Sunday, May 4, 2008

Solitude

Yesterday, I got to experience something that rarely happens to most human beings, that rare time when you are by yourself and you're all alone as if you're the only person on the face of the earth. Granted, I was with my friend Chaosmanor, but the both of us thoroughly enjoyed the solitude, even if we weren't totally alone.

With my introduction into new GPS games, we both decided that a road trip up into the high desert north of us was in order, so we set out on a 322 mile road trip yesterday, making an entire loop around the San Gabriel mountains. We started out in Pasadena and took Highway 14 north toward Palmdale, stopping a couple of times to grab a cache, plus a couple of virtuals as well. We saw an old bell from the old El Camino Real, the King's Highway at one of the virtuals. We were also trying to get several flags in the GeoVexilla game, plus a couple of dashpoints for GeoDashing as well.

Most of the morning was spent caching. I got my 1900th find on a nice travel bug hotel just off Highway 395 which runs through the desert and east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range all the way into Washington State. I'll have to keep that particular hotel in mind the next time I head on vacation up that way as it's an easy on and off and great spot for a travel bug hotel, without any of the silly "take one only if you leave one" restrictions that some bug hotels have on them. Those are prisons, restricting the travel of the bugs, but that's an entirely different post.

After lunch at the local nationwide hamburger place, we decided to get some flags and dashpoints. Our last dashpoint of the day took us out northeast of California City, which is a huge city (land area-wise) out in that part of the desert. Google maps says that the city is east of where we were looking for the dashpoint, but in reality, the main part of town was to the west. The part where we were was uninhabited, so we didn't have to worry about people out there.

The interesting thing about Geo Vexilla and GeoDashing is there is a certain degree of uncertainty about each hunt. It's similar to Geocaching, yet there still more uncertainty, because you never know what you might run into when you're on the ground, even if you have really good Google Satellite images to look at. The detail of those can only be so good. With Geocaching, you know that at least one other person (the hider of the cache) has already been out there. In Dashing, the likelihood is, no one has been out to this particular spot before, so it's all new territory to discover.

This is where the solitude comes in. The roads out in the desert, for the most part are dirt and you can only go so far before your smarter senses take over and you realize that you need to park the car and walk, otherwise your car and you might get stuck. I do not own a four wheel drive vehicle, although I freely admit that it's one of the many toys that I've lusted over in the past couple of years. So I was taking no chances with my little foreign made sedan compact on this road. We found a good surface to park the car and then walked the last 2/10ths of a mile to the dashpoint ground zero spot. Once there, we both noticed that we hadn't seen any birds, nor any insects. We could see a huge dust devil spiraling out several miles to the west of us, but we were utterly alone at that point. I turned around and couldn't see our car either, although I knew it was just over that last rise we'd just walked over. It was rather pleasant to just take in the view, with little to disturb us except each other and both of us seemed to realize this and we kept our talking to a minimum at this point. It was incredible.

We knew the solitude had to end, because we had to get back to civilization. On the way back to my car, we started seeing different kinds of insects, plus a couple of birds. It was almost as if the animals wanted us to share in their solitude by being absolutely still for us on our trek out. Or was it the other way around and we were intruding on their solitude? Either way, the solitude was broken entirely by the time we got back to our car, because at about that time, a dirt biker went flying across the desert on his bike, on one of the many trails that criss cross in the area. So much for that quiet solitude, but it was nice while it lasted.

Once back in the car, we headed back toward civilization, finding a couple of other caches along the way. I spotted a partial California Desert Tortoise shell. It was a very large shell. I estimate the carapace was at least 12 inches across. I have a couple of these guys in my back yard (they are permitted as per law) and they're not nearly as large as this guy was when he was alive and my guys are close to 9 years old. Perhaps this guy was extremely old and had just died out there. Or maybe it had succumbed to some carnivore in the area. Either way, the desert's harshness was on display.

Caching and hiking in the desert always seems to bring out new experiences for me. The vistas are always impressive although it was disconcerting to see the Los Angeles smog creeping out there. The view was a little bit hazy as a result. It looks like we missed the peak blooming season for wildflowers out in the desert by about a month, be we were still able to catch glimpses of mesquite in bloom as well as some desert mallow. All around you, there is life, even in the most inhospitable places like out here. And in the back of your mind, you keep thinking to yourself, how did the early pioneers do that? Even though we were alone, we were minutes away from the safety of the car. The pioneers traveling along the many trails established by others didn't have such luxuries. I don't believe that many of us would survive 150 years ago in those kinds of conditions.

We made our way down Interstate 15, through the Cajon Pass and then skirted the San Gabriels on the south heading back toward Pasadena where Chaosmanor's car was parked. The trip down was a little quieter, perhaps because we were being a little bit more introspective after our trip into the desert. I'm willing to bet that it was really because we were both tired, more than anything else. It was a good day.

The first and last photos are from the following geocaches:
Pioneer Cache - by AlphaCat with help from The Boy and CC-Cat
Ma Greens General Store (Formerly) - by Team Berge (Thanks Ma Green)

The other pictures are from the Dashpoint out in the desert near California City. Thanks to Chaosemanor for taking a picture of me at ground zero of the Dashpoint.

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4 comments:

Hick@Heart said...

Congrats on 1900. It seems like it would take a lot of prep time to venture out into the desert and partake in 3 different GPS games. The silence sounds nice.

Geocaching With Team Hick@Heart

Webfoot said...

Thank you. The prep time really isn't that much. Geocaches are the most abundant.

We looked at the possible spots for flag and dashpoints, then ran PQs around those spots. I ran one PQ on Thursday, then the other five I ran Friday afternoon. Loaded them up into GSAK and then loaded them into my PDA and GPSr. Then just added to the GPSr the flags and dashpoints and I was ready to go. I took a map of the general area with the flags on it and one similar to it with the Dashpoints on it, so we could keep track of those.

benh57 said...

Looks like fun. You should have a go at the LA County Quadrangle Challenge. (GCZMBD) I bet you have a lot of quads if you've done much desert caching.

Webfoot said...

I have that one on my watchlist, yet never have really looked at it seriously. I would imagine that I have quite a few quads taken care of already, but there's definitely pockets here and there that I don't have.

I've been keeping track of the 58 county challenge more than the LA Quad. Don't know why because it will be at least two years before I can finish all 58 counties, although this summer I'll put a serious dent in the numbers.