To Virginia and Back, In A Week. Part 1 to the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Recently a friend of mine was given a chance of a lifetime, but it also meant she would have to move from California to Virginia. So when she asked if I would come along with her and her boyfriend to drive across the country, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I’m an adventurer, how am I supposed to turn down an adventure? So even though I only came home from another adventure a few days prior, I packed up my bag again and was off to adventure on the open road once again.

When we left we only had four days to make the 40-hour drive to Virginia. The only problem was we were only going to drive for six hours our first day as we had planned to stay overnight at the Grand Canyon and visit it in the morning of the second day. I was more than happy with this decision. After all, it’s the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times I visit it, I can’t get enough of it. Plus I convinced to team to travel a little out of the way to visit Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona. I knew it would add a couple of extra hours to our drive, but I also knew it would be so worth the time.

When we woke up the second day, we quickly broke camp and entered the Grand Canyon. We saw Mather Point at early light, the partly cloudy skies added to the ambiance and spectacular views of the canyon. Often times a scene like this looks as though you are stepping into a painting, it’s so beautiful, you think that it can’t be real. Then you breathe, and you know it is real, that this splendid beauty and chaos is the most real moment you have had in a very long time. 20160505_070408_Richtone(HDR)

Soon we were leaving the Canyon and heading north on the 89. We were going a bit out of the way, but I knew this detour would be worth the hours lost. I had planned to make an important rest stop at Horseshoe Bend near Page Arizona. It took us nearly two hours to reach the parking lot of the bend, and the sign marking the area was no help at all. It’s tiny, one blink and you’ll miss it. That is if you don’t notice all the other cars turning into a random dirt road and lot.

As we hiked towards the Bend, I was anxiously rushing up the hill that stood between me and that marvelous natural wonder. Once I was at the top, I could feel my asthma kicking into overdrive, but I didn’t care. I could already see the top of the formation, and it made my heart skip. The soft sandy trail down was not going to slow me down, nothing would until I was finally setting foot on the Navajo Sandstone. It was already midday, and there was a lot of people gathered at the mouth of the cliff, but lucky for me I was able to grab a spot that had unrestricted views. IMG_20160505_125509

As I sat and soaked in the view of from the cliff face, I let my feet dangle off the edge. I’m terrified of heights, I don’t even like to be on ladders; and yet this was fine. Maybe nature just has that effect on me, or maybe the beauty of nature is like the flame to a moth for me? Regardless, I could have stayed all day on that edge just looking down at those cliffs and the river, and not feel like a moment was wasted. Unfortunately, we had to be hitting the road. So I had to say goodbye to Horseshoe Bend and hello to the open road.

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Thoughts on Solo Wandering.

In the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to been able to travel and explore my country. I’ve been up and down the coast. Driven across the the country a couple of times. Swam in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Been to the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Alaska. I’ve drank the water from a melting glacier and tasted the salt of a desert from a dry lake bed. It’s been an incredible journey. Filled with amazing moments and sights. Memories that I will always remember. The kind that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, no. There are times, I admit, when the solitude felt too much. I’d sit there in my camp, looking up at the stars and the silence becomes too strong. The deafening silence, so strong that I could hear my own heartbeat, and it hit me. “I’m alone…” truly alone. No one around, no cars passing by, no planes, no cell service of any kind. Just me…and I’d wish that someone was there with me. A friend, a lover, anyone. Just someone, so I know that the world didn’t end while I was away.
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Often times I feel like entering a new town was a bit challenging. I would come in, by plane, bus, car, or even walk in, and I wouldn’t really know where to start. Should I find food first, or should I try to find someplace to sleep? Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be challenging too. I hear it helps if your very attractive, but unfortunately I’m not gifted in that department. I am, however, funny, and approachable, so that helps a lot. Once people can get a good vibe from you, there more friendly and will point you out in the right direction, or give recommendations on where the best pizza is, or a good place to camp. If your lucky enough you may even find someone willing to have a pint and share stories with.

I think most of my favorite encounters with strangers has taken place in a bar. I’d go in alone, and usually end up making a friend for the night, but it’s not always so. There have been plenty of times where I entered and could not strike up a conversation with anyone. I don’t know why either. Was it because I was a stranger with a backpack? Or did I just catch them at a wrong time, when they didn’t feel like having a companion? I know sometimes that even I just want to be alone with my thoughts. So I don’t blame them, not at all. So I’d drink my drink in peace, and then be on my way. Sometimes it felt like no one even noticed I was there.
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That is a thought that can haunt you, once you realize how real that can be. Imagine going somewhere, anywhere and no one really noticed you. How would you feel? Maybe you don’t think about it much, but I do. I could go missing for one reason or another, and imagine if no one even noticed I was there in the first place? It makes me want to stand out in a crowd. Not because I want the attention. I just want someone to realize I’m there. I just want someone to remember me.

Sometimes that is easy too. There have been times when I have just been wandering, and I’ll end up coming along someone who needed help. So I’d help them, in any way I could. It didn’t matter if it was giving a fellow hiker some much needed water, or helping someone who had gotten into a car accident. I would do what I could. Those are the ones that I know will remember me. Even if it’s only the thing I did for them that they remember. It’s more than enough. Because I think I want them to remember the act of kindness more than the man who did it. Maybe, just maybe, if we act a little more kinder to people, they will pay it forward? If they pay it forward, then maybe those people will do the same. Maybe a tiny ripple can change the tide. Maybe a lone wanderer can change the world.  038

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.

A Short Hike with a Friend

I become restless when being indoors for too long. Especially after going camping out in the middle of nowhere. That being said I called up one of my best friends to go on a short hike. She is going to be leaving soon, and when she get’s back I’ll be heading to Alaska, so I figured why not spend some time with a good friend while I can.

IMG_20140109_123046_608We decided to do a short trail close to home. Thankfully when you live in Southern California, a decent trail is only a stone throw away. We set off at mid-day to hit our trail as it only took us minutes to drive to the location. The hike itself was short and sweet. It had a big incline in the beginning that took you to the top of the hill. From there you can see the valley that we live in below, as well as views of the majestic 210 and 57 freeways. Or at least partially as the weather was hazy and cloudy. It wasn’t really smoggy, we just had a lot of overcast that hadn’t burnt off yet. Still the view was fantastic.

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As we set off on another trail to take us down we traveled through some trees in the valley of the hills. This part was definitely my favorite. There were red tail hawks soaring above, screeching as the circled about. The trees grew on the sides of the path, creating some shade with their canopies. In some parts of the trail rock outcrops could be seen, giving a hint to the geologic make up of the land. I love looking at the rocks, they always have a story tell.

Soon the trail ended and we found ourselves among some horse stables. If felt as if we were being greeted by friendly horses as they picked up their heads to look at us with wonder. It reminded us both of times when we had horses and we shared stories of our horses. We shared a lot of stories that day.

Looking back it seems bitter sweet to me. All this time I’ve been planing and preparing to leave everyone behind and go on a big adventure, only to have a good friend to be accepted to go off on one for herself. I am very joyous for her and her opportunity. I just thought I was going to have these last few months with my closest group of friends before I left on my adventure. At least another of my best friends isn’t leaving, even though his internship takes up a lot of time, we always find a way to hang out. Whether we are just hanging out and having a beer or we are out on a short camping adventure we always have a blast.

Well come what may, these next few months is all I have until I return. It’s sort of strange really. A big part of me cannot wait for that day in May when I fly to the last frontier, and a small part of me is sad for the ones I’m leaving behind. I’m going to miss these friends, as they have become my family. I don’t see them as friends, I see them as family, the family I chose.

Adventure in Death Valley

IMG_20140104_084045_526Death Valley is a magical place, that most would steer clear from. It’s very name can strike fear in the hearts of the mundane, but for those of us who find real beauty in nature, it is a wonderful place. Where the desert seems endless and hostile, but at the same time delicate and beautiful. There are mountains everywhere all with their own secrets, and all yearning to be explored. The beauty of the desert is breath taking here, and I am glad I spent the first weekend of the new year here.

IMG_20140105_114315_467Along with a small group of friends I decided to head back to the desert while the weather is still cool, and the sun feels good instead of unbearable. We decided to go explore the abandon mines near the national park. Not in hopes of finding treasure such as gold, but merely because our curiosity had driven us to the point where we had to see the inside of the mines for ourselves.

While I don’t condone exploring abandon mines, as they can often be dangerous, we did recon and research before hand so we had weighed out the risks, and if a tunnel seemed to dangerous, then we would not explore it. With that in mind, we were off to see the mines.

IMG_20140104_110503_410We spent two days and three nights in the desert, exploring caves and climbing up peaks by day, stargazing and campfire stories by night. The greatest thing about camping, in my opinion, is how it strengthens bonds. I began the trip camping with two of my best friends, and another friend from class. By the end of the trip I had camped with three of my best friends.

There is something magical about enjoying the great outdoors with good company, I can’t even describe it. Looking at a landscape from the top of a peak with three great companions is indescribable. I don’t think we as humans have evolved enough to create a word that would best describe the feeling you get with that kind of experience.

 

It always seems a little strange to me that the hardest part of a camping trip, is the journey IMG_20140104_154954_239back home. We all wanted to stay longer. Neither of us wanted to leave the desert and go back to our regular lives. Yet it is something that we must do, at least for now. Soon my life will be filled with nothing but adventure, and maybe, just maybe when that happens, I still won’t want to go back home.