It’s been less than 3 weeks since we entered southern California from Baja but it feels like much longer because we’ve seen a lot of cool places in that time. We’re working our way through Nevada now stalling a little because there’s been a cold snap and we didn’t want to arrive at Great Basin national park in freezing cold temps. It’s a high park and we’ve been wanting to check it out for quite some time now.
Neither of us knew how much public land California has throughout the state or how much beautiful desert there is to experience either. We thought there were way more people. We’ve pretty much been moving from one park to the next exploring different desert landscapes and hiking the treads off our shoes. And we’ve been ordering things along the way to restock or fix things, among them, new shoes. But we’re not worried about our favorite tuna, because we got all we could before we left Mexico!
We’ve never been ones for addictions, well is chapstick considered an addiction? But, if I had to say, I think we are quite addicted to being outdoors, preferably hiking. Looking back, it all started when we met in college at UVM and we used to walk all over Burlington, mainly near the lakeside docks looking at boats. We wanted one so bad. Well we definitely got in to boats and the boat was a means to get us to all sorts of lovely places to hike in various parts of the globe. It guaranteed a lot of time outside that’s for sure!
We started out at Anza-Borrego state park not far from the border. We spent the first few days with Ivan and then we parted ways until April when we look forward to meeting up again. The park is huge and there are heaps of places to explore and dispersed camp. Not many people.
Jon & I moved to a different part of the park, Borrego Springs to check out the statues by Ricardo Breceda. A sculptor originally from Durango, Mexico, he has placed 130 impressive metal sculptures throughout the desert landscape near the little village that is surrounded by the park. They’re really impressive and some are based on fossil remains that have been found in the area. And then many others are just inspiration. We took a great run the next morning around the sculptures and nearing the end, we came upon an overland truck tucked up into the hills. When we got closer, we realized it was Michaela & Peter from Germany who we’d met last year in Tuscon! These kinds of coincidences are too weird but great at the same time. We knew they were in the region but that’s it. So we spent the day together catching up, took a hike of course and even though we’d missed Michaela’s birthday by a day, we still got to enjoy some of her birthday cake- a chocolate cherry cake that we’ve been craving ever since. Now we have the recipe and just need the cherries. We said goodbye the next morning till later this Spring when we should all meet up on our way to Alaska. They know Ivan, Sandie & Karsten too. Small world. Neat people.
We’d hoped to see the wildflowers blooming because our timing was right and often there are loads of them at Anza but this year conditions weren’t right at all and there are hardly any flowers anywhere. It’s been too dry.
We were headed to Mecca Hills Wilderness which is between Anza & Joshua Tree NP. We’d heard great things about it, Michaela & Peter had just been there too! Well this place was a real gem and at night, we had the canyon all to ourselves under the brilliant light of the moon. It felt magical. During the day, we hiked slot canyon after slot canyon as well as up on the ridges that hide all that is underneath. Some of the canyons had ropes & ladders which made it really fun. We’d come back to the truck to sit in the shade and drink lemonade. I love the pace and character or our travel.
Then we headed to Joshua Tree hoping to at least see those trees blooming (they’re actually a type of yucca) and sure enough they were. We got a nice campsite among the boulders and spent a couple days wandering around the Mojave desert on well groomed park trails. We also took the motorcycle out to explore some of the dirt roads and trails that were more isolated since we realized we’d arrived over spring break and it was quite busy. On leaving the park in our truck we even had a close call when we came upon a car traveling on the wrong side of the highway headed directly at us. It was the laying on of our loud horn that finally got them to swerve back into their lane. A right hand drive visitor. We felt short of breath for awhile afterward. We’re glad for our horn and wish it didn’t look like it was 100 years old when it’s barely 1. Nothing lasts.
So speaking of accidents, a tractor trailer truck hurled a big rock up at our windshield and left a big star in it. At the bottom is a big smile that seems to be getting broader. Fearing this ever since we got our truck since we thought it would be really difficult (and expensive) to have a new one sent from Europe, Jon did some serious detective work and found out that there are quite a few of them kicking around in the USA because Mercedes actually owns Freightliner and for a time they were importing our truck cab into the US to use for a Freighliner truck (they would add a long fiberglass hood to the cab) that uses our same windshield. So we have a new one waiting for us in Boise and an appointment to have it installed. Unfortunately, the great 3M crystalline sunvisor strip that we had installed in Texas will now need to be replaced. It’s hard to check anything off our list when we keep having to add new things but we’re thankful to not have had to ship one from Europe and our insurance is covering it.
We use Google Fi for our phone service. At first it seemed amazing because it works in over 200 countries and you can just keep on with your same number and plan most anywhere you are. But we’ve since learned that after a few months of being outside the US this great plan will not work unless you return to the US. We got a text stating this while we were in Baja and came back a couple days before we were to be shut off. So that isn’t good. But what we really love is that after 22G, you get put into what we affectionately call FU (can you guess what that means?) which is 2G speeds for the rest of the month. It’s very hard to shop for a windshield (or do anything else) when you’re in FU mode. It takes so long to load a page that you forget what you were going to do on it anyway. That will need figuring out at some point.
After leaving Joshua Tree, we headed to Mojave National Preserve. It’s huge and it protects a good chunk of the Mojave desert as well as the historical road by the same name that runs east to west where the Indians guided Spanish explorers in the 1770’s and European American explorers in the 1800’s. We spent one afternoon climbing up a 600 foot sand dune and then took a beautiful drive on an extremely washboard road to a place called Hole in the Wall. Named for a really unique canyon filled with holes in the rocks from an ancient volcanic blast, there are several lovely trails and broad vistas that kept us busy for a few days biking and hiking and we knocked off a couple of projects too.
A cold snap with truck (and hatch) shaking winds drove us out of Hole in the Wall and down for a day of errands in Las Vegas. It’s always nice to stock up on good food and we also did some clothes shopping. After so much being not available during covid we finally found some of the things we’ve needed like new hats, water bottles, things for hiking of course! Remaining along the periphery of the great Vegas Strip, I realized what a sea of solar panels they have in the surrounding desert. There are so many it even looks like a lake. I guess it must be to power all the neon lights of the strip!
We spent a night parked not far out of the city since we needed good internet to be on Recreation.gov at 9am on the 21st, with a fresh new month of data on Fi, thankfully. Our plan is to head to Alaska this summer and we’d like to see grizzlies up close at Katmai but it’s very hard to get a permit to camp in the campground once you fly there & get a water taxi to the area. If you don’t get one you have to bring your own bear fence and backpack 2 miles from the hub of activity to pitch your tent. Even though we love to backpack, this didn’t sound fun given the area. So, thirty spaces opened up the morning of the 21st and our fingertips were ready & waiting at the keyboard and Jon actually snagged some!!! I never knew he was a faster typer than me. We feel very lucky and relieved. Looking forward to seeing a lot of cool wildlife in Alaska. We’re also hoping to eat a lot of salmon!
After the booking, we got out of the city and drove about 80 miles north to a wildlife refuge called Pahranagat that’s part of the Pacific bird flyway. It’s a beautiful spot on 2 springfed lakes, once again historically significant because of that water. We got a pretty lakeside campspot and could see white pelicans from our window. We could also hear plenty of traffic since all of this is really a stone’s throw from the highway. It’s a pity. It was a decent area to bike in and we headed up into the hills on a 72 mile dirt road that leads nowhere really, just miles and miles of preserved lands that abut each other. It really is amazing, this amount of open space. It’s the stuff you fly over and look down at, wondering why there are roads snaking across the land when there’s no civilization in sight! We got to talking about the migrating birds trying to imitate their dialogue about their favorite spots to stop on their way north as if they were snowbird people. They would tell their friends there’s lot’s of amenities at this one!
OK, so one more place and then we’re caught up! We made 85 more miles of northward progress to land at Cathedral Gorge, a Nevada State Park. The pictures speak for themselves. Crazy mud formations that reminded me a little of the hoodoos of Bryce but they form slots that you can walk through. It’s as close as we get to religion. They reminded me a little of organ pipes or the high stone walls of a cathedral. What a unique environment. It was dedicated a park in 1935 so a lot of people have appreciated this place since then.
Well our new roof hatches are sitting in Oregon which is where we’re heading. We’re really hoping they’ll fit well and be an improvement over what we currently have. We have a lot of work to do in the next month so we tell ourselves we have to FOCUS! Maybe the cold will help us do that!