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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States
Gazing into this abyss called Life and wondering.....what's next !?!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Solo Sojourns...

The other day, wanting to take advantage of still coolish temps, I took myself on a quiet little solo hike on the Ryan Mountain trail in Joshua Tree National Park.  I arrived at the parking lot around 6:30pm - not sure I'd have enough time to make it to the top and back before dark - I thought I'd give it an honest go and the weather was absolutely perfect - slight breeze, high 70's at the trailhead, skies that went on forever....

I was the only one there, well, human-wise anyway.  I used to hike alone all the time. Then, getting tired of conversations on the trail with only me, I started a hiking group back in 2009 - looking for kindred spirits to share the adventure with and perhaps going a little deeper into territories yet unexplored. Not a good idea to hike alone when you are 10+ miles into the desert wilderness on unfamiliar paths. Things can happen. So, nearly 3 successful and fun years of hiking with many new acquaintances covering many new miles of trails, I find myself, once again, hiking solo. Things happen. So, on this day, I realized just how much I missed my solo sojourns. No one to kvetch about how fast or how slow someone else is hiking. No underhanded snide remarks about who is better at what. No catty undertones. That part of hiking with the masses I do not miss... Don't get me wrong. There were many, many hours and miles of laughter, collective ooohs and aahhhs over the surprises and vistas discovered along the trail, silly stories, heartfelt sharing of life experiences, and our infamous post-hike picnics.... But, with any growing collection of humans over time, the personalities emerge - posturing happens, someone feels the need to undermine and the unraveling begins.  After some heartache over what to do, I closed that chapter; tucked away the warm, happy memories; and pointed my compass in a new direction.


So, on this day, off I set - up the rocky steps, on to the top for only a mile and a half or so.....












.....and up around the bend, greeted by a stately  juniper with its companions, a trio of yuccas....












 ....and up some more, around another bend where a juniper branch frames my view of the valley below and the setting sun...











Now here is where the sojourn gets "interesting".  I am intent on watching my footing on the rocky path at the same time I am enjoying the changing light behind me. A quick movement catches my eye. Snake! But what kind??  Fortunately, just a red racer, maybe 2 feet in length. Nonpoisonous. But can be feisty just the same. And they will bite. Time for a photo? Of course, I think. It was resting just under a sage brush, its head raised slightly "looking" up its intended path. The wind picked up, blowing my scent up that intended path as well.....the snake literally whipped its head around, beady snake eyes fixed on me, tongue flicking out to taste my enemy status. I know snakes don't really have 'expressions'. However, this snake had a very perplexed, "I'm-not-happy-you-are-there" expression. And while red racers are not venomous, they are very feisty and will chase you. Yes, chase. Like go for you and you'd better run because they aim to bite when they reach you - which can be very quickly. My choices were to run back down, continue up, or tumble down the side of trail - into a lot of scratchy, prickly things. I opted to not wait for the photo and ran (yes, ran) on up the trail. Whew! Heart pounding. Feeling kind of silly. It's just a little nonpoisonous snake after all. I am not particularly afraid of them but within those very brief moments, I let the snake have its way without the digital capture.


A different kind of movement catches my eye at my feet. If you look closely, you can see an oval-ish seed in the center of this shot. Attached to this seed is an ant, 1/4 the size of the seed. I watched it diligently carrying its payload across the trail and all the way over to the side where it began working on the ascent apparently towards where all its busy camarades were taking supplies for their colony. This trail was particularly active today!









And so.....up and on I go only to 'feel' another presence. Yes, another snake loosely curled under a rock outcropping.  This time a rattler. This time I don't stick around to ponder an iPhone snapshot. Heart pounding a bit faster I discover I have cell service so I make a Facebook post to let my local friends know where to look for me should I run into an unfortunate-for-me situation. At this point I decide that maybe it's not a wise idea to continue alone, light waning, visibility dimming - headlamp or no headlamp. Snakes like the warmth of the rocks at night and the possibility of these creatures slithering out to rest along my path to safety is highly likely. 




A favorite of mine, the red barrel cactus. Still has a 'bite' to it if you aren't careful but they at least pose nicely for pictures.....






Not enough time to make the top and back while safely navigating around the creatures whose home I'm attempting to tread softly on.... The view is still spectacular and the peacefulness, necessary.












The way home is illuminated for me by the Mojave light.....






More things are illuminated by this magical light.... a variety of the prickly pear cactus....






















Back to the parking lot just in time to watch the sun dip below the horizon....













On the way home, I thought I'd check out Key's View.... Again, I am the only car there......


The valley below begins to prepare for the night.....


.....as the quiet descends upon the rest of us.





And so the sojourn goes............


All images © Diana Shay Diehl via iPhone4. May not be reprinted or shared without permission.




1 comment:

Cynthia King said...

Very nice work. Thank you for sharing. This is indeed inspiring.