Friday, June 29, 2012

A Dangerous Crossing (Joshua Tree National Park)

“Sort-of-Sabbatical” Day Two, Monday June 4

Today I’m adding 100 ounces of water to the 100 I already have on board.  I’ll be riding 300 miles across the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, and, in my opinion, that’s not something that should be taken lightly.  This distance is a moderate touring day for me, and it’s not the heat that worries me (115 degrees just a few days before I left), or the desolation (plan gas stops carefully and don’t count on your cell phone, other people, or the likelihood of finding civilization at all for miles and miles), or even the lack of available water in the extreme heat, but the combination of all three.  Just a few unpredictable seemingly trivial events can conspire to put you into serious trouble quicker than you’d ever guess.  Like not bringing your minimum “It’s a Desert, Bring Water, Stupid” water bottle when you’re just picking your bike up from the shop. And then, instead of riding the three miles home, allowing the bike to divert for a short trip over Gates Pass. The rear brakes lock up of their own free will, you have no water, no cell phone coverage, it’s 100+ degrees, your bike is stuck in the middle of the road on blind curve, there’s no one around, and just 15 miles from home you find yourself hitting the assist button on your newly acquired SPOT GPS Messenger emergency tracking device, hoping one of your friends will get the message and call AAA on your behalf.*  Or, not one, not two, but everyone’s motorcycle breaks down, and no one can go for water, and suddenly you’re all drinking out of a precious muddy puddle in southern UT in August, hiking miles back and forth between this bike and that, frantically trying to get even one of them operational.**

So, yes, I’m a bit on edge for this portion of the journey.  Nevertheless, my bike runs happily, I've stopped checking my luggage in my mirrors every three miles, I do an outstanding job of hydrating (read: I’m glad I’m stopping every 75 miles for gas, because I have to pee constantly), and temperatures only approach 100 degrees.  The Mojave has granted me a pass this time, and I arrive at my destination unimpeded: Joshua Tree National Park.

I haven’t quite reached my campsite, but I’m curious and ready for a leg stretcher, so I hike a few miles on the Skull Rock trail.

Joshua Tree NP Skull Rock (1)
Aptly named, no?

Joshua Tree NP Skull Rock

Lunch:  The kitchen sink calzones I made, froze, and kept frozen last night at my friends’ house, the recipe development of which was based on the few remaining scraps in my freezer: pizza dough, ground beef, and wilted greens, plus onions, garlic, sliced olives, grated cheese, and just enough bits of dried fruit to keep it interesting.  I wasn’t entirely convinced when I put them together, but after eating them, I’m a fan.

I arrive at Hidden Valley Campground to a miracle:  a campsite with shade!

Joshua Tree National Monument Hidden Valley Campground

I can’t stop taking pictures of these crazy trees.  They come right out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Joshua Tree National Monument Joshua Trees (1)

Joshua Tree National Monument Joshua Trees

I've still got some energy, so I explore a trail near my campsite.

Joshua Tree NP Hidden Valley Trail Panoramic Merge
Hidden Valley is, well, hidden.  Large rocky mounds form a full ring around the valley .  Turns out it was a great place to hide stolen livestock.

Now I’m waiting for sundown.  I want to photograph a Joshua tree at night, “light-painting” it the way I did the Ducati last year at Canyon de Chelly..  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  With the 300 miles, the worrying desert conditions, two hikes… well, my eyelids are drooping already.  I set up the camera in an effort to keep myself awake, and then lie down "just for a minute." But I succumb, even as there’s still plenty of light left in the day.

I awaken in the middle of the night. The wind is blowing full tilt one minute, eerily silent the next. The full moon is a searchlight in my tent.  I squint, peer out groggily.  Lunar eclipse?  Dream?  Arise and photogra--- ***  I can hardly move, and fall back to sleep before I’ve finished rolling over.

*Happened to me about a week before leaving on this trip.
**Happened to someone I know last summer.
***I may have been dreaming, but there was indeed a partial lunar eclipse visible from the western US that night.


PhilB said...

Yep, take precautions, and have safe travels. Thanks for the updates!


Paula said...

As it turns out, the desert wasn't quiiite as friendly on my return crossing.

redninja said...

Great pics! And, the red Duc is looking mighty tasty!!!!

Paula said...

Thank you! BTW - hope to hit "The Wave" later this month. (Yamaha, not the Duc, of course!) Fingers crossed for a permit.

Claudia from Idiot's Kitchen said...

I am catching up on your older posts and this fabulous trip instead of mopping my kitchen floor. Thanks! Joshua Tree is on my camping wish list. I have a feeling that after reading more of your posts, my wish list will be getting much longer!

Paula said...

Strangely (or perhaps not strangely) my "list" is, if nothing else, probably longer rather than shorter now. For every one item I check off, I add ten new ones. A good problem to have, I suppose.