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Life Rocks When in Good Company – Rock Climbing Joshua Tree National Park

Life Rocks When in Good Company – Rock Climbing Joshua Tree National Park
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Why am I rock climbing?

I contemplate the reasons in my head for the hundredth time.

Rock climbing and sleeping in the desert. Two things I would never consider doing, not in a million years. But then again, through the years there were many things I’ve done in my quest for balance in life; accomplishments that I never saw myself doing, such as speaking in public, having a life outside of children and housework, and becoming an athlete. However, after careful consideration, I still didn’t know why I am venturing into climbing, but it is something I need to do for myself. (Photo left: A buddy system always works best — two are better than one.)

Marian Marbury of Adventures in Good Company prepares me by providing information about the trip: what to expect, what to bring, contact info to reach others. Her website and letters offer links to wonderful photos and facts of the Joshua Tree National Park, climbing, and car camping in the desert. Marian has thirty years of experience in backpacking, hiking, and canoeing, and ten years of climbing experience — she definitely knew her stuff — That's why she started Adventures in Good Company in 1999.

Marian’s guides and staff are qualified and experienced. In fact, Kathy Cosley is quite a celebrity in the field of mountaineering — she was the first ever amongst men and women to be certified in mountaineering and rock climbing.

However, the desert brings to mind desolation and death; images of blowing sand, cow skulls, and an occasional tumbleweed rolling. Oh, and the eerie Western music from Clint Eastwood’s, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” plays along in my mind as I think of this Mojave Desert ecosystem. After my research I could not picture this “fascinating” world.

Joshua Tree National Park is a surreal world of geologic displays. I have fallen into a computer-created movie where mountains of rocks, enormous boulders of varying sizes defying gravity, sitting one on top of the other, forming a mountain. They look as if a giant placed the rocks in these arrangements, perhaps creating a booby trap tumbling down any second and crushing everything in their path.

There is no death and desolation here either. No cow skulls and occasional tumbleweeds; instead, life and an amazing story of survival! Desert plants and grasses with unbelievable blooms reveal their patience, waiting upon rain — for a long, long time, not giving up but holding on and finally getting the water they need, blossoming in beautiful arrays, the desert now looking more like a meadow. People tell me about the beauty of the springtime desert, now in a rainbow profuse wtih enthusiasm and passion. My overwhelming senses inhale the sights.

Our campsite, the women, and the vehicles all seem so tiny next to the monster mountain of rocks sheltering us; I keep these thoughts to myself until one of the guides talks about

the Sun Shower. I can't focus on what a Sun Shower is but instead on the location of our shower!. If you stand under the shower and look up and behind, you see a rock sitting half in mid-air and half resting on the mountain. I imagine enjoying a refreshing shower then suddenly fleeing for my life as the boulder rolls down bringing me to a nude death! Of course, the guides assure me that they have been coming here for many years and the rock has not budged an inch.

From the info list Marian sent me I had noticed that Shiela is also from Missouri , just three hours away, so we communicate via e-mail before the trip. So when finally camping in the the desert it was like meeting a friend.

“Don’t ask if you can help with the cooking and cleaning unless you absolutely want to.” Jan, the Business Manager, cook, former emergency room nurse, and a great climber (as we soon discover) informs us. “This is YOUR vacation,” she said. “If you want to help, great, otherwise your only responsibility is to pack the gear you need for each day and to have a great time.”

Wow! No cooking, no cleaning, no responsibilities but to have a good time? I can get used to this! I think that this climbing trip in the desert isn’t such a bad idea even if the boulders still look intimidating

Each morning starts with a delicious, nutritious breakfast. Snacks and plenty of fresh water are brought to our climbing sites. Lunch and dinner are even better, if that is possible. My idea of camp food is changed forever! Hot dogs, burgers, and chips? — NO! — these are not on the menu, which could have appeared on a gourmet cooking show or perhaps some fine dining magazine. African Ground Nut Soup, Wild Rice Asparagus with Vinaigrette, Tortilla Rollups with Cream Cheese hors d’oeurves, fresh fruit and vegetables with hummus spread, Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, and Slivered Almonds, Lemon Cake, chocolate!, and vintage South Australian wine. For vegetarians and for those who still want the true camping experience with hot chocolate and such, trust me, there is quite a variety to choose from and EVERYONE is happy.

From all walks of life we arrive to rock climb. Among us is a geology professor, massage therapist, veterinarian, a mother of five, librarian, a student, an accountant, and a toy store owner. The ages range from 33-63; some are first time climbers, others are intermediate, and a few are advanced.

Each day starts with usefully and necessary technical lessons, such as a fist jam, hand jam, foot jam, chimneying, and smearing. We practice bouldering and climbing on a short rock. No matter the experience level, everyone gets a chance to try out new techniques or practice what they already knew before climbing; it is an adventure for everyone at any level.

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By Lena Hunt Mabra, Cozumel Correspondent, Jetsetters Magazine at

About the Author
Lena Hunt Mabra, Cozumel Correspondent. JOin the Travel Writers Network in the logo at

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