Outtakes, the 2016 Edition- Misadventures, Stolen Oranges and Glorious Skies

Lemme start this out by saying, just in case you’re not the sort of person who employs the beginning of the year to bring a symbolic end to a cyclical calendar that is pretty much as symbolic as anything else…. you’re probably not going to enjoy this post. I personally VERY much enjoy the feeling of a year coming to a close, having a goalpost for myself when it comes to achievements and above all, having a measured distance to use to fully- and I do mean fully- stretch out my procrastination tendencies.

Also, I love having a specific time I can use to reflect on the utter lunacy of the year just passed. And no matter which way you slice it, what glasses you use to view this past year, it’s been a staggering parade of one global mess after another, gains that felt like losses and losses that still leave us smarting. But i’m not going to get political here, because I think there will plenty of people with better words than I who will most assuredly be churning those out. This is just a post reflecting on this past year, for me personally, with outtakes mainly from the cluttered library of my iPhone.

Lets begin with a list of numbers, my favorite:

5- travel/guide books read
9- National Parks visited this year
3- the number of times the AC went out in our house (FRUSTRATION TO THE EXTREME)
6- times that I shouted “SUNS OUT, GUNS OUT!” to the boyfriend when neither guns nor suns were out, just after waking up on the weekend with too much energy
3- Economics books read (and only one that made me scream in frustration)
19- podcasts I listened to this year
3- the number of times we encountered the Border Patrol
5- times that I turned to the boyfriend while on a roadtrip and said with full seriousness “welp, I guess this is where we die yeah?”
5- friendships lost to inattention, inappropriate romantic overtures and/or jealousy and miscommunication
2 – moments where I wanted to throw a match on my current life and just walk away, go live as a hermit in Alaska and just generally start clean over
4 – the number of times I was driving home from work and had the overwhelming sensation of immense gratitude for the life I get to occupy
1- orange stolen from a co-worker (long story, technically he freely gave it to me?)

countless- hours spent on tumblr dot com, times i’ve said “what the fricking frick??”, honeybuns eaten at work and times i’ve laughed until my sides hurt and my cheeks burned

Traves and Misadventures: 

As I mentioned above, me and the boyfriend managed to visit 9 National Parks this past year (as well as 1 additional tribal park) and I honestly can’t believe we actually got to do that? I had literally not gone to a single one before then and on a whim we decided to visit the Grand Canyon for my birthday and a whole trip spawned out of that. (The masterpost for that trip as well as the outtakes can be found here. ) After that, bitten by the outdoorsy adventure bug as I was, I decided to shelve any plans for visiting cities or even traveling out of the USA to focus on seeing as much of the USA’s natural beauty as I could.

Places and parks traveled to this year are as follows, in order :
The Grand Canyon , Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Santa Fe(NM), Big Bend NP, Goodland (KS) Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Death Valley NP, Joshua Tree NP, the Salton Sea State Recreational Area, Slab City (CA), Carlsbad Caverns NP, Abilene (TX)

Places we’d planned to visit and plans either fell through or were changed: 
The Great Sand Dunes NP(CO), New York City (NY), Boston(MA), Rocky Mountain NP(CO), Estes Park (CO) Yellowstone NP, Yosemite NP, Huntington Beach (CA) and Dallas (TX) (we literally live right here next to it and yet we did not once manage to get our butts into the city for any reason)

Arts, creativity, crafts and snailmail: 
While this year was utterly fantastic for traveling, it really sucked when it came to creativity and finding inspiration. I finished my first novel last year (lets not get into that bit of a novice accomplishment here) and I spent this last year editing it and generally using it as a reason to not work on any other writing endeavors. My art-journal Mondays fell by the wayside, which is more than a little disheartening as they were my most popular posts as well as the ones I used to share a bit more of a personal side. Even my regular art projects dwindled down into the half dozens, with my mountain pieces taking me longer than ever to finish and my textile art falling completely to the deadzone.

When it comes to snailmail, yikes- it’s even worse. While I don’t claim to be a super snailmailing aficianado, i’ve been at it for almost 7 years now and some of my closest friendships are bound tighter because of it so, it’s definetly important to me. Basically when it comes to art, i’ve fallen a good deal shorter than I expected.

And in this New Year? 
Obviously this would be the part where I list out all the goals and plans i’ve got to make this new year 10x better than the one thats gone by.
For all the ups and downs, personally? This past year was actually very kind of me.

So for the coming year, while yes i’ve got plenty of goals and focus’s listed all neat and tidy in my main journal, the only three goals i’ll share here are these, two very tangible, the other not so much:

1. Make it to Europe this year, come hell or high water
2. Strive for more creativity and push myself for more everyday that I can
3. Read more fiction books.

Europe is being planned slowly but steadily (or more accurately, on the fly and haphazardly), creativity is being stoked by crisp white pages and an abundance of colors and as for the books? As weird as it might sound, that will probably be the hardest one.  This past year almost all the books i’ve read have either been travel guides, historical, economics related or mathematical /scientific (leaning towards the topics of A.I or astrophysics). But i’ve got literal piles of fiction books waiting to be read, from science fiction like Hyperion to classics like The Once and Future King over to more new titles like The Girl on The Train, so it’s certainly doable I think.

Anyways, this post has gotten long enough to the point where by the time I post this it will literally BE the new year already so, lets end this with the thing that  helped get me through the year, music.

Most Listened to Albums of 2016: 
Wild World- Bastille
The Joshua Tree- U2
Communion- Years and Years
Lemonade- Beyoncé
A Seat At The Table- Solange

Most Listened to songs of 2016:
The Anchor- Bastille
She’s a Lady- LION BABE
Chasing Twisters- Delta Rae
Ain’t No Grave- Johnny Cash
Macbeth- Jed Kurzel (From Macbeth Soundtrack)
I Found- Amber Run
A-Flat- Black Violin

not drowning in my coffee cups just yet,

p.s will be back with the last two (three? dear gods) posts for this last roadtrip in the New Year 

The Most Colorful Mountain In the Wasteland- Salvation Mountain, California

fablesandcoffee at Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California
Salvation Mountain, California    Salvation Mountain, California Love at Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California Salvation Mountain, California

Heat and sureality.

Those are the two things I remember the most about visiting Salvation Mountian. The sun beat down on us as relentless as ever- not even at Death Valley had it felt so harsh, like it’s only purpose was to shine brighter than anything else out here.

Lucky for me though, because it made all the colors of this place stand out in brilliant contrast to the almost literal wasteland surrounding it. Slab City is the place you’ll find Salvation Mountain, or if you actually want to googlemaps yourself here, perhaps searching for Niland will help get you there. I learned about Salvation Mountain around the same time as my interest (obsession?) in the Salton Sea started and getting the chance to visit one meant of course I had to visit the other.

Links to help get you aquatinted with the area, the people, the madness :
NYT on Slab City
Salvation Mountain website
NPR on Slab City

The parking area was half filled with cars when we arrived, people climbing all over the mountain and taking selfies. By the way yup, you can climb it, just make sure to stay on the “yellow brick road”, by which they mean the yellow painted steps or else the caretaker will yell at you very loudly and you might just slip and hurt yourself. We stayed with our feet on the ground though, wandering in and out and around, just literally dazzled by the colors. Its surreal and something close to madness, but it’s also beautiful and the passion that created the whole thing is certainly felt at every turn.

If you’re headed to Coachella, Joshua Tree National Park or you want to get away from it all by moving to Slab City (billed as the last free place in America ), do stop by. Keep an open mind, don’t go wandering too far off into the desert and keep a small grip on reality.

p.s in case you dear reader are curious, i’m not exactly religious but I could still appreciate the fervor and devotion so very much evident here

A Sea of Salt and Bombay Beach- the Salton Sea, California

Salton Sea, California
Salton Sea, California
the beach at Salton Sea, California
dead fish on the beach at Salton Sea, California
the Salton Sea, California
Bird on the Salton Sea, California
the waves at Salton Sea, California
Dead fish on the beach at Salton Sea, California

Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California
Bombay Beach town near Salton Sea, California

There’s been so many articles, think-pieces, documentaries, podcast episodes and yes, even blog-posts done about the Salton Sea that if I were to try and compile a list of them it would take me longer than it did to drive out there. So this post isn’t going to be me explaining how the Salton Sea happened (an engineering disaster) or it’s history of glamour and now near destitution. For that I’ll direct you to this article/podcast on the subject,A Sea Worth It’s Salt, produced by one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible.

This post is just me sharing the photos I took on the trip out there, and inviting anyone who has an interest in the odd, interesting or just plain weird to visit this area, and not just Sea. We came out here because i’ve had a strong fascination with the area since I still lived in California, starting when I was around 13 or so, and the pull this whole place has that makes weirdness converge like nowhere else. It’s less than an hours drive from Joshua Tree National Park, so it’s definetly easy to make it a day trip and while the whole beach was deserted when we visited, the visitor center staffed a wonderfully charming guy who put on some music while me and the bf browsed for postcards and who seemed genuinely passionate about working there.

We didn’t take a dip in the waters of the Sea before we left, because no matter how beach-y and idyllic it may look, your feet are actually crunching down on dead fish and tiny fishbones instead of just sand. The weather had skyrocketed up to the high 90’s as well, so we booked it out down the road towards Salvation Mountain, but pulled into Bombay Beach first, to check out the abandoned houses we’d read were scattered all over. To tell you the truth though, this place was definetly more populated than we expected and the further away from the main road we go, the more Mad Max things started to become. Our bright orange Jeep was definetly an outsider and before long we left to keep heading out towards our original destination.

Visit for the novelty, for the weirdness, even just for the sense of odd peacefulness you get as the water laps up the shore and you step over dead fish to look out across the great expanse. Maybe I just like weird places and maybe my wanting to visit since I was a teenager clouds my judgement a little, but both the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach were amazing places to visit and get to explore, that sense of being off the beaten path never felt so strong as when I was there.


The Chollas, Joshuas and Cottonwoods- Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Ocotillo at Joshua Tree NP, California Cholla Cactus at Joshua Tree NP, California Cottonwood Springs at Joshua Tree NP, California Cottonwood Springs at Joshua Tree NP, California Cottonwood Springs at Joshua Tree NP, California

It was a truly- and I mean truely- a hellishly difficult drive from Death Valley to the hotel we were staying at just outside of Joshua Tree NP, but i’ll go into that later in the final post (you can finally find out about the dinosaurs I was talking about in my first post when I get to that ).  This post is about the abundance of wondrous oddities of vegetation in Joshua Tree National park. I know that doesn’t really sound that exciting, but stay with me.

To begin with, the namesake itself, the Joshua Tree is certainly an unexpected sight, it’s branches brambly arms stretching out in all directions and providing an interesting silhouette to consider, especially in the dark. Every single Joshua tree we came across in the park was unique, and I could honestly spend days wandering around the park just looking at the them- there’s something both beautiful and slightly grotesque in their shape thats beyond captivating.

Then there’s the Cholla Cactus ( Cylindropuntia fulgida)  , also known as the Jumping Cholla.  Why it’s known as the jumping cactus is a question you should really ask before you find yourself wandering among them, because if you don’t known the answer, you might find yourself screaming a loud “OUCH!” when the cuddly looking plant you’ve been admiring suddenly appears to have attached a spindly segment of itself on your clothes (if your lucky). I always try and read the information signs posted before entering an exhibit area, so I was well informed and alert to these little buggers and managed to get in and out without a jumper, but we saw at least two people looking mighty unhappy as we left and I can’t only imagine the level of their discomfort. Yikes.

After we left that fun area, we stopped to gaze out at the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) . Not actually a cactus, though definetly arresting and dramatic enough for this desert environment. By this point you’ve crossed from the Mojave desert side of the park over to the Colorado desert portion, and you’ll definetly start noticing the change in the landscape. Its more sparse, more of what’d you’d normally expect in these western type deserts that you’ve seen in the movies. It’s a long looooong drive from one end of the park to the other, which is why I highly suggest stopping in at Cottonwood Springs before you leave.

This area is beautiful, quiet and utterly unexpected. We didn’t do the hike out to the Lost Palms Oasis but it’s definetly something i’d like to do when I come back one day…. as well as check out some of the abandoned mines in the park as well, because of course.

We headed out of the park after wandering underneath the leafy cottonwoods and  towering desert fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) towards the Salton Sea, Bombay Beach and Salvation Mountain, and I honestly can’t imagine a better way to leave that part of the park. We came back to see the sun set among the Joshua Trees near Hidden Valley and Quail Springs but…thats for another post.


Where Legends Go To Die- the Ghost Town of Rhyolite, Nevada

Rhyolite Ghost Town Train Station, Rhyolite Ghost Town Rhyolite Ghost Town Rhyolite Ghost Town Rhyolite Ghost Town Rhyolite Ghost Town Rhyolite Ghost Town

There’s places you visit where you feel like if you could just reach out and touch the right surface, you might get a true glimpse into the past.

I pick the places I visit based on just one thing- my interest in them. There’s places in Death Valley National Park that are known as “must visit” places that we skipped over (like Zabriskie Point) either because I didn’t feel like battling the crowds to get to them or because there were other places I wanted to see more. No one recommended the ghost town site of Skidoo and yet, it was my most favorite part of the trip.

Rhyolite would be a close second except for the fun fact that technically, it’s not actually part of Death Valley NP. It lies just outside the boundaries of the park, on the way to the town of Beatty and U.S. Route 95 (which will take you back to Las Vegas). If you’re heading out of the park in that direction or you happen to be taking the difficult way into Titus Canyon, which IS in the parks boundaries, then I highly recommend taking a small detour to check this place out. Or you can go like I did, aiming full on ready just for this ghost town and nothing else.

There were only a few people walking around when we got here, and as the sun crept lower and lower, the eeriness of the town grew. I really enjoy visiting and exploring abandoned areas and structures- there’s just something about places that time has passed on by that just tugs at something deep within me- and Rhyolite is so far the best of these places i’ve visited. If you’re at all interested in places like this and your in the area (or even if your not) I couldn’t recommend making a trip out here more than I already have.

For more info on this town and it’s history,here’s a good primer.