Friday, October 24, 2008

Shame On Me

You know the saying "Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!"? Well, we enacted that saying last night in a not-very-ideal location.

It went like this.

We're on our way to Utah right now. We were staying in Sacramento Wednesday night and planned to make it to the Grand Canyon by Friday, splitting up the 12-13 hours of driving by camping in the Mojave desert. We didn't have a detailed map on hand of the Mojave, but we had a road map and a general idea of where to camp based on the website. There are a few car campsites for $12 but the website also tempts you with free roadside camping on any dirt road in the park, at least 1/4 mile from any paved roads. I should also mention that 4-wheel drive being necessary was not exactly highlighted on their camping page either.

We arrived in the park around sunset and we wanted to find a spot to camp before it got too dark. First dirt road we came too we took. As soon as my truck pulled off the pavement I knew something bad was going to happen. It was soft, slow sand (definitely not what I would call dirt) and I didn't dare stop. We kept bouncing along until I saw an opening to turn and I whipped around. There were definitely some scary moments, but we eventually made it back onto the pavement. Barely. Whew! Close call.

So we kept going further down the paved road looking for a more substantial side road this time. A mile or two later we see a little hyundai looking thing parked just off the road (definitely not past 1/4 mile as supposedly required by the nps). Mary suggested we do the same and stick close to the road. I agreed (if a hyundai can do, then my truck sure can) and soon enough we were on another small dirt road. Fool me twice! I could feel the tires spinning and losing traction, so naturally I did the same thing as last time. I didn't stop. I figured at some point the dirt road would reconnect with the pavement and I had good reason to since the dirt road we were on paralleled the pavement, almost like it was the shoulder. The only problem was that I was wrong. The sand started slowely descending away from the level of the main road, until it was more like a ditch than a shoulder. Then, a few moments later, I was officially stuck. Shame on me.

We had roadside assitance, but we still tried to free the truck ourselves before giving in. Two hours went by with no luck (we'd move a few feet and then hit a soft spot again and a tire would dig in) so we gave in and called Progressive. Within an hour they had someone come and winch me out of the ditch. Really great guy. When we were filling out the paperwork afterwards, he asked for my mileage. 61616.1! Crazy huh? I'm pretty sure that's why we got stuck, stupid odometer.

Monday, October 20, 2008


My lack of recent posting can mean only one thing: we're cheating! We've inched our way back into society! We've gotten soft! Okay, that's really three things but I can't deny any of them.

See, we landed in Northern California which happens to have a high concentration of family and friends. So it's not really out of any weakness or lack of desire to "find ourselves" amongst the wind and trees. It's more out of a desire for familiar human contact, which was nice. Thank you to all who have housed us over the last 15 days or means a lot.

So after a little over two weeks of not-camping we're off to Utah again to camp. I think the Grand Canyon is going to be our next stop on our way to Moab to finish off the season. Time has gone by so fast! I feel like we just started...

Monday, October 6, 2008

12 Hours Of Hiking

On Wednesday Mary and I hiked Mt. Whitney and we both agree that this was definitely the most challenging hike we’ve ever done. Yes, the 22 roundtrip miles were a lot to hike in a day. Yes, the 6,000 feet of elevation gain was difficult. However, the most challenging part of the hike was the altitude.

Mt. Whitney tops out at 14,497 feet according to the handout the ranger station gave us but the pain of oxygen deprivation started much sooner than that. For Mary, it hit around 11,000 feet; for me, around 13,000 feet. Appetites were lost, headaches were formed and our pace slowed considerably...but we made it! The funny thing is that once you get up there all you can think about is how you want to get down. The immediate view was spectacular, although the CA smog limited it considerably which was too bad.

We started at 6:30am (sun was just rising when we hit the trail) and ended a little after 6:30pm. 12 hours of hiking is too much for me but I’m glad Mary twisted my arm on this one. Here are some other random notes from our day on Mt. Whitney:

  • Met a 66 yo woman named Joan on our way down. She had hiked 11 miles that Keds. I liked Joan.
  • I think I’d consider doing this again if I did it in three days, camping close to the summit so it wasn’t such a slog to get up there. That would also give more time to get used to the altitude.
  • Never eat Spam above 12,000 feet.
  • We didn’t reserve a permit like they say you have to. Just go mid-week when it isn’t peak season (with good weather of course) and get one from the Ranger Station. I can’t stand the fact that you are supposed to reserve a spot to hike.
  • Be prepared for a raging headache. We didn’t lose them until the following morning.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

After leaving Zion we made a quick pit-stop in Vegas. Our good friends Jason and Heather live there and they offered to board us for a couple nights. Hard to turn down a free shower and some good company.

We got to catch up, watch some football and tour the Channel 13 news station!! Heather’s a reporter there who also happens to be an excellent cornerback for their flag football team. It was great to be around friends again. Oh, and they have a pug. I’m sold.

Thanks Jason and Heather for letting us stay with you and for feeding us burritos!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mountain Spring Water

In hopes of dodging the snow, Mary and I decided to travel southward and landed in Zion National Park. We planned on hiking the West Rim Trail for two nights/three days. Most people pay for a shuttle to drop them off at one end of the trail and then proceed to hike (downhill) to the other end that’s in the heart of the park. Well, that option was $70 and we decided that was just a little too much to splurge on a backpacking trip. Instead, we went against conventional wisdom and planned to hike up the trail and then back down again. Woops. The six miles up to our campsite on the first night were absolutely brutal. It was hot, steep, and heavy since we had to carry more water than usual (given the whole desert thing).

We were told by the ranger that there should be a water source near our campsite. A spring. Well, there definitely was a water source. A spring. A festering pool/puddle of stale water complete with flies and yellow jackets. THANK YOU DESERT!!

The water wasn’t bad tasting and we didn’t get sick (some other people we ran into said they filtered from the other spring on the trail and felt ill). Needless to say, we only made it one night on this one. On the second day, we day hiked up the trail a bit further for some views and then made our way down. Two things played a role in our wussing out early. The "fresh" spring water and a nearby In-N-Out burger. Best decision of the trip thus far.

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