Dispatches
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Spring Trip 2019

Monday, May 27th, 2019: Mojave Desert, Trips.

A Test

During the past five years, my body seemed to be failing and accumulating injuries and disabilities. I could’ve easily assumed this was irreversible – the new normal.

But I was lucky in that I’d stopped pursuing a career and had few responsibilities except to myself. I had as much time as I needed. I kept experimenting and working harder and harder to stay in shape. I’d spent the past six months in training, working on my strength and flexibility to get around the rotator cuff tears in both shoulders, very gradually increasing my hiking distance and elevation until I even passed the point I was at when things started falling apart. The only question was, could I hike off-trail in the desert mountains I loved, with all the steep slopes of loose rock? I’d already learned that loose rock was the ultimate challenge for my chronically injured foot.

So in addition to the meeting, this trip was a test for my body. And ironically, after more than 15 years, I’d finally acquired a 4wd vehicle, and this would be the first test of that, too.

The first thing I discovered was that I had to re-learn hiking out there. Since my foot injury, I’d lost my confidence and had to regain it, going slower and more deliberately, more mindfully, especially downhill. But I did OK, doing rugged hikes easily and even some construction work that required moves I couldn’t have done a few months ago.

And so did my vehicle. I ended up on old abandoned mine roads, where the Sidekick kept crawling through deep sandy washes, rocking back and forth 60+ degrees between deep ruts on its truck frame, and climbing straight up loose shaley slopes, to many places my 2wd, low-clearance truck would never have reached. The Sidekick never had a problem, nor did my body. We both passed the test.

Hitting the Road

Arrival

The main reason for this trip was a long-planned meeting between those who love our mountains. But the hot days of summer were coming, and since there’s no natural shade at our campsite, I’d designed a shade canopy that I hauled out, in pieces, on top of my new vehicle to assemble onsite.

Second Day

Meeting Day

After the many months and numerous communications required to plan and schedule our meeting, it ended up being pushed back to a date that was closer to the heat of summer than some of us were comfortable with. But as the date approached, the forecast was for a cooling trend, and in the event, temperatures were mild for the entire week I camped in the desert. In fact, I was too cold the first night sleeping out, and had to progressively swath myself in all the layers I’d brought, because my warm-season sleeping bag wasn’t enough.

Wind out there can be fierce, but the day of the meeting was calm. And the day after, we even got rained on briefly, which is a very rare treat. We were so blessed by the weather, the rocks, the plants, the animals, and the people!

The Day After

After most of the others left, a remaining friend and I hiked over to explore a corner of the mountains I’d never seen. We were amazed at the vitality of both flora and fauna after a wet winter. More jackrabbits, cottontails, birds and reptiles than we’d encountered in a long time. And around camp, with the blooming desert willows, there was a constant swarm of hummingbirds.

We could see a storm moving over from the west, and as we crested a ridge, rain began to fall lightly, and strong gusts of wind threatened to blow us down.

On the Road Again

Different Desert

In search of prehistoric rock writings I hadn’t seen before, I headed to a different part of the desert, a part I’d only visited briefly before and wanted to explore thoroughly in future trips.

Climbing

After rain drove me out of my solo campsite after dark, it soon stopped, encouraging me to wait it out. It ended up raining four separate times in six hours, but only for 10-20 minutes at a time. The last time it rained, I simply wrapped my sleeping bag in my plastic tarp. After the rain stopped, I slept well for the rest of the night, and in the morning, started hiking up the mountain behind camp.

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