Master pack designer Wayne Gregory (of Gregory Mountain Products) doesn't lack for product-testing terrain. His hometown of Fallbrook, CA is just an hour and change from a national park renowned for chewing up gear. His favorite dayhike is a 4-mile off-trail route in Rattlesnake Canyon that requires scrambling, routefinding, and, of course, a sturdy pack.
6:07 Meet Jim and Larry at the Fallbrook Café in town to fuel up on hot chocolate and an omelet with locally grown avocado.
6:45 Drive to village of Joshua Tree.
8:38 Stop by Nomad Ventures for Clif bars and sunscreen. Then follow Indian Cove Road past Short Wall, a popular climbing spot, to Indian Cove Campground.
9:02 Arrive at Rattlesnake Canyon (end of the road), pack loaded with food and water. The route heads into a wash flanked by rolling hills on the right and a huge rock wall on the left.
9:34 Just past a mile in, prickly thorn bushes grow all over the trail used to test Gregory packs for abrasion resistance. See climbers on a couple of the canyon's hidden routes.
10:05 As the wash peters out, scramble up rocks on the right. Hawks soar overhead; lizards scurry and snakes slither into the shade.
11:31 Reach the top of the scramble; enjoy an apple and a huge turkey sandwich packed by wife, Suzsy.
12:18 After lunch, head down the wash on the other side (still off-trail, but it's obvious which way to go).
1:03 Back at the campground, clean up any scrapes, assess the packs' performance, and crank up the MSR SimmerLite for famous secret-recipe slow-cooked seafood chowder.
2:58 While chowder simmers, walk around campground and chat with other hikers.
6:05 Dinner's on at sunset. The warm chowder offsets the desert's rapid cooling.