There are many things to worry about when you hit the road on a long distance solo trip into vast wilderness. Did I bring all my gear? Do I have enough food/water? What do I do if the weather sucks?

However the biggest worry I generally have (other than death or dismemberment) is simply, getting stuck. What happens if I get lost? What if I break my leg and can’t move? What if my car breaks down? What if a boulder falls on my arm and I have to chew it off? What if I realize that I like the taste of my own arm meat? What if I become a one-armed cannibal? Ok the latter queries don’t register too high on my worry list, but the first 3 definitely do. I’m certainly no stranger to getting lost, but getting stuck in a sand pit in the middle of nowhere on a blistering hot day. Well, that’s a new one. Counting down my last days in the desert, I drove out of Joshua Tree and toward the Anza Borrego State Park. Just north of the Salton Sea lies the Painted Canyon. A collection of lowland hills and eruptions of color.

Much like the Artist’s Way in Death Valley, the hills are infused with assorted colors from mineral deposits in the rocks and soil. I must have let their beauty get to my head because I somehow thought taking Hotel Prius on a road clearly marked “4x4 vehicles ONLY” was an ok idea. To be fair, everything WAS ok until the last 50 feet of the road. After passing miles of rocks and loose gravel, the trailhead was in sight. What I didn’t realize was that the entire path simply turned to a giant sand pit as the road ended. With 6 inches of clearance and horsepower that can probably be counted in double digits, Hotel Prius didn’t stand a chance.

When I got out to assess the damage, the reality of how screwed I was set in. So, I started digging. Got down on my knees and used my hands as shovels. The blazing heat of the desert wasn’t exactly helping. I pulled debris, trash, and anything flat I could get my hands on to wedge under the wheels, but nothing seemed to work or gave any more traction. That’s when I looked more carefully under the car and realized the it was sunken to the belly with sand. I wasn’t gonna get out of here anytime soon without help. After a 4 hour fiasco trying to get phone service and contact AAA, I finally got a tow from a random passerby and was on my way. Only to get stuck by another force of nature: Fog.

I breezed through Anza Borrego due to the bad the weather, but made a quick stop at Slot Canyon. With nobody for miles and claustrophobic space galore, this wasn’t exactly my dream destination after such a rough going in the desert that previous day, but it was a fun adventure that I would recommend to anyone who happens to be in the neighborhood.

Finally, after what seemed like endless days of burning sun and nights of unrelenting heat, I made my way out of the desert and up to Palomar Mountain. The wet and cool climate was a welcome reprieve from the dry heat and the trail I found proved to be as enjoyable for scenery as it was therapeutic for my withering travel stamina.

I wondered up and around a winding path until dusk began to set in and I had to make my way back before adding another loss to the ‘World vs Levi’ column of recent events.

I planned to be on my way and down the road toward Oceanside, but the mountain had other ideas. Quickly, a fog set in that was so dense that each step in front had to be taken with deliberate care. I thought it would be better once I got in the car, but it only proved to be futile trying to drive anywhere, let alone down a winding mountain road.

So as I did many times throughout my travels, I found a nice spot to pull off, climbed in the back, and called it a night.

#PaintedCanyon #4x4 #PalomarMountain #ThunderTrail #SlotCanyon

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