Travel Notebook: Fountain Peak

Fountain Peak, Mojave National Preserve

Act I

I can't verify the thought, but I think that I have missed Fountain Peak. no wonder, since I climbed into the Providence Mountains with no map. All I have is a book and a compass for directional tools. The directions seemed straightforward -- climb the canyon past Crystal Springs to the saddle, take the saddle north to the summit. Potentially, I am on Fountain Peak. Who knows?

In any case, there is an exciting view both east and west over the preserve, no mountains for miles to limit my vision. The south view offers a distant horizon, but is partially blocked by mountains. The north is nothing but a mountain.

No human presence is audible from this location save for the infrequent drone of an airplane engine. Nothing else here but the sounds of natural origin. The wind with its low, slow breath through the pinyon pine and junipers. The occasional guest over the ridge making a more urgent and higher gasp before tapering back. Flies buzz occasionally, searching for a place to rest. A distant, intermittent chirp. There is nothing else.

From west to east, small patches of clouds push to the horizon with deliberately slow speed, floating downstream on the wind without hurry. A quiet day in Mojave.

The way down will not be simple. Good.

Act II

Thought to explore later -- why Abbey's return to civilization at the end of Desert Solitaire does not surprise me, but surprises Mike. Perhaps Abbery not a misanthrope. Laso, there are components of our life that desert can not fully provide for. The return to the city, and subsequently back to the wilderness is sweeter after having been away.

Travel Notebook: Eureka Dunes

Eureka Dunes, Death Valley National Park

Mountain dunes -- no one way to the top. In the pre-sunrise glow, the sands are an unremarkable gray-tan. The sum of the sands as Eureka Dunes does loom heavily on the background sky, obscuring the view of the buttes behind as the approach is made.

Several sand peaks (sand foothills?) must be ascended on the way to the crowning summit. Each of the smaller peaks offers a ridge on which you can gain access to the next. Quick and hard climbs are possible direct to th etop, but face it -- I have no water on hand.

Some peaks line up in a way that appear to give a direct approach, but you have to look for more than just the peaks. To paraphrase: "it's the summit, stupid." One must look for the ridges, the bridges from peak to peak. Go down to go up, left to go right. Keep the goal, the destination, in mind, and don't be hesitant to improvise the journey to suit.

Perhaps it's the journey, not the destination. Or both. Compromise.

Travel Notebook: Ubehebe Peak

Ubehebe Peak, Death Valley National Park

Mountains and valleys
Swoop
Flat playa on th ewindward side of Ubehebe
Swoop
The Grandstand needles out of the plane of the playa
Swoop
(What are these swooping birds? They arc around from down-ridge, gliding quickly over the slope down to the playa. Racing around, aiming for the peak ridge, they swoop across at breakneck speed or catch the updraft and loop back outward. Very fast and with an air-slicing swoop. SWOOP)

Ubehebe Peak itself is a razor-edged break between Racetrack Valley and Saline Valley. To the east, rocks "race" over the Racetrack below the spectator boulders on The Grandstand. To the west, Saline Valley stretches beyond my capacity to estimate distance. Perhaps I see the valley floor stretch northwest for 30 miles. As the valley floor rises to become the Saline Range, the distance extends further.

The Inyo Mountains slope hard over the Saline Valley. Even the Sierra Nevada peaks peek briefly over the top of this range, perhaps even Mt. Whitney.

The bliss of seeing further than you could before the ascent -- the essence of reaching the summit.

Travel Notebook: Mesquite Spring

Mesquite Spring Campsite, Death Valley National Park

Sunset
Buttes glow
Orange fire
Burn on the slate gray
Of a passing storm
Under the white boundary
Of sun-touched cloud
That pushes on
The sky blue infinite
Different eras of
Rock-laid time
Burn and simmer
In varying light
The way down the valley
Is receding light
Sol drops below curtain
Of Panamint Range
Leaving only
Burning embers
Fade to gray
Sunrise come another day
Over Amargosa Range

Travel Notebook: Jumbo Rocks

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park

It's not the sun itself that makes a sunset for me. There is no doubt that it plays a prime role, but there is more to it.

Say, here in Joshua Tree NP, the sunset creates vistas over this boulder landscape that are fascinating to the point where each rock, each curve, each pit, takes on a personality. The large, tapered boulder to my front sheds a complacent tan glow, giving its reflection to me from an oblique angle. And the rock outcropping to the right catches flame as the shadow of the mountain to the west plods on to quench it. The sky, too, wil do the same, casting off its cool blue to be replaced with peach, then rose, and lavendar, fading back to indigo before giving way to the deep blue of night. Only the cirrus clous above to project a memory of the sol over Joshua Tree.

A pun: when climbing, fortune favors the boulder.

Travel Notebook: Lost Palms Oasis

Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park

Act I

I've come to understand a bit about why the desert reaches me on a personal level. We have similar personalities in many respects. There is something -- something -- about the balance of life out here. The near-death that occurs every summer. The apparent diappearance of the living that thrusts itself back every spring. The opportunistic explosion after heavy rain.

Evenwhen my dreams are nearly dead, they lie. It might be somewhere under the surface and under the dirt where you can't see -- but it's always there, ready to bloom.

Act II

It ain't your mom's park. You're gonna have to sweat. Bleed. And you will burn. And often hurt. You'll wonder why you got out of bed to do this to yourself.

But you've found truth. Veriditas. Live hard. Find everything. Look.

Act III

Sometimes you have to be prepared to keep walking -- that oasis on your map might be a sham.

Act IV

It's not hard to see your/my face in everyone/thing.

Act V

In the quest to find my personal path, I may have uncovered a common thread.

What do the desert and Washington, DC have in common?

Act VI

Reiterate: what do Washington, DC and the Mojae Desert possess that has caught my attention in such a firm manner?

It appears that they both offer opportunities in three things tht I love: space exploration, education, and wilderness management. Yes, a funny mix I've created here, but let's examine...

First, let's that pursuing education is ubiquitous, can be done anywhere. DC offers the aded advantage of being the location of the Dept. of Education and probably a number of other organizations like AAAS, NSF, etc.

Second, wilderness. For the desert, this doesn't have to be explained -- I'm in JTNP. Iin DC, there is the Dept. of the Interior and the NPS.

Finally, there is space. In Southern California there are space companies on all levels of the continuum, from Boeing and LockMart to JPL, to Interorbital and Scaled. In DC, there is both the source and solution to the problems of space: NASA. Plus there are numerous other agencies, Dept. of Commerce, for example, that have a say in what goes up (or stays on the ground).

Gut feeling -- this observation is the gateway to the road I will travel. Now, it is time to take stock of what I have (forget what I don't have for the time being, must not focus on what I can't do, it's hindering my progress)... and go. Fortune favors the bold. Let the meek inherit the Earth, there are those of us who have our sights set on other things. Me, I'm going to examine this thread, this underlying piece of myself, and prepare to change the world in a positive way.

Finally, the beginning of a mission. Stay tuned.