THE WEIRD, WEIRD WEATHER
It is April 14th as I write this, and the desert is not hot.
It is April 14th as I write this, and ski resorts within a six-hundred mile area are talking about being open for the entire year.
It is April 14th as I write this, and water scarcity along the trail, usually a real concern, is not even a thing, so abundant is the water. The Southern California reservoirs are experiencing a boom year, the aqueducts are flowing with H2O, and the general feeling among those who live here full-time is one of guarded optimism.
All of that adds up to a ton of uncertainty among the PCT hikers. They truly do not know what to do, nor do they know which direction to aim at. Mountains, and mountain passes, are buried in snow, at the 200-mile mark, at the 400-mile mark, and from mile-markers 700-1100.
There is no easy way, dare I say sane way, to make it to Northern California.
And pretty damned soon, overdue already, the desert heat will turn on, and those left questioning options in the desert section will have a brand new list of concerns to deal with.
We shall see in the near future what the weather has in store for all who dare take on this challenge.
I TOOK A PHOTO THIS MORNING
I was sitting in a canyon, waiting for Bev and her tramily to appear, and I saw a scene worthy of a snapshot. A solitary home, ranch-style, grey in color, sat in a ravine. There was a shed in its vicinity, a horse corral, some corrugated metal roofing stacked nearby, a pick-up truck, and a gently-flowing stream. Nothing else, for a good mile that I could see in either direction.
Questions flooded my brain.
I tend to think of myself as a solitary man, infinitely more comfortable by myself than with a group of others, as I’ve stated before in this record of life, but whoever lived in that house took solitary to a whole different level. It reminded me, in fact, of a documentary I once watched, about a gentleman named Dick Roenicke, and the spelling may be wrong on that last name, but Roenicke, decades ago, took the State of Alaska up on their homesteading offer, free land if anyone was willing to live on that land for five years, build a domicile on it, and, well, those were the only requirements.
Roenicke flew up to a remote section of northeast Alaska, carrying a suitcase of clothes, another suitcase of hand tools, had the bush pilot land on a lake, at the very least one-hundred miles from any other land claim, and set about meeting those requirements.
I urge you to watch that video if you get a chance. Bottom line, Roenicke not only built a log cabin, without the use of power tools, but he stayed in his homestead, by himself, for over thirty years.
Believe me when I tell you I am not laying any judgement on Roenicke’s doorstep, nor am I with the landowner in that ravine. I am simply saying I don’t understand how they do such a thing, and how do they continue doing such a thing, and don’t they need people, and don’t they need companionship and conversation and the peace of mind which comes with knowing you are not totally alone?
Case in point. I had just dropped Bev and tramily off at the trailhead today, and I sat awhile because I was able to tap into WiFi in that particular spot, so I thought I would catch up on some online work . . . five minutes later, two young women came off the trail, at that trailhead, and I hear “Bill!” shouted, and I swear to you, no making this up, a huge smile broke across this craggly face, and a surge of happiness coursed through me. They were two Norwegians I had met over a month ago, just a five-minute meeting back then, introductions, an offer to help them if they ever saw me on trail, and they not only remembered my name but were genuinely happy to see me.
And I’m still smiling thinking about it. I gave them a five-mile ride to a restaurant, where they could have a “real meal,” and they were so grateful they asked if they could buy me lunch, and that sort of thing happens, no exaggeration, daily.
Those interactions are priceless to me, which brings me back to Roenicke and his thirty-year hiatus from the human race.
I lay this on your doorstep right here, right now: I need people!
We were all sharing last night, five of us in a hotel room, what is our biggest dream once this PCT adventure is over with. I didn’t hesitate when it was my turn to share. I want to spend my remaining years, in this bus or a replacement, traveling this country and meeting as many people as possible, “meeting America one handshake at a time.” I can’t think of anything which would bring me more pleasure.
RED DIRT ROAD
A wildly popular song about thirteen, fourteen years ago, country for sure, but a crossover hit as well, “Red Dirt Road,” by Brooks and Dunn, and I was thinking about that song today while I drove through canyon country in Southern California.
There are some lyrics from that song which I have always held close; I’m going to paraphrase them because, well, the memory of the aged is not to be trusted:
“I learned the path to heaven,
Is filled with sinners and believers.
I learned that happiness on Earth.
Ain’t just for high-achievers.”
The canyon country of Southern California, and on this particular day I’m talking about Soledad Canyon, is desolate. It is barren. I would venture to guess that 90% of the U.S. population would not find it appealing at all, and certainly would never entertain the thought of living there.
And yet people do live there, in multi-million dollar homes, perched on hilltops, and in plywood shanties, held together with chewing gum and duct tape. The sinners and the believers live there, carving out their vision of heaven, or trying just to survive their version of hell.
That line about happiness on Earth not limited to the high-achievers rings true for me, today and always. I have never wanted to be the best, never wanted to be rich or famous; I simply wanted to plant a toehold on this planet, and be known as an okay kind of guy. I have never understood cruelty or hatred, can’t wrap my brain around that kind of thinking, nor the associated actions. On the other hand, I do understand love, kindness, and empathy, and those associated actions have come easier for me the older I have gotten.
Have I found happiness on Earth? I believe I have, but I’m not just talking about this adventure. I have found happiness within me, and that’s an achievement of epic proportions.