We have been trying to figure out how/where to begin our blog. Do we start at the beginning of our journey and risk overwhelming(or worse boring) you with a backstory? So we decided to start NOW! Right here at Sequoia National Forest. It took us 4 epic days of dirt roads, 1000’s of boulders, beautiful views, and HOT desert(not necessarily in that order) to reach our destination.
Coming from Joshua Tree it normally takes someone 3 hours to reach The Needles area of Sequoia National Forest. We are far from normal. We study our map/gazetteer to create the “perfect route” from point A to point B. Researching each town, spying each boulder, searching out each hot springs, and looking for any quirky/unique hot spot.
After pulling out of Joshua Tree, our last time on route 62 till the end of the year, we traveled northwest out of Yucca Valley on Pioneer Town Rd. When we hit Rim Rock, a dusty blink of a town where the pavement meets the dirt, and the San Gorgonio Wilderness turns into the San Bernardino National Forest. This is where another adventure begins. The first leg was 20 miles. This took us a day and a half. In that day and a half; we saw the largest Joshua trees we have ever seen, drove some of the burliest 4×4 worthy roads our van/home could stand, and by the time we reached our campsite in the San Bernardino National Forest, we couldn’t believe what our eyes weren’t seeing. There was no one around. We hadn’t seen anyone for hours. Once again we feel like we are the only two people on earth.
Bob Marley sang, “If ur not livin’ good children, You gotta travel wide”. We are firm believers. Jodi(my wife), and I(my name is Donn Ketchum) are travelers. We have been on the road now for 2 years and 2 months. We travel, work, rock climb, and experience life “out of the norm”. People ask us about the life we ‘gave up’. Well, potlucks with friends, impromptu breakfasts, holidays with family and friends. These are the things we gave up. Not the house, the job, the TV- couch- bed- shower(I can go on). Our life is magical, We wouldn’t trade it. And yes, we dearly love and miss our friends and family.
Day two started at 6 a.m. though it seemed later(maybe because we went to bed at 7:30 the night before). We dropped the top and hit the dirt. It wasn’t long before we hit the 4×4, or what should have been 4×4 section. After many switchbacks, rocks, ruts, and external navigation strategies(that would be Jodi in the road telling me the best line to take) we arrived in Big Bear to discover two of our favorite things, thrift stores and tamales! While scoring great deals at the local thrift store we met Liberty, a wonderful, vibrant, Very informative local. She sent us to her favorite place to have lunch, El Mulito. They make fresh tamales(vegetarian too) every morning!, and Tuesday is $1.00 taco day. We filled our bellies and headed northeast. Half way between Big Bear and Silver Peak is a place called Cactus Flats. There you will find a plethora of beautiful boulders. Very reminiscent of (being in) the Buttermilks. OK we can stop for an hour or so, but we have a destination to reach, so we must push on. There have been few places we have been that we ask ourselves,”why would anyone live here?”- Well…. Lucerne Valley, California is on the list! Never have we seen a dustier town. It felt like we were on a set for a tornado movie. The wind did not stop, the dust clouds were thick and seemed endless. Apple Valley, Victorville, and Kramer Junction making our way northwest. Highway18, route 395, highway 58, lastly we drive through California City, the last town before our next 40 miles of dirt road.
Day 3- We woke to the unrelenting wind, the same wind that rocked us to sleep the night before. After deciding that cooking breakfast was out of the question, we rolled on looking for some hot springs fun. Driving north towards Miracle Hot Springs, we connect to Saddle Springs Rd(The extreme switchback fun is unmatched in our travels). Coming around a turn a tower comes into view, we assume it be a fire tower. It says KEEPOUT with old spray paint, so…. It is time to snoop! After pushing or luck it’s time to bounce. When we arrived at Miracle Hot Spring, to our dismay, it was closed. So.. we headed to Lake Isabella. Always remembering; It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Who said that?
Day 4- Again the wind was merciless, and we are ready to be amongst the giants. Next stop Redwood Meadow, The Land of 100 Giants. I don’t know how someone could NOT be humbled in a place like this. While walking among the trees both of us felt a sense of calm. You feel honored to be near these ancient beings. When we walked up on the fallen giant, we couldn’t help to examine it from end to end. At the breaks you could see the center, the heart of the Redwood. I almost felt like an ant walking all over it, leaving nothing unchecked.