Alaska!

Wow, this is it! Tomorrow morning, first thing, the truck points North, up the Al-Can, across Yukon and to Alaska. Destination known. Return uncertain.

I still can’t believe it.

Seriously, 2 months ago, I changed the background on my laptop to a picture of Denali. I figured the constant visual reminder would help me manifest a trip north. As the Roaming Bobcat, I can go anywhere, anytime. But to Alaska, I didn’t want to go alone – because such beauty should be shared – and I didn’t want to go as a tourist – because I’d quickly run out of money, and then what? And it all landed on my lap perfectly, better than I could have asked. Someone quit, a team of two was needed, Kristo (one of my favorite people in the whole wide world) was on his way to take one of the positions, and I was at the exact right place, along the way, at the exact right time, when the other man quit.

Our destination is a yak-hog-alpaca ranch in Gakona, ran by a couple of thru-hikers. They were 3 days behind me on the PCT in 2012. I never met them, but Kristo did. The Cats (Lion and The Bobcat)’ first task will be to build an outdoor shower – it seems we need to build it, if we want to shower – then a long fence around a large pasture, then we’ll get the pasture ready for the animals.

The couple at the ranch, Goose and Pinky, systematically tried to dissuade me from taking the job. There is no social life whatsoever, they said. The nearest town is 5 hours away. Trips to town for groceries are once every six weeks. The ranch is at the edge of the St. Elias mountain range – the largest continuous wilderness preserve in the world. There are wolves, grizzlies, and mosquitoes so fierce that I’ll go crazy before the large predators can get to me anyway. The perimeter of the property is guarded by geese (which scare me more than wolves or bears), but any intrusive predator will be shot on sight (to the girl who feels murderous pulling weeds out of a garden!) Also, the sun set for the last time 3 days ago. It will be daylight 24 hours a day when I get there, and the sun will not set again until after I leave. Most people feel too isolated, and quit.

I heard “adventure, more adventure, best adventure ever!” and my heart almost exploded from excitement. It’s like my life was waiting at the train station, feeling a little stagnant, and looking at the time table and wondering which train, out of the infinite number of possibilities, it should jump on. And then I saw it. It was blindingly shiny, and I ran and yelled “I want on, wait for me” and jumped up at the very last second. And I can’t even believe how lucky I was to catch it. But now, it’s going and all my life choices have been reduced to one certitude.

Rapunzel, the lady of the organic farm where I spent the last 3 months, prepared for me an assortment of seeds and plant starts. There will be no fresh greens at the ranch, unless I plant and grow them. I also have some mung beans sprouts growing in a tupperware and a fresh batch of kombucha brewing in a crate next to my bed in the back of the truck. It should be ready right when I get there, and I’ll be discreet about it.

Goose and Pinky warned me, “We don’t want to be the weird hippies up on the hill”. The county of Gakona is home to conservative authentic Alaskans, about 3 of them per square miles. I can expect big trucks, wolf skins and “Vote for Trump” signs. We make no waves. We don’t engage in political debates. This is important. I’m thinking that if I meet a man wearing a wolf skin, I will likely have a lot of questions, and none of them of a political nature.

So, that’s a full inventory of what I know about what I’m getting into. I should have wifi at the ranch. And I am expecting there will be stories.

In about 10 minutes, five friends from the PCT, class of 2012, will arrive at the farm for a mini family reunion and to send Kristo and the Bobcat off to Alaska in style, so I leave you here for now.

May all your adventures be spectacular.

Wooohooooo hoooo hoooo!

XOXO – TRBCMount Mckinley
(the picture that started it all – from Google)

Fearless – 5 secrets to survive your new love in a tiny home

“2 people. 32 square feet. And barely enough cash to get to where we’re going. What could go wrong?”

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … remember how I met a man in Maine, a new sparkly love, and invited him to travel back to the desert Southwest and live in the truck with me for the winter? Right, because living in 32 sq feet wasn’t challenging enough by myself, I guess.
I seriously questioned my sanity at the time, and I panicked a few times before departure. But in the end, you know what killed the cat … There was no way I was leaving without him. We left fearlessly on December 1st and traveled “all over this great Earth”, as Jim liked to say. Here’s a map of our roaming adventures. jimandmeltravels

8,700 miles in total we traveled. From the sand dunes of Death Valley, to the gigantic Redwoods of northern California, via the Sierra Nevada, the rocky mountains, the Cascades, the wind-swept Wyoming plains, through a couple of hot springs, a sunset over the Pacific Ocean, a years’ worth of Brussels sprouts and a new love for green chilies.

Jim flew home a week ago, a month later than he had originally planned.
“Come here, Lovey Bumpers.” he said right before crossing the TSA queuing line. I cried as I watched him leave, and that was a good thing. That meant we still loved each other, after all this.

So here is a short list of advice for you, if you wish to embark on such an adventure. 5 lessons I’ve learned from our wild journey, and also a few insights on what I wish I had done differently.

  1. Unjustified confidence.
    Before we left, Jim predicted we’d make it. When I asked how he was so sure, he replied “unjustified confidence.” He was right, as long as we both chose to believe that we would make it, our perspective-goggles remained focused on what did go right instead of what could go wrong. This self-congratulating attitude set the stage to create more of the same. If there are ups, there must be downs, and vice-versa. So as the roller-coaster goes, keep your eyes on the horizon. I failed at this a little bit. When it was up, I assumed it would keep going that way. When it was down, I quickly jumped to cutting bait conclusions and threatened to fly the man home. I wanted justified confidence, but sometimes, I’ve learned, keeping the peace just takes good ol’ blind faith.
  2. Com-mu-ni-ca-tion.
    You cannot sit and stew, when you live in 32 sq. feet with someone else. You might think you’re avoiding an argument, but your heart is emitting the energy of the unspoken words you’re attempting to save your partner from. And said partner picks up that energy unconsciously and projects onto it much worse than the actual problem at hand. So speak up, whatever it is. Clear up the air early with truthful, calm, open communication. After a month of adapting to each other, Jim and I established a daily “check in” – a safe place where whatever was coming up or moving through us could be shared. I loved the daily check-ins. In hindsight, I wish I had learned sooner that if frustration reaches a boiling point, it is best to walk out into the desert or the forest and discharge that energy first, before the check-in. I mean, isn’t that why we live in our vehicles? So we can have all this open space at our disposal? Use it. Open space doesn’t mind loud noises, but your partner does.
  3. Respect all Alien life
    Living with someone in the truck’s tiny space is like having a microscope on full zoom on each other’s quirks. 90% of the time, these quirks will make no sense to you whatsoever. Why do you need to keep this desiccated piece of wood? He just does. Why must I wear pajamas in bed? Because it’s my bed and I said so. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but your beloved will suddenly seem straight outta Alpha Centory’s third left moon. This is a good time to sit back, relax, and dismantle. We are all programmed from birth to what society and our parents deemed right and good. Others’ programs might overlap, or they might not. We only get upset if we believe that our programming is superior. Understand, it is not. On the partner’s home-world, that quirk is what is right and good. And if you can laugh at the differences, you get bonus points.As a recommended extra step… Reinforce respect with daily small appreciations.
    “Thank you for packing the truck this morning.” “Thank you for the hot water for tea.” “Thank you for driving me all over this great big Earth.” Feeling seen and appreciated fills up the space with good vibes and makes the aliens feel at home.
  4. Space and your personal frontiers
    No matter how tight you like to snuggle, you will need breathing space to survive. And it might happen that it is pouring rain out, for days, and that neither of you feels like walking out into the cold. In such times, a good skill is the ability to create a bubble of privacy in your mind. Quiet space is private space. You can also sleep in opposite directions. Having someone’s feet by your face somehow feels more private than breathing their breath. Keeping a private journal and separate social media are essential. One partner can also get dropped off at a coffee shop or a library for a few hours. If the rain stops, then go ahead and walk away. Hike different trails, find each other at the top. Consciously choose different experiences to ensure that you always have some exciting stories to share with each other.
  5. Strap yourself in and feel the Gs.
    If this was a “normal” relationship, one or both partners would go to work all day and reunite for a few minutes between dinner and some TV show in the evening. On the road, a two-year relationship gets crammed into each week. So, you can expect two years worth of “stuff” coming up in that time-span. Here you are, thinking you’re on a geographic journey … 8,700 miles, 20 states, 5 national parks, etc. That is nothing compared to the internal space explored. The person with whom you started at mile 0 is gone by mile 1,000, and they’re not coming back. They were changed by the shared experience and by the constant contact with you. And you are different too, even if you don’t see it. Feelings, expectations, plans, preferences – everything changes. Your partner is not inconsistent, he or she is evolving. So, support their growth with love, and honor yours with self-respect, because in the end that is what the journey is all about – that, and nothing else.These are the biggies on my mind at the moment. But Jim only left a week ago, and I suspect I will continue learning as layers of memories are revealed in order of increasing subtlety, like layers of an onion.

    Until the next adventure …
    Jim and I
    To Jimmy James. Thank you!
    XOX – Loves.

What happened to the professional Marijuana easy gravy train?

So you want to be a trimmigrant? You’ve heard the stories – girl trims weed for a few weeks in October, makes $5000 and writes or travels for the rest of the year, every year. Or maybe you haven’t heard the stories. Maybe you’ve been following blogs and instagrams of adventurers from behind your desk job and wondering, “How the hell …?”

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Well, it turns out most of us are not independently wealthy. Somewhere along the line, we just got lucky, fell into an experience at the right farm, at the right illegal time. We found the rocky Marijuana trimming gravy train, and tried our best to stay on it.

That’s how it started for me anyway. I had never heard of trimming, and as a non-Marijuana user, I had no reason to run into anyone in that world. A friend of mine got the job – a “job down south”, he said, vaguely – and asked if I could watch his cat during his absence for a few weeks. When a bar-tending job appeared for him in Portland, my cat-sitting gig disappeared, so I jokingly asked “Can I have your job down south then?” I wasn’t expecting “Maybe. Let me see.” … 24 hrs later, I was pulling into the farm, still completely clueless as to what “job” I had just landed. I didn’t care. I had just finished walking the PCT, was riding the greatest spiritual high of my life (yet) and had absolute trust that anything the Universe provided was for the Greater Good.

That fall, I worked at 4 different farms over the course of 2 and a half weeks. The pay ranged from $17 to $35 an hour, depending on experience. I fell into the good graces of the main man on the first day and started at $20/hr. This was standard at the time. Smaller farms paid trimming by the pound. $200 a pound was not uncommon. Either way, at $20/hr on 12 to 17 hr long days, or several pounds a day, money flowed fast and easily, no experience needed, just tenaciousness and stamina.

I loved the work instantly. As a provider of medical marijuana, the outfit was legal by the laws of the time. Card-holding medical marijuana patients could defer their growing needs to a professional grower. 6 plants per patient, 4 growers per farm, so 96 plants per farm. We worked outdoors,  in forests of luxuriant, beautiful, 10 feet tall plants. I felt an instant kinship to these plants, a natural heart-bond. I learned about cannibanoids, turpines, CBDs, and how they match the human brain’s receptors. I saw how tinctures and teas made from the THC-free leaves can cure cancer, aids, glaucoma, etc. I understood the spiritual significance of the plant in human evolution, and bemoaned the mundanity with which most stoners approach the medicine. I became an advocate for the complete legalization of the plant, even though, to this day, I cannot myself partake in the smoking or eating of it – (see Tripping Balls). Little did I know I was supporting the death of the Golden Goose.

The outfit was legal and the plants were legit. Sort of. Any surplus after the medical patients had their need fulfilled was wrapped in vacuumed sealed packs inside dog food bags and driven off to more prosperous places to be sold on the black market. That’s how the farm earned enough to pay us so much. And that is why utter discretion about the work was mandatory. Helicopters flew overhead daily, sending most workers to hide. I have no doubt that our license plates were noted, checked and tracked. I never felt unsafe – exhilarated by the danger, maybe, but not unsafe. I felt I was “sticking it to the Man”, part of an sub-culture of free-thinkers, and out of “the System”. I left the farm with a fat $3000 envelop and an invitation to return the next year.

A few weeks later, the main man was held at gunpoint and all the weed was stolen. Complete ruin. The main man paid us all anyways, and new plants were planted.

The following year, weed trimming wasn’t even on my mind. By harvest time, I was working in Colorado restoring historical windows when an invitation came in from my favorite grower. There was a special plant – the Ice Princess – a rare strain of 100% Sativa straight from Jamaica. She was grown for ceremonial purposes only. She was sung to, praised and loved every day for her whole life since seed. And she could only be harvested by women who understood Her sacredness. I grabbed my Colorado coworker and little Soul Sister and drove straight to the farm where the Ice Princess lived. The main man assumed I was there for the general harvest and I thought, “why not? I can use a few thousand grands.”

But things had changed. Stress was about the farm and much money needed to be recouped from the theft of the previous year. A trimming machine had been purchased, so much of the outdoor work was already done. We were just there to clean up the buds. like this …

We sat 50 trimmers on long tables in a closed room under neon lights and the uncompromising eye of one of the main man’s watchdogs. The main man had much else to do and rarely showed, but, on his behalf, the watchdog made sure that the task was as abject as possible. Gangsta’ rap was blasted at full volume to ensure we could not chat – chatting makes you slower. Breaks were timed, greasy food was provided, and if you dared to stretch your neck, a resounding “KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE” greeted your elevated gaze.

Under other circumstances, I might have lasted longer, but I had brought a little sister into the madness, and I felt responsible for her well-being as well as mine. I explored the situation for a few days. I almost quit several times, then found silver linings. I could take this opportunity to learn to trim faster – the watchdog was, after all, one of the fastest trimmers I had ever met. I pleaded for different music, and different food. Some accommodations were made, reluctantly. But my greatest sin was to take a “personal day” off to harvest the Ice Princess. I was not just sticking it to the Man, I was sticking it to the main man. “Bobcat, I love you, but you’re causing trouble.” he said. “You can’t be coddled while everyone else bust their asses.” He tried to fire me, but I quit simultaneously – possibly making me the first person in history to be fired from a pot farm for instigating a rebellion. “What? Do you want a union?” It seemed ludicrous then … but that was then.

The little sister and I drove away that day with a fat envelop each. A few weeks later, the main man was again held at gunpoint and all the weed stolen. Once again, he paid all the workers. Those sure were crazy times, and I was done with that scene. I truly believed I would never trim again.

But that heart-bond the plant and I share magnetizes situations to my life. I never seek it out; it finds me and permeates my world. If I meet a man randomly, he invariably turns out to be a grower or a medical patient or one of the key campaigners in legalizing the plant. How is that? Is there a particular pheromone that people in the weed industry give off that I am particularly attuned to? When Colorado passed legal full recreation Marijuana, one of my best friends quit his daytime job and became an indoor grower. I became his trimmer. I had a whole room filled with veg beauties to myself, my music, my food, my schedule, $20/hr, 10 hr days, for a week … enough to hike the AT. A few months later, I fell off hiking the AT, knocked down by some mysterious disease, and the first job I landed was a trimming job in Maine. That job paid in weed, which I couldn’t smoke, so I sold it to a friend and made just enough to move back out west. The very definition of a trimmigrant.

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California, Oregon, Washington and Maine passed legal full rec. That’s right about when the gravy train derailed. By then, weed trimming had become a staple income in my wallet. If the Grand Canyon tourist season didn’t pan out, Colorado was only 12 hrs away.

Down the street from where my CO grower lived, a couple was shot dead because thieves thought it was a grow house. They had the wrong house, but that incident sparked severe and likely justified paranoia in anyone with more than a few plants. When the plants flower, when they are ready to harvest, the smell is so potent that even from a closed room with incense burning the whole neighborhood is alerted of what lurks in the basement. It is legal, but it is also highly prized, because other states still have flourishing black markets. The speed of harvest is a grower’s best safety. And young stoners are catching on. Colorado now has teams of professional trimmers. $15/hr. They bring enough people to do the job in a day. They work all over the city, a different grow house every day, and therefore have a steady income. But not me – I only had one grower, and if my load is shared with a team of $15/hr trimmers, my income drops from $2000 to $200 a harvest.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, many of the 16,000 growers in Jackson county lost the legal right to grow. Weed is legal, but farms and grow-houses cannot be in residential zones.  The main man for whom I once worked was able to place himself on a commercial zone just in time. He now runs the largest legal grow operation in the area and has a small army of full-time trimmers/operators on staff, whom he pays minimum wages.

And in California’s Humboldt County, once the scene of a mad Green Gold Rush, trimmigrants from all over the states are washing out in towns, jobless and penniless. In Eureka, they gather behind Wall-mart, on the Devil’s Playground, where hundreds of homeless hopefuls have set up camps. I only saw it from a distance, but close enough to break my heart.

After a sad journey through the fallen glory of what once was a lucrative black market, I once again figured I would give up trimming. But just then, Tabitha found me.

Tabitha is a placement agent. Unlike the loose assembly of trimming stoners I met in Colorado, she creates teams of people with skills and respect for the plant. Her vision is to provide adventures and artists a means to finance their dreams, and to supply farms with a sort of elite skilled labor force. She contacts farms, signs contracts and provides paychecks. She offers her teams available gigs, and we get to pick when and where we want to work. She charges the farms more than they pay their own employees, but we make the sticker price worth their while. She pays us $14/hr, much less than the black market, but how many jobs let you travel all over, sleep in your truck, work when you want, and surround you with free-spirited like-minded people?

So, I gave it a shot.

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I did. I actually had to file a W4 and a job application for the first time since 1997. On site, we have to wear gloves and hair cover when we handle the plants. We have mandatory breaks and we pay taxes. I even have my own fiskars and a dedicated work apron. I am no longer a trimmigrant, I am a “professional marijuana processor”. Oh, that Man! He sure knows how to get you back into “The System”.

So, all that to say that if you are one of the people who contacted me, asking if I could “get you in”. Be aware that the gravy train was loaded onto a ship, and that ship has sailed. In those states where it is legal, trimming weed is now a job just like any other one. You won’t make $5000 fast, and it will likely not pay for your next adventure.

There are, however, still a few good reasons why I love doing it … but I’ll save that for another post. 🙂

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(top image by Katie, middle images by Jimmy James and myself, last image by Google).

Lunacy

​Lunacy. A real thing.  Alone on the Wolf Moon in a desert I love,  like so many other nights.  Midnight. A truck full of screaming drunken men races up my dirt road. There’s metal banging.  The engine roars. I can’t tell if the scream is of pain or joy. I feel the fight or flight hormones rushing through. The truck is now open and I’m ready. I could run and hide up the hill.  I know this desert better than they do.  And leave my truck open to vandalism?  Never. What weapons do I have? 1 ice axe, 2 fire staffs. No gun. No need. I wouldn’t shoot. I know this. The screams are closer now. Pots and pans must be tied to the bumper. What feeling is this?  The opposite of feeling safe. Would I feel safer if Jim was here?  I can’t rely on others for my feeling safe. Would I feel safer if I believed I was safe? Yes. I used to believe. I don’t know why it changed. Would I remain aware and believing in a loving, kind universe if these men got here? Fascinated by the inner dialog, I feel it all,  like an observer and a potential victim both.  

They turn around less than 20 feet from the truck. I am parked on a muddy dead end road.  They never saw me.  I find their tracks in the morning. They drove back and forth through the thickest of the mud. They broke some trees and drove over cacti. 

I follow their tracks all the way to the paved road. They were on a rampage. Mayhem and destruction everywhere they drove. I knew their path before I saw it. As they left the desert, I could hear their screams and see their red fading lights for miles. I wished those lights stay red.  Don’t turn around. Don’t come back here,  lunatic wolf moon madmen.

[Reposted here from a Facebook post from a few days ago]

*the Wolf Moon is the first full moon of the year. 

Crazy Free – 2 year and 100 reviews celebration!

I love synchronicities. Here is one: Two years ago, on November 19th, 2014, I wrote the last line of Crazy Free, right here, in North Conway. November 19th, 2016, the 100th comment was posted about Crazy Free on Amazon. Another glorious 5 star review. Thank you readers. I love you!

Nov 19th, 2014, 6:17 pm
I am right now only one sentence away from finishing the first draft of my book, and I am not writing it.
The last few paragraphs I have written describe how I slept 4 miles before Manning Park because I wasn’t ready to be done with the PCT. The last sentence I haven’t written yet is the part when I actually finish the PCT.
At least, I’m consistent. So, I’m off to eat dinner, call some friends and take a bath. 

Nov 19th, 2014, 9:51 pm
The last sentence is a run-on sentence, and I like it this way.
Draft 1 is done.

Nov 19th, 2016, from Amazon.com review page
5 stars – I absolutely loved Crazy Free
by Glen on 
November 19, 2016
Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved Crazy Free. So many of us talk about following our hearts but do we really? She risked living in misery in order to find absolutely happiness and because of that we are able to read her story and, hopefully, gain some kind of inspiration. I originally bought this book because it related to hiking the PCT but came away with so much more.

YAY!

champagne-celebration

I think I just panicked … as told to my Dad.

Here’s (slightly edited) bits from my correspondence with my Dad about what went down since I last posted here:

[…] Sorry it took me so long to answer. The past month has been a little rocky. But it was all me that rocked the boat. Jim flows on life calmly, unless he gets excited about an adventure or an opportunity to build something.

This one didn’t start like my other relationships. My other relationships started in flurries of lust and googoo-love-eyes. This one was easy, familiar, natural. It felt like a long-term relationship that accidentally started in the middle of a happily-ever-after story. I settled in the feeling that I had found “my one”. And of course, I wasn’t going to leave without “my one”, so we agreed that when the wind of migration called me south for the winter, he would make the journey with me.

We drew plans to modify the truck to accommodate two people, and I contacted Benny of Earth Tours in Sedona to see if he’d have work for me. He did. Benny had just acquired a 15-passenger van for the Grand Canyon trips. Not only I could guide, I would also train the other guides about the geology of Grand Canyon. Everything looked good ahead, so Jim grabbed a few thick boards and within two hours had completely transformed my back-of-the-truck home.

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The modifications were a work of art, but the reality that I was about to share my 32 square-foot home with another suddenly hit. I think I just panicked. You know I love and I need my personal space. That’s why I’ve been living alone in the desert all this time. Suddenly, everything about Jim was wrong. I turned into a chronic complainer. He listened and tried to help, but *everything* about him was suddenly unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the country was voting for Trump and everybody else was going crazy too. People’s fear came to the surface, people’s hatred came to the surface. It’s still going on now, but I think people are calming down a little bit, now that the first shock and disbelief has passed. In the end, what doesn’t break us, makes us stronger. I see people being now more committed to peace and loving and accepting each other than before. I don’t know what will happen with this country, but I think we will stand tall in our integrity. If people are racists and have nazy-tendencies, I would rather know about them than have it hidden.

So, the same process went on for me, internally. If I have fears about intimacy, about sharing my space, about my needs being not met, I want to know about it. Once I realized all the fears that were coming up were just that, fears – not reality – Jim and I sat down and discussed how we each felt about this journey. I believe he will honor my need for space, but for him, this is the trip of a lifetime. He has never been anywhere. He’s always wanted to see oceans, volcanoes, caves, deserts, but by the draw of life, was not able to. And here I show up, ready to take him away. It almost feels like fate or destiny – but I believe in neither fate nor destiny. I believe in choosing our path and knowing you can’t go wrong, because regardless, you’ll have an adventure, and you’ll learn things. If I go back to the desert alone, it’s the same thing I’ve done for the past 4 years. If I go with Jim … I get to learn something and grow.

So, we leave right after thanksgiving together. I hope to have a lot of guiding work from January to June. Jim is a carpenter and a master builder – he creates homes with natural material, like traditional log cabins or hand-made brick houses. I’m not worried about him. He’ll find himself a project. My only lingering concern is that we’ll have one vehicle for two people, only one of whom knows how to drive a manual, so far. But I can let the Little Crazy in my head continue to rock the boat with its fear-mongering or I can choose to trust and love instead, and just go for it.

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“Shadows coming forward and forefront to be experienced and released is an integral part of the evolution process. Love will prevail. There is no other long term choice. So feel your fears and honor them. Fears will lock into your survival mechanism. It’s just how they operate. But we are not dying. We are not even doomed. We are growing, clarifying, self-defining in contrast. In fact, we might just have been gifted an exceptionally potent catalyst. We’ve chosen a shortcut, a kick in the pants of status-quo comfort. Strap on your seatbelt. Fast growth could be a hell of a ride. It’ll be worth it. Mark my words.” 

Written on the morning after the election, in my journal, to myself on the topic of my relationship. Then I heard the global news. As inside so without. 

Tinderized

It’s time to tell you this story. I was sitting on it because I’m superstitious and didn’t want to jinx the Magic. But with the Facebook photos of the truck being converted to a two-person sleeper and of cabins in the colorful northeastern woods, anybody who’d care has already figured out that this Bobcat’s on a whole different kind of adventure than her usual.

It starts with a dream, so let’s back up a bit …

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … I was released from the hospital with a mystery. The doctors had found no obvious cause for the belly pain that diverted me from my AT thru-hike. As Western doctors – even well-intentionned ones – are known to do, I was released with a laundry list of catastrophic potentialities – cancer, ulcer, tumor, etc – my asymptomatic mystery still could carry, and a busy schedule of ongoing medical tests I would need. A week and a half after my release, I dreamt of my Grandpa Henri. Henri died when I was 14 years old, but I never met him, and I only know what he looked like from one small photo my Grandpa Alex gave me.

I approached Henri’s casket in the dream. The family was gathered around, but nobody I knew. He opened his eyes and looked straight at me. Was this normal behavior? Maybe just some leftover nerves. Nobody moved. He sat up suddenly, pale as death, and the family ran. With both eyes still fixed on me, he swung his stiff legs over the casket and stood up.
“You can’t get up.” I told him, “You’re dead, remember? You died of cancer a while back.”
He didn’t care. He jumped out of the casket and skipped on down the corridor.
“Henri! You’re dead!” He finally turned around to acknowledge me. His face was young and fresh, full of vitality. “I chose to die back then because nothing could be done. But now there are alternative, holistic, earth-based medicines. This is a good time to wake up.”

I woke up with a knot in my throat. Was this a message? Was it saying that the pain in my belly is cancer? A flash of fear ran the length of my spine. I breathed thought it and sat with my own mortality. Relax! Henri is right, there are alternatives. I decided then that if I had cancer, I would not follow the western path of radiation and chemo. I would follow the earth-plant-holistic path. And if I failed? Then I’d die. And that was fine. In that moment, I felt such gratitude for my life thus far. It has been exceptional by my own standards. The best life I could have ever wished for. I’d want to know that my truck was in good hands and that the story in my book  lived on. Other than that, I felt perfectly fulfilled, content and at peace with what was and has been.

So it was with surprise and confused fascination that I watched myself roll over to my phone, download the Tinder app and create a profile.

tinder_fire

I don’t remember the first man that was presented. Jimmy James was the second. He looked kind, handsome, and could do a handstand. I “liked” him. In the following hour, I swiped “no” to at least 300 undoubtedly wonderful men. I “liked” two others, not out of interest, but because I felt I should at least have three eggs in this basket. But the other two eggs never hatched.

I understand that it is customary to exchange Tinder messages for a while, then move on to personal texts, eventually a phone call, and way down the line, finally a meeting face-to-face, once compatibility and sanity have been fully checked and vested. Ugh! Who has time for that? My Tinder flame’s truck had just landed in the shop, his wallet was just stolen, and his phone had just fallen and shattered. It seemed to me the man needed a break from a bad luck streak, so after a few texts, I drove to Maine to pick up Jimmy James.

First impressions – A tall man, a peaceful demeanor, long white dreads, torn jeans, bare feet, a joyous gait, an army bag topped by a rolled wool blanket.
“Great! I just drove an hour to pick up a homeless hippy”, I though, but instead I said “Hey, here you are!” as genuinely as I could fake.
“Yay, here I am.” He walked to my truck as though he always had and naturally placed his belongings in the back with mine.
“Where are we going?” I assumed he had a plan, since we were in his town.
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought any further than this meeting right now. We can go anywhere.”

As I turned the key in the ignition, I sensed an adventure had begun, one beyond the miles we might cover that day. The calm joy of that man in the cab of my truck – Certainty, solid ground, landmark, and a launching pad for a rocket ship combined. Suddenly all other adventures were canceled. THIS needed to be explored. And what was this? I’m not sure yet. But it’s that thing that makes you take your shoes off – unless you’re already barefoot – and run through fields in the sun, and laugh, and dance, and blow milkweed puffs in the wind. It changes the flow of time and reorganizes your life like the advanced stages of a Tetris game. It’s that thing you didn’t know you were missing in your “perfectly fulfilled, content and at peace with what was and has been” life. It makes it not okay to die. Not at all.

And it gets worse.
This one comes with two more – a two year old and a four year old. A man and two boys to steal my heart and deconstruct my well-oiled solo roaming life.

So, this is the end of this post, but the beginning of what could be my biggest adventure yet. There will be more stories. I have already climbed a physical and metaphorical mountain with the boys. Now the Cat-mobile is being converted to fit two people. Our sights are to the southwest for the winter. We have known each other a little over a month, have no money, and will be confined to a 32 square feet home for the foreseeable future.

You think I’m scared? You damn right I am. But …

“There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.”
~ Mary Oliver, Felicity:Poems.
 

 

milkweed

 

AT final debrief. And the next adventure …

I finally updated the AT 2016 stories page, linked to the menu above. Here is a prologue of sort to the next adventure …

I had the means, the time and the gumption. I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail (the AT), all 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. My plan was to start at the summit of Kathadin in early July and roll on down south to Georgia for Thanksgiving.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and bobcats … I made it to the top of Kathadin, across Maine, New Hampshire and half of Vermont. 500 miles I walked. Then I landed in the hospital. Here are the stories of my hike and its unexpected left turn –> here.

As I update this page in the fall from my temporary home in New Hampshire, I now know that the sickness that landed me in the hospital was a gift. This is still 2016. The year when I asked the Universe to “surprise me”. It might even surprise you … but hold on a little bit. The next chapter is being written, and I don’t have a full grasp yet of its extent. For now, I’ll tell you that it comes with delicious green eyes (or grey, or orange, depending on the weather) and an air of certainty, of game-change, of uncharted territory.

So, stay tuned. The adventure ain’t over yet, even if the AT is temporary (or permanently) on hold.

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AT – day 44 – the unposted story 

[I still had one story written on the trail saved in my phone.  This was the day that started it all. I hiked another entire day after that one with belly pain before deciding it’d probably be wise to exit, especially since the rotten egg burps and frequent runs to the woods I had expected never came.]

Some days, I fly 20 miles up and over steep rocky mountains. Others, I drag my sorry ass 10 miles on almost perfect level terrain of soft easy pine needles. I guess it’s called balance. 

This all started last night. I knew a big storm was coming,  and I knew a nearby trail angel offered hikers dry space in a barn and breakfast in the morning. But I was enjoying my solitude in the Vermont open forest so much that I made a conscious decision to stop short a mile from town and brave whatever storm came my way instead of facing yet another crowd of new hikers. 

The storm came, and what a storm! Vermont went from drought to flood warning in a few hours. The rain was so heavy and thick that it collapsed my tent immediately. I had feared this would happen. I had pitched the tent stakes at an angle through a few inches of leaves over a solid bedrock of granite. In dry weather it probably would have held,  but in that storm, not a chance.

I got out in the downpour and dragged my tent to an area with thicker leaves. There were no loose anchoring rocks anywhere in sight, but eventually, after the n-th collapse, the tent finally stayed up. I was soaking wet by then, and still needed to hang my food bag up in a tree. Lighting crashed just over the next hill. I quickly coiled my bear line for the throw and found a worthy tree. The first two branches broke under the weight of the wet food bag – a nice full bag replenished that morning in Hanover – but the third one held. I was very pleased with myself – I can take care of myself in the wilderness. Yay! – and crawled back into my then still dry home.

I slept on and off,  woken up often by some of the loudest thunder I have ever heard. The clashing traveled from one side of the sky to the other, creating shock waves that shook the ground under my sleeping pad.  I had to contend with the usual tent leaks, and kept count of the time between lightning and thunder to gage the storm’s proximity. The closest it got was 3 seconds,  so still about half a mile away.  I don’t worry until it’s less than 3. I felt safe, in spite of the situation.  

I awoke this morning to clear skies, a dry pad and quilt (my sleeping bag is off to Western Mountaineering for refluffing of feathers – that’s another story). But, by my feet, my pack swam in a inch-deep indoor lake. The area had been level and dry the night before, but leaves cannot be trusted to hold up weight. Everything aside from my pad, borrowed quilt and the electronics in a ziplock bag was dripping wet. I sat up to assess the damage and was immediately shot back down by a sharp pain in my lower right belly. 

My brain quickly ran through its experiential files. Period cramp? Nah, too localized. Muscle cramp? Nope, too internal. Well then, I guessed I was in for some fun times ahead – rotten egg burps and frequent runs to the woods. I have a pretty good guess which of the water sources did it too. The stagnant one below the beaver dam, right after the steep uphill where I lost half my own body weight in sweat,  and 9 miles away from the next water source. That one.

This isn’t my first sick belly rodeo. I don’t filter. I treat my water by loving it. It works 99% of the time. I have long ago accepted the consequences of my unusual choices.  

So I started the day in pain,  with a pack heavy with wet gear. My pack belt occasionally unsnapped, forced open by the growing girth of my bloated belly. I just walked slower and focused instead on the beauty of rural Vermont, its sugar maple forest,  little barns and open fields of wild flowers. I was slow and bloated, but not unhappy … Until I climbed down the bank of a stream, slipped on rocks and landed smack on my tail bone. 

That pain was so intense that I laid right where I fell for a minute, with tears in my eyes and both shoes in the river – damn it, those were my dry socks! A moan escaped my lips, the polite emissary of a rising flurry of curses. I kept them all in. A family of day hikers with kids was approaching. 

“Are you alright?” The mom yelled down from the top of the bank.“I don’t know yet.” I crawled back up to her on all four and asked her to look down my pants. Nothing broken, she said, just a bit of blood from a cut right on my tail bone. “You’ll probably have a bruise.” Yep.  I expect it. 

I slowed down even more after that. Bruise in the back, bloat in the front. The forest was still beautiful. I was still mobile.  

A few painful slow miles later,  I came upon Sweet Toots, Monster and their dog, Beast, in a river. 

“It’s only going to be a 9 mile day,” Monster said,  “but we’re going to camp right here.  Look! There are pools where we can bathe!”

Good enough for me. The water was frigid, but it was nice to get the sweat and blood off my body. 

Sweet Toots (the man of the couple) built a fire,  and Monster (his wife) recounted how they met in China, where she once ran a sex toy import business. I was full of questions, and, in the back of my mind, grateful to the slow miles for the opportunity to camp with these two.

So, overall, I think this day still comes out in the positive. Now, I’m not sure how I’m going to sleep. My belly wants me on my back, my tail bone won’t have it. Also, there are mice here. I haven’t had to deal with mice in a while. 

Should be another interesting night. 

Lights out. 

Xox.

The Bobcat. 

Vermont, the beautiful.