Christmas in the Desert (Part 1): The War of the Meatballs

It’s All Happening in Bakersfield

We decide to spend the holidays in Southern California this year. Our first stop will be Joshua Tree National Park, where we will camp under the first Christmas Eve full moon since 1977; then we’ll loop through San Diego and L.A. for a few days to see nieces and nephews and shit. We leave mid-day on December 23rd, bound for the Mojave Desert.

Of course no trip from the Bay Area to the Mojave would be complete without a stop in Bakersfield, de facto farming capital of Southern California. It’s kind of unavoidable- especially in winter, when all but a few of the other trans-Sierra through roads are snowed over, and closed until the spring.

Apparently the Padre Hotel didn't get the memo. It seems to think Bakersfield is a real city. (image by imsohideous.wordpress.com)
Apparently the Padre Hotel didn’t get the memo. It seems to think Bakersfield is a real city.
(image by imsohideous.wordpress.com)

We stop for the night at the “historical” Padre Hotel, shining star of Bakersfield’s urban nightlife district. It’s a nice place. And with a $90 credit from Hotels.com, it only costs ten bucks a night. And one of their three restaurants has ribeye. And… they allow dogs, even ones that unleash a face full of bark-flavored harassment upon the wee-hour cleanup crews, after smacking your book out of your hand at 1:45 AM when you’re trying to read yourself into dreamland- an unsubtle hint that a trip to the roofless realm is necessary.

Lucky for us, that fire-breathing dude at the hotel bar had other plans that night. (image by www.thepadrehotel.com)
Lucky for us, the fire-breathing dude from the hotel bar had other plans that night.
(image by www.thepadrehotel.com)

Everyone Knows it’s Windy

Next day we take a hike on the PCT near Tehachapi Pass– best named mountain pass in California. It’s the same spot where the chick from Wild started her epic journey- but we go the other way (southbound).

Driver- follow that Radio Flyer!! And STEP on it! (image by wikimedia.org)
Driver- follow that Radio Flyer!! And STEP on it!
(image by wikimedia.org)

We hike up to the Alta Energy Wind Center (aka the Mojave Wind Farm)- the second largest terrestrial array of wind turbines (these are to windmills what the motorized car is to the horse and buggy) in the world.

DSC_5206

Hey- Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm!! BLOW me. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Hey!!- Mojave Wind Farm!  
BLOW me.
(photos by D. Speredelozzi)

If you drive California Highway 58 over Tehachapi Pass, you can’t miss these things- they’re all over the hills on the west side of the pass- between Tehachapi and Mojave. There’s thousands of them peppering the hilltops. You can’t count them. You can’t ignore them.

Rather than being at the ridgetop Mojave Wind Farm, Katherine opts to tell the world that she's there. You know nowadays you haven't actually "been" somewhere until the social media sphere is hip. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Rather than actually being at the ridgetop Mojave Wind Farm, Katherine opts to let the world know that she’s there. You know, nowadays you haven’t actually “been” somewhere until the social media sphere is hip.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The War of the Meatballs

This is why you have to have breakfast in Bakersfield before you climb a mountain in Tehachapi: because if you don’t, then by the time you get down off the mountain and drive the 100 miles to Kramer Junction, deliriously ravenous, you cannot be trusted to order lunch responsibly. Plus, you’ll end up having to settle for Subway (have you been to Kramer Junction?) But your wife will  leave you alone to order while she uses the restroom and buys Doritos in the main store of the truck stop. And by the time she joins you in the queue, it’ll be too late.

It’s like going food shopping when you’re wicked baked. Mistakes get made. All decisions are filtered through a kind of madness that has no place in a room containing all the food in the world.

So I ask the dude to rustle me up a meatball sub (which anywhere west of Philly is a roll of heavily-loaded dice as it is).

Regular or footlong?

(Mistake #1:) Uh… footlong.

Would you like double the meatballs?

Umm… how many does it come with normally?

Eight- so the double comes with sixteen. (*I knew you had to be smart to be a…rustler*)

How much extra is it?

$2.50.

(Mistake #2:) Fuck it- yeah, hook it up.

Would you like double the cheese?

How much?

$1.00.

(*sighs audibly, powerless to resist*)

Yeah sure (*groans, knowing full well how this ends*).

I’ve never been known for my restraint in situations where the long view is the advisable one.

You know I don't like watching anybody make the same mistakes I made. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
You know I don’t like watching anybody make the same mistakes I made.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Three Mistakes and One Parm

You know how you can’t tell how full you are for several minutes after you eat, so the smart move is to eat slowly and take breaks, lest you find out 10 minutes later that you’ve fucked yourself?

(Mistake #3:) Apart from one and a half meatballs given to the Peanut, and one to Katherine, I snarf the whole goddamn sandwich in five minutes- which, despite the fact that I did it, is actually impossible to do. Anyway, I’m not hungry anymore. (more on this later).

By the Time We Make it to Barstow, We’ll Be More Than Halfway to Hell

Forty miles later I am engaged in a battle to the death with a toilet at the Vons supermarket in Barstow, while Katherine food shops for our night of camping at Joshua Tree.

At first the pushback is significant; and in the early stages of the skirmish I am completely boxed in and unable to advance my troops. But eventually there’s an opening in my front lines, and the toilet falls under heavy fire. The firefight is severe and unrelenting; and at its peak, the sound of the bombings can be heard far beyond the boundaries of the contested area.

In the end I emerge victorious, but with heavy losses. My troops are scattered all over the battlefield- the carnage is devastating; though, interestingly, no blood has been shed. Nevertheless, I don’t think the media will want to report on this.

I stand proud, the victor; and pull my pants up; and moments later a flash flood comes sweeping down canyon, un-looked-for, and flushes away all evidence of the conflict.

But I know this war is not over yet. In fact even now the very forces that put this whole conflict in motion are regrouping, reassembling- lining up for the next attack- an attack whose arrival could come at any time, but at any rate is assured. It is a gastrointestinal certainty. But if my side is to prevail in the next rush, it is critical that my generals behind the lines receive at least some advance notice from the outlying lookouts.  In the meantime, I am given temporary leave to visit with my family before the fighting resumes.

I rejoin my wife in the produce section.

Go to Part 2

The Ridges of Mendocino County, Part 4: Attack of the Gozer Dogs

(continued from Part 3: Race Under Pressure)

Howard Lake, with Anthony Peak in the background. (photo property of wikimedia commons)
Howard Lake, with Anthony Peak in the background.
(photo property of wikimedia commons)

Attack of the Gozer Dogs

As the sun fell above the peaks to the west, I started looking for a place to camp. Before long  we came upon the road to Howard Lake, where there was a campground.

The layout of the campground described a loop around a bright grassy meadow, though only one of the sites was occupied when we rolled in there. As I perused the loop for a site, however, the most menacing pit-bull ever erupted out of the one occupied campsite and made straightaway for my vehicle, which luckily both I and Peanut were both still inside. The thing was such a caricature of a stereotypical tough dog that it might not have even been believable, were it not for the fact that the beast was right there before my eyes.

This quasi-canine had an upper body like one of those cartoon bulldogs, puffy chest, tree trunks for arms; and to ambulate, all it had to do was give a simple little flick of its frontal knuckles and its body would be thrust forward with the propulsive force of a jet or rocket engine, lunging through the air like one of Gozer‘s hellish terror-dogs from Ghostbusters.

Nice doggy... (ghostbusters.wikia.com)
Nice doggy…
(ghostbusters.wikia.com)

As I watched this sentinel of doom bounding alongside my car, leaping up towards the driver’s side window with the obvious goal of clipping any loosely-guarded bodyparts, it occurred to me to put the windows up- you know, so that me and Pean could survive the encounter. As we neared the rogue hound’s camp, two more dogs came screaming out from behind a decrepit trailer and into the narrow dirt road, forcing me to skid to a stop, or plow right through the beasts.

Dragged Down By the Stone

A hilariously-stereotypical caricature of a backwoods yokel emerged from behind an American-flag-clad pickup truck and called for the dogs to desist from their camp-rage and return to him.  The dude, presenting himself in the standard required uniform for such characters: a wife-beater T-shirt, loose-fitting shorts, and heavy-duty work-boots, waved a benign apology for the imposition on my evening mellow, waving and smiling through a perforated dental rig.  He was nice enough; but after the onslaught of canine terror, I was all set on that campground.  As I drove away, the pit-bull chased my car with a fury reserved only for those bent on creating maximum carnage.  The hound persisted in the chase for nearly a quarter mile, as I gunned the vehicle down the twisting dirt road that led out of there.  It was an effort to outrun him, but eventually the creature receded in my rearview mirror until he was at last lost to a curve in the road.  I went look for another place to camp.

 

Next Chapter: (Part 5: Lake Pillsbury Dough Boy)

The Ridges of Mendocino County, Part 2: Yolla Bolly Wilderness- Ides Cove Area

(continued from Part 1: Yolla Bolly Wilderness, Ides Cove Area )

The Sausage King of Mendo

We built a killer campsite on the edge of a high cliff, overlooking Slides Creek Canyon and its descending chain of waterfall-fed meadows.

IMG_6931
Man, it takes my piss forever to reach the foot of this cliff.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Dinner went slightly awry when Peanut seized a perfectly-cooked Italian sausage off of my plate as I was reaching for the mustard; but I still love him.  After all, it’s cut-throat out there, we all know this.  Survival of the fittest.  Living off the land and all that.

I can't stay mad at you. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I can’t stay mad at you.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

In the Morning, Feeling Half-Right

Drank too much whiskey and wine last night.  We all did.  Nothing for it but to walk it off, right?

So after forcing down some strawberry Pop-Tarts, and the squished, bruised, and oozing remains of the bananas we had jammed, against their will, into our bear cans yesterday, we took a nice long hike out to to some peaks, lakes, and meadows. At Long Lake, the Pean and I set off on our own, dropping down a steep and trail-less crumbling cliff-face, riding the scree as if we were shredding a nauseatingly-angled double-diamond snow slope. We etched a slanting, zig-zagging path down the mountainside, triggering mini-avalanches that rained down rocks and boulders onto the grassy saddle below us as we went.  I made sure to keep Peanut above and behind me, so I didn’t crush him with any of the debris loosed by my body weight; and he acquiesced to the directive, skidding along in my wake.  When we finally reached the bottom, we ran across a huge green meadow and slaked our thirst and cooled our bodies beneath a waterfall which poured off the lip of the cliff above like fruit punch from a ladle.

Elegance, function, style.  It’s all there in the Yolla Bolly.

South Yolla Bolly Mountain, seen from our campsite. (photo by  D. Speredelozzi)
South Yolla Bolly Mountain, seen from the creek by our campsite.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I See Dead Trails

I needed the very best of my route-finding skills to find the faded and disused remnant of the Burnt Camp Trail, which once upon a time had confidently led the way out of the meadow and back up the mountain toward our campsite, but at this point clearly had not been maintained in decades.  It was nearly impossible to find the track of the trail; but by summoning my inner Crazy Horse and carefully scrutinizing the lay of the land, the distribution of leaves and sticks across the forest floor, and the subtle breaks in the trees and shrubbery, I eventually managed to start tracing the ghost of the old path up the dry and dusty ridge. After 45 minutes of chipping our way uphill with the pitiless sun on our backs, we emerged back onto a familiar trail: the ridge trail we had hiked in on yesterday.  Across sinking slopes peppered with the fire-ravaged skeletons of white pine and fir trees I could see my yellow tent, Shane’s red Irish soccer shirt, and Abs’ ever-present royal blue Indianapolis Colts shirt, all perched on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the deep valley we had just hiked through .  We headed that way.

The trail up from Burnt Camp has clearly been abandoned for many many years, its route nearly impossible to trace. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The trail up from Burnt Camp has clearly been abandoned for many many years, its route nearly impossible to trace.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Hell in a Hand-Basket

Returning to camp from our sweltering hike to find Shane and Abs relaxing in the late-afternoon breeze, I grabbed the whiskey and settled in to a nice long intellectual diatribe with the boys on the state of politics and world affairs. Sometimes the world of man can creep in a little bit even when you’re well outside of its direct influence.

IMG_6885

IMG_6882
Shane-Nut atop Yuddy Point Rock (my name for it).
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

After the collective, three-way rant was over (Peanut, more well-versed than the rest of us in matters of social grace, knew better than to engage in a political chat among friends), we finished off the burritos we’d picked up yesterday in the Sacramento Valley, then spent another gorgeous, balmy night sitting around the campfire, looking out over the lower canyons at the twinkling city lights of Redding, out in the Sacramento Valley, and the peaks of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta in the far distance. I slept like a bag of bricks in free-fall.

Grog-uddies. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Grog-uddies.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ridging Our Bets

Next day we packed up camp, hiked back out to the trail-head, and parted ways with the fellas.  They were headed home to the Bay Area; but the Pean and I decided to stick around the trail-head to climb South Yolla Bolly Mountain (Mt. Linn), the highest point in the wilderness.

Hot-tuddy. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Hot-tuddy.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It was hot and exposed for the first part of the climb; and Peanut bitched and moaned accordingly, protesting by beaching himself in the shade of any tree we came within 50 feet of; but he was jacked and re-invigorated once we had gained the ridge and come into the path of the breeze blowing up from the lower flanks of the mountain.

Cool-uddy. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Cool-uddy.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We made the 1,500-foot, two mile ascent to the peak in just 55 minutes, and then spent a little while taking in the whole of the Yolla Bolly Wilderness and beyond from on high, gazing out at the hazy Sacramento Valley to the east, the numerous jagged ridges of the Mendocino National Forest to the south, the North Coastal Range to the west, the distant peaks of the North Yolla Bolly Range and the Trinity Alps far to the north, and our little campsite on a cliff far below our feet, before running back down the spine of the mountain (20 minutes) and setting off on the next leg of our Mendocino adventure.

(to be continued)

 

Next chapter: (Part 3: Race Under Pressure)

 

 

The Ridges of Mendocino County, Part 1: Yolla Bolly Wilderness- Ides Cove Area

The only thing that can be said about Paskenta is that nothing can be said about Paskenta. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The only thing that can be said about Paskenta is that nothing can be said about Paskenta.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Instant Caravan

I decided to see the month of May in by getting way off the grid for a few days. So I did the only thing I know how to do in that situation: I excused myself from my Friday morning Philosophy class, threw my dog Peanut in the car, along with most of my camping gear, cruised across town to pick up my friend Shane, and hit the highway, all by 10:30 AM.  We linked up with Abs in Suisun City, and with that- instant caravan!  We stocked up on food and booze at the Safeway in Vacaville, and then pointed our motorcade north towards the Upper Sacramento Valley, bound for the lonely vastitudes of the Mendocino National Forest, specifically that exceedingly rugged, and little-used, subset of the forest known as the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, a.k.a. Bigfoot Country (but if that’s all you’re here for, I’ll save you the suspense right now- we never saw him).

Our last outpost of quasi-civilization, as well as the end of the paved part of our journey, was Paskenta, a map-blip of a village about 35 miles southwest of the town of Red Bluff.  As we left Paskenta, we immediately began to climb steeply up into the Mendo National Forest on Forest Road M2, which was at first a good dirt road, but soon became a total pain in the ass.

Forest Road M2: a nice wide dirt  road, reasonably-graded, with good tread, and no obstacles, (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Forest Road M2: a nice wide dirt road, reasonably-graded, with good tread, and no obstacles,
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ruts Never Sleep

About 15 or so miles in, a series of runoff channels, cut diagonally across the road and each about 4-6 inches deep, the breadth of a truck tire, and with raised banks on both sides, started appearing at maddeningly-short intervals, requiring near-constant stopping.  Hazardous to pass over at anything faster than 2 or 3 mph, these cumbersome ruts would require you to slow down and cross at an angle, causing the vehicle to rock and jar back and forth as each wheel crossed the threshold at a different time.  In this way, a good 8-10-mile stretch of the road became a time-sucking trial of patience and restraint that took almost an hour to drive.  The situation called for ice cold beer.

And fortunately, we were holding.

Forest Road M2: starting to become a pain in the ass. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Forest Road M22: starting to become a pain in the ass.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Eventually the runoff channels began to abate, and after an interval they vanished altogether; and from that point on we were able to resume making reasonably good time to the trailhead, which was only another few miles anyway.

Peanut guards the parking lot while the team closes up shop and prepare to walk.(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Peanut guards the parking lot while the tail end of the team (me) closes up shop and prepares to walk.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Beware: The Ides of Mendo

We reached the Ides Cove Trailhead, situated on an eastern saddle of Mt. Linn (or, as it is known to local indian peoples, South Yolla Bolly Mountain), around 5 PM, and took our time packing our packs and finishing off the last of the beers.

The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eeel Wilderness is the best-named wilderness in the state of California. The name, which means   "snow-covered high peak" in the language of the Wintu indians, is so bad-ass that the whole thing can't even fit on the sign. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness has the coolest name of any wilderness in the state of California. The name, which means “snow-covered high peak” in the language of the Wintu indians, is so bad-ass that they can’t even fit the whole thing on a standard wilderness sign.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We hit the trail at 6 PM, and took to the wilds.  It would be a short walk to camp- no more than three miles, along the north side of a ridge, into the setting sun.

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Peanut watches in amaze as the ghosts of the great Indian chiefs of old, channeling ancient griefs beyond reckoning, scatter golden tears across the forest floor.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

Next chapter: (Part 2:  Yolla Bolly Wilderness, Ides Cove Area)

 

Didn’t Get to Sleep Last Night Til’ the Morning Came Around

I love the sound of the ocean dragging the remnants of its broken waves back across the rocks on the beach; although to some the sound evokes the terror of ancient nightmares. Tomayto tomahto. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I love the sound of the ocean dragging the remnants of its broken waves back across the rocks on the beach; although to some the sound evokes the terror of ancient nightmares.
Tomayto tomahto.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Hey did you know about these seaside cabins that you can rent at the foot of Steep Ravine, in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, up in Marin County?

These beachfront public housing projects speak to the affluence of Marin County. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
These beachfront public housing projects speak to the affluence of Marin County.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Oh, you had heard of them, vaguely?  Yeah, me too; but for some reason I never looked into renting one of them, even though I’ve been living 20 miles away for the past 18 years.

Admit- If I told you this was the Irish Highlands, you'd totally believe it. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Admit-
If I told you this was the Irish Highlands, you’d totally believe it.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Then a few weeks ago my friend Stu called me up and said he had rented one of these very cabins for an upcoming Monday night, and did I want to go up there with him to drink some beers, listen to the waves, and play some Dead tunes on guitar (not necessarily in that order).  What was there to say no to?

There's a cabin on the hill Psychedelic music fills the air (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
There’s a cabin on the hill
Psychedelic music fills the air
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

We left the city in the late afternoon, and stopped for a few basic supplies at the Safeway in Mill Valley; and there I made the tragic mistake of leaving Stu to do most of the shopping, while I took care of some other pressing business.

It's not safe here after dark; so sunset usually finds god-fearing Americans running for their cabins, before the ne'er-do-wells emerge from the shadows to haunt the night. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It’s not safe here after dark; so sunset usually finds all decent, god-fearing folk running for their cabins, seeking to take what shelter they might before the ne’er-do-wells emerge from the shadows to stalk the night, preying on the luckless and the witless alike.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Here’s the thing with Stu- left to his own devices, he will purchase $100 worth of groceries for a 12-hour trip; and this is exactly what he did.  I came out of the bathroom to find, in our cart, two half- sticks of butter, a full-size carton of milk, a large bottle of orange juice, a package of cookie dough, a package of cocoa, two boxes of Annie’s Mac & Cheese, a 12-pack of Great White Ale, a 32-oz tub of yogurt, a package of granola, a pack of blueberries, 4 bananas, two oranges, a bag of chips, and a tub of hummus.  And a roast chicken!  All this for one night.  And there’s probably even some stuff I neglected to mention.

If I had done the shopping, we would have left the Safeway with a 12-pack and a bag of ice.  But hey- Stu was just looking out for us.  Good on’im.

Stu gazes out over the ocean, wondering how the hell we're gonna finish all this food before 7 AM, when we have to leave to get him to work by 8. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu gazes out over the ocean, wondering if he forgot anything at the supermarket.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Before dinner we took a pleasant little stroll along the beach and the bluffs, admiring the ocean’s handiwork and trying not to drop our beers as we scaled the crumbling cliffs and probed the driftwood sculptures peppering the beach- a tee-pee and some wind shelters .

Check out this tee-pee.  Now that's some serious early man shit. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Check out this tee-pee. Now that’s some serious early man shit.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Needless to say, we did not go hungry that night.

After dinner, we fired up the wood stove- you know, to keep the demons of the night at bay.  Then we settled in to play some music for a few hours.

Come on Stu, light my fire. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Come on Stu, light my fire.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Starting at around 11:30 PM, we kept saying we were about to go to bed; but for some reason it kept not happening.  Funny how it always seems to go that way when beer and its companion vices are involved.

Plee-ee-ee-eease don't murder me... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Plee-ee-ee-eease don’t murder me…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Satan came knocking for our souls sometime around 2:30 AM; and the only way to protect ourselves was to kill the lights and pretend we were asleep; but he continued to sniff around the windows for so long that we got sleepy and started to drift off.  So much for friends of the devil.

Fuck it, though- we were out of beer anyway.

The Devil sends the beast with wrath... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Devil sends the beast with wrath…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The most painful part of the whole proceedings was that we had to get up at 6 AM, so we could leave at 7 to get Stu to work in the city by 8.  I had been planning to give him my car and ride my bike back to the city; but I was hungover, under-rested, and anyway it was foggy and damp out; so I aborted that plan.

The Steep Ravine cabins recede into fog as we ascend the mountainside up and away from them, and back towards the world of working men. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground recede into fog as we ascend the mountainside up and away from them, and back towards the world of working men.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But many good times must be paid for on the back end, with periods of exhaustion and stomach discomfort- this is just par for the course. Everyone involved knows the rules, everyone knows what’s at stake. It’s kinda like the mafia, but without all that pesky murder, betrayal, and bad-assery.

No remorse, no repent.

I set out running but I'll take my time A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine If I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep tonight (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
If I get up before daylight
I just won’t get no sleep tonight
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground  (that’s right, there are campsites too, some of them killer) are located on the west side of Highway 1, about two and a half miles south of Stinson Beach, and 25 miles north of San Francisco (plan for an hour’s drive under normal traffic conditions).

As of a few weeks ago, the cabins cost $108 per night, and sleep anywhere from 6 to however many people you can cram onto the floor (though they might technically have occupancy limits, for all I know). Each cabin has an ocean view, comes with a wood-burning stove, a large oaken kitchen table, and a charcoal grill (outside).  The “beds” are just horizontal wooden spaces, so bring sleeping mats, bags, and pillows. No electricity, so bring lanterns or headlamps.

The only downside:  Lamely, here, as everywhere else in the California State Park system, dogs are not allowed.

Stu really ties the room together.  Unfortuanately for you, though, you have to bring your own, or go without. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu really ties the room together. Unfortunately for you, though, you’ll have to bring your own, or go without.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The cabins can be seen on Google Maps here, and they can be reserved here.  Be advised, however, that they are very popular, and reserving them is a cut-throat business that requires a certain fortitude and determination which Stu possesses, and I do not.  But I have other strengths.

If you want to walk in our footsteps, reserve Cabin #5 (Willow Camp)

Stu stands outside Cabin #5, trying to look as if this and all the other photos were not staged and attempted multiple times. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Stu stands outside Cabin #5, trying to make it seem as if this and all the other photos in this series were indeed spontaneous, candid shots, and not the fully staged, precision-blocked and exhaustively choreographed burdens to capture that they in fact all were.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

San Gabriel Wilderness, Angeles National Forest

It was between the brothers, Kay.  I had nothing to do with it. (photo by K. Riley)
It was between the brothers, Kay- I had nothing to do with it.
(photo by K. Riley)
This is Bear Creek; but I can't think of any good double-entendres at the moment. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This is Bear Creek; but I can’t think of any good double-entendres at the moment.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi) 
Once upon a time, back-country adventurers were literally baked in these kilns.  But sometimes they saved their weed for when they reached camp. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
There was a time when it was a semi-regular occurrence for hapless back-country adventurers to find themselves being literally baked in these kilns.  But then winter would come and they’d smoke their weed at home for a few months.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
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Go ahead, Sped- just try to get anywhere near this tent.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Thank GOD we live in this time... (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Thank GOD we live in this time…
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

 

Eight Easy Steps to a Winter Weekend in Yosemite National Park (Literacy Not Required)

Step 1:

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Beware: The Phantom Tourbus
(photos by D. Speredelozzi)

Step 2:

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They always say: Find what you’re good at and stick to it.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Step 3:

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Does this fish-eye lense make me look fat?
(photos by I. Stout)

Step 4:

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Yosemite Falls from Taft Point.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Step 5:

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They call it “Sewing Machine Leg”
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Step 6:

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Stop showing off.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Step 7:

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Insert thought bubble here.
(photo by I. Stout)

Step 8:

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If you love it, set it free. If it comes back, perhaps it was just the sun all along.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

 

Deek vs. The Bear

You haven’t lived til you’ve wrestled a large carnivore to the ground , gutted and skinned it, and roasted it on a spit over a driftwood fire.

It's cut-throat out there, though.  Kill or be killed. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It’s cut-throat out there- kill or be killed.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Labor intensive, perhaps- but mmm mmm!

I feel bad- he was very friendly. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I feel bad- he was very friendly.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I’m just kidding… I’ve never killed anything that didn’t fit under the sole of my shoe; and even that I’ve only done when it was either him or me.

Although that’s probably less about bugs’ rights than it is about me being kind of a pussy.

 

Tenaya’s Final Tear: Lamenting the Corporatization of Your National Parks

You see what happens, Lebowski?

This is what happens when you sell off your entire country to big-wig corporate fuck-heads.  These bastards want to strong-arm the National Park Service into extending their contract to oversee and administer all concessions within the park, essentially cock-blocking all would-be bidders with the threat of a $51 million-dollar trademark fee, should they acquire the next contract.

Click here for the story.

Courtesy of a benevolently-bestowed corporate easement, hikers make their way across lower Lyell Canyon in Delaware North National Park, formerly known as Yosemite National Park. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Courtesy of a benevolently-bestowed corporate easement, hikers make their way across lower Lyell Canyon in Delaware North National Park, formerly known as Yosemite National Park.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

And here we are talking about iconic sites throughout the park, sites whose names long pre-date this stupid company’s involvement in park affairs.  In fact, many of these names were given by the Native Americans who, as many self-entitled and/or unacceptably-oblivious douches must sadly still be reminded, were here long before any of these corporate crackers came to town and started throwing dollars, lobbyists, and contracts around.

A rogue blogger trespasses on some corporate conglomerate's property.   Peanut- get HIM!! (photo by C. Chalk)
A rogue blogger trespasses on some corporate conglomerate’s property.
Peanut- get HIM!!
(photo by C. Chalk)

Now although, as we all know, nothing is shocking, and such has been the case since time immemorial, I am nevertheless galled by the gall.  After all, I thought we owned this place, me and you.

How exactly does one go about owning this? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Tell me again- how exactly does one go about owning this?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

And not just this place, but the rest of our other “National Treasures” as well.  But actually no- I’ve always known that that was just smoke being blown up our collective national ass (sorry, K).

The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park. Aww shit- I gottsta get me some of that sweet stuff for my vey own! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.
Aww shit- I gottsta get me some of that sweet stuff for my very own!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But this shit is still over the top.

Trespassers will be shot on sight. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Trespassers will be shot on sight.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

There’s nothing that can be done about it; so just lament away.  It’s all gone.

"Customers" will be charged by the joule for any warmth derived from a fire constructed of materials found within the confines of Delaware North National Park. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
“Customers” will be charged by the joule for any warmth derived from a fire constructed of materials found within the confines of Delaware North National Park.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The dream is dead.  And somewhere, way out on the far side of for never and ever, the great Ahwahnechee Chief Tenaya sheds the last of his salty tears, as the the final nail in the utter subjugation of his people, their way of life, and everything they stood for, is finally hammered home once and for all.

Are you gonna tell him?  Because I can't do it. (image by Google)
Are you gonna tell him? Because I can’t do it.
(image by Google)

Give it up for democracy!  Woo-hoo!!  

(Cue the National Anthem)