Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rockhound on the Road - Rockin’ the Surf - Installment 2

(Installment 1 is below)

We spent two nights at Plaskett Creek before heading south toward the Hearst Castle where we hoped to get in on a tour before our ultimate destination for the day, Jalama Beach near Lompoc. Just before we got to San Simeon, we encountered the Elephant Seal Beach where thousands of elephant seals of all ages and sizes were sunning themselves, suckling their calves, posturing and bellowing for territorial rights, and generally living what looked like the good life. We arrived at the Castle in time for the next tour, and saw how “the good life” was lived in the 30s and 40s.

Jalama beach was not only windy, but the surf was so loud that it sounded like a gale—not pleasant for sleeping. Here we did more rockhounding, finding something called root beer agate, and of course other pebbles and seashells. There were also tidal pools with orange, yellow, and blue starfish and sea urchins—quite extraordinary for landlubbers like ourselves.

We had hoped to head home through Death Valley, but only had enough time to make a detour through Tecopa Hot Springs. Not much rockhounding there, but the water was good. However it was about this time that the weather began to turn on us, and the next day we arrived in the Mojave Desert in time for an afternoon rain. Living in the desert, we never begrudge a desert rain, and after it stopped we hiked over the lava flows which glistened black in the low light. Then we walked through the short expanse of a lava tube with incredible flows that looked as fresh and sticky as frosting.

Here we split with our friends—they heading toward Laughlin and we heading back to Quartzsite for another afternoon of shopping before hitting the highway the next day. We camped at the same exit on the other side of the highway in what seemed like a private spot even though we could hear other campers maybe a half mile away. It was just off a gravel road, so we were quite startled the next morning when at first light an 18-wheeler zipped by on the way to who-knows-where! Then another! My first thought as the first one roared by was--earthquake! They must have been going to a quarry on a dead-end turn up the road a ways, because from there the road degenerated into something suitable only for 4-wheelers.

The drive home was long and tiring, but we arrived at a good hour with plenty of light to unpack and settle in. I have to mention the price of gas. Most places in California it was around $3.80/gallon. The most we paid was $4.59 in Needles, but with the needle dropping below E, we bit the bullet and paid the price. Altogether the cost was over $500 in gas alone, but it was worth the trip.

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