Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ride the Wild Bago

posted by Christopher

In following with Joshua Tree traditions, as soon as I heard the loud diesel engine puttering through the campground, I started running.
"Get the camera Justene!", "there's a bago coming!" I yelled in mid sprint, tearing through the campground in my flip flops.
It was 7am and we where packing up to leave the monument after a week of rock climbing and lizard lounging. I had the tent about half packed when I first heard the motor of a Winnebago idling past our camp site.  So as the Hidden Valley rock climber's campground tradition entails; when a RV drives through the camp, your'e supposed to drop whatever your doing, chase that thing down, climb up the ladder, and surf it;  without getting caught by the people that are in the Bago driving it.
Now I don't know exactly who started this tradition but it dates back about 40 years.  In fact there is a climber's route in Real Hidden Valley called "Ride a Wild Bago" and it was first done in the early 1970's.  Rock climbers in those days had a penchant for being crazy.   You had to be if you wanted to be a rock climber back then.  First the gear was not nearly as good and safe as it is today, and second; the non-climbers, which was everyone, told you that you were nuts to begin with.
All this makes for things like surfing wild bagos seem totally natural.  I mean this is Hidden Valley Campground.  There are no spots available for  RVs.  All the desert rat climbing bums from every part of North America have holed up here like protesters on Wall Street.  And the loop through the camp is slow and windy, with some small hills and knolls that make driving a Winnebago through here a mistake.  So we take advantage of this unrealized mistake by the RV driving tourist and get a free ride out of their little mishap.
There are a few techniques involved with getting a good ride and surfing wild bagos.  One of my favourite techniques is chasing the thing down which sometimes means that I'm running straight at the RV while it is driving towards me.  The people inside wearing their casual american apparel probably have no idea why this person is running through the camp ground in an all out sprint, and it's probably even further out of their mind that the reason I'm sprinting straight at them is to get on their vehicle.  At first I felt a little unsure about this.  Like the driver was telepathic and he knew that he was my prey and that I was about to mount his wild steed.  But then I thought about this one day while surfing a large grey whale of a motor home through our quaint little desert rat oasis.
"The last thing on their minds," I thought,  "is that I'd be running towards them because I want to surf this behemoth."
Other techniques are surfing topless; getting on with two or more people; or climbing up one that doesn't have a ladder.  These all add points to your surfing ride and sometimes if there is enough of you on the roof, swinging you shirts in the air, you'll get a group of people taking your picture by the time you get back to the front of the loop.  This gives you even more points because the people driving will wonder for days why there is a small contingent of people waiting for them at the front of the campground, laughing and pointing and taking their picture.
Then of course it's time to climb down. This is not exactly easy in flip flops on a moving land whale, but it's a must do before you get the edge of the campground and the whale slips back into the deep sea.

For me, riding this particular wild bago on my last morning here has made my time in Joshua Tree complete.  I can now leave feeling totally fulfilled.   The climbing has been amazing and since it has about 4 year since the last time I climbed here I realized that this is one of my favourite spots of the earth to go climbing.  The rock is featured and amazing.  It's a coarse granite and the friction for your feet while climbing gives it that magical 'I'm walking on air' feeling.  That and the whole experience and ambience of the desert itself makes this space as special as each individual Joshua Tree.  I love this place!!!

A birds nest in the thorns of a prickly pear.

 Jr. Banger posing after his send of 'Heart of Darkness'  5.11b

On our last day in Joshua Tree, we see our first tarantula.

Symbol of creativity and the balance of life.

David Miller and his faithful guardian Max.
We met David and Max on evening while driving back up into the park.  David is on a year long journey that have him cross the USA four times by bicycle.  Don't worry Max only runs up the hills when David is going really slow.  I used to say that I am the slowest bicycle tourist that I've ever met. Now David Miller has that title from me.  He is towing 2 trailers behind his bike. One for Max to ride in, and one for all of his stuff.
We had the pleasure of helping David and Max on this day and we really enjoy there their company at our campsite that night.  Max is five years old and David just turned 50.  His web site is
David may also take the title of being a guy on a bike that is crazier than me too, but when he woke up that morning in the campground and I was still all fired up after having just surfed a wild bago, it's a tie and that we share that title together.  Go David!!! And please root him on.  This guy is awesome!!!

Well as you can see, Justene was not able to get a photo of me surfing a giant land shark, but that is OK. The story is full to tell and will be sure to become a campground tradition that you will tell your kids about.

We are just finishing up our time in So Cal.  Yesterday we gave a slide show at Citizens of the World carter school to 60-some second graders.  The photos of glaciers and wild mountains and the animal that live there had this class of kids screaming and howling. The teachers of these three classes had told us the last year the kids had been taught a little about sustainability and we were happy to help them see places on this earth that kids in LA don't usually get to see.  A lot of the initial questions were about how we got the photos of the water?  At first I didn't really realize what the kids where talking about and then it dawned on me that they hadn't seen that many photos of glaciers and glacial tarns, those little lakes that form on the edge of glaciers.
We really enjoy the kids, and our time in So Cal.  So it's time to keep on keeping on.


  1. Sounds like you've been up to some awesome stuff lately. Yay for female hitchhikers, fall harvests, and teaching kids about sustainability!

  2. Not sure which is scarier, the Heart of Darkness or the flippin'hairy spider. I'm happy that you got to ride a wild Bago, sounds like it'll have to be one of those things that you'll remember in your mind's eye, no photograph necessary. Probably best that way,although it does sound pretty hilarious, especially with the flip-flops. (And what, no Crocs?)

  3. It was so cool to see the tarantula, because Chris has never seen one in all the time he's spent in J-Tree. But I have to admit, I probably wouldn't want it in my tent!
    Yeah, I apologize for not getting a photo of the Bago was just too quick and I didn't have my camera set for the early morning light, darn!