Lilly, my 16 year old daughter, her friend Kennedy and I visited the western slope of the Southern Sierra and Giant Sequoia National Monument this August. We had a fine trip. Sadly, the legacy, history and scenic splendor of this area is currently under attack by developers and the United States Department of Interior. Please keep that in mind as you enjoy the photos and short narrative.
We chose to stay at the Quaking Aspen Campground in the National Monument. Ironically, there are very few Aspens in the campground proper but they are found all around the area. The campground sits near a small alpine meadow (7200 feet), has Tule Creek running through it, and is quiet and beautiful. After a somewhat harrowing drive on Highway 190 - it's steep and narrow and crazy curvy - we arrived and Lilly and Kennedy went to the nearby meadow and found a nice spot by the creek.
That night the old man (me) made his notorious Frito Pie, we watched "Sing" on my iPad in the trailer (to the pleasure of all...including the old man) and fell asleep to the sound of the whispering pines.
The next day we explored and went on two wonderful walks. The first is known as the "Trail of 100 Giants". Kennedy had never seen a Sequoia before and it was a kick to watch her expressions as we came upon these majestic wonders. We had a delightful hike.
My daughter, a lifelong adherent to lunacy, crawled into the hollow of a burned out Giant Sequoia and I asked her to poke her head out so that I could take a picture. It was, evidently, a far reach, and the photo came, over several minutes, in the following stages:
After our leisurely jaunt among the Sequoias we drove on the short dirt road to "Dome Rock" a large granite outcropping that is a rock climbing favorite. The views were beautiful and the steady strong wind we faced was refreshing and invigorating. Since I was camp counselor and guide I didn't focus that much on photography but I was able to capture a tiny bit of this pretty Sierra afternoon. I particularly like this photo of a lone pine on a rock outcropping.
The girls enjoyed the view and Kennedy was able to get cell phone service via her Verizon plan. Lilly and I on AT&T? Not so much. We planted ourselves and simply enjoyed the wind and sun.
Our last day was spent with more exploring, driving, and going for another hike. Lilly needed to get back to SoCal for Cross Country time trials but we managed to have a brief but brilliant time anyway. Life is so damn short and every moment with her in the wild is a profound blessing. I'll just count the days until we get out there again.
Lastly, I need to provide a quick editorial comment - it appears as if Secretary Zinke and the Interior Department will be recommending shrinking some of the National Monuments in the country. I am, of course, horrified. So much of the West has already been destroyed. We must, absolutely must, preserve all that is left. If you haven't already, won't you consider joining the cause of preserving these magnificent places?
I've been home almost a week and, funny enough, I'm itching to get back on the road. I know that the good weather months are dwindling and that soon it will be cold- my traveling and camping nemesis. I have a trip planned to Utah in less than two weeks and then the wait for the twins begins in earnest and I'll probably stay pretty close to home.
One of the most enjoyable activities of the winter months is planning the next year's travel. So far, I plan on two trips to Organ Pipe NM this winter. After 11 long years the monument is now fully open again which is exciting to say the least. I can now explore some places I've been itching to see for awhile but were closed due to the US Border Patrol's activities.
Have you read, "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Urrea? The setting is Organ Pipe- it's a tragic story and my views on immigration were only solidified by reading it. I know it's a complex issue but we MUST find a more humane way of dealing with those desperately poor people from Mexico who simply want a better life in the USA (as did all our relatives- except the indigenous). I have lots of deeply passionate thoughts about these issues and, perhaps, in future, I'll devote an entire blog to what I believe the problems are (and there are many - starting with the government of Mexico and US policy) and how we might go about creating a better world for our brothers and sisters from the south. If you have an interest in these matters please read Urrea, or "Border Patrol Nation" by Todd Miller. Or read anything that Charles Bowden has written on the Border problems.
If you know me, at all, you know I love all things Southwest- by extension- I love Mexico and the Mexican culture. It's everywhere you go in the Southwest and it's one of the major reasons I love it here.
Back to my plans for next year- so Organ Pipe is on big time. I'm also going to spend some time at Anza Borrego near Little Blair Valley doing some boondocking near a dry lake bed. Last year when I was there I was mesmerized by the solitude and stark beauty of the place. The problem was that it's at 3000 feet elevation, it was during a cold snap, and when I awoke it was 21 degrees F. WAY too cold. This fall/winter I'm hoping to go when it's a bit warmer. Of course, I'll also figure out a time to go to my beloved Joshua Tree NP.
In March I'm heading to Big Bend National Park in Southern Texas along the mighty Rio Grande. This is a trip that I've been wanting to do since my 20's and I'm finally going to make it happen. That trip will include stops in Arizona and New Mexico and may include a stop at Palo Duro Canyon and Guadalupe NP. April is a wonderful month to explore the coastal mountains near Santa Barbara and Big Sur and I'll backpack then. I love to travel in May because the weather is warming and the crowds are at a minimum. I will probably be in Taos and Santa Fe then. In June I'll head to the Sierras again. July is "Lupe and Lilly time" and we are still in the process of deciding. I'm considering two options for August - either Flathead Lake and Glacier NP in Montana or a Northern Cascades trip in Washington.
This last trip was really spectacular and I'm strongly considering heading back to the Four Corners in Utah and Colorado in September. I'm still, as I sit here at home, staggered by the scenery I saw in Colorado on this last trip.
My next trip, leaving on October 6, includes a visit with my very best friend from high school, Kevin D. , and still one of the best people I've ever known (or ever will know). He went to college in Utah and then got a job there and so our visits have been sporadic (at best) over the years. I'm hoping that changes in the next few years as we both move into the retirement phase of our lives. As I told him recently- one of us is still working (him) and one of us is a hobo (me) so his schedule will dictate things for awhile. Luckily he's free on the weekend of Oct. 11 and I get to hang with him on this trip. Knowing Kev he's explored most of that beautiful country up there and I'll be the beneficiary of his knowledge.
Here's my Utah tentative itinerary:
10/6 Navajo National Monument
10/7 Arches NP
10/8 Arches NP
10/9 Arches NP
10/10 Canyonlands NP
10/11 Visiting with Kevin near Vernal, UT
10/12 Goblin SP
10/13 Goblin SP
10/14 Capitol Reef NP
10/15 Kodachrome SP
Looks amazing doesn't it? Arches NP remains my favorite. Before I read Ed Abbey I visited it and had an OBE (out of body experience)- after I read, "Desert Solitaire" I understood why. I probably feel more "at home" in Arches than any other place on earth. There is no place like the Red Rock Country of the Colorado Plateau. Being there fulfills my heart's desire. I'll look forward to sharing pictures on my return as always.
Thanks for reading this. I hope all is well in your life and that you too are planning your next adventure. I'll look forward to writing again soon and sharing about another one of my new passions- playing guitar.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.