Five Days in Southern California

Reunited once again after my travels abroad, Reuben and I met up in Southern California at my brother’s house in Bakersfield. Reuben will soon post a video about his two solo weeks in California.

We have actually been looking forward to seeing my brother, with whom we have communicated frequently on our journey, but also dreading it because of what else it meant to finally reach Bakersfield…

When we first began formulating our plan for this journey, we asked our vet if Chip was healthy enough to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with us. When we thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, we took his older sister, Violet, and she LOVED it. Unfortunately, the vet could not sign off on taking a 10 year old dog on the journey and we sadly agreed.

In relating this challenge to my brother, he eagerly agreed to take Chip while were are on our hiatus. My active, marathon-running brother loves Chip and can give him a super active lifestyle while we pursue our dreams of becoming triple crowners (hiking all three major national scenic trails). While we are sad to be without our beloved dog child, we are THRILLED that he can live with his SUPER COOL uncle who loves him very much!

On our first day, we said goodbye to John and Chip and headed east from Bakersfield towards the Rainbow Basin Natural Area.

They have a really clean and inexpensive self-pay campground there so we set up camp right next to the trailhead for the 8 mile Rainbow Basin Loop.

The trail was actually one of our favorites of the trip so far! Very diverse and colorful – the rocks have varied mineral components giving the trail it’s “rainbow” moniker. The first half of the trail is filled with rock scrambles, caves, canyons, and slippery peak climbs while the second half is just a road walk, though still pretty.


On our second day, we decided we needed to start amping up our training for the PCT, so began with a run through the campground and some pilates.

Then, we drove further east along some bumpy roads through the Mojave to see the Mojave Desert Lava Tube. We learned that these cave-like tubes were formed by lava that continued to flow beneath the surface of already hardened lava rock above. I was MOST excited about the Raiders of the Lost Ark light that shone through one of the holes!


We then continued our desert wanderings by visiting a super random dune in the middle of a volcanic area, the Kelso Dunes! Wow! What a spectacularly challenging but rewarding hike! I very nearly didn’t finish out of fear of the sheer sand face you have to climb to the top, but I made it!


That evening, we drove to the Amboy Crater trail parking lot (boondocking allowed) to set up camp in preparation for a sunrise hike to the top! We had a pretty spectacular sunset too!

On our third day, we woke early and headed out for a sunrise view from the top of the Amboy Crater!


Next, we were VERY excited to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Reuben has become a little obsessed with Joshua Trees (actually not trees but cousins of the Yucca). We gave them the backstory that they must have looked like someone’s friend named Josh waving in the distance. Now we say, “Hey Josh” to all of them.

The park was packed on a Saturday, so we just made two stops. First we played around on some Jumbo Rocks, a major feature of the western side of the park. We felt like we were in an episode of the Flintstones!


Then, for an actual hike, we climbed to the top of Ryan Mountain for spectacular views of the park from above!


On our fourth day, we rose with the sun for a swim and jacuzzi at the campground we stayed at near Palm Springs (ooh la la). We followed the swim with a run and more pilates!

Then, we set out for a day of fun weirdness near the Salton Sea! First we stopped at the International Banana Museum, a super “awskward” (awesome + awkward) experience due to the strangely enthusiastic greeter repeatedly making the same pun about “going bananas.” The museum itself is just a small space with the largest collection of banana related items in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records 2005. The owner bought the collection from eBay. They do sell yummy banana treats though!

Next, we headed east along the north side of Salton Sea towards the Bombay Beach Ruins. This “sea” didn’t actually exist until around 1905 when some irrigation engineering went awry and flooded the salty basin, creating a salt lake. In the 1950s some folks decided to develop some resorts, but didn’t account for the fact that the lake has no significant tributary and will eventually dry up. It’s been steadily drying up, and therefore becoming more salty, creating an uninhabitable place for the fish, who are now dying in mass numbers and consequently stinking the place right up! The resorts have been drying up as well, hence the ruins.

After our visit to the ruins, we stopped in at Salvation Mountain, a strange art exhibit composed of cement, hay bales, and paint in the middle of the desert dedicated to repentance.

On our fifth and final day, we spent the morning exploring the “Center of the World” in Felicity, CA. Continuing the trend of strange things to see in SoCal, the curator of this museum, a famous French skydiver, claims this town with population 2 to be the center of the world! Honestly though, this is a must visit just to see the History in Granite display, an incredible feat with hundreds of granite panels carved with various histories. If we ever have a true apocalypse, this version of history may be the only one to survive!

To finish up our time in California before crossing into Arizona, we hiked up the nearby Pilot Knob Mesa Trail. At first, we were a bit put off by this trail, as it clearly just climbs to the top of an old quarry, but were pleasantly surprised by the challenge and views at the top!


Later that day, we headed into Yuma, Arizona! Stay tuned for updates as our journey continues.


  1. […] Five Days in Southern California […]

  2. […] entered southern Arizona near Yuma after a few days in Southern California. We’ve traveled through the northwestern part of the state before on a tour of the Grand […]

  3. Julie Stugart

    I noticed on facebook that Brian Ohnmeiss is currently in Arizona the San Tan Valley area. Not sure if that is on your travels or not.
    I love following your travels and I can’t wait to see you in a few days. And no, No Littles yet, hopefully soon : )

    1. Melissa

      Cool! Will look into it. Currently making beeline to El Paso to greet our little nibling!

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