It started with a dream...I was...designing a board game....set in a medieval fantasy realm. It combined tactics from Settlers of Katan and Civilization 5 (on a much smaller scale) and allowed up to 4 players to create an empire with which to conquer, advance, or enlighten...And I designed it all so I could beat someone the first time they played it in my dream...Not sure why but that was my incentive! It was actually rather intricate and incorporated different structures, unit types, and production abilities across a simple yet customizable board. Has anyone heard or played a game like that before? If so please let me know so I can make sure I don't waste my time as I've started making a mock version of it! =D
I awoke from his dream and then wrote a few notes before saying farewell to some friends in Imperial Beach, CA. I got a later start than anticipated and headed towards Salton Sea to check out this abandoned area I had heard about while at Quail Springs. I ended up doing a bit or research ahead of time since I am very interested in post apocalyptic topics and wanted to know what to expect. I will share a bit of what I learned along with my journey that afternoon as it will likely take over this entire post! I have also edited most the photos I took there and will release my first photo collection on my website! Visit the Salton City Photography page for the gallery, some of which will be used in this post.
It took over a dozen railcars of boulders to eventually curb the leak, and by then there was a 43ft deep sea in the middle of the desert where only parched earth had existed before...so what can be done with this new body of water you ask? Well you turn it to an up and coming resort town only a few hours travel from L.A.!
Initially they stocked the body of water to see if fish would survive, and boy did they. This also made for some happy birds and wildlife began flocking to this big puddle. Soon it was a fishing and hunting oasis in the middle of the desert where one could "throw in a hook without bait and pull out a fish". The Hollywood elites soon saw the value and with a couple marinas in the 50's and 60's turned it into a hot spot for vacationing away from the ocean on a much calmer body of water calling it the "Miracle in the Desert". It was advertised as a place where one could enjoy a variety of leisurely activities; a sportsman and vacationers paradise. Infrastructure grew and people moved in, Salton City was built...but something wasn't happening...the water wasn't evaporating
With no natural water source, how could this be? Well it just so happens that all the farmland in the area naturally drained to the basin as it is the lowest point in the state. So the runoff roughly equaled the amount of evaporation (around 6ft per year). The issue is that irrigation runoff brings all sorts of fertilizers and salts, so some lovely algae started forming and the water got salty.
At first it was nominal, but after 50+ years of this process, the sea was becoming more and more contaminated. An oder became noticeable. the salt levels rose rapidly (nowadays its about 50g per liter which is higher than sea water!). Fish couldn't survive and died in the tens of thousands. Parts of the shoreline are still covered in fishbones. Subsequently one of the largest deaths of a bird population in the U.S. also occurred, as brown pelicans consumed the dead fish washing onto shore. With so much of the wildlife dying, the smell got worse. Incinerators were run nonstop for months to keep up with the epidemic.
By then, the area was quickly becoming a less desirable place to visit, and the tourism industry began to sharply decline. One of the final straws came in 76' when Hurricane Kathleen arrived to ravage the area, flooding the shoreline and many of the inhabited areas. As luck would have it, in 77', hurricane Doreen finished the job. People left their homes, businesses gave up and moved out, people abandoned Salton City. Some people came back over time, but many didn't. Now there are segments of the town just left to let father time and mother nature reclaim what is theirs. If you're interested in more of the history, I found this article to be a great source of entertainment while learning about Salton City if you're interested! (http://lostamerica.com/photo-items/the-salton-sea/)
I actually met two high schoolers from San Diego who were also looking to explore the area when I got there! We teamed up for a little bit and made a couple stops.
Please see the Photo Gallery for further photos.
I did it, I made it to my trips main destination!
The Halfway point, and one of the main reasons I chose the itinerary I did, was to meet up with my friends Danielle and Ryan out at the Quail Spring Permaculture farm. It's located in the Cuyama Valley surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. The Farm itself is a leading environmental educational nonprofit that focuses on cultivating ecological and social health. I had visited here once before, a few years ago, and loved the sense of connection with the surrounding nature, the sustainable efforts, and the buffer from society that is so hard to find these days. More info can be found on their website - http://www.quailsprings.org/
A couple hour drive from Bakersfield got me to the first gate where my friend Ryan awaited. I followed him down the dusty 10mph dirt road full of tumbleweed into the canyon until we arrived at the farm. Just as I remembered it was bustling with crops, livestock, and people busy at work. From earth building, to gardening, to maintenance, there is always something to do.
With my first real bed and a full kitchen for use, I enjoyed my time at Quail Springs quite well. Danielle makes a killer goat milk latte every morning, and Ryan knows how to make some damn good potato and damn good fried PB&J! I fed my extra food to the pigs (they loved bologna and hotdogs...cannibals), and helped clean up one of the larger spaces for the class they would be hosting later that week. The Quail Springs crew is also a blast. Having conversations with each of them brought new perspective into my day. One of the people staying there, Diva (Pronounced Dive-ah) had mentioned the Salton Sea as being a really cool place to visit on my way out of California. Luckily I wrote this down, because it made for a fun adventure a few days later.
My favorite conversation however had to be with Andrew. As I was walking out of the main hut to use the restroom, I noticed Andrew heading in the same direction to pick some Goji berries. He began whistling classical music so I started whistling the harmony. We continued until I had sat down to do my business and then we transitioned into a conversation! It was a special moment I doubt I could get anywhere else...
All in all it was a great stop along my journey and though I would have loved to stay a couple more days, the show had to go on! On the 18th I said my goodbyes and headed to LA to meet up with a couple people. I picked up a mutual friend from LAX as we were both headed to the San Diego area, and I stopped in with Landon Brands for lunch at a Ramen shop! I had a great time catching up with Landon (since we lived together in NYC back in the Summer of '14) and I look forward to the possibly of working on film projects with him in the future.
The next 2 days I simply relaxed with new friends on Imperial Beach right next to the Boarder of Mexico. Did a little beaching, a little bit of vehicle troubleshooting, and continued my rest. I knew leaving California would bring adventures and some long nights as I wanted to continue pursuing serious nighttime photography. I left San Diego the afternoon of the 20th, with Salton Sea as a waypoint as I headed towards the next leg of my journey; Arizona.
Traveling further into California, I've begun to notice my allergies continue to get worse as I am needing to take Claritin daily now. This is unfortunate but does support my conclusion that the desert environment is not what my nose desires. Though I normally develop seasonal allergies this time of year, apparently the high desert conditions create constant pollination and therefore always offer seasonal allergies for those of us with a sensitive sinus. Thankfully some of the cranial psychotherapy techniques i've learned helped naturally clear the worst of it!
I remember being at the Quail Springs farm before, and it was a peaceful and fun experience. It was great to find that feeling again, even though Im in a different place personally, it was refreshing in the same way. I also really appreciated the friendship Danielle and Ryan provided. Before this trip we had been more acquaintances, but after just those few days I count them, along with the many others I've gotten to know on my travels, as good friends. That alone, has been a one of wonderful highlights of my journey thus far.
I began the drive into the canyon from Bakersfield around 8pm. The sun was setting and by the time I reached the turn off for the backroad to get to the Remington Hot Springs it was already dark. I noticed there was a small "Road Closed" sign on the road, but not nearly as big as ones i'm used to, so I continued forward hoping I wouldn't have to turn around. After a few miles I saw why. A huge boulder had fallen from the cliffs above and blocked one side of the road. I was able to drive right by, but it made me think about how that could potentially happen at anytime even if the odds are low.
I was disappointed but wasn't convinced the hot springs had been flooded (after all one of the main places I wanted to visit on this trip was the hot springs!). On my way back to my car to grab my swimsuit to use the smaller remaining upper hot spring pool, I walked by a campsite near the bottom of the ravine and met 3 people; Shaggy, Kit, and Dejah. They invited me to warm up by their fire and offered me a peace pipe so we relaxed and chatted a bit. They were all from Bakersfield just over an hour away and were camping out for a month in the canyon.
Turns out the river is up 20ft due to the high precipitation levels, which is the first time in 25 years! (just my luck right?) We made small talk and eventually I thanked them and left to grab my things and return to the hot spring.
The next morning I awoke to the sun in my eyes and a mindset of determination to see the hot springs again just to confirm it was, in fact, submerged. As I was getting up I noticed Shaggy and Dejah walking up to my car. I rolled down my window and asked what I could do for them.
"Are you the guy we met last night and hung out with?" Dejah asked. I said yes and asked them what was up. "That other guy we were camping with left early this morning after stealing our phones, water, and weed."
This put me a little on guard butI told them i was really sorry to hear that, then immediately they asked "Have you had breakfast? are you hungry?". I said I hadn't eaten yet and they offered to make me breakfast. I hesitantly said maybe but then asked why they would offer to make me breakfast after that happened, it seemed a little suspicious. Then Shaggy spoke up and said "we could really use a friend". It was then I saw they were being genuine, so I agreed and got dressed and met them at their campsite. Turns out they had known Kit for a couple months and had just gotten married a few months prior themselves. Kit had apparently lived with them without paying and had been slowly trying to undermine their relationship. We discussed this over a fresh meal of sliced bologna and hotdogs boiled in Famous Dave's BBQ sauce...definitely a first.
I offered to give them a ride back to Bakersfield and they were incredibly grateful. We hauled their stuff back up to my car (which was more grueling than I expected, even caused my tendinitis to flair up!) and strapped it all atop my car since there wasn't much room inside. I picked up all the trash near the lower campsite and hot springs (as many people just leave things there) and placed that atop everything on my car.
We left the hot springs area by noon and made it back to Bakersfield in good time, only one thing fell off the roof on our way!. Turns out they enjoy some of the same Anime as I do as well as collecting knives. They told me about a knife shop downtown that I should check out called the Zombie Apocalypse store. I dropped them off and they thanked me saying I could have all their food as they wouldn't need it anymore (bologna, hotdogs, Nutella, peanut butter, ramen, and spaghetti.) I thanked them though wasn't sure what I would use it for.
I then stopped at the knife shop, noted the custom zombie heads they had on display (props at one point I believe), and picked up a simple M-tech blade since I hadn't brought anything more than a Leatherman with me.
I then began driving towards my friends at the Quail Springs Permaculture Farm. It was only a few hours and I had plenty to think about after a bit of an unexpected morning.
Getting to the hot springs at night was at times similar to my Sequoia driving just without the fog. The pitch black and twisting roads definitely require focus and after awhile gets a bit strenuous on the eyes and mind. I was relieved when i found the boulder since I was able to drive around it, otherwise I had been dreading an actual un-passable obstacle requiring another hour of driving just to get to my campsite.
Meeting a couple strangers and then helping them out was nice feeling as far as my altruism goes, but also a little nerve racking since the situation seemed to have happened almost too coincidentally. Nothing bad happened and I felt they were being genuine, but that is a risk of traveling and showing kindness, it can get taken advantage of. I just hope I continue to be blessed with people in my path that I can impact positively. Not sure what I will do with this extra food, especially since It's not things I would normally eat, but I'm heading to a farm, and i'm sure they'll have some use for it!
I did want to re-write some memories of the hot springs by visiting, but with it underwater I wasn't able to enjoy them at all. Now looking at it I see it as the universe giving me a little nudge to show I should focus on the new experiences and let the old ones be what they are and not attach negative or positive connotations to it.
I continued back through Fresno up to Yosemite, once again arriving in the evening just before sunset. Doing a quick google search of what to see in Yosemite with just a day, I decided the drive to Glacier Point would be the best use of the my evening as it overlooks Half Dome and the valley. I started up the road for Glacier point and the amount of snow on either side of me began increasing.
As it got darker I began taking night shots and a gentleman asked me if I was interested in a free bottle of wine. I said "Is there really an answer besides yes?" and that struck up a great conversation (in the dark) between myself and Steve. Steve is from Boston and had a week between jobs in Vegas so he rented a van to check out the Yosemite area. Someone had left a bottle of wine in his car and since he doesn't drink he decided to give it away. And I was the lucky winner! Turns out Steve spent years touring in a band and we discussed music quite a bit. He also is in a similar part of his personal life's journey so we commiserated and had a refreshing chat (probably the best first conversation with a stranger I can recall). He said to let him know If I was ever in Boston and needed a place to crash and we have emailed a couple times since!
After taking a fair amount of photos I headed back to my car. I put on the jacket I had packed for the first time and was grateful for the extra insulation (although I had been annoyed at it taking up space on the trip so far). As I was putting things away, a car pulled up and a guy named Tim with his Canon 5D and tripod hurried out towards the Glacier Point lookout. I asked what he was there for and he said that Jupiter was out tonight. I quickly grabbed my gear again and spent the rest of the night more or less beside him chatting and taking photos.
We saw Jupiter first. Next to us, a couple named Jack and Anna had their telescope setup. It's app controlled and navigates to the coordinates you enter from your phone. We looked at Jupiter and saw one of its moons. Then we turned to the horizon as the moon began to crest and Saturn was visible on its right. The moon was as bright as the sun while I tried to take photos since the night before was a full moon. Looking at Saturn though the telescope was even cooler, as I could see the rings!
I came away with amazing photos, new friends, and a bit of a chill. I ended up staying up there in the glacier point parking lot though I pulled out all 3 blankets and left my jacket on. It was a bit of a cold night and I woke up a few times, but the next morning I got up early (as I heard this park got quite congested with the construction) and made my way down from Glacier Point.
As I left the park I recognized its beauty was unique in it's own right and something to be experienced just like the other parks of my journey. As I left the area I was thankful for a good Samaritan at a gas station who notified me I had left coffee creamer atop my car as I was about to drive off.
I made my way to Bakersfield in the late afternoon as I had a 5 hour drive to my next location and noticed I had lost an earring!! (First time since getting my ears pieced a few months back). As it was a Sunday, not many places I thought that would carry earrings were open. I ended up at a Walmart where the only black ear studs were apart of the last package of costume jewelry that was missing 1/3 the studs (30 sets total). I ended up getting a discount on the product and doubt I'll use most of the other earrings.
I arrived at one of the main destinations of this trip, the Remington Hot springs, around 9pm after about an hour's drive east of Bakersfield into the canyons. I was ready to relax in the natural spring though fate had some other plans in mind...Stay tuned ;).
When the moon rose I felt like I was in a movie showing a huge disc in the sky. I wish I had the filters to have photographed it but it was quite a bright sight. As I took photos I realized how much fun I was having with my camera, some of the most fun since shooting my short film in NYC. This was the first night I really embraced my passion for night photography...and I loved it. I plan on focusing my techniques and practice towards this goal going forward. Continuing to make connections has fueled my passion for this trip more times than I can count! I am loving the social aspect of solo travels and ironically have rarely felt alone.
I made my way across Nevada, past the soon to close Mojave Desert mirror power plant, and into California. I was greeted by an Agricultural inspection which I thought was a bit out of place but all they asked was if I had any plants or flowers and I drove right through. I headed to Sequoia national park first, even though my itinerary was to go to Yosemite, I realized milage-wise is made more sense to switch them.
Without sunlight the mist seemed to thicken. Visibility dropped to 5-10ft rather frequently so I took my time. I had to watch the white sidelines on the road to determine If I was still going straight. Corners occasionally startled me, seeming to come out of no where, and the possibility of wildlife jumping out at any moment kept me on edge and alert. I didn't realize how hard I was riding my brakes until about 15 minutes in and I started smelling burnt rubber. I quickly switched to riding 2nd gear most of the way back down.
It took twice as long (nearly 90 minutes) but I made it down safe and sound. I captured one of my favorite nighttime photos of the trip at one of the less foggy turnouts overlooking the mountain side with Fresno in the far distance. I Found a gas station around 11pm (as there are none in the boundaries of the park) and gritted my teeth to pay $3.29 a gallon ($0.50 higher than stations further from the park). While filling up I searched for free campsites in the area and was disappointed to find all the ones listed on the website were located further up the road I had just come down! So far on this trip I was able to find free camping relatively close, so I slightly chastised myself for not looking ahead of time when I decided to change my itinerary. The distance to the nearest listed free site was fairly close as the crow flies however the roads to get there would take 3-4 hours.
I decided to drive back up into the park (ascending the misty roads was actually a bit easier), and I stopped at the same rest room on the way. I noticed the same van parked but now there was also a sedan in the same lot. I realized (it being midnight now) that these people were car camping so I decided to follow suite and parked in the lot and dozed to sleep.
I found the history of restoration of the Sequoia National Park incredibly interesting. During the 1900's a small city was practically built in the giant forest causing damage to the ecosystem, killing trees, and preventing new ones from growing (mainly from forest fire suppression). As the impact was realized, the resort area of roughly 300 building was slowly restored to natural land, removing buildings, excess infrastructure, and pavement until in 1999 the last building was torn down. Now there is simply a leftover market building used as the museum as well as restrooms with self guiding plaques for tours. It gave be a sense of hope in humanity recognizing its impact and making changes to preserve a limited resource.
I traveled the rest of the afternoon, excited for my next stop at Yosemite, not having any idea what to expect...
I would argue that Sequoia is as beautiful as Zion but in a different way. The grandeur of the Zion canyon and the colors of the cliffs made for a more breathtaking view. And while Sequoia didn't take my breath away in that regard, being able to walk up next to the monolithic trees, touch them, move around them and change perspective, gave me a sense of oneness with the energy (something thats harder to achieve with a mountain).
There were many great moments of reflection as I enjoyed this park. I felt inconsequential walking amidst the wooden giants of Sequoia. Their monumental energy (and the fact you couldn't see the tops in the mist) made for a humbling experience. I did my best see as much as I could. I felt like I was jumping in and out of my car for brief moments of enjoying nature before the motivation to see more kicked in. A few times I felt the sense of only experiencing the park "though the camera" and reminded myself to take in the sights with my own eyes which helped calm some of the rush of getting to everything.
The first night of mist also gave me an unforgettable memory I may not find again in my life (unless I go looking for it). I felt like I was one with my car, navigating a treacherous pathway that not all are intended to survive. It got my heart racing and my thrill meter going.
I also sensed some odd adventurous nostalgia as I hiked thought the trees (maybe because trees haven't seemed so big since I was a kid) and parts of the forest smelled like fresh Lincoln Logs =).
Since the prior days activities of intense hiking and ER trips was so exciting, I decided I needed a rest day. I began heading to Las Vegas and when I made it to St. George to pick up my prescriptions from the night before, I realized I didn't have my wallet. I only freaked out for a few minutes before I got a message from my new MN friend Nate saying he found my wallet in their car from the ride they had provided last night. I thanked them once again and drove the hour long journey back to Zion to pick it up at the Quality Inn and Suites desk. On my way to pick it up, I got a call from my alma matter Winona State University letting me know a hotel in Springdale, UT had found my school ID in a wallet. The fact that multiple people made efforts to return my wallet was reassuring, even if the extra 2 hours of driving that day delayed my plans. I picked up my wallet from the desk, had a good laugh and re-made my way to pick up my prescriptions on my way to Vegas.
Upon arriving, my plan was to meet up and spend the night with a friend I met through work named Cameron. We had only hung out in training for a few days over a year ago, but he came across as my type of people. Since I visited Vegas for a work conference last October where I spent my whole time on the Strip, I had no interest in returning to that area and planned on just resting with my friend (I just remember the Vegas strip feeling like the city reached it's prime in the 80's and has since slowly faded into a dirty, slightly depressing, collection of senseless money squandering and the type of people attracted to that...but then again I don't gamble).
I put up 5 shelves, a picture holder, a couple sets of LED lights, and fixed 2 wobbly chairs and a wobbly table that had been loose for a couple years. I felt incredibly useful! (and thankfully always keep an Allen wrench set in my car). Afterward we organized trinkets and memorabilia to help provide background decor for Cameron's future gameplay streaming.
I put up the shelves in the 2 pictures below =D
The rest of that day was spent relaxing. I got a nice long hot shower in (I forgot how immensely pleasurable it could be), finally got to play the new Zelda game on a Nintendo Switch (Holy Bonkers is that game beautiful), and finished the night with Bob's Burgers and Rick and Morty!
I hit the 2000 mile mark as I arrived in Vegas. 2/5 of my journey has been completed and its been an exciting ride so far! Also the west has plastic bumps on the lane markers to let you know when you're on top of or crossing over a lane (can't do that in the midwest with snowplows coming by every winter) but useful none the less.
Being handy and able to fix things is a lost art. It shouldn't be. I felt very accomplished and satisfied doing the simple projects that needed tending. I very much support the next "fix-it cafes" I've read about online and hope to get in my area soon. Part of the human experience is to encounter problems and find solutions as creatures of logic and reason (especially since society puts an emphasis on education). And if we don't conquer those challenges are we missing out on an opportunity for growth? or is the social construct of "earn enough money to hire someone" and paying for a "convenience factor" a more worthy ideal? Where we focus on one skill set proficiency to earn an income to afford the luxury of paying others to accomplish those tasks for you.
I woke up a little sore the next day, sleeping in a less comfortable position in my front seat as I hadn't set up my air mattress the night before. I quickly left that campsite and headed back to Zion for a 2nd day of adventure and beauty. I knew I was going to do the Observation Point hike. An 8 mile path, although not as treacherous as Angel's Landing, it's arguably more grueling as it climbs 500 ft higher and 3 miles longer. The view offered at the end captures the whole canyon however, and that's what I wanted to see.
I brought my headphones with me this time and turned on my shuffled playlist. As I began the hike, a few classical songs from Chopin, Mozart, and Debussy played and I realized that beautiful high altitude hiking is my favorite way to listen to classical music. The instrumentation complimented the scenery and less pronounced beat was better for hiking.
Though at this point their bodies were reminding them of their limitations but that didn't stop them. After a few chipper motivational comments I joined their group for the remainder of the hike!
Hiking with a group was a nice change of pace, especially with the home state similarity there was more in common to discuss. The Hike up was a bit grueling, but there were beautiful vantages scattered throughout. It wasn't quite as exciting as the Angel's Landing hike because most of the observation point hike involved following the ridge line on larger pathways around the basin below, instead of practically scaling a rock formation with narrow and at times undefined trails as with Angel's Landing.
The forcast for the morning was beautiful, but the afternoon was almost guaranteed rain. Throughout the hike we were trying to race the storm as we would hear distant thunder from time to time. Thankfully it didn't start raining until after we had completed the entire hike.
We finally reached the top around 2pm. I pulled out my tuna and crackers and enjoyed the view. A number of other groups were also at the top and I ended up taking photos for a couple of them. We exchanged emails for sending my higher res photos from my T3i. Our MN group took some different photos, silly and serious, and then around 2:30 made our way back down the path, noticing the simpler to hike downgrade almost immediately.
Then I noticed my sinuses overproducing and thought "good old seasonal allergies, I wondered when I would face them on this trip" and after that thought nothing of it. After another 15 minutes I felt my throat tighten, my stomach became uneasy, and my ears would not pop for anything. This was starting to become a pretty significant hinderance to my hiking stride and I started falling behind the pack.
I began considering why my body would have these reactions. Had I overworked myself the last few days? was I suffering from heat exhaustion or a combination of seasonal allergies or a cold from being out late the night before? I asked the group to take a break and I downed a bunch of water while we took a break.
I was so confused as to why this all would happen out of nowhere. My head started to feel cloudy but I kept pace with the group and made it to the bottom about 4:30pm. We then waited for the bus to come take us to the visitor center and noticed a rescue operations starting to unfold as someone apparently had gotten stuck off the trail. I wasn't able to see where everyone was talking about but at that point my mind was 100% regardless.
The bus ride was packed but bearable. I itched my face and noticed it felt tender and like the nerves were inflamed. I figured it was a combination of sweat, sunscreen, and whatever I was coming down with so I would need to wash my face as soon as I got back to my car.
We exited the bus and I bid them farewell. Thanking them for sharing the hike and wishing them well as they went to get rest they direly needed.
I grabbed a cloth and soap from my car, leaving my backpack and most of my things in the car because I was going to be coming right back in a few minutes anyway...yea...
I got to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My face was slightly swollen and I noticed red rashes at the base of my wrist and my inner elbow. Then I lifted my shift and saw what was happening. I had severe hives on and around my waist, back, armpits, crotch...basically everywhere I wasn't looking before. Finally recognizing this as being a bit more than normal allergic reaction, I decided I should ask the information desk if they have any on staff medical personal. I waited in line maybe 10 minutes while the woman behind the desk helped answer an older couples question, then apologized when I got up there. I said "I think i'm having an allergic reaction, do you have somewhere I can go for medical concerns?" and lifted my shirt a little to show the coverage of hives.
Her eyes got big and she grabbed a phone and said "I'm going to get someone for you" as she looked a little like facing a emergency situation she wasn't prepared for. I thought maybe she was just new, thanked her, and sat down across from the desk.
Within a few minutes I heard sirens. Then another set of sirens. All I could think was "ugh, its not that bad..."
Then one, two, three, four, and five first responders arrived! Within a couple minutes I explained what I thought could have happened and relayed all my symptoms while they grabbed vitals. They had me remove my shirt and informed me I was having a severe allergic reaction and the nearest ER was an hour away in St. George, UT. They asked if I thought I needed an ambulance, and I said I wasn't sure, and then Tim (who had taken the lead) said he normally doesn't suggest people take the ambulance ride, but in this case (without knowing exactly what stung me) my symptoms could worsen at any moment and potentially incapacitate me. He also mentioned there were shuttles that went back and forth from St. George if I need a ride.
Still in a bit of shock/unclear thinking I said that yes maybe they should and next thing I know there was a stretcher and I was off! My phone was low on battery and I wasn't quite thinking so I didn't get any photos of my severe symptoms.
My first ambulance ride was rather pleasant. The worst part of this whole situation was honestly having an IV line in my arm (I hate those things, and needles in general). I got to chat with Tim the whole drive. He's technically a ranger for the park, a police officer for the park (As it being federal they require their own police officers), and recently the medic as he has been at Zion for 15 years! He mentioned he had been leading the rescue mission before he got the call about me and I apologized for taking him away from the action. He laughed and said ti happens twice a day during the busy season and since he's in charge he just sits behind a computer so he was glad to hand it off and accompany me!
We had intelligent and interesting conversation the whole way. I learned about what Tim does in his current role and about the parks in general. Tim also worked at Yellowstone for 15 years prior to Zion so he has seen his fair share of parks (He also admitted he enjoyed Zion more!).
We arrived at the ER and I was carted in, was given a chance to pee, and waited to hear what the docs would say. Since my condition had stabilized after taking Benadryl during the ambulance ride, they simply IV'd me some Pectin and Prednisone which after half an hour cleared everything up. Without knowing what exactly got me, there wasn't much else that could be done.
I was discharged and found out the buses had just stopped running for the night.
Frustrated and with 10% phone battery remaining, I texted Nate and the MN gang to see if there was any hope of them rescuing me, mostly expecting to pay a cab a ridiculous amount of money to drive me back to Zion.
Miraculously they were already out and about and agreed to come get my all the way in St. George. I was so gracious and humbled that they were willing to go out of their way, exhausted after a full day of rigorous hiking, to take the time to retrieve me from an hour away. I told them I owed them a few rounds back in MN, and thanked them numerous times.
All and all, I made it back by 9:30pm. And since I had aquired the nighttime parking permit, I decided "ah what the hell, might as well make the rest of the day worth the ordeal." So I drove around the park at night (though not as nice a night as the day prior) and took photos and did my best to relax.
I ended up driving right back to the same place I had slept the night before, and like the night before, simply leaned my seat back, and passed out.
I had a couple notable sensations throughout the day admits the rest of the excitement. First, as I took the bus ride up to the Observation Point trailhead that morning. I felt like William Dafoe in the movie Boondock Saints where he plays a detective who uses classical music while investigating crime scenes to help him focus. Probably just a side effect of the classical music my ipod had decided to shuffle my way, but it put my in a strangely bouncy mood!
Second, after everything was done at the ER and I was awaiting my Minnesota heroes to arrive, I considered that, had I stayed home and not gone on this trip, none of that day would have happened. The good or the not so good. And that gave me a sense of acceptance for whatever ER bill I would be receiving. Because taking adventures and breaking routine has risks. Routines are easy to plan and prepare for. Although I strive to prepare for most situations (My Eagle Scout Blood), sometimes you can't be, and thats the risk of adventure, thrill, and experiences. This ironically tied into the end of Neverwhere and I continued to ponder that within context as I drove to my campsite that night.
I am currently sitting outside of a Denny's in Vegas using free wifi, debating on wether or not going inside to buy something is worth AC. But for those who heard about my allergic reaction while hiking in Zion, I want to let you know that I ended up perfectly ok. The ambulance probably wasn't even necessary, just a recommended precaution. But I will get to that on the next blog entry as it happened on day 2 of my Zion adventures. First, let us travel to the start of Day 8 with the story of the poky-doted tree...
And that's the story of the Poky-Doted tree (I know, a little anti-climatic).
I continued driving across Utah, finishing the Audio Book "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman. I love his whimsical adventures and fantasy storytelling. This book carried that flame well (as he also did the narration). At first I wasn't able to make a huge connection with the characters because most of them were quite "out there", but by the end I had caught the feels. Especially since the pinnacle moment of decision faced by the main character is whether to accept a mundane yet predicable life, or seek adventure and uncertainty. That really resonated with everything I've been pondering.
We related on many topics and I learned about the different social environment around Utah being based on Mormon traditions (far fewer bars for was a noticeable one). We even had time to get into some deeper and resounding conversations like the lack of cell service or fast internet speed. After the photos for the log post finally uploaded, I paid my $4.44 bill and made my way to Zion. The rest of the ride went well and I arrived around 5pm.
So I decided missing the bus would be worth the sunset view and the Angel's landing experience even if it adds a 4.5 mile additional hike back to the visitor center.
side which was a tad daunting. It was really cool to see where the chain has worn away at the stone!
Then about 3/4 to the top, I was hiking by a couple people when one guy asked about what my tattoo meant. I love explaining it and appreciated someone noticing the design (And who has also seen the movie Arrival ;D). His name is Lief and lives in Hurricane (about 40 minutes from the park). He was hiking with his friend Whitney and they both appreciated my tattoo enough to ask about it, noticing the shapes and geometry on my tattoo. We had a fun conversation about the meaning behind it. He mentioned if I needed a place to crash that I could camp in his yard. I highly appreciated the offer but ended up being too tired that night to drive out to his place.
I reached the Angel's Landing peak just before sunset, and because of that, most people were heading down to make the last bus. The view was unbelievable. The sunset colored the sky above the canyon and gave a sense of scale that words can't capture. I ate my dinner at the peak and changed into warmer gear. Soon another weary traveler made it to the top as well. His name is Vincent and asked if I could take some photos of him. After he took the photos of me (a couple where I got close to the edge and did some poses) he wanted a few more of him doing some cooler poses as well. We had fun taking the photos and he then headed down as the sky was getting dark and said he would probably see me on the road. I bid him farewell but never ended up catching up to him so I hope he made it safely!
As the moon came out and the sunset faded, I began making my way down from Angel's Landing when I came across a group of three hikers making their way up. Their names are Ethan, Sam, and Maggie. As they were standing in a staggered pattern, I thought it would make a cool photo so I asked to take one and they agreed. Afterword I commented on it looking like a cool band photo. And Ethan said that they were in fact all in a new age metal alternative band with a name along the lines of "Intense Vermin".
Ethan also let me know about BLM land to camp on only 20 minutes from the park which was super helpful! Eventually I bid them farewell and asked if they may have room for an extra passenger to get a ride down to the visitor center. They said they would be awhile but if there saw me on the road that they could probably work something out.
To stabilize the images I found rocks and things to set the camera on as I held it still for the 10-15 second exposures. A couple times I contorted my body against things to hold the right angle, even lying down on the ground for one shot. It was so calm and quiet, I had a really fun time letting creativity take hold of me and enjoying the a night hike in the coolest park I've visited.
I eventually made it to the bottom and at the last bit Ethan, Sam, and Maggie caught up as I was taking so many long exposure photos. They were kind enough to drive me to my car at the visitors center and wished me well on my journey. I was so exhausted that I drove to the campsite, leaned back the seat, and passed out.
The scenery at Zion may be the first time that photos or expectations didn't even come close to the true splendor and breath taking experience. At times I couldn't look away. The canyon is like eye candy, delicious to indulge upon and savory to soak in. Continuously hiking upward thousands of feet offers so many different elevation perspectives. None of the photos I took captured the full scale of perspective, depth, or detail. And I think thats also apart of the beauty of this park. You truly have to see it for yourself. I highly recommend everyone try to make it to Zion once in their life.
The photos Im uploading for this post are mostly from my phone as I want to take time to choose and edit a selection of my T3i files. I will upload them to my website later to try and glean some of the wonder of this place with the images I feel even come close to touching upon the slightest notion of its true beauty. So in the meantime, I will avoid too many photos ;).
Driving across Utah that day saw a number of good mental considerations. The first of these came with the end of Neverwhere, when the character chooses between predicable routines or unpredictable adventures. I am experiencing that to a certain extent, though its not so black and white. Many of the choices we face in life offer similar outcomes: Predictable routine, or adventurous risk. I realized that I have been making choices lately that fall in the later category in many aspects of my life. This is probably countering the high level of responsibility I have held myself to since high school. Though i appreciate my effort in this regard, I can't say in the end that it has netted me much more success in life than I feel I would have obtained otherwise due to my charisma and disposition...but then again, I can only make that observation after following the path I've followed. I know I wouldn't change my past for any reason as it's brought me to exactly where I am each and every day.
Later I was listening to "Losing a Whole Year" by Third Eye Blind when I recognized the sense of nostalgia and simple disregard for certain responsibilities as something that is beautiful and fun in its own right and in certain moments. But it's not something that promotes growth. Its a place we can reach at points in our life but not somewhere we should stagnate. In the case of this song (Which I love) It truly is a moment in time being described as a lifestyle, even though the lifestyle isn't necessarily sustainable in its own right.
Finally I drifted to how I've perceived my social self worth as an interesting or "cool" individual. And like many, I have always idolized people or ideas that are inherently cool or chill to the point where i desire to emulate that. But every time I have chased "being cool", I've never obtained it. Especially in middle school with the older kids in my friend groups (as I was usually the class clown), because I knew I would eventually reach that age. I would think "I cant wait until I'm 15 and I'm that cool!" and then turn 15 and feel the same, though now disappointed that I don't feel more cool. It wasn't until recently that I've recognized some of the things I do as being "cool", but not in the same way I hoped it would feel. This is all expectation based but I noticed that its still something that impacts my psyche. Most likely because the "fake it til you make it" montra often follows trendsetters (typically people seen as cool) and I utilize that montra for my self confidence, professional, and creative parts of my life.
I woke with a small headache and some quick farewells to the family I had stayed with and began the next leg of my journey west towards Utah. As bummed as I was to leave Colorado (However much I severely disliked that all of Grand Junction, CO interstate ramps are roundabouts), I quickly began to enjoy the new and different landscape. The colors pop out spectacularly. Red, Gold, orange, Grey, Black, you name it! My Goal was to try and make it to arches and hike a little in the evening, find a campsite, then return the next day to finish. Unfortunately, the park is doing construction near Devil's garden. Not only was that area of the park closed ='(, but it also means the roads to the park close at 7pm. Rolling in at 6:55 left me just enough time to use the visitor center restroom and their wifi to find a place to camp.
I found some BLM land off a dusty road that was pretty well littered with campers already, but a larger area with 2 campfire rings only had one truck on it so I pulled in for the night. One of the campfires was being used by a couple who looked in their mid 20's so after I started unpacking and repacking my car I waved hello and was received by a warm welcome. After pulling out my guitar they made a comment about a performance and I quickly got my dinner ready and heading over to hang out with them.
The next morning I headed straight for Arches and got there with a line of cars ahead of me. Once in the park I spoke with a ranger about hiking in the area. He said as long as it was on rocks or gullies then It was allowed. The biggest concern is preserving the Cryptobiotic soil, a blackish looking crust that covers a lot of the ground and helps prevent erosion acting as a backbone for the ecosystem. A single step can damage years of growth so avoiding that was the only real concern.
With that I was off to explore. Hoping to hit most of the main arches with the one day I had. Most of the main attractions have roads on which you can drive nearly up to (within a few hundred feet) of the formation. This made traversing the park very efficient.
I started with Park Place and road up past the courthouse. The first notable experience was at Balanced Rock. When I parked and got out, I noticed a couple kids climbing the base. Then I remembered that rocks were ok to climb on unless a sign was posted (which all the arches did have postings for not climbing). So I tentatively started climbing the base and after realizing how simple (and how much I enjoyed it), climbed all the way up to the balanced rock itself without realizing i was over 100ft in the air.
There was a Japanese family behind me, and I realized they were showing concern for my safety after the Japanese father's loud exclamations coincided with me making large strides up the formation. The climb was pretty easy and felt safe. At the top next to the balanced rock itself (which is actually enormous) I saw people had carved their names and initials into the rock. That seemed a little disrespectful in a sense so I didn't follow the lead, but it was cool that people had the same idea and had climbed up it time and time again.
When I descended and started heading back to my car, an older couple stopped me and said they were watching, impressed, and a little concerned so they took some photos. Their names are Deb and Randy Bowman and live in South Dakota but have a daughter in Minneapolis. So we spoke a little and Deb mentioned she was in full remission after a 15-month battle with cancer. I thought it was incredible that they were traveling to celebrate her rejuvenated health.
I continued through the park. At the sandstone arch I went off trail quite a bit and climbed numerous rocks until I got to a beautiful plateau away from the tourists. I even got to use my body's leverage of pushing outward against the stone to climb some steep crevasses (There's likely a climbing term for that but I am not that cool...yet).
Later, at the end of the hike to see the Tapestry Arch, I was standing in between a rock cluster I had climbed up and noticed a couple women hiking towards me with a nice camera. I yelled down asking if they spoke english (as there were a lot of foreign travelers in the park) and if they were willing to take a photo of me. They agreed and snapped a few shots (although I was in shade) and I climbed down to greet them. They were Polish and I can't quite remember their names (or would know how to spell them), but they were happy to have helped and enjoying the landscape of the Southwest as they traveled. They said when they return home in a couple weeks they could email me the photo. I guess time will tell...
Only a few times while climbing did I feel the heart pounding rush and chilling fear of falling. After attempting some more difficult rock faces near Turret Arch did I decide my body was probably tired after hiking and climbing all day and that if I came back I would bring some real gear.
I ended up staying at Arches for just over 10 hours and saw pretty much everything! I didn't get a chance to hike up to delicate arch or Garden of the Gods but I felt I had gotten the jist. My favorite arches were the Windows and the Double Arch. Both were spectacular and gave me a sense of awe.
I then spent the rest of the evening (Since the park closed at 7pm again) driving through Utah towards a campsite closer to Zion National Park as that was on my docket the next couple days. I stopped at the Black Canyon as the sun was setting and found the simple canyon to be a beautiful monument against the plains around it.
I met a lot of friendly people at the park. It was also the busiest place I've been to thus far. The landscape is interesting to learn about, especially the different layers of rock and how they erode over time (sadly also what will eventually lead to the collapse of the arches someday down the road.). The sun felt really good since this was the first day I spent in a more desert-ish region. I only got a little pink as my winterized Minnesotan skin was well sunscreened.
I am definitely feeling a strong urge to reach out and meet people which I haven't really experienced before. Usually I am traveling with others but even in NYC I didn't feel that pull (probably because New Yorkers aren't known for their friendly demeanors).
As I drove to my campsite near Zion, a Thunderstorm was making its way across the area. I saw a good handful of lightning strikes and found that extremely exciting. I almost felt like I was chasing a store, and briefly considered that as an avenue to explore as well.
I felt a deep connection to the environment and love the feeling of climbing. The freedom and the thrill really cultivate a sense of adventure and I really enjoy that sensation. I think I want to spend time learning more about the techniques and skills required to rock climb as successfully and safely as possible.
My outward interactions with strangers has led me to a cheerier attitude because I know I have positively impacted someone else's day unprompted. I also think this is a big reason I've enjoyed retail sales, getting to make those little connections and put a smile on people's faces. I truly have an empathetic tendency whether I like to admit it or not. Even today before writing this blog I spoke to a new friend who told me a story that brought a tear to my eye because I could tell it was a powerful emotion for them too. I've always enjoyed when others feel positive things but like everything, without balance it can be easy for others to impact me too much.
After considering the storm chasing idea, I did notice that there are so many ways to live life. Many of the people I met were balancing working a traditional career yet still making time to travel. Nowadays in our society of technology and relative privilege as a first world society, there are so many choices that could work I don't think I can ever commit to one thing. I rather fancy the idea of being a Jack of all trades, but maybe master a few along the way.
In the end I decided I can live many lives and enjoy many things. Its all about how I approach it mentally. However making the decision can be the hardest and almost crippling, especially since I know the tendency of our minds to always want the other thing (Grass is always greener on the other side). Then I consider that its just a confidence and self acceptance related mentality, and that I need to work on reminding myself it doesn't control me. But I can control it by setting a healthy guideline and expectation for myself.
In the end It's those damn expectations. They can ruin it all...
As I'm thinking About how to write a blog post about May 5, 2017, I can't help feel like I'm Ted Mosby explaining one of the many hilarious adventures I get myself into. So I guess that's how I'll approach it. This episode will be titled "The Night of The Best Wings I've Ever Had".
I apologize in advanced if you haven't seen How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). I'll try not to make too many inside jokes.
Although it took an hour to hike up, it only about 20 to get down thanks to our great idea to roll, shoe ski, and butt sled our way back down. Of course, by only using our bodies, my fabric pants quickly absorbed all the cold water, which probably helped motivate the quicker decent. (Posted a quick video to my snap story)
Once back in Lakewood we said our goodbyes and Jason recommended I visit the panoramic point hike at the Golden gate state park near Nederland. I wasn't going to squander a locals advice, so I headed up that way, only realizing once I entered the park that because it is a state park, my annual national Park pass I purchased didn't cover anything. But I paid the $7 because I was going with the flow and the hike sounded nice.
I drove up to the lookout point, got a pretty good view, and proceeded with the 3 mile hike. It was an ok hike until the end as I was walking across a cliff face that offered a picturesque view of the Rockies. I even came across someone meditating with herbal assistance ;) and exchanged pleasantries before moving on.
I checked out the rest of main street, not a whole lot was going on since the town just started it's off-season, the one month in spring and fall they get where they are not bombarded by temporary residents or ski resort customers. It seemed about half the town was closed down. Noticing a nice place to play music on the Main St. Plaza, I grabbed my guitar to jam a little.
When I got back a gentleman had set up shop with an electric guitar, battery powered amp, art, and some pine cone necklaces. I wandered around looking for another spot to play but to no avail, so I decided I would just hang around and see how long he played. Within 5 minutes his amp started cutting out, and after messing with it for a minute, he stood up and started putting everything away. I came up and introduced myself, asked him why he stopped playing tunes, and he said that unfortunately his battery had crapped out on him and he didn't have an extra set with him. Secretly happy for the coincidence, but saddened by another musician's misfortune, I struck up a conversation and leaved a little bit about him. I noticed the necklaces he was selling. They were sliced pinecones covered with some sort of sealer, that made for crazy cool mandala like designs so I picked one up as a memento and to help make his day a little better =)
Being a fellow musician I let him play a song since he hadn't played guitar since leaving NY. Once he finished he asked if I had plans for Cinco de Mayo that night. I confessed that I didn't and was mostly concerned about finding a campsite to make dinner and sleep at. He said his place had a spare bedroom, but He would just have to run it by his family so I offered him and his bike a ride!
*On a side note, I was asked by 3 people in Boulder and 5 people in Breckinridge where things were as if I lived there (happened to me a bit in NYC as well). Do I fit in that well? Am I just such a hipster that I can be tossed into any scene and get assumed to be a local?? I don't think so...but...Maybe it's a sign...
We ended up strapping his bike to the top of my car, and drove up the mountainside just past the Peak 7 bus stop and I met his uncle and aunt Chris and Gretchen (they can be the Marshal and Lily to our adventure). They were super cool and friendly people!! Right off the bat Chris offered me a beer. We chatted and I explained my trip. Turns out they run Airbnb using the lower level of their home, and CJ is using it while he's in town. They ended up offering me a place to spend the night, making plenty of jokes about me not being a murderer, to The extent where we were sat on the porch playing music and I explained a lot of my life's story.
I was still reeling from the coincidence of all the actions I had taken that day to lead me up to this point. If I hadn't climbed the glacier with Jason, gone to that state park to hike, hadn't taken my friends advice to visit Breckinridge, AND if I hadn't stopped to awe at mountains or write a note to a fellow Mazda owner...I wouldn't have met CJ and coincidentally my own HIMYM group for the evening. What a world I tell ya, what a world...
but the story doesn't end there...
After tequila shots, a hit, and a gummy, we caught the free bus into town. With half the town being closed down and CJ being new to the area as well, we asked a guy on the bus about what would be open. He told us a couple things, both of which turned out not to be true, but eventually we ended up at Ollie's.
Their second location, Ollie's originated in nearby Fresco as a fairly traditional bar/pub (think Mclaren's bar in HIMYM but put it in a ski town). We were a couple drinks in, when hunger got the best of us, so we glanced at the menu. Wings soon caught our attention. CJ likes blazing sauces that leave the tongue numb and I like a mixture of flavor and heat. Since you only get one flavor for every 8 wings, we got 32 wings, obviously.
They took a while to get to us, but they were well worth the wait. I'm no Wingspert (as most of my wing experience comes from BDubs) but the combination of cooking and frying with extremely tender chicken and sauces was unparalleled in my small wing tasting experience. Not only did they have incredible flavor (the Chili Thai was the best) but the meat also practically melted in my mouth...It also probably had something to do with the concoction of intoxication...Either way, we orally demolished the wings, and both commented that they might just be the best we've ever had.
Most of the bars leftover had fairly preppy vibes. So after finishing we headed back as to not miss the last bus back up the mountain at 11:15pm. We waited for the bus with a couple strangers, a younger woman and an older man (their names elude me). The man spoke passionately about a number of subjects in a way that made me feel like I was being informed. Unfortunately, I don't recall any of this wisdom (aside from flash fried wings tasting the best), and I'm going to blame the gummies kicking in for that one.
Once we made it back to the apartment, we chatted and watched a bit of TV before crashing. And that's how I coincidentally met a fellow traveler and musician with an awesome family leading me to celebrate Cinco De Mayo by having the best wings of my life (maybe Bob Saggot will narrate that for me if I ask nicely...I mean I don't think he's doing much else these days...)
The area was downright gorgeous and, as I mentioned, made me emotional. That connection with nature was fantastic and freeing. It was hard to take a bad photo with the weather, which ironically had been nice since just after arriving in CO (the morning before I got there apparently was cold and miserable). Even more ironically, the forecast was turning gloomy again the day I planned on leaving CO. The universe was definitely wanting me to experience Colorado in the exact way I did, I'm certain of that.
I've also enjoyed meeting strangers and making connections. I wasn't able to do this as much when I traveled to NYC or any other journey I've taken (Whether thats the location or my mindset, I'm sure its both in a way). This trip has already left me with some brief friends, making it more than worth it.
The emotions, and new connections, and the excitement of the journey is causing all sorts of internal dialogue of questioning previously established connotations and ideas about my life. Overall i would say in a healthy and productive way. The simple coincidence of everything happening exactly as it did with timing that ensured I met the people I met is pretty providential and I'm still trying to grasp at its significance. One could argue its been years in the making, all down to the every little decision and action I've taken in accordance to my perceived goals or "Destiny". This alone kept my thoughts occupied but in the end is just another part of the journey. One maybe more meant to help guide where I look to grow myself and less of what will grow. In the end, we don't control this big beautiful thing called life, all be can do is ride that wave ;).