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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Short Canyon = Short Adventure

As we left the Trona Pinnacles and headed out on the lonely 178 into Ridgecrest. I couldn’t believe how surreal things were. The pinnacles and all their splendor still lingered in my mind even though the thought of seeing more desert wildflowers excited me for the days adventure. The geology surrounding the 178 was a sight to see. The rock formations and canyons were excellent, it made it hard for me to look at the map while my friend drove. I’m not sure if it was because I’ve never been here or maybe it was because I don’t fully trust google maps, but we stopped at the BLM Field Office in order to get better directions to Short Canyon, a place that supposedly had some great wildflowers.20160331_121029

After getting some great information and a map at BLM we were off again and this time with a better sense of direction and plan. Even though I received good directions we still missed our exit off the 14, and had to turn around. We blew our exit by a good seven minutes too, but then we saw a Mobil gas station, and figured we’d stop there to make sure we were on the right track. I must say this was the worst stop we made on our trip, as the bathrooms were filthy and the customer service was not great either, but at least I found out we were right next to the entrance to the Canyon.

As we headed up the dusty dirt road we would soon see what looked to be a big 4X4 in distress. It hung partially off the side of the road and I could see a woman bent down near the front passenger tire. We wondered if they needed help, but before I could get out and ask, another woman was already approaching our vehicle. She informed me that they were stuck on a rock. I could tell they had been there for some time now, as she seemed frustrated and exhausted by the situation. So with out any further delay I was off to help them out as best I could.

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Photo by Miranda H.

When I got closer I could see one woman lying underneath the large truck, she had a metal dog dish in hand and was attempting to dig the rock out. 20160331_142446_Richtone(HDR)Another woman was spotting her and after discussing a plan of attack in order to get the rock from underneath the axle without damaging it we decided that I was going to push the rock down with my legs. It worked slightly as it got the rock away from the axle but the rock was still too high, and could cause some real damage if the truck were to try and move over it. We tried to dig it out and push it some more and after a few failed attempts I decided it was time for a new strategy. I crawled underneath the truck with a long dog leash and wrapped it around the rock. I then began to pull towards me, which was really hard considering I was laying flat on my stomach. Luckily the rock began to move. Soon two of the women began to dig around the rock, one was using the tire iron and it gave me an idea.

I knew we just needed the right kind of leverage to get the rock out, so I asked if I could borrow it for a moment. The woman kindly and enthusiastically abide. I dug one end of the tire iron underneath the bottom of the rock and with one hand pushed on the other side of the iron. It began to lift the rock up and as it did I used my other hand to push the rock forward. “That’s working!” I heard one lady shout and soon three of us were working together to get the rock out. I would pry and lift the rock while two of the women would use the dog leash to pull the rock out. We had the rock out in no time. 20160331_142453_Richtone(HDR)

Soon the truck was free and they were able to get out of the rough part of the trail. I then moved the rock out from the middle of the road with some help from two of the women, as it was a large and heavy rock. The four laddies were really happy and thankful to be out of that predicament. I smiled and told them it wasn’t a problem as I was covered in head to toe of dirt from the road. They then asked for my name and where I was from, I told them and they seemed to know the town that I was from. As they shouted it’s name in disbelief. I told them to have a great day and try not to get stuck again, and as I started to walk back to my friend and her car, I heard one of them say “Wait!” I turned to look and the eldest one was reaching into her wallet to pull out some money.

I didn’t want to accept the money, as I was just happy to be able to solve their problem, but she insisted and it would be rude not to accept the token of gratitude. So I accepted and thanked her for the money. Soon they were driving off back to Ridgecrest and waving at me from their lifted truck. I waved back and smiled and then went back to the car. Where we easily made it up the sandy slope (their truck was too heavy)  and into the canyon. We parked the car and started scrambling up the rocky cliffs. 20160331_140025

It was a beautiful day out in the canyon. The sun was bright but not too hot, the wildflowers covered the canyon floor in a vibrant yellow and we were feeling like we were on top of the world on the large boulders of the cliff face. I think it was that moment that really solidified that we weren’t ready to go home yet. So we both agreed some Eric Schat’s in Bishop would be a good reward to end the day. So once again we were off to jump back on the open road. Seeking adventure and baked goods. 20160331_140504

 

Trona Pinnacles: Discovey Among Giants

I looked at my friend and sighed, it had been a long week and I felt like escaping and I said to her “Do you want to go on an adventure?”

“When?” she asked anxiously.

“Soon…” I said with the a subtle half smile.

A week later and were hitting the road. Traveling up the long and straight 395. We were just outside of the city of Adelanto, when we started to see the desert in its rarest fashion; completely covered in wildflowers. We quickly pulled off to the side of the road and anxiously greeted the wild blooms. The floor was covered in yellow and sprinkled here and there with the occasional purple and orange. The flowers reached out as far as the eye could see, in all directions. It was magical and surreal. It brought out a joy in me that I haven’t felt in a while. I almost wanted to lay in the flowers and make snow angels in them, but I didn’t want to destroy their beauty for a few seconds of pleasure. After a few more moments we were back in the car and out onto the road.20160330_155411_Richtone(HDR)

It was nearly five p.m. when we reached Ridgecrest and we needed to stop for a couple of much needed supplies; such as chips, firewood and beer for the evening. We had the option of continuing further north in hopes of seeing more wildflowers or start heading east to the Trona Pinnacles, and we decided to go to the wildflowers the next day. So we were off to the Pinnacles to set camp and have a much needed and deserved dinner.20160330_180147_Richtone(HDR)

As we pulled up to the Pinnacles the afternoon light was hitting them just right and I swear there was a sense of awe as we bared witness to the spectacle. There were only a couple of cars in the area were we decided to make camp, but it didn’t appear they were going to be staying for the night. It looked like we were going to have the Pinnacles all to ourselves for the night. As we set up camp and began to start cooking, the wind picked up, with a vengeance. It blew out my MSR Pocket Rocket and bent my Eureka tent almost flat. I knew if we didn’t find a way to break the wind we would have to move everything to the other side of the Pinnacles. Which in retrospect might have been a better choice, but instead I just moved the suv to block the bulk of the wind. It worked out pretty well but it still made cooking difficult to accomplish. Still I was able to make some al pastor tacos with rice and get the camp fire roaring. 20160330_185552_Richtone(HDR)

Later the wind died down and we enjoyed the warmth of the fire and the view of the milky way above us. It’s humbling really, to look up and see so many stars. Knowing how big and far away they are. To realize how long it takes that light from the stars to reach our eyes. Nothing else can make you feel so small in such a good way. You feel at peace basking in the dim glow of the night stars, or at least I do. I swear the view of the stars out here, in the middle of nowhere, is worth it’s weight in gas alone. 20160330_184953_Richtone(HDR)

The next morning we enjoyed some omelets for breakfast and broke camp. We then went and hiked and explored among the Pinnacles. At one point I climbed up to the top of one of the pinnacles and sat there enjoying it’s perspective. It is something so opening and humbling, just sitting up somewhere high and enjoying the views. There is just something about being in that moment. The silence, the beauty, the peace, it’s all up there, just waiting for you to discover it. After spending time walking amongst the giants made of tufa. We decided it was time to leave this alien landscape in search of new adventures. 20160331_105033

As we drove out of the dusty bumpy road, I found that we kept looking back. Looking at the pinnacles rising out of the flat desert land. Defying time, and nature. It was inspirational, and I felt much better about things. After all time changes everything, but sometimes what it leaves is something that can be beautiful. Maybe if I can only learn one thing from the tufa, it’s that it’s okay to weather. Just let time and the elements weather the bad stuff, and I might be surprised with the beauty it leaves behind.  20160331_112103

Not Where I Wanted, But Where I Needed To Be.

Here I am sitting in Anchorage again. This is the second time in three months that I’ve been here. Far away from almost everyone I know, and alone in the beautiful cold. It’s been surreal here. I think Anchorage is the only city I’ve been to where I constantly see strangers with familiar faces. I keep seeing the same people every time I’m here. Only problem is they are not the ones I’m looking for.

I came out here on nothing more than a whim. I spent my summer here in Alaska and I fell in love with the state. I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to return home, especially after my last week here in September. You would think that I should know by now that I should always expect the unexpected, and that nothing ever goes to plan, but I digress, I came here chasing a dream. In my search for the dream I left behind I found nothing I was looking for. Then something unexpected happen, no not the dream I was chasing, but another form of an echo of the past.

As I sat in a bus station in the cold night waiting for a warm bus to take me back to the room I was staying at, a middle aged homeless native came and sat by me. He was friendly and his face was inviting, I welcomed his company and we began to engage in a conversation. The faint smell of booze came from him, but I didn’t mind, it was bourbon, a favorite of mine, so I welcomed the smell. Then something unexpected happened, he told me he was dying from cancer. I told him I was sorry to hear about that, and he quickly told me not to be. He then told me that two years ago he lost his daughter to suicide, and this past year he lost his son to suicide as well.

My heart sank as I heard him tell me this. You can see the pain in his eyes as he spoke. As a person who has lived with depression and have battled suicide as well, I felt like it was all too familiar. He told me without his kids in his life, he didn’t feel the need to keep on living. That burying your children is the worst thing a parent will ever have to do. As he went on, all I could think of was my parents, my family and my friends, all that helped me out of my last bout. I remember that at the time, when I thought I couldn’t take any more pain, the only thing that stopped me, was knowing I would be transferring that pain onto them. That was something I was not willing to do.

Soon my bus arrived and I said goodbye and that it was a pleasure to meet him. I walked out and as I waited in line for the bus, I knew I couldn’t leave. Not yet, not without saying something. I ran back to the door of the station opened it up and said. “A year ago, I almost took my own life as well, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So now I live for people like you.” A big smile cam on his face and he said “Bless you”. A gave him a nod and I left, just making my bus before the doors closed. As I took my seat I looked back at him and saw him sitting there. Still smiling from ear to ear. I was happy for this unexpected encounter. I don’t know if my words helped him, as much as his words helped me. Perhaps we both gained something we needed in that moment.  I haven’t been depressed in over a year now, but the memory still lingers. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, not one line. I’ll always remember so that I know that I can survive it.

Feeling Cool at LeConte Glacier

It’s another cloudy and overcast day here in Southeast Alaska. The days prior were sunny with some clouds and it was a welcome change from the usual rain, but now the clouds have returned to cloak Mitkof Island from the sun. Still, the cloudy cool day can’t put a damper on my mood, for today I travel to somewhere new, some place special. Today I visit a fading giant known as LeConte Glacier.wpid-20150908_150051_richtonehdr.jpg

It’s midday and I’m off to head towards the dock to catch the boat that will take me to glacier. As I move through downtown Petersburg, I see the towns people continuing on with their daily lives. They move about the streets, and proceed into shops. Dogs wait anxiously in the beds of trucks, for their beloved owners to return, and I stroll through not even trying to contain my own excitement. I’ve dreamt about visiting a glacier for a long time now, and my excitement grows as the time to leave draws near.

I arrive at the meeting spot, and soon we are off to the nearby dock to board the jet boat. Once on the boat I take a seat in the front, just to the right of the Captain. I’m shocked that the seat is empty as this seat will surely have some of the best views. As I sit, the Captain goes over the standard emergency procedures and information, I do my best to pay attention but I can’t stop thinking about that glacier; sitting within the mountains, just as it has since the ice age. I can’t wait to bask in its glory!

As the boat leaves the harbor it begins to speed, to our destination. I’m taken aback as the jet engines roar and force water through them, propelling the boat across the water. It’s exhilarating, like the first time you ever sped on the open road, only better. Even though we are traveling fast on the water it still takes the boat a good 40 minutes to reach our destination. Luckily for me, time seemed to travel fast on the boat, and before I know it, we are beginning to be surrounded by icebergs.wpid-20150816_145842_richtonehdr.jpg

The area that glacier inhabits is stunning and beautiful. Jagged icebergs float among us, like abstract ice sculptures, weathering beautifully in the cold ocean. The cliff faces on either side of the channel are polished smooth from the glacier. New life has begun to take hold on this island, as young trees and plant life now grow on land that was once covered by ice, only 20 years ago. The large U shaped valleys carved into the rock are covered with vegetation, the green plant life is so vibrant in contrast to the grey stone, and the white snow that it borders.wpid-20150816_141535_richtonehdr.jpg

The glacier warns us to keep our distance as loud thunderous cracks from the glacier moving echoes through the valley. So we keep our distance from the glacier, staying a good quarter-mile away. The glacier stands majestically in the distance. Only allowing us to witness her beauty but not touch it. I reach out of the boat and grab a small chunk of ice that was floating in the water. It’s cold in my hand but I bring it to my lips in order to taste it. The water from the melting ice is unbelievable. It’s the best tasting water I have ever experienced in my life. I think to myself, how fortunate I am to be here, to see this marvel of nature, and to drink water that was frozen so long ago.wpid-20150816_150658_richtonehdr.jpg

Time seemed short in the presence of the glacier, because before I knew it our four hour tour was coming to a close. As we returned back to Petersburg I kept thinking about the glacier. I wondered what it would have been like to visit it ten years ago, and how much it has changed in such little time. It reminded me of why it is important to me to be going on these adventures during this moment of my life. After all, it’s like what I keep telling people who I meet “I’m not running away from things. I’m running to them. Before they flare and fade forever.” There is so much to see in this world, and only so little time to see it. So if you are reading this, and you’re thinking about going somewhere you always wanted to see. I beg you to do everything in your power to do so.

Until next time. Never give up. Never give in.

Not Quite the Adventure I Was Looking For…

I’ve been here in Alaska for a month and it has been an incredible experience. I came up here to work the annual salmon run in order to finance my future adventures, and  possibly squeeze in some adventuring with every chance I could get, and while I have been doing that, and things were great, that all changed this past week.

My company sent me up to Dillingham to help out the plant there. It was a nice change of pace and scenery and the little down time I had I took advantage with bike rides through the rolling hills of the Dillingham country side. It was such an incredible experience to be the only one on the road while being treated to fields of green stretching out to the mountains and river in the distance. The rush of going down the hill and letting go of the handlebars was so invigorating, I can barley describe the feeling. In fact I don’t think the word invigorating really does it any justice at all. It is truly an incredible experience.   wpid-20150722_222122_richtonehdr.jpg

After a week in Dillingham I was supposed to go back to Petersburg with a bunch of my co workers. The company had charted a plane for us to get back. We were supposed to have a quick stop in Anchorage to refuel but it turned into an hour layover. We were then told six people would have to stay the night in Anchorage and that they would be compensated for staying. Since I’m always looking for an adventure, I volunteered to stay behind. They gave us our carry on bags and then the plane left. Thinking that the company was going to get us a hotel, we all waited patiently in the terminal awaiting to hear of any news. Hours passed before I called the company to find out what was going on; only to be told that the hotels were filled up and we were on our own for the night. Two people left because they knew someone in town and didn’t want to wait in the terminal. Leaving only four people including myself in the terminal for the night.

As the night began to press on, we started getting restless. We had no money, some didn’t have phone service and we were stuck in the terminal for the night. I kept counting down the hours until my direct deposit would kick in, and then I knew I would be free. I had called up a hostel and they had plenty of space. I thought I would cab it, and maybe walk the city after checking in, but as time went on, I knew that wouldn’t be an option. The tree other men I was with, had little to no money on them, no direct deposit and one was suffering a migraine. One man used what little money he had to buy us all McDonalds for dinner. I knew that when my direct deposit came in, that I couldn’t leave them here. They were angry, and suffering. I just knew I couldn’t leave them behind like that.

When my deposit went through I called a local hotel and they had a suite that was available, and they offered me a discount. So I took it, and made the reservation. I then went back and informed the men, that I got them a room, and the hotel was coming to pick us up. Their faces immediately lit up, and their mood changed. Within minutes we arrived at the hotel and after I finished checking in we went up to our room. They were so happy with how big it was. Two huge rooms, one with two queen size beds, another with a fold out couch, tvs in every room, a fridge, microwave, the bathroom had a spa tube and a separate shower. It was amazing. One of the guys told me, that he had never stayed somewhere that was this nice. I felt happy that I was able to help these guys out. I didn’t even really know them, I had just learned the names, and yet here we were, “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers…” we would sleep like kings tonight. wpid-20150723_154439_richtonehdr.jpg

The next morning we were back at the airport. We were all on different flights and mine left first. I left Anchorage at eight and was headed off to Juneau. I was suppose to have a three and a half hour layover before my next flight, so I decided to catch a cab and head into town to see some sights before I left. I’ve been wanting to visit Juneau so I took this small opportunity to do so. Shortly after arriving back at the airport I learned there was a problem with the aircraft and a smaller plane was taking it’s place. This meant that some people would be spending the night in Juneau. I volunteered to stay. I don’t really know why either. I was desperate to get back to work. I literally only had a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste with me. The rest of my luggage was already in Petersburg, but I choose to stay. Maybe a part of me thought or hoped I would see the girl that I meet in Petersburg, even though I knew that she wasn’t here anymore. Still something compelled me to stay.

The airline gave me a room, a few meal tickets and and a flight for the next day,wpid-20150724_194425_richtonehdr.jpg for my travel troubles. After checking into my room, I went on a walk. The views around Juneau and it’s airport are breathtaking. In some places you can see the glacier. I found a small hiking trail that was actually very pleasant and empty considering how close it was to the airport. I’m glad it wasn’t too long of a hike though because the only shoes I had were my Ultra Tuffs, which are just rubber boots. Then again, I guess you can’t be a true Alaskan until you have done a hike in Ultra Tuffs.

As the night began to creep in and I wandered back to my hotel I couldn’t stop thinking of so many things. I thought of home, of my family and my friends. I thought of cats, I thought of places that I still want to see and the things I still want to do. I thought of all that and much more, and yet I didn’t feel lonely or alone, even though I was completely alone. I didn’t mind it, but at the same time I kind of missed everyone. Now I’m back in Petersburg, eagerly awaiting to start working again so I can earn enough money to have more incredible adventures.

 

An Unexpected Encounter and a Day of Adventure.

The days are long here in Alaska. The tiny town that I am residing in for the next two months is quaint and everyone is friendly, yet I feel a little out of place. It’s been hard to make any connection that lasts longer than simple pleasantries. Then one day, I was walking by the Ferry Terminal and I stumbled into someone unexpected.

It was a cloudy and cool day and as I was out having a walk near the ferry terminal. I wore my daypack, because honestly, I feel naked without it. As I walked I found myself caught in my own thoughts. A squawk from a soaring Bald Eagle flying above caught my attention and I found myself watching it fly above me. They are a common sight on this island, yet I can’t stop myself from watching in amazement. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, WHAM! I felt myself collide with another person, and the sound of a smart phone impacting on the ground in a loud thud rang in my ears.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you.” I exclaimed.

“No, it’s my fault, I should have been looking where I was going.” I heard a soft voice say.

I picked up the I Phone on the ground (thank god for Otter box). It was that moment I finally saw who I ran into, as I handed her phone to her. She was in her early twenties, sandy blond hair worn short, and striking blue eyes. I think my jaw dropped.

“Are you okay?” I finally said.

“Yeah, I was just trying to get a picture of the Eagle”

After laughing off our disastrous meeting, we started talking. She told me that she was traveling through to Juneau where she was going to be visiting the Ice Fields and other amazing things. I told her about my great Alaskan Adventure. It was great to have a fellow adventurer to talk to. We shared tips, and stories about traveling and exploring. She spoke with such passion and excitement, and she was even excited to hear my stories and plans. Things were going great, until I learned she is only on the Island for a day. She embarks for Juneau in the morning. I almost let that be the end of it, I was about to say something along the lines of enjoy Petersburg while your here, but instead, I quickly said

“I know some trails here…I can show you them if you like, or perhaps you would rather fancy a pint?”

I honestly can’t believe I said “fancy a pint”, I would of rolled my eyes if she wasn’t looking at me. Lucky for me she thought it was awesome, and so we were off to enjoy a day of adventure and having a victory beer at Kato’s Kave latter that day. I took her to Outlook Park and showed her where the Devil’s Thumb would be, it it were not covered in clouds. We then went to Sandy Beach, hoping to see some petroglyphs, sadly we did not find any. We then went through Hungry Point trail, and took in the sights of Petersburg Mountain, the muskegs and a deer.

Even though we didn’t see some of the things we were looking for, we still had a great time, and shared some awesome stories. Despite having such a busy day we still had plenty of energy to have a couple of beers at Kato’s. She remembered it as the bar mentioned by the author from Into the Wild, and thought it was really cool to be in the same place she once read about. We then spent a good amount of time talking about that book, and McCandless, and I was really thankful, I just finished the book the day before.

Looking back on that day, I find myself missing the girl I shared a day with. Maybe because it was the company, maybe because I had a crush on her, or perhaps it’s becausebecause I felt like we were kindred spirits? Regardless, I now find my self returning back to the ferry terminal. Even though I know she won’t be returning back to Petersburg, and a small part of me is glad she won’t.

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss [her].”