I’m Afraid of the Ocean, So Why not Go Kayaking On It?

We woke up early in the morning as we had a big day ahead of ourselves and wanted to get a head start. So after making a Rolling Stone  for breakfast (because what else would a geology lover eat?) We headed out in the light of the dawn to drive to Spooners Cove in Montana de Oro State Park. The drive down was excellent. The highway was wide open and the way the light was hitting the rolling hills of the area, it was magical. I purposely played “Circle of Life” as we drove. Seriously if you have never listened to that song while driving in the morning, you need to. It wakes everyone up in the best of ways. IMG_20160426_112051

As we drove through the eucalyptus forest entering Mantana de Oro, it seemed like we were going through a new and far away land. Even though we were merely nearing the cost. Soon the forest broke and we drove pass Spooners Cove (one of my favorite beaches). We parked up ontop of a small hill and near the trail head for Bluff Trail. This is the trail that we will take in order to get down to the tide pools.

Bluff Trail, is kind of a unique trail. There really are no trees or shade on this trail, and wraps along the steep cliff faces of the California Cost. Small shrubs are abundant off the trail and the wildflowers are in bloom. There are certain areas where you can get close to the edge and see the beach and crashing waves below, but be warned. These cliffs are prone to weathering and can give away without any warning. So please be careful when you are enjoying the views20160423_080133

Before I knew it, we were heading down a long woodenIMG_20160427_183651 staircase and to the beach below. Sand greeted us at first but it soon gave away to the exposed layers of shale, and shallow pools of water where sea anemones bloomed. I walked cautiously over the floor, trying my best to not step on any barnacles, crabs or snails. Exploring every pool of water I could. One could say they were all the same, but only a fool would utter such an understatement. Each pool was unique, each pool brought something different and offered a new perspective to life under the sea.

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After spending the whole morning exploring tide pools and sandy cliffs it was time to head back up to Morro Bay, to kayak in the presence of Morro Rock, and all of her glory. Upon entering the kayak rental shop, my nervousness was subdue thanks to friendly and warm staff. After a short crash course on kayaking I was getting into my kayak and off into the open water of the bay. I must admit, I’m terrified of the ocean. I don’t like how I can’t see what is going on around me, and knowing that there are things that can kill me living in the water. I freak out whenever I feel something touch me while in the ocean, and that is why, for the most part I avoid it at all costs. However, I’m also open to new adventures and experiences and I really wanted to see the Morro Bay sand dunes, and there is only one way to get to them. So off I go into the kayak, and onto the water.

I paddle around for a bit just trying to get use to it, and getting my form down. I paddle up to a floating dock that is littered with sea lions. As the wind picked up I was quickly reminded of how bad they smell, my god, how could I forget that? I quickly paddled to the other side and everything was much better. Morro Rock stood majestically in the near distance, and I knew I would have to risk it and take a picture. I fought against the wind and current in order to get a few pictures of it from the kayak, hoping the whole time that my phone wouldn’t fall into the ocean. After getting a few shots I decided that it was time to check out the dunes. IMG_20160424_143340

I pulled my kayak up to the dunes, because I was overly cautious that the tide was going to come in and pull it out into the bay, and that was the last thing I wanted. Once at the dunes I went for a walk with a friend through the allowed passage to the other side. During this time of year, a lot of the area is roped off in order to let the native birds nest without humans tromping through the area. We walked and talked making the most of it. Even though walking through the loose hot sand was difficult it was fun, a bit long, but fun none the less. After some time walking through the sand we were rewarded to the sight of crashing waves on the beach.

After resting among the rocks and laying in the sand I decided I wanted to head back to my kayak and paddle around the bay more. I still had a couple of hours left on my rental and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. As I paddled out into the bay it wasn’t bad. It was quite easy actually. I just had to paddle more on my right than left in order to keep straight. It was nice and peaceful out on the water. After I went as far as I could one way I turned around and went in the other direction. As I got near the docked boats the wind started to pick up and it made navigating among them difficult.  All was good once I passed all the boats and I soon found myself near some sea marshes that had white cranes looking for food in the reeds. 20160423_161256

I sat there in my kayak for a while just enjoying the moment, letting the current take me a bit. Everything felt great out there, I almost didn’t want to come back to shore. The sea had taken a hold of me, but my time was almost up and I knew I had to get back. So I began heading towards the docks. This is when things got tough. The wind had picked up tremendously and so now I had to contend with waves as I traveled up the channel. I was able to deal with the situation, just had to paddle a little harder and work to keep my balance but as I paddled I was encouraged by a man on a sail boat. “You go dude” he shouted as I paddled by.

In no time I had arrived back at the rental safe and sound and without falling overboard. I was a bit soaked from all the waves, but still I couldn’t complain. I had accomplished what I have set to accomplished. I felt like I was able to come to grips with one of my biggest fears and have a good time while doing, and I as I drove back to camp. I couldn’t help but feel happy with that. I now look forward to doing this again in the near future.

 

Purple Rain, on the way to Morro Bay

I’ve been driving through the Los Angeles traffic for nearly two hours when the congestion finally seems to break. I’m only in Ventura and I still have a ways to go. Morro Bay is my destination on this trip, and even though I can feel my morning caffeine begin to wear off, I can’t help but feel excited. I’ve been impatiently awaiting another outing since my last overnight trip to the Trona Pinnacles and I must say it’s been too long since I’ve slept in a tent again. I don’t know what makes camping so special but it truly is. Maybe it’s being detached from civilization? Or maybe it’s just a connection with mother nature that puts one’s mind at peace? All I know, is that I love it, and it makes me happy. 20160422_130254_Richtone(HDR)

It’s about 10 am when we arrive at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo. My legs can’t wait to get out of the van and walk around and the first step on the parking lot feels like heaven. I take in a deep breath of the salty air and it comforts me. I can already hear the waves crashing along the beach and I quickly grab a couple of things and begin to head off to the beach. Even though it’s early the beach already has some visitors on it, but lucky for me and my group we know an area that is less traversed. As I climb onto the pillow basalts to avoid the crashing waves I’m treated to a small but private stretch of beach. There isn’t a lot of sand at this part of the beach but that doesn’t matter. I’d rather look at the rocks anyways. I boulder up some of the structures and I perch myself up not too high but high enough just to get a better view. The sun is shinning and wind feels perfect and there are sea otters and seals playing in the water. It’s almost perfect here. I almost wished that we were staying longer than a couple of hours, but there is much to see and do, before arriving to camp.20160422_121351_Richtone(HDR)

We’ve only been driving for a half hour when the skies begin to pour with a vengeance. We knew before heading out, that we were going to get rain, but for a moment we forgot all about it, and felt surprised as the rain began to pour.The whippers on the van moved fast to keep the drops clear for a view of the street, but it didn’t seem enough. This storm was hitting hard. As we came closer to our next destination it began to lighten up dramatically. The once powerful and mighty storm was now just a light sprinkling and when we stopped, I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures. That’s when the music began to play in my head. I could hear Purple Rain playing and I felt a little sad about the recent lost of the artist known as Prince, but so happy to have known about his work before hand. It’s funny how a celebrity death can hit you so hard. You may not have ever meet them or knew them personally, but through their work you felt a connection. You grew up learning about yourself and making memories and having experiences to their work; so when they die, it’s like a piece of you died too. 20160422_142842_Richtone(HDR)

As we walked down to the Estero Bluffs we were treated to a field of blooming mustard plants before reaching the beach. Once at the beach we spent some time looking around. I found a couple of hidden plastic Easter Eggs, and I wondered who had an egg hunt here? One of the eggs was empty but the other had some candy in it, but the ants had already claimed it as their own. It was beautiful there at that beach. I got to see the remnants of the storm pass by and leave us and welcome back the blue sky and sunshine. Soon after that it was time to finally make our way down to camp to set up for the night.20160422_163904

I had never stayed at Morro Strand Campground before. It’s a little too close to  civilization for me, but it wasn’t too bad as it is right on the beach. I pitched my tent on a dune and then went for a walk along the beach as the sun began to set. The beach was littered with sand dollars and I watched the sandpipers congregating as they searched for food in the sea foam. Morro Rock towered in the distance in the evening glow. I watched in amazement for a while just trying to take in all the scenery. It really was a wonderful day for adventuring and I’m looking forward to getting a good nights rest. After all tomorrow will be another busy day. 20160422_195644_Richtone(HDR)

I’ll Meet You At the Trail…Or At Least I’ll Try To.

This past Sunday I was supposed to meet up some friends to hike a portion of the Mt. Wilson Trail in Arcadia California. We had been planning for over a week to meet up at the trail head at 7:30 am and hike up to at least Orchard Camp. I haven’t hiked this trail in about a year, and I remember it being very challenging. So I really did want to get an early start as Sunday was the projected hot day of the week with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s.

It’s 6:45 am and I’m barely getting out of bed. I rub my eyes in disbelief. It feels like I only just closed my eyes. It was as if I had blinked and jumped ahead in time. Last night was restless, but luckily I don’t feel groggy. I hurry to get ready and soon enough, I’m out the door. I look at the time and it’s already almost 7:30, well it looks like I’m not going to make it out there in time, even with the traffic being almost non existent, there is no way I’m getting that far in a few minutes.  I send a text message to my friends from a McDonald’s parking lot, letting them know I’m running late and that I’ll meet them on the trail. After I send the message I decide to grab an Egg McMuffin. I figured I was late already, might as well get some calories in me before I hit the trail. 20160417_122228_Richtone(HDR)

By the time I get to the trail head and reach the sign in box, it’s almost 8:30. I think to myself “Damn, I’m going to see them when their coming down the trail.” I decide to just enjoy as much of the trail as I can before I meet up with them and I proceed up the long steep hike towards the top of Mt. Wilson. The first portion of the trail is exposed to the east and there is no shade at all. The warm spring sun beats down on you as you climb higher and higher up the dusty trail to the top. Even though it’s still morning, I’m already wishing I started earlier. Other than the sun being very warm, I feel okay. I’m doing pretty well on this trail, even though I haven’t done a hike this strenuous since Flattop Mountain in the Summer (Which is easier than Wilson), I’m making good progress.

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Soon I reach the first place most people take a rest at, and that is called First Water. It’s a nice shady area with a little creek going through it. Even though it’s a pleasant area I don’t stop long. I’m too concerned with finding my friends. So I continue on up the trail towards the next stop, Orchard Camp. It’s only two more miles up from First Water So I figure I should be seeing them soon.

20160417_102801_Richtone(HDR)This portion of the trail is so much nicer.
As the trees provide much needed cover from the sun. I think this is my favorite portion of the hike. It’s so beautiful, the trees, the mountains. The people seem more friendly and happy. It’s just so wonderful there. It was even better seeing a bunch of butterflies hanging around the trail. Everywhere I looked, I would see a butterfly. It would either be resting or flying about in the air. They made me happy and I had to stop and just enjoy them for a while.

As I approached Orchard Campground I thought I would finally see my friends, and then we could travel the rest of the trail together. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and didn’t find them.Could they have gone up to the next stop? Maybe? But it was getting closer to being the hottest part of the day, and I didn’t feel like going any further with the heat. Perhaps I missed them when I stepped off onto a ledge to get some pics? It’s possible, only one way to find out, and that meant I would have to keep going and hope to find them. Somewhere down the trail.

 

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As I began to begin my decent, something strange happened. I actually felt alone. I’ve gone on many adventures alone. It’s never bothered me before. So what’s changed? Me, I guess. Sometimes life just catches up to you, and sneaks in a hit when you least expect it. So I was alone to my thoughts as I rapidly descended down the trail. Now everything seemed just a little dimmer, a little quieter, a little colder. I don’t think I ever wanted a hike to end so soon. Usually I just relax and take it all in, the beautiful chaos that is nature, and I’m humbled and amazed, but not today.

As I was getting closer to the trail head, I kept seeing more and more people 20160417_102318_Richtone(HDR)beginning their journey, at the mid day point, in the hottest part of the day, and I wished them well in my mind. Some didn’t even seem to have water with them. Are they crazy? I thought. Surely, they must know that you shouldn’t attempt any trail without water. Then I saw a man with a beautiful all white Husky looking dog. They were making fast progress up the mountain, but the dog was heavily panting. As they passed I asked him, if he wanted any water for his dog, “Sure if you have any you can spare.” I quickly removed my Camelbak water bottle and unscrewed the top. As I began to slowly pour a stream of water the dog quickly began to lap up the water. She was very thirsty, and it was only the beginning of the trail. They still had easily a mile and a quarter to go before First Water. The dog quickly drank almost all of the water. She even managed to stick her tongue into the bottle to get even more water. I just smiled and let her have as much as she wanted. When she finished her owner thanked me and I’ll never forget this, but the dog gave me an incredible look. It was as if she was wondering where I was going, and why I wasn’t going with them. I told the owner it was a tough hike, and he said they wouldn’t be going too far. So I pet the dog on the head and I left.

As I exited the trail, I checked my phone for any messages from my friends, and I had a couple but nothing about their whereabouts on the trail. I checked Instagram and sure enough they had already posted some pics. So with that, and feeling a little defeated by the mountain, I decided it was time to head home for a much needed shower, and perhaps a victory, or in this case a defeat beer to enjoy on this beautiful warm spring afternoon. I feel like going back to this mountain soon. There is something about the challenge of it that I like. It’s tough, and demanding and unforgiving. A perfect place to hone yourself for a life of adventure. 20160417_122154

An Unexpected Companion

Ever so often, you feel like you are at a crossroads in your life. You don’t know which way to go. What path you should take. The road that brought you here to this crossroads was a rough one, but it started to feel a little easier. You tell yourself “Maybe you were just getting stronger along the way?” Or maybe things are just getting easier? My life has been filled with these sort of dilemmas for the past couple of years. One time life threw me such a curve ball and I swung and miss so bad it left me hurt. I had the longest second in my life, and I didn’t know how to carry on. So without really telling anyone, I set out to the desert to clear my head.

The semester had just ended, and while my friends were beginning to enjoy the start of the winter break, I couldn’t focus. I remember telling my best friend what happened. I remember going to her house because I really needed someone to talk to. She was always great for that. She helped me through a lot, but I still didn’t feel like I was really moving on. So I came home and packed up some camping gear, because when the sun rose, I was hitting the road.

It’s eight in the morning and I realize that I over slept. I should have been on the road already as it was going to be a long drive. I had trouble sleeping the night before, not because of what was bothering me, but because I always have trouble sleeping before leaving on an adventure. I rush to get dressed, make a quick breakfast and grab my field pack. I had to hurry if I wanted to get there before dusk. My destination was a good five hours away, so without any more delays I was off to be alone in the desert. 20141120_155532

The sun hangs low in the western sky as I pull up to camp off the dusty beaten road. As usual, no one is here. There isn’t a soul around for miles and miles. It is so peaceful here, some people can’t stand it being this quiet, however, I kind of like it. I quickly set up camp and then decided to do a little hiking while there is still some sun out. I can’t go too far because it will be getting dark soon. I set off towards the nearby mountains just north east of camp. The gravel crunches with each step along the lonely trail. I keep thinking about my mistakes. I keep thinking of how much of a fool I am. That is when the solitude begins to hit me, and I start feeling alone.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye something moves. I turn to look and not too far in the distance is a lone coyote. It stands there watching me, as I watch it. I keep walking, making sure not to act like prey. I keep looking over my shoulder and I notice it is following me, not directly behind me, but off in the distance to the side. It’s not trying to hide, and it doesn’t seem to be stalking, just following. Maybe it’s just curious? I don’t know. After a couple of minutes of hiking I see that it is now keeping pace with me. Instead of it being slightly behind, it’s now off to the side of me. For some odd reason, I start talking to it.

I start speaking out load, as if it can understand me. I tell it what’s been troubling me and why I am here. It doesn’t seem to mind and just stands there watching me.  At one point I actually looked at it and ask “What should I do?” It just looked at me, and everything went quiet. It was only a moment but it felt like a long time, and in that moment I felt at peace. I felt relieved. The coyote then sniffed the air then turn and ran off, checking over it’s shoulder to make sure I didn’t follow. I stood there and watched it run off. I then waived at my once unexpected companion, before returning to camp for the night.20141120_122202

I don’t know why that coyote followed me. Perhaps it thought I had food or that I was food? Or maybe, just maybe it was nature’s way of saying that everything was going to be okay, and that no matter what, I’m never truly alone. What if we are never alone, and always have a companion in someway? A constant companion. Always there to make sure we come back home. I like to believe that is true.

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

Birthday Hike; A Simple Yet Satisfying Experience

It is the nineteenth of January, the day of my birth, and I can’t wait to start the day. While most people would spend their day celebrating by getting drunk and/or partying I’m going on a hike. Not just any hike either, it’s a hike to one of my favorite places. After all, what else does an adventurer do when they want to do something fun? So my good friend and I head on out to Mormon Rocks for some hiking and scrambling fun.

Mormon Rocks is a nice little loop located off of Highway 138 and Interstate 15 in California. Even though it’s relatively near a busy interstate and a couple of railways, it still seems secluded. Nestled near the the north side of the Western Transverse Range, these rocks rise from the ground like majestic pillars of sandstone reaching for the sky. Almost as if they are a monument to the forces of nature, craving to be explored and have it’s story told.20150119_144522_Richtone(HDR)

The midday sun hangs overhead and the silence of the area is broken by the sound of tires on gravel. My friend and I have been here many times before, and it never seems to get old to us. Instead of doing the normal route we usually do, we decide to visit the smaller formation on the other side of the tracks first. We make our way through brush and loose sand as we try to search for a way to scramble up to the top. As we circle around to the right we discovered a few large but shallow caves. So naturally we climbed up into them and took some pics (no, not selfies). After a short break in the caves we continued on to see if we could find our way to the top. We found a path that seemed to take us to the top, unfortunately, it only got us near the top. However, it took us to a cliff that overlooked the train tracks, and a train was coming around the bend. So we decided to sit near the ledge and watch it go by. As the train approached it blew it’s horn at us and we waived. I’m not sure if the train operator was being friendly or giving us a warning to not try something stupid. Hopefully the former, rather than the later.20150119_144514_Richtone(HDR)

Soon afterwards we were sliding down the sandstone slopes in order to make our way to another trail. Sliding on that sandstone is incredibly fun, but it will wreak havoc on your pants. As we started hiking up the short trail that loops around the back we found it to be a little tiring. We usually scramble up the sides, and that can be strenuous but it is short. Sort of like sprinting a short distance, you give it all you got but it’s over quickly. This was a gradual gain and it wasn’t hell or anything like that, but it felt worse than scrambling up. We soon found ourselves at the end of the trail and near the base of the tallest peak. It looked sketchy at first, sandstone can be very smooth and can sometimes be slippery to walk up. Fortunately it wasn’t that bad and we were able to easily walk up to the top.
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Soon we were treated to a fantastic views in every direction. There was only enough room for the two of us at the peak, and after we sat down we celebrated by cracking open a victory beer. (On a quick tangent if you are going to take beer on a trail, take cans, and always pack it out too.) Sitting on the top of that peak and having a relatively cold IPA was terrific. I know it seems simple, but to me, it was the best. Often times, in modern society people overlook the simple things. I have found the simple things to be the best. I would rather have an adventure than having a bunch of materialistic things that don’t matter in the end. This is what living should be all about.

Until next time, remember to get outside, live your life, and never give up, never give in.

The Moment You Give Up, and the Silver Lining in Defeat

I can’t slow my breathing. My hands are shaking as I rest my palm on the weathered granite slope. My feet shuffle for position as I try to find an area to launch to. Ten feet is all that separates me from where and my path down. My friend and companion waits on the other side, two more are watching from the bottom. I only have one shot at this, there is no room for error. Under jump and I tumble down, and if I’m lucky a sharp thorn bush breaks my fall. Over jump and risk hitting a boulder and having a similar ending. The small landing zone is right there I can see it, but I don’t think I can do this. I take a step and instantly freeze in terror. Fear grips me like a long lost lover and I realize that I have finally lost.20141223_111912

I waken to the sound of a zipper opening up a sleeping bag and the rustling of my friend getting up. Light is beginning to fill the tent. I know it’s later than usual because today is the winter solstice, and a quick look at my phone confirms my belief. As I exit the tent and make my way to the nearby picnic table to get a drink of water I admire the view in front of me. Indian Cove in Joshua Tree is remarkable. The way the morning light hits the rock and fills the small valley, it’s like the mountains are singing to you. I can’t wait to get going, because today I go bouldering on the nearby rock. The greatest thing about this campsite is that there are places to boulder right next to your tent.20141223_104636

After a quick bite, and packing up camp, we set out to a tall outcrop. The nearest face is sheer and tall. There are climbers at the base gearing up for a climb. I mentioned that I don’t know how to climb, and that I always wanted to try it. My friend then exclaims how fun it was and that we should check out Hangar 18, a local rock climbing gym. I agree, and tell him that I almost went a month ago on my own, but something came up and I hadn’t attempted to go since. We then decide to try walking to the other side of the outcrop to see if there was a better place to try and climb up.

On the other side we found a great place to head on up. Two of my friends stayed at the bottom where a couple of small boulders lay, and by small I mean about as high as a one story house. My other friend and I begin our ascent. I head right he goes left. I end up on top of one rock not to far from the bottom but with no way to advance further up, while my friend is getting closer to the top. When I see where my friend is I decide to head that way. Now one thing about bouldering that I have noticed is this, it’s always easy going up. Going down is a whole other story. You look down at how you got up and think to yourself, where did I put my feet? So after heading down a tricky slope I start heading to the top.

I’m almost to the top when I spot my friend on a ledge about ten feet above me. I asked him how he got up and he pointed at a sloping rock and said “You see that rock that is sloping up on your left?”     20141223_111835    I look to my left and reply “This one?”
“Yeah, that one. Just take that and it will go around the corner” He says.
“Alright.” I say still confused on what he was explaining.
I don’t think he and I were looking at the same rock. This looked kind of sketchy but oh well. I thought to myself if you don’t risk anything, you won’t gain anything, so up I went. The first few feet where not bad, but then it narrowed significantly. It seemed to narrow at the worst part too. This is where it curves around and there is only an inch of ledge to place your toes on to support yourself. Luckily the boulder above me had a grove to provide a hand hold. I faced the cliff, held on with my right hand and stretched with my left hand until it found the other side where I couldn’t grip but palm enough to give me something to sort of hold onto.I then proceeded to shimmy across until I was on the other side. I felt a sigh of relief as I reached the other side and then started to hike up to the top.

Sitting on the top of this large formation of rock overlooking the valley in the morning was spectacular. My friend and I gave each other the obligatory high five and began making fun of our other friend who decided not to go as high as we did. It really didn’t matter to either one of us that he didn’t, but we just wanted to give him crap for it anyways, and so we did. After several moments and a couple of jokes later we decided to head back down, and join the others.20141223_112040

On the way down we passed where I had to shimmy across to get around the rock and my friend said  “Dude I wasn’t talking about that! That is way to dangerous! I meant this path.” He points.
I look and several feet below that is a nice flat rock that goes around the corner. I must have worn a shocked look on my face because my friend started laughing.
“You went the hard way.” He laughed.
“Oh well, if you don’t challenge yourself you’ll never exceed your limits.” I replied.
We continued down and at some point we ended up going down a different path. We ended up coming to a point where the only way down would be to jump down ten feet. We thought about attempting it but after thinking about it, and knowing there is another way we headed back.

I went over another rock and saw what looked like an easier way down. We started climbing down and we came to another ledge. Our friend who was spotting us from the bottom said if we go to our left we could make our way down. I recognized the rock from earlier and I knew we could go back. My friend was closer to the part on the left and I watched him make his approach and leap to the other side. He made it look easy. I tried to follow in his footsteps. I stood where he stood, I crouched and ready myself to pounce to the other side. Then something happened I started thinking about what if I don’t stick my landing. I imagined myself slipping and falling back, cracking my head open on the rock and falling to my doom. Once that thought crept into my mind, I couldn’t shake it. I lost my confidence and with it the will to try.

20141223_110854I turned and headed back up to find a new path. Leaving my friends behind. I went to another part where I found another place to drop down to was. I wanted to move closer to the edge to take a look, and that is where I slipped. I lost my footing and began to slide towards the edge. I reached out in desperation and caught a crack in the rock just before my feet went over the ledge. My heart was racing like never before and I thanked my lucky stars that I caught myself. I found my feet and climbed back up. Where I found my friend, he had come back for me. I didn’t want to tell him what just happened, so I didn’t mention  it.  We found an easy path after reuniting and made our way to our friends. Where I proceeded to hugged each and every one of them like never before. I was happy to be there with them. I was happy to be alive.

While I may be disappointed in myself for not being able to overcome my fear. For not trying to make that jump, that I know I could have made. I’m a little happy at what came out of this experience. You see it wasn’t long ago that I lost my will to live. Where I wanted to die, and it seemed like there was nothing anyone could say or do to make me think otherwise. Luckily I found my strength, my inner light to illuminate the darkness around me and I overcame it. Since then I wondered if I still had a slight death wish with some of the things I do. I think me not being able to attempt a jump for fear of death, leads me to believe that I don’t. I can truly say that I am happy to be alive.

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