Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

The swim into deep water – Going Alone

06-28-16 10:31 AM
I’m going to buy an old fashioned mercury thermometers to use in tracking my body temp during summertime desert hikes, and keep myself away from the dreaded 104 degrees F. I wonder if that’s been done before?

06-29-16 4:40 PM
My work day is done, and it’s time to commute home and strategize Friday’s desert inferno hike. I’ve got a scheme in my head to take on the open desert when the heat isn’t looking. But there’s no room for error, so the plan’s gotta be good. Don’t worry, I won’t be taking Emily out there again in such conditions. This is strictly a solo affair.

06-29-16 9:24 PM
So here’s the plan… Normally, I never tell you guys the place names or exact location of where I hike (because usually I don’t even know) though this time I’ve actually got a plan. After work tomorrow I’ll drive straight out to the desert where I’ll overnight alone with the spooks in the ghost town of Siberia (marked on the map). I plan to set up my tent next to that forgotten grave I found two weeks back in order to swap stories with whatever restless memories may linger there.
Friday temperatures in the area are forecast to be a relatively mild 102 degree F. (39 C). Honestly, that’s a little too hot for safe hiking. However, around 5:00 AM on Friday the temps should be a much nicer 84 F (29 C) and won’t rise to 90 until 8:00 AM. I’m thinking of trying the 3 mile round trip shown in yellow from Siberia up to the foot of the nameless hills to the north. There are two advantages to this plan: 1. it’s uphill going in and downhill coming back. 2. If things get bad I can make an emergency detour to the busy railroad tracks which wind up and close to my destination.
As always, I will abide my personal rule to always turn back in the desert as soon as my hands begin to swell.
Now it’s time to throw together the gear.


06-30-16 1:08 PM
While the desert gives me a lesson tomorrow in humility and personal weakness, Emily will be embarking on her very first summertime beach adventure with friends…in a car…without adult supervision. Such freedom is something I took for granted as a teen. But times are different, and I’m a dad, and sometimes I’ve even got to act like one.
My daughter and I had a good talk last night, and she promised to swim only in front of the lifeguard tower, to watch out for set waves, sharks, and boys (did I just repeat myself?). We also talked about the car, and driving, and not allowing anyone to push her into a situation she knows or feels is wrong or dangerous. I know the stats for teen driving. And they do scare me. But not as much sometimes as the cost of giving in too far to such fears, which come at a dear price of their own. So have fun tomorrow, Emily. Mind the dangers. But don’t let the dangers mind you.
And just say NO to boys!!!

06-30-16 3:17 PM
It’s easy to teach my child the danger of risk. Much harder to show her the very real consequence of excess caution.

06-30-16 4:31 PM
My work week is done. It’s time to switch to my real shoes.

06-30-16 4:41 PM
I always bring a book with me to read at night while alone in the wild. More often than not, it’s this:


06-30-16 5:03 PM
144 miles to Siberia! Let’s do this. I’ll share with you guys as far as the signal holds. Our first stop is Barstow for a few provisions (a can of soup for dinner and a bag of granola for breakfast and lunch) as well as a tank of gas. Let’s go!!!

06-30-16 6:07 PM
Going alone to the wild is less about discovery than participation.

06-30-16 7:03 PM
I’m stuck on the freeway near Victorville, moving about 5 MPH. There’s a house beside the freeway. RIGHT by the freeway. A snug little rundown place. Cheap construction, dirt yard, two old cars in the driveway, and cyclone fencing around the property with an American flag fluttering in the hot desert evening wind. What catches my eye is the happy middle-aged man and woman sitting close on a patio swing. Holding hands. Laughing with big open mouthes. To hell with the loud freeway at their front door. To hell with poverty and hard times. They’ve got each other. Holding hands despite the heat. Laughing despite life.

06-30-16 7:28 PM
That 30,000 foot thunderhead is probably rising above the Granite Mountains, which are near my destination of the Siberia ghost town. I’m going to need to be wary of flash floods tonight and tomorrow.


06-30-16 7:40 PM
Forgot my flashlight…again. Oh well, seeing at night’s a little overrated anyway.

06-30-16 8:04 PM
Stopping by to visit Mary…


06-30-16 8:07 PM
I’d like to be buried in an unmarked grave in the Daggett Pioneer cemetery.


06-30-16 8:14 PM
This headstone is typical of the few graves in the Daggett Pioneer cemetery which are named. A poured concrete block with an inscription written before the concrete set. I’ve founded another with the name burned onto a sheet of steel with a welder.


06-30-16 8:17 PM
Desert cemeteries are great places to contemplate the meaning of life…or lack thereof.


06-30-16 8:59 PM
Summer lightning in the Mojave Desert is never a good sign. And those flashes are precisely where I’m headed. Gonna have to be cautious tonight. But not too cautious.

06-30-16 10:08 PM
I’ve arrived at the ghost town of Siberia. As soon as I got out of the car I heard a strange whistling in the dark. There’s a ruined stone building behind me. The “grave” is a little ways in front of me. There’s silent lightening in the mountains. And a wind is rising, stirring to 93 degree F. air. It’s time to make camp, pop open a beer…or maybe first pop open a beer and THEN name camp. Yeah. I’ll do that. This place is seriously spooky. In glad I’ve still got one bar left to say hi to you guys.


06-30-16 10:38 PM
While setting up my tent I found evidence of this ghost town’s former life. This is the lid of a Copenhagen Snuff tin. This product was popular from the 19th century until today. Heck, I even used to use the stuff.


06-30-16 11:01 PM
OK, though I don’t believe in ghosts, this place is downright spooky. My eyes are adjusting to the dark and I can see the hulking silhouette of a ruined stone house some twenty meters away in the dark. There’s all kinds of antique debris (old cans, bottles, razors, etc.) on the ground and I swear my mind hears whispered conversations from the past blowing across the darkened landscape. Overnighting alone in a ghost town is certainly an experience to enjoy with alcohol. Time for another beer!

06-30-16 11:20 PM
Alright. My tent is set up and I’m ready to take a walk around this dark ghost town in order to stir up some ghosts. As I always did in Japan when exploring abandoned places, I will verbally introduce myself to whatever good, evil or malevolent forces may be lurking and invite them to do their worst. So far in ten years of tempting superstition nothing bad has happened. I think I’ll start with that dark abandoned stone house I can see silhouetted in the night. I’m really hoping something happens tonight. Let’s go!

06-30-16 11:32 PM
Tempting the ghosts to come find me.

07-01-16 12:04 AM
The Milky Way is beautiful tonight. And the silent lightning on the mountain. It’s time for bed. I’ve got the alarm set for 5:00 AM when I’ll begin my Inferno Hike. I’ve asked the spirits of this ghost town to come get me. So if you don’t hear from me at dawn you’ll know why. But they won’t. They never do. They live in our minds. And we control our minds. There’s no need to fear the dark. And no need to worry so much about life. Enjoy, love, be good to one another. And then one day die knowing you did and tried your best. What more can you do? Goodnight. See you for sure in the morning.

07-01-16 4:11 AM
Awake to lightning everywhere!

07-01-16 4:42 AM
In the interest of full disclosure I will report that I’ve woken up feeling sick.

07-01-16 5:32 AM
First light with lightning.

07-01-16 4:11 AM
Last night’s camp.


07-01-16 5:49 AM
5:44 AM, 88 F.(31 C.) My destination is a mere 1.5 miles through the desert in this direction. Breakfast has made me feel better and I’m up to the hike. Don’t worry, I’ll turn back when the temp reaches 90 or when good sense (what’s that?) dictates. Let’s go!


07-01-16 6:39 AM
I crossed 1.5 miles of open desert in just under 40 minutes and have arrived at my destination. Temps remain constant at just under 90 degrees, which coupled with the morning breeze makes this a very pleasant experience. However, the sun is currently blocked with clouds, and I know things will change quick a soon as it emerges. I’ve put my shirt on to reduce exposure and will stop for a 15 minute break before heading back. The car is only dimly visible far in the distance. This hike really feels like a swim into deep water.


07-01-16 7:19 AM
Halfway back and I thought I heard a growl behind my shoulder. Looking around, I spotted the desert killer peeking at me through the clouds. A very real panic rose immediately in my heart, as I know what’s going to happen as soon as the killer sun breaks clear of the clouds. Not to worry though. I’m halfway back and well out of the danger zone.


07-01-16 8:49 AM
8:36. AM, 86 degrees F. (30 C.). I’m back at the car after almost three hours hiking. I could have been back sooner, though with temps actually dropping, I elected an hour and a half detour to explore an open region to the East.
I won’t lie. That was a scary hike. Though in hindsight it was mostly a sense of caution which provoked the excess worry. Reason – the arbiter of truth – took a more practical view of things, and helped shoo excess fear from the limelight of thought. In the same way my childish fear of nighttime ghosts and monsters was dispelled the previous night though a little clear thinking and a mild application of beer.
Now it’s on to the lava fields for a few short excursions into Black Widow spider country. With a little luck I’ll be home in time to bodysurf some nice set waves before the sun goes down at Shaw’s Cove.

07-01-16 11:34 AM
In the last three hours temperatures have jumped from 82 F. (23 C.) to 114 F. (46 C.). The desert has surely shown her fangs. Meanwhile, this lean coyote is taking a break under the branches of a Mesquite.


07-01-16 12:28 PM
I made it in and back with no problem. At the turnaround point I wasn’t even sweating, though this began in earnest about 15 minutes in. Hands began swelling at 13 minutes which is really soon. Arrived back at the car ready to go another 10 minutes, though I won’t.
This hike felt a lot like a swim into deep water. Once you’re out there it’s like “oh crap, what have I done?” but when you get back it’s like “I wonder if I could go further?” But don’t worry, I won’t.
I’ve always kept my adventuring on a short safety leash due to my responsibility and commitment as a husband and father. I’ve hiked much further in such weather during my very reckless youth, and I knew what I was doing today wasn’t really very dangerous. If it seems that way then you can blame my writing, which, though I never lie, tends to make things sound a little more extreme than they actually are. Please consider that I’ve never been seriously hurt in over four decades of solo adventuring. That’s because I respect the wild, and always leave wide margins for error.
I’m writing this now as I know I have some new viewers who don’t know me very well, and who have expressed sincere worry over my activities. You don’t need to be concerned. The softypapa channel is an entertainment show. A vehicle to share a long-running love affair with living life to the fullest. What I do here and on YouTube isn’t an act, though it is a bit of a production. I hope that might help ease some minds.
I know some think I’m nuts and pretty irresponsible. And that’s probably true. But I definitely don’t want to die or get hurt, or leave my family in dire straights. And so you can count on every adventure being a planned, coordinated (even if it doesn’t look that way) endeavor, designed to ensure I return home not only with stories, but with sound mind and body. Thanks for watching, everyone.

07-01-16 5:13 PM
From a 114 degree desert hike to a refreshing ocean swim in four hours. I sure do love Southern California. And the waves are HUGE again, today!! Let’s do this!


07-02-16 7:15 AM
Going alone into the desert requires much energy and time. The gold miners of the past knew this; risking everything for a little precious ore. There’s still much of value out there now. Though you don’t need a pick, shovel or mule to get it. Just bring a hat, some water, and a small budget of time. No companions. Not even a dog. You may not even be able to share the treasure you’ll find. More precious than gold. More fleeting than life.

07-02-16 7:56 AM
13.2 gigabytes of video from the desert. That’s a lotta raw ore. I wonder how much of any value is really in there? I remember spending at least twenty minutes talking at the camera while hiding from the sun, hunkered in the sand under a three foot railroad bridge while freight trains rolled over the top of me. I’m a little hesitant to review what madness I was actually saying. I’m gonna blame it on the heat.

07-02-16 8:46 PM
This satellite image reveals the furthest point in yesterday’s hike. The approach was super-easy through open desert along the very gentle slope of an enormous alluvial fan. Evidence of flash floods was everywhere, and it would be a bad idea to camp at any location between the ghost town of Siberia and the low mountains. After reaching the foothills (1.3 miles from the ghost town) I made my way up to a small lookout (marked with an X on the map) above a landscape of steep and crooked ravines. The exposed rock was spectacular, and if I hadn’t been so worried about the heat I would have gladly spent the rest of the morning in the ravines examining the rocks. I found a good spot to set a tent (marked with an oval) which is safe from flash floods, but perhaps a little exposed to lightning which seems to be pretty intense here during summer storms. As for life in the area; look for creosote, sage, mesquite and perhaps some tamarisk on the loamy alluvial fan. Jumping and a few pencil cholla were spotted in firmer soil closer to the hills. Beware falling through the many large burrows running just beneath the sands while walking out on the plain. The holes are quiet large and many appear to be home to desert tortoise. Though there isn’t evidence of water anywhere I was delighted to spot dragonflies crossing the desert in the early morning. Otherwise the area is quite still and quiet. A moonscape with cactus.


07-03-16 10:02 AM
I got up very early this morning to put together the video for the hike titled “A swim into deep water.” Midway through I realized it was softypapa talking at the camera; the guy I’d given up as dead and left behind in Japan. And before long LylesBrother showed up to talk about the objectives and principals of The Path of Wildness, sharing how this philosophy has grown since coming to America. It was a real shock to see and hear these guys again. I wonder where they’ve been hiding these past two and a half years? I wonder if they’re here to stay?


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