Posts Tagged ‘Road Trip 2005’
Posted at 5:45 pm, Wednesday, April 20th, 2005
Back home, at least for a day. Showers are awesome.
Per the request of Mr. Gallaway I’ve added a comment counter to each journal entry so that it is now possible to tell if I’ve written anything bone-headed enough that someone felt the need to comment on it. Click on the Comments link on the top right of any journal entry to read or post comments. As a side note, if the site now looks broken for anyone, please let me know as the way the counter was done is a bit wacky.
A few new photos from the last few weeks are also online in the American West photogallery. A larger gallery with many more horrible attempts at photography is also online.
Posted at 10:15 pm, Monday, April 18th, 2005
Shortly after I had curled up in the back of the Subaru and fallen asleep last night another car came down the road, parked right next to me, and two guys started setting up camp. Bearing in mind that we were the only two vehicles in the national forest, and also keeping in mind that there were numerous other places where camping was possible, I was a bit perturbed at the breach of privacy. Certain places in this world — examples include camping spots, urinals, and elevators — all have unwritten rules of occupation, violations of which are so unexpected that the brain really has no response except to think “but you just don’t do that…”
This morning I arrived at Bryce as the sun was breaking the horizon, and the clouds parted long enough to grab a few photos. I was a bit curious about Ebenezer Bryce, who the park was named for, but learned only that he was known to have described his canyon as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”.
Made a brief trip through Zion, including a trek up a small peak that I’m sure my mother would have preferred me to skip. Ate a quick dinner in Vegas, and should be home sometime tomorrow afternoon, barring surprise sidetrips.
Bryce Canyon at Sunrise.
Posted at 8:35 pm, Sunday, April 17th, 2005
I slept like a baby on valium last night, and as a result missed the sunrise yet again. Tomorrow I have the alarm set, and I will be there to see the sun come up over Bryce Canyon. This is one of those stake in the ground, girded with iron type of declarations, therefore it’s almost guaranteed that it will be too cloudy tomorrow morning to see anything.
Spent the morning in Capitol Reef National Park and the evening in Bryce Canyon National Park, meeting several interesting folks in the process. One really nice fellow from Minnesota filled me in on how great it was to be retired because now he had the time to take two weeks and make a (leisurely) drive from Minnesota to see California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Another fellow from France couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that my French has deteriorated to the point were I can barely put a sentence together, and had me muttering what must have been utter nonsense for ten minutes. The plan is to spend at least tomorrow in Bryce, and from there it’s off towards home, most likely with a few unplanned stops along the way.
Posted at 8:00 pm, Saturday, April 16th, 2005
The day’s highlights:
- Checked out the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, although since most of the hikes were of the “two thousand feet down, then two thousand back up” variety I opted out of the full canyon experience.
- Overheard at a view point: “And I’m thinkin’, how in the hell did he know I was gonna order chicken? And he jus’ looks at me and says ‘Boy, everyone in this joint knew when you walked in that door that you was orderin’ yo’self some chicken.’”
- Passed a sign along I-70: “No services next 110 miles”. That’s got to be a record for the interstate highway system.
- Drove to the oddly named Capitol Reef National Park, which was created to protect some geologic fault thing that is apparently the rock equivalent of Spanish Fly if you’re into geology. More to my liking were the badlands outside of the park, which look like something that should be seen only in photos of other planets.
Posted at 9:55 pm, Friday, April 15th, 2005
6:45 AM: the alarm goes off. I’m awake, but I’m also in a bed for the first time in a week, and it’s really comfortable. Plus, there’s a shower ten feet away softly whispering that cleanliness is such a nice feeling. I wish I could say that I fought the good fight, but there aren’t going to be any sunrise pictures from Arches National Park on this trip. After lounging around and then doing laundry I got to the park in the late afternoon and spent the time roaming the Devil’s Garden area, including a bit of scrambling on the cliffs with two guys from Wyoming. Aaron is graduating from paramedic school next Thursday, so from here on it looks like it’s going to be a slow journey homewards.
Posted at 8:50 pm, Thursday, April 14th, 2005
One of my brother’s high school classmates has apparently earned his fifteen minutes of fame due to his desire to mock academic groups that accept papers too easily. Jeremy Stribling and two friends wrote a computer program to generate a paper consisting of semi-random gibberish and got it accepted to a conference. Story from CNN.
Posted at 8:40 pm, Thursday, April 14th, 2005
I did my utmost to get up before sunrise, but it just wasn’t happening. Luckily Delicate Arch was still free of visitors when I arrived at 8:00 AM. Later in the day while visiting Double Arch I ran into a college group that I had seen in Canyonlands yesterday, and we hung out under the arches, enjoying the sun and talking about everything from golfing at the South Pole to local geology (despite my obviously immense knowledge, I let them do most of the talking on that one). The remainder of the day was spent crashed out in a hotel doing my best to scrub off a week of accumulated dirt. Clean is good.
Posted at 9:25 pm, Wednesday, April 13th, 2005
Spent the day hiking, getting my butt completely kicked by the terrain in the process. I’d only been planning an eleven mile hike to see Druid Arch, but the landscape was so incredible that the voices in my head convinced me to take the long way back. Everywhere I went was amazing, with rock formations that looked other-worldly and fissures that at times were barely wide enough to fit through (I got stuck once and had to wriggle around to get loose). A trail through one of these fissures went on for nearly a half mile, and for the majority of it the walls were only three feet wide and at least thirty feet high. Why Canyonlands National Park isn’t a more popular place is baffling.
The downside of extending an eleven mile hike into a seventeen mile hike is that I didn’t bring enough water, and during the last four miles the question of whether I was stumbling due to tiredness or if it was a sign that I might pass out soon was of some concern. I made it back to the parking area without incident, so all ended well. Dinner was cold canned soup, something I thought I’d never eat again after the Alaska trip, but I was hungry, and it was damn good.
Posted at 8:05 pm, Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
In fairness to the guy in the Humvee he did decide to continue down the road, although he didn’t make it to the end. For my part, after three miles I parked the car, got out, and joined two other people who were laughing at the “road” ahead. During its final four miles the road traveled up and over rocky outcroppings that I might have hesitated to traverse on a mountain bike; anyone with less than a foot of clearance would not have been able to drive it, and even with a ton of clearance it would still be pretty dicey. I ended up hiking the last four miles, and along the way saw numerous places where the rock was scraped and dented — one can only imagine what the underside of the truck that made each mark looked like.
The hike itself was great as the scenery here is like nowhere else, with huge numbers of rugged canyons and crazy rock formations. The road ended at an overlook that dropped hundreds of feet straight down to the Colorado River, and I had it all to myself. The only downside of the day is that the sun was blazing, and if skin cancer isn’t cured in the next twenty years I’ll probably be in a lot of trouble. I’m going to stick around for at least one more day and plan to do some hiking tomorrow, and also to get a look at what a park brochure describes as “one of the most technical four-wheel drive roads in Utah” (today’s road is described as “moderate”).
Posted at 11:20 am, Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
In the interest of not boring people to death I normally try to keep the journal entries to a minimum, but since I’m also writing this stuff down for my own benefit I think this one was worth recording. First, it needs to be known that I hate Humvees. In my perfect world I would live in a house built by Frank Lloyd Wright and engineering would follow the mantra that the simplest solution to completely solve the problem is the best. Sadly, in the real world society has been convinced by a bunch of smart advertising execs that a hulking behemoth on wheels is the ultimate status symbol. I admit that they do look cool, but in the same way that a tank looks cool — I don’t particularly want to share the road with either.
What precipitated this posting was a guy in a Humvee on one of the backcountry roads in Canyonlands National Park. I was warned that the Subaru wouldn’t have enough clearance to traverse the road, so of course I ignored that advice and set out. After I pulled over to admire a view, the guy drove up next to me and stopped to chat. During the conversation he made the comment that he was thinking about turning around, heading back to Moab to rent a Jeep, and then returning because (wait for it…) he didn’t want to scratch his paint. The excuse always given for Humvees is that you can take them anywhere; the not-so-manly caveat is apparently that you can take them anywhere unless there is a chance of harming the pretty exterior.
Posted at 9:25 am, Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
My already limited mental capacity was further diminished due to tiredness last night, so here’s another take on yesterday. The Valley of the Gods was a scenic spot, although the name may have been a bit overdramatic; compared to the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley, a place named the Valley of the Gods has a lot to live up to.
The end of the road through the valley eventually led me to Natural Bridges National Monument, which unsurprisingly was the home of three really impressive natural bridges. I opted to see the bridges from the eight mile hike through the canyons, and whether due to the sun, the sandy terrain, or whatever, the hike kicked my butt. Very worthwhile, but seldom has a person ever been so glad to sit on his ass as I was after getting back to the Subaru.
Towards dinner time I passed through the first decent-sized town that I’ve seen in a while, and thought a Subway sandwich sounded like a good dinner option. HUGE mistake. I should have been warned when it took a few minutes to prepare to make my sandwich (plastic gloves are tricky little things, ya know), but cash register operation was another matter entirely.
“Do you want a combo?”
“OK, your total is $7.21.”
My first mistake: “Um, it says on the menu that the combo costs $5.89.”
“Yes, and then plus drink and chips, the total is $7.21.” (Note to self: in the future, run away when presented with logic like this)
“But doesn’t the combo include drink and chips? Otherwise why would I want the combo?”
“Yes, I added drink and chips, so the total is $7.21.”
My second mistake: “OK, actually could I just get the sandwich then? No combo?”
After tons of deliberation over how to change an order: “OK, that’s $5.21.”
My third mistake: I hand her $20.21.
After more deliberation that required calling a co-worker: “I think I messed up, and now I don’t know how much change to give.”
(Incredulously) “I’m pretty sure the change is $15.00.”
Many moons later, sandwich in hand, I ran away as fast as my little legs would carry me.
Posted at 9:25 pm, Monday, April 11th, 2005
So tired… this morning I woke up in the Valley of the Gods, made a stop in Natural Bridges National Monument, melted portions of my brain in the sun while hiking several miles, survived a debacle while getting dinner at Subway, attempted to re-establish contact with the outside world, and then spent an inordinately long time looking for a spot where I could park for the evening without being bothered. I’ll elaborate later, but at the moment my left eye is already shut, and my right eye is campaigning loudly to be allowed to join its brethren.
Sipapu Natural Bridge.
Posted at 8:25 pm, Sunday, April 10th, 2005
Tonight’s camping spot is another unexpected destination, but with a name like “Valley of the Gods” it seemed like a place not to be missed. Spent the entire day in Monument Valley, which was impressive (as expected). Unfortunately the Navajo don’t permit any travel except on the park road, so there was no hiking or quiet moments. Nonetheless, there were numerous opportunities for photos, although with my usual skill I seem to have botched the vast majority of them.
Shortly after this picture was taken the wind blew the camera over, and I spent the next ten minutes climbing down a cliff to retrieve the (broken) lens.
Posted at 7:35 pm, Saturday, April 9th, 2005
A whiteout this morning thwarted plans of hiking in Navajo National Monument, and intermittent squalls throughout the rest of the day pretty much curtailed all activity. At present I’m parked for the evening behind a group of empty souvenir stands (“Stop here! Friendly Indians!”) on an overlook that should provide a very memorable sunrise if the Monument Valley weather cooperates.
Posted at 9:10 pm, Friday, April 8th, 2005
As punishment for staying in a hotel last night the travel gods filled the next room with guys who felt the need to share their love of bad music with the other hotel guests until nearly midnight, and then repeat the stunt at 6:00 this morning. Luckily the joys of being able to shower offset this annoyance, making bloodshed unnecessary. Once on the road this morning the plan was to head northeast towards Mesa Verde, but a picture on the wall of a Jiffy Lube diverted me to the west and towards Monument Valley. One change of destination was apparently not enough, and somehow I finished the day in Navajo National Monument. The latest plan is to head to Monument Valley for sunset tomorrow, but at this point it’s anyone’s guess as to where I actually end up.
Posted at 9:30 pm, Thursday, April 7th, 2005
After some early morning hiking across the lava flows and a trip into town to pick up fresh batteries I returned to Junction Cave to do some exploring. The cave isn’t particularly long, but it was tough going and took nearly two hours for the round-trip. To reach the end of the cave required squirming through a tunnel less than three feet high that was so damp that my breath caused the air to begin filling with fog. On the return trip I stopped, shut off my flashlight, and sat down to experience the complete lack of light and see what tricks my mind might play on me. After a few minutes I started seeing really bright flashes that would pulse in and out, but after about five minutes of enjoying this trippy display I finally realized my brain was fine and that someone else was in the cave and I was seeing reflected light from their flashlight.
A late afternoon visit to El Morro National Monument completed the day. That park was created to preserve what is basically four hundred years worth of graffiti on the sandstone cliffs, but the hike to the top of the cliffs was more to my liking. I’ve committed the sin of getting a hotel room for the night, and can only justify the decision by stating that a shower makes the breach of road trip protocol so very worthwhile.
Self-portrait in Junction Cave.
Posted at 7:55 pm, Wednesday, April 6th, 2005
New Mexico’s Finest refrained from pressing vagrancy charges last night, so it was sweet dreams until the sun came up. El Malpais (“Badlands”) National Monument was a short distance from my sleeping spot, and I arrived fairly early. The park sits in the midst of several ancient volcanic cones and lava flows and has an extensive network of caves created from lava tubes, the largest of which is supposedly seventeen miles long. Hiking through one of these tubes was a dicey affair as the floor of the cave was covered with boulders and difficult to navigate, and the batteries of my tiny flashlight were fading fast. Sadly, just as it was becoming dark enough that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face common sense prevailed and I turned around; a return trip tomorrow, with fresh batteries, is likely.
Most of the afternoon was spent in the east side of the park taking photos. In the midst of my Ansel Adams impersonations I ran into two guys standing on a cliff’s edge, with one guy educating his friend on everything from lava formations to tsunamis to photographic equipment. What made this conversation interesting was that the guy spoke with utter conviction, but was wrong on nearly every subject. From a lava flow’s ability to mummify people (rock and metal are toast in the face of a lava flow, but apparently organic tissue is special) to the fact that one hundred years ago all cameras took three hours to snap a photo (imagine portrait photographers: “now hold really still”) the entertainment value of this conversation made it hugely difficult not to eavesdrop. The only downside of the encounter was the fact that his poor friend will no doubt be passing along a newfound wealth of misinformation.
Posted at 10:40 pm, Tuesday, April 5th, 2005
Yesterday’s winds topped out between sixty and seventy miles per hour, so it wasn’t such a bad idea to spend most of it inside of the car reading. With the weather calmer today the camera and I roamed about Petrified Forest National Park from sunrise until sunset, during which time the scalp was quite cooked in the desert sun. After leaving the park I crossed into New Mexico, and have spent the last hour trying to find a place to sleep — the need for a shower and the fact that the dome has gone from being bald and badass to fuzzy and not nearly so badass was almost enough of an excuse to pay for a hotel, but the call of the road prevailed and I’m instead parked alongside a highway onramp; trucks park on these things all the time, so hopefully the New Mexico Highway Patrol won’t feel the need to interrupt my slumber.
Petrified log in Blue Mesa.
Posted at 7:30 pm, Monday, April 4th, 2005
Insane winds were blowing so strongly that I felt the need to always set the emergency brake when parking today, and any attempts at hiking became survival exercises due to the dust and sand whipping in the winds. As a result the day was mostly a non-event, and the Subaru is spending the night next to the park gate with the hope that things will calm tomorrow and allow some exploring.
Posted at 9:05 pm, Sunday, April 3rd, 2005
As is the norm there was much eating while visiting Caitlin, and in between meals we also squeezed in a showing of Sin City, which was a completely watchable flick. I think I’m now headed up towards Petrified Forest National Park, although I tend to get easily sidetracked so the next stop could just as easily be in Manitoba or Delaware. On a side note, with no moon the stargazing from these mountains is awesome.
Posted at 5:50 pm, Saturday, April 2nd, 2005
Woke up near Palm Springs and then headed off towards Tucson, and I continued to be a magnet for police activity along the way — outside of Phoenix two highway patrol cars had pulled over a truck, with one officer using his gun to cover the driver. The driver decided to take off, causing the officers to rush back to their cruisers. The fact that the two-lane highway was bumper-to-bumper was apparently not conducive to the driver’s escape plans, so he abruptly ended the chase before I had to take evasive maneuvers with the Subaru.
Spent the afternoon hiking in Saguaro National Park, although most of the time was spent attempting not to spontaneously combust in the heat. How anyone lives here without bursting into flame is truly a mystery. I’m off to dinner with a friend, and the plan is to do a lot less driving over the next few days while visiting some of the sights down here.
Posted at 8:40 pm, Friday, April 1st, 2005
Most of December, January and February went by with little of note occurring, and then today I rambled all over Pinnacles National Monument, witnessed a bank robbery, hung out with elephant seals, and then navigated the Humvee jungle that is Los Angeles; in one day I may have burned up my quota of excitement for the next few months.
The day tried to start at 4:30, but the snooze button was too great of a temptation and I wasn’t on the road until 5:30. Luckily I was still the first car to arrive at Pinnacles, and had the High Peaks trail all to myself. After leaving the park and heading back towards the highway I decided to stop and check the map, and while pulling into a parking lot noticed a police officer with a semiautomatic rifle doing his best Platoon imitation as he ran behind a sign and then took aim at a nearby bank. My brain was operating in slow mode (as usual) and it was only after driving past that it occurred to me that something wasn’t right about what I had just seen. Making a loop around the lot, I returned in time to see two other officers handcuffing two men in suits, with two large gym bags sitting incongruously next to them. Rambo continued to cover the scene with his hand cannon while the folks inside of the bank watched the proceedings with an understandably varied array of facial expressions.
I called Aaron to tell him my little Bonnie and Clyde tale, but he of course trumped it with the stories of a horrific motorcycle pileup that he oversaw during his paramedic rotation last night. Following several more hours of driving I ended up in Piedras Blancas with the elephant seals, although seeing them arrayed on the beach a “safe” distance from the many inquisitive tourists was a much different experience than having them try to eat me while in St. Andrew’s Bay on South Georgia. The night is finishing up in a Starbucks in Los Angeles, and more than likely I’ll end up asleep in a rest stop somewhere between here and Arizona.
Posted at 12:15 am, Wednesday, March 30th, 2005
Despite my lack of photographic mojo I’ve put a handful of photos from the last couple of weeks online in the American West gallery. Only the first dozen or so are new, the rest are from past trips. If you have tons of free time and want to see lots of bad photos, there is also a larger gallery available.
Posted at 9:45 am, Saturday, March 26th, 2005
Overheard last night:
- “Dude, I’m telling you, if you go up there they’re gonna send someone up these stairs on a Honda motorcycle to siphon kick you in the neck.”
- “What if you had third nipples, but they were telepathic?”
- “Pointing is so underrated.”
- “You better watch what you say, the bald dude looks like he has a lot of anger inside of him.”
Posted at 8:35 pm, Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005
An inch of snow on the ground, winds so strong that standing up was difficult, and occasional hail and snow skuttled the idea of hiking today. Instead the Subaru ambled along from the South Rim through the Navajo Reservation and up into southwestern Utah. I actually got caught in a sandstorm at one point along the route, which was a first for me (who knew that clouds turn pink during a sandstorm?).
Despite the fact that a large part of my brain really wants to spend some time in New Mexico and perhaps continue across the country, I’m now on my way back to the Bay Area to join friends and family for Easter. Being away always makes it more clear how important it is to spend time with the people who matter, and with a bunch of folks coming into town for the weekend the right choice is to make sure I’m there as well. I’ve got a friend in Tucson who I’ve promised to visit, so I’ll be back on the road before long, although tomorrow will likely be the last full day of this portion of the trip.
Posted at 6:40 pm, Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005
U2′s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” seems to be the theme for this trip, and I had it on repeat for about four hours while driving through the desert east of Joshua Tree. I decided to take the secondary roads instead of the interstate, and it was a good choice — the desert out there is the type of place where time and distance blur, such that you don’t know if you’ve been traveling for one hour or six, and it was a good time to think.
By the time I reached the Grand Canyon clouds had set in, but I still managed a bit of hiking. I’m hoping to hike the Kaibab trail tomorrow, although the forecast is for rain, which wouldn’t be ideal. My eating habits have been abysmal thus far on the trip, but tonight I decided that the possibility of a tough hike warranted a good dinner. Stopping at a cafeteria I discovered that the old Mexican woman manning the “South of the Border” station was totally hooking people up with the portions — plates were literally overflowing when she handed them back. The drool was probably evident by the time I got to the front of the line, at which point a Thai girl stepped in to take my order and made me a burrito the size of an egg roll; the Gods continue to mock me.
In other news, I shaved the dome again today. In the span of four days I’ve gone from being a guy whose hair was thinning at a young age to being a badass who inspires mothers to stand protectively over their children; I’m digging the change.
The Grand Canyon from the South Rim.
Posted at 6:50 pm, Monday, March 21st, 2005
I spent last night and the full day today in Joshua Tree National Park, which is a place where I usually manage at least one odd experience per visit. The first time I came here was while driving cross-country back in 1997, and at an out-of-the-way trail deep in the park I ran into one of my teammates from the school track team who just happened to be on his way to the Rose Bowl. On a more recent visit I was drifting off to sleep but looked up just in time to see a bobcat perfectly outlined in the moonlight. The strangest experience I’ve had here was on yet another visit while out for a run — during the run two coyotes decided to trot along with me, and kept pace with me about twenty feet to my left for a short time.
Today I roamed all over the park, and on one remote trail noticed what looked like an abandoned mine up on a hill. While scrambling up the rocks towards the entrance I heard a rattling noise that few people will ever hear, but most people would immediately recognize; the snake was only about four feet long, but he was stretched across the trail perhaps six feet ahead of me. Being the genius that I am I took a step closer, at which point his rattle went into overdrive while he slowly slithered off into some nearby rocks. Yet another memorable moment to add to the list.
Posted at 3:45 pm, Sunday, March 20th, 2005
As expected, the Salton Sea is one of the oddest places I’ve ever visited. For those unfamiliar with the history of the place, it goes something like this: a long time ago an engineer added two plus two and got five, and then smacked his head and yelled “DOH!” as a series of levees burst and the Colorado River spent from 1905 until 1907 flooding a desert valley. Since the average elevation of the valley was more than two hundred feet below sea level the water had no where to drain to, and the resulting lake was about thirty miles long and ten miles wide; all in all this was one of the more noticeable engineering failures in U.S. history.
People, being people, thought the idea of a giant freshwater lake in the desert was a pretty cool idea, so the area quickly became a popular recreation spot. Farmers, being farmers, thought having a huge water source available was a pretty cool idea, so farms started springing up around the lake. Between the detritus of tourism and the runoff from agriculture, the freshwater lake became not so fresh. Eventually the lake reached a point where the adjective “pungent” became appropriate, something that does not normally jive with tourism. As a result, what had been a booming vacation spot was suddenly not-so-booming, and today Salton City is a ghost-town wannabe on the shore of a lake of yellow-brownish saltwater.
From the summary it wouldn’t seem like this is a spot worth visiting, but I’ve kind of been curious about it for a long time now. Arriving this morning the first thing I thought is that the lake is huge, and the second is that the lake is nasty. I wouldn’t set foot in the water even if well-paid, and was even nervous about getting mud on my boots while hiking. The flip side is that migratory birds have no idea that this place should be declared a Superfund site, and tons of different species spend time here.
Another worthwhile part of this visit was the feeling while driving around Salton City. The place is eerie enough to be well worth experiencing; roads have been built with hopeful names like “Pelican Bay Rd” and “Flamingo Ave”, yet they have obviously not seen any repair work in decades, and most lead to nowhere. Large areas have been parceled out for homes, streets are neatly divided into blocks, but while there are a few fabulous vacation homes, most lots are empty with aging real estate signs posted in them. Since no one is buying in Salton City, once the current residents either leave or die then all that will be left is the ghost of what was once a booming vacation town.
Posted at 9:05 pm, Saturday, March 19th, 2005
A very good day, despite the fact that by the end of it my hair had gone missing.
Audra, me, and my bald head.
Posted at 7:20 pm, Friday, March 18th, 2005
Thus far today I’ve been asked for money twice, once in a gas station by a girl wearing clothes that were nicer than mine, and once outside of the grocery store by a guy who already had a handful of quarters. At the laundromat a bum was cursing at each person who walked in while he rolled joints from a beef jerky bag filled with pot and occasionally (incoherently) threatened a tiny dog who was wrestling with a stale piece of pita bread. I’m now in a Starbucks with no less than two tables of people having some sort of organized counseling session, while the girl at the table next to me is writing something that makes numerous references to the “Dark Lord” — I hope it’s just a screenplay. The evening promises at least a small improvement, although I’ve already been warned that the friend I’m going to dinner with may have a stalker following her.
Whatever else you might say about it, at least Los Angeles is never dull. Also, apologies for not visiting everyone here, but since the trip route is sort of spur-of-the-moment I didn’t know I was coming until late last night, and didn’t want to make a lot of rushed plans. Next time.
Posted at 7:00 pm, Thursday, March 17th, 2005
The skies were overcast in Death Valley today, so I slept in until seven and then took my time heading out of the park. Amazingly, Badwater Basin is completely flooded — I was mystified, as what was previously a bone dry salt flat was suddenly a lake several miles long and a few miles wide. The wildflowers near the southern entrance to the park were even more spectacular than elsewhere, but as has been the norm on this trip I didn’t get any pictures that really did them justice.
Came to Vegas for dinner, ate very well, and it now looks like I’ll be heading back to Los Angeles to see a friend. I’ve warned her that she is likely to smell me long before I arrive, so it may be a brief visit.
Posted at 7:20 pm, Wednesday, March 16th, 2005
Woke up at 5:30 this morning and caught the sunrise at 6:00. After taking a few photos I headed over to Golden Canyon, which I’ve somehow never visited despite it being one of the most popular hikes in the park. Explored all over the place, including up and down side canyons, but the highlight was the awesome view from the very end of the trail. On the way back one couple asked me “is it worth it?” — I forget what I told them, but I was thinking that anyone who needed to ask should already know the answer.
The afternoon was spent finding out what a paint shaker feels like as I traveled the world’s most rutted dirt road up to the Racecourse, a dry lakebed in the park’s backcountry. By the end of the drive I was making stops solely for the joy of not feeling my teeth knock together, but the Racecourse turned out to be a nice spot for hiking.
Posted at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, March 15th, 2005
What little photographic mojo I possess is thus far not flowing on this trip, so despite some beautiful scenery I’ve yet to get any really good photos. The rangers are saying that due to the heavy winter rains that this is the best year for wildflowers that anyone can remember, so hopefully tomorrow I’ll recall how exactly the camera is supposed to be used.
The highlight of the day was a hike through Mosaic Canyon, which at times has walls so narrow that a person can barely squeeze through, and so smooth that it can be like climbing porcelain. In past visits I’ve never managed to find a way past a dry waterfall that marks the end of the trail, and so spent a while today scaling ridges and exploring side canyons. Definitely fun, but the waterfall remains an insurmountable barrier.
Other highlights included putting Subaru’s engineering to the test on a four-wheel drive “road”, along which I am camped for the night, and getting buzzed by a navy jet which was flying about a hundred feet off of the ground; luckily I saw him at the last second and covered my ears, otherwise I would probably have spent the afternoon deaf. The plan for the evening is to enjoy the incredible stargazing here, and with a newly-purchased guide to astronomy in hand I’m hoping to learn enough that in the future I’ll be able to point to the sky and say something more intelligent than “that one is called ‘the moon’.”
Wildflowers in Death Valley.
Posted at 10:15 pm, Monday, March 14th, 2005
Spent yesterday morning in Sequoia National Park amongst the giant trees, although God apparently decided to send all of the snow that should have been in Yosemite Valley to Sequoia instead, so hiking opportunities were limited. At around noon a heavy, wet bank of mist rolled in, obscuring visibility so completely that the tops of the trees disappeared from sight. I decided to move south, but after traveling quite some distance got a call informing me that there was a minor matter requiring my attention back home. Now, twenty-four hours and five hundred miles later, I’m back on the road.
Posted at 6:55 pm, Saturday, March 12th, 2005
As expected, I made a mockery of skiing today. After cross-country skiing for little more than a mile, not only was a group on weekend-leave from the local nursing home flying by me, but I had developed blisters on either instep the size of silver dollars. Tucking my tail firmly between my legs I returned back to the trailhead. The afternoon was spent hobbling around Yosemite Valley, with a brief interlude spent talking to a “W-E-L-D-E-R” whose father, Jesus, made the valley. The guy was nice and the conversation was strange enough that it was enjoyable, although one of these days I need to answer the “Have you taken Jesus into your heart?” question in the affirmative and see how far I can take things before I start getting weird looks. $5 says I can at least get as far as a story of me and Jesus shooting pool in Berkeley, although I’m guessing the part where I win the game with a combo into the center pocket and Jesus demands to go double or nothing might draw a few questions.
The weekend crowd and my inability to walk without pain made an escape from Yosemite necessary, so now I’m just outside of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The drive up from Fresno to the park was surprisingly beautiful — the number and variety of wildflowers made me envy the horses in the meadows. Hopefully my nomadic instincts calm a bit and allow me to explore here for at least a day, although I’m guessing tomorrow may see a few more miles added to the odometer.
Posted at 7:00 pm, Friday, March 11th, 2005
Yesterday’s wildlife sightings included a mouse fleeing across the highway. Today’s wildlife sightings included another mouse, although this one was in the process of being swallowed by a coyote. I spent an inordinately long time trying to get a picture of the coyote pouncing on mice (his mouse-catching batting average was one out of ten while I was watching him), but he had an uncanny ability to avoid being photographed. A group of ten deer had no such issues, and having several deer within feet of me provided the rare experience of feeling like wildlife was coming too close to me, rather than vice versa.
I thought it might be different to see Yosemite in winter for once, but was instead greeted by a high temperature of seventy-two degrees, and no snow whatsoever in Yosemite Valley. Baffling. Badger Pass, located at a much higher elevation, is rumored to still have some of the white stuff remaining, so I’ll make a run up there tomorrow and show the world how cross-country skiing was not meant to be done.
Posted at 11:55 pm, Thursday, March 10th, 2005
I don’t understand how time has gone so quickly, but it’s been nearly four months since I got back from the South Georgia trip. Sadly, while I’ve had fun and accomplished a few things, nothing particularly memorable has happened during this time. To all of the millions of people out there doing the nine-to-five (or worse), the idea of not having a life-changing adventure during a four-month break would be inconceivable, so it’s been with somewhat of a feeling of regret/guilt that I’ve been relaxing and working on various side-projects. Things change tonight, however; about two hours ago I set out in the Subaru without much idea of where I’m heading, whether I’m leaving for a week or six months, or what I’m gonna do, but once again life is going to be an adventure.
Bold talk notwithstanding, the adventures have not begun tonight. Aside from six fearless, nocturnal rabbits, this rest stop offers little in the way of excitement. Good thing tomorrow’s a new day.