Death Valley: Beauty & Grief

It was February 2005 when I made the memorable trip to Death Valley NP. It wasn’t my first trip, nor was it my last—just memorable. I had planned to go with my friend Dave but the week leading up to the trip, I learned that a childhood friend of mine had died suddenly and tragically. I wanted to be alone. I wasn’t particularly emotional about his passing, after all, we hadn’t kept in touch, but there was still a deep longing for solitude.

I left Friday morning right after my Petrology class at San Francisco State hitting the road in my recently acquired 1992 Nissan Pathfinder. The drive through the Sierra was idyllic. It had been a fairly wet winter so far and the snow pack was substantial, so there were only a handful of passes still open. I passed through South Lake Tahoe and dropped down to Hwy. 395, and headed south towards Mono Lake and Mammoth Mtn. I was awestruck by the beauty of the snow of the Eastern Sierra. The land there is stark—desert like—yet all that could be seen were the rock promontories, cliff faces, and the various species of evergreen draping the eastern flank of the Sierra, everything else was white.

 Descending towards Mono Lake on US Hwy. 395.
Descending towards Mono Lake on US Hwy. 395.

I took the turn off near Big Pine, entered Death Valley on the north side, and headed for the Eureka Dune field. Driving down the long dirt road I was in complete and utter solitude. I had to fumble around to find a scrap of paper to cover up my hi-beam indicator. The bright blue light was completely jarring in the blackness. I remember going to the bathroom before bed and seeing several black widows on their ratty looking webs in the eight corners of the outhouse. The following morning I didn’t see a single one. Never have I shit so fast in all my life. Visions of John Candy in Arachnophobia plucking a single silken string moments before his demise, seared into my mind.

 Crest of a dune in the Eureka Dunes, Death Valley NP.
Crest of a dune in the Eureka Dunes, Death Valley NP.

It had rained the day before and was threatening to do so again. The dunes had a thin crust of damp sand across their surface. They were stunning. I don’t remember where else I went that morning but I ended up at Dante’s View sometime around lunch. The valley sky was still broiling from the storm that west of the Sierra crest was dropping loads of rain and snow but out here only the occasional shower. I then headed off for the destination that was the sole reason I had made the trip, Racetrack Playa.

 Three tracks on the playa.
Three tracks on the playa.

If you’ve never heard about the Racetrack you should read about. In short, it is a dry lake bed in a tucked away graben in the western half of the park. Here there is a perfect confluence of temperature, moisture, wind, and a handful of rocks. During perfect conditions, the winds coming off the surrounding ridge can push the rocks across the surface as if on a sled. At the time I’d been there, this was just a hypothesis, but the result were these rocks (<1 to 3-5 lbs) with long tracks behind them. You could actually walk the track and see when the wind had come from a different direction. You could also see where previous visitors felt the rocks were so special they had to take one home.

 35 mm selfie. #oldschool
35 mm selfie. #oldschool

The drive out was a badly washboarded 90 minute drive. It was on this drive that I discovered my car had a “squeak” that could not be located nor fixed. I didn’t pass a single car on the way to or from the Racetrack. I was in complete solitude for a better part of 5 hours.

It was on the way back from the Racetrack that the reality of Stephen’s death poignantly struck me. I raced through every memory we had made together—playing Super Off Road on his Nintendo, both having hideously ugly tails at one point in our life but thinking them pretty cool, playing games via floppy disk on his old Mac, the last time I’d seen him when he showed me the camera after getting into photography. I imagined what the last few seconds of his life must have been like as his car escaped his control, the sheer terror of seeing the tree immediately before impact, and how his family must feel at that very moment as his father and brothers were processing their loss by building his coffin. I proceeded to eat two sleeves of Double Stuff Oreos and push the thoughts and images from my mind. His death made me think about my own mortality. My twenty-one year old mind had no space nor the emotional aptitude to deal with his death, so I literally ate it away. I remember that after about the third Oreo they didn’t even taste good anymore, but I kept eating.

 A break in the storm at Ubehebe Crater.
A break in the storm at Ubehebe Crater.

I was hit by a couple of intense but very brief rainstorms as I headed back to the little civilization Death Valley had to offer. I stopped at Ubehebe Crater as the low sun—about to set behind the Panamint Range—made the bright yellows, oranges, reds, greens, and purples explode right out of the crater. It was just what I needed. Despite wanting to be alone, I’ve never been good at it and the bright colors and sunshine breaking through the clouds warmed my body and soul. I pulled into a parking lot near the Stovepipe Wells and called it a night. Happy to be around people again but glad I wouldn’t have to interact with them (#introvert).

 Ubehebe Crater, formed by a series of phreatic eruptions over 10,000 years ago.
Ubehebe Crater, formed by a series of phreatic eruptions over 10,000 years ago.

The next morning I felt refreshed and rejuvenated. There is something about an intensely emotional day followed by a night of very heavy sleep. On my way out I stopped near Telescope Peak, threw a snowball at my car, and headed back to San Francisco. On my way home, while driving up I-5 (or as I would have called it at the time, “the 5”), I drove through a curtain of the most intense rainfall I’d ever seen at that point in my life. The trip had been for me like the rain was for my car: An intense burst that stripped off all the shit that I’d picked up along the way.
When I arrived back, I stopped to gas up my car. As was filling the tank I leaned against the spare tire mounted to the back only to find it completely collapse under my weight. I unzipped the spare tire cover to find it completely flat with several holes in the sidewall. I’d just driven hundreds of miles through no-man’s land with no spare. Only now as I write this do I realize that the SOB who sold me the car didn’t tell me the spare was no good. Jerk.

 Purifying rain.
Purifying rain.

I exhaled a deep sigh of relief, went home, and jumped right back into life like nothing had changed. Grief is a strange thing.

Organic

Since day one, care for our customers has been a pillar at The Bearded Savant. Suffice it to say, it’s been a journey. We have worked tirelessly to develop a collection that will meet the needs of every man. We do this by sourcing quality ingredients and developing quality scents. So it brings me great joy to announce that we have made one giant leap forward to provide our customers with the best of the best. Starting the first of the year we have moved to USDA Organic carrier oils, butters, and waxes. 

Organic Ingredients

Sourcing quality organic ingredients is no small task but you are worth every effort! After numerous suppliers, countless sample products, even more suppliers, we think we’ve finally hit pay dirt. Your beard oil is now made with organic jojoba and sweet almond oil. Your balm, wax, and cologne is now made with a combination of organic Shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, and/or jojoba.  

Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils

As always, we will continue to use only top of the line essential oils. Prior to receiving them, every batch of essential oil is run through a battery of tests ranging from microbial testing and mass spectroscopy to isotopic analysis and heavy metal testing. Our supplier CERTIFIES every dram of oil has no added fillers, synthetic ingredients, or harmful contaminants.  

Rest assured, when your skin absorbs our product—and it will—there is nothing but natural goodness making its way into your bloodstream.  

 

Movember is on the horizon

What is Movember?

Movember—growing facial hair to raise awareness and funds to support prostate cancer research.

 

What are we doing for Movember?

During the month of November, men from all over the world grow their lovely facial locks to raise awareness and to raise money in support of prostate cancer research. In 2016, the Movember project raised $60 million and we want to do our part. Last year we offered a 1/2 oz beard oil (just the right size for a 4 week sprint) and sent 10% of net sales to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. This year we are going to do one better.

To recognize the month of Movember and to do our part, this year we will be offering the same great bottle of beard oil with 98% of net sales going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. The remaining 2% will go to fulfill our promise to help end chronic homelessness in Austin, TX. 

We encourage you to find some friends, coworkers, fellow subway riders, or GoT watch party dudes and take part in the Movember challenge.

I have my Movember Beard Oil, now what?

  1. Use it! Start applying the beard oil to your face where you plan on growing facial hair. This will moisturize the skin and prepare your pores to be more pliable, which will greatly cut down on the itchiness factor when your hair starts growing.
  2. Continue to apply the beard oil (once or twice daily) as your awesome ‘stache/beard/goatee continue to grow in.
  3. Sit back and enjoy the compliments
  4. Realize you kind of like it and now need mustache wax. Don’t worry, we got you covered.

 

Answering the age old question: Why does my beard itch?

We get this question all the time: Why does my beard itch? Today we look at three growth stages that can lead to elevated itchiness and discomfort, and in extreme cases, beard dandruff. You can also check out our earlier blog post on the subject here.

Pop Culture Facial Hair: The 90’s

Every decade has a style. It can be defined by the clothing, the music, the art, or the cultural ethos. But here at The Bearded Savant, we understand the only worthwhile way to define a decade is through the facial hair. This is the second of an unknown number of jaunts back through time looking through the lens of facial hair, the 1990’s—the age of paltry facial hair (check out the ’80’s while you’re at it).

The 90’s. The era of the second half of my youth. The 90’s had grunge, hip hop, and New Kids on the Block on one end and Santana and Rob Thomas playing on a near infinite loop on every other radio station at the other end. Saved by the bell to kick off the decade, The Sopranos and Sponge Bob closed us out. So what about the facial hair? We’ll, not so good. There were a few peaks in there, but also a lot of naked faces, sadly. 

The 90’s facial hair can be characterized by baby faces and goatees. Sure, there were some decent beards that appeared from time to time, but generally, it was a weak decade. 

We’ll start with the most memorable beard I recall from my youth, memorable for the film it was in, the film that lit the fire of adventure in my life: Brad Pitt, from Legends of the Fall.

 Brad Pitt, as Tristan, hunting bears in  Legends of the Fall .
Brad Pitt, as Tristan, hunting bears in Legends of the Fall .

The beard on its own is good but taking into account the era in which it occurred, this is a stellar beard. Personally, this film made me want to go fish the river, climb the mountain, fight for the girl’s heart, chase the dream. This film, and by extension, this beard, had a profound effect on me.

And it mostly goes downhill from there.

 Goatees and bleached hair (enter favorite sad emoji here). Moment of honesty: I had both, at the same time #shame.
Goatees and bleached hair (enter favorite sad emoji here). Moment of honesty: I had both, at the same time #shame.
 I don
I don’t even know what to say.
 My older sister watched this movie about a thousand times because of him and the smudge of dirt on his upper lip and chin. 
My older sister watched this movie about a thousand times because of him and the smudge of dirt on his upper lip and chin. 
 The look translates to 2017 pretty seemlessly. The suit? Not so much.
The look translates to 2017 pretty seemlessly. The suit? Not so much.
 The classic Tough Guy Goatee of the 90
The classic Tough Guy Goatee of the 90’s. RIP Ken Caminiti.

This look spawned quite possibly the most ridiculous product to date.

But all the props go to the televised home improvement community. Their beard was not for a movie but for a decade. Well done sirs, thank you for saving the 90’s from awful beards.

 Richard Karn and Bob Villa were an island.
Richard Karn and Bob Villa were an island.

We’ll end this with some others for you to enjoy.