The First Day of 2018

Q&A a day: What is your mission? To be more productive and attentive in all aspects of my life; to improve my abilities to share and grow with others; and increase my love and understanding for learning from different points of view.

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Cuyamaca Rancho St Park

We, the husband and dogs, went on a NYE trip to escape the city for the weekend. There was some confusion as to our plans, and I wanted to take the boat out (but our car isn’t ready for that), and I wasn’t sure I could handle the hiking — so we did some one-day short hikes (successfully) and Caleb was excited to hike with his wife again (and use his new camp pillow as his old one somehow got eaten by spiders).

Sparky staying in the car

We went through Alpine, Cuyamaca Rancho St. Park, and Julian, and stopped for the night at Tamarisk Grove Campground. We really need to start walking on to these sites for the discount, but were given a cabin site for the tent price. I was excited thinking we were getting a cabin for half price, but the cabin stayed locked. I walked the dogs while Caleb set up and we had macaroni and cider for dinner.

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Cactus Loop Trail

We went on the Cactus Loop Trail before breakfast and left the dogs shivering in the shade of the car. I was bummed that they couldn’t go with us, but grateful as I sat pulling needles out of my shoe. We stopped at Slab City and had a different experience from last time as we tried to imagine ourselves living there — kids in the street, “You got a dollar?” Next stop was the Salton Sea, still with plenty of dead fish, so the dogs could walk to the beach. I had to stop Piggy from trying to pick up salty treats.

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Slab City

We stopped at the International Banana Museum (Guinness Book of World Records and all that) and went inside the smoked-out shop next door for some cold beverages while we waited the 20 minutes for the museum to open at 1pm only to have the stoner next door tell us she got the owner sick and couldn’t be in two places at once, so we were out of luck.

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Salton Sea

From there, we drove to Painted Canyon Trail, a beautiful hike that we had not researched. I saw it on the map. I was practically dragging the dogs down the trail and this little girl stopped to ask how we’d get them up the ladders. I told her they’d climb, but I just wanted to see one for myself, with my crippled shoe on, while Caleb stood with the dogs in the shade. We had her little brother approach and comment on Piggy’s eyes, “That dog doesn’t have pupils.” I climbed up some large rocks, went through a crevice, and saw the first ladder. We will be coming back for a day hike when we’re with a more cooperative group and more able to complete the hike safely (in my boots).

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Cholla Cactus Garden, Joshua Tree NP

We passed BLM (free camping) and stopped at the Cottonwood Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park where we were told all the camping sites were full (and I forgot to get my passport stamp, but also forgot my passport). I asked for a new park pass and the ranger said, “I’ll issue you guys the military pass, it’s free and not $25. You’re too young for the senior pass.” I told him we’ll take one of each.

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Split Rock Trail

We decided on the Split Rock Trail and the two miles took us an hour and a half (luckily the moon was bright). I thought we’d be sleeping in the park and made plans for the morning north of, but we ended up at a BLM site northwest of the park. We had our macaroni (after I let it boil over) and juice for dinner and then read by lamplight in the car until I realized Caleb had climbed into his sleeping bag without me. I grabbed the dogs and joined him.

aww… Caleb and Sparky

On our way to Mojave National Preserve we stopped in Amboy at the cafe after our apple for me and cheddar and jerky for Caleb had worn off. The guy greeted us with, “Can I help ya?” and I simply replied, “food.” His response was, “You see the sign – no kitchen.” He said we could expect our next meal in Baker, which is 75 miles north in our direction.

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two cell prison at Kelso Depot, Mojave NP

Caleb had us down this dirt road and parts were rockier and rougher than others. We had some jeeps fly by us and eventually pulled over when the low tire pressure light came on. We figured no time like the present for a walk and stumbled across a trailhead. It took the dogs 24 minutes to walk 0.8 miles on flat, but gravely and sandy road, and I didn’t want to leave them in the car while we went exploring old volcanic tubes.

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view from the depot (now visitor center)

We stopped in Baker, got air in the tires, and then went across the street for a strawberry milkshake and spanokopita from Mad Greek Cafe (not impressed) and then over to Los Dos Toritos for a veggie burrito, five carne asada tacos, and a quesadilla. I took half of mine to go so we could get back to the dogs and back on the road. Our next stop was the S. Nopah Range Wild Area with tons of private property, so I’m not sure if we trespassed, but we took some cactus photos and were back on the road to Pahrump in Nevada.

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South Nopah Range Wilderness Area

I wanted to make the detour to ensure we see other parks and places besides national parks and I’m glad we did. We stopped at a French bakery, O Happy Bread, where I got the best baklava I’ve had since the place that lights it on fire in Phoenix. We also picked up croissants for Monday morning breakfast. We arrived in Furnace Creek of Death Valley National Park seven minutes before the visitor center closed (I got my stamp). We were going to sleep in the free camping site (way less lights and traffic), but I didn’t want to miss out on the drive and possible hikes, so we chose Sunset Campgrounds and were one of the three tents among the 30 RV’s there.

O Happy Bread

I couldn’t believe this was the last night of the year. I looked forward to the sunrise in the morning. We walked a few laps around the grounds through the night to walk off lunch, to cool off from the car which holds heat well, and to get our daily steps (now that I can get 10,000 again!) and for me to complete the December 200,000 step challenge. Caleb thought he’d stay up till midnight but was happy when I gave us permission to sleep early. We had nothing to gain in those two hours and were up in time to see the dark red rising over the mountains.

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Death Valley

The color seemed to brighten and the darkness dissipate in the time it took me to walk the dogs while Caleb broke down camp and warmed the car. It was in that time I realized I had dreamt about finals (professors and students, the whole ordeal), which was fitting for the last night of the year as I gazed upon the beautiful landscape. We stopped at Salt Creek and woke a couple sleeping in their truck. Caleb mentions halfway through our stroll on the boardwalk that he forgot the croissants in the dog-access part of the car.

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morning mountains

I enjoyed the 40 degree weather and the running water and the little salt bushes. I also worried about my breakfast. Then I noticed where parts of the boardwalk had been replaced and pieces of it lay in the creek. We stepped over a part that had been cleared of sand chunks. I love that there are so many parts of this park to explore. Caleb reminded me how I stopped in the middle of the road our first time here just to stare and take in the great beauty, and then again for a flower, and again, and again. I had thought death in the name implied a bland void, but this park is anything but.

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Salt Creek Trail

I had planned on going to Box Spring Mountain Park, then Orange Empire Railway Museum (near Perris), and the Pennypickles Workshop in Temecula where I also found some hiking, but all that got scrapped when we thought about the showers awaiting us at home. Traffic was very compliant and we gladly did dishes, laundry, and showers for all before Caleb went to the gym and I watched the neighbor’s kids in exchange for energy bites and a homemade salad for dinner.

Things don’t ever go as planned, but the intention needs to be there. How was your first day of 2018?

This entry was posted in Animals, Camping, Food, Hiking, Holidays, People, Photography, Places, Plants, Travel, Water and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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