Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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Sunrise over Death Valley, from Mahogany Flats Campground This was to be the day of my grand Telescope Peak hike, the main reason that brought me back to the United States on this trip. Consequently, I was up early, before the sun even rose. I had all my stuff ready just as it appeared over the mountains as a red ball of fire, sadly once with the view partially obstructed by trees.

I started hiking at 6:15am, and signed in at the trail register at 6:30am. The sign at the start of the trail indicated that this was a 7 mile hike, and I knew that I had to cover over 3000 feet of vertical elevation. Hence, I was well-equipped, carrying food, water and enough clothing to handle cool temperatures.

The trail gradually gains in elevation over the first two miles while going around Roger's Peak, before reaching a ridge that it follows for most of the remaining distance before turning into some switchbacks on the last mile and a half.

I made good progress in the first hour, covering the first two miles and a thousand feet of elevation. The next hour went just as well, with me reaching four miles just just two hours after leaving. It was after around three hours that I encountered the first hikers for the day, two man who were coming back from the top (where they had obviously been the day before and had camped somewhere on the trail). I wouldn't meet any other persons until I was well on my way back down.

On the way to Telescope Peak, Death Valley's highest mountain While the first thousand feet of elevation were moderately strenuous, and the hike along the ridge (with some descent, even) was easy, I had a lot of difficulties handling the switchbacks on the last mile and a half to the top. The pauses grew more and more frequent, and I had barely walked a few feet after such a pause that I was still tired again.

Still, I made some more progress, and after about four hours I finally arrived at the top of Telescope Peak.

Temperatures had been fairly low from the ridge to the top, with lots of cold wind as soon as I was facing Panamint Valley. The views weren't too bad - there was some haze, but overall I don't think I can complain.

Reading the last few pages of the trail register at the peak proved to be interesting, too. On average, there had only been a handful of hikers at the top on any given day. Some reported bad conditions with limited visibility, some bragged about their ascent times, others noted how long it took them.

I didn't stay too long at the top though, the cold drove me into the valley again.

The descent proved to be worse than the ascent... at least for the first few miles. A few times, I not only stopped to rest, but just lay down flat on the trail, too exhausted to even sit. But I eventually recovered, and the last two or three miles from the ridge were covered with relative ease.

It was on these last few miles that I met a second group of hikers, who were only up to the ridge (and who, judging by the speed they rejoined me at the trailhead later on, didn't make it there).

After 6.55 miles, I was at the car again (and thus, did one mile less than the signs had me believe). Total trip time was around seven hours, with the ascent taking one hour more than the descent.

I still had some time before sunset, and two more days until I returned back home. And I didn't know what to do. So on a whim, and thinking that I wouldn't be able to do much hiking the next two days anyway, I figured I'd turn the remainder of my trip into a road trip.

Being in California, the logical destinations were Route 66 on one day, and Highway 1 up to San Francisco on the other. Today, however, I had to head east first, chosing to go as far as Kingman in Arizona as the next day's starting point.

I checked in at a fairly downbeat motel, paid 25$ inclusive tax for the night, and shortly after cursed the lack of remote control on the TV. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep.

Motel/Hotel Accommodation: [Unknown motel] (Kingman, AZ): $25

Written on November 3rd 2002 at 13:15 at some random corridor at Amsterdam Airport, after erring around for half an hour in search of a power outlet.