Boundless Time

I stepped into the forest.

It felt good to be back.

An odd feeling of coziness enveloped me. I found it comforting to be surrounded by a collection of trees and wild foliage, my footfalls almost hidden by the array of nature sounds percolating about. The smell of campfire smoke from the night before clung to my hoodie, evoking sentiments of general nostalgia as I walked along the trail. An involuntary yawn escaped; a myriad of birds had awakened me this morning a half hour or so before my natural circadian rhythm. I was grateful, though, as getting an early start was the best way to experience Pinnacles, the newest member of the National Park clan (thanks Obama).

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The forest welcomes me

A couple miles in I took a seat at a pleasant overlook, appreciating the landscape (it was beautiful) and looking for condors (no luck). I began to contemplate my personal level of contentment, marveling at the overall feeling of rightness that has marked the second part of my journey. While the early stages of my trip were rife with adventure and splendor, I feel that I have lately come to a fresh place of rest. This is due, in large part, to my whole concept of time. Standing in line for 25 minutes at a post office is no longer annoying, nor do I feel the need to whip out my Smart device to occupy myself. I can just stand there. I don’t feel that gnawing anxiety that often comes when us humans are kept waiting.

Life on the road has made time rather boundless. It may sound slightly hippy-dippy, but the truth is my days are not kept on track by an external schedule, save for the occasional check-out time and ranger program I hope to hit. Hiking in Pinnacles park, the miles float past, wrapped up in my wandering mind and here-and-now observations. I can sit on a cliff-side with no place to go, free to just be.

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My cliff-side view

And I enjoy this time – oh how I cherish it.

Because at the beginning, it was difficult to let go of my idea of having to be somewhere and needing to check my watch on a regular basis. My days are no longer mandated by a rigid schedule, and, in accepting this, I have found ease in the simplicity of life.

It’s beautiful, letting time do its thing, while I focus on squeezing as much joy out of my days as possible.

It’s a much better way.

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Channel Islands Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 3 nights (but only one day on Santa Cruz island)

High:

  • Everything – I couldn’t have asked for a better day

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Low:

  • Needing to replace my front tires; driving through the mountains towing a teardrop takes its toll

Favorite Hike:

  • Potato Cove

Favorite Treat:

  • Baja fish tacos

Probably One of My New Faves…

“What’s been your favorite park so far?” is my most commonly asked question. I typically mention Grand Tetons, Smokies, or Black Canyon of the Gunnison, depending on my particular mood of the day.

But then I went to Channel Islands.

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So cool…

It’s in a whole other playing field, friends.

Although I only visited one out of the five islands, my experience was marked by exotic wildlife, gorgeous Mediterranean-like weather, and a rugged beauty that I’m finding it difficult to describe.

During the ferry ride in, I relished the feeling of anticipation. The salt air was refreshing; I breathed in deeply, holding on to the edge of the boat as it rocked significantly with the ocean swells. About an hour into the journey, I spotted Santa Cruz island, my destination. It rose grandly out of the Pacific, sharp cliffs setting the background for swooping birds. I heard the sound of the waves crashing violently along the rocks, as well as acute cries of the gulls.

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I set off hiking right away, intent to spend the entire day exploring this alluring paradise. Each overlook awarded me with a fresh view that brought with it a sense of wildness. The beauty here was raw – unrefined – yet sophisticated in its own way. Its separation from the mainland has left Channel Islands national park relatively untouched by human havoc. It was a sweet, inspirational day.

Quite a few island foxes scampered about, a keen reminder that this was a special place. These pretty cat-looking creatures gazed at me with thoughtful eyes. I stared back, impressed at the resiliency and uniqueness of a species that can be found nowhere else on Earth.

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I caught this one mid-blink

I was sad as it came time to depart. I wanted to stay for at least a week, soaking up the sun and playing along the numerous coves.

I resolved to return one day.

Hopefully, soon.

Joshua Tree Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights
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Looks like an old-timey postcard, right?

High:

  • Rock! More specifically, exploring all the nifty boulders in the park.

Low:

  • Dropping my phone and cracking the screen while trying to take a picture

Favorite Hike:

  • Split Rock
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A big split rock

Favorite Treat:

  • Looking at desert blooms
  • Eating honey-jalapeno candy
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Check out these little cactus buds

Trees Named Joshua

I entered the Mojave desert in the dark, and I mean truly dark. With no street lights and an overcast sky, my car headlights were barely able to cut through the night. The Joshua Trees stood like silent pillars, welcoming me into their world as I zipped down the highway. My peripheral vision caught flickers of these madman-looking trees (which are, in fact, not really trees).

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Entering Joshua Tree National Park in daylight was an entirely different experience. The unique setting drew my attention, causing my to pull over one too many times on my way to a popular hiking trail. The trees were bold, owning their differences while the rock in the background looked like a giant had simply dumped it in huge piles. To top it all off, the desert flora was in full-bloom. I geared up for a wonderful day in paradise.

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After a mile of hiking, I decided that I had never experienced beauty quite like this. I am, at heart, an explorer. I thrive in places where I can discover. Joshua Tree – or JT as the locals call it – was an entire world rife with nooks, crannies, and interesting things to see. I wandered around the rocks, finding familiar shapes in the formations, and scrambling over nooks and crannies. Every so often I’d stumble across a new desert flower I hadn’t yet seen. The Joshua Trees themselves seemed to stand guard over this special wild place.

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“Face Rock”

Scientists predict that within 100 years, there may be no more Joshua Trees in the park due to climate change. How sad to think that future generations may be missing out on this national park’s namesake.

I touched the trunk of a young Joshua Tree and wished it luck.

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A Joshua Tree teenager

Death Valley Bust: Part III

A continuation from Death Valley Bust: Part I and Part II

Capture
The entire region experiences the effects of strong winds. (News article)

Once again, the crinkling plastic water bottle alerted me to my change in elevation. My car shuddered, responding to the huge gusts of winds, and I felt my MyPod oscillate behind me as I began my slow ascent out of the Valley.

I was in for a wild ride – 30 miles of road, wind, and low visibility. I kept my thoughts favorable: there was a hotel close by, where I was hoping to stay for the night.

I let out a sigh of relief when I spotted a long white motel-looking building in the distance. I pulled up close so the wind would be slightly buffered as I checked in. I sprinted to the door, accidentally flinging it open so a gust caught it. “Sorry,” I said to the lady at the front desk.

My heart sank as I looked around. The waiting room was full of weary travelers. It was a shot in the dark, but I asked, “Do you happen to have any rooms available for tonight?”

“Sorry hon, nothing left.”

I stood in place for about a minute, gathering my thoughts and stirring up my fortitude for more driving. I knew that there were more small towns in the near proximity, but my best bet might by Pahrump (yep, that’s a real name), which was another good 45 minutes away.

As I ran back to my car, I spotted others parking and gathering their things to check in. “Just so you know, there’s no more rooms for tonight,” I shouted over the racket of the wind. I could tell that neither the young couple nor the father standing by the mini van heard me. “No more room,” I yelled. Both parties gave a nod of thanks and ran back to their vehicles. Everyone and his brother were trying to find a safe, quiet place to settle down for the night. It was survival of the fittest, but, unfortunately, I was at a disadvantage having to lug an extra 550 lbs behind me.*

More driving.

More wind.

More dust.

When I pulled up over a set of mountains, I began to check my phone for signal every 5 minutes or so. Pahrump was close, and I was intent on calling up a hotel rather than simply showing up.

Holiday Inn – no vacancies

Best Western – no room at the inn

And so on and so forth. I called five places, before the fifth one kindly explained that the whole entire city was booked up. “You’ll have to go to Vegas, sweetheart.”

I forlornly pulled over, filled up with gas, and heated up some food for dinner.

I would be returning to Vegas with my tail between my legs. Death Valley ate me up and spit me back out. Checking my phone, I noticed that the next day was slated to be almost as miserable weather-wise.

Once I secured an Airbnb, I hopped in my car for another hour-long ride. I was exhausted. There was grit in my ears, nose, eyes, shorts, shirt, and shoes. My poor car had a thin layer of grime over everything in the front seat. Despite the craziness of my day, I smiled as I listened to music and headed eastward to Sin City. Though days like these aren’t the most fun, they certainly are memorable. I would have much rather spent a long, fabulous day enjoying the sights and wonders of Death Valley National Park, yet there was something invigorating about my wind/dust storm adventure. When hit with obstacles, we can choose our response; I have found that optimism is always the best way to go.

Two days later I returned to the Valley. It was a gorgeous day with perfect (hot) weather. Death Valley: redeemed.

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*Clarence, I have no problem with your weight, but at this point in time, I felt like it was a slight inconvenience.