I DON’T MIND TRAVELING ALONE, BUT I DON’T LIKE . . .
This is a new revelation for me. One would think I’d have realized this particular item by now, me being just short of ancient, but I haven’t.
I love traveling, and I really enjoy traveling alone. Not that I prefer it, but it certainly doesn’t bother me to do so, and it gives me a great amount of time for thinking and writing and photo endeavors . . . but . . . I don’t like being alone, if that makes sense.
When the day is over, and the driving has reached its conclusion, it’s the evenings that I find burdensome. I much prefer having someone to talk to, at the end of the day, someone other than Toby and Maggie.
It’s that human connection thing. And it’s something I will have to consider when this adventure ends and I’m off on the next one. I need community much more than I thought I would.
Strange night in a parking lot . . .
On the advice of iOverlander, I spent the night in Quail Lake parking lot. Evidently, Quail Lake is a reservoir formed by the L.A. Aquaduct (I forget how close we are to Los Angeles). It felt safe enough when I arrived; a couple parked cars, some fishermen I would find out, but the parking lot cleared out by nine . . . until eleven, when several cars showed up, shortly after I had gone to bed. For about an hour the cars stayed, the inhabitants talked, a few walked down to the aqueduct, possibly for night fishing, and then relative quiet after midnight.
The cars arrived again by six, maybe ten total, and short brown men, tucked inside threadbare jackets with hoods, drank coffee and then braved the morning chill to try their luck at fishing. One man, of indeterminant age, parked close to Puddle Walker, nodded good morning to me, and went about cleaning up any litter left in the parking lot from the day before.
Taking Maggie and Toby out for a walk, I came across what I believe were bear tracks, and others which looked like cougar.
All a short drive from the L.A. suburbs, just right over the hills to the west.
It was not a restful night. I was in no danger, but how was I to know that? I was sleeping on guard all night, the bear spray cannister, and hunting knife close by, my two faithful companions snuggling with their human, all inside the relative safety of Puddle Walker.
I’m not sure where I will park tonight, but it won’t be at Quail Lake.
And I need a shower!
Part 2: Bev charmed the woman at Hiker Town, so tonight I’m parked in their parking lot, surrounded by friends in cabins, snug as a bug in a rug.
An old saying of my dad’s when he would tuck me in at night, me being a little tyke of what, five, six? “There you go, Billy, snug as a bug in a rug,” and I would be, warm in the knowledge that I was safe, and loved, and life will always be like it was then.
Not! But hey, kids need not know that at five or six.
So, this afternoon I met new, old friends, that’s what it feels like, people I have known for decades, not months, the familiarity, the ease of conversation, the mutual respect and, dare I say, love for one another, that common bond strong enough to bridge any differences.
I saw Mitch today. Mitch and his best buddy were the first people we met back at the start, we picked them up on the side of the road on February 25th, shuttled them around a couple days until their departure date, and I hadn’t seen Mitch at all during the month of March. So there I am, sitting in Puddle Walker, some four-hundred miles, give or take, and one month, since last seeing him, and I hear “Bill? Is that you?” And yes, it was Mitch, and our hug felt genuine and appreciative and damn, there’s those tears again. And three more people today, folks I have not seen in weeks, showed up in Hiker Town, a nonstop reunion of sorts, and three people who have followed us on YouTube, wanted to meet us, showed up here, and I find that beyond belief, like Ripley’s stuff, you know?
THE DESERT BLOOM
It’s a real thing, and this year is supposed to be a superbloom, and today I was convinced that the superlatives were deserved.
In New England, believe it or not, they have a seasonal event called “Leaf Peeping,” the colors of Autumn so pronounced in Vermont and New Hampshire, that they actually have a term for tourists coming to the area to gaze and take photos by the thousands.
It is my belief that the desert-dwellers need to work on their public relations skills, because there were literally hundreds of cars parked on the side of the road today, looking at the desert bloom, this year affectionately known as the Superbloom.
And, it really is quite spectacular, the purples and golds and yellows turning an otherwise neutral pallet into a kaleidoscope, and once again my preconceptions about the desert were laid to waste.
I’m currently sitting in a Forest Ranger parking lot, a mile outside of Green Valley, California, fifty feet from where the PCT crosses the main road into town. It’s been a lovely day, including a later departure from Hiker Town, and a drive past the aforementioned Superbloom, leading me to here, not according to my plan.
You know the old joke, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans?” Well that’s what today felt like. But before I get into that, let me say that before today, I had never heard of Green Valley, California, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a really cute little town, picturesque by all standards, close by Lake Elizabeth, another postcard town, and it just reinforces this notion that this is one hell of a country, larger than any of us can imagine, and spectacular at every turn.
Now, back to my plan.
I had planned on parking the bus about ten miles from Hiker Town, at the first location where the PCT, and a road, intersected. I had planned that until I said goodbye to Bev, cranked up the engine, drove to the planned first turn, only to find that road, which I needed for my plan to work, closed due to mudslides.
Plan B, another road, a bit further, no worries, got there, closed.
There was no way my plan would work, which led me to the only town in Bev’s path I could get to, the aforementioned Green Valley, where I sit and wait . . . except . . . I have no cell service here, no internet, so I have no idea how long it will take Bev to approach this area.
And that, literally, is the biggest problem I have had since we left Olympia.
Living my best life!
ODDS AND ENDS
Met two brothers from the Netherlands today, at the Green Valley campsite, gave them some apples, gave them some donuts, had a nice conversation, them saying I am becoming famous on the trail, as in “I wonder if we’ll see Windmill in this section,” or “Hey, keep looking for Puddle Walker,” and it made me laugh, two complete strangers from what, seven-thousand miles away, keeping an eye peeled for yours truly, and what an incredible world we live in, and what a blessed life I have.
An oddity I noticed today, maybe not an oddity, but indicative of a larger situation in this country, or a larger situation in life, I know not what. I drove up to Lake Elizabeth, maybe five miles away, to check my emails. As I’ve said before, Lake Elizabeth is a cute enough town, homes indicative of upper-middle class, I’m guessing, the lake pretty in that inhabited way. And I drove on one mile past that town to the neighboring town of Lake Hughes, and was surprised to find a discernible drop in property values and the shabby appearance of the homes. Two towns, one mile separated, and a discernible difference in economic stature.
The only difference . . . Lake Elizabeth is clear and pretty, something Monet would have stopped to sketch, while Lake Hughes is stump-infested, bordering on ugly in appearance.
Telltale signs of status, crammed into a one-mile stretch of highway, in the hills east of Los Angeles. I think often of things like that, the randomness of it all, and the consequences of that randomness, me being adopted, my birth family riddled with alcohol, riddled with drugs, all dying young, violently, painfully, no quiet into the night for any of them, and me living my best life, all orchestrated by one act, shared by two co-conspirators, the birth mother who made a difficult decision, the adopted couple, capitalizing on that difficult decision, and here I am, somewhere in California, living my own Lake Elizabeth existence, and wondering at the randomness of it all.
There is a hill directly across from where I have parked Puddle Walker, one of many hills, but this one clearly shows the PCT snaking its way toward the summit and beyond. The hill is probably about a thousand-feet high, it is passed by daily by thousands of commuters, and I would bet my bottom dollar that no one pays any attention to it. It’s just a hill. It’s not a mountain. It’s only a thousand feet high.
All true, all understandable, until you realize that PCT hikers hike to the top of that hill, down the backside of it, then up another, and down, and in this section they continue to do that for fifteen miles each day, up a thousand, down a thousand, up a thousand, down a thousand, and quite frankly I grew tired just writing about it because, well, I’ve climbed mountains, and I know the toll a thousand-foot hill can take in repetition . . . and they are now getting into high country, starting their day a mile high, with thin air, and cramps become a real concern, and the knees scream in protest on the downhills, and the lungs scream in protest on the climbs, sucking what air there is, lightheadedness becomes a thing, and, well, there you have it, for you armchair warriors who can’t imagine what it is like, it’s like feeling like you have to puke, but you can’t, and feeling like you might faint, but you don’t, and questioning your sanity for hours, daily, while at the same time feeling more alive than you ever have.
If not now, when?
I took a photo the other day, right at sunrise, a nice shot of the sun rising over distant hills, framed by the limbs of a tree, oranges on reds, green surrounding it, and I thought about the many, many mornings I missed things like that, in Olympia, because I wanted another hour of sleep or, earlier in life, because I was hungover, just too miserable to poke my head out from beneath the covers, hoping I would recover quickly enough to continue the charade I called life.
We get one shot at this thing. Oh sure, toss in some mulligans; I’ve had my share of do-overs, but even a mulligan implies a poor shot, a whiff, a shank or a pull, out-of-bounds or simply so poor as to resemble a Mission Impossible episode, so even the many chances we get to reshuffle, to reset the stage of life, many of us simply do not realize, or do not care, that the hourglass simply does not give a damn about any of us, nor does it care about our intentions, and sooner or later, bet on this one and take it to the bank, the mulligans run out, and our one shot at life becomes an obit in the local rag, and there you have it.
I’m pretty proud of that photo. Ask and I’ll show it to you one day soon.