Running: Joshua Tree National Park

A Joshua Tree is a special type of a Yucca Palm Tree, looking like a crazy Zick-Zack thing out of a Dr. Seuss book. There are lots of them in Joshua Tree National Park in California. If you like the desert, Joshua Tree National Park is for you. In the Park are also other phenomenons which I’ll write about later but for now I’ll talk about the run.

Bastian felt the itch to go running himself. That doesn’t happen really often but when it does, he’s ambitions. He picked one of the shorter routes, called Short Loop Trail, from the map of trails surrounding the campground which was 6.5 km long. Since the map was just a hand drawing on paper it didn’t give us much detail about the trail other than the length.

trail-map
Bastian did an early morning run before the kids were awake. He returned 51 mins later and seemed impressed by the trail to say the least. The whole trail is sandy which makes running really tiring and the first half or even more goes uphill.
At some point during the day he had the idea that I should run the same route so we could compare our conditions. He loves competitions, you see? He also said that the uphill run is hard but once it’s over, it’s over and you’ll know it’s done for the remaining run.

I agreed but not for an early morning run. Instead it was more a 4:30 pm run.

It was easy to find the entrance to the trail, just down the road towards the exit of the campground and there is a black board which is right at the starting point of the trail.

The sand started right behind the black board. In the middle of the trail it was deepest so I tried to run as close to the edges as possible, sometimes jumping over a bush or cactus.

The Joshua Trees in the beginning of the trail made a very friendly impression, somehow I felt like greeted by friends.

Running Joshua Tree NP

I also enjoyed seeing different types of cactus.

Cactus at Joshua Tree NP

There were also countless mini geckos that where fleeing quickly when they saw me coming so no picture of the geckos unfortunately.

I ran uphill through soft sand and it was exhausting. When I reached a point with a really great view I thought, that must be it for the uphill part. If I can see that far, I must be at the top. Boy, was I wrong. More uphill to come.

Great view at Joshua Tree NP

I usually run in Vibram Fivefingers, always the same pair. That is if I don’t run barefoot. Since the FiveFingers don’t have much material on the back of the foot there is enough room for sand to come in. Somehow my running style in this deep sand turned my toes into little shovels that shoved lots of sand up onto the back of my feet which than found its way quickly into my shoes and piled up as uncomfortable sand castles between the points where my toes meet the ground and the actual foot. So I stopped a couple of times to get the sand out.

I was ambitions too and I wanted to be at least as fast as Bastian so after the third sand removal stop, I decided to run barefoot since it was sand anyway. It would be just like running at the beach I thought. And it felt like running at the beach entirely.

Only that I had the nagging thought of scorpions distracting me from running. I ran for a while, further uphill through deep sand and with scorpion thoughts and bare feet when the wind started blowing into my face.

Fun! Uphill, sand, against the wind and an ugly shoe problem. Plus I felt an oncoming headache too. What else?

I still wanted to be at least as fast as Bastian was though. So I drank a lot of water out of the camel back and gave everything I had. Uphill, through the sand. The gps showed painfully slow how far I got. Why did I initially think running this trail was a good idea?!

Sandy trail at Joshua Tree NP

I was lucky, the scenery was so interesting. I enjoyed all the different desert plants a lot. They managed to distract me from all the issues that I had.

Then there was a part without sand were I got back into my shoes. But soon enough I had sand castles again in my shoes, pushing my toes up so that it was really uncomfortable. Out of the shoes again! I carried one in each hand while I was running, trying to ignore the scorpion thoughts. It was just a couple of minutes after I took off the shoes when in my way on the sandy trail was a really long snake!

A really long snake!

Snake at Joshua Tree NP

‘Buuoooooaahhhh!’ or something like that came out of my mouth while I was already jumping over it. It was so close that I didn’t have time to stop or run around.

Striped, light blue and red and really long.

I came to a halt 2 or 3 meters behind the snake and was in my shoes in 1 second. My heart was pumping and I slowly moved closer to see the snake.

I took a couple of pictures and it was obvious that señorita snake didn’t like that or my attention at all. She took off in the other direction, slowly and steadily.

For the rest of the run, I was in my shoes no matter how deep the sand was. Not that FiveFingers would help at all against snake bites…

There was another very long stretch of uphill and sand which was luckily in the shadow so it wasn’t super hot there but at that point I had to walk for a bit. My legs told me that uphill and sand is no longer ok.

More uphill

When I reached the top I saw only downhill in front of me.

So much beautiful downhill trail through the desert!

I ran the remaining part of the trail really fast, fast as the wind, and I all of the sudden loved the whole run. Including the part where I hated it.

The remaining part turned out to be even longer than I had expected, my legs still flying through the sand telling me that it was enough. There was no way for me to run any slower though since I could still beat Bastian’s time.

Finally the sandy trail was over and I ran around the black board and up the road to the campground. Up again! Anyway, I had to go quick.

I saw our trailer, surrounded it and found my lovely family like this:

After the run at Joshua Tree NP

All cheering for me and clapping and screaming: “Ingi, Ingi!”.

Amazing run! Amazing welcome! I was happy.

Comparing the gps recordings against each other we found that Bastian ran 6.61 km in 51 min and I ran 6.84 km in 1:05. Something was off with his recording though because it showed ‘Best pace: 2:10 min/km’.

Here is the trail from above:

running map

Conclusion: Ambitious run (for me), on many different levels hart, a lot to see, special surrounding, hated it, loved it, would do it again without hesitation but only on a fit day.


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