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East Side of the Sierras. Death Valley.

Last week Sylvia and I went on a road trip, across the Sierras at Carson Pass, and then down along the east side of the Sierras through Lone Pine to Death Valley.

It was alternately raining and snowing around Carson Pass. We stayed in a familiar place there called Sorensen’s. I had a great Zen moment near the lodge, snowshoeing across a sodden meadow by a swollen, chaotic river, the snow dropping heavily, at a slight angle to the vertical, etching with white each damp dead grass blade and bosky spring twig. Me there on the bank, the rushing stream, my thoughts, the slightly off-kilter snow, the latent waiting growth all around, the insects under the tree bark, the protozoa in the moss in the stream, my breath, all of us together, no zap mind flash, just standing there, in the One, grateful.

And we headed south through mysterious rainy mountains.

White peaks showing through the fog and clouds.

We spent a night in Lone Pine, at the base of Mount Whitney. Really a cool place, uncrowded, with an Alpine, or no, Sierran, vibe. Love old painted neon signs like this. The trout icon.

From the east side, the Sierras are like a single wall, hundreds of miles long, peak after peak. From the west side you don’t see this, you come up on the mountains through rising foothills. But from the east, it’s, like, wham. The Tetons are like this from the north side in Wyoming. I dug the drainage watershed patterns embossed in snow. Fractal trees.

The “Whitney Portal” access road runs west from Lone Pine, but just a few miles out of town there are these formations called the Alabama Hills—apparently a Confederate Army veteran named them! I loved this one stone, I thought of it as the egg of the Great Auk.

Rolling on towards Death Valley we went through parched badlands with Joshua Trees. Less and less life.

Looking at Death Valley, I keep finding myself saying—“So why did we want to come here?” A good thing we did there was to get up before dawn and see the sun rise at 6:15 am at Zabriskie point. It continued slowly rising for almost an hour, embossing more and more of the wrinkled rocks. This one looked like an elephant, and definitely like something Georgia O’Keefe would paint.

And the parking lot a beautiful three-dimensional space curve.

Feeling chipper, glazed in golden sun, I went off on a two hour “Badlands Loop” hike there.

I only saw one or two others on the Badlands Loop. I liked this spot, kind of like a naturally occurring Zen garden. So empty, so quiet. On the badlands trek, I finally got some new ideas for how to set up the character roster for a sequel to my Hollow Earth novel—the book that I’m currently thinking of writing next.

Repeatedly of late, I’ll have these flashes that the ambient chaotic strange-attractor-type natural processes around me are objective-correlatives for my psychic state, or for my right-that-moment interactions with people. This is in a good way. Like the world is thinking me, instead of me thinking the world.

By the end of the Badlands loop train, I was completely lost, and out of water, and having to scramble over these two hundred foot cones of dirt, getting a brief view of my goal, and then back into the maze, a process so very much like life itself.

At that time, or during the night after, I had a dream or a vision of a really huge McDonald’s, like a golden Hindu temple, or a Vegas casino, wreathed in golden lights, with a facade as intricate as a neon cathedral. And when Sylvia and I left Death Valley to drive home, I was totally convinced that this McDonalds was an actual restaurant that we’d find down by the pawky bar and general store near our Furnace Creek hotel. And I was surprised the golden radiant neon McDonald’s wasn’t there, but then I thought it would be at the next stop, the desolate Stovepipe Wells, and it wasn’t there, and I thought it would be at the skeletal Panamint Springs, and it wasn’t there, and then finally I admitted to myself and to Sylvia that I was suffering from a—hallucinatory delusion.

That happens in a dream sometimes—I’ll see something in the dream, and in the dream I’ll have a false memory that I’ve seen this thing many times. Not good to have that when I’m awake, though.

We checked out this loop called Artist’s Drive, because of the variegated colors of the stones. I like the line of cars in the parking lot. Like feeding at a trough. Mostly we managed to hit more deserted sites than this. But it was worth seeing.

This one battlement shape is cool. Like a Temple of Doom. The Fortress of the Krull.

On the way out of Death Valley we went across a huge mud flat. Got a classic photo of “woman in desert with car” here.

I love the tessellated cracks in mud. Mathematicians have theories about these patterns, you won’t be surprised to learn. All I’ll point out here is that most of the corners have three or four cracks meeting.

We hit Lone Pine again on the way up. Really such a relief to see some green stuff. We looked more closely at the Alabama Hills formations there, and found three live-critter-type fomrations that I’ll call burrowers. They can be messengers from the Holllow Earth. Yeah, three chthonic burrowers named Jeroon, Pahrump, and Bugg. Having three burrowers appear at once is of course too much. So Jeroon might be the main one, the messenger, surprisingly well-spoken. And we meet him first. And on the way down we encounter a hostile Pahrump. And then Jeroen’s friend Bugg saves their ass.

This is Jeroon. He’s a variant of a mutant “grulloo” character from Frek and the Elixir, the man who’s a head that runs around on two arms/legs. I liked Jeroon’s personality, in that book, and could use him again with, what the heck, the same name. “Jeroon” comes from Heironymus Bosch’s actual first name, Jeoren…Bosch himself appears in my novel Hylozoic .

Pahrump looks a little like Donald Trump, although I won’t mention that. Possibly he looks like an enemy of my hero Mason Reynolds in San Francisco. There could even be a direct connection between the apparently human enemy and this burrower.

Bugg might be like the talking cockroach Franx from White Light. Note the woman poking him. He’s Jeroon’s friend.

Found a cool “Mobius strip” loop of rock. And dig the Sierran peak behind.

I’m always down with rocks that have holes in them.

And here’s a magic door to another world. Always convenient to have some of those around. Possibly this leads to Ye Olde Hollowe Earthe!

Spent the night in dead little town called Bridgeport, pretty much the last stop before Carson Pass. Had a terrible meal at this vintage diner style restaurant. Whatever. Loved the red neon and the waitress’s kind, worn face. Always great to be on the road!

One Response to “East Side of the Sierras. Death Valley.”

  1. Simon Says:

    I always enjoy your photos, but for whatever reason these desert pictures are really knocking me out this afternoon (perhaps because of the contrast to the rather gray, cloudy day outside my window as I read this).

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