Tag Archives: Rocks

day 51 ~ santa fe to tent rocks ~ slot canyons, tarantula,

www.theendlessroadtrip.com ~ day 51 of this year long daily video project brings us to the amazing, the beautiful tent rocks (more…)

canyonlands national park ~ southern utah


if you want to skip ahead, there is a slideshow and an audio recording of tim talking about why he loves the needles district of canyonlands national park with such intensity. however, if you are willing to wait, and you want to read the story of how tim and i almost lost our lives in this unbelievably beautiful corner of the world, continue on.

the first big trip that tim and i took was in 2006. we caught amtrak’s lakeshore limited from springfield to chicago. we got off the train long enough to have a quick lunch with my chicago besties, wenner, freddie and m, and then we boarded the southwest chief and headed down towards albuquerque.

anyway, it was a long trip and very eventful. (ask tim about his relationship with our traincar attendant and why it was so awkward…seriously it’s worth it). after many adventures involving a tiny hyundai that we got from alamo rental and my first introduction to tim’s sister katja, we found ourselves entering canyonlands national park . what with all of our dilly-dallying in moab, we got a much later start than we had intended. still, it was a beautiful day, sunny and brisk, and we were very excited to be out on the trail.

you should know that it was march, and that winter still had a firm grip on the canyonlands. with the full sun pouring down on us, it was very comfortable for hiking, but in the slot canyons or in the shade, the air was brisk, edged with cold. we hiked up through the first pass and entered elephant canyon. a barely believable landscape passed around us; red sandstone spires giving way to wide sage-dotted plains, twisted bodies of junipers, and bright porcelain sky. we followed the dry bed of elephant creek, stair-stepping on god-sized risers of perfectly formed granite. and then we arrived at druid arch . for those of you who followed that link, i know, right? it’s beautiful! supposedly, it’s called druid arch because it looks like a celtic rune.

tim and i hung out at the arch for a good long while, taking photos and exploring the nooks and crannies along the canyon. then we continued on, making our way slowly to chesler park. we stopped at a grand overlook and ate our meager picnic lunch. we watched the sun began to settle towards the horizon. when we consulted the map, a slow horror began to creep into our consciousness. we had an 8-mile hike back to the parking lot and about 2 hours of sunlight to do it. this, through fairly demanding terrain, the path trailing up and around sandstone spires, disappearing into slot canyons, and climbing from the desert floor up through layers of geologic time. we checked our daypack and discovered that we only had one headlamp. the layers that we had brought along, which had felt so substantial in the noonday sun, began to feel meager and thin. we had no emergency blanket, no more food, and not a whole lot of water.

our pace quickened. the sun’s rays began to diffuse behind a layer of purple clouds crowding the horizon. darkness spread, swallowing the shadows like a rising tide. we decided to hike as long as possible without the aid of the headlamp. we had no idea how long the batteries would last and once we started relying on its light, we would be fully dependent on it. in the azure light of dusk, the path remained barely visible in our sensitized retinae; a pale ribbon twisting between the variegated darkness of plant life and cryptobiotic soil.

as if toying with us, the sky began to spit down a cold rain. lightning played on the horizon, illuminating what looked like a massive storm front heading towards us. my adrenaline addled mind began to frantically pursue possible outcomes. would we survive if we were forced to spend the night out in the wilds? would hypothermia claim us? would sharing body heat be sufficient? would anyone know we were still out here, scared and rushing heedlessly through the darkness?

eventually, the trail led us onto an undulating rock floor and then disappeared in its constant, monochrome surface. from here, our only guides were tiny, widely spaced cairns that stitched their way through a landscape made treacherous by sudden dropoffs and unexpected chasms. in the failing light, the cairns were all but invisible. we stumbled on, terrified of losing our way. the cold rain intensified. we turned on the headlamp and began casting about in the darkness, searching for the trail markers. when one of us couldn’t find the next one, the other would take the lead. slowly, in this staggering, frightened way, we continued on.

my memory began playing tricks on me. were we going in circles? had we rejoined the path that first led us into elephant canyon? finally, just as i was about to suggest that we stop and try to find a place to shelter for the night, we crested a low rise. tim shone the headlamp into the blankness ahead and uttered a cry of relief. he had seen the hyundai’s reflectors shining in the lamp’s pale beam. we had made it back to the parking lot!

giddy with relief, we hurried to the car and got in. somehow, the simple act of closing the doors made us feel safer. we hugged and high-fived, congratulating ourselves on surviving the ordeal. the awareness of how tenuous our situation had been came crashing down. if we had begun to bicker or lay blame, if we had taken one wrong step, one of us could have twisted an ankle or fallen and broken a leg. or worse. we could have lost the path and ended up wandering aimlessly, searching for a path that wasn’t there. we could have been soaked by the coming rain and succumbed to exposure or hypothermia. giddiness was replaced by wonder. how had we escaped unscathed?

as we left the park, a strange, almost surreal series of events taught us the price of our survival. in the few miles separating our parking space from a generous bed and a comfortable night waiting for us in bluff, ut a total of 14 desert hares streaked out of the darkness and sacrificed themselves to the hyundai. by way of comparison, in the entire 1 year and 4 months of this endless road trip, we have killed exactly zero animals. that night, we killed 14; the last of which lay down in front of us just as we turned into the sleeping town of bluff; just as tim uttered the words, “well at least we aren’t going to kill any more rabbits.”

in this sad way, we learned how much the canyonlands required in order to spare our puny human lives.

our latest visit to the canyonlands was much less eventful. we enjoyed a beautiful day with pati and andy, marveled at the incredible beauty of this sublime landscape, and made it back to our campsite without injury or loss of animal life. the canyonlands had accepted our sacrifice.


just deserts ~ joshua tree to las vegas

on the border of the mojave and colorado deserts
we woke to a bright, wind-chilled morning near the military town of twenty-nine palms, ca. the campground’s name, indian cove, hinted at a safe haven, a shelter from the harsh elements, but on that night at least, it felt like we were camping in a wind tunnel. i’m pretty sure that if not for our combined weight anchoring the flapping, whistling tent, it would have blown clean away. the next morning we found tent stakes that had been securing the rain fly 10 feet away from where they had been driven into the hard packed earth. random items from who knows where — a sweatshirt, a towel, a sock, several empty cans of heineken — littered the campground.

under the comforting, warming glare of the desert sun, we made a leisurely breakfast and then headed into the town of joshua tree to restock on supplies and run some errands. as usual, things took longer than we had anticipated and by the time we made it into the park, it was already late afternoon. given the quickly fading light, we decided to hike out to barker dam and back.


the heart of the mojave desert
the next day, we left joshua tree, heading north towards las vegas. once again, we passed through the mojave national preserve , the magical place where i entered my 39th year of life . we had already visited the kelso depot twice on our crisscrossing travels through socal, but given tim’s love of all things train, a third visit was inevitable. it’s a charming, beautifully restored building and sitting at the restored lunch counter while freight trains thundered past on sun silvered rails, it was easy to imagine what kelso was like when it was a vibrant railroad boomtown.


an oasis in the mojave
north of tecopah, motorists pass several handpainted signs imploring them to stop and visit the china ranch date farm . it is such a harsh and desolate landscape, all horizon and disintegrating sierra, that it is easy to focus on some distant destination and ignore all potential distractions, especially one as seemingly incongruous as an asian themed date farm. but thanks to our lackadaisical traveling style and the recommendation of the woman we met in a campground in tecopah, we decided to follow the signs chop-suey lettering down side roads, ravines, and into a sheltered canyon that glowed green with life.

the date farm turned out to be a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit. apart from the farm itself, the property also housed a bakery (which served date-based delicacies like chocolate chip date cookies and date bread), a cactus nursery, an antique store, a campground, and several hiking trails. they also served up a wicked date shake, an indulgence that we reluctantly passed on when we were visiting palm springs — really, people, $6 for a shake? — but that we happily and greedily slurped down in the sunny warmth of the mojave.

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next time: fear and loathing of las vegas.

Posted by Wordmobi

so socal ~ palm desert to los angeles, ca

when tim watches trains, he sees engine models, car configurations and railroad history. when i watch trains, i see graffiti.

joshua tree’s only arch formation can be found a short hike from the white tank campground . we found it just as the strange and beautiful rock formations were catching fire in the setting sun and we wandered through hidden canyons and labyrinthine passes, entranced.

the cholla forest that has found a foothold smack dab in the middle of the park, is a mysterious and magical landscape. the longer you walk among these beguiling creatures, the more you begin to see strange, surprised, muppet-like faces staring back at you.

the high-modern desert oasis that was palm springs has succumbed to the borg-like blight of urban sprawl. downtown is a sad patchwork of empty storefronts and local businesses struggling under the weight of big box stores in neighboring “towns.” for my 39th birthday, tim and i spent a couple of days in a hotel in palm desert, a town composed almost entirely of chain stores. we lounged by the pool, ate continental breakfast with the snowbird set, and warmed our chilly bones in the desert sun.

my auntie nanay and cousin karen live in hemet, ca, just a short drive from palm springs. we camped nearby and visited with them for a couple of days, slowly gathering our strength before the descent into the heart of southern california: the cadillac desert of los angeles.

the journey goes on.

Posted by Wordmobi

underworld ~ death valley national park, ca












as we were hiking back through the narrow, high-walled canyon that wound its way from the floor of death valley towards a distant mountain chain, we came to a slight widening in its course. the sound of our footsteps echoed loudly in the confined space, drowning out the wind’s quiet exhalations and the birdsong, and we were startled by the realization that we were not alone. two women had climbed onto a high ledge overlooking the path and were sitting directly across from a soaring rock face the color of ripe persimmons. we waved our greetings as we passed beneath them.

we walked on through the narrowing canyon, but were stopped in our tracks by the sound of singing. the women’s voices shattered and rebounded against the canyon walls, filling the air with a sacred melancholy. they wound together, split into beautiful harmony, and dissipated into the evening air, only to rise again, lifted by an invisible wind.

we stood for a while, soaking in the beauty of the moment, and then continued on our way. occasionally, a stray note would glimmer in the cooling air, charming us into stillness.

back in the parking lot, we crossed paths with caitlin and megan, the women whose siren voices we had heard. they were fellow travelers who had been living on the road for months as they made their way from vermont to portland, or. in the timeless, unspoken tradition of travelers, we shared food and recommendations and stories and then parted ways.

we will probably never meet again, but the sound of their voices echoing through the narrows has left an indelible impression on me. pure light on your travels wherever you may be. may your days be filled with beauty and wonder.









Posted by Wordmobi

russ and pam's wonder emporium ~ angels camp, ca


on our way from lake tahoe to fresno, we stopped in a tiny mining town called angels camp for a bathroom break and to give mazy a chance to stretch her hairy legs. on our first pass, not much caught my attention; a couple of curio shops, a thrift store, a christian bookstore.

but then we stumbled across this place. at first, i thought it was going to be another tourist-oriented jewelry and gemstone shop and was fairly nonplussed. when tim suggested that we go in, my first response was, meh. lucky for me, i squelched my negativity.

entering stories in stone was like walking into a store on diagon alley. it stretched on and on and on; crystal after fossil after geode after agate after gemstone. beyond that we encountered a complete fossilized skeleton of a cave bear. beyond that, a sprawling warehouse space overloaded with thousands upon thousands of precious stones. and beyond the warehouse was a huge, cluttered, fluorescently lit classroom that would have been completely at home at hogwart’s.


we eventually met pam, one of the owners of this magical place, and when i asked her about its history, she casually mentioned that her husband russ began his career as a rock hound in the gravel pits around niles, michigan. yup. that’s right, the niles, michigan that sits about 8 miles from the town where i grew up. pam informed russ that a fellow michigander was wandering around the store and after dealing with a few customers in the warehouse, russ came and found me.

this audio clip is about 20 minutes long. the photos that follow — and so much more — are referenced and explained in the course of this conversation.






honestly, this place is one of the coolest places i’ve ever been. if you ever ever find yourself near angels falls, ca, absolutely stop by and give witness. stories in stones is an amazing labor of love and a powerful testament to the idea of following your bliss. thank you pam and russ for creating this unique, surprising, and wondrous place.

Posted by Wordmobi