and poorly marked ... that's the fun of this trip. At some of our campsites, there may be bouldering opportunities for you to climb up various rock formations of the canyon walls. There are rocks to climb for every ability level or you may not want to climb any rocks at all ... no judgment. Expect this to be a true adventure!


Weather is always an important concern when backpacking. Expect a warm respite from your end-of-winter blues. Historical March weather averages 60s and 70s during the day, which is perfect for backpacking, although we might also experience blazing heat during the day. or frost at night. Expect 30s and 40s at night although on the 2009 trip, it did get down to the low 20s so be prepared for weather extremes.

Trip Leaders

Rick Romine
Julie Quibodeaux


$1325 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from Ontario, CA (ONT) as well as personal equipment, any restaurant meals eaten off the trail and any gratuities for guides.

Covered expenses include 2 nights in a hotel, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation, permits, satellite phone, fees and awesome guides.

Important Note

Water is scarce in this region and we must cache it ahead of time. Be prepared to carry as much as 2 gallons (16 pounds) of water in your pack. Even if we find surface water, the park prohibits us from using it, as it is to be left for the animals and plants.

While we expect to see Joshua Trees during the hike, there is a distinct possibility that we will not see any at all during the hiking portion of the trip. The route is new to Fatpacking and traverses the desert and canyons at a lower elevation than our past trips.

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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Fly or drive into Ontario, CA (ONT)

Take the free airport shuttle to local hotel (TBD)

Equipment shakedown

Before body composition measurements taken

Trail mix distribution

Buy last minute and forgotten items at REI, 12218 Foothill Blvd, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739, (909) 646-8360.

Rancho Cucamonga is where Workaholics supposedly takes place.

Go out for dinner in town. Dinner not included in trip cost.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

2nd set of before body composition measurements taken

Free hotel breakfast

Store all items you won't bring on the trail at either the hotel or a storage unit

Drive to Joshua Tree National Park

Depending upon size of group and number of vehicles we have, we may take an hour to shuttle a vehicle to the trailhead at the end of the trip on MWD Aqueduct Rd.

Drive to the Cottonwood Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park

Take a half hour detour (each way) to cache water just off of Black Eagle Mine Road near the Big Wash Trailhead. It's a hassle, but everyone will be giddy to resupply with it later in the trip.

Drive to the Pleasant Valley Backcountry Board

Begin hiking at Pleasant Valley Backcountry Board, elevation 3300'

Hike 2.4 miles on the Fried Liver Wash Trail to Hexahedron Mine Trail intersection, elevation 3100'

Hike about 2.6 miles on the Fried Liver Wash Trail to the mouth of the canyon, elevation 3000'

Dispersed dry-camp at at the mouth of the canyon practicing Leave No Trace Principles, elevation 3000'

Mileage Today: 5.0. Total mileage: 5.0

Possible bailout: Pleasant Valley Backcountry Board

Monday, March 8, 2021

Hike about 9.0 miles on the Fried Liver Wash Trail to Pinto Basin Rd, elevation 1700'

There will be water here that we cached earlier to use for the next few days. Be prepared to carry the empty jugs out with us.

Hike about 0.5 cross-country miles into Pinto Basin, elevation 1700'

Dispersed Camp in Pinto Basin practicing Leave No Trace, elevation 1700'

Mileage Today: 9.5. Total mileage: 14.5

Possible bailout: Pinto Basin Road

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Hike about 8.5 miles across the Pinto Basin Alluvial Fan (and sand dunes) crossing Old Dale Road along the way, elevation 1900'

Dispersed dry-camp somewhere in Pinto Basin practicing Leave No Trace, elevation 1900'

Mileage Today: 8.5. Total mileage: 23.0

Possible bailout: Old Dale Rd.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Hike about 4.0 miles across Pinto Basin to Black Eagle Mine Road, elevation 2000'

Water is cached here. Drink all you can and we will take the rest with us for the remainder of the trip.

Hike about 5.0 miles on the Big Wash Trail to a wooded area (possibly), elevation 2500'

Dispersed dry-camp at unmarked campsite practicing Leave No Trace, elevation 2500'

Mileage Today: 9.0. Total mileage: 32.0

Possible bailout: Black Eagle Mine Rd.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Hike about 9.0 miles on the Big Wash Trail, elevation 2000'

Dispersed dry-camp at unmarked campsite practicing Leave No Trace, elevation 2000'

Mileage Today: 9.0. Total mileage: 41.0

Possible bailout: Black Eagle Mine Rd. or MWD Aqueduct Road

Friday, March 12, 2021

Hike 2.7 miles on the Big Wash Trail to MWD Aqueduct Road, elevation 1400'

Hiking portion of trip is now over

Mileage Today: 2.7. Total mileage: 43.7

Possible bailout: MWD Aqueduct Road.

Shuttle back to Pleasant Valley Backcountry Board to pick up vehicle

Drive back to Ontario, CA

Check back into local hotel (TBD)

"After" measurements taken

Dinner in town (Dinner cost not included in trip cost)

Awards Ceremony

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Free Hotel Breakfast

Free airport shuttle

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