Sunday, December 4, 2011

Into the Desert - Ocotillo Wells, CA

This post was written a week later, so it's a bit more cheerful then it would have been had I written it at the time. After a couple days, I got out of my funk and started feeling good again. I'm not going to write this post as if I where upset, though. It all looks better in hindsight, so why not roll with it.

The problem with enclosing myself in a building overnight is that I have to get out in the morning. No, really. It IS difficult. For one thing, it is hard to judge the time without actually rolling over and looking at my phone. For another, thought the very solid restroom building kept the wind off and retained some heat overnight, it was colder inside than outside once the sun rose. A distant third concern was getting out without anyone seeing me scamper out the restroom door and across the parking lot with a bedroll and shopping bag.

The third concern wasn't a big one. I was way over here, and the campground was way over there. At one point I heard someone drive up, pull on the door, mumble into a radio and drive off. Maybe it was the helpful volunteer wondering where I went to. On the way out of the park, I noticed an odd phenomenon; the trees, huge old conifers, all studded with nuts of some sort. Some are broken, most are not. I imagine some sort of woodpecker or nuthatch must be responsible. I wonder if the nuts left unhatched ever sprout inside the tree trunks.


Today, I finally get to go downhill. With my perennially ailing brakes, that comes with its own concerns. As the ice and a few stray mounds of snow attest, it's also pretty damn cold out. I passed a sign informing me that I was at 4600ft elevation - I had assumed 4000 at the most. Not having a detailed map by any means, elevation is always a guessing game.

Yes, it was pretty chilly.

Great big damn pinecone. These things where falling out of the trees last night, making just about as much noise as a bowling-ball launching machine.

Miles added up appallingly fast after the two day struggle up the mountains, and suddenly - Desert! My first desert! As far as desert goes, the Anza Borrego Desert State Park was absolutely stunning. A great variety of life, color, and texture. Barrel cacti, clumps of yucca, small agaves, and all manner of succulents clung to the sides of lumpy, brown hills and ridges. On flatter terrain, massive agave where blooming. I jumped around like a fool with an old cast off agave stalk and knocked a few flowers off of a fresh one - delicious, like honey, basil and lemon. I could have camped right there since this state park allows dispersed camping(Hey, something good to say about California!), but I wanted to keep moving. Anyway, who is to say this sort of wonderful landscape won't continue all day?

Agave flowers!

It turned out not to - towards Ocotillo Wells, the amazing variety of plant life contracted down to brown and green scrubby bushes on flat gravel. Don't get me wrong! It was still pretty cool and I wouldn't trade it for forest or fields, but it wasn't as spectacular as it was in the park. Arriving on a Sunday, it was pretty quiet, too. Most cyclists wouldn't like that, but I was looking forward to some company in the popular OHV area. So long as they don't run over my tent or run me out for not being a motorhead... anyway, I ended up camping next to a restroom building on concrete. The theory is that the concrete and the building will hold in some warm overnight... My brake cable snapped on the final approached to my camp site, by the way. It's the front one, which is my lame brake anyway. Still, better get it fixed soon. I'd hate to think of the back one snapping on a descent, now.

All that power, and no where to plug in my phone...

So, what is up with the bathrooms, Sarah?

No comments:

Post a Comment