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Joshua Tree: Centennial Hiking Challenge

In honor of the National Park Service's 100th, visitors are invited to hike 100 miles.

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    Can you trek 100 miles in the high desert before Dec. 31, 2016? Then you're ready for the Centennial Hiking Challenge.

    JOURNEY TO A NATIONAL PARK... during 2016 and you might just see information on various centennial-themed happenings. There's no mystery as to why that is: The National Park Service is turning 100 years old in 2016, and the festivities will be numerous, nature-filled, and nicely celebratory. But not every festivity is about the special speakers and the eats and the usual touchstones of a to-do; sometimes a centennial pursuit is more solitary, and all about the visitor's quiet connection with place. That's some of the spirit behind the Centennial Hiking Challenge at Joshua Tree National Park. A few NPS sites around the land are hosting hike-themed challenges, and they all focus on the ultimate goal. Which is a simple one: Hike (and log) 100 miles in the park before the close of the year. Joshua Tree's notice about the get-out-and-move movement describes it as "a healthy and invigorating challenge to people of all ages." There's a booklet involved -- it is free -- and it includes rambles around the high desert destination, a spot lush with chollas and scrubby wildlife and those epic, epic, epic boulders. (Surely three epics is more than enough to describe the rock-tastic icons of Joshua Tree. No? Not nearly? We concur.)

    SUPERINTENDENT-LED HIKES: To hop on a guided hike, if that's your pleasure, just take a look at this page and find your optimal date. A six-miler is headed out for Monument Mountain on Friday, Feb. 6, while Eagle Peak is the hike for March 5. If you just want to snag a booklet and review the suggested hikes, that's cool, but note that the stickers for the booklet, to show you completed a hike, will come after a ranger signs off on a particular page. Good? Standard? The way it goes? A fine goal for 2016? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Really, though, we're sorry about leaving out all the epics that the epic boulders of Joshua Tree deserve. Do you deserve to spend some time among them in 2016, completing the Centennial Hiking Challenge in honor of the big NPS birthday? (You so do.)