french spring trail flowers

My Mini Spring Thru Hike

I aborted my big Spring thru hike because of weather and taxes. Meh.

Instead, I finished a solo tour of old mines in the Inyo mountain range of central California west of Death Valley. The “Lonesome Miner Trail” — what the late Wendell Moyer* called it — is 40-50 miles of rough, hard-to-follow disused trail involving somewhere near 17,000 vertical feet of elevation gain/loss. Except I added about 50 bonus miles (and 14k more vertical feet) to the route (thru Death Valley to the trailhead and up and down French Spring trail for resupply/snow escape) because I didn’t have shuttles arranged. It’s the most difficult “trail” I’ve hiked, definitely tougher mile-for-mile than the Hayduke and Sierra High Route and Lowest-to-Highest.

As soon as I’d drop 2000-3000 feet, I’d have 2000-3000′ to go back up, carrying large amounts of water spring-to-spring in the radiant heat of Death Valley. Concerns were cacti, rattlers, and long plunges to my certain death. Rinse, repeat. The total isolation, high risk, and exposure to 49er history frozen in time (and one surprise big Paiute camp with tremendous petroglyphs) makes the Lonesome Miner Trail a treat one might love to hate. I’ll write more about it after I have my thoughts together. And you’ll never find the petroglyphs so don’t try**.

logo image of man walking a mule in hills with clouds in background. Says Lonesome Miner Trail Inyo Mountains Wilderness.I found this image on stickers placed along the route (in cabins) and recreated it once home with my graphic design doohickey. It’s cool the BLM went even to the extreme of giving the trail a logo!

Oh God I’m such a tease.

I might not actually write about it.

We’ll see.

Here’s a few panoramas for now.

hunter canyon trail miner campIt’s a 5000′ climb out of the gate on the Lonesome Miner Trail south end. If you need to, you can stop here for the night.

Or just one. Ha.

Hashtag Vanlife

I haven’t been posting on social media since November. So… in case you were wondering if I still have Chief Pete, yes! Of course. And he’s great! He’s now got 100w solar, I have the sink pump running local friends’ crystal clear spring and well water, and everything else works, too. Phew! The bed could be a little more comfortable because the upholstery foam has worn thin over the years, but it can wait.

Chief Pete in the Alabama Hills April 18April 18 in the Alabama Hills

I’ve been living out of my van now for three and a half years now, and my friends know it… and so my pen pal of 24 years sent me the recent New Yorker article about “vanlife.” Snail mail! I read it, and gagged. I don’t think I want to be associated with “vanlife.” I’m just not that. I mean I am that and a whole lot more, but the whole idea of living your life for social media and sponsorships is so depressing to me. Every time I meet another van owner, I shy away from the topic of what our media profiles are, and the topic inevitably comes up. It makes me feel like a circus sideshow, like I’m a performer. And it feels competitive. All of us seem to feel pressure to have the raddest vans and go the coolest places, nevermind take the sickest photos. I’m just trying to have fun and stay happy. And I happen to own this van.

I definitely have taken pictures during my adventures with the idea in mind of capturing the essence of what I was doing to share it with my Instagram friends, but I was never approached about sponsorship or posting for a living, and never wanted it***. I can’t whore my life out that way. I’m very proud of of what I’ve scraped together using my own wits since I moved out of the house at 15. I work hard, I meet great people, and that’s how I get by and live the real adventure I enjoy. I’m very happy and it’s definitely not for sale.

In my opinion adventure just isn’t contrived. This seems contrived (“became a lifestyle brand”):

New Yorker Van Life article

A lifestyle brand???

* Wendell Moyer died happy above 20,000 feet in Chile after long mountaineering career. He helped scout and rebuild much of the LMT and they chose to adopt his lil’ moniker for the patchwork route. This route is sacred on so many levels, Wendell being near the core.

** Or my local Paiute friend will hunt you down and mess up your face. She didn’t even like that I found it. At all. I was a little scared.

*** The ads that occur on certain places on my website are earmarked to pay for my hosting and are automatically placed by Adsense. I don’t work with advertisers and I definitely don’t allow questionable categories of ads. I’ve made like… $105 in the past three years, haha.

**** If you would like my 6-page maps of the Lonesome Miner Trail, click here for the big file (PDF, 44MB). Click here for compressed file (PDF, 5MB). Pepper Flake used ’em and said the maps are “very accurate,” but they still have a couple grey areas (marked in red on the maps) due to rock slides and erosion. My LMT maps are designed for safety with a 1:15250 aspect, UTM, and exit trails marked.