Have you ever wanted to do an overnight in the wild lands of the desert, but just haven’t known where to start or where to go or how to find water? Don’t worry, I’ve got you! Join me on a 2-day, 10-mile hike in Pipes Canyon to explore this brilliant spring that’s descended from a harsh winter.

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what we’re gonna do


Welcome to the desert! We’ll start out by sharing a light lunch and going over our 2-day itinerary at my house in Pipes Canyon. I’ll make sure everyone brought the appropriate gear, and can help people re-pack if needed. After this introduction, we’ll set out on our excursion, traveling through verdant desert scrub and stunning boulder fields, heading towards our camp in the shadow of the Black Lava Butte on the Sand to Snow National Monument. This four-mile hike will lead us to indigenous inscriptions in the boulders, and Sarah will stop along the way to share information about edible and medicinal desert plants. Before sunset, we’ll pitch our tents and prepare a hearty, gourmet camp meal. (Please contact Sarah with food sensitivities/dietary requests.) After dinner, we’ll have unstructured time to enjoy the darkness (or moonlight), the piercing silence of the wilderness, and the awe-inspiring blanket of stars.


After breakfast and coffee, we’ll pack up camp and prepare for leg two of our journey. We’ll walk east around the curl of the butte’s edge, and then head west to arrive at our lunch spot in the Hondo Wash, just north of the Black Lava Butte. Here, we’ll begin to encounter a slightly different topography, and new plant species. After everyone is recharged, we’ll follow the ridge of the Bighorn wilderness foothills and then head south along the Western edge of the butte towards Sarah’s house.

food situation

DAY 1: simple camp-style dinner served after setting up trail camp

DAY 2: breakfast and coffee at trail camp, simple packed lunch, adult beverages and snacks back at my house in the evening

what you bring

We will be backcountry camping on the grounds of the Sand to Snow National Monument. Tent and camping equipment not included. Gear can be rented from local outfitters in Joshua Tree, some REI stores, and online outfitters. A (very detailed) suggested equipment and packing list is provided after registration, but know that the essentials you’ll need to secure are: tent, sleeping bag rated for 40 degrees or cooler, sleeping mat, capacity to carry 4-5 litres of water (I like to use a bladder and 2 nalgenes), headlamp, pack to carry your own gear, and appropriate footwear. Also, any snacks you may want in between the provided meals!

where we’re gonna go

The first leg of our 2-day, 10-mile trek visits the little-known, vista-rich valley tucked between the Flattop Mesa and the Black Lava Butte, features of the Sand to Snow National Monument. We'll see lush (by desert terms!) biodiversity, sacred petroglyphs, and coffee-table-book-worthy desert landscapes. And if we're lucky, some wildlife! The second leg of this trek continues to travel the circumference of the Black Lava Butte, moving along the northern perimeter of the butte and westward through the massive Hondo Wash in northern Pioneertown, just west of Flamingo Heights. This atypical desert terrain reflects more plant diversity and varied rock formations, taking on surreal lunar qualities. We’ll continue south along the western edge of the butte, back to Sarah’s house to complete the 10-mile loop.


Newcomers to backpacking are welcome, but please be aware that guests will enjoy this experience more if they are in good physical condition and have some previous hiking experience. Although the terrain is not particularly rough with little elevation gain/loss and surfaces are mostly flat, we will walk approximately 10 miles over two days while being exposed to the elements: sun, wind, and more sun—all at elevations above 4000 feet. Please be advised that we will be camping in primitive conditions, and evenings may be quite chilly. Water will be available at the campsite, but we will not have access to flush toilets or showers for the duration of the outing.

book by April 10th! directions to Sarah’s house given after registration.