As is usual in late winter, Claudia and I have been itching for some desert hiking and backpacking time, so this March we spent three weeks camping and backpacking in various mountain ranges and wilderness areas in the Mojave Desert in Nevada, California, and Arizona.
There are many wild, rugged, and seldom-visited mountain ranges in the Mojave, making it a prime area for exploratory missions. I appreciate that there are still places like this out there where we can explore on our own with little to no guiding information, and find little or no evidence of previous human visitation when we’re there. Continue reading >>
In June 2016 my wife Claudia and I took off on a summer-long road trip. Over the next 3 months or so we drove over 12,000 miles (19,000+ km), from Colorado to Nevada, northern California, Oregon, Washington, the Canadian Rockies, Yukon, Alaska, and back. In order to keep costs down – and just for the fun of it – we camped as much as possible along the way; in fact, over the course of the three months on the road we rented hotel rooms only four times, and stayed with relatives twice. So, we ended up camping about 90 days in total, either in the back of our Toyota Tundra or in a tent while backpacking.
I made a point of taking a camping picture [almost] every day, and here are all these photos. Some of them are creative and some are purely documentary, but as a whole I think they give a good impression of how we lived over the summer, and how much outdoor time we enjoyed!
After leaving Tahoe we drove west to the coast then spent several days walking and hiking in the magnificent redwood forests of Northern California. Words and even photos can’t really do justice to the sheer immensity of these giant trees and the raw feeling of power they emanate as you walk amongst them!
After driving across Nevada we arrived at beautiful Lake Tahoe where we camped for a couple nights. We enjoyed a sunset and some wine at the beach at the quiet D.L. Bliss State Park on the west side of the lake, then the next day hiked the famous Rubicon Trail along the lake both ways.
Yet again our backpacking hopes for Tahoe were dashed by too much snow still in the high country, and with high winds still in the forecast we bailed after our second night and continued into California. Gotta come back to Tahoe again someday!
Earlier this April, Claudia and I trekked the Trans Catalina Trail – a 45 mile hike across the entire length of Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California. Below are some photo highlights and a brief trip report of this interesting trek.
Catalina Island is only a one hour ferry ride away from Los Angeles, but it’s a world apart. Unlike the hectic, traffic-clogged city of millions, Avalon just oozes a relaxed vibe, kind of like the Californian equivalent of a quiet Mediterranean seaside town. We spent a relaxing evening here before getting an early start on the trek the next morning.
The first day of hiking from Avalon to the Blackjack campground was a killer – 15 miles of ups and downs following the main ridge crest of the island. The entire trail, for that matter, is almost never flat – just constant up and down hiking! With a full pack and hot sun, those 15 miles pretty much whooped my butt!
The Blackjack campground is located high on the island, right below the tallest mountain, Mt. Orizaba which is 2,103 feet above the ocean. Despite our tired legs and sore feet we walked a short ways over the hill to watch the sun set over the Pacific.
The Racetrack is a mysterious and fascinating location in Death Valley National Park – a flat dry lakebed playa in a remote desert valley where large rocks seem to have moved around by their own volition, leaving random tracks in the dry mud revealing their path. How did these rocks move?
The theory is that given just the right conditions, rain will flood the playa, then freeze, and then once the ice starts melting a little, strong winds will blow the ice-bound rocks around on the slick mud underneath. It’s hard to believe, but the tracks are there – something made these rocks slide all around the playa!
These particular tracks – illuminated by the setting moon – are especially interesting. At first glance I assumed that they were car tracks – that some idiot had driven his car out there. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that no car in the world could make tracks like this! Even more mysterious is that about a hundred feet away from these tracks are an almost exactly identical pattern, but aligned facing a different orientation. It boggles the mind!
After leaving Bishop, we headed to Eureka Dunes in Death Valley National Park. These dunes are just about as tall as the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but are basically one single big dune, instead of an endless repetition of them. Another striking characteristic of the Eureka dunes is their absolute pristine remoteness – there is nothing out there in that valley! No lights, no distant towns, just one dirt road and absolute silence. Very cool.
Any regrets about leaving the cold and snowy Sierras vanished as we enjoyed a perfectly calm and warm desert evening atop the highest dune, with our bottle of wine and my camera of course.
For a little field trip from Bishop one evening in late October, we drove up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains, a high and dry mountain range on the east side of the Owens Valley. It’s a special feeling to walk amongst these statuesque trees, knowing that they have been standing there in this barren landscape longer than any living being on Earth!
Next up, we headed to the town of Bishop, in the shadow of the mighty Eastern Sierra, to visit some friends who recently moved there from Colorado. We spent the better part of a week there, relaxing and checking out the area, and enjoying our friends’ generous hospitality.
When I was a kid growing up in San Diego, my dad used to take me on fishing trips around Bishop, but I don’t remember much about the mountains from then, except for the memories of the things we did. Back then, mountains were just mountains to me; I didn’t have the appreciation of different ranges that I do now, and I cared more about shooting my BB gun and throwing rocks into the lakes (which pissed off the fishermen to be sure!). Anyhow, when I see the Sierras now, I can’t help but be impressed, especially with fresh early season snows dusting the rugged peaks!
The mountains were calling my name loudly and I was dying to do some “serious” mountain photography while we were there, but we didn’t have winter hiking or camping gear with us, and besides it was windy as hell in the mountains and would have been admittedly miserable camping up there. So we just took it easy, went on a snowy day hike up the Rock Creek valley, and soaked in one of the wild hot springs near Mammoth.
We’ll be back for sure in another season for some summer trekking through the range. The Sierras are not only calling my name, but Claudia’s now too!