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Waves of Sand

Today I finally spent a morning roaming the dunes near Stovepipe Wells. You have to fully commit when you walk on sand for several hours. There were quite a few photographers out on the dunes before I even got there. Once you get past the highest dune you can finally get some shots with no foot prints in them.

Back on the Road

I had planned on hiking up to four peaks for the first time to check out the area and see if there was a good water source. This hike is close to a 4000 foot elevation gain. One of my tires popped and went flat right before I reached the trailhead. Not good on the first day of a multi-week trip. After fixing the tire I changed my plan since there was not enough time to get to the peak before the next storm. I drove up Hwy 288 which I had never been on before. It is in the national forest and the pavement comes and goes changing to dirt at times. After passing the secluded town of Young I found a free campground. However I did get stuck in the snow finding a shovel while doing so. I went out to the road and flagged down a nice older couple who helped me get out. We almost failed but I was able to finally relax and get some sleep. I did a hike on the highline trail the next day and found some more free camping. I spent valentines day driving in cold windy rain to Death Valley and once I got there the storm was just starting to clear up.

Back to Death Valley

I decided to take the long way back to Phoenix rather than go through Southern California. There is something about driving in Death Valley that will keep me coming back. This was the first time I had been on highway 178 in Panamint Valley. Traffic was non-existent.

One last drive up the coast

Starting from the southern end of the Big Sur Wilderness, I took my time and drove up highway 1. Even in 2018 you can still have a peaceful drive without a car in front or behind you.

The elephant seals were in full effect that day.

Time for a shower

With the poison oak kicking in and the hot springs no longer being an option I decided to hike out and drive south to find a cheap motel. I almost fell off the trail a fews times because the views can be mesmerizing. I did find a room and the price was right. After settling in I took a shower. There was no hot water and the pressure was scant at best. No wanting to deal with a refund and/or move I sucked it up and made the best of it.

Cone Peak

While hiking up the cone peak road I stopped at a vista and the morning clouds were looking good. I started at Vicente Flat camp which is at 1700 feet.

This is near the peak which sits at 5155 feet. That’s a good climb with a full pack. I guess this peak is the steepest rising mountain near the ocean in the lower 48. After taking in the views I headed down to Trail Spring camp. This area had had a lot of huge pines that were falling all over the place. There was a standing dead pine near the camp that made me nervous while getting into my sleeping bag that night.

No hot springs on this trip

On almost everyday of this trip I devised a plan in my head that had to be changed for one reason or another. I had a memory of my last Big Sur trip, back when I was living in SF, of driving up a long windy road to a remote trailhead up in the mountains. I wanted to go there again and based on my guide book I new that it must have been Bottchers Gap. So after buying expensive gas and a few treats in Carmel I headed south to Palo Colorado Road. I knew the road was about 10 miles long and when I made the turn I saw an orange sign that read “Road closed at mile 3.” Time for a new plan. I headed further south and decided to hike the popular pine ridge trail that leads to Sykes hot springs. This would feel great after several days without a shower. After turning onto the road that leads to the trailhead I came to a closed gate. I couldn’t believe it. I got out and read the notice and then went to the nearby ranger station. It wasn’t open yet but a nice man let me in and explained how many of the trails had suffered from heavy rain which caused land slides making the trails impassable. I guess it happened a few years back and since there is a lack of funding the repair process is moving at a slow pace. He showed me a website that provides accurate trail conditions. Today’s lesson: The internet is a useful tool that can be used to plan your next hiking trip. So I headed even further south back to the trailhead that leads to Cone peak.

Prewitt Loop Trail

I hope that I got the poison oak from this trail. That would mean if I use modern research techniques for my next trip (i.e. the internet) I would be able to hike the clear trails without being affected by this annoying pest. I saw it on all the trails but for the most part I was able to tip-toe around it. This trail was very over grown in the beginning but after I was in about 20 minutes I decided to keep going. I read the trail summary and the beginning of the trail description in my guide book before I started and my plan was to go to Stag camp for lunch and head to Kelly camp for the night, wake up and hike out to my truck in the morning. After a questionable hike where I sometimes felt like I was on a cow path I arrived at Stag camp. I ate a bagel with peanut butter on it and read the entire trail description. It read as follows, “Past this point the trail is sketchy and not recommended.” Had I known this before I started I probably would not have even attempted this one. My only reward was this crazy tree. Two days later I felt the itch on my forearm.

Secret free car camping

This was taken as I drove up a coastal road that heads east through the mountains. You can see a little stretch of the highway 1 near the center. I thought I could  get to some trailheads the would take me to Cone peak. A little way up the road there was a sign saying there are two campgrounds about ten miles ahead. I was beginning to notice that there were no signs along the coast highway that tell you where the trailheads are and there were no signs for these campgrounds on the main highway. I suppose if they marked everything well the tourists would swarm and overcrowd these precious areas. I remember other instances and this locals only, need to no basis mentality in Southern California. I also can imagine if there was good cell phone reception in Big Sur there would be masses of people roaming around staring at there phones and drivers on the highway doing the same. Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. So I got up to the first campground and was almost going to pay the $20 fee when a park service truck pulled up and asked if I had stayed there the night before. I said no and he informed me that you can camp for free up the road. I took him up on this offer and I stayed for two nights at a backwoods site next to a sparkling clear creek.


Welcomed sunshine after the rain

I reached Goat camp after a full days hike and set up my tent expecting some rain. The wind started first and then came the rain which continued throughout the next day and into the following morning. This put my gear to the test. My waterproof boots were soaked after hiking the overgrown trail to Vicente flat. Rather than hike out and drive to the multiple expensive logging options along the coast I decided to set up my tent to ride it out until morning. I thought it would let up a bit in the afternoon so I could get out of the tent to do some exploring but the rain continued non-stop. I was able to keep my sleeping bags and camera dry. In the morning I hiked out and drove to the town of Big Sur and I found the first cell reception I had in three days. I checked in with family, bought a tasty sandwich from the Big Sur Deli and headed back down the curvy highway to find an open campsite right on the ocean. As I dried my gear a cute little girl in a Santa hat came over from a neighboring site speaking a language I could not understand. She went on and on and her father told me that Santa had come a day early and she was trying to tell me about it in German. Fell asleep under the stars that night while listening to the waves crash on the shore.

The challenge of hiking in Big Sur

As I drove from eastern California to the coast I thought for sure that there would be ample phone reception so I decided to wait and text my location once I figured out what trailhead I was going to head in from. I had been hiking in Big Sur about 15 years ago so I had a little knowledge of the area. I was using a Big Sur hiking book as my guide for the trip and I wanted to try and reach Sykes hot springs from the remote eastern trailheads as opposed to the most popular trail that starts on the coast. I headed into the windy backroads south of Carmel and found navigation to be confusing and my phone was not helping. The days were getting shorter so I decided to head for the national forest campgrounds on the coast which are located 50 miles down highway 1. I got there right at sunset to find a $35 dollar site and still no cell coverage. In the morning I parked at the trailhead on the coast that heads up into the mountains rising over 5000 feet to the top of Cone peak. I knew there was rain in the forecast but I had no way of getting weather updates. I headed in expecting some rain and hopefully some reception in the higher elevations.

Telescope Peak

I can’t lie. I did not make it to the top but I did get close enough for this pic. This was the day after I got a ride to the Wildrose trailhead and I thought I would have good luck getting there again and maybe even further up the 4×4 only road that gets you to the Telescope peak trailhead. It was a Saturday so there should be more traffic right? Wrong. I ended up walking all the way to both trailheads which made for a long day during the time of year with little light to spare. Rather than hike close to 24 miles round trip with the last few in the dark I turned around after getting some cool pics up in the clouds. I’ll be back.

Wind blown dead tree

I saw this guy on the way back from my failed summit of Telescope Peak. View is looking to the northwest where you can see the high sierras in the distance.

The couple who gave me a ride to the trailhead

The two small figures on the left of this pic are the nice couple who gave me a ride to the Wildrose trailhead. The pavement ends a few miles prior and my truck needs some suspension work so I’m taking it easy on it for now. Thanks again guys!

My sticks on Wildrose Peak

Death Valley does not have a lot of designated trails but there is a nice climb up to this peak. The snow had just fallen a few days before followed by some high winds. The ammo box had a notebook for signing your name and leaving a little note. I think there was a kind bar in there.

Stormy morning up at Dante’s View

Woke up to some rain on my first night in Death Valley. There was a rainbow following me around as I drove through the valley that day. Then the wind came. My tent did not fair well in the wind and my cooler failed as a corner anchor and spilled in my tent. I took it down and slept in the back of my truck that night carefully positioning it as a wind block.

Red Rocks

Stopped in at Red Rocks near Las Vegas to check it out on my way to Death Valley. Stayed at the campground with numerous dirtbags and a variety of dirtbag road rigs. They ranged from top of the line Mercedes vans to simple trucks with a camper top. I guess Red Rocks is one of the top five climbing destinations in the U.S. I hiked up Turtlehead Peak and took a few pics with my phone and posted them to facebook. Shortly after an old friend from college sent a message that he lived on that side of Las Vegas. We met for a beer and burger and caught up on old friends. I’ll be back for some climbing possibly in February with some Austin dirtbags.

Superstition Wilderness

Lots of boulders in the superstitions near Apache Junction. I was surprised and a little disappointed that there were no trails leading up to the top of any of the peaks.


Balancing Rocks

Giant rock stack in South Mountain on the National Trail in Phoenix.

Catalina State Park

Found some good campsites up in the national forest after starting at Catalina State Park.