SA Guides: Bailey Bridge, Roaring River Falls, Hotel Creek/Lewis Creek loop, Grizzly Falls

One of my favorite places is Kings Canyon. In spring the lengthy drive along the south fork of the Kings River through the canyon can be exhilarating. I swear I get a rush every time we roll through with the windows down; listening to, inhaling, and feeling the power of the whitewater as we snake along the river on our way to Cedar Grove.

No one likes to see a cherished possession tarnished. And it was with mixed feelings that I recently discovered how my 1/300 millionth share of this place had been diminished by the huge Rough Fire in 2015. "Mixed" in part because even though I understand the ecological necessity of fire and recovery, it still felt like something I care about had been harmed. But also, and more consequentially, because I no longer have the confidence that, as used to be the case, these damaged forests will ever be the same again. 

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SA Guide: Juniper Flats, Stubbe Spring trail

The car lights are at least five miles away to the east at about the same elevation as where I'm sitting, with a broad, shallow Joshua Tree-dotted basin between us. The lights move slowly, and eventually wink out as they either snake behind one of the huge stacks of boulders that seem to grow out of the land here or turn to leave the park.

I hiked to this spot in the backcountry for the solitude. Yes, it's true that finding an available public campsite in Joshua Tree National Park...on a spring, is akin to winning the lottery. But I brought my backpacking gear because I didn't want to hang out in a campground. I wanted to be sitting here on a ledge at the eastern base of Quail Mountain, with an incredibly expansive and breathtaking view of Juniper Flats stretching from the northeast to the southwest - and, save for an unusually noisy community of birds on the flats around me, not a soul about for miles.

So why, when looking at those lights, did I just feel an urge to pack up my gear and head home?

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[Death Valley, January 2016] - A wild rush clamors past ears and claws through clothes...then all at once everything is calm. Repeatedly the wind roars then abates. The great valley below is breathing insatiably, gasping with an almost desperate need. From down in the mile-deep maw reverberations of a primal metabolism rumble into consciousness tectonically. There's an inherent, antonymic rhythm here: in and out, tranquil and chaotic, innocent and worldly, swift...and very slow.

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SA Guide: Johnny Lang Canyon

...but to be honest, we weren't trying all that hard to catch him.

There's a ravine in the northwestern part of Joshua Tree National Park called Johnny Lang Canyon. It's named for an old gold miner who struck a claim and built a cabin in this part of the park. On a winter's day in 1925, Lang ran low on supplies and, in a bit of desperation (after eventually dispatching and consuming all of his unfortunate burros) tried to hike out of the desert. He left a note that said, "Gone for grub. Be back soon." Sadly, that confidence was misplaced. He only made it a few miles before setting up camp and succumbing, apparently to natural causes, in the Lost Horse Valley area - just a little south of the canyon that bears his name.

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SA Guide: Grand Tank

It's possible to get a bit jaded after spending quite a few hours and miles hiking in the same area. But now and then you find your way into something unusual - perhaps a new perspective on familiar terrain, or an unexpected and delightful botanical specimen, or it could be as simple as experiencing old haunts in different seasons and conditions. And sometimes, as happened to us the other day, you look down into an apparently stagnant and lifeless pool of water in middle of the desert, see some movement, and wonder out loud, "What the hell is that thing!?"

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