Facing the Storm on the Forty Nine Palms Trail

Burning Shithead V features several excursions into the desert. On one notable hike, we set out for the trail at the Forty Nine Palms Oasis. When we left the hotel, there were storms blowing up on various parts of the mountains in the park. We knew that this was not unusual, thunderstorms blow up in concentrated areas in the mountains all the time.

We decided to take our chances and make the trip to the Trailhead anyway. The information at the base of the hike was consistent with our research, this trail is about a mile and a half, and is rated to be moderately strenous. We packed heavy backpacks full of water and beer, and set out along with some other folks we met up with there who hadn't been able to locate the Festival yet (lucky for them we came along).

Although the hike was relatively strenuous, especially with all of our gear in tow, we are in great shape so we made good time (we even had time to stop for a rest and quick cell phone call). About .5m into the hike, mostly uphill, we reached a plateau with a great view of towns of Twenty Nine Palms and Joshua Tree. Notice how clear the sky looks from this perspective at this point.

However we started getting some flak from the people that we were with because it looked like the storm was coming right at us. We decided to ignore the fact that it was coming up on us and proceeded ahead, despite the fact that we could see the storm was replete with lightening, loud thunder, and high wind. The one thing which I noted was somewhat disturbing was the fact that we appeared to be caught on the periphery of two different converging storm cells.

We decided to press ahead, since the oasis was downhill from our present location, and since we thought we could obtain some type of shelter there. As we began to proceed, the storm periphery began to overtake us, and we found ourselves beginning to get drenched with rain. We also felt the wind picking up, and noticed the thunder and lightening getting closer. As the storm overtook us, I caught a quick snapshot (to the right) which shows how quickly and dramatically the environment changed.

We made it a few more yards, caught site of the oasis down in the valley, but as the storm was bearing down on us we decided it was too hazardous not to seek shelter, and we decided to turn back. The picture to the left depicts the storm bearing down on us. At the bottom of the picture, you can see the desert blooms starting already from the rain they had received so far.

Eventually we made it back to trailhead, but not before living through insane hiking conditions. The trail started washing out, lightening was striking around us, and high winds made the descent more difficult. I quickly stopped in the middle of the wind and rain to snap a picture (right) of how everything looked at that time. As you will notice, in the clear pictures above, visibility is very high. In this storm, the mountains that you can barely see were in fact rock formations literally a few yards in front of me. As I stopped to take this picture, I was glad the camera was made of plastic as lightening strikes were visible in the area.


I did go back later and run the trail all the way to the oasis after the storm had passed through.

It was truly worth it to go back.


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