Sunday, April 15, 2012

Teen Campout in the Mojave Desert Winter 2012

I opened my eyes and it came back to me.  Today was the day, the day when I would leave.  Well sure, I had left home before, but those times had just been for one night.  Now, I was going for 5 days in the desert with the other Riekes teens.  I sat up feeling apprehensive.  I was both excited and freaked out at the same time.  I got out of bed and got dressed.  Got my backpack.  Shoved my stuff in it.  Then I ate breakfast and went outside to wait for the vans.  I was one of the last ones to be picked up. 

The two white vans pulled up and I climbed in between my friends Cleo and Jeremy.  The vans pulled out of the driveway and began our long drive to SoCal.  For the most part, the first hour was uneventful.  Then someone plugged in an i-Pod and that entertained us for most of the drive.

We stopped a few times, first up on a hill overlooking a lake, next at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.   Our last stop was in a little town that looked like it jumped out of the movie Cars.  We left “Radiator Springs” as it was just getting dark and we had, at least, 4 hours to go. 

Some other teens and I started talking about the universe, which changed to a talk about Occupy, and then over the course of the next three hours changed 30 more times.  Then the landscape started to change to dry, rocky desert and we knew we must be getting close. 

We drove around for about 2 hours trying to find our campsite.  By now it was well past 11 at night.  Once we finally found our campsite, we all clambered out of the van.  It was amazing.  To my left was a flat, barren desert that seemed to go on forever.  To the right, there were these huge, granite mountains that seemed to touch the moon.  Then we had a quick dinner of disgusting cold chili and everyone crawled into sleeping bags and we all went out like lights.

I woke up to the warm felling of sun on my face. It felt so warm I thought id never get up. Then it started getting really hot and I got out without hesitating. It was so beautiful with the sun just appearing over the mountains.

Our instructors, Mark, told us that today we would be going to the Kelso dunes and we all started talking excitedly. The Kelso dunes are these 1000+ foot sand dunes that seemed to just appear out of the surrounding rocky desert. So, after a quick breakfast, we all piled in the vans and we were off. It took us about an hour to reach the Kelso dunes. We pulled around a corner and suddenly they were just there in the middle of the rocks. We leaped out of the vans and went running over to read some signs. Then we all started what we thought was a short hike to the base of the dunes. Of course, it turned out to be like a four-mile trek. After about an hour of walking, we finally made it to the base of the dune. As usual, Jeremy and I went right up the steepest part of the dune and we were the first ones up to the top. We waited for about 45 minutes for the rest of the group to all reach the top. Then for the next three hours, we spent throwing ourselves off the edge of the dune and swimming down the sand. We were also having races down the dune, but no one wanted to do that much because going down meant coming back up. Finally, we all trudged back to the vans and exhaustedly fell in to our seats. Then we went back to camp and began working on cooking dinner.

We finished eating dinner just as the moon was rising. The moon was so bright that you had a shadow, but it was dim so you could only see in shades of gray and black.  Jeremy and I decided to go to some nearby boulder mounds and go bouldering. But once the rest of the group found out, we had most of the group coming with us. After about 20 minutes of walking, we reached the boulder mounds. We spent hours leaping and climbing on the boulders in the moonlight.
as usual, I was the first one to reach the top and I sat there for half an hour before the group got there.  Once we finally went back to camp all we could do was crawl into are sleeping bags.

The instructors woke us up long before the sun had resin, so that we could see it rise.  We all sat there in the bitter cold shadow of the mountain waiting to see the first light of the sun. Then suddenly, a great warmth seeped in to me as the first rays of the sun crested the mountain.  Today we where going to climb the mountains witch at the time we thought where small hills.  Almost all of the group wanted to go and climb the moutons. So, we began what we thought was a short hike to the foot of the mountain. It turned out to be about three miles. 

After about an hour of walking, we arrived at the base of what we thought were small hills that turned out to be towering mountains.  Then we began to climb. It was breathtaking clambering over these giant, granite boulders.  After climbing for about two hours, Jeremy and me stopped to wait for the rest of the group in a large cave.  After waiting for what seemed like ages, the rest of the group caught up with us.  The instructors talked for a while and they said most of the group wanted to head back to the camp.  But, some of my friends and I wanted to keep going up.  So we split. Five of us kept going, while the rest of the group headed back to the camp. After about an hour of non-stop climbing, we made it to the top.  But, it turned out to just be a sub peak and the top was another 1500 feet up.  Some people wanted to go back, but I convinced them to keep going.  Then about half way to the next peak, in a shadowy part of the mountain, we found a huge patch of snow.  And of course, we started throwing it at each other. It was amazing to find snow in the desert.  After a good six hours of climbing, we finally made it the top and this time it really was the top. Just as Jeremy and I clambered on the highest rock, we saw a red tailed hawk fly over and it screeched at us, as if it was welcoming us to this amazing place. After waiting for a while, the rest of are little group caught up with us and we all stat her in silence gazing at the view. It was breathtaking gazing out from the highest point for as far as we could see.  Then we began the long trek down. 

It seemed to take forever and it became very tedious crawling over and under things running and jumping. After about four hours, we finally made it to the bottom of the mountain.  Lucky for us, the last three miles was a flat straight road.  We all began slowly trudging along. After a while, some figures appeared down the road walking towards us.  After a while, we realized it was people form are group and they where carrying food and water. We all tried to run to them, but decided walking was better. We reached them and started eating and drinking. As we walked back, we told them of all our adventures, We got back to camp and I dragged myself to my sleeping bag and was sound asleep before I new it.

I was the first one awake that morning, so I went and sat on a rock and watched the sun rise.  By the time it had risen, most of the rest of the group was awake.  Today we were going to see the lava tubes. We drove for about two hours to reach the lava tubes.  Once we got there, we were amazed that all the sand was gone to be replaced by small fist sized lave rocks. 

We walked for about 20 minutes to reach where the lava tubes were. There was a rickety metal staircase going down it a hole we all went down. Once we were down, we had to crawl down a little tunnel that opened up it to a large cavern. There were some holes in the celling letting in shaft of golden light. I decided to try and climb out of one of these holes. Jeremy gave me the Go-pro to use. Well, I did it. I began climbing up the wall and began to climb up, once I was high enough to reach the hole.  I reached out and gripped the lip of the hole with both hands and swung myself out.   For a second, I hung in open space and then I pulled myself up in to the hole and got a foothold. I pulled myself up and out of the hole, I stood up and brushed myself off, then I noticed this random guy staring and pointing at me. I said hi I’m fine.  And then took off to rejoin the rest of my group. After that, we all walked back to the vans and piled in. We needed to get back so we could pack up the camp.

We got back to camp and began packing up our stuff. Just before dark, four large gleaming white vans drove past.  After the moon had risen, we started to hear voices echoing off the rocks and saw flashlights shining all over the place. We decided to go and scout them.  All of the guys went, but most of the girls stayed back at camp.  We set off jogging towards there camp.  As we got closer, we all fanned out and surrounded them.  Jeremy and I went around behind their camp and climbed up on some large boulders. It was perfect. We could hear every word they said form up there. We also could see where they all were because they were all caring blinding lights. We stayed out there, sneaking up on them till around three AM. It was the most fun I’d ever had sneaking up on people.

We were woken up at 6AM so we could start the long nine-hour drive home.  About an hour in to the drive, I started feeling very sad and I realized I didn’t want to go back to the normal routine of things and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But, all these thoughts were dust on the wind, as soon as I saw my parents.  

By Tristan G Martin                   


  1. Awesome narrative dude!! You did a great job capturing the mood of your action packed adventure (You still need to take me there sometime. It sounds so cool!). I especially liked your use of adjectives to give the reader a feel for the surroundings. I also liked the part where you talk about swimming down the sand. It gives interesting imagery.
    As far as things that you could improve go. You could consider adding some dialog. Dialog can help to add flavor and break up long sections of exposition (Exposition is when you are just saying what happened).
    Overall, great piece... Wish I was there

  2. Totally captivating story Tristan. I love the early part where you reflect both on your observations of the world around you and how you feel inside at the time. Super good writing. I am impressed at your ease of collecting your words into a story. Wished I was there with you in person, but almost felt I was given your description :-)