Chris Roams

Travel, Adventures, and Photography


I'm somewhere in Death Valley, below sea level, heading towards Furnace Creek and the campground there, about 50 miles to the north. Theoretically I could just throw a tent up just about anywhere here and nobody would care, but this is technically a dry riverbed. If and when it does rain up in the mountains it is prone to very suddenly becoming a wet riverbed again, and I can't pick up any weatherband stations out here to know what's going on in the mountains.

I originally stopped because I saw some lights out across the flats where there shouldn't be lights. I figured I would stop for a while and see if I could figure out what they were. It's only a little after 7:00 in the evening here, but it has been so long since I've seen another car that I feel like it's 3:00 in the morning and nobody else should be awake. I've been here before, but that was in June and during the day, with 120° temperatures. Opening the car door then was like opening the door to an oven. Now, in the middle of winter, at night, it is completely different. The only thing that hits you when you open the door is the complete silence. There is no background rumble of distant highways or jets cruising overhead. Looking around the whole sky I can't see the telltale flashing lights from any airplanes, but I can see more stars than I ever have before. There are no birds chirping, or frogs croaking, or insects buzzing, or leaves rustling in the wind. There isn't even any wind. This is the most absolute, complete, perfect silence imaginable.

I've been driving across various deserts all day at this point. The "big storm" that was predicted for Flagstaff this weekend is now predicted to be a few snow flurries. I didn't stick around though, I spent too much time there already and my calf muscles are still too worn out from the Canyon to try another mountain right away. I resupplied this morning and went west some more. I know I'm in California now, but I'm not sure how I got here. Rather than sticking to the highway I jumped off and crossed the Mojave on backroads. I really like backroad desert driving. I like that traffic can be measures in miles per car rather than cars per mile, that there aren't signs every 20 feet to tell you where to go and how to get there, that nobody bothers with billboards because there's nobody to read them, and that you can see for miles and miles and miles in every direction. Well, at some point I crossed into California only nobody bothered to put up a sign to inform me, but I don't mind. I figured it out when I saw gas was up over $2 a gallon again. So here I am, driving across another desert listening to the silence and watching the little lights in the distance chase each other around. I figure I'll stick around here for a day or two and then either head up to Mt Whitney or back down to Flagstaff and Humphrey's Peak once I'm good and ready.

PS: In the hour that I spent here on the side of the road watching the lights, sorting through the day's pictures, and writing this post not a single car has passed in either direction. I am so very glad that I have a trunk filled with everything I could need to survive out here. Help would be a long time coming if the car broke down.
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