Indian Creek area
The drive in to the Needles District passes through an area called Indian Creek (managed by BLM). I had heard of "Indian Creek" as being a world famous climbing area for years but never realized where it was exactly. This was a pleasant surprise discovery.
Day 9: Big Needles Loop Hike
The first night, I camped in the Squaw Flat campground which conveniently is free and almost entirely empty in the winter. I'd wanted to do a 1-2 night trip backpacking trip but (1) getting stuck in snow the first few days had cost a lot of time, and (2) I didn't want to carry several gallons of water. It looked like there would probably be enough snow around to melt for drinking water but I figured I could shave 6 miles off of the full 27 mile loop in my original plan and do the whole thing in one day.
A caltopo map of the area including the path I took is here.
About a mile in I had to change the memory card in my camera. I was wearing mittens and due to loss of dexterity, during the swap I dropped the full memory card (with all my pictures on it) off a ~10 foot ledge. I tried to watch where it went but it was quickly out of sight. I knew it had to be in about a 10'x10' area on the ground so I spent about an hour looking for it. The area was covered in cedar needles and light wasn't great. Eventually I decided that I had to move on since I was losing daylight. I only had about 7 hours till sunset which would be exactly what I needed if I kept up an average pace of 3 miles/hour the whole day. I marked the location on my gps and wrote "here" the ledge face with a soft rock figuring I could come back the next morning or later that night.
I drank a 1 L of water before I left, and took 2 L of water, and 0.6 L of gatorade with me for the day. If necessary, I could collect water from the snow melt that was left in "pot holes" in the rock surface (see picture below). I brought a small water filter (and chlorine dioxide tablets as backup) but was not looking forward to filtering the silt/sand out. Hopefully 1 gallon for the day would be enough and I wouldn't have to do this. It was fairly cold and I wasn't losing much water to sweat so this worked out ok.
The joint trail follows a long crack/slot for about 1/4 mile. It was definitely a fun change of scenery.
By the time I got back to the area where I'd lost the memory card it was completely dark. I looked for it for another hour and just when I was about to give up, I caught the shiny reflection of the copper electrodes with my headlight. It was a great way to end the day.