On Location in Joshua Tree

Greeting the morning sun in J-Tree
Greeting the morning sun in J-Tree

It’s been a long-standing goal of mine to get down to Joshua Tree. I imagined I would marvel at the 7,000+ climbing routes dispersed among a veritable sea of monzonite granite. The dry air, warm temps and sunny skies are just the thing to revitalize the soul after a long and gloomy Seattle winter. It didn’t take much deliberation when choosing this season’s location for our Feathered Friend’s photo shoot.

The otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree is truly something to behold. Imagine vast expanses of desert floor dashed with jumbles of perfectly cracked stoned and peppered with what must be a botanist’s dream of yucca, cholla and beavertail cactus for as far as the eye can see. It’s no wonder J-tree is a mecca for climbers, scramblers, bikers or just about anyone who loves to throw a little adventure into the mix.

Red flowers bloom from a beavertail cactus
Red flowers bloom from cactus in Joshua Tree

Now the big question – how to pack for this trip? You know, no matter how many of these shoots I go on, the biggest challenge I always encounter is how to properly pack for them. If you’re not careful, the camping, camera and climbing gear can very easily add up to hundreds of pounds. Add to that all of the product needed for such a shoot and enough bourbon to keep our models happy and you have yourself quite a large gear cache. It would be no problem at all if I were just loading up the Subaru and heading to the mountains, but it’s another challenge all together to condense all of this down to two duffel bags for a flight. I would love to say that I have this thing down to a science by now, but that would be stretching the truth a bit.

In the past, I have spent days packing, unpacking, then begrudgingly repacking for climbing shoots like this one. It’s a tedious game of sacrifice, really. It means substituting clunky car camping gear with ultra-minimalist backpacking gear, thus leaving some favorite creature comforts behind – knowing very well that if I forget one thing while on assignment, I am much too cheap to replace it while on assignment. In order to avoid any such catastrophic event and unnecessary spending, I adhere to a strict and regimented packing list. And I am very proud to say that I have gotten two 120-liter duffels down to 49 lbs each.

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