Driving through the desert, Day 1: the day I went to the mountaintop

It’s time to get the hell out of dodge.  Or LA.

If this is your first time here, my name is James Farlow, and for the next week I will be photo-blogging my drive across the state of California.


I’ll be sharing about my experiences on the road, the people I meet, pictures I take, and reflecting on my life. This is kind of a big trip for me; it’s been 10 years since I got married and graduated college, and I have some time to reflect on my first decade of adult life. My wife, Rebecca, is at a conference in Wisconsin, so I am doing this trip solo.  I’ll be making a clockwise circuit of California in a week. I won’t make it north of Yosemite; only so much time and I just traveled through the Cascades to Portland at Christmas. I’m hoping my trip will be a great chance to spend some time in reflection and silence. Also, Rebecca gets pretty bored when I spend two hours parked on the side of the road taking pictures of a barn, which is pretty understandable.

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My sole companion on the trip is Elphaba. She’s our Honda Element, and I couldn’t do this trip without her. She’s where I eat, sleep, and drive on the road, and sometimes she even serves as a tripod and elevated platform. Her seats fold down to make a bed, and there’s a skylight above my head at night in the back.

I started out the day by playing disc golf with my friend John.

We were out at the rolling greens of Whitter, and we witnessed some epic water conservation by the good officials of LA County.

After a Thai lunch at Nine and Nine with John and his wife Amy, I finally got on the road mid-afternoon.

Leaving Los Angeles is never that much fun due to traffic, but it didn’t phase me today. My first stop was Pine Mountain, a high ridge in Los Padres National forest above Ventura. I’d never been there, but I was looking for an elevation above 6000 feet. I want to do some astrophotography, and there’s no better place than up on a mountain.

DSC_3731Shortly after passing this ridge, I saw a Honda Civic off the side of the road. I didn’t want to stop: it was the Golden Hour, the most sacred time for landscape photography, but they looked like they needed help and there was no cell signal. It didn’t take long to get them out of the ditch, and I rushed on. I needn’t have worried. Halfway up Pine Mountain, I found this spot.


A motorcyclist had stopped to eat dinner and watch the sunset.  We shared an hour a perfect silence on the ridge, no sound but the wind and a rainbow of colors with the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter forming a perfect love triangle in the sky.  No need to talk.



Two hours later, after checking out the top of the mountain ridge and locating a suitable campsite, I caught the galaxy rising over Ventura. Not bad for the first day.


8 thoughts on “Driving through the desert, Day 1: the day I went to the mountaintop

  1. Wow! Nice photos! Is the galaxy one a merge of two shots with different exposures or did you manage with just the one photo?
    /Carl, the Swede

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