Return from Mojave, Day 8

McCall, ID to Missoula, MT

Start: 89002 miles

The clear cold water creates
A ropy texture
In the places where
The rocky bed underneath
Forms a consistent up down
Diagonal across the stream
In the waves above

I'll tell you what progress isIt is always moving downstream
Over the rocky bed underneath
Down and on
Picking up strength
Down and on
Cool and clear
Unhesitant
Always

Gas: Shell, McCall, ID
$24.74, $2.429/gal, 10.186 gal
325.2/89009 miles, 31.93 mpg

Rossauer's, Missoula, MT, $13.58

Return from Mojave, Day 7

Ochoco National Forest, OR to McCall, ID

Start: 88620 miles

Act I

Disaster -- averted!
Catastrophe -- avoided!

The road leading north from Deep Creek Campground to Mitchell and the John Day Fossil Beds National Mountain (Painted Hills Unit) is a one-lane, gravel road -- Forest Service Roads 42, 3010, and 22. For brevity, an oncoming truck and I barely missed becoming a single piece of metal while rounding a blind turn around a hillside rock embankment. The picture of his wheels cocked to a hard angle away from the direction of the road to evade a collision is still burned in my mind (however, I could not describe the color of his vehicle, maybe green?). A few unstable oscillations in and out of the ditch, and a gallon of adrenaline later, all is well, albeit more cautious. On to the Painted Hills and Idaho, in one piece, and very thankful for the opportunity to drive on.

Act II

From the 1.5-mile trail marker, Blue Basin Overlook, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument:

"What is it that urges a man to risk his life in these precipitous fossil beds? I can answer only for myself, but with me there are only two motives, the desire to add to human knowledge, which has been the greatest motive of my life, and the hunting instinct , which is deeply planted in the human heart. Not the desire to destroy life, but to see it...

It is thus that I love the creatures of other ages, and that I want to become acquainted with them in their natural environments. They are never dead to me; my imagination breathes life into 'the valley of dry bones'...

--C. H. Sternberg, paleontologist

Expenses

Gas: Dayville, OR
$28.00, $2.499/gal, 11.203 gal
335.3/88684 miles, 29.93 mpg

Patch at Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, $4.00

Return from Mojave, Day 6

Seattle, WA to Ochoco National Forest, OR

Start: 88087 miles

Act I

Wind RIPS down the Columbia Gorge
The Green water dances, leaps
Smashing into the rocks
Spraying into the air
Sound fills space
Splash whoosh
Trees get horizontal
Windsurfers get vertical
Water explores all space that it can
This is power and force
Contained within this rocky gorge

Act II

Today was somewhat anticlimactic, but very good nonetheless. Much more driving than anticipated, perhaps because I subconsciously don't want to put up my tent in the light.

Yesterday was a subtly good day, and was designed almost as a scouting mission for today. On the way up I-5 to Seattle from Portland, I detoured to the east to visit Mt. St. Helens. It was a superb day to visit, with sunny skies and warm weather, much unlike what I expected form the northwest coast.

The features of the volcano, still active, were strikingly pretty. The remainder of the mountain sits high sbove the surrounding area, its open face where the eruption occurred pointed in the direction of the approaching road. The snow pack within the caldera would periodically cause small plumes of steam, enough to stir an overactive imagination. The landscape below the snowline was straight from another planet. The grey surface pitted and sliced by tributaries, the lack of vegetation quite prominent.

The timing of yesterday's visit would be key, becuase the cloud level today was at 3800 ft, almost 6000 feet below the top of the peak and below the trail I had picked out. This was the weather I had expected.

The evening yesterday was spent with SEDS friends from the University of Washington in Seattle. The world's fanciest ramen and Star Wars with a girl on each side. Fantastic.

Back to the present -- mostly driving today, including the misspent three hours traveling to the Johnston Ridge visitor center at Mt. St. Helens. But, the drive after this snafu was well worth the trouble. Passing near the crossing to Portland, I traveled east on WA-14 through the Columbia River Gorge instead. The weather in this gorge was quite windy, a trait which attracted many windsurfers. A number of miles later, I crossed the river at the Mt. Hood River Bridge into Oregon. True to its name, the bridge and OR-35 led into Mt. Hood National Forest and past the base of Mt. Hood.

From here the landscape changed primarily to grassland near Machas and back to evergreen forest past Prineville and into camp at Ochoco National Forest.

Expenses

Gas: Shell, Olympia, WA
$23.13, $2.319/gal, 9.975 gal
314.2/88148 miles, 31.50 mpg

Gas, Mobil, Vancouver, WA
$14.96, $2.379/gal, 6.289 gal
200.9/88349 miles, 31.94 mpg
Coffee, $1.07

Campsite, Deep Creek, Ochoco National Forest, $8.00

Bridge Toll, Columbia River, $0.75

Return from Mojave, Day 5

West Linn, OR to Seattle, WA

Start: 87767 miles

Well, shoddy record keeping the last few days, so let's catch up.

Thursday was primarily dedicated to exploring the underground lava tubes at Lava Beds National Monuments. Such a strange subterranean system. Now that I am biased from the experience, I do not recall what I expected to see underground, but it wasn't what I saw.

At first glance, all looks similar. The black walls, the rough textures, the stooping, the darkness. Similar. Then your eyes adjust. The differences stand out. The walls, all rough, display different characteristics, especially the ropy ribs of Hopkins Chocolate Cave. The ceiling of Golden Dome features the same "shark tooth" texture, but there is a noticeable golden shimmer in the reflected water droplets. Some require crawling and scooting while others could house a basketball court. The power of an open mind to see these various characteristics.

Friday, and the escape from the monument at sun-up. A vista over the Devil's Homestead, a lava flow still black and wretched on the surface as if it had poured out of the ground yesterday. Further down the road, Captain Jack's Fortress, the protective haven for Modoc warriors struggling to keep their native land. The fortress is a naturally occurring section of a lava flow almost designed with a protective wall and impassable terrain (at least under gunfire) outside. Further down the road, Petroglyph Point, a former island when Tule Lake was larger. It stores the writings of Modoc canoeists, perhaps also their predecessors, who would travel to the wall and inscribe pictures.

Passing out of Lava Beds, I enter Oregon for the rist time. Oregon is a funny land where there are no self-service gas stations and a real desert where I thought there should be trees. Well, there's a busted regional stereotype. The day's travels would lead me north on OR-139 to Klamath Falls and then on US-97 to Bend.

Prior to Bend, I discovered on the map a place called Newberry National Volcanic Monument. With a few free hours and knowing that there is no one to visit in Portland later, it is time to explore volcanic central Oregon. These explorations lead to the Big Obsidian Flow, an odd flow of lava that had such a high content of silica that it did a number of unusual things. First, true to its name, it has large deposits of black, glassy obsidian. Second, the high silica content means slow-moving lava, so the edge of the flow is sheer where it wsa deliberately pushed up into place by the flow behind.

A quick side trip to Paulina Falls, then onto the Trail of Molten Land behind the visitor center. Expecting a short, uninteresting trail, the variety of lava forms and the easily seen trails the flow took out of the butte -- clear channels for flow, strata in the sides indicating different eras of flow, dams, levees -- make for an interesting experience. Then the climax of viewing the 10-square mile stretch of broken, chunky lava flow in front of a wall of trees and distant snow-topped mountains comes into view from the topmost ridge. Also at this viewpoint, I meet a gentleman who graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in geology in 1941 -- Perry Graves. Small world.

From Bend, it is a drive west on US-20 to OR-126 until Salem, then I-5 north to Portland where I will be staying in my Aunt Janet's house in West Linn. Unfortunately, she is in Fiji on vacation.

Expenses

Gas: Chevron, Kalama, WA
$22.70, $2.299/gal, 9.874 gal
338.0/87834 miles, 34.23 mpg

Coffee, $0.74

Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center, $5.25 for patches and postcards, $15.00 for upgrade from National Parks Pass to Golden Eagle Pass

Ticket to see Star Wars Episode III in Seattle, $9.00

(Paid rent online, $260)

Return from Mojave, Day 2

Washoe County, NV to Lava Beds National Monument

Start: 87040 miles

Act I

Looking back to the International Space Development Conference from last week, I believe that I've made a fundamental leap in self-confidence. This is thanks in large part to Loretta Hidalgo, who is one of the most wonderful people I've had the fortune to meet. Thank you, Loretta.

Thanks are also due to Peter Diamandis and Bob Richards, whose audacity and ingenuity just knocks me over. After talking with these two, I am fully convinced that I can induce a lasting improvement and change in this world. Damn, what was stopping me before? The first indication I had that I was limiting myself came during the 2004 SEDS-USA National Conference at MIT. At the pub for social hour on Friday of the event, I mentioned something to Brian Feeney of the Da Vinci Project that made him call me out for my negativism. To paraphrase, he told me to stop worrying about what I think that I can't do. That is, by my attitude he got the vibe that I was selling myself short.

And Josh Neubert, again one of the most wonderful folks I've been fotunate to know, has no similar problem with confidence. He is go, go, go, go. Well, buddy, I'm finally ready to go with you.

As a concluding note before driving away to my next destination, I'll state here for the record that I understand my capacity for enacting change and being a leader of movement of motivated men and women. Leaders are not a dime a dozen. Leaders are in short supply and I am happy to wear the mantle of leader, including all of the responsibilities and discipline.

Act II

Lava Beds National Monument is another subtle beauty in the National Park system. From here at the fine lookout on Schonchin Butte, the majority of the park is laid out in all four directions under the setting sun.

To the north there are visible remnants of lava flows right on the surface. From left to right, there is a clear trail such that one can imagine what the physical act of the lava flow must have looked like. In the background, the oldest formation in the park creates a shelf over this flow and the bed of Tule Lake. Craters, ripples, trenches, and buttes -- reminders of an active adolescent Earth.

Shifting gaze to the west, the most striking feature is Mt. Shasta, dominating the surrounding landscape with relief thousands of feet greater than its neighbors. The rippled sea of solid lava continues off to the west and south, gathering trees as it moves towards what must surely be its origin to the south, the Medicine Lake shield volcano. Ah, but Mt. Shasta, conical, white with snow.

The east begins to receive the shadow of Schonchin Butte, as well as the shadows of numerous other buttes and cinder cones. The effect of the lengthening sunlight creates a world of texture on the volcanic ripples. Trees separate from the surroundings, their west faces burn bright as a contrast to their deep shadow behind. Texture and color, brightness and contrast. Journey and reason, light and meaning. Look out, see within.

Act III

A brief return to an old observation -- the confluence of personal interest in space, education, and wilderness. Previous conclusions are, in fact, mularkey.

A new conclusion: exploring space is a dream through which I can lead civilization to new heights, to the next step, to an advanced stage as a culture. Education is the manifestation of my interest in space on earth. That is, I can use my skills and leadership as I reach upward to effect great positive change now. Wilderness is the temple in which I occasionally seek the solitude to find within myself the trail for the next step in my life.

This is good.

Act IV

Sunset
Shasta draped in purple and orange
Craters become personalities
Textures so deep that they have souls
Relief becomes full in the moment before sol crosses the horizon
Relief in elevation
Relief in body
Both are full
If this is life, this is a good life
A mountain shadow stretches
Like a smile

Act V

Metaphorically and literally, there are features of the distant landscape that cannot be captured in a photo. The experience, however, is not affected.

Expenses

Gas: Chevron, Alturas, CA
$19.64, $2.599/gal, 7.588 gal
250.3/87257 miles, 33.12 mpg
Coffee, $1.06

Groceries, Four Corners Market, Alturas, CA, $32.60

Indian Well Campground, Lava Beds National Monument, $20 for 2 nights

LBNM Visitor Center, $8.94 for postcards and patch, $3.94 for bump helmet, $6.44 for 4 D-batteries

Return from Mojave, Day 1

Mojave, CA to Washoe County, NV

Start: 86530 miles

After goodbyes at Graziano's Pizza in Mojave, it is time to head north out of the High Desert. through the windwills and the Tehachapi Mountains, this is a route that I have taken only one other time during a trip to Yosemite National Park in February. The route contrasts greatly. Before reaching the pass, Hwy 58 is dirt and scrub brush nut makes a transition to grass and tress soon after. So, within 20 minutes, the surrounding feel has changed. Then again later, dropping down to the floor of the San Joaquin Valley -- near sea level from near 4000 ft will introduce another fundamental environment change. This time, it is a farmland environ complete with the fragrance of damp hay and the sight of flat continuity that will soon greet me in Illinois.

Today's trip will take me from Mojave, CA to Davis Creek Regional Park in Washoe County, just south of Reno, NV. The total driving time about 10 hours, including an oil change and plenty of wrong turns in Bakersfield and Reno. For reference: CA-58 to Bakersfield, CA-99 to Stockton, I-5 to Sacramento, I-80 to Reno, US-39 to Washoe.

Expenses

Gas: Shell, Tehachapi, CA
$31.73, $2.699/gal, 11.755 gal
328.2/86553 miles, 27.92 mpg

Gas: Chevron, Lodi, CA
$23.22, $2.479/gal, 9.367 gal
296.8/86850 miles, 31.69 mpg

Oil change: Texaco, Bakersfield, CA, $30.91

Coffee, Tulare, CA, $1.20

New road atlas, Borders, Stockton, CA, $26.95

Gas, Verdi, NV
$14.42, $2.359/gal, 6.114 gal
156.3/87007 miles, 25.56 mpg

Camping fee, Davis Creek Regional Park, Washoe, NV, $15.00

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.