Friday, October 31, 2014

Hunting a Bird in Death Valley (Halloween 2014)

Happy Halloween!

Since it is October 31st I planned something a little mysterious for you:

Since taking an HD video was why I did this hike again, I did not make as much an emphasis with taking pictures since I had already done that years ago. However, you can find some of the pictures I took this time around at the following link:

The Death Valley Hike Pictures (Flickr)


I’ve think I have told the story of a few people that have commented to me or told me via e-mail that they think the hikes I do are okay, but they really just care about the movie locations I have shown. I don’t usually respond to something like that because my response would be something like, “Of course you don’t like the hikes I show because you can’t do them.” 

This is one of those hikes that I did that if you can’t find something interesting in it then I guess I just have to give up this blog for good. I mean, if you don’t like this one then I have two words for you, and they are not "Happy Birthday"! In my continuing quest for death deviance, I put my body and soul in an extreme harsh environment and there is indifference? What’s wrong with you people?!


If you have been around this blog long enough or looked at some of my earlier blog entries you probably recognized this one. I finally got to do this one again after years of wanting to do it one more time to get a better video of it. On my original Youtube channel I did an experimental three part video of this hike. It was first set of videos I really put a lot of effort into. I had some good ideas with it, and I guess it was okay for the early days of Youtube, but it had two issues with it that made it lack the style Youtube was and is known for. One would be that the quality was not all that great since the camcorder used tape to record. 

The other bigger issue was that it was just too long. Trimming and editing videos down has been a very important thing I have learned over the past few years. There are many videos I have done that are hard for me to watch now because I know I should have edited them down a lot more. In this video, I cut out a lot, but even so it is still quite long. 

The last half of the video was done in one take. That was something I had planned to do knowing it would be slightly shaky after a four hour hike to the spot and moving around on a dangerous incline. Yeah, I actually did fall down at one point, but I recovered pretty well. As I fell, I remembered to just protect the camcorder and kept going. Of course, all those years learning how to control my fall in martial arts training helped. 

Btw, the video was shot at 1080p at 60 fps. Please watch it at the best quality settings your system can handle. 

C)The Hike 

Since I had done this one before about eight years ago I kind of knew what to expect; I’ll link the blog entries for that hike that has my original thoughts from the first time below. My brother and I spent the night in Lone Pine. I wanted to spend the night in Trona (or Ridgecrest) since the drive to the trailhead would have been a lot more direct, but I found out the road from Trona to where we would start the hike was closed. So, our friends met us at Lone Pine early in the morning, and we drove to Towne Pass where the hike began. 

The video petty much shows you how it went. It took about 8 hours to get to the site and back. You can add on an extra thirty minutes for me since I was doing video and pictures there and back again. 

The ups and downs of the hike are still annoying. That 1,000 ft. of elevation gain coming back from the plane is rough, and I had forgotten about the difficulty of some of the terrain there. Since you know you have to do it to get out of there (no cell phone reception), we just kept plugging away until we reached Towne Summit again. It was still difficult from there, but at that point you know you can finish the hike. The final part coming down that wall you initially climb is probably the roughest part. It’s a lot hotter there, and the sagebrush/cactus plants attack your legs if you are not careful.

This time around I was not as dehydrated as the first time. There was some cloud cover at times to block the sun, but it was still a warm Death Valley day with the temperature being about 90 degrees. In any case, I was glad when it was over. 

D)The Albatross 

The actual goal of the hike and what makes it unique and mysterious is the plane crash itself. I covered that before, and you can read about it in the links I provided below. I think the general story is well known: this SA-16 aircraft attempted to fly from Idaho to San Diego, it was a C.I.A. aircraft, one of the engines malfunctioned, and the plane crashed where it is today, but somehow the crew all survived. 

In the book Grumman Albatross: a history of the Legendary Seaplane by Wayne Mutza there is a short section about this flight and crash. He seems to be skeptical of the idea that the pilot and crew jumped out of the plane and then the plane flew for around twenty miles to land mostly intact on the slope near Towne Summit. I can understand that skepticism, but I am almost equally skeptical of anyone being on that plane and not dying on impact. It’s almost a miracle in any case.

So, the sequence of events of what happened to that aircraft and crew as they flew over Death Valley is one of those mysteries I’m not sure we will ever know for sure. It sure would be fun to hear from one of those crew members if any are still alive. If anyone has anymore info out this or comes across unclassified information I am all ears, but it is not something I intend to pursue on my own. 

I hate to report that someone about a year ago did some graffiti by carving their intials/name and the date they were there into the side of the aircraft. WHY? I could probably shame them by mentioning who it was since I have pictures of the registry names in the survival cache left there, but I’ll stay away from that.

E)Closing Thoughts 

I was a little snotty/sarcastic above in my opening remarks, but I should make it clear that I don’t recommend people doing this hike. Unless you are well prepared and experienced in hiking scrambles in extreme environments do not even think about doing this one. They call this area Death Valley for a reason.

I’ll never do this hike again. If someone wants to fly me in and out on a helicopter then I might be willing, but I am done with this one. With that said, it is hikes like this that make this blog worthwhile. 

I do have alternative video footage I shot. I have a few ideas somewhere down the road I could put together for a more narrative approach. If I ever came across more information on this flight…It would be fun to actually fly around in a real SA-16...but I’m not in the mood to spend more of my time and money on this sort of thing. A lot of it depends on the interest I get on this one.

The original hike blogs:

The main historical account about the crash can be found HERE.

The following music was taken from for the video: Hitman, Opressive GloomTenebrous Brothers Carnival - Prelude.

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