I remembered Noble Lake from my 2003 trek when I backpacked 360 miles from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney to celebrate my 60th birthday. For some reason, it didn’t seem as ‘noble’ this time. Maybe that’s because of all the other lakes I had passed on my hike down the PCT. But the views looking back toward the Mokelumne Wilderness were spectacular.
NEXT POSTS: Time’s limited since I am preparing for the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. I have one more post on this section of the PCT and then Peggy has two posts on her experiences as ‘trail angel.’ I think I will hold on these three posts until after the conference. In the meantime, I will put up some Burning Man eye candy since Peggy and I are hoping to go this year, assuming we can get tickets.
“Postcard pictures” is how my dad used to describe sunset photos somewhat dismissively. He was a serious landscape photographer and considered them less than desirable as a subject. Yet, when he passed away and I was going through his photos several years ago, what should I find? Sunset photos. Lots of them. I just smiled. Who can resist a beautiful sunset?
Peggy and I wrapped up our timeshare and said goodbye to PV this fall. I know we will miss the city with its friendly people, culture, great food, beautiful art, interesting wildlife, scenic settings and camera grabbing sunsets. I know we will be back some day, but for now, like the cowboys and cowgirls of yore, we are going to ride off into the sunset!
NEXT POST: South on the PCT into the Carson Iceberg Wilderness
I left you in the last post about my hike down the PCT with photos of spectacular rocks and impressive trees. I say goodbye to the Mokelumne Wilderness in this post, hike across Highway 4 at Ebbetts Pass, and continue my journey southward. Of course there will be more pretty trees, but roots, snags, flowers, a family from Taiwan and through-hikers are the main subject for photos today.
NEXT POST: Adios, Puerto Vallarta… with a few spectacular sunsets.
Usually when Peggy and I visit Las Vegas, I do a complete post on the Strip. Not this time. We went downtown to the Venetian Hotel and discovered that it was the Chinese Year of the Pig. The pig shared a room with a Burning Man sculpture that Peggy and I had admired on one of our many trips to the event.
Having done the Las Vegas thing, it was time to head home. We decided to travel on Nevada 95, which runs up the west side of the state from Las Vegas to Reno. Most people experience the trip as vacant desert to be driven through as fast as possible. We see it as filled with beauty and quirkiness. It is one of our favorite drives.
NEXT POST: Speaking of the PCT, we will journey back to it in my next post.
Abandoned mines litter Death Valley’s history. In my last post, I featured one of the most successful mines in the area, the Harmony Borax Works. It was so successful that the twenty-mule team responsible for hauling its ore across the desert served as a logo for the long running TV show, Death Valley Days. The show was hosted by none other than Ronald Reagan in the 1964/65 season when I was a student at Berkeley. It’s possible I even watched an episode or two while avoiding the baton-wielding police sent to campus by Edwin Meese, Oakland’s District Attorney at the time— and Reagan’s future Attorney General.
Mercury, talc, gold, silver, sodium chloride, Epson salts, tungsten, and copper were some of the other minerals that miners pursued with visions of wealth dancing in their heads. Few were successful. Some 2000 mine ruins were left behind as their legacy. Ashford Mill is one such ruin. It was built by the Ashford brothers to process ore from their Golden Treasure Mine located 5 miles to the east in the Armargosa Range. The brothers alternated working the mine and leasing it out to various companies for over 30 years until they finally gave up in the early 40s. A lot of money, work and heartache was devoted to the effort, but the ‘golden treasure’ was not to be found. Today, all that remains of the mill are the cement walls of what was the office and a few remnants.
For all of our trips into Death Valley over the years, Peggy and I have never entered from the south end of the park. We remedied that this time by heading over to Pahrump from Las Vegas following Highway 160 and then cutting over to the remote town of Shoshone on 178 and on into Death Valley. Following are some of the photos that Peggy and I took illustrating this route.
NEXT POST: A bit of Las Vegas and the road north to Reno.
The red hood of our truck reflects a desert scene from the Twenty Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley. The short 2 1/2 mile side trip is one of our favorites in the National Park. Imagine, if you will, driving an 18 mule/2horse team hauling 10 tons of borax over 160 miles of desert. The total weight including wagons was 36 tons and the livestock and wagons stretched for over 180 feet! I asked my 278 horse power truck if it would like to pull such a load through Death Valley. The answer was a resounding no. Having struggled with hauling only myself and gear over the hills and mountains of the Park on my bicycle during my 10,000 mile bike trek, I heartily agreed.
The real treat in driving over the short distance is the almost unreal beauty. Peggy and I stopped the truck several times along the road to get out and take photos. I’ve posted before on the canyon but we took all of these photos on Sunday.
NEXT POST: I’ll conclude our journey through Death Valley National Park.
“Only the Devil could play golf here.” 1934 National Park guide book.
Peggy and I are playing hooky, extending our seemingly endless time away from home. One would think that backpacking the PCT, visiting Puerto Vallarta, and spending over a month with our kids in Florida and North Carolina would satisfy our wandering needs for a while. But no, here we are in Las Vegas, or Lost Wages, as I like to call it, ensconced in a comfortable suite at the very southern tip of Las Vegas Boulevard, the infamous Strip. Or is that famous?
Few people who visit this city venture outside of its mecca of gambling and entertainment pleasure palaces. Peggy and I always do. There is much to see and do. There is a desert on its doorstep, and it is a desert of rare beauty. Death Valley National Park is a prime example. It is a mere two hours away and Peggy and I drove out there on Sunday. To us, it’s like seeing an old friend; we have been there many times.
It is a geologist’s dream— there are rocks everywhere, and the rocks all have stories to tell. It’s a story of ancient seas and lakes and volcanic activities and clashing, mountain-building plates. Death Valley is a rift valley, or a graben in technical terms, formed along a fault zone between two mountain ranges. As the mountains were thrust up by tectonic forces, the valley dropped between them, several thousand feet. The two mountain ranges have since filled the valley up with eroded debris.
The shallow Lake Manly filled the basin a few thousand years ago. As the climate of the area changed and became more desert like, the lake dried up. Its briny waters left a deep deposit of salt behind, which brings us to today’s post. The Devil’s Golf Course is located a short 10 miles away from Bad Water Basin, which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point on the North American continent. Water that drains into the Basin melts the salt and becomes undrinkable, thus the name. The Devil’s Golf Course is several feet higher and avoids the melting water. Instead, capillary action pulls salty subsurface water up creating the crystalline structures that the area is famous for.
Peggy and I caught the area at a particularly good time for photography, which surprised me, given the location of the overhead sun. Anyway, here are the results.
NEXT POST: A ghostly reminder of Death Valley’s past, and more.
It’s time to return to Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon. In my last post about the seaside walk, I introduced you to some very strange creatures. There are more of the same today plus some graceful dancers, playful porpoises, a ferocious bandido, a unicorn of sorts, and PV’s iconic seahorse.
Love was in the air with this couple as they looked out to sea, or at least down the Malecon.
Peggy and I had lunch yesterday with Barbara and Carl, the couple that dropped us off at Mt. Ashland for the beginning of our trek south down the PCT. It was the first time I had seen them since the beginning of the adventure. There was a lot to tell.
Naturally, I talked about both the challenges and the rewards of backpacking for 700 miles over difficult terrain at 75. I also discussed how 50 years of backpacking had prepared me for the trip, and threw in a few of my more humorous adventures from those years. They will be in my book.
“Knowing what you know now, would you do the PCT hike again?” Carl asked.
“Absolutely,” I replied. This doesn’t mean I will forget just how hard it was. It’s an important part of the story. But the beauty and the nature of the adventure are what will stick in my mind. I once had a woman who had been on one of my hundred mile treks tell me it was one of the most difficult tasks she had ever undertaken. But in the end, she said, it was an incredible, life-changing experience. The pain faded; the experience remained. “The only thing I can equate it with, Curt,” she had related, “was having my first baby.” Ouch, and then ‘Oh my!’
For the first 25 years or so of my backpacking, I hadn’t carried a camera. Those were the days before you could expect to obtain quality photos from a small camera, and I didn’t want to add the extra weight to the 60 pounds I was already carrying. I was also reluctant to spend the time that good photography required. And often I was leading groups that demanded my full attention.
I am sorry now. “I can’t believe you go to all of these beautiful places and don’t carry a camera,” my father had told me time and time again. He was right. I wish I had those photos now to remind me of where I had been and what I had seen. But there is more. Photography helps you see the world in different ways. It encourages you to focus in on details you might miss, it helps you notice the differences that light and varying perspectives make, and it forces you to stop and look around.
Today’s photos pick up where my last post left off, hiking down the PCT from Carson Pass on Highway 88 to Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4. The first four illustrate the value of stopping and looking around. They are all of the same scene from different perspectives.
NEXT POST: Variety, being the spice of life, it’s back to Mexico.
Since Peggy and I first came to Puerto Vallarta years ago I have been fascinated with Huichol art and the Huichol people. Living in the Sierra Madre Mountains of the Occidental range, they have been able to combine their belief in numerous gods with art that is highly popular among tourists. For example, it’s unlikely that many Huichol have ever seen a moose, but when Peggy and I were going through shops along the Malecon, we came across this beauty featured below.
The design on the right side of the Huichol antler is peyote, which is central to the Huichol religion. Each year, the members of the tribe undertake a 300 mile journey (usually on foot) to their sacred homeland to gather a year’s supply of the potent drug. The gatherer is expected to take a bite of the first plant he or she encounters. Maybe as a result, one of them saw a moose like the one I featured above. (grin)
NEXT POST: I’ll be back to featuring rock sculptures found on the PCT in Mokelumne Wilderness.
The Bush Devil Ate Sam is an important record and a serious story, yet told easily, and with delightful humor. This is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read, because it entertained me thoroughly AND made me feel better informed. —Hilary Custance Green: British Author... Click on the image to learn more about my book, the Bush Devil Ate Sam, and find out where it can be ordered.
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