To Bishop! A 248 Mile Detour

We headed out of Short Canyon kicking dust up as we went down the dirt trail. As if we were saying “so long and thanks for everything!” We knew our destination was way out of the way, but sometimes when you are having so much fun on the road, you just don’t care. You go for it, and so we did. As we got back onto the 395 and we headed north. I think we worried for a bit if we made the right choice. I’ll be honest, a little doubt sunk into my mind, and I’m always up for a spontaneous adventure. Yet, the more I thought about it, the better I felt. It’s just an extra four hours, I said to myself. We can do this!20160331_164242_Richtone(HDR)

After driving for a half hour we started to see the basalt flows and the red cinder cone fast approaching in the distance. We instantaneously knew we had to make a quick stop at Fossil Falls. If you are ever traveling through California and on the 395, and you want to stretch your legs and see something cool. Then you must make a stop here. The basalt flows were shaped and changed from rivers and glaciers, making the rock here smooth and polished with large potholes. It’s really cool to see the large holes and the sudden drop in the rock. It looks like a waterfall made up of rock. To the north of the fields you’ll see a large red cone, called a cinder cone. It’s an extinct volcano! How cool is that?! Okay enough geeking out about rocks, onto the adventure!  IMG_20160402_223051

20160331_150416_Richtone(HDR)After leaving Fossil Falls we kept traveling north, anxiously anticipating are arrival at Erick Schat’s. Even though we were pressed for time, we still made random stops off the road. Just so that we could stop and appreciate the glorious Sierra Nevada Mountains. I swear if you ever get the chance to see them in the afternoon light, you will feel in awe and humbled by their presence. There is no other way to describe their glory. It’s something you have to just witness with your own eyes. Only then will you know what truth I am telling you. Only then will you have your breath taken away. 20160331_160415

After we arrived in Bishop, we pulled into Schat’s where we got whatever bread we could and then we were off, back on the road. Enjoying our bounty of bread and the open road, we felt good, joyous even. I think it was this time that really made the trip. Sure we saw some of nature’s grand spectacles and have had a blast up to this point. But now we were having a carpool karaoke session and it was absolutely fantastic! We totally got into the moment and it nearly lasted the whole ride home. I don’t think I have ever had so much fun driving home as I did on that trip. We sang, we danced, we ate, and we took pictures of the setting sun behind the Sierras. It was magical. I almost didn’t want it to end. It was one of those rare beautiful moments that you share with a person. Those rare moments that you will keep forever, wherever you go. Those are my favorite moments. Those are the moments that I hope to always have on all of my adventures.  20160331_185644_Richtone(HDR)

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Comfortly Uncomfortable: Part 2 of A Trip to Death Valley

It’s early and the light of the soon to be rising sun is beginning to breech the inside of the tent. The night was cold, and I can’t wait to greet the sun like a loved one that I haven’t seen in a long time. The agenda for today is a big one, and we will be making our way into the National Park, so sleeping in is not an option. I sit up still zipped up in my sleeping bag and take in a deep breath of the cold morning air. I struggle briefly trying to find the zipper that will set me free. I get out of my sleeping bag, and step out of the tent to get my boots on. I stand and marvel at the horizon to the east, as the deep blue night sky begins to lighten and be intruded on by orange, red and pinks. Soon we will be on our way.20141120_060159

I love traveling on dusty beat up roads. There is just something about them that makes the driving experience feel like, well an experience. The bumps and dips, the rattle of the vehicle as it moves over the rocks that have migrated onto the road. The trail of dust we leave in our wake acts as if it were masking our departure from the rest of the world; sort of like saying don’t follow me, find your own way. Yes dusty dirt roads are harsh and probably shouldn’t be driven on all the time, but you really need to do it once in awhile. Get out of your comfort zone as much as possible, and in the end you will find comfort at every turn.

20141122_095021We travel through through the desert making stops along the way and taking in the scenery that this beautiful desert has to offer. We make a stop at Badwater Basin and Devil’s Golf Course to see the salt flats and salt structures. Much to my surprise I seem to be able to meet new people whenever I travel. If anything I suspected that my rugged beard would drive people away. Yet I always seem to be approached by someone. Whether it is a kind elderly person or an enthusiastic college aged person I seem to attract them. I enjoy talking to strangers, and they seem to enjoy talking to me just as much, or even more. I meet a ready to retire Geology teacher and talked with him for a bit at Badwater and a group of college kids from USC at Devil’s Golf Course, and another Older gentleman and Lady at the Hot Springs in Tecopa the evening before. 20141122_105754Each one had something fascinating to share. For Instance the Tecopa people were big time rock hounds and talked about their extensive collection from all over. The Old Geologist in Badwater talked about his time being a teacher and how much he loved it. Two of the USC kids were from France and I talked briefly to them about the geology of the area and how it all formed. After all, even though I’m an adventurer I am still an amateur scientist.

20141122_161307As the afternoon came upon us we found ourselves in Mosaic Canyon. This place is absolutely fantastic! It’s one of my favorite places in Death Valley. As you walk into the mouth of the canyon you are greeted by magnificent sloping and narrow path. The marble is smooth and polished from years of flash flooding. The path meanders through the rock, with each turn revealing a beautiful story in front of your eyes. When you begin to enter the upper Canyon, your eyes will be in for a treat as there is a great view of the mountains ahead. I decided to make may up a small slope to get a better view of the canyon ahead. Once I was at the top I noticed my friend had climbed a steep slope up to a peak. I watched and hope I wouldn’t seem him fall. It wasn’t a designated trail and there didn’t appear to be an easy way up, but he reached the top fast and safely.

When he returned back to the bottom, I asked how was it, and he said it was pretty 20141122_141354easy. He showed me pictures of the view from up there and I knew I had to go up there and see it for myself. It’s one thing to enjoy another person’s beautiful pictures, it’s another thing to experience the view for yourself. Now, I’m afraid of heights and this trek was going to be walking straight up a steep slope with no room for error. I decided to leave my daypack so I would have a natural center of gravity, and once I filled my canteen we were off. This slope was comprised mainly of Noonday Dolomite and much to my surprise it was very easy to walk on. It was strenuous because you are walking straight up, but it’s easy because your not slipping and sliding, it’s like you are Spider-Man. It took me a bit to get comfortable while walking up. I kept wanting to get low to crawl, even though I didn’t need to. I didn’t even want to really take any pictures because I thought I would fall back and down.

Once near the top though, was a different story. The rock here was scree and it was 100 times harder to move through. You have to watch your footing on rock like this, because your not sure what is loose and what can really support you, and one wrong move and you will slip and tumble down the slope to the ground below. At the top I took a big sigh of relief as I had finally made it up safely. The view from the top was everything I expected and more. Every direction I looked was breathtaking. The colors of the rock sung as the sun’s light reflected off it. The blue sky stretched on and on beyond the mountains. It was incredible, I was overjoyed to be there at that moment. Images of incredible beauty and the serenity in the moment is what I love most about being on top of peaks. I love to sit there and look at that horizon, and dream of chasing it for the rest of my life.20141122_142219

Going Solo in Joshua Tree National Park

It’s Tuesday Afternoon and after getting some more bad news, I decided to take the only medicine that ever does me any good. A trip to clear my head. A couple of days alone in nature should be just enough to get me feeling like myself again. I start packing up my things in the back of my truck. I’m not taking a lot, but I’m not going ultra light either. I take my day pack, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, chair and food and water for 3 days. As I load up my truck, I keep asking myself “Is this enough?” and then I ask myself “Is it too much?” I don’t want to take too much, but then again I don’t want to take everything either. I finally decide that it’s the perfect amount. I close my truck up, thinking that tomorrow I set off on an adventure.

The next day when I arrive at the Park. I decided to enter from the North and make my way down south to my planned campsite. The best thing about doing this mid week is that there is hardly anyone here. The campsites are practically empty, and there is blissful stillness in the park that is only broken by the occasional speeding car. I spent my first day near the Jumbo Rocks campground. The surrounding area is absolutely fantastic. I found small little trails that lead me near the large rock outcrops. Once I got close to the rock I decided to scramble up to the top. There are no words that describe how much I love scrambling. It makes me feel so alive to move up the rock, and the slight danger factor really gets the blood flowing.

After spending the better part of the day hiking and scrambling, I decided to head out in order to make camp before sun down. I had made the decision to stay on a patch of BLM land that is located a few miles outside of the park. While there are some wonderful campsites located inside the park, I really felt like roughing it and being isolated on this trip. There was no surprise when I arrived to an empty camp lot. Not a soul was in sight, which was great news to me, as this is what I wanted. I pitched my tent and as the sun sank in the distance I started a fire.

The night sky was simply stunning that night. The Milky Way stretched over my head and extended beyond the horizon. The stars glittered and shined in every direction. Growing up in an area with a lot of light pollution, you don’t get to see the stars like this. It’s great to have opportunities like this to see the night sky with little light pollution. Every time I see the stars, it’s like I’m looking at home. I see my family and friends in those stars, and it comforts me.

The next day, I decided to hike into the park. I wanted to have a really long hike and I figured this was the best way to do so. I had enough water and I knew of a Ranger Station where I could refill my hydropack so I wasn’t worry about not having enough water. I should have paid closer attention to the map before deciding on this course of action.20141113_103300 As I didn’t realize I made a mistake of underestimating the distance of the hike. I thought I was only about 4 miles away, when in fact I was around 6.5 miles away from the Ranger Station. That hike in took most of my morning, and as the days grow shorter, every minute really does count. Still it wasn’t that bad and after a short break at the station I headed towards Mastodon  Peak Trail. I was told the trails where well marked, but it didn’t appear to be so. Now don’t get me wrong, I love exploring, I love taking the beaten path and such, but when you have already hiked about 8 miles, you really just want to know where you are going.

It was literally a few feet after the trail head, when I couldn’t tell which way to go. The map from the station was not detailed enough to show the path clearly, so I did what I usually do when I don’t know which way to go. I followed the footsteps in the sand. I did this for about a half mile until the foot steps lead to the road. Great, now I either can backtrack or press on and see if I could find the trail again. I decided to press on, and shortly I found a trail marker not to far from where I was at. I scrambled up to the marker and thought finally I’m on the trail everything is going to be good. About 50 feet later I realize that I’m not on the path again. Seriously, this never happens to me. I backtrack again until I find the trail again. I scanned the area to see which way I should go next. That is when I saw a little stub of a post poking out of the ground. It didn’t look natural so I made my way towards it. The little stub only poked out by about  8 inches and it had worn out painted arrows on it. So now I knew I was surely on the trail.

I thought it was rather odd for a trail marker to be so small and so low to the ground. If you were not looking at the ground, you could easily miss it. Not to mention some parts of the trail looked washed out from recent flash floods making it hard to see any distinguishing trail marks. It was a bit annoying but then I remembered reading a post on the information wall, that due to recent increases of vandalism the rangers who would usually be working on maintaining the trails were now removing graffiti. So now when I can’t find the trail I just get upset at taggers for defacing the environment , which in turn causes the trails to deteriorate.

I eventually made my way up to Mastodon Peak. It was magnificent.  It wasn’t really that high up, but all of those rock structures poking out of the ground, much like a whale breaching the surface of the ocean, were incredible and beautiful. Rocks always have an interesting story to tell, and these were no exception. I scrambled up a structure that looked like it overlooked the trail. Near the top were crevices that separated the rocks. Now I’m afraid of heights, and of getting hurt, so what do I do? I jump across the crevices, of course. I then sat at the top and soaked in the view for as long as I could.

The sun was beginning to get low in the sky and I still had a long hike to camp, so I started heading back. As I walked out of the park and through the mountain ranges I knew it would be dark before I reached camp. The temperature was starting to drop, and I was still a good five miles away from camp. That is when someone who was driving by, stopped and asked if I was lost. I informed the man that I wasn’t, just making my way to camp. He offered to give me a ride if I needed it, and considering the alternate would be walking the next few miles in the cold dark, I decided to accept the offer. His name was Jose and he helped me out in a big way. Thanks to him I got to my camp before dark. It was going to be my last night camping here, and I was already pretty tired from all the hiking from the past two days. Doing that last five miles would have really been something that I didn’t want to have to do.

As a sat by the fire I reflected on the past week. The ups, the downs, and all the craziness that life likes to throw at us. It didn’t feel as bad anymore. I knew the sun was going to rise tomorrow and with the new day, will come new opportunities and another chance to make things right.20141113_054038