For the past few months I’ve been living and working at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, explaining activities, hikes, and transportation options to the guests that pour in every day from all over the world. I’ve got to say, I think I have the best job in the entire park. The guests that come to my desk are typically adventurers in some capacity or another - backpackers, mule riders, rafters, badass retirees living out their bucket list items. Over time I’ve come to understand the most important elements that go into planning a South Rim trip depending on what type of traveler you are. Families, hikers, and day trippers all have different concerns, and I hope to round them up for you all here.
As I prepared for my exodus from Southern California, I made a last minute effort to cross another thing off my must-see list by rambling around in one of my new favorite national parks - Death Valley. It’s pretty easy to figure things out once you’re there, but if you’re the researching/planning type, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Today was the final day of my Los Angeles-to-Redwoods-and-back road trip, a whirlwind that kept me busy and alert every waking moment of the past four days. As I pulled out of the RV Park, I already felt it setting in: The Dread. I missed this lifestyle already, and I was still getting to live it for one more day. This mourning created a mild panic that followed me into Cambria and insisted that I try to milk every last drop out of the final miles ahead.
I’d bemoaned passing so quickly through the Bay Area the prior day, and since I didn’t have to be in San Jose for my Winchester Mystery House tour until 2PM and the Bigfoot Discovery Museum wouldn’t close until 6PM, the thought struck me that I could spend the afternoon exploring my favorite literary generation in the very city it was born in: The Beat Movement in San Francisco.
I got settled for the night, and then it happened - just as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a vicious screeching sound followed by two hisses, all of which sounded like some kind of cat (or two) right outside my tent. Then it happened again. They were probably just domestic farm cats, but I’d read that this was bobcat territory and of course my imagination ran wild for the rest of the night. What was that? Why was it hissing at me? Where was it now? Did my brain dream it up?
I had a list of unfinished business to attend to with four days, one car, and one backpack at my disposal. I refuse to live over a year in California without having seen the mighty Redwoods. Driving from Los Angeles to Humboldt Redwoods State Park directly, without any detours, is something like ten hours and doesn’t sound particularly appealing for a marathon out-and-back drive in one weekend, but taking two days to get there and two days to get back? Stopping along the way to knock other things off the bucket list? Leaving space in between to wander off course and make new discoveries? A race against time, but it just might work.
Hour ten. I can’t take it anymore. I pull over to the first gas station I see to stretch my atrophying muscles and buy a late night “dinner” of a donut and some hot cheetos (I’m in survival mode). I jump up and down a couple times and say a small prayer to no-one - God was not present here. I’m on the drive home to LA from Vegas on the worst possible day to be on the drive to LA from Vegas; that’s right, it’s the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, and I’m a sucker.
I probably heard about Slab City the same way you did; either through the Chris McCandless story, or through reading Civil Disobedience and then Googling “is there anywhere in the world you can still live freely?” I’ve wanted to visit it for years, and since my <insert travel equivalent of biological clock here> has been ticking, I finally committed to making a day trip just to check it out. In the summer. In the punishing heat of Southern California. Sweet Jesus why do I hate myself.