The waves were dying down and after three weeks of cruising the California coast, the Syncro had developed a coating of sand and a special odor. In addition, parts of Southern California were starting to feel familiar. Weighing my options, I stopped by Trader Joe's in Silverlake to restock on provisions and headed east towards the desert.
The suburbs faded into obscurity as the 10 ran east towards Palm Springs. Desert started winning the war over farms and cul-de-sacs. Following signs towards Joshua Tree National Park, I turned off on 62. Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Whats the big deal about this place? I asked myself. The loud shriek of a nearby military jet confirmed my suspicions that the area was fit for weapons testing. Pulling into the park, I started seeing what the hype was all about. For the first time in recent memory, I couldn't see a house or other sign of civilization, just trees from a Dr. Seuss book. Sporadic rock formations decorated the horizon and hills, inviting exploration.
After a day a day of solo hikes, crawling around rocks and camping in a busy campsite, I started growing uneasy. Nature should be raw and open ended, not packaged and consumed. Driving off in search of a campsite on one of the so-called 4x4 roads designated by the official park map, furthered my angst. Under promise and over deliver, perhaps for a Prius. The Syncro wanted more dirt, and I wanted more seclusion.
See the face?
Craving God's County, BLM and National Forest, I left Joshua Tree at sunrise the next day. Setting my sites on Kern River Canyon, I headed north away from roads connected to LA. Traffic died off. The occasional lifted pickup truck sped by, and my music blasted with windows down. A sign read "No service for 55 miles." Good things accompany these signs.
Sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park.
These ditches are dug to stop off roaders.
One of the most beautiful sunsets of my life.
The shortening days prompted me to pull off the road earlier than usual. Invited by a trail snaking up to a hill, I drove to the gate, packed my pack with The Monkey Wrench Gang, my Snowpeak cook kit and two cans of chili. No registration or designated areas to cook, just a mile of hiking to do before sunset. I locked the doors out of habit before realizing that there was no one around for ten miles.
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