Bouldering for Babies

Bouldering for Babies 1

Bouldering for Babies – My Story

By Kristi Westberg

First of all, let me say that this story does not involve a small child crag hopping. No children were harmed or even remotely involved in the making of this story, the only harm was to my own ego, which has become somewhat accustomed to the occasional bump and bruise. So the baby in this story is me, not the two thrill-seeking children who managed to out-climb, outmanoeuvre and beat me to the top of Mastodon Peak in exquisite Joshua Tree National Park. But we’ll get to that later, for now, let me tell you a bit about the park and how I found myself bouldering in the first place.

Bouldering for Babies…

 

Joshua Tree – Cottonwood Campground

The last time Catherine and I went to Joshua Tree we by some miracle managed to snag a last-minute campsite in Cottonwood Campground. Cottonwood is located at the southeast part of the park. The campground’s southern location means it’s a little less crowded than many other spots, a wonderful added bonus for two solitude seeking campers.

Cottonwood has 62 campsites and several modern amenities for indoorsy types like myself including; potable water and flush toilets. On this particular weekend, a very generous person left a partially used bottle of lavender soap in the women’s bathroom. I never thought I’d have such admiration for a bottle of lavender soap, which I should clarify is my least favorite smell in the world, aside from poop and vomit of course. But there’s something about camping that really makes you stop and appreciate the little things, even when they’re tainted with the offensive smell of pine and flowers. So I must say thank you to the kind lady who left us her stinky soap, I used it many times and was grateful to have clean, degreased and de-grimed hands all weekend.

 

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After a trip to the bathroom, we pitched our tent, realized that I had failed to put the camp chairs in the car (such a bummer!) and decided that we weren’t quite ready for dinner yet so we set off on a little tour of our new neighborhood. In truth, this is one of my favorite parts of camping. It’s guaranteed entertainment, and the more camping you do the more you begin to recognize the ‘types’ of campers that are out there. I’m particularly fond of the hardcore RV-ers who manage to set up multiple living areas, a covered dining room and a sit-out porch for evening tipples. On our loop, there were three such campers, several of which had full camp kitchens with multiple stoves, pop-up canopies for shaded dining and one with colorful blanket “walls” which I found irresistibly charming. My inner indoorsy camper often looks at such sites with envy, that is until the next morning when I get to watch the whole house come down to the studs, an operation that takes infinitely longer than deflating a sleeping pad and packing up a tent.

Bouldering for Babies…

 

An Oasis and a Scramble

On our second day in Joshua Tree, we decided to take the Lost Palm Oasis Trail located near our campground.

Side Note: Palm trees and pink sunsets are so iconically Southern California it can’t be denied. One trip to SoCal and your phone is bound to be filled up with spindly palm pictures, but the truth is that none of those palms are native to the area. The first ornamental palms to come to LA were brought by 18th-century Spanish missionaries. The palms retained their popularity thanks to the Victorians extensive interests in greenhouses and no time was more prosperous for the ornamental palm than the 1930’s. Knowing that the Olympic games were heading to LA in 1932 a huge planting effort was made that not only greened up the city but also provided employment for many during the Great Depression. During that time over 40,000 trees were planted and the symbol of LA was cemented for the foreseeable future. End of side note.

 

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Spiky!

 

However, the palms in Lost Palms Oasis are the native California fan palm, which tends to grow in canyons near springs, hence the oasis part of the trail name. The start of the trail is shaded and cocooned by these woolly fan palms, a truly wonderful way to start a hike in the desert. The trail quickly opens up to traditional desert scenes with spiky plants, sand, rock, and of course, Loony Toons style rounded boulders.

The path is filled with little hills and valleys, stone steps and scurrying lizards. About an hour into our hike we reached a fork where we could go right to continue on the 7 mile Lost Palm Oasis trail or veer to the left to a place called Mastodon Peak.

The Bouldering for Babies spot.

It was a warm afternoon and we weren’t exactly ready for a 7-mile jaunt, so we headed towards Mastodon where I hoped to see a rock in the shape of the great beast, but of course, was disappointed to find a pile of nondescript boulders.

 

 

As you approach the pile there is a small sign that gives hikers permission to scramble .1 miles to the top of the peak. I’m not really a fan of the word scramble, unless of course, you are referring to my morning eggs in which case, by all means, scramble away. In this instance, scramble makes me think of two other words; struggle and free-for-all.

With some trepidation, we headed towards the pile and started our 1-mile scramble. Catherine, of course, scrambles with grace and lightness of foot, making the ascent look easy. I, on the other hand, prefer a different kind of scrambling, a technique some might classify as scooting. It’s difficult to truly fall when you are already sitting on the ground. And so with heaviness of bum, I slowly made my way up towards the top of the peak. Bouldering for Babies style…

About a third of the way to the top a family came up behind us, one parent and two very brave and fearless little boys. Sensing their desire to pass me out I scooted out of the way and watched with mild horror as they scampered ahead without fear or notice of the heights they were achieving. Mind you their mother was very quick to say, “slow down!” many times as they bounded up the crag. There were promises of Smarties at the top, so who can blame them for being a little reckless, sugar is, of course, the great motivator. They made it to the top in record time and were happily munching on discs of compressed sugar by the time my dusty buns made an appearance.

View from the top of Mastodon Peak

The view from the top was sweeping with mountains in the distance, rocky rounded boulders strewn about and desert scruff. I hesitated to look down but did manage to sneak a peek to get a better feel for how .1 miles looks from above. Turns out it looks like a long way down and so I scooted back a little, drank several sips of cool water and shared a snack with Catherine.

I consider making it to the top of Mastodon Peak a great triumph. I’m no boulderer, wouldn’t think of taking up climbing and can barely rock hop my way across a river. I approach most rocks with a sliver of fear. Rocks have an uncanny ability to appear sturdy, stable and reliable. Then just when you’re feeling comfortable they give a little wobble. One little unplanned movement and my hands fly up in the air as if I’m starting a cartwheel…except I’m actually about to fall into a river or more likely onto the extra padding of my fleshy behind (sometimes having a big butt has perks).

I initially wrote this post to entertain myself and hopefully you in the recounting of my great scoot. I also hope that I inspired you to try something new, something you’re a little afraid to try or maybe I just got you to spend some time contemplating palm trees. I’m quite happy with any of those results.

Point one of a mile of bouldering sounds pretty measly when I stop and think about it, but the thing is when you’re the one finding hand, foot and butt holds it feels like a lot further. No matter how you get to the top whether by Bouldering for Babies style, leap, bound or scoot you got there, and there’s reason to celebrate!

 

Blogger & Multiple Contributor at | Website

Kristi Westberg is a writer, indoorsy camper, hiker and bookworm living in Pasadena, CA.

She is the creator of “Indoorsy Camper” a blog that helps scaredy-cat’s like herself gain the confidence and bravery to get outside.

A self-professed “indoorsy” person, Kristi tries to make camping, hiking and backpacking approachable for everyone.

49 thoughts on “Bouldering for Babies

  • January 3, 2019 at 12:15 am
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    Ha! I thought this would be about babies but I’m glad that I’m not out-bouldered by an infant! All the photos of Joshua Tree I’ve seen have always been amazing. I hope to go to California one day and experience it myself. And I’d climb up pretty fast too for some smarties!

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  • December 11, 2018 at 11:14 am
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    I would love to try something that scares me next year. Need to get out of comfort zone. This Joshua Tree sounds amazing.

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  • December 5, 2018 at 8:09 pm
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    Joshua Tree is an amazing place and worth at least a visit in our lifetime. I would visit it again.

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  • December 5, 2018 at 5:12 pm
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    What amazing photos, I would love to visit there one day!

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  • December 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm
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    I have heard wonderful things about joshua tree. Sounds like you had an amazing time. Don’t think I’d be bouldering it though, that’s a spectator sport for this guy

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    • December 5, 2018 at 12:01 am
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      I totally understand. I’m by no means a climber…but every once in a while I’ll branch out and do a tiny bit of a scramble.

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  • December 4, 2018 at 7:58 am
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    I agree bouldering is difficult but I see that you had a wonderful time out there. Pictures are amazing too

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  • December 3, 2018 at 11:31 pm
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    I would love to go to Joshua Tree! I wish I was more of a nature person.

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  • December 3, 2018 at 5:09 pm
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    Reading your post and narration brought a smile to my face. Made for such a lovely read. Yes, I agree that bouldering is indeed difficult when it comes to hiking and I too hop onto the ‘I hate Lavender’ wagon.eeks!

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    • December 4, 2018 at 1:04 am
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      Excellent! Glad to know there’s someone else out there that’s not a fan of lavender.

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  • December 3, 2018 at 2:28 pm
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    I like this! I never went trekking in the desert before and I quite enjoyed this!

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  • December 2, 2018 at 9:35 pm
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    I never actually thought of camping. But considering it after reading this post

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  • December 2, 2018 at 7:29 pm
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    I’ve never done this before but would love to try bouldering! Looks like you had a fab time 🙂 x

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    • December 5, 2018 at 12:02 am
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      I did! It was actually really satisfying to make it to the top. You should give it a try!

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  • December 2, 2018 at 6:10 pm
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    I love Joshua Tree and I desperately want to go back. Now you’ve given me a legit excuse to — to go bouldering! I love all the details that you’ve included about your experience. I had quite a few laughs. Great writing and thanks for the travel inspiration.

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    • December 5, 2018 at 12:03 am
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      Oh thank you so much! It was a pretty fun post to write. I’ glad I gave you a reason to return to JT! It’s such an amazing place 🙂

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  • December 1, 2018 at 11:47 pm
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    Bouldering is pretty hard when compared to hiking. I’ve been on a few which aren’t very difficult terrains.
    You’re right about small kids. When we went, there were a few local boys who almost sprinted ahead of us, atop the boulders!!! I was just astonished at their energy level!

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    • December 5, 2018 at 12:05 am
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      It was amazing watching those boys rocket to the top. I agree with you, hiking is much easier and for me preferred.

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  • December 1, 2018 at 5:37 pm
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    I tried bouldering once and it’s so much fun but hard! I think it’s way harder than rock climbing! Congratulations on succeeding on this beautiful experience!

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    • December 5, 2018 at 12:06 am
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      Thank you so much! This was really my first attempt at bouldering…not sure it’s a sport I’m going to take up, but I enjoyed it.

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  • December 1, 2018 at 4:44 am
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    I’ve never tried bouldering before. I think because there is not much boulders around in our country hahaha. But I am now thinking of trying to do it together with my boyfriend.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:34 pm
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      Sounds like a great idea! Actually starting with small boulders is probably the way to go!

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  • December 1, 2018 at 3:40 am
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    It looks beautiful! I think I would love to visit here and give it a go.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:36 pm
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      It is really beautiful, I’ve only been twice, but Joshua Tree has turned into one of my favorite National Parks. Highly recommend putting it on your “to visit” list.

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  • December 1, 2018 at 3:23 am
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    I love the quirky way you have shared your adventure. It made a very enjoyable read. Yes, those stones can be quite unpredictable. They give you a jolt when you least expect it. Glad you had a safe and fun experience.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:37 pm
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      Thank you! That is so kind. I’m happy to say I’ve not yet received the jolt..at least not physically. Mentally yes.

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  • December 1, 2018 at 2:48 am
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    I loved your post. I am not much of an adventure enthusiast, so I love your amusing take on it. It is so refreshing for me. Lots to take away from this post especially the fact that those palms were not native to SoCal. I definitely agree of this as a great triumph for you. Would have been the greatest for me.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm
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      Thank you! I wouldn’t call myself an “adventure enthusiast” either…but I think we all experience adventure in our own ways, whether large or small.

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  • December 1, 2018 at 2:11 am
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    First of all we have the same feeling about the scent of a Lavender, it makes me feel so uncomfortable every time I smell it. I know how fearful you are in doing this adventure but I am glad that you are able to succeed on it and I am looking forward to read another great story from you.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:40 pm
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      Glad I’m not the only own who dislikes lavendar :). Thank you so much for your kind comment, more stories to come.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm
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    Wooow! I love these pictures, it really nice and calm. Oh! I love the lavender scent, it’s really for calming.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:42 pm
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      Thanks! To be honest it’s pretty hard to take a bad picture in Joshua Tree. I’ve tried to let lavender calm me…but I just don’t like the smell. Guess I’ll have to find something else. I am a fan of eucalyptus.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 8:27 am
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    I liked your light-hearted account of your trip. I enjoy camping and the simplicity of life too although I agree a few comforts like a flushing toilet is a must for me. It’s always good to try something new and step out of your comfort zone every once in a while.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:43 pm
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      Exactly! Stretching yourself a little every once in a while helps you grow and try new things…new things that may become passions.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 8:24 am
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    Wow a very interesting site and I’m really looking forward to starting camping with my kids next year. Wish I could visit this place but a bit far for me. I love the views from the Mastadon peak and a great place to stop and enjoy those views and take a breath. The List Palm Oasis looks very interesting as well.

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:44 pm
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      It is a pretty great spot. BUT you can find places that give the same feeling all over the world. Have fun camping with your kids! They’re gonna love it.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 6:33 am
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    Like the story and the pictures! I never heard of this place but seems like there’s some great memories to make there!

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  • November 30, 2018 at 5:58 am
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    This was a great (and hilarious) post from the very first disclaimer on to the end. Also some stunning photos!

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:46 pm
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      Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I really appreciate you commenting.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 2:03 am
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    Nice post Kristi and some good shots! We had Joshua Tree on our list during a cross country road trip this past year but unfortunately didn’t make it. This post definitely has us wishing we had!

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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      Oh man! Although the words cross country road trip makes missing JT ok…I’m sure you saw LOTS of other amazing sites. You’ll make it back there eventually.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 1:16 am
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    First: How can you not like Lavender! It is the most calming scent ever!
    But you are brave! There is no way on earth I am going to hike anything that is any kind of height! Those little boys are just as brave for going quickly!
    I am glad you took a chance to try something new, and yes your post did indeed entertain me!

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:49 pm
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      I love that so many people have responded to my hatred of lavender…so funny. I will say that I’m a eucalyptus fan. Those little boys were fearless! Thank you so much for your kind comment and for letting me entertain you with my ridiculousness.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 12:56 am
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    Haha I agree with your feelings about the word “scramble.” It’s like there’s something fearful about attempting to get to the top. I remember doing something similar to your experience at Mastodon Peak, only I was attempting a dormant volcano in Idaho. Always a great story!

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    • December 1, 2018 at 4:51 pm
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      I didn’t even know there was a dormant volcano in Idaho! That’s something I’m gonna look into. Thanks for your comment and for agreeing with me on scrambling 🙂

      Reply

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