Updated: May 19, 2020
This document is the official transcript of the Cold Gate hike. This was a very scary adventure. Not so much during the hike itself, but for the days and weeks after. And this fear increases with each passing day. I wrote about this very real danger in my book Going Alone. It's the consequence of going so far alone into wildness that we might not find our way back...even if we make it back. #GoingAlone
November 14th, 2018
Here’s tomorrow’s plan:
8:00 PM arrival at Siberia, dinner & sleep
5:00 AM enter Deep Water Wilderness
6:00 AM breakfast at the Cold Gate
8:00 AM Arrival at Mt. Wildness (rest)
2:00 PM return arrival at Siberia
9:00 PM dinner with my family
Whatever happens I’ll turn back in time to reach the bike by 2:00 PM. And if there’s any sign at all that the Desert Killer is about, then I’ll get out of there ASAP.
8:22 PM My SPOT rescue beacon is working again. Actually, it wasn’t broken. I simply didn’t know how to use it correctly. Now, as long as I don’t fall into an old mine shaft tomorrow I should be good to go anywhere.
November 15th, 2018
5:44 AM Said bye to my family. The next time I see them I’ll be on the other side of Mt. Wildness - a strange and elusive fiction I’ve pursued for over a decade. #GoingAlone
5:56 AM Off to Mt. Wildness. A place that does not exist. #GoingAlone
12:29 PM Here's a satellite photo of Mt. Wildness showing both potential hiking approaches from Siberia. The flash flood wash at the left side of the image would be the easiest way to get there, as the river of dry sand has a very flat and gentle grade. However, this flash flood route will add about four miles to the round-trip, which would require an overnight stay (which I can't afford due to work on Saturday). The alternate route (and the one I plan to try) is to plunge directly into the badlands I call The Sandman's Bed in order to then reach and cross a small and nameless set of hills (the edge of which are pictured at upper-right. Note to self: name the hills while you're there). The odds are pretty slim that I'll actually find my way through those hills to then emerge exactly in front of Mt. Wildness, though if I'm successful I should come out at about the spot where the red arrow is shown. Getting back to Siberia then will be pretty easy as long as the heat and wind don't get too bad. I'm going to drop several liters of water along the way in order to lighten the load and use on the return trip.
A caring friend just stopped by my cube to wish me well on the journey and I promised her that I'll turn back if the wind, heat or time get out-of-control.
Now, it's time to finish lunch, quit dreaming, and get in a few more hours of productive work before it's time to go.
4:36 PM Work is done. Let’s go.
6:22 PM Crap. That was a cold ride over the mountains. Time for a last supper with some hot coffee.
7:00 PM Last supper before Siberia.
8:20 PM This is the first nighttime arrival at Siberia for the Winter season, 2018. There was a real cold bite in the air and my body was engaged in full body shivers when I stepped off the motorcycle into the dark. But at least there wasn't any wind. That wind. That scary, scary wind. #GoingAlone
8:33 PM and I’ve arrived in Siberia ghost town. So cold. I can’t use my hands very well.
9:20 PM My usual campsite is waiting for me. These carefully arranged stones are my contribution to the ghost town which will long outlast me. I wonder if future generations might come here and wonder about the person who so carefully placed these - and why.
9:25 PM While hiking over to the writing bridge I’ve found the remains of a small woman’s shoe out in the desert. A reminder that ghost towns can only forget.
9:30 PM I made two videos from under the writing bridge at Siberia this past Thursday night. The first was this one, using my better quality camera. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my mind was playing tricks on me as I crossed through the dark and deserted ghost town during my short, quarter-mile hike to the bridge. After I left the crumbled town ruins I kept thinking I was hearing something following behind me in the dark. Of course I ignored my mind's warnings--after all, we're wired by nature to ascribe agency into every suspect sound we hear in the night. Nothing happened when I shut off the light for this video--and it wasn't until the second video (which I'll upload tomorrow after work) that I had my mishap with the sand and wound up losing my flashlight under the bridge while the strange sound from the night came down there to join me. #GoingAlone
9:35 PM Here's the video where an imagined something following me to the writing bridge under Route 66, and where this same fictitious something made its presence known in my mind after I fell and lost my flashlight. It's amazing how dark it can get at night under that old bridge when you lose your flashlight... And how vivid and active the imagination can make something in a place where nothing rightfully reigns. #GoingAlone
9:38 PM No ghosts under the bridge. Though when I turn the light off my mind tells me it hears something... Goodnight everyone. See you at 3:00 AM - that is, unless there really is something under this bridge with me now in the dark. #GoingAlone
9:45 PM Had a bit of an accident and then a real Steven King moment there under the bridge after I stopped the camera. That’s gonna be a fun story to tell the grandkids someday. I’ll fill you guys in after I get back.
November 16th, 2018
3:05 AM I turned on the camera here about 3:10 AM and just before I set out from Siberia ghost town on a long night hike into the Deep Water Wilderness. I was a little anxious as I made my coffee; and I know I was stalling a little for time; not wanting to leave the familiar security of the abandoned ghost town. I guess that's pretty telling about how I was really feeling at that moment, when a deserted ghost town at night in the middle of nowhere, after midnight, felt like a relatively comfortable place to be compared to the deeper empty and nowhere I was headed next. #GoingAlone
3:20 AM time to start walking. There’s no moon now. Just a very cold, soft wind. My destination is those black mountains interrupting starlight.
4:04 AM I need to dispel from my mind the ambition of Mt. Wildness - a place that isn't real. How much better to pursue it while remembering I'll never get there. #TrueLimitsAndOpportunity
4:49 AM Whoops. I’ve spent the last hour walking in the wrong direction.
4:55 AM I just met two soulless beasts now in the dark. I must be nearing the Edge of Deep Water. What’s a soulless beast? Please consult the glossary of my book.
4:59 AM I’ll know when I’ve reached the Edge of Deep Water when I lose internet connectivity. I’m already down to just one bar. If there’s no more posts after this then that means I’ve crossed into the Deep Water Wilderness. Next stop - the Cold Gate.
5:29 AM Last post before I lose connectivity. Dawn plus the morning star (Venus) over the Deep Water Wilds. Bye everyone. I’ll post again from the other side.
6:00 AM I didn't know if I should brand this video as a Good Life or Going Alone adventure as it seems to fit square into both categories. Beginning at The Edge of Deep Water--after a long pre-dawn hike alone to the wrong place--we'll then descend carefully into the actual Deep Water Wilderness, to cross through this wild place enroute to the enormous Siberia Wash. Along the way, we'll discover some long forgotten mining claims from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while establishing a few new landmarks, such as two caves I'm now calling the "home of my little god" and the "Home of Faith." There'll be some impromptu singing as we go, before serendipity happily deposits us squarely at the site of "Campo #1" (aka "The Woodsman's Cabin" from the book), where we'll then unburden ourselves of some excess weight by depositing gear and water which we won't need for the final press of the journey. Then--while all the while continuing our Good Life Meditation--we'll next visit an ancient outcropping of volcanic rock in order to relieve it of a very special treasure it's held within its stony grasp since 1936. Shortly after this point, we'll arrive alone at the furthest reach of our video journey together, as I complete the Good Life commentary, shut off the camera, and begin walking without you towards the Cold Gate, and then the Valley of the Soulless Beasts. Altogether, this may be one of the most action-packed adventure videos I've ever made; with movement, reflection and new discovery around nearly every wilderness turn. And at over two hours in length I recommend bringing a snack and an extra ration of water. #TheGoodLife #GoingAlone
Noonish At the furthest point of last week's wilderness hike I arrived at a place I'd identified via satellite imagery as a possible route to Mt. Wildness. The place is a large valley I've named The Valley of the Soulless Beasts. The valley is hemmed in on all sides by rugged volcanic mountains, with a single opening through the middle of a particular intimidating long and narrow solid volcanic dyke. From outer space, the break in the dyke appears as if a mile-tall giant had cut and removed an enormous slice of rock to allow the passage of floodwaters from the highlands out and into the lower desert. I called this cut in the rock dyke the "Cold Gate." I didn't really know how to get to this place, and though I did get lost a few times along the way, I nevertheless managed at last to arrive...though many hours overdue. Being so late meant I that could go no further than the Cold Gate, and could therefore only survey the Valley of the Soulless Beasts from a distance. This video takes place shortly after arriving at the Cold Gate, where my inauspicious appearance was promptly greeted by the appearance of a pair of Golden Eagles. #GoingAlone
I'd never seen eagles in the desert before. Heck, the only birds I ever see in the desert are small flocks of white doves which occasionally fly quickly by along the railroad tracks at Siberia. Out in the deep desert though I only ever see - or hear - an occasional bird in the brush. But I never see hawks way out there, or crows, and I never thought I'd see an eagle. #GoingAlone
I wonder sometimes if I might be the first person to visit some of the places I go in the desert. For example, the utterly perfect stone garden discovered in this video appears to have never suffered any human trespass, as demonstrated in the perfect arrangement of so many perfectly balanced stones. In fact, these rocks were not placed here--like similar arrangements in the Buddhist temples I saw in Japan--but BECAME here after the granite mountain they were once encased in eroded away from around them, leaving the stones perched like perfectly balanced birds upon impossible, stubby, stilt-like stone legs. This is the type of place which takes my breath away in the remote desert. A setting deserving of velvet ropes and scowling docents guarding the stones from any human disturbance--just out there...in the middle of nowhere...where nobody knows such things even exist. #GoingAlone
The site of my mining claim is atop a lovely desert rise overlooking an utterly enormous expanse of empty desert. At night here I can walk with my flashlight to the summit, sit upon the rocks, shut off the light and be utterly alone in a world seemingly unchanged for tens of thousands of years. Perspectives change under such circumstances. They change permanently. There's no going back. That's one of the reasons I continue to go far into wild places on such a routine basis. And one of the reasons I always go alone. #GoingAlone
2:56 PM I’m back. It was a very hard hike. I failed to reach Mt. Wildness. But that’s OK, as it doesn’t really exist anyway.
6:10 PM I was feeling a little tired during my ride home and stopped at the Green River Starbucks. A reporter from a local newspaper approached me as I got off my bike, asking “excuse me, but you look like someone with a story.” Looks like my story—and my book—are going to be featured in her newspaper.
7:23 PM Another solo wilderness adventure in the bag. It’s events like the last twenty-four hours that will someday make the nurses in the old age home ask one another “what’s that old man remembering when he sits gazing out the window smiling?” #GoingAlone
Thoughts and comments after the hike
I got lost hiking in the night and found myself in some strange mountains at dawn. I spotted this abandoned mine high up on the side of a rock face below a cliff and went to check it out. Though I promised myself I wouldn’t go inside, I clearly haven’t always been good at self-promises. The cave was empty and didn’t go very far into the mountain. However, It does seem a soulless beast lives here, as I found its bed of sticks at the very back of the hole. I was also very surprised to discover greasy slime coating the ceiling and hanging in drippy ropes. The slime must be from groundwater in the mountain seeping through cracks in the cave ceiling—though I really haven’t a clue.
During November, rattlesnakes aren’t as much a worry while hiking alone in the desert dark—though it’s easy for stuff like this to trip you up whenever the flashlight is off.
Desert panorama at dawn. This was just about the time I started asking myself “where am I?”
“Lost in the desert” selfie.
I decided to follow this dry wash because it seemed to lead into the sunrise. It turns out this was the right direction. Maybe we should always go towards the sunrise?
Should I go in?? You know the answer.
Another lost mine... This one