Friday, December 30, 2011

Death Valley

We went to Death Valley for 4 days. We drove in via Baker on Monday. We didn't quite make it into the park so we camped on the side of the road outside of Shoshone. We drove up in The Man's SUV. We had some 4-inch pieces of foam for sleeping. We just put all our stuff in the front seats, laid out the foam and slept. It was so comfortable. More comfortable than at home. Crow is totally right. While I don't think the two of us could go with a sub-compact car, having a regular car big enough to sleep in is the best way to do it. Much more stealthy than something larger and plenty comfortable.

The following morning we drove into the park and saw the sights in the southern part of Death Valley. It was so beautiful. We stopped at everything to take lots of pictures and walk around. We got a campsite in the Furnace Creek area and then did a hike in Golden Canyon up to the spire that you see when you look at Zabriske point. It's called "Manly Peak." It was so golden and beautiful at the end of the day. By the time we finished our hike, it was past sunset and hard to see the way.

In the morning we went to see Zabriske Point at sunrise and then hike down into it to meet up with where we had been the evening before. After breakfast we drove out to see Mosaic Canyon and then Ubehebe Crater. Then we didn't know what to do with the rest of the day so we drove out to see the Racetrack. The road was really washboardy. The Man hit a rock and punctured his tire. He put on the spare but it was really low of air. There was a vehicle parked next to ours that looked like it had a lot of survival gear. The man (and his wife) who owned it had some compressed air so he filled our tire. We thanked him for saving our lives.

We examined the map and thought maybe if we continued forward instead of backtracking it would be shorter to get to a gas station. Big mistake. We took one look at Lippencot Pass road and I wanted to turn back but The Man went for it. It was the scariest road I've ever been on. We were sure we would die a couple of times. Our SUV isn't very small and we're not experienced off-roaders. The man and woman, whose names were Tom and Kari, saw us and would wait to make sure we'd make it through the scary stuff. After a while we all got out and talked for a while. We thanked them again for saving our lives and keeping an eye out for us. We told them we'd buy them dinner if we survived.

After many hours of struggling on difficult dirt roads we made it to Panamint Springs and bought them dinner. Then we camped there in their site. In the morning The Man woke up and asked me if he was alive or if this was a dream and he was lying in a ditch on the side of that road. No, we were alive.

We drove home in the morning after exchanging phone numbers with Tom and Kari. We drove west on highway 190. It was so beautiful out in the desert with the Joshua trees and the stark, bleak landscape. The desert is so beautiful in winter. I wish I lived there in winter. We crested a pass and there before us was the whole Sierra Nevada range. Mt. Whitney and a wall of mountains south and north of it. There was hardly any snow. It was gorgeous.

Once we dropped into Owens Valley we stopped to take pictures of the Sierras. Then we began the long drive south along the edge of the mountains. It's like a rolling back of the PCT now every time I do it. I tried to imagine where the trail was behind that wall of granite, what part of it was behind there. I could see Jenkins peak but not the trail, but I could imagine it and remember what it felt like to look down into the valley from the trail. I could see the road heading up to Bird Spring Pass where the water cache was. We stopped for lunch in Mojave and could see the windmills I walked through. To the south stretched the San Gabriels and I could imagine the whole trail through there. I could see the ski lifts of Wrightwood. The area of Cajon Pass dropped below the horizon and it looked like you would have to walk 50 miles of flat desert to get between the mountains of Big Bear to the mountains around Wrightwood.

As we drove down highway 14, I could see the PCT up near the Mill Creak ranger station. I could see the PCT as it paralleled the highway and went below it into the Vasquez Rocks. As we rounded the mountains into Santa Clarita I watched the Liebres and imagined myself hiking there. The Liebres connected into the mountains of the Sespe Wilderness, where I did my own little connector hike from Santa Barbara to the PCT. I could see the trail to Santa Paula Peak where I've hiked with the Sierra Club. I could see the Topatopa bluffs where we had a Christmas potluck hike just a few weeks ago. My life is written in the great mountains of Southern California. So many memories. Home.

We picked up our birds at the boarder on the way home. We were grateful to have survived our trip. I was so excited about how comfortable it was to sleep in the back of the SUV I started imagining what it would be like to live that way in my later years. Give up having a permanent residence and just live off Social Security visiting the desert in winter, the PCT in spring, summer and fall, driving around to see beautiful places and just living that way.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mushroom season has begun

Last weekend I did my annual Ultimate Hike. We hike 17.5 miles and do a mile of elevation gain. The profile doesn't just go up to a summit and back down. Instead we go up and down all day, with worse hills toward the end. It's a brutal hike for people who like brutal hikes. Everyone who came had a great time and we did the hike in record time without rushing. We started at 8am and were home by 4pm.

Yesterday I attended the annual Topatopa potluck hike. We hike 7 miles with 4700 feet elevation gain to the edge of the Topatopa bluffs. The hike gets steeper and steeper toward the summit. At the top we have a potluck. Then we hike 7 miles back to the car.

On last weekend's Ultimate hike I noticed some chanterelle mushrooms on the side of the trail. I picked them all and took them home. Yesterday, while I was hiking to the Topatopa bluffs, The Man was out visiting our mushroom tree. He came home with a plastic grocery bag full of big chanterelles. Tonight we ate enormous plates of mushrooms for dinner.

Tomorrow it is supposed to rain. Our mushroom tree will get more mushrooms. Mushroom season has begun!