Monday, June 27, 2022

~ The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest ~



The Ancient Bristlecone

 Pine Forest




"Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world."    David McCullough Jr.



The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to the oldest trees on earth, bristlecone pines. Some exceed 4,000 years old and appear sculptured by the wind.


I’ve never seen them before and I’m looking forward to this adventure. The name alone conjures wild images about this natural area situated off Highway 168, about 24 miles from Big Pine, CA along Highway 395. New destinations are an attraction to me, especially when riding my motorcycle.


I intend to camp at the Grandview Campground, situated at 8,600 feet.



The Grandview Campground can be seen below.

It’s Memorial Day weekend so I arrive early on Thursday, increasing my chances of a campsite at the Grandview Campground. My brother, Gilbert will arrive on Friday and if the campground is full, our backup plan is dispersed camping in the Inyo National Forest.

Then, we'll ride to Bishop for the annual Bishop Mule Days. The parade begins sharply at 10 a.m. This is the longest, non-motorized parade in the country. It’s a favorite of mine, hoping to see our Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks packers compete.

Grandview Campground is five miles from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. Now, my priority is searching for a campsite. As luck would have it, there is a an perfect empty secluded campsite. The campsite borders a large meadow and has a huge tree for shade and shelter. There is a table and a fire ring. Without hesitation, I stake this camp and begin unloading my gear. 


This huge tree at the Grandview Campground provides excellent shelter.

It’s quiet here, as evening approaches, my campfire glows beneath an incredible ever-changing sunset with the Sierra Range in the background. My gourmet dinner is saved for tomorrow night when Gilbert arrives. Tonight, it’s Dinty Moore Stew with a Hostess Cupcake for dessert. My transition radio picks up a country-western station from nearby Bishop. I’m thankful for such an incredible camping spot with a colorful sunset. The stars are bright and will be my companion tonight. My finger follows several satellites that in seconds crisscross the entire sky. 


Reflected on my Indian Springfield is a beautiful sunset.



Nature paints a  spectacular.


Laying in my sleeping bag, I consciously breathe in life and exhale gratitude. A simple, yet deliberate act. This is one of the best campsites ever. Before the natural light disappears, I thank the universe for this moment. 

Tomorrow, I'll explore the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest situated at 10,000 feet. 


HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN

The sweeping view of the Sierra Range is stunning. Looking to the northwest, Bishop can be seen far below, looking like a small postage stamp. It’s colder at the higher elevation. The wind begins to blow stronger. It’s invigorating. My bike does not falter as we climb higher.


The road is paved to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center with a dirt road beyond there.




The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center at Schulman Grove.



"The ability to use adversity to its advantage
allows bristlecones to evolve into living monuments of time."



There are several easy-going self-guided trails to explore the forest.



The view leaving the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is stunning. A short walk is invigorating.

Walking, I feel the shortness of breath at nearly 10,000 feet, then nature whispers, “rest, enjoy the view.” I listen, grateful for this moment. It's quiet and I can hear the wind coming up the canyon from far below. The screech from a Redtail hawk startles me. I watch it decent towards Bishop in seconds. 


COMPANY ARRIVES EARLY

I heard his motorcycle well before I saw him. I could tell, from across the open meadow, that Gilbert was looking for me. From a good distance, I waved my arms hoping he would see me. He followed the dirt road and was headed towards my campsite. He made a good time traveling from Apple Valley, CA and arrived two hours before I expected him. We had plenty of daylight for him to set up camp, and for me to prepare that gourmet dinner.


Robert and Gilbert Griego  Grandview campsite.

The tamales are slowly heating with my Pocket Rocket. We have Fritos and Bean Dip as hors d’oeuvers. It’s good to have company. He quickly unloads his camping gear behind the massive tree. The tamales are delicious! It’s been a while since we’ve ridden together.


Two American legends  Indian Springfield and Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
Our secluded campsite beneath this massive tree.

Gilbert says, “I’m approaching 100,000 miles on my bike.” Now, that’s special. There aren’t many bikers who can say the same. Thinking back, I know we’ve traveled over 25,000 miles together across Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and our favorite – New Mexico. Riding with a like-minded brother is rewarding. Today is special.

The evening sky is ever-changing. The gentle wind picks up and the temperature dramatically drops. Our fire is warm but the heat quickly dwindles a few feet from the fire ring. The breeze becomes a strong wind. It’s much colder now. We kick the remaining logs into the fire and talk well into the night. 


A campfire, brothers, and a sunset.

Without a lot of fanfare, we slip into our sleeping bags while our fire glows into the night. The massive tree helps divert the fierce winds. Our bikes do their best to block the relentless wind. At 8,600 feet, it’s cold. 

Morning arrives slowly for me. Gilbert is an early riser, I’m not. As I crawl out of my sleeping bag, I smell coffee while he's preparing a special breakfast. He calls it a Wham Bam Special – Spam, New Mexico green chile, tortillas, leftover bean dip, and two hard-boiled eggs, fried together. It was the best breakfast ever!


Breakfast with a grand view.


BISHOP HERE WE COME

We broke camp quickly after breakfast, riding towards Bishop for the parade. Privately, I hope to see my friend, Jim Harvey, celebrating his 86th birthday. He’s a regular and can be seen at his security post directing horse/mule contestant traffic.

Today, old-timers stop to talk and swap stories. Young contestants pause as well, tipping hats as they ride past. They know that he's a Sierra legend. Respect.

Jim taught me everything I know about horses, mules, and living in the backcountry. In years past, I’ve dedicated several stories about him – Call Me Jim and Cowboy Legends.


We pause to remember family veterans no longer with us this Memorial Day.
*Sebastian Griego, *Valentin Moya, *Buddy Moya, *Gene Christiansen , *John Lopez.



Robert Griego and Jim Harvey. Today is Jim's 86th birthday!
In his prime, at these events, he was the No.1 All-Round Cowboy.



11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Horse Detachment lead the parade.
These boys are from Fort Irwin Military Base, near my home town Barstow. 



This cowgirl races to the finish line.
Her horse is full of determination.



Two cowboys drive a big rig.
I wonder what they're talking about?



Amigos Mexican Restaurant in Bishop offers great food.



THE JOURNEY CONTINUES


Before leaving, we make one final ride up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.




I arrived by myself, I left with my brother.
The journey continues...




Tuesday, May 24, 2022

~ WILD WINDS across the Badlands of New Mexico ~

 WILD WINDS

across the

Badlands of New Mexico


The Wind, the Open Road, and My Motorcycle.
This is my mantra.


Rarely, do I heed a warning before a long-distance ride. This message, however, is from my nephew Ruben, who is a wildlands firefighter stationed in Silver City, NM. A credible source. 

His message, "It's supposed to be very windy across New Mexico, starting tomorrow." He is also a biker, so I listen. He adds, with a bit of humor I'm sure, "Hopefully, it will blow in the right direction for you."

He is currently fighting a large fire, outside of Santa Fe, NM where the intense winds are feeding a devastating wildfire. I heed his words as I leave Three Rivers, CA, for the Badlands of New Mexico  "It's supposed to be very windy...."

I'm on a mission, heading for the La Joya, NM cemetery.

Fortunately, the wind is blowing at my back from Mojave, past Barstow, CA to Kingman, AZ. A tailwind is a biker's dream, but that would change.

My first camp is 9 miles south of Ash Fork, AZ on Highway 89. I look intently for the Forest Service Road 38 which is not easy to spot. This is a favorite campsite, which I call Middle Satelite. There is plenty of firewood and volcanic rock for a fire ring. This dispersed camping is isolated and I see only one other camper in the far distance. 


Middle Satellite Camp.


The stars are bright, almost blinding, as the universe looks down at me. A satellite crosses the entire western skies in seconds. My fire is burning brightly. A can of Hormel Tamales, my gourmet dinner, is warming nicely by the hot fire. 

My small transistor radio picks up the Window Rock radio station. It's mostly in Navajo, and although I do not know the language, I listen. I record some of the Navajo chants on my cell phone for my grandson, Kai, to hear.

A billion stars above, perfectly shining their light on me. Or at least that's what I'm thinking  magical, assuring my spot in the universe. Another shooting star passes, pure energy. I love the stars. It's dark and my campfire provides adequate light. I lay awake staring at them, hoping to see another shooting star, but it's pointless, sleep soon will consume me. 

Then, I see the unique pattern of stars that I affectionately call, the "Circle of Eight," representing my brothers and sisters. It is peaceful, my fire burns slowly, a perfect end to my first day, a lengthly 540 miles. I think about Ruben's caution, "It's supposed to be very windy...." The stars soon disappear as my fire burns slowly. Morning comes quickly.

The wild winds, for the moment, are calm as I pass Flagstaff, AZ along Interstate 40. La Joya, NM is still a distance away, and I need to be there on Saturday by 2 p.m. Then, as I cross the Buffalo Range, the winds return. My bike rocks violently left, right, left. It's tiring, but I push forward. My destination is El Morro National Monument. It's Friday and the 9 free campsites might be full. As I circle the small campground, there are two remaining campsites. The water has not yet been activated due to the freezing temperatures so I go to the nearby visitor center for water and set up camp. 

I think about a story written a few years ago for RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine, called In Pursuit of Wildness: El Morro National Monument. I highly recommend this monument which is rich in history.


Getting water for my campsite.


This suite comes with a ground-floor view.


Best breakfast in New Mexico  Huevos ranchero with hot, red chili.
El Cafecito, Grants, NM.



I love New Mexico.



A cool Ducati pulls up next to me. El Cafecito, Grants, NM.


A SOMBER MOMENT AT THE LA JOYA CEMETERY

The Rio Grande is flowing quickly. As a 12-year-old kid, I was terrified by the river as it rushed wildly past me. Today, I'm safely on the bridge seeing the wild river from a new perspective. Years ago, I was afraid that I could fall into the raging river and be swept away forever.


The Rio Grande and my awesome Indian Springfield.

Today, I see birds flying above the river, protected by the nearby Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. I'm 6 miles from La Joya and it's 1:30 p.m. I can't help but stop for pictures on my journey to the La Joya, NM cemetery. I've got 30 minutes before the services begin. 

I love these final 6 miles. La Joya is like a magnet, it's always pulling me back. La Joya is the village where I was born in the adobe house built by my dad. My mom and dad lived here and raised my sister Paula, my brother Leo, and me here. 


6 miles to La Joya. This is a historical, iconic sign.


Wow, a Griego Road — Las Nutrias, NM, so near La Joya.


MY ROOTS RUN DEEP IN LA JOYA.

Our family is already gathered at La Joya Cemetery. I join my sisters, first cousins, and friends to bid our final farewell to our cousin Tudie Romero. La Joya is a small village along the Rio Grande where Tudie was born and raised. 

"La Joya is like a magnet, it's always pulling me back," he would tell me.


Arthur "Tudie" Romero
Nació 1/14/1953 y Murió 3/5/2022.




1st cousins - Sammy Aragon, Elva "Griego" Esquibel, Robert Griego, Susan "Griego" Aguayo,
Benjie Moya, Lou Moya.
We gathered on April 30, 2022, at the La Joya cemetery to honor our 1st cousin, Tudie Romero.


La Joya cemetery.


Leaving La Joya, the wild winds begin. I'm heading west on Interstate 40 battling heavy crosswinds. Near Gallup, NM I decided it would be better to head north towards Utah to escape the fierce winds.

Wrong decision.

The winds intensify. With the blowing sand, it is hard to see. The electronic sign says it all, "Visibility may be zero, use extreme caution."

The wind is wild. 

The blowing sand across the road is intense. My motorcycle is struggling as it rocks left, then right. I'm focused on the road, keeping my boots firmly on the floorboards while my hands tightly grip the handlebars. Ahead, I see a pickup truck hauling a trailer traveling slowly with its emergency lights flashing. I hunker down and follow closely behind. Otherwise, it's unsafe and I'm afraid that a vehicle will plow into me from behind. The dust dorm lasts for 150 miles. There is no shelter.

Shiprock, an iconic rock formation in New Mexico, should be visible from 50 miles away. Today, I don't see it until I'm within 100 feet. The sand is blowing hard and at times I can't see the road. The gas station ahead is heaven-sent as I pull over to rest.

By my calculations, I have another 80 miles to Bluff, UT where I plan to camp at Sand Island Campground. The wind is relentless. I'm tired. 80 miles may not seem like much, but in a blindly wind storm, it could easily be 800 miles. I cautiously push forward.

The Sand Island Campground appears to be full. I'm disappointed as I circle the entire campground. Then, I spot lucky site #7 which is the last available campsite. It is located next to the San Juan River and is perfect. Exhausted, I set up camp. The wild winds are finally dying down.


Sand Island Campground, site #7.



San Juan River, the view from my campsite.


ON TO MONUMENT VALLEY AND GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

If I traveled this route a thousand times, I'd always leave with a big smile. The sweeping views take my breath away. I think of Forrest Gump, running across this iconic landscape. I take a million pictures. The winds have stopped, entirely. 

I see a young couple doing the same, capturing the moment. "Could you please take a picture of me as I ride my motorcycle past you?" "Absolutely," he says. "I love these moments," he adds. As it turns out, there aren't any cars behind me when he snaps the picture. I thank him as he leaves. It was only miles later that I viewed his picture  priceless!

A few years ago I accompanied Jim Parks on a Blue Rim Tour. The story, Into the Wild West's Four Corners, is a favorite of mine.


These bikers were camping in Monument Valley and out for a day ride.



My dependable Indian Springfield. Parked, soaking up the views.



I love seeing other bikers riding their dreams.



A lone biker riding west.



The landscape is priceless.



The bikers keep coming.



I really don't want to leave.



One final picture and I leave sacred, Monument Valley.

In Kayenta, AZ, I stop for gas and breakfast/lunch  green chili posole and Indian fried bread. A group, of twenty or so bikers, is filling up their motorcycles. They speak French and say they are on their way to Las Vegas. They too are exhausted, and I can see them brushing off the sand.


Green chili posole and Indian fried bread.

Their leader explains that yesterday they were hit by a terrible sand storm. They are headed for Monument Valley and eventually Colorado. I explain to the leader that the ride will be awesome. He begins to earnestly check out my Indian Springfield, and then the entire French bikers circle my bike. He explains that he is leading this Eaglerider Tour. "On this tour, we do about 300 miles per day. Yesterday was a rough day for all of us." 

I liked him immediately. I call him Big D. We take a few pictures, then the group sets off for Monument Valley. I love these encounters, if only briefly.


Big D and Robert Griego.



Elephant's Feet along the Navajo Trail, Highway 160.

It's here in Kayenta, after looking over my map, that I decide to visit Grand Canyon National Park. This route, past the Cameron Trading Post, is relaxing. Once near the Grand Canyon, the views are awesome.

There are so many overlooks, and I select Mather Point. The views are breathtaking priceless  perfect.


East Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.




Near Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park.



Mather Point, Grand Canyon National Park.

Arrived home in Three Rivers, CA safely after 7 days and 2,200 miles, I'm still a bit dizzy but it was a heck of a ride. 

My nephew was right, "It's supposed to be very windy across New Mexico, starting tomorrow."