Archives for category: – Difficulty: 2 of 10

Photo: Nik Schulz

After leaving the deserts of Arizona we crossed over into the deserts of California. We’d initially planned to camp at Joshua Tree’s south entrance off of the 10 freeway, but we completely missed the exit and ended up in Indio (in the Palm Springs/Coachella area). By the time we got there it was well past sundown and the wind was blowing an absolute gale. We shelved our camping plan and headed to a hotel.

After a hot shower and a good night of sleep we ready to head into Joshua Tree and found what was probably a more interesting way in.

Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Nik Schulz
.

After heading out of Sedona we made our way over to Prescott for some more backcountry exploration and to say hello the team at Overland Journal.

A quick note: if you find yourself on Highway 89A about 20 miles northeast of Prescott, you’ll be within spitting distance of Jerome, AZ. Do yourself a favor and stop. Jerome is an old mining town that’s half deserted, half lived-in and 100% amazing. I’d tell you more but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop. Word had it there was a BBQ on at the Overland Journal.

Update: Here’s a quick video of the trip.
Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Greg MacDonald

A few weeks ago my friend Greg and I headed up to the Mendocino National Forest for a couple of nights of camping, off-roading, and target shooting in Deer Valley and French Ridge. We, well I, saw a fat rattlesnake crossing the road and then Greg managed to startle me pretty well with Hubert, the rubber rattlesnake that lives in his truck. He left it under some bags and when I went to throw away a beer can, I almost jumped out of my boots.

Heading out on Sunday, we explored one more trail and ended up at the High Glade fire lookout. Annelle, the friendly ranger on duty there, was kind enough to invite us up for a visit. It was really interesting to see how the lookout station worked and, of course, the views were amazing. Check out the gallery. Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Gregory McDonald

A few weeks ago my friend Greg and I headed up to the Mendocino National Forest for a quick mid-week camping trip. Our plan was to drive south on Forest Road M1 from near Covelo, CA to Lake Pillsbury. When we got to the ranger station in Covelo, however, they informed us that the M1 was still closed due to snow. Doh. I guess that’s why it’s good to phone first.

After asking about our options at the Eel River Work Station (the smaller ranger station East of Covelo), we headed northeast up the M1 instead to a defunct camping area called Boardman Ridge. The area is accessed via an unnamed jeep road off the M1 roughly five miles from the aforementioned ranger station. We followed the rutted jeep road about 3 miles to the end of the line (Difficulty 2 out of 10) and then backtracked to spot opposite a meadow and pitched camp for the night. Read the rest of this entry »


This is a flashback post that I wrote before WCXC, back in 2006. 🙂

Last summer I decided to take my 170,000-mile, 1986 Isuzu Trooper for a month-long, solo road trip from California to British Columbia and back. I was looking forward to the thrill of the open road, clear-blue water, wildlife, and remote wilderness, so I prepared well, packing my tent, my gear, and a month’s worth of food into the Trooper in case I got stranded and needed to wait for the Mounties, a passing husky team, or whoever handles that sort of thing in Canada.

I’m glad I did. Despite a snag or two, I learned a few things and returned to tell the tale. Not everything in the wild is so lucky.

Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Greg MacDonald

When we last left Mark Twain he was slaughtering passers-by in the pages of the Territorial Enterprise. He wrote a similar story in the fall of 1863 meant to shame financiers for artificially inflating stock prices—yes, it happened back then too—and to embarrass San Francisco newspapers for their complicity.

Entitled “The Massacre at Empire City,” it told the story of a man who, in seeing no way out of a huge financial scandal (think 19th-century Enron), committed suicide after gruesomely murdering his wife and most of their nine children.

Twain intended it as satire but big-city papers reprinted the piece as fact, too caught up in the grisly details to catch the finer, cautionary tale. When he recanted the whole thing, cries for Mark Twain’s head could be heard up and down the west coast. Shocked, Twain offered to resign from the paper. “Nonsense,” his editor replied, “We can furnish the people with news, but we can’t supply them with sense.”

In making his first real mark on the West, Twain had, to his amazement, discovered the power of the media.

At our camp in the Bodie Hills, Greg had discovered the power of a wonky stomach. Marinated chicken and my lack of ice-chest due diligence had been the culprits. Back at Desert Creek I had grilled chicken. Natalie warned that it might not have survived the thaw. It had tasted fine but I spit it out anyway. Greg passed too, after swallowing a bite. That simple italics made all the difference. Now in the Bodie Hills he made excursions into the sagebrush with shovel in hand. Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Greg MacDonald

As I mentioned in the first “Twain Trip” post, Sam Clemens planned to work as an assistant to his brother, the newly appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory—a secretary to the Secretary as it were. This notion he abandoned, however, when he learned that his salary would be deducted straight from his brother’s paycheck. Surely seeking to maintain positive fraternal relations, he sought his fortune by other means, first as a timber baron, then as a mining tycoon.

Things did not work out as planned, however. Aside from nearly capsizing in Mono Lake and almost freezing to death near Carson City, a consequence of having spent the night lost in a snowstorm (a mere 50 feet from the nearest stagecoach station), he accidentally burned down a large swath of forest surrounding Lake Tahoe, a feat he bested only by forfeiting a mining claim worth millions of dollars. Not to say that he wasn’t keeping busy—he was. It was just no way to make a living.

Twain, used to doing things on a grand scale, made no exception in failure. He had failed spectacularly. Those weren’t the piddling millions of today’s currency, mind you—they were 1860s millions. And yet, at the end of his short mining career he didn’t have two cents to rub together. The dizzying flight from millionaire to pauper left him lost. A saving grace though arrived in the form of an offer to write for Virginia City’s local newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise for $25 a week. Normally he would have turned it down, work having been antithetical to his nature, but with his back firmly against a wall he accepted and, at 27, moved to Virginia City.

I do not like to work, even when another person does it.

— Mark Twain

For us, Virginia City lay still ahead. We awoke before dawn and watched a serene orange glow bleed into the dark until the sky flooded and pushed the stars out of sight. After breakfast and cups of tea to ward off the chill, we packed up and hit the trail. Read the rest of this entry »


Photo: Natalie Menacho

On August 14, 1861 an unknown, unemployed steamboat pilot, and his brother, got off a dusty stagecoach from St. Joesph, Missouri having made the 1550 mile trek west to the newly-minted town of Carson City, Nevada. On a bit of a lark, he had decided to go and assist his brother, the recently appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory. His own career had been a casualty of the Civil War, which had broken out earlier that year halting all traffic on the Mississippi. Their three week journey cost $400, the equivalent of over $9580 dollars today. Of course, this former steamboat pilot, willing to spend hard earned money on a lark to head west was none other than Samuel Clemens.

Almost exactly 150 years later my girlfriend Natalie, our friend Greg, and I, set out for the Eastern Sierras, also on a bit of a lark, to follow in Clemens’ footsteps. We had combed guides, books, and maps, and made our plan. In early September we headed out in two Mitsubishi Monteros. Greg’s Gen1 and my Gen2.

Loading up the trucks

Monteros at the ready

Photos: Greg MacDonald

And we’re off!

Photo: Natalie Menacho

Read the rest of this entry »

Silver City, Idaho in its heyday in 1892

We hadn’t planned on going to Silver City. Heading to Boise up Hwy. 95, the easy way, was what we had in mind. But there we were in tiny, little Jordan Valley, Oregon, having lunch at a diner three miles from the Idaho border, when I spotted the above photo on the wall. I had a feeling this was going to be good. “Do you know how long it takes to get to Silver City?” I asked our waitress to no avail. She hadn’t heard me.

“At least an hour,” answered the woman at the counter. “How are you planning on getting there?” I pointed out the window at Butch (my Mitsubishi Montero), with his Hi-Lift jack and bull-bar front bumper. “With that.”

“That should work,” she said. I wouldn’t take a normal car though.”

“But don’t go in the rain,” our waitress then chimed in. “The road gets real greasy.”

I looked at Natalie. She was feeling a little under nourished from her iceberg salad—southeastern Oregon hadn’t provided many options for my favorite vegetarian—and was eager to get to Boise. Despite a craving for Thai food, she said she was game and soon we were on a dirt road headed out of town. Read the rest of this entry »