It felt so good to be back on trail after a few zeros to resupply.
ome beaaaauuuuutiful landscapes in this one. My goodness! (I’m bias, I know. Death Valley is my love, but still). Also, in this one, trail friends, cyanobacterias, disco, a rare Joshua Tree flower, and more sand dunes.
Eureka Dunes. One of the few sand dunes in the world that hums, or sings, or booms, or just makes a really weird noise when you press on them. hmmmmmmmm. First 15 seconds of this video. … the rest is about climbing the dunes and some cool bug I found.
I wrote a post about my solo trek across Death Valley. I wrote it in the Catmobile, parked in front of the Eureka Sand Dunes on my little blue computer, the one dedicated for writing books and stories, about a month ago. But, here I am … ready to post the first video in the “Solo across Death Valley” mini series (17 episodes total) and the saved post is gone. Gone! In fact, everything I have written on the little blue computer is gone. Gone gone gone. Computer – blank.
I guess that makes sense. The Dragon did it.
Hiking across Death Valley solo was probably the most “me” adventure I have ever had. I was in line, in sync, finely fine-tuned to exactly who I represent – The epitome of my own archetype. It was like hanging out with a perfect mate and best friend, a state of complete ease, freedom and joy, even during the hardships.
Getting back to civilization, the world of people with their fears, needs and expectations, was a shock to my system. The shock, I think, is what awoke the Dragon, and he was hungry after his long slumber – yes, “he” – my dragon is male, green and blue, iridescent, potent in beauty and power in equal measures.
I have been riding the Dragon into the fire. What does that even mean? Well, for the past 7 years – since Crazy Free and the spiritual awakening – I have calibrated my world view to Love and Light. Wonderful, wonderful … except that, in some cases, I unknowingly packed away resentment. I sought the higher perspective in all situations, believing this the only path to raise my vibration. Why did I want a higher vibration? Because you attract what you are, right? So I have to be Love and Light to attract all the good stuff of Life. In the name of this, I brought metaphorical flowers to my offenders when I could have justifiably erected protective boundaries or drawn my sword.
Just turn the other cheek. Raise the draw bridge, protect the villagers, and off with the offender’s head. It is good and important to set boundaries, to protect one’s self It is good and important to be an example of Love and Light in the world. Nothing is done to me. There is nothing to protect. Love and Light starts with the self. Self-love requires self-respect. Other’s actions are about them. My reaction is about me. This Love and Light business is making me act like milk toast.
Cognitive dissonance = Holding two opposing yet equal belief systems in one’s mind, simultaneously.
This is the main purpose of the inner Dragon. Can’t sort it out? Balance on a tiptoe on the knife’s edge of that paradox, like a dragon dancer, love warrior, fire ballerina, and get out of the way. If you can stay very still, the Dragon will come. Flap of wings in the distance. They are massive. They can obscure the sun. It’ll get hot, for sure. But you just stay put. Let it burn. You are fireproof in the flames of your own Dragon.
That’s what happened. That’s what opened in the desert. I was me in Death Valley, and next thing I knew, I was in Sedona, riding the Dragon … We rode into the territory of old guilt I still carried for hurting somes I loved and left, loved and wrong, or not loved and discarded. I rode the Dragon over the land of codependency. Burnt that. The land of goody-two-shoes. Burnt that. Unjustices, betrayals, non-closured relationships, … Smoldering and gone. They no longer weigh me down.
But, there were casualties.
All the books I had started in the past 4 years (since Crazy Free) were birthed from deep inner pockets of “stuff” that sought resolution. I didn’t know this. I thought I was divinely inspired. I wrote 12 poignant chapters of a fiction novel about a foreign scientist who falls dangerously in love with a bipolar mountain guide, on Mt. Baker. I wrote 3 intricate chapters about a woman who falls in love with the kids of a man who ends up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. That one had a bad ending. There was also “Road Magic” a collection of stories of my adventures, like following a Viking to Cuba, working on a pig farm in Alaska, and so many more. These, unfortunately, are gone too. But I have the paper notes for this one, so it could be reborn from the ashes. The other two, I’m letting go. I’m no longer the person who needed to write them. The Dragon didn’t differentiate. Everything in my little blue computer is gone. And, strangely, it feels pretty good.
I’ve asked the Dragon to stay a bit. In case we’re not done yet. Meanwhile, there’s a field of smoldering ashes, a few glowing ambers. And in the space that opened, 17 movies were born. A new Youtube channel.
The books are gone. Long live the videos.
The first episode premieres today at 11:11 am. The second episode tomorrow at 7pm. They have a different feel than anything I’ve written up to now. The girl from Crazy Free has grown. Come meet her.
With Love (and Light, and Peace, and Justice, and everything else that should not be discarded)
[2, maybe 3 weeks ago] It’s 4:45 in the morning. I might have just enough juice in my phone left to write about “this.”
This – it’s 4:45 am. Hippie and I are sleeping by the side of a dirt road. We’re out of water. Sleeping dry as we call it. I hear Hippie tossing and coughing on her sleeping pad. 2 miles below us, the uninterrupted ramble of nighttime semi-trucks confirms civilization’s right there. But yesterday, we didn’t walk out fast enough to get to the road in daylight, and we don’t hitchhike at night, so, here we are. Road noise – so strange after the past 7 silent nights in the desert. Still, I’m glad we’re here. We made it. Hippie has been getting sicker for the past two days. Chills, body aches, fatigue, nausea … Mild heat exhaustion is my guess. When the sun rises, we’ll hitchhike to her friend’s home, so she can rest for a few days. We’re safe. The sun will be up soon.
This – this amazing trail, which delights my eyes with its raw stark beauty, currently covered in an explosion of flowers. This testing trail which breaks me down to rebuild me stronger, even taking down Hippie – a force of Nature by any definition. But, let me start at the beginning …
*** [My phone’s battery ran out just then. Hippie, hearing me stir in my bag, said she was awake too. We packed in the pre-dawn glow and walked down the few miles to Highway 86. Now it’s 7 days later than when I wrote the above paragraphs, and our Desert Trail journey has taken on quite an unexpected turn. So, yes, let me start at the beginning … ] ***
Day 1. We started strong. After the mandatory filming and photo taking at the border, we walked a mile. At mile 1, Hippie’s friend Stephanie poured her a tequila shot. We must have each been carrying about 50 Lbs then – 7 days of food, almost 2 gallons of water each, and everything from tank top to winter gear. The desert can get you from either angle, heat exhaustion or hypothermia. It was, after all, snowing just a week prior. It didn’t matter. We were fueled by excitement. Finally, after all the prep-work, the pouring over paper maps, the water caching, the waiting for the weather, the waiting on truck repairs … finally! we were walking. We flew up and over the Jacumba mountains. We probably flew too fast. I know I did. After the descent from Jacumba, we were done for the day, but the wind would not allow us to stop, so we hiked on in the dark. The wind’s dominion was total. No nook, no cranny was left untouched. We slipped into our bivy bags anyway, skipped dinner – too windy to cook – and felt the aches of the first day.
Day 2. A vibrant red sky welcomed our first morning on trail. We were eager to get to our first water cache. The Jacumba proved thirstier than we had expected, and we were both almost out of water, even with the previous night “dry” dinner (nuts and dried fruits, instead of an actual meal). We didn’t think that 20 miles from the start to the first water cache would be too far when we hid our gallons of water jugs, but it was. We made it 15 miles on day 1, and that was with pushing past dark. Pushing so much that I pulled a ligament in the back of my knee. It showed up a few miles into day 2, and gradually felt worse, until I was hobbling in pain down the trail. I pushed hard on my poles to get the weight off my legs, and within a few hours, my traps had bulged into two small hills of pain under the shoulder straps. Meanwhile, Hippie had sunburned her calves to a crispy lobster red. Both in pain, we collapsed in the shade of Canyon Sin Nombre, only at mile 27 into our tentative 2,200 mile journey. We felt like rookies, but we also knew the initial pain would pass, and the rest would be easier. We waited for the heat to abate, and managed another 7 miles to the entrance of Diablo Canyon. Big clouds rolled in. My leg hurt, my traps hurt, my head hurt from dehydration. But, the camp was dreamy – a flat, welcoming surface of just soft enough sand, surrounded by flowers and only 7 miles from our next water cache. A warm meal loaded with tuna and extra virgin olive oil completed the dream. I fell asleep happy, even with all the aches.
Day 3 and 4. On day 3, I cheated. Hippie offered me a Neproxene – one of the time-release pain medication prescription pills she carries to allow her to thru-hike as if she didn’t have a herniated disk. We both took some. Magic! All pain dissipated, and for the next couple of days we walked with the gait of hikers with the full use of their trail legs. I usually don’t take meds, because I feel they mask the pain – the very system the body uses to limit further injury, but I wanted to walk. I’d been wanting to walk since August. And we could walk fast because we knew this part of the trail well. We’d walked it a few times as part of our Prude to Nude last year. The same canyons and washes we love, but this time with the addition of flowers, flowers everywhere. No navigation necessary. We both knew the landmarks. Because of the familiarity, I didn’t feel yet like I was thru-hiking, but at least, we were moving, and in good spirits.
Day 5. We reached highway 78 on day 5, after climbing up and over a small hill covered in granite boulders and hiking down a narrow wash. It was easy to be fast with my food bag down to just a few meals and very little water. I forgot my pack were even there. The next section, from 78 to Mecca had been the hardest to plan for. Even after hours exploring the terrain on Google Earth, laying on the carpet at Hippie’s friend’s house, we still couldn’t quite see how to get through the rough section. We figured we’d know what to do when meeting the canyons and washes in person, and trust that the GPS waypoints Dirtmonger had given us would lead us through the path of least resistance, one waypoint at a time. We also knew we’d need the full two days ahead to cross the section, so we hitched a ride to Borrego Springs, for a good meal at Carlee’s, intent on starting at dawn the next morning. The shade and fresh food seemed to cure most of what ailed up by then, and prepared us for the adventure ahead.
Day 6. Oh, Day 6 kicked our asses. We quickly learned that Dirtmonger’s waypoints were not numbered and that two that looked consecutive might in fact be separated by an impassable “Grand Canyon” with crumbly vertical sides, and that some shortcuts obvious on the map ended in drowned slot canyons, not an option without a rope. So, we went up, and down, and back up, and back down steep crumbly rocks, and we got lost and found our way more than a few times. By noon, we had only gone about 5 miles. We could still see highway 78, right there, as if we had not moved at all. It was also about noon when I got to the top of yet another climb to find Hippie hankered down under her sun umbrella, itself in the parsimonious shade of a tall ocotillo (the best shade around). “I’m not well.” she said. “I’ve got chills and I feel nauseous. I need a moment.” I knew that feeling. I’ve been there myself. The problem with heat sickness is that it feeds itself by hijacking your body’s wisdom. You should drink, and you should eat, and you should rest. But the body refuses to eat and turns its nose at water. It feels cold, yet is too hot. It’s just very confused. We rested in the ocotillo shade for a little less than an hour, but this being the height of the heat of the day, we knew we had to move on. Hippie wasn’t really feeling better, but better enough to get off the ridge. We descended and climbed and descended until past dark. After a full day, we made it only 10 miles, for a total section we believed to be 36 miles and with enough water for only 2 days. Regardless, it was beautiful. A naked, raw beauty, probably made grander in my mind by the dangers and remoteness. In spite of the “situation”, I began to feel the flow of all things as I do on long trails – the connectedness, the love, the power and tear-worthy gratitude.
Day 7. A strange phenomena occurs when hiking with a partner, I noticed. The body ailments of each balance out – When I was hobbling in Canyon Sin Nombre, Hippie’s back pain, somehow diminished. She patiently waited for me, and offered me words of encouragement. So it was on day 7, that all pain in my leg disappeared. As much as I trusted Hippie’s vast experience – almost 30,000 miles of thru-hiking – I also could feel by her unusual silence that she was sick, and that it was getting worse. I would have likely worried, if that was my style. But, it is not. In the face of contradictory evidence, I trusted that everything would work out, somehow. Down in a wash, we found a level surface in the shade. It was about 10 am, and the day was already growing hotter. As soon as Hippie hiked in the sun, the nausea returned. We sat in the shade and decided we’d rest until 3:30 pm, past the peak heat, then night hike if we needed. Hippie wrapped herself in her down jacket, hat and sleeping bag. “I’m shivering” she said. Nothing to be done but rest. I fell asleep too, and woke up at exactly 3:30 pm to find our shade had shrunk to touch the edge of our sleeping surface. By the time we packed, the shade was gone. The canyon had heard us and guaranteed us shade until exactly 3:30 pm. Luckily, the dirt road we were trying to reach was only another 10 miles – the original figure of 36 miles, we realized, included the 16 miles along the highway into Mecca, which we could hike later. We slept by the road, out of water, but secure in knowing we only had a few miles to go in the morning to hitch a ride. Back to Jacumba. Back to mile 0.
Day 8 and subsequent 3 or 4 or 5 (I lost track) We stood by highway 86 for an hour and a half. This was the longest either of us had ever waited for a hitch. The highway was loud, smelled of exhaust and Salton sea and offered no shade in which to hide. Hippie alternatively sat on her pack and stood with a smile and thumb out, faking wellness. Finally, we began walking – movement felt better than sitting by the side of the road. Our first ride was with Otman. Otman from Jordan, a humble handyman in the small community of Salton City, but back home, in Jordan, the owner of a church – one of only two churches that survived the world-wide destruction of churches in the time of the prophet Jesus, because it was completely built underground. In fact, not just a church, but a full city, with sky scrapers, underground. Yet, empty, and secret. Only known to one person – Otman. “That is why I came to the States,” he said “to find good people to populate the empty underground city I own.” “Have you found any?” I asked. “No, not yet.” He seemed disappointed. He offered that we come to his house to rest. We declined his generous offer and opted instead to be let off at the nearest gas station. We needed water. He understood. It took another 7 rides, and 8 hours to hitch the 1.5 hour drive back to Jacumba. One back of a pick up, a couple of hippies in a van, some Canadians down for the flowers, two ladies exploring the southwest, a Floridian in town for a court date because he was caught going over 100 mph on Highway 8, and a sweet young man who drove us an hour out of his way when he found out it was Hippie’s birthday. We walked the last windy 5 miles. When we go home, Hippie collapsed on the sofa, and stayed there, pretty much, in pain for the next few days. Sensing danger was over, my leg and ankle swelled up, so I spent the next couple of days wrapped in ice myself.
Left turn. There were early signs that I wasn’t going to hike the 2,200 miles of the Desert Trail with Hippie as originally planned, but I missed them. They were too subtle. In hindsight, I remember feeling … “bipolar.” When my mind was on the trail, when I got lost in the beauty of the cacti or the delight of being on an adventure, I felt ecstatic – not just happy, but some larger feeling accompanied by rapid heart beats, a sense of being elevated and expanded, and tears of joy welling up from deep in my throat. But I wasn’t alone. I had a hiking partner. And whenever my mind locked on that thought, I felt restless, grumpy, and self-judgmental. I tried to transcend it. I tried to focus on the many benefits of hiking with Hippie, but in vain. Hippie is a fine hiking partner. She is patient, kind, generous, strong, and very, very capable. It wasn’t about THIS hiking partner, it was about not being alone with the trail. The best I can describe it would be like meeting the love of your life while traveling with your friend. As time goes on, the longing for alone time with the new love grows, and so does the resentment toward the friend for the lack of it. I changed my mind 15 times about what to do, but the restlessness grew until I felt insane. My mind was locked on the issue and would not let go. So, finally, I told Hippie I had to go. I didn’t know why then – I am writing this a week later than the previous paragraph, with the benefit of hindsight, and the contrast of now having hiked alone all week. She was gracious and said “If it’s not right, then it’s not right. You have to do what’s right for you.”
What’s right. I am writing the end of this post in the Catmobile. The wind is rocking and shaking the truck and lifting clouds of sands that completely obscure the view. When the wind rests, the view past my laptop screen is of the Eureka Sand Dunes perfectly framed in the Catmobile’s back window. I just dropped the last water cache. A couple of days ago, I finished hiking the first half of the Death Valley portion of the Desert Trail – Tecopa Hot Springs to Furnace Creek – and am about to complete the rest of the Death Valley section – Furnace Creek to the Nevada border. For the duration and length of the first section, I saw no other human. It’s been an epic week. It’s been dangerous. It’s been a dream. I love hiking alone. I love it. So. Much! I think I was built for this adventure, precisely. 🙂
Upcoming … Many tall tales about hiking Death Valley solo and a few side trips. I’m about 78 stories behind (random number), but at least, this one is published now.
Thank you for reading.
May all your adventures, whatever they are, fill you with joy.
We left Jacumba with about 60 gallons of water packed in Gary, Hippie’s truck. 60 gallons of water to be dropped at strategic locations between the Mexican border and the Nevada state line ~ 400 miles or 1/4 of the Desert Trail. These are the notes I took on the road.
~~~ Day 1 It was all rainbows and butterflies when we started this morning. But that’s because we were surrounded by storms and because the heavy rains of last week have triggered the beginning of a flower super-bloom, quickly followed by a butterfly baby-boom. The rain is predicted to keep coming in the week ahead, which means 1) that we’ll be staying out of slot canyons, and 2) that we’re in for the treat of a LIFETIME when next we walk through here.
The first couple of water caches were along familiar roads. Collectively, Hippie and I must have criss-crossed the Mojave about a dozen times in the last few years. PCT at scissors’ crossing, San Diego Trail, Prude to Nude, and the random “let’s see if we can connect these two towns through the middle of nowhere.” adventure. Driving along our old tracks felt like visiting old friends and family. “And that’s where the kangaroo rat jumped on your face.” “And that’s the ‘designer’ section of the canyon that’s so beautiful that it made me cry.” “Hey, remember that time it was so cold we dug a hole under that tree to stay warm? …” I remembered each rock and each tree, and I felt they remembered me. Actually, their memory is probably more accurate than mine. “Wasn’t that tree over there? I remember it over there. I think it moved!”
This time though, we weren’t walking, we were barreling down dirt roads in a fully loaded extended cab, long-bed Ford F250 named Gary. We took this kind beast through scratchy brushes and up the narrowing Diablo slot canyon. Honestly, we didn’t think it would go. We figured we’d just drive as far as it would be willing, then walk the rest. But, Gary maneuvered that canyon with such grace and nimbleness, you’d have thought it was a Toyota Tacoma! “We made it! It’s Garicle!” Hippie said. ‘A Garicle?” “yeah, A Gary-miracle.” We dropped off 4 gallons under one of our favorite trees, and performed the same Garicle in reverse down canyon. (click here to see the Garicle)
The next section, past S22 was more new to us, more like a distant relative. It still looked familiar, but not as intimately. Or maybe we didn’t recognize it. With all the rain, the desert is green – green green green! – grasses on the desert floor, flowers about to pop everywhere, the cacti are fat, engorged with water. And it hasn’t even exploded yet. Right around our third water cache, dispersed among the pricklies, a small colony of the rare desert lily have already unfurled their long-limbed curly leaves and bobbing fuzzy heads – a lady among the hardies. No flowers yet. They wait. Oh, do I hope they wait just a few more weeks. Because we’ll be right back.
Mecca was rough. Towns usually are when you’ve been in the middle of nowhere. Mecca, population 8,000, felt like a thriving metropolis, a cacophony of cars, freeways, Salton Sea smells and Mexican bakeries. But that last one definitely made up for the others. No water caching in Mecca. We’ll have a truck or two there, as we are truck-supporting ourselves. It will be nice to see my truck and sleep in my bed at regular intervals. And I can resupply from my own stash of dried kale, plantain chips and such health treats not usually available in the resupply gas station marts along the way. I’ll supplement with pastries from the Mexican bakeries. Hippie, I believe, will try to resupply on the go. She should have an interesting diet for the upcoming months.
Beyond Mecca, the trail heads uphill, but the road that would have allowed us to cache half-way up was closed, leaving a 45 mile stretch without water. We’ll likely carry 2 gallons each. That’s about 17 extra pounds in our packs – my PCT pack, fully loaded was 18 Lbs – and that was before the Gopro, the extra battery packs, the solar charger, etc… I guess we’ll get smart, and come up with a solution to cache that section, or we’ll get tough.
So, that’s about it for today. We’re camped near a “gaging station” (as written on the map) – where hydrologists measure water flow in the aqueduct, not a place where people gag. That’s good. I’m glad we looked it up. It’s already dark and the moon is very skinny. But the stars! Oh the stars. Milky Way, right here and all the way from one side of the sky to the other.
A day of Rainbows, Stars and Butterflies. Luckiest people on earth!
I hear it all the time … “YOU truly live life to the fullest!”
Yeah, way to go, Roaming Bobcat! You are such an inspiration. Way to be free from society, jobs, obligations and Old World expectations, roaming by the will o’ the wisp in your valiant Catmobile, all smiles, gratitude and high vibrations.
Well, I’ll tell you what: I DO live life to the fullest. And it is not all you’ve cracked it to be…
2 days ago. My facebook status read “Sometimes, I feel so blessed, that my only hardship is humility.”
Last night. A friend offered I sleep in his driveway because I was cold, hopeless, and crying.
“Hi. I am doing a study on the homeless population in Sedona. May I ask you a few questions.”
The lady with the clipboard picked me first. Maybe because I was standing nearest the entrance at the Food Bank, waiting for my number to be called for a free bag of food to sustain me for the week. Maybe because of my three layers of down vests and jackets, the classic look of those of us without a heated space on cold winter nights. Or maybe it was my matted hair – she couldn’t guess of my choice to grow dread locks to celebrate my passage through menopause. Or something about my unhurried pace – letting mothers and people with jobs get ahead in line. I have nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do.
“I’m not homeless.” I told her. “I live in my truck, so I always have my home with me.”
She had a checkbox for that on her form. Vehicle dwellers count as homeless.
“No, I have no income.”, “No, I don’t have health insurance.” “No, I don’t pay taxes” “No, I don’t have electricity.” “No, I don’t use any substance, no drugs, no alcohol” … She had a checkbox for each of my answers.
“Well, I’m not your typical homeless person though,” I could hear the defensiveness in my voice. I mean, I live the way I live “by choice.”
She had a checkbox for that too.
2 days ago, the Catmobile and I pulled into Slab City, California. The “City” appears on Google Maps as a small cluster of square blocks, complete with streets (Loners on Wheels Rd, Tank Rd, etc.) and neighborhoods (East Jesus, West Satan, etc.) But, in fact, it’s little more than a haphazard congregation of “homeless” people of the wheeled kind, a mingling (not mixing) of nomadic hippie artists, air-conditioned northern sun-seekers, off-season disoriented burners, and Alexander Supertramp followers.
I fall slightly in all categories, but mostly in the latter.
The first time “Into the Wild” landed in my hands, I was a National Science Foundation Fellow with more annual grant money for my geophysics research than all the paychecks and under-the-table money I have earned combined in the 7 years since I threw caution to the wind and leaped into this strange life I now call my own. That book sparked something wild and unstoppable in me. I didn’t see the tragedy of a troubled young man’s untimely death; I read of a vibrant explorer with the balls to go for it, explore the edges, and follow only his own footsteps, to whatever end.
In time, I’ve become my own Alexander Supertramp. I’ve lived as I pleased, following nothing but my own wishes. I’ve run out of money, repeatedly – to a documented low of $2.62. I’ve slept in the dirt (as a thru-hiker) and on sidewalks (in Cuba). I’ve forgone showers and piled hundreds of thousands of miles on my odometer. I collected friends all over the country, with names as strange as Last on the Bus, the Big Elf, Grey Wolf, Weathercarrot, Quest or Rapunzel. Enough money has always appeared when needed, and not once did I use any one of my 4 college degrees. I taught yoga, posed as a nude model for art classes, worked as a Grand Canyon guide, painted buildings and houses, restored historical windows, dug trenches, shoveled pig and chicken shit, weeded organic gardens, trimmed marijuana, wrote a book about my adventures, and lived off the royalties for a while … and, I’ve had to borrow money, dumpster-dive (mostly for pies). I’ve sung Hare Krishna songs for a free meal, and occasionally relied on food banks and the kindness of strangers. Like Alexander, I joined the ranks of society’s misfits, roamed the desert southwest, and even moved to Alaska.
But our parallel stops there. Because his life stopped then, and mine hasn’t.
Standing on top of Salvation Mountain, I sent Alexander Supertramp my love and gratitude for the inspiration. gratitude for all the adventures, the friends and the overwhelming freedom inherent to living life this way – our way! I then parked the Catmobile among my misfit peers, and basked in the glow of a gorgeous sunset from the comfort of my pillow. I felt like the Grand Winner of the Jackpot of Life, and fell asleep fully contented about everything in my world.
Alexander was older now. He was walking through the desert, but only I could see him. The rows of RVs had their generators going. That was in the world. So, the noise from the world was in my dream. I was relatively sure this was a dream. I could date Alexander since I could see him. He’d be my invisible boyfriend.
“You died just in time.” I told him. “If you had continued on, you’d have run out of steam, eventually.” He wasn’t listening, but he held my hand as we walked. “All that freedom, it’s exhausting after a while.” Still not listening. “It’s like having so many options paralyzes you, because how can you choose when everything is available?”
There was a banquet for a wedding. A table covered with delectable meals. All of which I had tasted already. He sat and ate.
“Alexander, I think I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I want a kitchen, and a bathtub, a garden to grow my own food, a room for my sewing machine, and a yoga studio nearby where I can teach, and a steady income to buy gear and pay for adventures.”
“Then stop.” He kissed my temple just before I drifted elsewhere, to another dream.
There were no restrooms anywhere in Slab City, and no bushes thick enough to hide behind, so I left before sunrise, at the urgent request of my bowels. Then I drove 2 hours and almost ran out of gas before finding both gas and a bathroom.
“Then stop.” he had said. Well, but, I can’t. Just like I can’t stop in Slab City if I need to poo. There’s this urge to always move on. A fear of missing out if I don’t. I can’t go back to where I was before I got on this journey, because, at this point, it’s so far ago and I’m such a different person that I wouldn’t even fit at all “back there.”
And, also, I don’t want to stop for the sake of stopping. I want to stop because I find a spot or situation that I deem worthy of stopping. I’m not just gonna pull in the middle of the desert and say “I stop here. Here’s just fine.”
And what if I did stop? There were towns along the way where I’ve considered stopping, like North Conway, NH or Sedona, AZ. Would I build a peaceful hole to call my own? Get a steady job? A job would bind my daily hours, and the assorted taxes, insurances and utilities would bind my income. So I’d have the money for adventures and gear, and no time to partake in them. The eternal dilemma … I think I’d just shrivel up under the weight of a life ill-fitted to my particular genetic makeup. In fact, I’ve tried to stop in each of these towns. It didn’t take.
When I finally pulled into Sedona, and caught my first glimpse of Thunder Mountain, tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of sadness. An overwhelming sense of stagnation washed over me. I was here again. I always returned here when I didn’t know where else to go. Why? Why always Sedona? Because it’s easy. Because I know I can camp out in the desert, and get my mail at friends’ addresses, and meet people for tea, and hike trails I’ve hiked a hundred times without having to buy a map or ask strangers. I have a “spot” here. Just having this “spot” made me feel stagnant. So, not only I can’t stop, but I can’t return too often either. A pretty dire case of wanderlust!
Then I drove through town – for the first time in over a year. My favorite yoga studio is now closed, as is my favorite coffee shop. Most of the pullouts in the desert now have “no camping” signs, and worse … there is a “camping” sign on my secret road, leading straight to my secret spot – “My” spot, where I have spent months, where I know each cat-claw bush, coyote song and firewood pile. There was a massive camp in “my” spot, with enough water to last an entire season.
So, here is where it stands. The Sedona I always return to no longer exists. It changed while I was gone. So, I can stay here and pretend it’s a new town. and I know I’d discover new “spots” and meet new people. I could even find work here – I have contacts- and save enough to hike the CDT – my next dream adventure.
Oooor … I could go somewhere else, someplace new. Anywhere. I can go anywhere at all. I can go soooo anywhere that I don’t even know where I’d go.
And THAT is the ugly truth about living life to the fullest. How do you define who you’d like to be when infinity represents the boundary of what you can create? How do you narrow it down? How do you remain content with your choices when you can just look over the fence and see the green grass of a small home with a kitchen and a bath? How do you ward off stagnation when movement becomes your norm? How do you reconcile growing your own organic vegetables when you are addicted to the view outside your 32 square foot window to always, always, always be different?
What would Alexander have done, if he hadn’t died?
P.S: So … I started writing this posted “The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest” intending to write about how, often, people think I live in a state of La La Land-happiness about how awesome my life is. And anyone on Facebook could easily think that, because I only post when I’m happy. The “Ugly Truth” I wanted to write about is that life comes with great joys and deep sadness, moments of despair and confusion, the whole gamut. The key to “living fully” is NOT to be happy all the time, it is to live everything that happens. Reject nothing, it’s all good … that’s what I came here today to write about, and then, my fingers wrote something else entirely. Probably something I needed to read myself, to know where I’m at. Live Blog Therapy, of sort.
And also, this morning, as the story was writing itself, I got an offer to go live in a cob house with a friend in Colorado. I’d still have the truck as a bedroom, but there would be a kitchen and bathroom, and a wood stove, and a room I could make into an office to finally record that audio book I started years ago. And it’s in a spot I’ve never visited before. So … ??? Stay tuned.
Thank you for reading! XOXOX
[drawing of the two ladies on the cliff by my friend N.Scott Driscoll as a potential new cover for Crazy Free]
I’ve been shifting – transforming. I’ve known some process was at hand, but I didn’t know what I was shifting into. And I might still not know, but I will write about it anyway.
I came to Alaska because the thought of doing so caused me such joy that I knew it was right. It was a case of ultimate follow-your-bliss, with a potency similar to what propelled me to walk the PCT or write Crazy Free. Pure must-do.
I came, and now I am leaving again, with no regrets. The long meditative miles, the physical work at the ranch and the Alaska environment precipitated the shift. Or maybe the time simply had come. I’ve been told that, from the outside, my life looks like constant uprooting. It seems chaotic, unsettled, maybe even pointless. Am I lost? Looking for something? Drifting aimlessly from place to place?
“You drove all the way to Alaska, only to turn around. That makes no sense.”
Sense is not something I concern myself with. Only growth interests me.
This is really 3 posts in one, but I view them as inseparable. As within, so without. Alaska was a perfect backdrop for the life metamorphosis I have embarked upon, which is a stepping stone experience in my greater quest for higher consciousness.
My two favorite things about Alaska are the trees and the people, for opposite reasons.
The trees here carry some of the gentlest energy of any forest I have been lucky to meet. I mistakenly interpreted their short stature as the result of logging when I first arrived. But the land is so vast, it was unlikely that all of it could have been logged. Then I learned of the growth limit imposed on their roots by the frozen ground of intense winters. Trees can only grow as tall as their roots will support – the same is true for humans. Such gentle trees adapted to such harsh conditions. I have enjoyed their company and learning about the medicine they offer, and I will miss them when I leave.
The people here are some of the hardiest I’ve met. If it’s needed, it must be designed, built, foraged, trapped, hunted, raised, grown or self-created somehow. Summer lasts three months. The rest of the year is a dark and cold game of survival in which humans and Nature are on equal footing. This common vulnerability breeds strength, community, respect and humility. When I first arrived, I saw a world of diesel fumes, barb wires, guns and dead beasts’ skins. But it only took meeting a few locals to realize my preconception-perception goggles were distorted. The cycle of life is simply streamlined from birth to table, and it is entirely in plain view. There are no hidden massive production, transportation, packaging, marketing, shelving. There is also little waste. Resources are too scarce to waste. When a beast is killed, necessary food is provided. When trees are cut, a cabin is built. When a cabin is dismantled, all pieces are saved for the next project.
When I said hardy, I did not mean harsh. As anyone knows who has lived off-the-grid, the smaller the community, the tighter the bond. The size of Alaskans’ hearts are a match for the land. The mountains, tundra and all of wild Alaska are breath-taking. But the real gold here, I found, is the people. I learned a lot here, especially from Goose and Pinky, the caretakers at the ranch, and masters at dancing the fine line between adventure and homesteading. I will see them again. Alaska is only a few gorgeous thousand miles away. My little trail brother, Kristo the Lion, has found home here and will be staying. Another reason to come back and visit some day.
I always wanted to come to Alaska, and now I have. If I had landed here when I was 25 years old, I probably would have stayed. But my days of needing to prove myself have passed. I just know I could thrive here, and therefore I don’t need to choose to experience it, not even for one summer. There is only so much lifetime left and priorities of experiences must be made. Which brings me to the next topic …
I think it is reasonable to assume that I can and will live to 94 years old. Which makes this year, 2017, the exact middle of my life. When I look back at everything I have created so far for myself, I get stupidly teary-eyed with gratitude. But just when I thought I had finally reached my cruising speed and altitude, comfortable in my own skin and living my dream of a nomadic off-the-grid life, metamorphosis began again.
My favorite thing about menopause so far are the hot flashes. Seriously. The sensation is similar to drinking a good whiskey, except instead of a traceable warmth down the throat and into the belly, the heat radiates from any starting location in the body and expands until it fills it fully. I love to watch it spread, like the flow of a private inner hot spring. The covers fly off. And 5 minutes later, I’m scrambling to gather them back. Hot flashes make me giggle.
The other physical symptoms, I love less. I traded periods for monthly migraines, which prompted me to research natural medicine with a greater sense of urgency. My eye-sight acuity is now inconsistent, but my sense of smell is keener, which makes working on a hog ranch a real challenge. My brain gets cloudy. Some days, I’m just plain dumb. Functionally dumb – I can still read about and understand the intricacies of quantum physics, but I just can’t fathom how to put that pin in that hole that ties the whatchamacallit to the tractor, or remember where I put my glasses. My physical strength so far seems unaffected. “The old that is strong does not wither” (Bilbo Baggins). She might not wither, but neither is she thinner. I can walk, shovel or dig all day until my muscles are pumped and my core is solid. And still, the good bits sag and the middle thickens.
The greatest ride of this metamorphosis, however, is in my mind. All the moody moons of the past decades culminate now. And I cannot falter in my self-awareness or the thoughts take over and drive me nuts. All the stored repressed feelings, fear, guilt, shame, etc. are coming up, amplified. Menopause – isn’t that what happens to old people? Should I prepare myself for the crone stage of life? I’m probably too fat to be loved anyway. I should just be a spinster with a bun on my head and a cat on my lap in a rocking chair. I watch thoughts and feelings arise, and breathe through them until they move on. It helps me to think of it as a detoxification process. Whatever I see is no longer hidden. Like with a thru-hike pack shakedown, I get a chance to decide what I want to carry for the next leg of the journey, or not. It took 47 years to acquire and store all these internal dramas, so I expect the process might take a little while. But I’m on it – like a hawk.
I created most of the experiences of the first half of my life unconsciously. Given the same number of years forward, and now in full awareness, if I do this transition right, the second half of my life should be spectacular.
Ascension is a funny term with unfortunate religious connotations. I’m not physically ascending anywhere or leaving my physical body to become a “light being”. Like the trees, I am growing deeper roots so my canopy can reach higher. Higher what? Higher vibrational frequencies, higher levels of self-awareness, higher consciousness and clearer perception of how and why I create what I perceive to be reality.
It’s an ongoing growth journey. And each stage (an arbitrary division on a continuum) seems like an achievement. But I have long understood that enlightenment is a verb, not a destination. And anything I think, say or write, could be revealed as over-simplistic or inaccurate at the next stage. The climb itself is the sought-after experience, not the standing at the summit. Which is why I still use the term “ascension”.
While my body was exploring the rawness of Alaska, and my mind releasing the densest stored energies about and within me, a new knowing entered my consciousness. I felt it coming for a while. I’ve been feeling restless and unsettled. Then one morning, at 4 am, it revealed itself – “The mind that sees all paths, sees the map, and therefore no longer needs to choose a path.”
The understanding that came with it was visceral and wordless with ramifications extending to all experiences and connections past, present and future. The vantage point extended beyond (and including) the body, the self, the higher self to Source itself. The timeless blue-print behind the script of reality and the scaffolding of beliefs through which stories are told about the script, are in my own handwriting. Like a beating heart, consciousness expands and contracts from self to Source and back again. Because it is more exciting “down here” and less chaotic “up there”. On the screen of my mind, the world is a perfect reflection of everything I am -everything that composes “me”- and vice versa – “my” experiences and “my” self (the experiencing part of consciousness) are locked in a chicken-and-egg dance, an Ouroboros meal. Why create reality? Absolutely everything is a choice of an experience, a keystone detail, the most important thing ever to exist. That’s why.
And, simultaneously, none of it matters … including this so-called ascension process. All of it is make-pretend. How awesome and freeing is that? No need to work so hard to manifest/create something better. It’s already perfect and inconsequential. “There is nowhere to go, nothing to see, no one to meet, nothing to read.” (Christopher Loren)
So, let’s just have fun with it. I get to be a middle-aged goddess. And I get to live in Alaska for another day or so, before the truck and I point south again, to Nelson, British Columbia, for the next adventure.
Some people take drugs for insights … I drive 3000 miles every month 🙂
May all your creating be delicious.
Thank you for sharing this experience with me.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.