“I decided to do a bit of backcountry camping out at White Sands National Monument.
I love sleeping on the platform in my car, but not being able to sit up when I wake up is wearing me down. So $3 later I drove to the trailhead. At just over a mile long, it’s not a difficult hike out to the campsites. The sand is tacky and still hard packed from the recent storm (which I assume was part of the same system that rained on me in Arizona).
It made sense to bring my New Mexico flag with me and let her stretch her threads overnight.
I expected it to be cold (especially for Californian blood), but I didn’t expect it to redefine the limits of that sensation.
Part of it was my fault – I forgot my gloves and beanie in the car, but part of my eventual predicament was due to a conversation I had with a tough looking Australian biker gal I met in the visitor center. She mentioned that she had stayed backcountry “cowboy style” just last night and she intended to do so again. When I asked about the night-time conditions, wind/rain, she responded,
Nah Nah – nothin’ to worry about. If you’ve got a pad to get up off the ground, yo’ll be a’right.
So – game on right?
The sun goes down as I’m finishing cold leftover spaghetti and meatballs straight from the tupperware and *slam!*. The heat leaves the system, and the law of entropy is served.
My flag whips up and dances to the pipes of whistling mountain air rushing into the valley from the eastern snow-capped range. I wasted no time and bundled up in my sleeping bag and inner thermal liner. For a while it was all going so well. The clouds had cleared up, and I remembered to bring my binoculars for the stars. I added a few more constellations to my mental list and counted 4 moons visible around Jupiter. (Jupiter is the obnoxiously bright dot trying to outshine it neighbor, the moon, right now). I went to sleep around 9.
I wake up at 11:30 with my sleeping bag covered in moisture. I manage to get another 3 hours of sleep – only to wake up at 3:00AM with a layer of frost on everything. I spent the next 3 hours begging the sun to rise just a little bit faster, just this once, for me.. please.
It was a new experience, and I come away with new respect for the weather – and also an enriched respect for the people that lived before modern conveniences. For them there was no car heater waiting to blast thaw their fingers and toes. Just another day of wondering how the dew and frost got there in the first place and hard labor.”
“February 2nd 2015
I’ve got some catching up to do.
Friday (Jan 30) I drove West towards Phoenix on Hwy 188 and later Hwy 88 through the Apache Trail. I stopped at Tonto National Monument (map / wiki) on the way. The monument protects ruins of a group of Native Americans who had lived there from around 1200 to 1400 AD.
It was cool to see their style of construction and space layout. My sister, who is on her way to becoming a licensed architect, would have found it interesting.
The Apache Trail (wiki) is a 22 mile dirt road which follows part of Apache Lake before splitting off in a southwest direction. It rained most of the day so the tops of the canyon were obscured.
That turned out to be an alright trade-off, because the storm brought the normally dry waterfalls to life.
When I made it to Phoenix I met up with my Grandfathers friend, Donna. She was incredibly hospitable and welcoming. The first thing we did was hop in her car and head to Scottsdale for a family get together.
It was about 15 of her extended family, and after sloppy joes I struck up conversation with the homeowner, a man named Don. He was an outstanding story teller. Listening to him describe the life of his late neighbor was like unknowingly participating in an orchestra performance he was conducting. He’d tell you just enough to get you thinking, and then pause. He’d bring his black & mild cigar up to his lips, make eye contact, and raise his bushy white eyebrows up as he inhaled. I can say with less sarcasm than you think – he was a master of his art.
I cant remember enough of his sayings or mannerisms, but I do remember when I asked what breed his dog, Bob, was, he replied,
Oh.. uh.. Bob there is Mr. Heinz’s 57 ingredients of mutt
I think that one will stick with me.”
“January 29th 2015
A few quick things:
- The ascent out of Sedona on Highway 89 is awesome.
- Flagstaff is a fun city, and if you need a hostel check out Grand Canyon International Hostel.
- The Orpheum is a cool concert venue. The Devil Makes Three was playing. They were great – kindof a punk folk band.
The next morning I met a guy named Seyon (“Say-yun”) at the hostel.
He overheard my plan to take I-40 east and asked if I could take him as far as Chambers, where it intersects Interstate 191. Seyoun turned out to be an interesting person. He was early 30’s (?) and had been traveling for 13 years after he was forced to leave South Korea. He changed the topic.
The main reason for his current visit to the States was to see Sedona. The vortices and energy of Sedona had called out to him. He was just finishing up a month long stay in the area before heading up to Canada.
He identified with Buddhism but with a very New Age twist. When I told him my favorite planet was Saturn he nodded his head and explained how that made sense given what he had learned about me so far. If you couldn’t tell already, I don’t get much out of astrology or other stuff like that. To me it seems like all the personality descriptions are reactive truthisms instead of being predictive. However, I’m told that having a skeptical outlook is a common quality of Libras..
I heard from two sources in flagstaff that the Petrified Forest is a snooze, “It’s flat.” But I never considered bypassing it.
I’ve learned that the things I find interesting don’t always strike other people in the same way and Vis Versa.The only road through the park starts north to an overlook above the Painted Dunes, which was an excellent spot for a chips and salsa break.
The road then swept 180° left and headed south, crossing back over Interstate 191 and the Santa Fe Railroad. I pulled off from the main road onto a spur which led to Blue Mesa. I biked through the hiking path because there wasn’t anyone else down there. I had the place to myself.
It is tough to remind myself that no part of the original tree is still there.
Parts of the petrified logs look identical to living trees, especially when it comes to the bark. The inside of the logs are a different story. They have a mixture of inorganic looking hot and cold colors that follow the original structure of tree rings. Its just an all around bizarre geologic process when you walk yourself through each step.
January 27th 2015 “N 34º 48.946′ // W 111º 50.898 // 11:45 AM
I cooked my first meal on top of a lookout off of the Red Rocks State Park By-way. Potatoes, Carrots, red bell pepper, the last of the broccoli, and strips of chicken – add Tapatillo.
It’s a peaceful spot I found. The sun came out since I stopped here, and the birds are pumped on it. The landscape I sketched reminds me of Zion National Park. White rock layered on top of red, with green sprinkles. So delicious – it’s already half eaten.
Hopefully there is a public pool somewhere down there. A shower is next on the agenda.”
I went for a jog through the Red Rocks State Park. Fantastic fun – but the biggest news is that I successfully swapped out my Arizona state flag!
Sedona deserves it’s otherworldly reputation. Sweeping vistas and whatnot.
..and then there’s this guy.
No luck on the shower though. Not for lack of trying..
Storytime: I see a sign off of the road that says “Public Pool –>”. “Great!” Jay thinks. “what a perfect deal”. I swing in to the parking lot and circle back to the pool. “Pool Seasonally Closed”. Of course. No problem – just wanted to shower. The sign says “Visitors must check in at the front office”. I walk around the building which I now realize is an extension off of an elementary school. The office referenced by the sign is the elementary school office. It’s 2:30 so school has just let out, and there is a line of minivans waiting to pick up the youngsters. And just before I walk in and ask the secretary if, despite the pool being closed, I can, despite it being a kiddy pool area, use the shower, that I’m not sure even exists, I catch myself.
Who knows – maybe I read too much into the situation. But I laughed my stinky ass all the way back to my car, and continued on down the road.
“9:15 AM January 26, 2015
Last night I shared a campsite with Len, a crotchety 60-something year old from Eureka, CA. He was camping out of the back of his Subaru hatchback, and I convinced him that we should split a single $10 site. He liked to talk about his treking adventures, and especially about his most recent outing, a three month trek through Pakistan (2007).
I’ve replaced the name of the company below with Company so that I don’t blow their cover.
“H0oray! It’s happening! January 25th 2015
I left yesterday. A friend of mine reminded me that the annual “Company” Christmas Tree Burn was happening, and it was a no-brainer deciding that I should kick off my trip there.
The main event of toasting over 200 trees is just one of the many kinds of crazy that happen out there -> Dirtbiking, rallying, shooting, flying RC planes, light spinning, telescope star gazing, lighting a propane tank with flares duct taped to it, lighting SoBe bombs, shooting a bowling ball cannon, general explosives and fireworks, and of course – launching rockets.
Someone brought out a limo. Because why the heck not, I guess.
I backed my car up to the circle around the fire and supplied the tunes. The employees of the Company are cool. It seems like you can only work there if you’re smart, nice, and a pinch crazy. The next morning, after mimosas and chic pea potato curry, we hugged it out and hit the road. They to LA, and I to Joshua Tree National Park. Which is where I am now. I’m exhausted.
No More Weekends!”
It’s our last day in paradise. I want to write a bit about what a great kick-off this was for my trip, but first I have to wrap up the 2nd day of my hike down Haleakala. (more…)
Good day great day.
The day started out just ok. I missed my 5:10 am alarm, and once I got to the visitor center they told me we couldn’t exchange flags because they ‘can’t give away federal property’. No biggie – it makes ok sense to me. But then things took a turn for the rad.
Maui has been great to me so far.
We are staying on the West side of the island in the town of Napili. I went whale watching yesterday with my mom and aunt. We knew the whales were all around us in the distance, but it seemed like we were always chasing them. My favorite bit was actually when they threw a special microphone overboard to listen to the humpback songs. Dang! – It’s a party down there!
If you can believe it, the guide told us that they were all in the middle of the same 18 minute song, but just at different points. (I was going to link some humpback whale noises from youtube, but it didn’t translate too well. In the videos I watched they just sounded like a bunch of elephants in labor – not like what I remember, but maybe I’m just a live music kind of guy.) The whales were cool but my real adventure is yet to come.
I’m all geared up for my overnighter in Haleakala National Park (map / wiki) tomorrow. The plan is to backpack in about 9 miles into the dormant volcano crater from the visitors center near the summit (West side) to Paliku campground (East side).
The campground is at 6,380′ elevation so the night time temperature will get down to around 40°F. The upswing of being so high up and remote is the world class stargazing. I am super excited about that. The next day I’ll pack up and head out south through Kaupo Gap towards the small town of Kaupo where I will be picked up by my family. The rendezvous time of 3:00pm should give them enough time to wander their way through “The Road to Hana” and still make it there on time.
All told its about 18 miles and 9000′ of elevation drop over the course of 2 days. game on.
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