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Category Archives: Nature

When Yosemite is Your Yard

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The roads from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite wind around and around. I’m not used to mountain driving, but it doesn’t really scare me. You just stay on the road. The height doesn’t really worry me too much, because I keep my eyes on the road. Paying attention is probably the most helpful thing one can do in mountain driving where staying on the road becomes even more important than it is on flat land.

I was happy to rest in Angel’s Camp for a while. A cute little town, I loved how they had clothes hanging over the street. It reminded me of shoes that hang above Spectre in Big Fish. Signs were in every window for the upcoming Culaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee. Apparently Angel’s Camp’s claim to fame is that Mark Twain published a story about a frog from there.

I didn’t really have a place to stay planned out for Yosemite. I thought I’d find a camping spot either inside the park or somewhere nearby. I had heard rumors about maybe some nearby BLM camping. I was caught off guard though when I found out that all the campgrounds in Yosemite were filled to capacity and that there wasn’t any BLM land nearby. I decided the smart thing to do would to be to stop and rent a bear can at least, so if I did make some last-minute camping arrangements than I wouldn’t have to worry about my car being broken into.

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Lake Tahoe

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I drove up to the Lake Tahoe area from Bishop, California. My cousin used to work at Lake Tahoe, and I had to check it out for myself after hearing such good things.

The first natural wonder I stumbled upon was Mono Lake. From a distance I was in awe of the beautiful colors reflecting off the water and interested in the strange formations coming up from the water. I found out that the water in Mono Lake is actually really salty, saltier than the ocean. I walked up to the edge, it had an alkaline smell. Gulls hang out and nest there before making their way to the Pacific on little islands of rock in the lake.

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Bishop, CA

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I arrived at dusk in Bishop, CA. I decided I was going to enter Yosemite from that side, as my climber friend John, who I met in Vegas was free camping out there and invited me to join him. He also has his car set up to sleep in and I felt more secure with the thought of camping parked next to someone I knew. I found the rode and drove down it, as the sun set behind the mountains. I drove and drove and never found his car. I ended up finally getting ahold of him and I found out he had already left for his next stop. Disappointed and in the dark, I decided to try to find a place in town. Unfortunately the only place I found was the Super 8. I hated spending so much money on a bed! It was the only motel I’ve stayed at for this entire trip.

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California Dreamin’ – Los Angeles

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My Hollywood Look! Hahaha!

My Hollywood Look! Hahaha!

I met Hamid at a nearby Starbucks. I wanted to be extra cautious Couchsurfing with someone new to the community. My first impression confirmed all the stereotypes I had of Southern Californians: healthy, attractive, tan, linen pants, sandals, beanie, man jewelry, shades, kinda metro. I go to shake his hand, and he tells me he’s a hugger. He has a really laid back, generous vibe.

I ask if we can go to Target before his place, because I need to pick up, “you know, some bread, some pretzels…. lettuce.” He gives me a smirk, “I have pretzels, I have bread. I have too much of it.”

Later at his place, I realized he was right. He shopped at Cosco and had a giant jar of pretzels. In Woodland Hills, the neighborhood was vivid with spring. Hamid’s yard had a forest of rose blossoms in the front. It’s a beautiful spacious house, a grand piano is the focal point of the granite and light filled living space. Musical instruments and speakers fill the rest of the surface.

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Mojave and Joshua Tree

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I soon felt antsy in Vegas and knew it was time to go. I filled up my water pack and two bottles of water and headed out for a long day driving through the desert. That day was one of the best days! I drove down isolated roads with the windows rolled down blasting my newly charged iPod. Everything was so desolate in Mojave, yet so beautiful. I felt like the landscape, free with all cares abandoned.

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Viva Las Vegas

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I planned to camp at Mead Lake before entering Las Vegas. Along the road I was distracted by the little Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona. I had to stop for a float and to walk the streets filled with antique cars and vintage storefronts.

Seligman put me about an hour off of my estimated arrival time and I pulled into the Lake Mead area to witness a sunset over that strange landscape and the locked doors of the visitor’s center. After determining that it would be impossible to find a camping spot in the dark, I headed to the little town of Boulder City, NV. While the town looked quite cozy and cute, even after dark it was ridiculously expensive. My jaw dropped at the price of the absolute seediest cheap motel in town.

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I decided to call a hostel in Las Vegas and head into the city a little early. They asked if I was a student. I told them I was. They asked if I had a student ID. I said I did. Las Vegas isn’t really known for being the sort of place where people are very honest anyway. I’m not a very good liar. The guy behind the front desk asked me about my trip and I went on and on. Lies tend to lead to more lies – “So, how are you doing all this traveling while in school?””Online classes.””Oh, Cool. What are you planning on doing when you finish this trip?””Well, other than school, I have this little side graphic design/website business… it would be great to do it full-time.”

Obviously a converted old hotel, I checked into my room at the USA Hostel. I opened the door on three college girls from the U.K. spraying perfume and dry shampoo. They were trying on their fancy dresses and heels about to go out for some “posh” nightlife at one of those “posh” casinos. I asked if I could go along and I tried not to look like the hipster road bum I had become. We waited for forever for a cab, so long that we about gave up on going out. It finally showed up around 12:30 a.m.

Time doesn’t matter in Vegas. Read the rest of this entry

Four Corners and the Grand Canyon

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I left Durango not sure whether to feel assured or concerned about my brand new tires. I drove through desert listening to Navajo Nation Public Radio. I stopped to get a map of Arizona, after my gps lost signal and then again at the Four Corners Monument. It was there that I stood on the Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada line and shopped for turquoise souvenirs.

I later got to experience the very tall Elephant Ear and continue the long drive to the Grand Canyon.

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Durango, Colorado

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2013-03-30_12-52-20_66I decided to head up to Durango, Colorado to spend my birthday and Easter with my cousin Mary’s family. It was a little out-of-the-way, but I wanted to visit with Mary and I thought I would enjoy spending the holidays with family instead of with strangers.  I had the best time. Mary had a very large and comfortable guest bedroom for me to stay in, which was very conducive to working. It was good to be on a family schedule. The next door neighbor’s kid had the same birthday as me. I found out about this as he entered the minivan and yelled, “Who’s the hottie!” over and over again. I’m not really sure if it is cute or creepy to be called a hottie by a six-year-old. Though he was perfectly happy to yell to the entire car load about my physical attractiveness, he turned all shy and wouldn’t say a thing when I addressed him directly and asked him what he was doing for this birthday. On my birthday, I was surprised with a vase of flowers from the family. They had a piano recital to attend mid-day, so I took myself to Mesa Verde National Park. It was so fascinating to see all the ancient cliff dwellings. It was hard to imagine how people got to the side of the cliffs at all and even harder to imagine how they made them into such vibrant and large communities. The scenery was breath-taking. Read the rest of this entry

Santa Fe

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I pulled around to the workshop behind a hotel for the maintenance man to help me fill my tires with air. The weather in the desert really takes a toll on tire pressure. He said, “You’re travelin’ by yourself? Go get yourself  a little somethin’ to eat in Roswell and fill up for gas. After you get through town there won’t be nothin’.” I didn’t think he literally meant “nothin'”. I thought there would certainly be a tree or two, maybe an abandoned building, maybe a lone gas station…. nope. There was nothing after Roswell for three hours. Not even a tree. I couldn’t pick up a radio station.

I drove and drove listening to the three CD’s I had in the car over and over again. I was so happy when I finally came to this little town where I could fill up for gas and grab a hamburger at a diner. I reached Santa Fe in the dark relieved that I was no longer on the road!

The Diner

The Diner

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Carlsbad Caverns

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2013-03-24_14-31-29_689I pulled in right around sunset and drove up the mountain to check it out. You can backcountry camp in Carlsbad for up to two weeks for free. There are no trees. The place looks beautiful, but harsh. I’m not sure how many people take the park service up on it.

I ended up parked in a private campground right before the camp entrance. There were a few tents near me. I didn’t bother to bring a tent. The more I watch tent campers the more I think I made the right decision. I was very annoyed by the bright lights of the camp. I’m a light-sensitive sleeper. I wanted to park up in the National Park, but they didn’t allow that and I would’ve been pretty obvious unfortunately. Read the rest of this entry