The Desert and the Depths - Mojave & Grand Canyon

April 23, 2017

The first leg of our journeys take us to the Mojave Desert. To avoid the LA traffic jams, we leave later in the day and finally arrive at the Mojave late at night. I exit the car – dunes to my left, and tall cinder cones to my right in the distance, illuminated by the moonlight, hardy desert trees casting moonlit shadows. Those moments when peace comes over you as you stare at the stars; this was one of them.

 

I tried my hand at night photos, given my Huawei had a manual mode. They turned out pretty well!

The glow in the distance is due to light pollution from Las Vegas.


Considering that Las Vegas was more than 160km away, it was incredible that the light pollution reached this far. The mounds in the distance are massive sand dunes, which we planned to climb the next day.

And right across from the dunes, cinder cones looming in the distance.

 

We set up camp that night under the stars. I had bought a Goal Zero torch-lantern, which served us well (my dad would be super proud of the lumen count). The ground was supremely cold during the night, a paradox of camping in the desert. But at least it was relatively soft; thanks sand!

 

I woke early the next morning and took in the vista around us. The sun was up but the desert was yet to heat up. Massive sand dunes to the left and craggy volcanic mountains to my right. What a sight! We ate a quick breakfast and began our hike to the dune summit, before the heat of the day.

Rachel, my instagram husband, in the background.

 

We came across tracks, some big and small. It wasn't hard to tell the coyote tracks from the lizards, but we came across some other small tracks – strangely tailess. Later we found out they were from tiny scorpions.

Awww, you cute wee poisonous creature you. 

 

It was difficult to get a proper perspective on how huge the sand dunes were. There was however a man who had begun the hike approximately 20 mins before us, and kindly assisted us with obtaining perspective photos every now and then.

We also cheered when you reached the summit. Hopefully the occasional phototaking wasn't too creepy. Photo credit: Rachel Bruskoff

 

The sand dunes on the massive sand dune hill itself differed from being packed hard sand, generally characterised by black sand, to sinking soft sand (alliteration, yay). The trick to conserving energy was to find those spots of harder sand...and then step on them.

Black sand demarcating the edge of the massive dune, and a steep and riskless drop because sand is soft. Heh.

 

Did you know that running across a steep sand face quickly causes a booming noise as the sand shifts? The sand from the top of the dune also runs down the face of the steep side, looking very much like sand rivers. The steeper the gradient, the louder the boom! No pictures, but it did happen.

 

After approximately 2 hours we made our way to the summit.

Hand prints in the ever shifting sands. A testament to our impermanence, or a simply because the sand was soft? Points for the correct answer! (Answer: it was a bit of both)

 

After successfully hiking back down, we spent time exploring the other regions of the desert before heading to the Grand Canyon.

 

Our trip itself to the Grand Canyon was fairly uneventful - we ate, we topped the car up with gas, and we chatted about Avatar: the Last Airbender. Pretty standard Rachel & Grace things. 

 

We reached the motel in the late evening. The motel we stayed at was extremely sparse – the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned properly, the beds weren’t properly cleaned…but it was bed bug free and pest free, and that’s all we really needed. We cooked dinner (potatoes, onion, zucchinis in a bouillon soup) and headed to bed.

 

Breakfast the next morning was dismal, and on the way to the Grand Canyon we almost got ticketed for driving over the speed limit (Rachel's only mode is going fast). 

 

Postcards and google images did not properly prepare me for the sight of the canyon itself. We travelled to the Southern Rim, and I could not help but exclaim when I saw the canyon.

Snow was still present in the shadows below the rim.

 

We happened to arrive at this spot at the same time a tour group did, so we stood close by and gleaned some knowledge by eavesdropping. 

  • The distance from the South Rim to the North Rim from where we were standing was approximately 10 miles/16km. 

  • The Northern Rim is 1000feet/300m higher than the Southern Rim.

  • The Northern Rim used to be blanketed in snow until May. This however has not happened for the past several years.

  • The Grand Canyon was created by erosion as opposed to volcanic activity, exposing one of the most complete geological columns on Earth.

Apparently 90% of people who visit the Grand Canyon visit the Southern Rim. And out of these only 3% descend below the rim of the canyon. We decided to join that 3% and hiked down to Ooh-Aah Point. This point is named because you would look in one direction “Oooh” followed by the other direction “Aaah”.  

I look like a hippy. 

 

The walk down wasn’t difficult (granted we were in prime condition). Ice lined the sides of the canyon that were in shade. And judging exactly how deep you were in the canyon wasn’t too difficult – the layered pattern continued throughout canyon and was reflected in the Northern Rim as you looked across.

 So aptly named. Photo credit: Rachel Bruskoff

 

If you stood or sat at the rocks that jutted out from that point you had close to a 360° view of the canyon. Breathtaking, majestic, grand…words fail to adequately describe the canyon. The plateaus of the canyon were green from spring rains and snowmelt, and the crevasse for the Colorado river ran deep.

 

We clambered to the edge of the rocks that jutted out over the canyon. I sat at the edge, ate a well deserved bagel, and contemplated life.

So epic - nothing else to do but revel in its majesty. Photo: Rachel Bruskoff

 

On our walk out we encountered two women that had begun their hike at 6am, trekked to the bottom of the canyon and were now hiking out. One of them was 60, and her companion (we assumed) was of a similar age, and were bantering with each other on their way out. Talk about squad goals. 

 

To top off the experience, we drove around pre-sunset and encountered squirrels, deer, elk and moose.

On the edge of the world.

 

We then begun our long drive to the Central Coast Up and Down Freeride

 

 

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