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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.