Joshua Tree Map Trek, Saturday, April 17, 2010

Twin Tanks
the event

Spike the Sky
the scenery


The anticipation. I was having the time of life out in the rocks, mesas, and valleys of Joshua Tree - from sunup to sundown every day. (Soundtrack) Knowing that you were coming. So I had to get it done. Five days to scout and adjust the course, then produce the maps, answer sheets, and clues. Generating pairs of photos for each checkpoint proved to be the most challenging part of the process. I spent two hours sifting through the "other" photos I snapped, playing an insane game of "Concentration" with myself, trying to get each decoy right. Some photo editing was necessary. And some sushi, dolmas, and duct tape.

Then, a bunch of us were at the Twin Tanks parking lot, gearing for the first 9:00 start. Off they streamed into some of the most beautifullest areas of Joshua Tree. More came later and started off, and then just as the last few left, the first few started to arrive. All in all, about 27 different team adventures were logged. Each team reported interesting tales about their experiences.

It's not like I didn't stop to smell the prickly pear roses. I moved slowly through the landscape. How did I miss the tortoises, the rattlesnakes, the bighorn sheep? Specifically, the Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake. I'm probably the only one that saw a coyote. Many spotted the quail, vultures, lizards, and jackrabbits. Lisa and Bruce caught two tortoises in the act of creating future tortoises, while Tavis and Tyson spied one tortoise flip another in order to inhibit its creation of future tortoises. There were interesting butterflies, too, and a variety of flowers in bloom.

Checkpoint verification with two photos proved to be occasionally tricky. It was mostly workable, but a few checkpoints triggered issues with many of the teams. Even when the checkpoint clue was followed correctly (stand on or off the feature in one direction, facing the other way,) sometimes it was hard to tell the scale of what was in the photo or the distance from which it was taken. Any future attempts I make with this kind of system will now be better, but we're expecting GPS technology to be developed that will obviate the need to spend minutes hovering around the spot checking two photos.

Although one team was able to visit all the checkpoints in seven hours, an impressive feat, I feel good overall about the course design. I made sure I used well defined features of the landscape that were not open to interpretation. My goal was to make navigation between the reliable points I picked interesting and challenging. The proper checkpoints - not too easy to find, but not too hard - were scarce, so I'm not too disappointed that the paper route plans drawn by teams were similar. Most of the legs offered a great variety of challenges with the different zones of terrain, allowing the teams space to figure things out on their own.

I feel grateful we were able to share this experience. Thanks to ranger Don Roberts for helping us realize this dream to enjoy a map trek in such a spectacular place. It's a real privilege. Don helped adapt the event design and plan so it would best fit the park's vision of preserving "the wild" as a truly wild experience for the other park visitors. And you became partners in that effort - thank you for your diligence with the travel planning and carpooling, and staying tuned in to the frequent communication required to make that happen. More thanks to Donato, Gulnur, and Haldon for arriving early to organize campsites; Ken and Darrin for allowing us to use their pickup truck for a remote aid station; and Don especially for the carpooling for driving two large vanloads into the park. All of you, thank you for showing up. Your great spirit and enthusiasm was a gift.


(For teams over the 4 or 8 hour time limit, a penalty of 25 points per minute and fraction thereof was applied. Also, a few teams lost points for incorrect answers from checkpoint locations.)


Place of Origin





Tim Derrick

The O.C.

4 hour



Buzzards Follow Us - Mark Jones, Bud Laird

Sierra Foothills

8 hour



Don L. Duck - Jim Whitted

L.A. Basin

4 hour



Red Fish Blue Fish - Brad Weyers, Mark Day

L.A. Basin

8 hour



baarbd-Dirty Avocados - Jen Klafin, Donato Polignone

S.F. Bay

8 hour




Bald Eagles - Jeff Brucker, Michael Cagle


8 hour



Zach and Mike - Zach Aho, Mike Wilke

S.F. / Tucson

8 hour



The Pinki - Allan & Kim Pincus

The O.C.

4 hour



Team Tubac - Brad & Yvonne Poe


8 hour



Kyle 'n Peter

S.F. Bay

8 hour



Team Don & Sharon - Don Sieveke, Sharon King

The O.C.

4 hour



Team Painted Goats - Ken Jung, Darrin Bomba

S.F. Bay

8 hour




The O.C.

4 hour




The O.C.

4 hour



Team Yarak - Dennis Wilkinson, Mats Jansson

S.F. / Sacramento

8 hour



Muddy Nifkins

The O.C.

4 hour



Team Ringnes - Erik, Austin


4 hour




Cory Zelmer, Danny Trudeau

L.A. Basin

8 hour



Bohlinger Brothers - Tavis, Tyson

The O.C.

4 hour



Bruce Corning, Lisa Tracy

L.A. / S.F.

8 hour



Sebo Family - Lubomir, Matej

S.F. Bay

4 hour




L.A. Basin

4 hour



Dirty Avocados - Adam Doti, Gulnur Tumbat

S.F. Bay

8 hour





L.A. Basin

4 hour



Team S - Steve Robinson, Svetlana Dubenko

S.F. Bay

8 hour



Desert? I thought you said Dessert. - Marina Keating, Joe Maffei

S.F. Bay

8 hour



SD Girls

San Diego

4 hour



(playing in my "iPod Invisible" throughout my days field checking)
1. Daedelus - The Open Hand Avows
2. The Angel featuring Jhelisa - Ultra Light (R.A.W. remix)
3. Alex Gordon - Waterlilies
4. Aliftree - Enough
5. Adeptus - Bury U in Kerman

original event information...

Joshua Tree flyerRegistration count: as of April 15, sold out. Registration closed.

What's it all about
Exploring a dreamy landscape. Splendid rock formations, exotic desert flora.
And finding as many of the 25 mapped checkpoints as you can in the time limit.
The spirit of this event will be low-key and informal. We are lucky to be here.
Let's conduct ourselves so that we might be welcomed back in the future.

Custom Map
1:24000 scale, 40 foot contours, based on the USGS topo.
Basemap by Vladimir Gusiatnikov.
On 11 x 17" paper, map case provided.

Contours are the best thing to navigate by; especially large, tall, and wide landforms - very prominent things. The 40 foot contour interval causes minor hills and some of the negative terrain to be lost in the map. Major roads and vehicle trails are mapped already on the USGS, although some of the dirt vehicle trails are closed midway to cars (and a path still exists beyond.) Foot trails are mostly not on the map, and the map also shows foot trails that have been decomissioned or become indistinct. Contours, tall things, and compass bearings are essential. Major washes are mapped, but plenty of big, wide ones aren't. Where you see drainages and reentrants there are usually unmapped washes too. Man-made objects, "villages," and mining fixtures are mapped with X's, Y's, circle-dots, and boxes with diagonals. Some are there, some aren't, and some are just plain hard to pick out. And some that are there are unmapped. Again, contours. Areas with many green dots are supposed to have more trees, and they generally are correct, but can be hard to discern, since the "forest" is super sparse.

The USGS map is largely unchanged. I've made a few minor touchups - adding point features to help you in the vicinity of checkpoints. Whether or not I can add the "rock covered" areas in gray to the map before print time, we'll see. "Rock covered" areas take much longer to pass through, it's usually better to go around. If they aren't marked, they are given away by two things: 1. Very irregular contours and 2. Very steep sections (contours close together.) In many cases big bouldery areas with close contours are simply impassable. I've added magnetic north lines in light blue to aid with taking compass bearings.

The southern half of the map, on average, is easier to traverse, with rock features in tighter clusters.
The northern half, on average, is very rugged, with a few avenues to follow, but many rock formations.

The combination of rocks and vegetation usually makes travelling straight difficult - there will be a lot of minor deviations from your intended route. Major washes can be helpful highways, but in places they can get choked up with vegetation, and sometimes there are waterfalls you need to portage around where the terrain pinches the wash. Trails and roads, mapped and unmapped, can sometimes be helpful too. Rocks everywhere, all shapes and sizes. As fun as it is to scale the boulder fins, it's time consuming, and very often a dangerous trap. Many of the boulder chunks are gargantuan and stacked like marbles - you could fall in between them like a rag doll. Terrain made difficult to travel by rocks tends to have irregular, jagged contours. Occasionally, steep slopes will have loose rocks. Sometimes, there's only one, or a few ways, up a slope or hilltop. An interesting phenomeon: hill camoflauge. A hill can blend into a mountain behind it, making you think there's nothing between the hill and the mountain!

Course Information:
25 Checkpoints
Rex's tour takes them all in 26 km exactly (as the crow flies.)
Rex's tour has 820 meters of climb, but Rex estimates it's at least double that,
since the 40 foot contour interval misses lots of the ups and downs.
I think it will be a challenge to finish it all in 8 hours since it's slow to move through the terrain.

Is this for me?
Navigation experience with topographic maps is recommended.
You should know how to use a compass to set a bearing.
You should be able to relocate.
If you have questions about the navigation skills, contact Rex.

Checkpoint Verification:
We aren't allowed to use standard orange and white checkpoint markers;
at each checkpoint, you will position yourself according to the clue sheet -
on the feature, or to the side of the feature, looking towards the feature;
you are given two photographs, A and B. One was taken there, the other was not.
The one that was not will be obviously wrong when you get there.
Mark on your answer card A or B for the corresponding checkpoint, and move on.

1. hilltop, east part means stand just east of the center of the hilltop, facing west.
2. hilltop, north side means do not go up the hilltop, but stand away on the north side of it, facing south.

Checkpoints are worth 50, 60, 70, 80, or 90 points based on Rex's subjective ideas of how difficult they are to find.
To determine the value of any checkpoint, multiply the first digit of its code by 10, 53 is 50 points, 78 is 70 points, etc.
Getting all 25 checkpoints results in a maximum score of 1650 points.
There is a penalty for every minute (and fraction thereof) overtime of 25 points a minute.
So if you're 8 hour time is 8 hours and 1 second, then your score is reduced by 25 points.
There is also a penalty for guessing: the value of the control is subtracted from your score if you guess wrong.

Event Schedule:
8:00 Registration open
8:20 Course briefing, 8 hour teams
8:30 Maps given out, 8 hour teams and any 4 hour teams starting early
9:00 Start, 8 hour teams and any 4 hour teams starting early
4 hour teams may start anytime between 9:00 and 1:00, and they may look at their maps 30 minutes before starting.
estimated, maybe earlier 11:00 Course briefing, most 4 hour teams
estimated 11:10 Maps given out, most 4 hour teams
estimated 11:40 Start, most 4 hour teams.
5:00 Courses close.

Search and rescue will be initiated if you aren't back soon after your time limit is up.

We have a first aid kit and can treat standard first aid kinds of things.
For more serious injuries, we will notify the national park dispatch (909-383-5651)
and local emergency services (911.)
The nearest hospital is in Joshua Tree, south on White Feather Road from Hwy. 62.
The quickest way to get there is to exit the north entrance station on Utah Trail,
and then go west on Hwy 62.

Search and rescue: we expect help finding people if there's a lost party!
20 minutes after the "return time" we'll start the process.
Before you go on your course, you will fill out a "route plan" on a smaller map,
the order you expect to visit the checkpoints.
I will also ask people to introduce themselves to each other briefly.
If you see someone on your course, say hi, remind each other your names,
and make a note of when and where you saw each other.
That way, if someone ends up lost later, we will have the route plan and hopefully a
"last spotted time and place" to guide us.
Park authorities will also be notified if a search and rescue is initiated.

If you are having a hard time relocating on the course,
take a safety bearing either North, South, West, or East to the nearest road.
If you know which side of which road you are on, head back to the road!
There's a dirt road and trail on most of the West side of the map;
and there's also a major trail making a broad V across the South side of the map.

Food and drink:
You are welcome to the supplies of fruit and carbohydrates we will have,
before, during, or after your course (and you can take some to go.)
But it's recommended you bring food, and of course, water.

There will be a remote cache of water and food on the course;
Ken and Darren's pickup bed will have the cache, look in the tailgate of the pickup.

When you're done:
There will be a cooler, 165 quarts of coolness. Doubtless you'll be hungry after 4 or 8 hours of travel.
I'm going to raid the Thousand Palms Costco on Friday and pack that cooler up with meaty, veggie, and tasty goodies.
Meaning, plan on having a good-sized portion of eats provided for you after the course. A smorgasbord.

Necessary gear:
1. Compass
2. Clothing appropriate to weather conditions (expected to be in the 70s at 3900 ft. and higher elevation, but could be hotter or colder.)
3. 1 to 2 liters of water carrying capacity
4. First aid kit (min. one per team)
5. Watch
Prohibited: GPS units, altimeters

Weather could be a factor - check the
online forecast in the days preceding the event.
Temperatures could be in the 90s or in the 50s, but probably in the 70s.
It's exposed, so sunscreen and body cover are needed.
Conditions can be significantly windy.
The elevation is high enough to impair respiration.
You will be dealing with rocks and scattered prickly vegetation.
Catclaw can entangle you, shindagger and yucca can stab you,
jumping cholla clings to you and needs to be pried off with a hard object.
Other things just poke you.
There are steep drops in the terrain... be smart about your routes.
Sometimes better to go around than try to go over.
Careful crossing roads - speed limits are 35 to 45 miles per hour.

Directions to Event Site:
The nearest toilet is a half mile away at the White Tanks Campground.

Thank you for carpooling. With our plan, we should take only 9 spots at Twin Tanks.
Twin Tanks will be our event center. It is clearly marked on Joshua Tree maps.
There is a $15 entrance fee per vehicle, good for 7 days, except that it's actually free on April 17, the event day.

Directions from the North: Take Highway 62 east to Utah Trail in Twentynine Palms.
Turn right and continue to the entrance station to Joshua Tree. About 4.5 miles
after the entrance station, you'll be turning left to stay on El Dorado Mine Rd.
After another 2.2 miles, Twin Tanks parking lot will be on your right.
Follow the signs! There will be no terraloco signs put out.

Directions from the South: Take Interstate 10 to the Cottonwood Springs Rd. exit
and follow the signs to head north into Joshua Tree National Park.
Turn left onto El Dorado Mine Rd. to go to the north side of the park.
After about 29 miles, Twin Tanks parking lot will be on your left.
Follow the signs! There will be no terraloco signs put out.Links:

Joshua Tree National Park

International Rogaining Federation

Event Contact: Rex, 5 1 0 - 6 8 1 - 6 1 8 1,, website

older information...

Pricing Matrix:

Email registration info by:

4 hour price

8 hour price

Friday, March 26
Friday, April 2
If you pay after April 2, no matter when you registered:

If payment is not received by Wednesday, April 7, then you may lose your place in the event to admit someone on the waitlist.
Registration always stays open, and you may register later than April 7, but there's no guarantee of getting in, though we'll do our best to have you.

Refunds will be given if you need to drop out for whatever reason.

Registration Instructions:
There is a hard cap of 60 participants allowed by the park.
We will keep everyone interested on the list and admit everyone we are able to accommodate.

Registration is a first-come, first-serve, two-step process;

1. Declare your interest

Email with the following info to get yourself on the list:

1. Subject: Joshua Tree April 17
2. Your Name
3. Your City (where you live, so I know how far you are traveling)
4. Duration: 4 hour, 8 hour, undecided
5. Probable Teammates: mandatory to have at least one for the 8 hour, but still okay to sign up without one.
I can help put together teams from solo candidates.

In the meantime, figure out your plan for accommodations, travel plans, teammates, and carpooling possibilities.
You will be added to an email list to coordinate these things.

2. Confirm your individual registration by registering using terraloco's online system.

I will collect emergency contact information there, and it also includes a copy of the waiver you must sign at the event to participate.

You will then be billed with a Google Checkout invoice. You may pay it online with a credit card, or send a check instead to the address provided in the invoice.

If payment is not received by Wednesday, April 7, you may lose your spot to someone on the waitlist for the event.

Camping: Only first-come, first-serve campsites are available in Joshua Tree National Park.
If you're keen on camping in the park, it's recommended you arrive no later than Thursday.
Jumbo Rocks, Belle, and White Tank are the closest campgrounds to Twin Tanks, the event center.
(None of them have water or flush toilets.)
White Tank is the closest.
There is "overflow" BLM camping available just north of the park.
Joshua Tree camping website has all camping and overflow camping information.

Motels / hotels:
I found these on a Google maps search for Twentynine Palms motel;
Twentynine Palms is the closest town to the event center at Twin Tanks.
There are other towns around the park with motels of course.
Twentynine Palms motels are listed in no particular order.
You might research the reviews before inquiring.
Reservations are recommended as it is the busy season!

1. Harmony Motel, 71161 29 Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-3351
2. Sunset Motel, 73842 29 Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-3484
3. Twentynine Palms Inn, 73950 Inn Avenue, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-3505
4. El Rancho Dolores Motel Twentynine Palms, 73352 29 Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-3528
5. Best Western Garden Inn & Suites, 71487 29 Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-9141
6. Circle C, 6340 El Rey Avenue, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-7615
7. Twentynine Palms Resort, 4949 Desert Knoll Avenue, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-3320
8. Motel 6 Twentynine Palms, 72562 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-2833
9. Holiday Inn Express Twentynine Palms Joshua Tree, 71809 Twentynine Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 361-4009
10. Country Inn 29 Palms, 71829 29 Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-0070
11. Hillview Motel, 73193 29 Palms Highway, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-0334
12. Fairfield Inn and Suites Twentynine Palms, 6333 Encelia Ave., Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 361-5000
13. Sleepy Tortoise Lodge, Mcagcc-Box 788150, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 830-6583
14. Twenty Nine Palms Inn, 73817 Old Dale Road, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 361-1100
15. Roughley Manor Bed & Breakfast, 74744 Joe Davis Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-3238
16. Homestead Inn, 74153 2 Mile Road, Twentynine Palms, CA - (760) 367-0030