Trail journal from the most beautiful highway in the world

Day 1 – 10 pm. Both Kristo and I got lost right after crossing the border, and that was the last of our hardships. Traveling up the Cassiar hwy was a dream. No unfamiliar places. I have been up these parts before. But my eyes are different – these eyes now are on their way to Alaska. And everything tastes just that much more delicious.
We are sitting on coolers and tailgates in old western caravan style with Ally, a new vehicle-dwelling friend from Victoria. Kristo is strumming the guitar,  elks are singing the song of their people. We have shared bear stories. Summit Lake is pure Stillness. All is peace and quiet … Except for us, according to one local. He came up the hill to see “what the ruckus was all about”. He said he’d worry about us more if we were quiet. Obviously, if we were up to no good, we’d be more discreet. In other parts, this would have been a “you can’t park here. Move along.” but, this is Canada. Instead, he gave us recommendations on what not to miss on our journey north (Liard hot springs, a must-not-miss) and welcomed us to use the toilet behind the hall. “There’s even toilet paper.” Oh Canada!
The 10 hr drive went by in a flash. Every ten minutes BC outdid itself in beauty. Especially down by the border where the road climbs up in pines trees along the Fraser River and the freeway clings to the flanks of snow-capped mountains. And that sunset. It went on for 3 hours with 2 sets of double rainbows. For a while, it looked like the end of one rainbow was right on Kristo’ s truck.  It probably looked like it was on mine from Ally’s, whom we hadn’t met yet.
Today was a very good day.
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Day 2 – I kept a list today. 12 bears (including one in a tree), 3 cubs, 7 moose, 5 elks, 4 bighorn sheep, 7 porcupines … then I realized how ridiculous. How very human of me to reduce this experience of pure happiness to a list. It cannot be comprehended, so let me catalog it. Numbers are safe. We drove for 14 hrs. It felt like 2. Kristo’s truck passed 250,000 miles. Meanwhile, the spectacle explodes my mind. I already now it is futile to try to describe it with words and possibly rude to try to capture it with a camera.
Gratitude for perfection. We are parked across the road from the Liard Hot Springs.
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Day 2 – I want to meet a man who makes me feel the way the Alaska Highway makes me feel. I would marry that man.
It goes beyond the hot springs before breakfast, the remote untamed wilderness, the glaciated peaks, the forest, the lakes, the adventure, the freedom, the quiet stillness when the engines are off, and that space, so much space … It’s not about any of that. I don’t think it can be explained. It only can be experienced.
A magic journey anchored by dramatic landmarks. “welcome to the Yukon” Yes, Yukon, you are indeed larger than life. A reunion with the Yukon River, like a visit to a former lover for whom I still have feelings – too brief, too superficial, too much time has gone by. My favorite coffee shop in Whitehorse was closed. I found a baby pine tree in the trash at the gas station. I will plant it at the ranch.
It’s 11:30 pm, broad daylight. The view from my pillow is of the Kluane National Preserve, with the Wrangell mountain range framed in the opening of the truck.
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Day 3 – “Pinch me” Kristo said when we got here. I don’t think he’s leaving – ever. Today was a short driving day by our standard. We got into Tok in mid-afternoon and stopped by the grocery store. Goose and Pinky recommended the 3 bears grocery store –  5 aisles of guns, amno, fishing gear, camo clothes, bear spray, 1 aisle of potato chips, 1 cooler of beers, 1 cooler of ice creams. I expected as much. It felt like a stamp on my passport. Yep, I’m in Alaska. I walked around minding myself to not look too much like a tourist. I looked at all the guns, and all the knives, got some fuel and drove on. 100 feet further a second 3 bears grocery stores, with actual food. ahaaaah!
We are here.
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2,800 miles in 3 days later. I live on a ranch in Alaska.

Wow.

And so it begins …

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. 

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. 

My 32 square foot home – the bedroom

Some day, in a distant future, I might again live indoors, with a ceiling, running water and indoor plumbing. I imagine at that point I’ll look back on my current life and wonder “how the hell did I fit my entire life in 32 sq fit for all these years?” So, in case you are curious too, and since I am cleaning the truck anyway … here is how:

Bed of truck (bedroom)- 6X4 = 24 sq ft
Behind the seats in the cab – 2X4 – 8 sq ft

Part 1 – the bedroom.
20160610_155059Blank canvas. Almost … 6X4 truck bed outfitted with Vision high ceiling cap, 6 climbing bolts (3 on each sides), metal wire shelves and Tibetan prayer flags.

20160610_155238Side shelves, design of my own – plywood sheet cut and joined with piano hinges, rest on the wheel base, held in the bed liner grooves.

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Waterproof barrier. The shell has been leaking for a few years in spite of having the seals redone. This keeps my mattress dry.

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Ikea firm mattress, with zippered cover. Makes it easy to wash.

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1.5″ memory foam – the secret ingredient in the camping->home alchemy.

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Jersey cotton sheet stretch to fit. Regular sheet are almost impossible to get smooth in this setup. The secret ingredient in the home->palace alchemy.

20160610_175359_Richtone(HDR)Lower shelves. On the right, trash bags, winter hiking boots, stove and fuel box (alcohol stove, windscreen, lighter, funnel for fuel and spare straps), zero degree sleeping bag and winter camping pad. On the left, hiking poles, hiking shoes and sun shade for the side windows, bag of climbing gear and mountaineering bivy bag. Bedding goes underneath the shelves when not in use.

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Middle shelves. On the right, bedside basket (toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, pencils, headlamp, solar lantern, solar lamp, pocket knife, assorted crystals, bio-tune tuning fork, Ganesha statue found in the sea on Nantucket island), medicine box (lotion, vitamins, tiger balm). On the left, book shelf (books in progress, coloring books and pencils, local hiking maps, journal). On the shelf-above-the-feet, denatured alcohol (fuel), water ninja (1 gallon, in a tee shirt for protection), kitchen box (pots, pans, etc), food box (including a full spice rack and nice selection of oils and vinegars), nuts and seeds box, small suitcase of clothes. Welcoming mat for the tailgate.

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Top shelves. To the right, tea box (great assortment of green and herbal teas) and wolf-friend, utility box (scissors, batteries, lighters, candles, tampons, sage bundle, pins, compass, pens and pencils, spare reading glasses), towel, bathroom bag. To the left, hats and gloves box, socks box (I’m packed to be gone all winter, possibly for a couple of years), underwear and truck window curtains. Back shelf, jackets (rain and puffies), pants (yoga, work pants and 1 pair of jeans). Protective sheet of plywood slides under the mattress for sleeping.

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Driving mode – the boxes come down from the shelf-above-the-feet for a clear view out the back. Toys come in (2 fire staffs on the right, a hula hoop on the left) and cooler in the back for easy access.

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Final touch for New Hampshire departure. This time I’m also packing a bin of climbing gear (ice climbing tools, ropes, crampons, ice climbing boots, mountaineering boots, harness, helmet, etc …) and a pair of AT skis.

All that is left is to decorate.

“Courage cannot be tested cautiously” (with the sea horse).
“Follow your heart and know you are loved.” (note from Margaret)
The green bungee cord holds the recorder I use to create the audible version of Crazy Free. It hooks to the other side of the truck when in use, rests on the same side when not in use.

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This one is indispensable for extended stays in the desert. It has been on the wall of several brick and mortar bedrooms before gracing the side of the truck.

That’s the bedroom. Next, the living room (cab)).

My 32 square foot home – the living room

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … the bedroom.

Now moving on to the living room (the cab), where all sorts of hoarding addictions are revealed.

20160611_133456_Richtone(HDR)On the back seat of the cab, four wooden crates held by seat belts.
In the lower right, sewing machine and fabric. In the lower left, arts and crafts (drawing, jewelry making, and MORE fabric. In the upper right, a bunch of girly scarves, a few nice shirts and a jacket, in case I have a date – you never know – valiantly guarded by a tiger and lion, whom I’ve had since I was 16 years old. They came with me in my first suitcase when I came to the states (1992). The left top box is my “office”, padded envelops to send books, address book, business cards and solar charger for my electronics. It’s a bit empty at the moment, but I’m picking up a shipment of Crazy Free books in Colorado on my way through.

These wooden crates turned on their side, combined with the wood planks making the shelves in the back, can (and have) easily become modular furniture if it gets too cold to live in the truck, as happens in New Hampshire in the winter.

20160611_133837Left side, behind the seat. 5 different packs. And yes, I need all of them. There are two more stashed under the seat, along with a small tool box, car wax and rags. The top bag with the exotic print holds two yoga mats and a meditation blanket from India. My Mom made that bag for me years ago. It’s still going.

20160611_134946_Richtone(HDR)Right side, behind the seat. 3 more pair of boots and a spare pair of trail shoes (2 more in the climbing box, and a pair of climbing shoes in the climbing bag). And yes, I need all of them! Under the seat are chains, a snow shovel and ice scraping tools. Ready for winter!
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Tucked in between is my Appalachian Trail pack, ready and eager to go, and my laptop bag with all the chargers, cables and such.

20160611_140436On the passenger seat, a box of snacks for the road and a box with spare change, pens, more charging cables and love notes I like to keep close by. Usually, I keep my purse here too, and the water ninja when I’m driving long-distance.

The rest is all TREASURES!

Sedona rock, New Mexico heart, gift double-pointed quartz, Mt. Baker rock, lip balm, stick I picked up in Yosemite in 1994, heart from Java love cafe. And a stack of hoop earrings around the gear shift handle. And a rainbow-maker from my friend Lucy (to the right of the rear-view mirror).
The “All Powers” box holds a solar trickle-charger for the truck’s battery and about 50 quartz crystals I dug out of Payson’s “diamond point” – between the charger and the crystals, I’m covered for all emergencies. The fancy tire gauge was a gift from Dave, the Saline Valley Hot Springs caretaker, from the time when I got 3 flats in 24 hours.
The pendant on the window has my coyote bones (read about that here) and some beads made of Sedona red rocks. The turtle shows me the way (Maturin, the way of the turtle, if you’ve read Stephen King’s Tower series), the blue bracelet with rose quartz pearl was a gift of protection from my friend Margaret.

That’s it.
Loaded and ready to go … one more day of work and I’m outta here!

Cottonwood Sage, Sedona Red

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This is the view from my pillow, right now (7:15 this morning), at the top of a small hill above Cottonwood, overlooking the open plain between the edge of the Colorado Plateau and the Verde River. Taken to the sound of gun shots below. I’m camped right above a shooting range. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Sedona anymore.

I meant to leave. I needed a different color. Living in the red does something to my soul. Maybe the iron in the rocks seeps through my feet into my blood stream,  maybe the omnipresence of 450 hz (the vibration of red) activates my root Chakra. By whichever school of thoughts,  it affects me.
Feelings, like sunsets, are never pastel in Sedona.  Sadness tastes like despair. Unchecked unconscious annoyance can turn to rage. Joy feels like Universal Love and Gratitude bursting out of the heart and every pore. Oh, most delicious of feelings! That last one’s a bit addictive.

And it’s not just me.  Every guest I had on tour this week commented on this.  One woman had uncontrollable anger, hated her hotel and everybody in it on her first night.  By the time I met her,  the next day,  she glowed brighter than an Angel of Love. Another cried massive emotional release, then said she felt more energized than she’d ever felt,  and all I did was take her to the Creek.  Yep!  Sounds like Sedona.

Whenever I leave the red rocks,  I get depressed for a day. It took me a while to make the correlation.  I just thought Flagstaff was a sad place,  then I realized I felt the drop in energy regardless of my destination away from here.

And yet,  I have to leave often and sometimes stay away for years.  When I first came to Sedona,  a new friend from Flagstaff told me “You come to Sedona to heal,  then you get out. It’s too intense to live there.”
I don’t come to heal (that I know of). I come because I love feeling intense for a little while. It’s like my natural growth gets sling shot to the next level. And also, it’s gorgeous, I can work as a guide guide and live for free in the postcard. I have a few friends who live in Sedona full time and are perfectly grounded and operate at a “normal” level. I also have several who probably should have left decades prior,  when they still could. Like all things,  it’s what you make of it.  For me,  I can’t stay in the sling shot full time. After a few months,  it makes me crazy (er?). When I get that buzz,  it’s time to go.

And that time is now. I’m buzzing. Emotions run high and I might compromise friendships or expand energy solving imaginary problems if I linger.
In addition, summer’s here and it’s hotter than hell by 7 am. My face feels like it’s about to crack from dryness. I don’t have AC – I’m not sure I’d want it.  It’d only make the outside feel hotter. Yesterday, the Tupperware I left in my front seat, in the shade, melted into a malformed mass, and right now (7:44 am) the glue that holds the velcro on my truck’s curtains is failing, leaving me exposed to the ball of fire at the heart of the great desert oven.

I have a few more tours lined up for June, but I’m already packed.
Last month I left “for a few years” on the new moon, and returned two weeks later on the full moon.  In the 3D world it all made sense. There was work here and I needed funds.  But in Sedona-speak, the moon probably did it. This time I’m leaving on the full moon. I hope it sticks. I’m migrating north to greener grounds, meadows and snow capped mountains. It is time.

And then to the AT … 🙂

Xox.
Boiling Bobcat

Whose room is this? And how the hell did I get here?

I wake up indoors this morning. A lovely little room, with blue and orange draperies on the ceiling over the bed. Last night, I drove to the desert, but that van – you know the one – was parked in “my” spot again, so I turned around and drove elsewhere for the night … and ended up in this room, somehow.

The last thing I remember was turning around where the van was parked. What the hell did I do last night? Did I drive back to town? Go to the Oak Creek Brewery for open mic? Did somebody spike my water?

I sit up in bed with a fast and hard beating heart. I’m sure it’ll come back to me. I look around – hard! Nothing. I rack my brain trying to retrace my steps. Nothing. Am I dreaming? Nope. Wide awake. I check my phone. Dead. Damn – that’s like that time my friend was given cocaine and didn’t remember it the next day. Did I smoke pot again? At least, I figure whoever I followed home isn’t a guy. This is definitively not a guy’s room – not a straight one anyway. Some woman’s room, with good taste from what I can tell. One bookshelf, with some of the same books I own and some shiny rocks. Some climbing gear in the closet, and these big cool orange and blue draperies overhead. Okay, so I met some cool climbing chick and went home so we could go climb together? Doesn’t explain why I’m in her bed …

I turn around and my jaw drops. What the hell! I’m not even in Sedona. These are pine trees past the small balcony, and not Ponderosas either. Like big, mossy evergreens. By then, I’m getting dizzy and about to really loose my shit, when this girl gently knocks at the door.

She opens the door and leans in. I don’t remember her at all.
“Hey, sorry to bug you, but rent’s due today. Would you get your check to Pat before you leave.”
“Who are you? Where am I?”
Pat walks in. I know her. Patricia MacQueen – 2011, we were PhD students at Frasier University together. I never called her Pat then, she was Patricia.
What is this, the Twilight Zone?
“I’m sorry ‘Pat’ – huh … how did I get here?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why am I here?”
The girls look at each other.
“How the HELL DID I GET HERE?” I’m starting to really panic, like I completely lost my mind.
“Huh … you live here …”
“I live in my truck, currently parked in Sedona.”
“Sedona, Arizona?” They look at each other again. The girl I don’t know looks at Pat “Maybe she had a seizure from too much alcohol.”
I understand I’m in Vancouver. Mmmh mmmh. Hell no. “I left here in 2011 to walk the PCT, then I moved in my truck and have been living on the road ever since.”
“No, Love,” Pat says gently “you walked the PCT and you moved in with me when you got back, and you’ve been paying rent here ever since and we’ve been commuting to our office at school together every day, and Megan here moved in with us last year, and in 3 days when you leave to walk the AT, she’ll get your room.”

Speechless. Brain trying to catch up to facts. Too much to take in. But mostly – shit! I have 3 days to move all my stuff to storage before I drive to Colorado to see LB, before getting on the AT. Deep breath. Not all is lost. At least I’m still walking the AT. Wait, what? I’m still in school?
“Am I planning to come back here to finish my PhD after the AT?”
They look at each other again. It’s getting really annoying.
“Man, what did you do last night? No, you finished. You defended yesterday, that’s why you went out and partied your ass off … don’t you remember?”

No, I really don’t remember. But somehow it makes sense. Maybe I did have a seizure. I don’t remember anything of my life in Vancouver for the past 5 years. I’m lost in thoughts trying to piece it together, and can hear a van drive down our street, past the tall pines and right below my small balcony. Wait a minute … that’s a Westfalia. I know that van.

The puttering of the engine gets louder and grabs my consciousness out of my life as a Doctor in Geophysics, and drags it upward to the surface of this reality, where the rocks are red and there is no rent due today and I don’t have to move all my stuff to storage because I live in my truck.

The van drives by and continues onto 525, and I follow its sound until it’s faded to nothing.
Shit, that was intense, and so real.

As real as this one reality by my perception.

I’m having a bit of an existential crisis this morning, wondering if I’m going to wake up from this one somewhere else. At least, in all my realities, I’m leaving in 3 days to Colorado before walking the AT.

It really makes me wonder though …

parralel life