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Blair Valley Meditation Retreat 4/11 - 4/20 Messages in this topic - RSS

DanSimon
DanSimon
Posts: 2


4/21/2014
DanSimon
DanSimon
Posts: 2
Spent a week in Blair Valley on a solo meditation retreat. (from 4/11 to 4/20)
Camped at the southern camp near Ghost Mountain (near the Marshall South trailhead).
A huge boulder (15 ft high?) provided most of my shelter - during the day just needed shade - stayed on the north side of the boulder, moving my location to keep the shade. Also, from this location - it feels like you're closed in on all 360 degrees. The way to the west was a little open though (with views to granite mountain and at night you could see the cars on S-2).
One aspect to being closed in like that is the acoustics - lots of echos...hearing the crowes in the morining, or coyotes at night was heightened by the echos bouncing off the mountains.
Also - seems like ghost mountain on its northern face is concave, lending to the echo effect.

camp debris - 22 shells, fire remains (charred wood), nails?, broken glass, one old wire hanger (probably for marshmellows or hotdog roasting)
Not sure what the deal was with the nails. Every day I'd find some rusty nails around the boulder. I ended up dubbing that boulder "Home Depot Rock". If you ever need nails, you know where to find them. Just head out to Home Depot Rock where all your household tools and supplies can be found.

The charred wood makes a big mess - even little bits - they blow around with the wind getting on to everything.
This is mostly a problem on the eastern side of the boulder - closest to where one would park.

I cleaned up as much debris/trash as I could - the wind would reveal a little more from the sand each day: a gunshell here, a nail there, broken glass.


I decided to literaly pack out my crap seeing as I was there for an extended period. I brought something called a "luggable loo" which is basically a home depot 5 gallon bucket with a toilet lid. There is a whole art form for using these things. I had a custom setup. My one word of advice : don't touch the wrong end of the shitstick.
http://www.amazon.com/Reliance-Products-Luggable-Portable-Gallon/dp/B000FIAPXO



I had brought an REI inCamp 100 shelter (kind of like a canopy - 10'X10' footprint.) I tried using it several times, but the wind made it not so fun. With the boulder, I didn't really need the REI canopy. Eventually I ended up bending one of the canopy's tent poles - kind of bummed about that.
http://www.rei.com/product/862436/rei-incamp-shelter-100

After the second day, I decided to put up my tent - North Face starlight. Had the rain fly on some of the time.
http://www.oocities.org/yosemite/trails/5416/starfire.htm

For light, I had one of those "9 hour" candle lantern, a "30 day lantern" (3 d-cell led), and a small modern maglite type 2-AA (Nitecore MT21A).
I stopped using the candle lantern because there were some moths that would commit kamakazie suicide by flying into the candle housing.
These moths were very attracted to the light, and sometimes they would do a mating ritual dance for the light.
http://www.amazon.com/UCO-Anodized-Original-Candle-Lantern/dp/B006WGA01K/ref=pd_sim_sg_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1484TNKV5ZYCYTFMX7NH
http://www.amazon.com/UST-20-PL20C3D-Parent-30-Day-Lantern/dp/B00E9P02L4
http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?368745-New-Nitecore-MT21A


I had no idea what my water consumption would be like. It turns out I brought way too much water (probably 20+ gallons including other liquids) and had a bit left over (including dumping some at the end).
food : oatmeal, box of granola, 2 boxes of cheeze-its, oranges, freeze dried meals (mary janes farm - about 400 cal ea.), campbels soup in a pouch (w/water), power gel blocks, trail mix, applesauce, fruit cups
Primus EtaExpress Stove (backpacking canister stove)


One of the best things I brought was my "outdoor rug". Made of some woven, plastic material. I saw some "sand free" ground covers at REI which I think would also be great.
My outdoor rug was just right for setting up my meditation space, and I could move the whole rug setup around the boulder as the sun progressed.


In general, tried not to do too much activity, or eat too much. In past retreats I end up eating two meals a day (after a few days) - sometimes one. And try not to eat after noon.
(activity and eating/digesting is counter productive to meditation. Meditation was my priority).

on the second or third day - went for a walk East (towards pictograph/motero trails). My footwear was some old tennis shoes. As I was walking I felt the unmistakable tinge of a cholla sticking the ball of my foot. It turned out the tennis shoes' soles were thin and I had stepped right on some debris from a cholla cactus. I am fairly careful when I walk but after that I knew what to look for. It took several attempts to get the spines out of the soles of my shoes - I would walk for a while and feel another stick, take the shoe off, examine for spines, put the shoe back on, walk for a while, feel another stick, etc.
After that, never wore the tennis shoes again. Had some Asolo hiking boots, tevas.
Oddly enough my main footwear were these adidas adissage slipers. Around camp it was easy to avoid the cholla:
http://www.footlocker.com/product/model:172165/sku:21145/adidas-adissage-fade-mens/blue/white/?cm=searchmenssandals


humans - almost every day people would come to hike to the Marshal South home. My camp had a clear view of the beginning climb, and over the days I learned to see the trail from where I was. The first saturday a convoy of about 5 trucks came with a bunch of (kids?) to hike it. On the last night a car camped a the marshal south trailhead. Oddly enough, the last day 4/20 seemed the least busy - I didn't see anyone come to hike it, but I left around 10:30am.

couple nights one or two cars would come careening out of the dark on the trail from blair valley towards little blair valley.

Animals:
kangaroo mouse - I only saw one of these at night - around 9:30pm. I had been meditating for about 1hr with the 30-day lantern on. I suddenly opened my eyes and out of the corer saw something scurry away behind a creosote bush. It startled me enough to investigate. I held the lantern up and saw the mouse. It couldn't quite figure me out and seemed like it was going to hang around. I waved the lantern around which made it give a "WTF?" look at me, and it finally took off into the night.
crowes - 2 or 3 hang out in the area. Its like an amplitheater there - in the morning, one crow would fly in an rouse the others, all of them hanging out on ghost mountain's north face.
coyotes - never saw one but most night you'd hear them
hooded orioles ?
grosbeaks (birds)
lizards - like to dig in the dirt. Dig a little, peek out to see if about to get eaten, dig a little more, peek out again, etc.
hummingbirds - made a different sound than San Diego city humming birds - like a siren whistle
bats - about 7:30pm every night - bats came out until night decended
flys - several types - some small ones were particularly attracted to me. For whatever reason, when I wore my hat they stayed off of my face. I think they didn't like the brim - maybe it felt like they were trapped.
when the wind was there, the flies were not. When its still, flys come out.
moths - several moths visited at night.
insects - a couple of really strange small insects - something like a tick/spider like thing, a stick like mantis (about 1 inch long), couple times saw this one leaf like mantis thing that was real small (< 1cm?).
flea like creatures - longer and skinnier than a flea. would play dead if you blew on them.
rabbits - cottontails, jackrabbits
turkey vultures

In general, animals trip out when someone is meditating. Either they don't notice you or will try to figure out what the hell is going on. Sometimes they get close and then get startled when you finally move. Had a couple hummingbirds get real close, lizards, cottontails, kangaroo mouse...crow flybys.

Plants:
creosote
smaller cactus (hedgehog? purple flower)
cholla (ganders?)
ocotillo
desert agave
Juniper
Barrel Cacti
other stuff I'l forgetting

Weather:
There was wind most days, and one thing I did not consider: the meditation technique I was practicing has you focus on the sensation of breath on the upper lip area. The wind made this difficult, and I feel the wind added "extra credit" or "extra difficulty" to the meditations. Some times I would put a bandana over my face to shield it from the wind.
It seemed the wind had a personality of its own. It could get into any cracks or crevices, no matter how much you shielded the area. Sometimes it seemed like the wind was not coming from any direction, and yet was still blowing.
A few days of "less wind". Even some still moments. Apparent tempature goes up.


First night - wind started up - night clouds moving fast.
to the west - looks like some weather activity in the lagunas.
wind is from the west first few days.
Next day - very windy, clear skys.
Sky gets progressively cloudier over a few days (cirrus clouds?)
another weather pattern emerges - tends towards overcast
wind seems to be comming from the east now.
near the second half of the week - a couple days of overcast. One pre-dawn rain drop type event.
off to the north - looks like rain in the mountains.



The moon went through quite a change in phase and rise time as the week went by. At the beginning it was full and rising before sunset. At the end it was comming up later in the evening.

Saw some shooting stars...satelites.
Several days of afternoon flybys of military aircraft - hellicopters, turboprop type planes, (fighter?) jets
Noticed a night time flight path that seemed to come from NE to SW a little north of Blair Valley.


Drove home via San Filepe Rd. Saw some hikers along S-2/scissors crossing area (PCT?). Later on I was thinking I should have stopped to see if they wanted any water. I'll be kicking myself for that one for a while.


I only took pics at the end of the retreat. My only camera was my cell phone...and the camera on that is broken. I broke my phone (water damage) in a hail storm on San Gorgonio last September upset

The date codes are all screwed up because my phone bat. died and no cell coverage there.

not sure how to do the inline photo attachments here...
but my photos are :
1 view towards Granite mt.



2 view North from camp


3 Home Depot Rock


4 My morning meditation setup (cushions, rug, on west face of boulder)

.
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edited by DanSimon on 4/21/2014
edited by dsefcik on 4/22/2014
edited by DanSimon on 4/22/2014

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ziphius
ziphius
Posts: 890


4/21/2014
ziphius
ziphius
Posts: 890
Welcome to the forum. Sounds like a nice retreat and a good length of time to spend out there. Thanks for packing out your (and others) trash!

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ImpatientHiker
ImpatientHiker
Posts: 41


4/21/2014
ImpatientHiker
ImpatientHiker
Posts: 41
Wow. I love the desert for its dichotomy of scale. From the mountains to the really small rocks (otherwise known as sand). Geological processes like gradual uplifting to sudden flash floods. My own experiences usually involve scarfing calories and seeing as much as I can while still trying to notice the details.
Thank you for another perspective (& for cleaning up). I would bet that the charred wood you encountered once held all those nails.
-Robert
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Florian
Florian
Posts: 129


4/21/2014
Florian
Florian
Posts: 129
Hi Dan. I enjoyed reading this.

-Florian
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Florian
Florian
Posts: 129


4/21/2014
Florian
Florian
Posts: 129
Also re the shade shelter. I've tried a couple of similar ones but usually find they are too much of a bother. I'm usually alone and get enough shade just sitting next to my jeep. I can see they night be nice with a group.

-Florian
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anutami
anutami
Posts: 491


4/21/2014
anutami
anutami
Posts: 491
Looks like a great relaxing trip. The woven plastic mats are the best!

I wonder if this is the same campsite we had

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dsefcik
dsefcik
Administrator
Posts: 2518


4/22/2014
dsefcik
dsefcik
Administrator
Posts: 2518
That was a good TR Thumbs Up

I usually will camp there also and have spent many summer nights there when nobody is around at all. That boulder is special and should be taken care of, Blair/Little Blair has significant cultural history. The nails you are finding is from all the palettes and other debris wood people bring out there and burn for campfires, the nails get left behind on the ground. I remember one night I camped there solo in the summer and one group showed up right at dusk at the Marshal South parking area, they made lots of noise and backpacked up to Ghost Mtn. I could hear and see them the whole way. Once up at the top (in the dark now) they proceeded to shine some really bright laser lights down at me, my truck an the boulder. they were laughing and making jokes about how bright it was and they could see me so easily that far away....they didn't get the fact I could easily hear everything they were saying way down below.

On another trip to Home Depot Rock, it was about dusk and I was sitting on the ground having a nice warm beer in 100+ degree heat and a jack rabbit came hopping around my truck and stopped about 10' in front of me....he just sat there twitching his nose and whiskers around staring at me for awhile, maybe 5 minutes or so....then hopped away. On another summer trip, I think it was returning from the BHS count, a summer monsoon blasted the area and filled the morteros behind the boulder and about 8 million bees came in and sucked them dry in about 10 minutes.

@Nolan: Yes that is the same spot

Great post DanSimon, thanks for sharing...that is a great camp spot and that boulder should be looked after and cared for.

Daren

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dsefcik
dsefcik
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Posts: 2518


4/22/2014
dsefcik
dsefcik
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Posts: 2518
PS, I fixed your inline images. Once you upload them you can edit by adding the url of the uploaded images as inline images.

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http://www.darensefcik.com
http://www.carrizogorge.com
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hikerdmb
hikerdmb
Posts: 423


4/22/2014
hikerdmb
hikerdmb
Posts: 423
Nice TR. I have spent a day in the Sierra sitting and watching, listening, feeling and that was really great. Not sure I could do a week in one spot. Welcome to the forum.
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rockhopper
rockhopper
Posts: 599


4/22/2014
rockhopper
rockhopper
Posts: 599
Welcome! The desert is a wonderful place if you want to meditate!
Daren, I love the bees drinking from the monsoon storm rain filled morteros.
I saw the same thing at the " Natural Rock Tanks" years back. Must have been thousands of friendly bees all drinking at the same time shoulder to shoulder all the way around the water pool maybe 30 feet circ. and not one bee flying in the air.
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DanSimon
DanSimon
Posts: 2


4/22/2014
DanSimon
DanSimon
Posts: 2
Florian wrote:
Also re the shade shelter. I've tried a couple of similar ones but usually find they are too much of a bother. I'm usually alone and get enough shade just sitting next to my jeep. I can see they night be nice with a group.

-Florian

I wasn't sure about the shelter...but for a 10 day camp I thought I should bring some option like that. I could see it being useful in some conditions...like no wind and no alternate form of shade. I did experiment with a tarp/jeep setup that might work.
I need to do more experimenting with improvised shelters. I also brought some space blankets...I've heard of people using them on top of umbrellas for desert shade. Maybe good for hiking.
When I was planning I thought of maybe duct taping the space blankets to something...but again this probably would only work in a no wind situation.


Nolan (anutami) wrote:

I wonder if this is the same campsite we had

yep thats the one...unmistakable rock there.
I saw another huge rock in the area...but its up on the slopes of the hilly feature to the north. But it looks like a big one.

dsefcik wrote:
That was a good TR Thumbs Up

Thanks...I liked your TR's too. I've been to Dawn's peak 4 times and on the Shad route two additional times (failed attept, and scouting run).
I don't know if you tried that route yet...but on the lower portion from the desert floor there's a trail up to where you drop into the drainage.
Its on the RH side of the ridge, going uphill.
On my first attempt, my friend and I dind't know about the trail and went straight up the middle. It was really difficult. The trail makes it so much easier.
There are some other problem areas that can be avoided...one of the drainages has a lot of boulders/vegetation, but there's a detour to get around it.

dsefcik wrote:

I usually will camp there also and have spent many summer nights there when nobody is around at all. That boulder is special and should be taken care of, Blair/Little Blair has significant cultural history. The nails you are finding is from all the palettes and other debris wood people bring out there and burn for campfires, the nails get left behind on the ground. I remember one night I camped there solo in the summer and one group showed up right at dusk at the Marshal South parking area, they made lots of noise and backpacked up to Ghost Mtn. I could hear and see them the whole way. Once up at the top (in the dark now) they proceeded to shine some really bright laser lights down at me, my truck an the boulder. they were laughing and making jokes about how bright it was and they could see me so easily that far away....they didn't get the fact I could easily hear everything they were saying way down below.

Yes I figured those were pallete nails. After I got home I was thinking maybe I should have left them, in case it was some historical thing. But they really look like pallete nails. Plus those sites are so close to the public that I figured anything I find there is trash.

Re: the noise. Yea that place really carries sound. I was bummed that someone camped at the MS trailhead that one night. But hey its a free country and I was expecting it not to be totally devoid human noise.


dsefcik wrote:

On another trip to Home Depot Rock, it was about dusk and I was sitting on the ground having a nice warm beer in 100+ degree heat and a jack rabbit came hopping around my truck and stopped about 10' in front of me....he just sat there twitching his nose and whiskers around staring at me for awhile, maybe 5 minutes or so....then hopped away. On another summer trip, I think it was returning from the BHS count, a summer monsoon blasted the area and filled the morteros behind the boulder and about 8 million bees came in and sucked them dry in about 10 minutes.



I can see why those morteros are there...shaded spot, nice flat rock. Saw a few bees while I was there...but nowhere near 8 million haha!
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dsefcik
dsefcik
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4/22/2014
dsefcik
dsefcik
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Posts: 2518
OK, maybe 8 million was an exaggeration but it sure seemed like that many when I had to lock myself in my truck to keep them away from me. I briefly took a video of them sucking all the water from the mortero (click photo to play video)



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