I look forward to getting my Cairn shipment each month somewhere around the 15th. Cairn is a company that sends subscribers who enjoy camping, hiking and backpacking a monthly box containing some really great products. I was super excited to see it in my mailbox today!
I want to share the latest box with you as I open it up and check out what is in store for me this month. They ship the surprise in a sturdy cardboard box that is marked clearly with their Cairn logo. The boxes vary in size depending on what items are featured in your box. This one measures 10 x 7 x 3 inches.
They are packaged nicely and are always lined with their cute Cairn paper. The inside top of the box also has some kind of outdoor inspiration. This one says, “The outdoors isn’t going to explore itself,” with a representation of a trail map complete with a little campfire.
Upon unwrapping the liner, I get my first glimpse of what’s inside. You can see that the box is pretty full. The first thing I always find is a Cairn sticker. I think of it as a little bonus, there is always a sticker and they come in different colors. Who doesn’t love stickers?
The next item that I remove from the box is the Cairn Scout. It is a little publication that is included in each box. Cairn Scout has a blurb on the front about each item that is included within the box. I put this aside to look at later, because I want to discover the contents for myself.
In all of the boxes I have received there has been at least one food item. This time I receive an apple, cinnamon, raisin Huppy Bar. I have not tried this brand before, so I will take it with me on a hike this week and try it out to see how I like it.
I then find a 6 ounce All Good Sunstick, an SPF 30 mineral zinc stick. Its label says it goes on clear, so I tried it on my hand and it does! With the harsh sun here in Arizona I am going to like this!
With a shiny metallic green label I take out a 4 fl. Ounce spray bottle of Defunkify. The label states that this peppermint scented spray will deodorize shoes and gear. As a backpacker, I know how funky your gear can become. I spray a little on my wrist and it has a clean minty scent that is not too overpowering, it also has a cooling effect. I love peppermint! It also contains water, rosemary oil and ionic silver. I don’t imagine that these ingredients will harm my skin, but it does say to avoid getting it in your eyes or ingesting it.
Finally, in the bottom of the box I find a black beanie hat. The brand is Coal, and the hat is 100% merino wool! It is so soft I thought it was synthetic. At the brow of the hat is a leather fixture for fastening on a removable headlamp, which is not included. The tag shows the hat using the UCO headlamp. This is a really awesome idea, but I am disappointed that the lamp was not included. (Read on to see what happy thing I discover!)
After checking out my January haul, I take a closer look at the Cairn Scout publication. The main image on the front is that of a couple who appear to be camping in the snow. Their gear is in view and they are both wearing the Coal hats, the woman with the light attached and glowing.
Below is the blurb about the Coal hat. Upon reading the information it tells me that I received the light attachment previously in my October Cairn shipment! I go to my gear cabinet and bingo, the light is there! I hadn’t opened it because I already have a headlamp and I have been saving the UCO brand one for when I really need it. Now I can’t wait to put it to use.
Inside the Cairn Scout there is information about Cairn Blogs, as well as Cairn on Instagram and Facebook. There is information about the Cairn Adventure upgrade. It is a bonus that Cairn subscribers have a chance of winning. The ski wardrobe featured is valued at $1000. There’s an article listing six advantages of merino wool. Finally there is an advertisement for Cairn’s Obsidian upgrade.
Another great thing about getting Cairn, is that I also get good discounts on the gear that I have received. This month 20-40% off the items in my box, so if I really like something I can get more at a good savings!
Cairn offers different types of subscriptions. I subscribe to the monthly Cairn box.
Monthly Cairn box for $29.95 when you pay by month, $27.45 each when you pay for 6 months at a time, and $27.45 when you pay for a year’s worth. Each box is valued up to $50, and included are 3-6 full-sized items.
Quarterly Cairn Obsidian Boxes are $249.95. Each box includes 5-10 items, valued at up to $350.
You earn points, too, for ordering and after receiving a shipment, for reviewing the items. With my points I recently received this tank top free. I didn’t even have to pay shipping!
Getting to Joshua Tree National Park was a fun adventure in itself! First of all, we had planned on staying on Interstate 10 to the entrance to the park, but my GPS diverted us due to a traffic accident. We were rerouted to the 95 at Quartzsite, Arizona before taking Highway 62 westward. Seeing on the GPS that there were two towns called Rice and Old Dale in between us and Joshua Tree we felt confident in the detour. My gas light came on about 20 miles from Rice.
The first interesting thing that we discovered on this highway was this amazing signpost out in the middle of pretty much nowhere. It is even unclear as to why the pole was even standing there. There are signs of all kinds attached to this post, many being artisan handmade.
As we approached Rice, we quickly realized that there were NO services to be found. This is all that is left of the town. It is the Shoe Fence. There used to be a Shoe Tree near an old abandoned building, but they are both long gone. Now people leave shoes on this fence for reasons unknown. You can read more about the Shoe Fence here.
Of course we can’t forget the adjacent Shoe Gas Station! No gas there!
Well, my gas light was still telling me that we needed gas. I could see that the town of Old Dale was coming up, so I was hoping that we could make it that much further. We had already gone 24 miles since the gas light came on, but Old Dale looked a good distance away. I started singing Kumbaya and white-knuckling the steering wheel. Jessica, my hiking buddy, and I started noting the locations of Call Boxes along the highway, wondering if they even still worked. We had no cell phone service!
Old Dale had…..nothing! It turned out to be another ghost town. We had at this time driven another 58 miles on fumes! Giving us a total to this point of 82 miles on a wing-and-a-prayer. There was NO Way we were going to make it. We made a plan that when we run out of gas we would walk back to the last call box, and started keeping track of how far apart they were. The answer is about four miles.
We see a worker on the side of the road about 10 miles outside of Twentynine Palms. We pull off to see if there’s ANY way he might have fuel. He didn’t, however Chuck offered to follow us into town to make sure we got there safely. By the Grace of God, we did! We have no idea how we made it, I think it was the Kumbaya! We thanked Chuck and offered to pay him, which he refused. What a wonderful, kind man. We started referring to him as Chuck Norris whenever we recounted the story. After filling up we started down the road again, nearly there. Jessica turns to me and says, “You know we shouldn’t have made it, right?” And I reply, “I know! I wonder if singing Kumbaya helped.”
After having our road adventures along highway 62, and miraculously not running out of gas, Jessica and I arrived safely at Black Rock Campground where we rendezvoused with other hikers from the California Backpacking Club and the Arizona Backpacking Club. MJ and Dave were already there when we pulled into the campsite. We all introduced ourselves and MJ recognized me from another hike we had previously done together. We still had to wait for the remainder of our troupe to arrive from Tucson, Palmdale, and the Bay Area. After scouting between the two campsites that we had reserved we set up our tents under two large Joshua trees.
Everyone brought food for a potluck and there was way more food than people. We had Swedish meatballs, healthy mac n’cheese, fruit, potato salad, homemade pickles, sweet cooked carrots, ribs, cake, pies and brownies. We washed it down with beer, wine or a couple of shots of some nasty tequila.
The orange sunset tonight was spectacular as it cast its warm hues over the desert. I was looking forward to exploring the next day.
Thursday, two hikes to enjoy for today!
We woke up early enough to have coffee, breakfast, and to hit the trail by 7:30. Everyone was ready on time and eager to hike this morning. We drove our cars to the Rattlesnake Canyon trailhead.
One of the first views I noticed was where two mountains had joined each other and become one. There was clearly a difference in the composition of each. The part of the mountain to the left consisted of smaller light gray rocks and sand with a scattering of low-lying shrubs. The part of the mountain on the right was made up of huge parchment colored granite boulders with creosote, agave and other plants at their feet.
As we walked up the sandy wash we became enveloped within the landscape. The rock formations continually kept my interest and my camera working. Many of the large granite stones have been worn smooth by wind-blown sand.
Many boulders contained square chunks of marble which is a sign of metamorphic rock interrupted, they were very unique. The marble chunks were smooth and lighter than the granite that they were embedded within.
We did a lot of boulder scrambling along the route, which primarily follows the dry wash. Quite frequently we had to climb, crawl, hop, and stretch to move forward. It was a lot of fun!
Eventually we walked primarily on huge granite slabs. Marble veins were frequently noticed running along the boulders and up the sides of the nearby formations.
From our high perches we had stunning vistas of the desert and town of 29 Palms below.
There were areas where we found standing water, and at the bottom of what would be a fabulous waterfall in wet weather there was still a bit of water that shone, far below between the smooth carved sides of the granite walls.
There were really interesting veins of quartz running through the granite. Of course we just had to dare Dave to climb one!
When we reached the end of this trail we stopped in the cool shade to have a quick rest and snack before heading back the way we had come. It was a great workout for the total mileage of only 1.9 miles.
When we arrived back at the trailhead parking lot my car failed to start, there was nothing, no turning over, no clicking. MJ had a battery charger in his car and Dave tried to roll the car to reset “something” and it started up. We decided for everyone to stop at auto Zone on the way to our next hike. Sure enough, my car’s battery was bad. A half hour and $130 later we were all happily on our way again.
49 Palms Canyon
The next hike for today was to see 49 Palms Canyon. This riparian area has a stand of palm trees that have grown on their own. Presumably birds had something to do with bringing seeds to the location.
This trailhead looks very different from the one at Rattlesnake Canyon. Definitely more barren looking, and lacking the incredible boulders that we had just scrambled over. It was a welcome sight to see a straightforward trail meandering through the hills.
Before very long we were able to spot a green canyon ahead. As we drew nearer we were able to tell that these were the palm trees. It is quite a sight to be hiking in the desert, amid nearly white granite to come upon such an oasis.
The green was so bright in contrast. There was evidence of a previous fire that had charred the trunks of a few of the palms, yet they remain healthy and thriving. There is a spring nearby and you can hear the water running in places.
The environment here is fragile, and hikers are only permitted to get a view of the creek area, and are not allowed to invade the natural terrain along the water. We were very respectful of that, and I hope that others are as well.
On the way out we noticed the red barrel cacti dotting the desert, their spines a bright red. This hike was 1.7 miles each way for a total of just 3.41 miles.
From the parking lot we decided to visit the Joshua Tree Saloon for some nourishment and drinks before heading back to camp. Our group gets along well and we clearly enjoy each other’s company.
Panorama Loop at Black Rock Canyon
This hike commenced right from our campground. After breakfast we saddled up and headed out.
The day had a bit of cloud cover as we started out along the sandy trail which was bordered by sagebrush, palo verde and Joshua trees.
The level trail became a wash as it led us into a pretty, small canyon. We meandered around the canyon for a while before it opened up into a little desert valley.
We did some climbing along hills and small mountains to the top of a vista.
Panorama is right! From here we could see all the way to Palm Springs and Mt. San Jacinto, where clouds were resting all along its ridges.
At the top we discovered three United States Geological Survey markers from 1939.
We took our time and enjoyed the views while we had a break before heading on. The native plant life was interesting as was the geology of the desert on this 7.96 mile hike.
Joshua Tree National Park
Barker Dam (Bighorn Dam)
Barker Dam offers park visitors a short scenic walk to view a small handmade dam and the lake created there. The Keyes family was early cattle ranchers in the area.
The dam is a crude structure created by stacked boulders and concrete.
On one side of the dam is a small lake that has become a welcomed refuge to many of the park’s wildlife, especially birds.
On the other side of the dam visitors can see the interesting trough that was also built by the Keyes’. I am still curious about the shape of it.
The rest of the loop led us through amazing rock formations with signs pointing out items of interest, like the cheesebush. I came up with too many jokes about the cheesebush, but I digress.
Another place marked by a sign was a much eroded large boulder that had Native American petroglyphs etched inside the hollowed-out area. Someone had come along and highlighted some of them with paint, very bad!
Wall Street Mill
The last hike on our itinerary was to visit the ruins of the Wall Street Mill. The hike in was very level and easy as we skirted the formations on our left.
This mill, which had once been owned by Keyes the cattle rancher, was used to crush gold ore that was mined nearby during the Second Gold Rush that took place during the depression. This easy hike follows a sandy trail through the scrub, and around some of the formations.
One of the first artifacts that you come upon here is an old truck that was left abandoned. We just had to use this prop to take some fun pictures!
We also located the remnants of a really sweet old building.
Coming upon the Mill we could see tracks running between the roof and the ground below. The building itself is constructed of corrugated steel siding, looks to be in remarkable shape. The desert, after all, is a wonderful preservative for metal. On the roof are a series of wheels and a winch that were presumably used to pull the ore carts up to be processed.
Below the Mill we located the well with old pump equipment situated on top.
There were several other old cars found around the site as well which made for some really great photos.
Hiking out the same way in which we had come in we completed the last of our scheduled Joshua Tree hikes.
I had greatly underestimated Joshua Tree National Park! On my travels I have often driven down Highway 10 by Palm Springs and Desert Center going between So. Cal. and Arizona. I had seen the signs that there was a National Park there, but I had never given it much thought. I love the desert, but I never thought that Joshua Tree would offer anything special. I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. From the very moment you enter the park, your eyes are amazed by the sights before you. The formations and grandeur of the park is very, very special. It truly is not like any other place that I have ever seen. It has a unique and magnificent landscape that is harsh and beautiful at the same time. I will definitely be a return visitor!
For more information on Joshua Tree National Park visit their website here.
When you suffer with plantar fasciitis it is difficult to deal with the constant pain every time you take a step on the affected foot. Planter fasciitis is an injury to the plantar fascia tendon that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel forward. Many people mistakenly think that it is an achilles tendon problem. When the plantar fascia tendon is injured, it inflames which causes a tightening in the tendon. It it extremely painful, and every step hurts, so many people try to stay off their feet.
Common treatments are braces, shoe inserts, cortisone shots, and even surgery. They say that it can most often be treated by the person affected, but ask anyone who’s ever had it, it can last years. When I would get up and start walking my tendon was so tight that I could barely walk at all, and then it would loosen up for a short distance before my heel began hurting every time I stepped down. the first thing I changed was that I began to always wear very well padded shoes everywhere, even around the house. I discovered Wellrox, they encourage you to stand with your toes apart, kind of like in yoga. There are other shoes that might also work as well.
I inserted an arch support and a heel gel pad into my hiking boots which helped only a tiny bit. Both my arch and heel needed support so I simply used both, but placed them under my regular shoe and hiking boot insoles.
I wore a splint at night that was designed to maintain my foot in a flexed position. It was annoying and I would often remove it before morning, but it did help. there are probably a hundred different types of these splints, but this is the one I used.
I learned how to tape my foot with KT Tape, which helped quite a bit so that I was able to go further before the pain set in. (There are many videos on applying KT Tape on YouTube as well as the KT Tape website at https://www.kttape.com/how-to-apply-kt-tape/kt-tape-plantar-fasciitis/)
I also forced myself to walk correctly. When you have plantar fasciitis you tend to favor the heel by walking more on your toes, which exacerbates the problem of that tendon not stretching in the way that it should. I had to learn to walk by placing my heel down first and rolling forward on my foot like I was meant to. When I noticed that the pain was starting to set in I would deliberately force myself to USE my heel. It hurt! Every single step of doing it the right way hurt! Oddly, after doing this for a while, the pain began to feel kind of good, similar to pressing onto a bruise. It felt like a good, productive pain.
After hiking I would ice it and stretch. After sitting in the car or at home it seemed to always immediately tighten up again, so I would have to hobble a few steps before I could straighten up to stand or walk correctly. It took a long time, but the pain and frequency of tightness slowly began to reduce. I was able to walk further with less and less pain. In just over a year the symptoms of my plantar fasciitis were gone! I was hiking along and it suddenly dawned on me that I could no longer feel pain caused by the tendon.
I am clearly not a doctor or health-care specialist, I am just telling you what worked for me. It took a lot of working through it and time. You may choose the cortisone shot or acupuncture, or something else, if so I would like to hear about it. Either way I am pretty sure that with plantar fasciitis, using your heel by walking correctly won’t do any harm.
Back in 1919, when they began building the incredibly scenic 1700 mile long Pacific Coast Highway along the Washington, Oregon and California coasts, (a.k.a. Highway 1 and US Route 101), they came to one place in California the coastline was too rugged and unyielding for the crews and equipment to conquer. Instead they bypassed the coastline by bringing the highway inland just south of Eureka all the way to Rockport. This pristine and rugged piece of land that they were forced to bypass is called “California’s Lost Coast”. Thankfully, you will not find any beach-front condos, multi-million dollar estates, or golf courses on this 53 mile stretch of coastline; instead you will find beautiful, remote, and even dangerous beaches in pristine and wild condition, with few signs of civilization. The only way to experience this treasure is to put on your backpack and walk it.
What should you do when somebody you know mentions that they have a Grand Canyon backcountry permit for five days and four nights in March, and they ask you if you want to come along? Say YES, of course!
Toni had invited me to join her in this trip back in December of 2016, so I had plenty of time to prepare and look forward to it. The plan was to backpack down the Hermit Trail for 8.6 miles and stay the first night at Hermit Creek. The next day we would hike about 7 miles to Boucher (Boo-Shay) Rapids, where we would stay for two nights, possibly doing a day hike or exploring while we were there. Then back to Hermit Creek for night four, before heading back to Hermit’s Rest on day five. The total trip would be a MINIMUM of 30.2 miles. (Mileages vary depending on what map you use or variations in GPS data.)
Day 1, Friday, March 10th at 6:50 a.m.
The morning was perfect with a temperature in the mid 40s. We drove to the Hermit Trailhead, parked the car and weighed our packs. Toni’s was 33 pounds and mine was a whopping 40! Carrying a couple of luxury items, (chair, one pound battery pack, and my heavier but more comfy sleeping pad), and five days worth of food really put me over what I was used to. Then we saddled up for the descent down the trail. I had only been a very short way down the Hermit Trail in the past, so I did not know what to expect, at all. At the beginning we walked amidst scrub pines, juniper trees and agave plants while the sandy trail started with stairs and switchbacks. The Grand Canyon in shades of oranges, reds, blues, and purples our backdrop on this ambitious adventure.
If you are an attentive hiker you may have noticed random piles of rocks in the Arizona desert. Most likely, you haven’t noticed them at all; as they really don’t stand out much. Most of us focus on the larger landscape or the desert plants and animals. I tend to focus on where my feet are.
Well, after hiking the same trails repeatedly in San Tan Regional Park, I began to notice some of these rock piles which did not look natural at all. They consisted of varying types of rocks, all about hand-sized, and seemingly gathered from the adjacent ground. There are usually dozens of these piles in one area. I located these on the San Tan Trail.
Hiking with others can be wonderful; hiking alone affords one with a lot of time to think; hiking with your pet gives you the best of both worlds. When you take your canine companion hiking with you there are so many benefits; they are nearly always available to go with you, you will both get exercise, you will have a lot of time for bonding and to perfect training skills, and you have a partner who will listen to you and not interrupt, (that is, if you are like me, and talk out loud to yourself).
Out in the desert past Florence, Arizona, where the Gila River still flows freely, you might get a glimpse of five large man-made beehive-shaped structures lined up in a row sitting in the middle of nowhere. It really is the middle of nowhere, or at least it is now. These are the Coke Ovens.
According to dictionary.com, the definition of Coke is: “the solid product resulting from the destructive distillation of coal in an oven or closed chamber or by imperfect combustion, consisting principally of carbon; used chiefly as a fuel in metallurgy to reduce metallic oxides to metals.”
In the very early 1900s there was a small mining town just on the opposite side of the Gila River called Cochran. It is said to have once had 100 residents, a post office, store and boardinghouse, and was near the Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railway lines. (Wikipedia) There are still foundations and evidence that there was once more here than the ovens. The Coke Ovens may have been there even before Cochran sprang up. The www.copperarea.com website states that they were possibly built in 1882 by the consolidated Copper Company. Either way, they are something to see.
“Whatever word God uses to describe heaven, that is the word I would use to describe what I have seen.” -Dan Chudler
Day 1 – July 17, 2016
Starting Point: Devil’s Postpile, Mammoth, Ca.
Elevation 7710 ft.
Before leaving for this trip we each received a medical checkup and got the encouragement to have a good time. We were also able to get a prescription for Diamox, which is used to treat and prevent altitude sickness. (I had been warned that side-effects of this medication are similar to the signs of altitude sickness, i.e. dizziness, headache, nausea, etc.) In addition to the medication Dan and I were able to spend two nights in Mammoth in order to acclimatize to the higher altitude before beginning our trip to Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park.
Mammoth Lakes, California has a wonderful public transportation system that runs daily between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., but because we wanted to get an earlier start we chose to arrange a taxi to pick us up at 6:00 a.m. that would drop us off near the Devil’s Postpile trailhead. The taxi arrived ten minutes early and we were already waiting in the lobby so we got off to an even earlier start than expected. As we neared the drop off to Devil’s Postpile a young bear crossed the road in front of us, this had to be a good omen! We arrived at the drop-off area near the trailhead at 6:25 a.m.
Wanting to get out of the Phoenix’s 119 degrees, we decided to drive up north to See Canyon to do a short day hike. The trail-head here is hidden up FR 284 right across from Tall Pine Market on Christopher Creek road. It is a quick turn, so if you are not paying attention you could easily miss it.
From the trail-head, one could hike seven miles all the way up the Mogollon Rim and back, which we did not have time to do. That’s for another day, but definitely on my wish-list!