Sunday, December 27, 2009
The day after Christmas The Man and my mom and her husband went on a hike along the beach with the Sierra Club. The weather was very pleasant and clouds in the sky made the scenery interesting. We hiked from Refugio Beach to El Capitan Beach and back.
The tide was not low enough to stay on the beach for our two mile hike, so we hiked up the cliffs on to the bike path. We saw an egret along the way and I managed to catch a picture of it in flight.
It was a little chilly at first, but on the way back the wind was no longer in our faces and we got quite warm. It was probably in the mid-60s during the day. I found a wooden spool on the beach. I wanted to take it home to make a little coffee table, but The Man didn't want to take it home. It would have been quite an effort to roll it the whole two miles back to the car.
Today we went on another hike. This time we hiked 9 miles round trip to the top of the Santa Ynez mountains and back down again. It was a good workout, which I blew on chocolate and peppermint cookies and candy once I got home. My body is a dumping ground for toxic chocolate waste, and my waist certainly shows it. I can barely fit into the hiking pants I wore all summer.
Our great December weather also makes us fortunate enough to do things differently if necessary. We put our Christmas tree out on the deck instead of in the house this year. Well, actually, we have never had a full-sized Christmas tree before. Our house is too small and cluttered for a tree, plus it might scare our birds. Our big white bird (sitting on The Man's shoulder in case you don't see her) doesn't look too scared by the tree outside, so maybe we worried for nothing.
It looks like a jungle for our Christmas picture. Behind The Man is our rain barrel that we got from the City. The leaves hanging near his head are from one of our many avocado trees. The avocados are bonking me in the head in the yard now.
Finally, one last picture from my new camera. I got a new camera to replace the one I accidentally broke while hiking the PCT. I broke it while sleeping with it. I rolled over and pressed with all my weight with my hand and broke something inside. I heard it snap. Never sleep with your camera. I finally got a replacement camera and can take pictures again.
This picture is of my garden which was made from a crappy wooden bookshelf we found discarded on the sidewalk. The stuff you see growing in the front is romaine lettuce. In the back is more lettuce and chard. I thought my seeds weren't sprouting, so I tossed seeds in until stuff started to grow, so there is also cilantro and god only knows what growing, too, all mixed up. I haven't a clue what I'm doing, but maybe someday I'll do it right.
I grow my garden on the garage roof, which is flat. It is also the only sunny place in the yard, thanks to the avocado trees. We are so lucky to have a year-round growing and hiking season.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
In 2009, I had just completed a year without a high-paying job and didn't want to trash what was left of my savings. So I tried to avoid hotels. It turned out that by avoiding hotels, I found that I had more fun, relaxed more and slept better. After a while, I decided that hotels were not a good idea at all. What you really want out of civilization is food, shower, laundry and rest. You can get all that without paying to sleep. I learned the art of stealth camping in or near civilization and showering in bathroom sinks or with a sun shower when pay showers were not available. If you don't have a sun shower, a bottle of water will work, too.
I'm not the type who says to skip zero days and just stay on the trail. I love zero days. But I love them best when I can lay in my tent and read a book and nap. I'm so much happier in my tent than in a hotel that smells funny. Trail angel places are better to set your sights on if you want a little luxury or the company of other hikers. But even trail angel houses are never as relaxing as my own tent. And they cost nearly as much as hostels.
If you are looking to save money, choose your tent first, a trail angel's house second, a hostel third and a hotel as a last resort. Relaxation is always better in your tent. The other options vary too much to make a blanket statement about relaxation, but none of them comes close to relaxing in your tent. You can always find camaraderie with other hikers at restaurants and on the trail or even in chance encounters in town. Trail angel places are great for hiker camaraderie, and if that's what you need, then set your sights on the next trail angel house as a chance to chase your blues away.
As I look back at the whole trail, this is my recommendation for avoiding hotels.
Warner Springs is wonderful, but if you didn't want to pay for a room and didn't care about soaking in the hot pool, you could stay near Warner Springs on the trail and just eat in the golf restaurant. The trail in that area is lovely oak woodland so it would be really nice. But, I think Warner Springs Resort is one of the truly worthy places to pay for a room if for nothing more than to soak in the hot water. After your first 100 miles, you might be sore enough to benefit from this. I managed to heal an injury soaking in the water for a day. It was also at Warner Springs that I learned that hiking the PCT isn't a solitary walk in the wilderness. I never laughed so hard as I did at dinner with the other hikers. So, I recommend staying there if you feel a need. It's truly relaxing, unlike most hotel stays.
In Idyllwild you don't have to stay in a hotel. There's a $3 campground to stay in instead. Free hot showers, too.
Cabazon is a hot desert nowhere. Best to pop in and out and get up the trail as far as possible out of the heat. People used to stay at the Pink Hotel, but it's not there anymore.
In Big Bear you don't have to stay in a hotel. You could stay on the trail and just pop in and out of town. Or stay at the hostel, which is nice. The town is surrounded by trees, too, if you catch my drift.
In Wrightwood you don't have to stay in a hotel. The hardware store has a list of people who take in hikers.
I think the next town up the trail is Agua Dulce. Trail angels.
Then come the Andersons in Green Valley, which you could skip because it's only a day or two after Agua Dulce. I recommend skipping this stop if you don't like wild, drunken parties. That's the only reason to go there, in my opinion.
Then there's Hikertown which you don't have to pay for if you sleep on the lawn.
Then there's Tehachapi/Mojave which you could skip by just popping in and out. Or you could make that your hotel splurge. If you were to stealth camp in town, I think Tehachapi would be an easier place to do it. Mojave is on the desert floor and has no trees to hide in. I stayed in a hotel both visits to Tehachapi. I regretted it the last time. I should have gotten right back to the trail.
Then there's Kennedy Meadows which doesn't cost anything to stay at, but you'll have to exert some restraint over your spending on other things. Just don't start a tab and you'll be much more aware of your spending.
Then there's Lone Pine, if you desire. They have a hostel. You could just pop in and out and sleep at Horseshoe meadows instead.
Then there's the High Sierra spots. My friend stayed at Muir Trail Ranch and did some work in exchange for lodging and food. VVR is reputed to be expensive, but the first night is free. Exercise restraint while you are there. Know beforehand that VVR is going to charge you for every single little thing you do there, even use a Q-tip.
There's also access to Bishop if needed. Lots of people run out of food and end up having to find a way to get food. That's how I ended up in Bishop. It's a very long way from the trail and I don't think you can avoid a hotel stay there.
Tuolumne Meadows has a campground. No need to stay there, though, if you don't mind hiking 4 miles away from the highway and sleeping in the forest. The backpacker site is at the edge of the forest. Technically it would be illegal to camp outside the campground boundary. You have to go 4 miles further.
If you go to Bridgeport from Sonora Pass, hike about 2 miles out of town to the Hot Spring. You're not supposed to camp there, but you could stealth camp away from the spring after a nice, relaxing soak.
South Lake Tahoe/Echo Lake
South Lake Tahoe has a campground with showers. It is also surrounded by a lot of forest. Who is going to see you camping in the forest? Or, you can get your mail/food at Echo Lake and just keep going up the trail.
Sierra City has a church where you can sleep on the lawn. Or you can just pop in and out of town.
You can stealth camp near Belden rather than pay for a room. There's a horse parking area where I camped. Not really stealthy, but nobody bothered me.
In Chester at some times of the earlier hiking season there may be a trail angel where you can stay. She'll have her phone number on the trail. If not, no reason why you couldn't just pop in and out. Plus the town, which has a public pay shower, is surrounded by trees...
Old Station has a trail angel. But it's also an easy pop-in-pop-out spot. Before you get there, you can tank up on gourmet food, laundry, showering and hot spring soaking at Drakesbad. You can get clean enough to skip Old Station, but in my opinion, Old Station is one of the most relaxing of all the trail angle places to stay. You can set up your tent and be left alone to nap.
Burney Falls State Park is $16, I think, to camp there. There's a trail angel in the campground. You could pop in and out of there, too, and avoid paying to sleep. Pay showers. There is also the town of Burney, which is totally different and not even very close to Burney Falls. I can't see why you would ever need to stay in Burney.
Dunsmuir/Castella are probably best popped into and out if you want to avoid hotels.
Etna has a hostel at the Alderbrook B&B and a religious training center where you can stay for free, if religion doesn't freak you out too much.
Seiad Valley has an RV park with pay showers that's not too expensive. Billy Goat sleeps under a bridge in Seiad Valley when he comes through.
Ashland is probably worth a hostel or hotel night since it is so far away from the trail. I had to pay $28 for the hostel. It's worth a stay if you're planning to shop for all your Oregon food in Ashland, which is what I did. Medford is further away, but cheaper. You can take public transportation to Medford from Ashland.
Crater Lake/Mazama Village
Crater Lake/Mazama Village is expensive so just camp in the forest instead. Pay showers at Mazama are nice.
Through Oregon there are mostly resorts. You can camp in the forest near these resorts rather than inside the resort. You don't need RV hookups or a parking space so why bother paying for a hard patch of dirt to sleep on when the forest is full of soft duff? I did manage to get free camping at Elk Lake, but I don't know if that's for all PCT hikers or if they just took pity on me. It's worth asking if you need to stay there.
Timberline Lodge is a great place to stay near, not in. No pay showers, though. Government Camp also has no pay showers. I found "lodging" (ha ha, stealth lodging) in town.
Cascade Locks has the Marine Park campground. The campground host did not charge PCT hikers to stay when I was there this summer. You just have to go up and speak to them. The showers were free, too.
White Pass is surrounded by forest. You could pop in and out easily, too.
Snoqualmie Pass has an expensive hotel. It's also surrounded by forest. I stayed in the hotel because I was tired of being rained on. Most people are much more hardy than me when it comes to rain.
Steven's Pass has access to the Dinsmores who used to live in Skykomish and were in the process of moving to Baring when I came through. Their place in Baring is two inches from the railroad tracks. If you can sleep in a lighted garage with people talking and smoking, then you'll get some rest. If not, you can pitch a tent on the lawn and be serenaded by passing trains.
Stehekin has a campground that's a reasonable price. You could pop in and out, too, if you take the early bus in and the late bus out. People pay so little attention to what's happening in Stehekin that I don't know if they would notice if you simply hiked back behind the National Forest welcome building (whatever the heck it was called) and just start up toward one of those trails and find a stealth camp along the way.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Yesterday, I led a Sierra Club hike to Gaviota Peak.
Gaviota Peak is at 2458 feet and you start low enough in elevation that you have to gain at least 2000 of those feet.
The way I normally do this hike is to hike up the dirt road and then down the Trespass Trail. Going up the dirt road is steep, but not bad. The road is receding into trail again and the bed is smooth and easy to walk on like the PCT. I could feel the similarity so I switched into PCT hiker mode and powered up the hill. It felt good to move like that again.
On the way up, there are gorgeous views of the Point Conception area of California. I am fascinated any time a lofty view allows me to see geography on a global scale. I could actually see the "elbow" of California. I could see the coastline where it trends east/west and could see it where it turns the corner to trend north/south. I could see the rolling hills and flat-iron points of the mountains in the ranchlands around Lompoc. At this time of year, because of our recent rains, everything was a soft, pale green with new growth.
Once we crested on the road and began the final push to the summit, we could look over the other side and see the Channel Islands and the coastline stretching all the way toward the mountains of the Conejo Grade near Thousand Oaks. If it had been just a little clearer, we might have been able to see Catalina and the cliffs along the coastline in Los Angeles.
The ocean was glassy smooth. The clouds in the sky softened the reflection of the smooth ocean and made it look like it wasn't even there. Soon a wind came up and the glass was replaced by texture and the ocean reappeared.
After a nice lunch at the summit, we headed down along the trail. We descended to a small vernal pool that looks like it serves as a cattle pond. Vernal pools are a special kind of ecosystem formed when rain water collects on soil with poor drainage.
We followed the old dirt road that is now hardly even a trail, passed through some old, vine-covered cattle gates and then turned on to the Trespass Trail. The trail was full of ticks, but previous hikers had knocked most of them off for us. I walked in front and saw only two on my own pants. They fell off quickly. Only one other person saw a tick.
The Trespass Trail took us through oak woodland, which always makes me feel like I'm in a fairyland forest. We finally completed our loop at the sign that marks .3 miles to the Hot Spring. The sycamores in fall orange led us back to our cars at the trailhead.
It seemed like everyone had a nice time. I can never really tell. When I'm in the forest, I feel so happy and at home. Others maybe not so much. All I can do is show them the forest and hope they see what I see, which is what is truly important in life. Nature, beauty and wild places.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I made significant inroads into the disaster that is my room. I have filled about 10 grocery bags with unwanted clothing and camera stuff to be given to the thrift store. I also unpacked my sent home boxes from the PCT. I unpacked my bounce bucket and gave it a second life as a gray water catcher in my shower. All my camping gear is now in a huge pile of tubs. I have way too much camping gear, but I'll go through it eventually. Or never. Whatever.
Small steps toward getting rid of clutter, but I already feel much better. Although it is sad to see my bounce bucket no longer being a bounce bucket.
The Man is thinking about doing Section A of the PCT over his Christmas break. That gets me all excited. I hope he does it. He could go up to Paradise Cafe during this time of year without difficulty. He probably won't, but it would be great if he did. I read someone explain the feeling perfectly: "I wish you could be here all alone to share it with me." He could be out there all alone and it would be like sharing my experience with him. Then he could come home and tell me all about it and then he'd be sharing his experience with me because I would understand.
If he did the PCT, it would kinda be like doing it again myself. Not really, but sort of.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I think what I liked about it is that it is another voice that echos my experience of leaving my job to hike the PCT two summers in a row. He quit his job to do different things, but his thoughts are similar to mine.
He writes about our way of life:
the death of the planet is symptomatic of a deeper, institutionalized subordination of all life-including human life-to profitBack when I was working full-time and making a lot of money, I suddenly woke up one day and realized that my entire life, my time—which is the only thing I truly own—had become completely subordinated to helping others profit and get rich. Sure, I was making decent money, but it stopped feeling like it was worth trading my time away for it. I would climb into bed each night shocked that another day of my life had passed by with no memories made, no experiences had. Sometimes I would catch myself wondering if it was Spring or Fall, what day of the week, what month of the year, even what year it was. Even though my job and the work of the company itself seemed relatively benign, my time and energies were supporting a huge machine that is devouring the planet and killing all of us. I couldn't do it anymore.
So, I quit and went hiking. While hiking, I realized the same thing that the man in the interview realized after he quit his job and started living simply:
Once you start to see through the myth of status, possessions, and unlimited consumption as a path to happiness, you'll find that you have all kinds of freedom and time. It's like a deal you can make with the universe: I'll give up greed for freedom. Then you can start putting your time to good use.The beauty of the hike was that the less possessions I had the happier I was. I could feel deep inside that being a part of nature was like coming home. It no longer mattered out there if I wore fashionable clothes or even if I impressed people with my gear. I could just be me and speak the truth and talk softly.
So don't ask yourself what people want. Ask instead, What is true? What really inspires me, excites me? What will really help people and take away their confusion and suffering? It's sort of a funny, crazy way to go, but I think it's the only way to bring water to the wasteland Joseph Campbell described. When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, "Fantastic-I wasn't mad or alone in thinking that, after all!" So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this external and internal propaganda system. At that point, for someone to tell us the truth is a gift. In a world where people all around us are lying and confusing us, to be honest is a great kindness.It is difficult to be back from the PCT and know that I'm not going back. There is pressure to rejoin the system and commit to it permanently. I risk being rejected and alone if I don't conform. I feel conflicted between the truth that I learned out there and the fake world that I've returned to. According to the interview, telling the truth about this is helpful because it helps others not feel so alone. Hopefully someone out there reading this will feel less alone if my words have rung true for them.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
My whale job has ended, but there's a possibility of a few more days after Christmas.
The Man took me out to a show. We saw A Celtic Christmas at an old, restored downtown theater. I expected music. But it was mostly story-telling, secondly dancing (which of course involves music) and thirdly just music. I was sitting there enjoying the story-telling when he seemed to finish his story and then I thought to myself, oh, too bad he finished because I was really enjoying it. I hope he tells another story. Imagine my delight when I realized the evening was mostly story-telling.
The Man also took me to dinner, but only because I asked him if he was taking me to just a show or to dinner and a show. He appeared to be thinking that I was trying to finagle a free dinner out of him, but I didn't know if I should cook dinner or not and he had come home quite late without letting me know.
I'm feeling like ever since I stopped earning so much money, all of a sudden I'm treated as if I'm freeloading when I'm taken out. When I was rich it was always, no, save your money, and we went out to some very expensive places. Now that I'm poor it's like, hey, where's your share?
Tonight I'm going to the session even though my fingers don't want to play the flute today. I'm going by myself. I'll buy my own beer, thank you.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It is so hard to find good places to work.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Were you lonely? Yes. But my loneliness was a good kind. I was lonely for my family and for the things I do in the community. It wasn't the alienated loneliness you feel in civilization.
Were you afraid? No, not really. What scares me are mean bosses and not being able to survive in civilization.
Did you have food cravings? Not really. I craved food, period. I laid waste to all you can eat buffets and satisfied all cravings in town, so on the trail, I didn't crave any particular food.
What was the best part of the trail, the part you would recommend to someone? It depends on what you like. If you like forests, hike Oregon and Washington. Otherwise, California has a great diversity from desert to the High Sierra. The prettiest is the Marble Mountains in California and the North Cascades.
The most amazing thing is getting to see the progression through biological zones. You go from desert to alpine as you go up in altitude. But you do the same as you go up in latitude, and seeing that at such a slow pace is the most amazing thing. In California, it's forest at 8000 feet, sub-alpine at 10,000 feet, alpine at 12,000 feet. In Washington, it's forest at 5,000 feet, sub-alpine at 6000 feet and alpine at 7000 feet.
Hiking a long trail like this really shows you your connection to the Earth. You know on a deep level where water comes from and how important it is to your life. You feel the tension between modern, civilized convenience and its devastating effect on the environment, and the privilege of being in nature. It's eye-opening.
Since hiking the trail, I no longer aspire to the kind of financial or career success I grew up believing I should. At the same time, I struggle with feeling like a failure. I hope I can resolve this conflict.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I have been enjoying the rain. I rode my scooter a few times with my rain gear on. So-called rain gear. I learned why my thrift store rain pants had been sent to the thrift store in the first place. I was completely soaked by the time I got to work. Now they are back in the thrift store pile again.
I walked to work the last two mornings in the rain with my holey Golite umbrella. It still works. This morning I walked to coffee and then later downtown to the library in the rain. What I did was go jogging carrying my umbrella folded up, and when it started to rain, I switched to walking instead with my umbrella opened up.
I need to get more exercise. The weight I lost from hiking the PCT has come on rather rapidly and keeps coming. I'm outgrowing my clothes. I feel uncomfortable and jiggly. It is not good. I hope that running will help.
I hope that running will not only help my weight but maybe it can substitute for the loss of being a long distance hiker. Perhaps, if I can keep it up, I can gain/keep the physical feeling of strength and stamina that I had as a hiker, and maybe I can even find adventure in traveling long distances again, maybe even find community with other runners. It takes less time to go a long way while running than walking. Easier to fit it into a dreary city life.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
While hiking the PCT, I would consider a 26 mile day to be a relatively easy day. A 28 mile day was about right. A 30 mile day was getting up there and more than that was too much. I can easily walk 26 miles. But I struggle to run even one mile.
When I returned from the PCT I hoped to change that. I hoped to run to stay in shape and maintain my weight loss. I hoped that in time I could work my way up to trail running and even ultrarunning. Sadly, I could barely run a mile and eventually I gave up. The weight returned and I don't even think about trying to run on trails anymore.
I would like to change that. I just need to get my butt out there and do it, I suppose.
Monday, December 07, 2009
For as much as I complained, I truly felt like I was being my essential self when I was out there. I loved the trail community. I loved living in the forest. I loved walking. There was something incredibly satisfying about being so physical each day and carrying all my belongings and having mastery over my gear and all my needs.
Without being on the trail, I'm no longer a member of the community of the trail. This saddens me. Next year when the hikers are out there, I'll just be another city person, and here in the city, I'm not a member of any community. My loneliness on the trail was pleasurable. The loneliness of the city is alienating.
There is something terribly not right about this. I don't know what to do about it. I must return to the trail someday. But what do I do in the meantime?
I'm starting to think maybe I should turn down the job. I keep trying to go in to work and the guy there who has all the necessary things for me to start working never shows up. I leave messages asking people to let me know when is a good time to come in. I don't hear back.
So I'm thinking my next tactic will have to be to either tell them to get me all set up with a decent development environment and I'll just try to figure out things on my own without having that other guy be there, or else I will have to turn down the job.
I'm also starting to think maybe I should turn down the job because it seems almost too casual. It's shocking to think that maybe I'm a lot more hard-working and ambitious than I thought I was. I have no desire to rise in the ranks or claw my way to the top or scheme my way towards more money and power. I just want to work hard, be needed, have a chance to learn something new and have a little fun at the same time.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
One of the guys there said he looked me up on the web and read about all my hiking. Welcome back to the cubicle, he said.
I'm sad my whale job will be ending so soon. Last year we worked until April. This year they think we'll be finished sometime this month. All the whales must have swam far away from the recorders. There was little to listen to this year.
Even though having a seasonal job is stressful because it ends and then you have to find another way to make money, having a part-time job makes it harder to go on a multi-month hike because it isn't seasonal.
I will probably have to find another job after my whale job ends. Or else get more freelance work. The part-time job won't be enough by itself.
The good thing about my new job is I will get to do more programming than I did at my name-brand, high-powered, career-oriented job. I consider it being paid to learn. At my name-brand job, they paid me well but imprisoned me and turned my brain to mush copying and pasting text in files to the point I felt like I would never be able to get another decent job anywhere else. Better to stay learning new things so I can stay mobile and free.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I wore leather gloves to pick them. I picked only young plants a couple inches high. I tried to pick only the top part of the plant, but sometimes the root came out. I put what I collected into a plastic bag and took it home.
At home, I had to rinse them because of the dirt clinging to the roots. So I put on rubber gloves and pulled off the root part. Then I rinsed what remained and chopped it up.
I have a bunch of squash soup that I made. It's very bland. I usually steam up some vegetables or heat up some other leftovers and add it to the soup. Today I added zucchini, yellow pepper and the nettles, and topped it with feta cheese.
It tasted fine. I couldn't tell you what the nettles taste like. They just taste like greens. They don't sting once they are cooked. Maybe next time I will try them as a side dish.
It's a lot of work, but they're weeds anyway, so why not? It was fun.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Except for the few shows that I like, I can't stand TV anymore. Most of the shows are terrible and the commercials irritate me. They symbolize everything I hate about modern life. Even during the shows I like, I can barely tolerate watching TV anymore.
The Man would like to get a bigger TV. One of the flat ones that are all in fashion nowadays. I wish he would save his money instead and throw this one out the window. I'm certain one day I'll come home and a much bigger eye of the evil empire will be staring at me in my living room, dominating our lives.
The worst part of TV is that it robs the life out of you. Last night I went in search of my maps. The Man wanted to know why on earth I wanted to look at maps. I told him I felt like dreaming and scheming my next hike.
We did not hike the weekend before Thanksgiving. We had the time but he didn't feel like it. Instead the big eye of the evil empire stared at us while I looked longingly out the window. I watched the purple moments, the moments when the setting sun turns our mountains purple, with a strong desire to be freezing cold with a hot pot of noodles snuggled in my sleeping bag.
Every weekend seems to fly by like that. I realize that it is a pain to go away for a weekend because you rush around after a busy work week, pack your stuff, barely get enough time to walk around in the wilderness before you have to rush back home. Then you have to clean up, fall asleep exhausted and wake up to go to work the next day. I can understand that The Man doesn't want to waste a weekend on that when he could otherwise relax without stress.
But to substitute it for time spent wasted in front of the big eye bothers me. I think I'm going to have to go out and sleep on the ground by myself if I'm ever going to go again.