I am going to finish recounting my trip with this post, so it may be a little longer than others.
I was making my way across Colorado for the 2nd time, enjoying it just as much. Mentally cementing that this is an area I would like to reside in for a least a small period of my life sometime down the road. I took a different highway though found the drive not as exciting visually as the interstate. Making it into Denver around 8pm I headed to downtown Denver with my cousin Jason for some Sushi and a stroll around 16th Street Mall. The last time I had visited the mall was during a Best Buy leadership training a couple years ago. I had been instructed in training to “meet at least 3 new people and start a conversation” as a way to practice interactions with strangers. I ended up saying hello to a woman on the 16th st. bus who looked very artsy and unique, my type of people!
Her name was Jazz and she lived nearby in Aurora though grew up in Greece. She wasn’t very interested in talking to a happy go lucky stranger so the conversation waned after that, however it inspired me to write a song that my music buddy Michael Loukes and I will be performing as apart of our set at Art Blitz in Rochester, MN this August 26th!
The drive to through Kansas was…boring. When I entered the destination into my GPS from Denver it said to follow the interstate for 540 miles…so I just turned it off. It really was just a flat highway I drove on for 8 hours. I was able to finish and audio book and began writing a song about my all night experience in the desert. Other than that it was completely uneventful, and half way through it started getting dark.
After the sun set I noticed hundreds of flashing red lights that were not equally spaced and briefly thought I might have been hallucinating again until I realized it was a field of windmills in the dark. I arrived late at my friends Madi and Alva’s apartment in KC but they are night owls so It worked out. I slept on an air mattress that didn’t like to retain air as much as others, and woke up with the air mattress more or less acting as a blanket I could wrap around myself.
This trip did a few great things for me. First, it gave me a renewed perspective on my life as a whole. Nothing I didn’t already know, but simply an awareness of where I tend to put my focuses and efforts and the results. Second, it refreshed my love for people, travel, and nature. It was like seeing the movie for a book I had already read; I was reassured that life is a series of experiences that help us grow and . I felt as though I had lived more in the last month than I had in years in terms of new memories and adventures. I was forced to look for people to meet and things to do instead of relying on my routines. On top of it all I stayed under my $2,000 budget mark ($1400 was on gas), and traveled just over 5300 miles!
This trip did a few great things for me. First, it gave me a renewed perspective on my life as a whole. Nothing I didn’t already know, but simply an awareness of where I tend to put my focuses and efforts and the results. Second, it refreshed my love for people, travel, and nature. It was like seeing the movie for a book I had already read; I was reassured that life is a series of experiences that help us grow and . I felt as though I had lived more in the last month than I had in years in terms of new memories and adventures. I was forced to look for people to meet and things to do instead of relying on my routines.
I plan to continue traveling, pursuing photography, and cataloging my experiences with this blog. Currently I am finishing a trip with my sister to the North West part of our country and will be in Canada next month. I hope to travel to the East side of the country next year and return to places from this trip that I want to explore further (especially Zion and Yosemite).
Thanks for reading, I hope I made it an enjoyable recounting of my adventures while providing vicarious and informative stories =)
Until next we meet again.
- Nathaniel DeBoer
I left Page, UT around 1pm after my quick nap. I made my way down to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Crossing back over the Glen Dam and the Navajo Bridge gave me a strange sense of nostalgia as I reminisced over the last 24 hours. Along the way to the South Rim I stopped at Coal Mine Canyon on a Navajo reservation. I was making my way to the 2nd lookout to obtain the best view, and I began to hear a distant yet distinct buzzing sound. Thinking it was flies I dismissed it.
I got within 50ft of the sign describing the 2nd lookout when some friendly perimeter guard wasps decided to check me out. I don’t like bees. Never have. So I promptly turned around and combination ran/hopped away as I was escorted for a couple hundred feet by the insect security force.
I did decide to climb up near the sign where all the buzzing seemed to have been coming from and peaked my head up. The bees didn’t notice me only 10 ft. away but there was a swarm of at least 100 bees flying around what I’m assuming was a pretty big hive.
I hiked back to my car and continued towards the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, finally arriving around 5pm, I decided I was exhausted and napped for another 45 minutes. After eating a quick instant meal I started exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The lookouts were iconic and impressive, the view is incredible in it's sense of scale and grandeur because you’re literally looking across vast distances. What seem like the closest opposing cliff faces are actually 8 miles away!
Since I only had a half a day at the Grand Canyon, I could only experience a tiny fraction of the park and decided I would stay and see how well the night sky appeared after having such a fantastic view the night prior. I visited 5 of the closest lookouts and decided on a spot for taking night photos that required I climb 30ft down to. As the Sun began to lower in the sky, I climbed down, setup my camera gear, and ate a large snack. I could see everyone else gathered up atop the railings of the lookout to watch the sunset all glance at me periodically as I sat perched atop my chosen rock ledge. I realized that everyone was looking at me and I was completely comfortable with it, in fact I enjoyed being the person who took a different path to accomplish their goals enough to attract others attention. In the end it’s doing what you do with conviction and confidence that makes you appear to be either accomplished or possibly crazy.
The sunset and people soon were gone. I continued to take photos however the blue haze (Created by moisture in the air over the vast distance between the canyons) distorted a lot of my photos (I should have brought a polarizer, ended up having to finesse it out in post). Eventually the stars came out, though not nearly as impressive as the night before; only a hint of the milky way could be seen. I was getting a bit chilly since my perch was quite breezy, so I climbed back up to the lookout to continue taking photos around 10pm. As I made my way up I noticed a couple lying on the ground staring at the sky. We greeted each other and I made a couple friends for the night.
They shared some croissants and chatted as night sky darkened until I exhaustion began consuming me.
I got in my car and looked up where to camp for the evening. I figured I could probably just fall asleep in my car, but I had plans to meet up with a good friend early in the afternoon in Durango, CO so I wanted to make some headway. I drove into the night not feeling as tired as I expected…I knew something was off when the white lines in the middle of the road began taking the shape of a deer or rabbit every now and then causing me to slow down until realizing I was seeing things due to exhaustion.
At first I thought it was the dark playing tricks on my eyes as I swore I was coming up on a slow truck trailer's red taillights, only to find it was a bridge with reflective markers. There was mist from time to time made me feel like I was driving through narrow mountain passes only to realize I was on as flat desert terrain. It really dawned on me when I thought giant dark legs were descending from the sky and landing on either side of the road; my eyes were deceiving me. Normally I know I'm getting too tired because I can’t keep my eyes open or I feel my body produce melatonin, oddly neither of that happened so it took me off guard.
As soon as I realized the exhaustion for what it was I found a free campsite down the desert road in the next town I could (it took a bit of focus to maintain reality in the dark). The most notable visions of the night were a green dragon curled up in the middle of the road and a headless backwards-dancing turkey…my brain is quite creative regardless of
The so-called campsite turned out to be a parking lot for a trucking company; it felt sketchy so I kept driving. Within a few minutes I decided it was unsafe to continue in my condition so I parked outside a dental office and passed into the realm of deep sleep around 1:30am.
I awoke around 6:30 feeling much better, but my teeth felt disgusting. I did a quick brush and spit and was on my way to Durango to meet up with my friend Bri who I'd never seen in person before. I met Bri online in high school back when YouTube was a social media platform. We conversed for years over Yahoo and MSN messenger but never had a chance to meet in person because she lives in New Mexico. When I started this trip I sent her a snap and we snapped back and fourth until we realized I would be passing by her neck of the woods later that month. It ended up working out for us to meet up and check out Mesa Verde National Park.
I passed through more beautiful terrain and right by Ship rock (didn’t have time to stop this trip), I met up with Bri and we carpooled to Mesa Verde. It was like seeing an old friend from high school that I used to hang out with even though I had never physically been around her.
I met her family who showed tons of old photos of each other, a couple of which I remember seeing when I was 13. We played some video games, hung out, and watched Odd Thomas (I vaguely remember parts of it from breaks at work and thoroughly enjoyed seeing it in its entirety). Bri made me a hearty and delicious rack of pork ribs. After living off of nuts, meal bars, and instant meals the last few weeks it was a great dietary break. I slept soundly, said goodbye to her and her snake the next morning, and headed back on my way home.
The next morning I began my route to Kansas city which swung me back up through Colorado to spend another night with my cousin Jason. The drive was peaceful, a little rainy, but otherwise fun as it winded around all the mountains.
5/22 - Spending a Night in the Desert with a Stranger for an Impromptu Photo Op While in an Alternative State of Mind.
I left the phoenix area around 11am saying goodbye to Troy, Katrina, Anne, and Mya. I was still a bit drained from the prior day’s jaunt up Echo Canyon in the 100-degree heat, so my goal was to reach the Grand Canyon and take some night photography without too much exertion.
I noticed a few people with some nice 500mm lenses pointed towards part of the cliff face and saw a rare endangered condor nested there. A then saw a fellow solo traveler and photographer also taking in the sights. I was simply looking for hiking and/or photo spot recommendations so I said “Hi.”…and that one friendly outward interaction opened the door to the following 16-hour encounter that felt like another world.
As a preamble, this night was by far the most positive, creatively interesting night that I’ve spent with someone I’ve never met before. I decided to trust them for no other reason than to let life guide the way and maybe glean some food for thought.
The traveler’s name is Talor (Taylor without the "Y"), and she hails from Vermont. A former OCIS officer of the Air force (think NCIS and Law & Order SVU combined), she is now a veteran and a manager of social media influencers. Alongside being a fantastic photographer, Talor is preparing to begin her PHD study of neo-liberal economic trends impacting third world economies (the stuff I dig a lot in economics and business). Atop of all of this, 2 months ago, her husband’s years of infidelities were revealed to her through extortion efforts by one of his multiple lovers. This prompted her to take a spur of the moment 5-month cross-country trek across the United States.
I learned these pieces of her life throughout the remainder of that day and the following morning. And now I will recount the 16-hour encounter that followed this happenstance of adventure.
4:00pm (Hour 1)
6:00pm (Hour 2)
As we headed back to my car parked at the bridge, we discussed more of where we had traveled so far on our journeys. She had been traveling the opposite direction as I had, so she was headed for some of my stops as she continued north towards Canada.
She was lucky enough to witness a blood moon at the White Sands Monument in New Mexico. She passingly mentioned how she really would have liked to trip while the red moon soaked into the glittering sands, but doing so alone in a desert isn’t a smart idea or as fun without someone else. I said that would be a great experience to share with someone. We laughed about at first, then decided that’s what we we’re going to do; Alter our minds in the desert with a stranger while taking photos. We hopped in our cars and headed north as we knew that was where we both were originally headed, we decided we would figure out a plan for that evening along the way.
8:00pm (Hour 4)
10:00pm (Hour 6)
The photographs we took were amazing, especially when our altered states actually made the stars dance and trail visually in the sky and also on our camera screens. We nerded out over passionate technical and academic topics as the night continued (her undergrad was sociology, part of mine in psychology). We grabbed more blankets and relocated my vehicle closer, continuing to share our pasts, as we both are open and talkative people.
12:00am (Hour 8)
She mentioned she only has 6 CDs in her car to listen to on her 5-month journey (as she left without much preparation), and began listing them off. One artists she prefaced as “someone I likely hadn’t heard before”. It was Damian Rice. He’s one of the artists I discovered during a low point in my life and helped me through it. I've been in love with his raw acoustic music and the incredibe power of his emotional voice.
I had to laugh at her mention of him and got up to grab my guitar. I proceeded to play 9 Crimes and Blower’s Daughter on my acoustic guitar. Trying to whisper sing as quietly as possible in order to not disturb the people around us in the near pitch black while in a non-sober state of mind was more difficult than I anticipated, but fun none the less.
1:00am (Hour 9)
We continued to exchange stories. I learned about her article 15 administrative reprimand in the air force (Preventing her from ever receiving another promotion). Because she come forward with a group of women about being assaulted by a male officer and he denied it, her military career had ended. Sadly he didn’t stop those actions towards women and was shot and killed while assaulting another woman years later in self-defense…a sort of satisfying vindication for Talor after being denied justice so harshly.
We discovered that both of us experience Synthesesia; a condition where sound triggers additional senses, in our case it takes the form of light across our visual field. That was the first time encountering someone else with this condition. Her Synthesesia manifests as angular and sharp images in relation to any jolting or continuous sound (like a water drip or a door being slammed) making it hard to ignore, whereas mine are fuzzy like visual static and I can usually ignore it.
2:00am (Hour 10)
Our conversations continued, and around 2am, bright headlights swept across the lakeside and blinded our eyes. A couple pick-up trucks were off-roading up the side of the canyon about a ½ mile from the campsite. At first we were confused and couldn’t believe people were being so rude as their high beams and engine revving were very prominent in the otherwise quiet night scene. They did this on and off, cresting the canyon ridge for over an hour, it got really annoying.
3:00am (Hour 11)
4:00am (Hour 12)
We continued to chat and laughed at the whole situation of spending an evening with a complete stranger in the desert and the trust we put into life to guide the way (I’m sure she could have kicked my ass with her military background). The happenstance of seeing someone on a bridge, choosing to say hello, and the metamorphosis into a night of enjoying each other’s company and nature was so coincidental it seemed ironic.
She used the word serendipitous when describing the whole situation, as her grandpa Pat Patterson had a sailboat by that same name. Serendipity is one of my favorite words along with “sonder”. I hadn’t heard another person use that word in conversation before and I have been keeping that word in my head for writing a song someday…It may be a sign that Its ready to be used...
One of the last notable conversations we had involved laughing over how I would try to describe this night to anyone else. Being a romantic at heart, “of course I would find a chick who I didn’t sleep with but still managed to spend a night in the desert with under the milky way taking photos, nerding out, and cuddling on a blow up mattress in the back of a hatchback.” Our mind altering had peaked around midnight so we were descending the stairs of overstimulation. Our conversation waned and we peacefully passed out around 4:30am for maybe 30 minutes of sleep.
5:00am (Hour 13)
We realized our bodies were in serious need of sustenance and that we should probably take a photo of the sunrise (hanging out with a fellow photographer is dangerous for slacking off in these parts of the country). So we got ready to face the chilly desert morning, packed up our cars, and headed for the entrance to grab a few photos on our way out.
6:00am (Hour 14)
8:00am (Hour 16 - The Final Hour)
Shortly after 8am our journey concluded. Talor had to find a way to sleep enough to go on her all day hike to Rainbow Arch and I needed to get the Grand Canyon portion of my trip underway. We exchanged multiple forms of contact info and both left knowing we would remain a special type of acquaintance in each other’s memories. That serendipitous encounter added to a small chapter to my journey and I’m happy that it all happened the way it did.
After we said our goodbyes, I returned to Denny’s for another few hours as my body, soul, and mental capacity replenished thanks to the free coffee refills (I was able to show my receipt and continue to receive refills from my earlier breakfast, I gave the first server and then the 2nd who replaced her a nice tip for my being there). I probably consumed 2 pots of coffee.
While in Denny's I wrote down most of the outline for this blog post, finished my post about Zion, and edited a bunch of photos. All the while I considered the encounter of coincidences I had just undertaken and recognized that it was a highlight for my trip in the sense of living life in a new way. It was simply and wonderfully platonic. Taylor and I coming together as travelers sharing our stories and exchanging life in a way I’ve never experienced before with a stranger. By the end I sensed an almost familial bond similar to what I share with my sister and close friends in life. This incredibly refreshing moment is one of the many staples repairing my faith in humanity.
Around 12:30pm I exited Denny’s and proceeded to take a 30-minute nap in my car in the hot desert sun. I couldn’t manage to sleep anymore due to the heat but I felt fairly alert considering the lack of sleep so I headed towards the Grand Canyon. Though now I would only get to spend ½ a day seeing the South Rim instead of the 2 full days I had originally allocated, I felt like the trade-off had been more than worth it. =)
I will leave you with the words of a song that touched my soul as soon as I heard it. I have found it to be more and more true as life passes by:
"Its not a matter of time, its not a matter of timing." ~ Motion City Soundtrack: Timelines
After my stop at Salton City, I begrudgingly had to continue on to make it to Phoenix by any decent time. As soon as I left Salton sea, my radio starting humming as the RPM's of my car inceased (indicating a bad ground or loose cabling). It got sooooo annoying, soon my audiobook was almost impossible to listen too, so I tried my best to mess with my 4-channel Alpine amp's wiring while remaining on the road. The issue came and went and eventually I just accepted it and switched to music.
A few miles went by, then the damn humming started again! I began hitting my dash this time, desperately trying to get rid of the sound that was beginning to aggravate me and spoil my mood (along with being behind schedule and now hoping to be in Phoenix by 1am. I forgot to consider the timezone shift). It was then I noticed I was passing an exit and subsequently a gas station right off the highway. As the gas station shrank in my rearview mirror, my low fuel light came on, so I had maybe 60 miles before I ran out. I quickly pulled up my GasBuddy app to check if there was another gas station ahead or if I should try and turn around. According the app there was one 15 miles up the road though not as close to the highway. I decided I would aim for that station.
I pulled off at that next exit and headed towards the GPS coordinates another 7 miles down a quickly darkening road. I thought about why It would be so far from the highway and looked again at the name...it said "Kennedy Raceway"...wait is this place actually a gas station??? The answer came when I called the number (at 11pm) and they answered! I was heading to a racetrack, and technically yes they have fuel, its just race car fuel, and its $6 a gallon for the cheapest stuff. At this point I didn't have a choice, I went down the long road leading to the gate, signed the waiver, drove out to the track, and cringed as I carefully only pumped enough fuel to get to the place that sold fuel for non-race cars. Lesson learned, pay attention to the fuel gauge!
Troy had picked a few hikes in the area to choose from. After discussing it, Myself, Troy, and his wife Katrina all headed out to Echo Canyon to do a simple 1.2 mile trek up the canyon and then back down. Easy right? If you said yes than you have thighs of steel and a impressive heat tolerance. For our little group the answer was HELL NO! But it was fun.
The hike was intense. Though I had been resting (relatively speaking) the last few days, compared to my time in national parks a week prior, that hike was incredibly draining. I can now say that my last few experiences in dry desert climates have led me to the conclusion that my sinuses may not be able to handle the desert for extended periods of time. It's a bummer, since I love the southwest, the terrain, and the dry heart (compared to muggy Minnesota) but my sinuses were in revolt. Bleeding, scabbing, itching, and I think I may have gotten a little sick due to the dryness.
Also, Phoenix drivers suck. I spent less than 48 hours in the area and had 90% of the bad driver experiences of this trip. Every time I looked to see who was driving in such a manner it would be a senior. I think more later in life driver testing may be needed, because there were a few close calls that could have been really bad if I wasn't driving defensively!
I feel like the universe has been laying a path in front of me this whole trip. The synchronicity of the whole situation is almost too coincidental, yet its continued happening when I let go of trying to control my experience and instead enjoy the moments and let them happen. My visit to Phoenix along with other parts of this trip I've shared have all shared a theme...adventures happen everywhere and in every moment. You only have to be able to notice them. And when life holds the reigns, its amazing how things can line up just right to make some wonderful memories and experiences.
I don't typically discuss my faith, but these experiences have really shown me that the universe guides us when we don't fight it. I see the universe, nature, and God as being synchronized. When we surrender our worrying to faith, I think it acts as a much better guide. We can only plan for our future, not "control" it. I've almost felt the sensation of being "watched over" as I've traveled all these miles so far. As I continue to venture out on my own, I haven't felt alone for one moment...Lead with love, and life will take you where you need to go...
...speaking of which, next up is probably one of the most impacting and interesting parts of my journey. Keep an eye out for it ;)
Day 20: The Story of Salton City
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.