Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Valley of Death

Life tastes so much sweeter after the spirit of darkness has summoned you. Three thirty on the morning of November 5th, after driving eight and a half hours, the unfastened road finally took a-hold of us.

The gazing of the moon and how the Panamint Valley to the East with it's Slate Range glistening under a star-spangled sky became secondary.  For a split second the sandy road catapulted us into a spinout with about twelve seconds of major fish tailing - even feeling at times merely two wheels were on the road. 

I prayed. 

I did not scream. 

I did not say a word. 

My eight-year-old had awoken from a deep slumber in the backseat, and was now staring through the two front seats with lightning-bolts in her eyes. 

"Das Schwert im Herzen, mit tausend Schmerzen blickst auf Deines Kindes Tod." Faust

"Mephisto says to Death that for him to protect her, the Beyonder must die." 

Spirit of Darkness you have summoned me . Here I am the partos of darkness are open and the shadows of the dead hunt over the earth.

Thirty minutes later we fell asleep for two and a half hours at the Wildrose Campground. 

Breakfast at the Stovepipe Wells Village and afterward we had to empty our bag-packs and had  surrender to our leaders everything they thought frivolous or unnecessary. They got rid of tents, clothes, shoes, food... In fact we had a sleeping-bag, a tarp and water mixed with some food weighing about 10 pounds left over; a delight for my back.

 I trusted we would be okay. 

These people are hard-core, they are survivors, and modern age explorers. 

At the Stovepipe Wells Village we received from the ranger station our wilderness-passes. We left in four four-wheel drive cars and found ourselves on roads so sandy and rocky that we spent a lot of time building the path ahead. Someone was joking that if you spent more time  building the road than sitting in the car you might as well walk.

We drove about three hours to get to the trailhead and after we had secured all cars in different locations (a complicated Pythagorean calculation - I did not want to  attempt to figure it out) we forged ahead on foot. 

The landscape brought us through open wash, riparian forest, high desert and deep slot canyons. We saw amazing geology,(see the photo of our Geologist checking with her cheek and tongue the stone), petroglyphs, and pioneer inscriptions-and some of us even spotted wild horses and bighorn-sheep. 

Springs were supposed to supply us with water, unfortunately only the first gave sufficiently of this life sustaining elixir. We used filters and iodine. It tasted awful. Secretly, we were hoping the second spring would be more tasty.

Unfortunately the second spring turned out to be even less worthy since a mountain-lion had just feasted on an antelope. The water looked sluggish and our surgeon on board claimed it undrinkable. 

After another very cold night and a fabulous home-freeze-dried breakfast of rice, corn and hash we headed through the most amazing mountains, complete with distant alluvial fans where DylanGrace was able to point out the easiest lowest slope we would climb. 

Our retired surgeon, still so fit I would let him operate on me if I needed the help, mole skins his feet for preventive measure. Please see picture to right.

We finally arrived at the Petroglyphs and were not disappointed. The canyons forced me to my knees with tears in my eyes. Twenty miles we hiked in three days and when we arrived back at the trailhead, we had to wait another hour and a half and then drove another 3 hours through the sand again. 

All along my tummy was so tight with fear (in fact that is how I keep trim and in shape, shear fear)!

 Stovepipe Wells Village seemed like an oasis yet we still had to drive back to the Bay Area which took until 3 AM that morning. Believe it or not, DylanGrace and I were on time at 7:50 AM to pick up carpool kids for school and arrived on time for class at 8:35 AM.

Desert Survivors check them out, if you are like me, running from death.

he angle of repose (sometimes incorrectly confused with the 'angle of internal friction') is an engineering property of granular materials. It is the maximum angle of a stable slope determined by frictioncohesion and the shapes of the particles.
When bulk granular materials are poured onto a horizontal surface, a conical pile will form. The internal angle between the surface of the pile and the horizontal surface is known as the angle of repose and is related to the densitysurface area and shapes of the particles, and the coefficient of friction of the material. Material with a low angle of repose forms flatter piles than material with a high angle of repose. In other words, the angle of repose is the angle a pile forms with the ground.An alluvial fan is a fan-shaped deposit formed where a fast flowing stream flattens, slows, and spreads typically at the exit of a canyon onto a flatter plain. A convergence of neighboring alluvial fans into a single apron of deposits against a slope is called a bajada, or compound alluvial fan.[1]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hypsiglena torquata


I have identified the snake we saw on October 3 on the morning hike.  It
was a night snake (Hypsiglena torquata).  The picture in the book
clearly shows the black stripe in the face, extending all the way from
past the eye to the mouth.  The markings on the back also conform.  
The painting in the book was done of a snake Contra Costa County, 
which includes Briones.

It is a nocturnal snake, not often seen during the day.  It is venomous in
the grooved teeth in the back of the upper jaw, and uses its venom to
kill frogs and lizards.  Its striking behavior is probably its normal
hunting practice, but we certainly riled it up!

I think we were lucky to see it.

Steve Tabor, President
Desert Survivors
PO Box 20991
Oakland, CA 94620-0991