There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

Definition of Walkabout :

a short period of wandering as an occasional interruption of regular work
Showing posts with label Death Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Death Valley. Show all posts

12 November 2016

Ballarat

Into the furthest depths of Death Valley one must venture bravely into if you want to try and reach the ghost town of Ballarat. My guess is that many do not try.
Born in 1897, died in 1917, the desert town's heyday was certainly short lived. Some desert rats though continued to carve out a life here at the base of the Panamint mountains. Characters such as "Seldom Seen Slim" and Frank "Shorty" Harris.
I look upon their grave markers and former residences as the summer sun beats down from above. A wild braying burro startles me from my dreaming.
I move along through the remains of another forgotten town of the American West.

09 November 2016

3 am in Death Valley

It's one hundred and one degrees as I park the truck and climb into the bed at 3 am. Time to observe the stars in the universe in a way I haven't done since my childhood.

A lone coyote howls deep into the desert night. I can feel the presence of bats flying around my head. I'm just outside of Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

It's July 3rd.
The enormity and sheer size of the galaxy consistently takes my breath away. It's a truly humbling moment that puts me in my place in this world.

It's ironic that I write this the day after my country held it's Presidential elections, with a vote that humbled me again with the outcome.
I'm overcome with sadness, yet not really surprised. I've felt for a long time that a majority of the people living here have a skewed sense of right and wrong.

I get the anti-establishment idea, but not through him.

I want to disappear into the night sky and float freely in the galaxy, not stuck here on earth trying to explain to my niece about the election results, and how a person that says the things he does was elected.

I feel a riot coming, and it will not end well.

02 November 2016

the story of how sh*t went down in Death Valley

The fourth of July this year landed on a Monday, giving us 9 to 5 workaday during the week folks a long three day weekend.

I took advantage of this time to go back to a place I first visited in December 2011, Death Valley National Park. Why did I want to go in the middle of the summer you may ask? I guess I like to push the boundaries of reason and sanity. Unfortunately, I went over the edge into an nightmarish abyss.
Saturday morning started out well enough. I land at the airport early, get a nice big truck for my rental, and start the 3 hour journey to the park. First stop is to find the ghost town of Rhyolite just outside the park entrance, and about seven miles from the town of Beatty, Nevada.

Driving along a dirt road as I'm leaving the ghost town, the low tire pressure light comes on. Confused, I put the truck in park and get out to examine the tires. Sure enough, I loud hissing sound is coming from the front left tire. Freaking out, I beeline it straight to back to Beatty, stressing as the PSI drops rapidly...

I make it to a gas station, and ask if there is a repair shop open around town (remember it is a holiday weekend). She gives me the cell number to the only mechanic. I call, only to find out he is on his way back from Las Vegas.

He can help me, but it will be a couple of hours. Eventually, he gets my tire replaced, using the spare on the rental.
I thank him, thinking my bad luck is out of the way. I'm behind schedule, but need to go back into the park to check into my lodging at Furnace Creek. Along the way I see road closures and pools of standing water along the road.

"Strange...."

An hour and a half later, I pull into Furnace Creek. There is a line coming out the front lobby, people sweating in the intense heat. I get in line....

I finally get to the front desk, only to learn that a major freak rain and lightning storm had rolled through the park the night before, knocking out all power to Furnace Creek. With no A/C, power or phone service, they had no way to contact us beforehand, but due to safety reasons, we couldn't stay in the park. Everyone was frantically trying to find alternate accommodations, all of which were at least an hour or two from our current location.

I decide to just drive back to Beatty, and find a small motel that has a room available for the next couple of nights.

"it can't get any worse, right?..."
The next morning, I head back into the park to explore new areas previously not seen. I'm limited due to most roads being closed, but I do find one open that takes me deep into the park.

Driving along the paved road smattered with small rocks that were washed up on the road from the previous rainstorm, I'm chugging along when the low tire pressure light comes on again.

"I can't be having another flat, can I?...."

Yet that is exactly what is happening. The right front tire this time, and the air is escaping much quicker. I'm not seven miles from a town like the day before, I'm about 50 miles from a major highway, 60 miles from any civilized town.

"This could be how I die."

I have no cellular service, so I do the only thing possible, and drive as fast as I can. Somehow, I make it back to the main highway, and about 4 miles from the town before that tire completely blows out. I pull over and wait for someone to help me.

No one does. Desperate, I try to call 911 with no cell service. The call goes through....

A hour later, just as the last of my water runs out, the police show up, and give me a ride back to town. They let me know that due to the rainstorm, rocks turn into razor sharp little bastards that wreck havoc on the roads, which is why my tires were being punctured.

They drop me off in town so I can call my rental car company to get a tow truck. I plop a quarter into the pay phone and dial...
The nice lady that answers can't even find my location at first on GPS to send a tow truck, but eventually we get it all worked out. Only problem is that the tow truck is a couple hours away...

Finally he arrives. I sit in his cab, no A/C but plenty of cigarette smoke. I breath deeply.
I tell him my stuff is in my hotel room back in Beatty, but he tells me that we will never make it up that road towing this truck, we have to go another route to get out of the park.

"just get me the hell out of here."

So I lost two tires, my luggage, and my sanity. I went straight to the Las Vegas airport and caught a flight home, trying to shake the unimaginable stream of bad luck that plagued me in Death Valley. 

12 December 2011

Death Valley

Once upon a time, long ago, I had heard about a place so desolate and isolated that at night one could see the true enormity and vastness of the galaxy, filled with endless stars and planets.
Recently I had subsequently learned that because of a growing population of city lights from both Las Vegas and California, this night time phenomena was slowly disappearing. Not wanting to miss my chance, I packed my car and decided to slowly road trip my way to Death Valley.
Just before I left though, my hometown ( and really the whole western United States) was hit with a bitter cold, high wind State of Emergency , and my plan to tent camp was changed to staying in Las Vegas and driving to Death Valley for day explorations. I don't like to camp in twenty degree temperatures.
As I made my way past Area 51 and crossed the California border into the National Park, I decide to first head to Dante's View, at more than 5,000 feet above the park. With what felt like hurricane force winds whipping me as I hiked the trail out to the tip, I am in awe of the view.
After getting my blood pumping and my adrenaline going like a freight train, I head down from Dante's View and make my way through 20 Mule Team Canyon. The formations in the inferno valley are truly out of this world. Nothing seems to move out here except my own two feet.
 Continuing the journey as the sun above indicates high noon, I find Zabriskie Point. I choose to hike instead of driving up to the overlook, and the choice is a wise one. Immersed in a sandy stone canyon, one must use navigation skills and pin point familiarities so you do not get lost. Thrilled with this type of adventure, I make my way.
 With the sun quickly setting and the temperatures dropping, I head down to Furnace Creek and bundle up with a warm drink and witness the night sky unfold in it's mystery and wonder....
 *****
Back on the road in the super early pre dawn, I leave the lights of Las Vegas for day number two in Death Valley.
First stop is Mosaic Canyon. Bundling up to fight off the early morning winter chill, I set forth into the unknown.  As I reach the top and turn to see the view in the narrow box canyon, I almost forget to breathe.
 Next stop is Artists Drive. I stop at random places along the lonely road, and just head into the hills, not sure what I'm looking for, not caring what I find. Such freedom in the stillness.
Meditation
Contemplation
Relaxation
*****
Feeling better than I have in years, my good mood steers me over to Natural Bridge Canyon. Signs everywhere warn of rattlers, but I feel safe with the cold temperatures, although the day is warming up nicely in the afternoon. I cautiously head up the trail.
Continuing on past the bridge, I find myself scaling rocks like a lemur, pushing myself further and further up the canyon. I see a couple of gents resting, and they warn me that it isn't as easy getting down the rocks as it is climbing up. I heed their warning, but continue forward. As I come to the end of the box canyon, I marvel in the accomplishment. Age is all in your mind.
Although it takes me some time to make it back down, I eventually make it out. Unsure of where I should go next, and with not much daylight left, I pull out the park map and decide on my next destination. I believe I'll have just enough time. As I'm driving I come across a sign that makes me slam on the brakes, and with a whirlwind of dust I see where I am at....
The last stop starts to appear on the horizon, but I think it to be a mirage.

"That can't be real"

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are indescribable. You feel like you could be in the Sahara, possibly the Tunisia desert, but not California.
You can get nervous heading off into the seemingly endless dunes, and so one is constantly looking behind you for your known markers, a lone tree or the far off parking lot. But the beauty of the dunes call you further in, enticing you to climb the hills, discover its hidden treasures, to find your inner child and play in its soft sand.
With nothing but high sand dunes around me, I run into a family sitting high on a hill, enjoying a snack and getting a drink. As I approach, I see their quizzical looks, and realize that I must be quite a sight to see, as I look like Mad Max from beyond Thunderdome. I remove my motorcycle-like goggles and smile, and they return the gesture. We sit and talk for awhile. I love when moments like that happen during solo travel.
*****
As if this adventure wasn't epic enough, you can get your Death Valley rock 'n roll on with this two part video self made doc. ( although at 27 total minutes, I understand if you don't.....) 
Travel on!