It feels like all I have been doing this year is working. To a certain degree that is true, but when I look through my calendar and photos from this first third of 2013, I see the truth isn’t so glum. The year started out well. I was canyoneering several times a month, lead my first trad routes, hit the gym hard and regularly, and was balancing my workload well. Lately, though, work has been eating into everything. I did still manage to make it out to the Red Rock Rendezvous (best year yet) and backpacked through Surprise Canyon again (last time was over 3 years ago). I’m thankful for all the work, but hopefully outdoor time will start wedging its way back in. Currently Half Dome, Zion, and the Grand Canyon are on the calendar. Maybe they’ll help me get my balance back.
On a semi-tangent, back in February, I faced my first burrowing tick. I’ve had ticks crawling across my skin many times, but this was the first time one managed to dig into my flesh. I returned home after running Bailey Canyon under a full moon and found a big monstrosity protruding from my hip. After a struggle I managed to yank it out and its disgusting buried head. I’ve almost healed emotionally from the feelings of violation. Regardless, ticks have become my sworn enemies alongside cockroaches. Seriously, avoid those fuckers. And by avoid, I mean kill with extreme prejudice. We are talking tick genocide.
Being self-employed is always worrisome. I constantly expect the work to suddenly dry up and everything to fall apart. So far I have been lucky and work continues to flow in. We shall see if I can maintain it. Below are a few of the highlights from many projects that have seen completion so far this year: (There are some cool things I can’t share yet also.)
Before you get completely cozy in the quilt of 2013, take a moment to watch lots of people jumping off of rocks back in that ancient year of 2012. Maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of yourself. It’s that time again – annual GoPro compilation starts now!
2010 starts tomorrow and I haven’t finished posting about 2009. The last few months have been a blur of activity and compositing so Live Journal updates have suffered. Fear not, my three readers, a flurry of updates has arrived!
After finishing the Zion Narrows, I knew I wanted to do another exciting backpacking trip over the Thanksgiving holidays. The tricky part would be finding a good hike that was passable in late fall, a bit strenuous, and not especially far from Los Angeles. I searched online and through a backpacking book and settled on Surprise Canyon. Surprise Canyon is in the middle of nowhere. If you find yourself nowhere, keep driving, you aren’t there yet. Technically, it is in Inyo County on the Western outer-rim of Death Valley National Park. It is in the desert, long past a town called Tronaâ€”a place we drove through twice, yet never saw a single person, only smoke pouring from the Salt Plant into the Sulphur-soaked air. Deep into the desert are the remains of a town called Ballarat. All that remains here is an abandoned jail-house and a somewhat functioning “general store” manned by the sole inhabitant of Ballarat. And lots of RVs and ATVs. Be careful in Surprise Canyon, help is hours away.
Surprise Canyon is aptly named. After driving deep into a dry, dusty desert and two miles up a tricky gravel pathâ€”leading into the mountains and ending at a burnt-down shackâ€”you never expect to see a lush canyon full of running water. This is the beauty of Surprise Canyonâ€”a hike up a flowing river that takes you to Panamint City, an abandoned mining town.
Panamint City doesn’t come easily. It must be earned. The hike up the canyon is short, only 5-6 miles, but it is a strenuous hike for all except the seasoned hiker. The first portion involves non-technical canyoneering as you climb beautiful waterfalls and verdant rocks. Shortly afterwards, the bushwhacking begins. This canyon is predominantly on BLM land meaning it doesn’t receive the attention a National Park does. The canyon is highly overgrown. Brush which allegedly was cleared a few years ago is now far above a human’s height. We traveled upstream and forced our way through the foliage as the slope increased. Once the bushwhacking portion ends, the climb begins. The slope increases greatly and the stream disappears. Panamint City rests 6300 feet above sea level. Much of the 4000 foot climb takes place over these last two miles. It is a tough climb if your legs are not trained or ready for itâ€”especially when you are carrying 30-40 lbs. on your back. November is a month of limited light. Canyon walls are high. By 5:00 P.M., it was growing dark rapidly and we still had not seen the enormous smokestack marking the city. We set up camp and prepared for a cold night.
Erika and I went on another Extreme Things hike to a Mine Cave. Anne Marie and Patrick came along as well. There were plenty of rocks and such to scramble over along the way, something that keeps me happy during any hike. After a couple of hours we arrived at the Dawn Mine. It is by far the most interesting of the mines we have visited thus far. It is rather large and full of broken beams and much of the cave is flooded shin-deep. At some points, the ceiling snakes up tens of feet occasionally leading into a second cave further up the hillside. There is also a forty-foot deep pool of stagnant water you may wish to avoid. The climb to and from the higher cave was quite exciting, steep and full of interesting climbing opportunities. The uppermost cave was full of bat dung, but, alas, no bats were inside.
I returned to the Altadena Mines for the third time today. With me were Erika, Patrick and Anne Marie. We visited two mines, I explored the smaller claustrophobia-inducing one further this time, and we were making good time traversing the steep climb to the third cave. We stood at the summit taking a small break before entering the last mine shaft. Erika smelled smoke. Then, I heard crackling. Patrick pointed out a patch of smoke. Ahead, across the thin ravine, dancing up a hillside was a growing flame. It was moving quickly and growing steadily. Adjacent was the path we had taken into the gorge.
There was no time to waste. The route to the third mine is roughly thirty minutes of climbing rock faces ranging between five and fifteen feet, a few mildly precarious. The climb is dry, dusty, and littered with pebbles intent on tripping anyone not paying special attention to their footing. We launched down the mountainside. Sliding, jumping, slipping, occasionally climbing. We moved as quickly as possible without risking plummeting over an edge. As quickly as we moved down the mountain, the fire doubled moving up the opposing hillside. Erika and I slid into the gorge. Across from us, Patrick was waving us toward a somewhat slippery and dusty steep slope that would bring us to the exit path much sooner. Anne Marie was nearly at the top and smoke was beginning to roll in.
We jogged down the path towards the park entrance. Firefighters with hoses and fire trucks passing us along the way. The top of the nearby hill was already black and burned through. At one point, flames flickered along the edge of the trail. A helicopter passed overhead. We approached the street, a news van parked along the curb, spectators gathered outside their homes and near their vehicles staring into the distance. We were filthy, bruised, scraped, but we were not on fire.
I wonder what would have been the turn of events had we made it to the cave five minutes sooner. How strong would the blaze have been when we exited? Some hikers were air-lifted to safety. We were lucky enough to see the fire start and escape before it got too large. We were also lucky the weather wasn’t against us.
Al-Insan asked us not to do anything new and exciting without him. I hope he’s not too upset. News Report by ABC
The last two weekends have been quite fun. Two Sundays ago, I spent 15 hours working on the TOKYOPOP Van Von Hunter videos at a small studio in Hollywood. That may not sound fun, but it was quite enjoyable, more-so than the other sets (few they may be) I have been on. The night ended with Tjalsma and I launching blood-drenched glitter into the air as the female lead pranced around in a red-assed monkey suit and the voice of the Prince of Persia stood amidst it all dressed in only boots, swords and a well-placed pop-up book. That’s good times, folks.
This past weekend I returned to the Altadena mine caves. I brought Al-Insan and Patrick along. On my prior trip, my claustrophobia forbid me enter one of the caves with a small constricting entrance. This time I defeated my fear and made my way inside the cave. As is often the case with irrational fears, after I did it, I found it wasn’t frightening at all.
A few weeks ago, I joined a website/Adventure Club called Extreme Things. Saturday. Erika and I joined them for a Mine Cave Exploration Hike in Altadena. Everyone seemed very friendly and we had a good time. Part of the fun for me was the hike, it involved a lot more climbing than I anticipated. Climbing is always a plus. We visited three mine caves, but I only ventured in to the second two. The first involved squeezing through a tight twenty foot crawl space. In essence, I would have only been able to use my feet to push myself through. I crawled through the ample entrance, the walls moving closer steadily. As I reached the point where my shoulders pressed against the rock and my movement became constricted, my heart began to race. I’ve always suffered from claustrophobia and Saturday wasn’t the day I would defeat it. Erika was tougher than me and squeezed inside, as did most of the group. There were two other cowards besides myself. I intend to visit the caves again and eventually force my way inside this particular cave, but it may take multiple attempts. The other two caves were much more spacious. The pictures are misleading, these caves are dark. Without a flashlight, you can see nothing, pure darkness. At some point, groups of gold-seekers dug these caves by hand and/or dynamite. They are rather large when one considers that, each a few hundred feet deep with two or three forks and various alcoves.