Thursday, April 28, 2011

Instead of working, this?

The job search is not going well. I've been wondering if it came to the point of not being able to get a job, what could I do instead? There are actually quite a few resources out there that could make a life without "work" feasible. By "work" I mean conventional 40-hour, cubicle type work, because some of these options are work.
  • WWOOF - I could relive my La Huerta days working on organic farms, doing it all over the world. I could work on one for a period and get to know a new community and learn about growing food. Then move on to another location.
  • Rainbow Family - I do not know a lot about the Rainbow family, but I'm certain from what I do know, that community and friendship and a place to be could be found here periodically.
  • Campground hosting - I actually applied for one of these jobs. They do not pay a lot, but they are paying, seasonal jobs. I could spend time in nature where my expenses would be low in some beautiful location in the summer. Then as long as Greeneridge continues to need analysts, I have a winter seasonal job, too.
  • Mom and Dad - not ideal, but my mom keeps asking if I will help her be a trail angel during the summer and my dad would like someone to take care of his cat on his 14 acre farm on the Salinas river.
  • Housesitting and couch surfing - I have not tried either one, but they both seem promising.
All these things require a life with minimal possessions and attachments. When you own no things, the only thing you need is a place to sleep and food. I'm not to this point yet, but I could go there if I needed to. I'm almost giving it consideration just for the adventure of living that way.

What a strange world we live in where something like computer programming is beginning to seem like a dead-end job and living an itinerant lifestyle is seeming more like a promising future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The job hunt continues

I applied for a job as a campground host. I figured that since it seems I have to leave the area to find a job anyway, I might as well go for broke and have a real adventure. I applied for campgrounds in the Mt. Hood area and near Lake Tahoe. One of the campgrounds was almost on the PCT. I have no idea if they would be willing to hire someone who would be doing the job alone and without owning an RV. Maybe I could buy a very small one that could be towed by my truck.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sick bird

My parrot is very sick. She may not live through the night. For some reason, birds only get sick on the worst possible days. I drove 200 miles trying to see an avian specialist in Calabassas only to find out he went to Spain. There is nothing I can do now but wait until the bird clinic opens tomorrow.

I called a bird breeder who said my poor bird is probably egg-bound. She has not laid an egg for a decade. Why try to lay one now?

I've got her in a humid, hot place. I do not think she can pass the egg, however. Her abdomen is all blobby and grotesquely distorted. I hope she will live through the night. My eyes are tired from crying. People have come and gone in my life these last 19 years but my bird has always been there with me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I think money is the root of my worries

I'm just a relatively ordinary middle-class person trying to make a living, trying to save for my retirement. What have I achieved in all my years of trying to hoard and save for the future? Mostly just more worries for my future along with fear, despair and anger. Lately my worries have been consuming me and making me very unhappy.

A few days ago I was sitting out in the wilderness when a pair of ravens flew over my campsite. They flew low and stared at me with one eye the way birds do. I watched them for a while. I wondered if maybe I had prevented them from getting water as I was camped near a spring, but then I remembered that there was a creek just up the trail so I didn't worry. Did you know fresh, clean delicious water comes right out of the ground -- for FREE? Of course you did. I have known this forever, too. But I saw it in a new way suddenly, as evidence that there's a higher power that loves us and gives us what we need for life freely. It is a miracle.

As I watched the birds, one of them flew to a grassy hillside and did a bunch of low circles over the hill. Suddenly both birds came flying back over the campsite and one of them had a mouse in its beak. Imagine a world where when you are hungry, food is everywhere. What a gift each meal would be. What a gift the spring felt to me then. It felt precious. I felt love for it. I felt the presence of love all around me. I'm sure the mouse wasn't too happy in all of this, though.

I couldn't help wondering why, when the natural world is full of such abundance, that we humans walked away from that and built a world full of such lack? We have so much and many of us have more than enough, and yet our lives are consumed with wanting more, with fear, lack and insecurity. We went horribly wrong somewhere.

Jesus said to give up all your things. He said not to hoard and save for the future. He said to look to the birds for evidence. The Buddhists say similar things. Non-attachment, to want is to suffer and all that. I see it now. It becomes clearer and the way forward becomes more compelling, and frightening, too.

I try to spend time in nature so that I can remember I am cared for and to try to ease my worries when the world of money starts to make me feel insecure. I see now the way to abundance is to let go of my attachment to material security, to money, to hoarding, but for some reason I still cling to the insecurity of my money.

I've been reading an interesting blog written by Mark Boyle. It shows me there are others thinking similar things and making a new life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fog has arrived

Looks like the summer fog season has begun. Probably won't see the sun for more than a couple days in a row until November or so. I get to endure 6-7 months of cheery Ed Hat people who actually like the fog. They haven't lived in Santa Barbara their entire lives like I have. I remember sunny summers. We don't have them anymore. Oh well, guess it's a good time to go fire up the Extinction for another trip to Costco!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Little Pine Spring

Our campsite at Little Pine SpringI decided to do a little overnighter this weekend. The Man was leading a Sierra Club Hike to Little Pine Mountain. I told him I would bring my backpack and go on the hike and then stay overnight up there and then walk home or something. The Man decided he wanted to come with me. So we both did the Sierra Club hike with our backpacks and just let the other hikers find their own way back. We went on and camped at Little Pine Spring.

We had to begin the hike at Aliso Canyon instead of at the Upper Oso trailhead because the road was still closed at First Crossing. That added two extra miles to our hike (and four extra miles to the dayhikers.)

Old oak treeThe trail up to Little Pine Mountain was in good shape. It was a hot day. Steve was way ahead as usual but the others were feeling the heat, and so was I. We all planned to stop at the spring on the way up and rest and drink some water and then continue the final push to the top. Steve, being way ahead of everyone, missed the turn to the spring and ended up waiting for us for a long time. The rest of us enjoyed the cool, fresh water and relief from the heat.

When we got to Alexander Saddle, Steve was heading down thinking maybe we had had a problem. No problem. We were just enjoying the spring. Everyone decided Alexander Saddle was far enough. So The Man and I said good-bye to everyone and continued down the trail toward Little Pine Spring camp. The trail suddenly fell apart.

There were downed trees and big trail washouts. It was slow going the final couple miles to the turn-off to Little Pine Spring.

View from Little Pine SpringThe sign to the spring was embedded in some bushes, with no trail visible anywhere. We remembered that if we hugged the bottom edge of the potrero, where the grass met the brush, there would be a faint trail to follow. We continued on the main trail and then we just wend straight down the side of the hill to the bottom and picked up that faint trail. We followed for a while then lost it in some old dried up mustard. We fought the mustard straight down the hill where we picked up the faint trail again. We could see the camp.

The camp was nice. The pipe feeding the trough was dripping slowly, but above the trough, two pipes had spring water flowing quickly through them. The water has to be the best-tasting water in the backcountry of Santa Barbara. Most water tastes horrible, but this water was sweet and delicious.

We spread out the tyvek under the tree and just laid around and talked and relaxed, flicking ticks off us and swatting flies. It was a wonderful relaxing afternoon. We listened to birds and watched two ravens fly slowly over the camp, eyeing us with one eye pointed at us. Maybe they like to come each evening for water at the spring. They'd have to drink from the creek up the hill tonight. We watched them catch a mouse in the field and fly off to eat it. There are so many birds in the wilderness here in So Cal. Way more than on the PCT anywhere north of Kennedy Meadows. I could hear at least 6 different kinds, including humming birds, quail, mourning doves, ravens and many other smaller birds.

We enjoyed one of the warmest backcountry nights we'd ever had. It was breezy but comfortable. Our sleeping bags were almost too hot. The moon was very bright.

In the morning we decided to explore a connector trail that led to Happy Hollow camp near the summit of Little Pine mountain. We lost the faint trail in a fallen tree and then spent about 3 hours bushwhacking through impossible tangly brush going about 1 mile in about 3 hours. It was pretty stupid. I'm all cut up now on top of my raging sunburn. The sunburn I got because I thought it was such a nice day I might enjoy a short-sleeved shirt! No more short-sleeved shirts!

The way down the hill back to our car was very long. We didn't get to the car until about 3 in the afternoon. We remembered it was Tri-tip sandwich day at the Cold Spring Tavern so we stopped there for delicious sandwiches and beer. We earned it.

I was glad The Man came with me. I felt bad that nobody wanted to backpack with me. My friend lied about last weekend. Nobody but The Man will backpack with me. It was nice he decided to go. I probably would not have had as nice a time without him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Living in nature, what is it like?

I was at the college today where I have my data structures class. The college overlooks the ocean. I had this sudden thought, What would it have been like to have lived my entire life in nature, as a natural being? I thought of people like the Hazda
. I would be useless to them were I to try and live with them, but what if I had been one of them? What would my outlook on life be? What would I see when I look out over the ocean?

I recently discovered the Freeconomy blog. I've read some things there that really make me think. I feel drawn to the philosophies expressed there.

I may go backpacking this weekend. I just have to pack now. There are a lot of ticks right now. I've been bitten two weekends in a row. I hope I don't get another one. They freak me out. Nobody likes to be eaten alive. But even with all the ticks, I just have to get out there. I miss living in nature. I hate my life. I have to get away.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bounced paycheck

My paycheck has bounced for the third time. I am sick of this. Can I retire on 50K?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Poppy Hill

Poppy Hill on Figueroa Mountain This weekend I did a day hike with The Man in the Figueroa Mountain area. This is supposedly prime wildflower season but it appears it is not really a good year for wildflowers. We got a lot of rain, then a hot of heat, then a ton of rain. It probably stressed out the seedlings.

This hill is normally covered in poppies and lupine. There were mostly just poppies. It was a cool and cloudy day so the poppies weren't open. It was a little disappointing for those who drove all the way to see it. Fortunately, I drove all the way to go hiking and I enjoyed the beautiful spring green instead of the gaudy flowers.

The Man and I did a nice loop hike. We parked near the poppy hill and hiked out along the Catway road to the Willow Springs trail. We followed Willow Springs and went down toward Davy Brown campground. Then we picked up the Davy Brown trail. There are two spots you can pick up the Davy Brown trail from the Willow Springs trail and we chose the lower of the two. Then we hiked up the Davy Brown trail to Figueroa Mountain Road. Then we walked the road for 3 miles back to the car.

There were lots of people out driving the road to see the meager flower display. There were lots of people hiking the Davy Brown trail, many of which wore Barefoot Ted huarache running sandals. One of them had a handful of banana slugs leaving slime all over his fingers. Gross. Nobody was on the Willow Springs trail. It's quite overgrown. I picked up a tick who got me on my stomach. That's two ticks in two weekends. A bad year for flowers but a good year for ticks.

I had asked friends of mine if they wanted to go backpacking with me this weekend. One didn't respond. The other said he had all kinds of plans with his work and it wouldn't be a good weekend to go backpacking anyway because there was supposed to be a big storm coming in with snow. I got an email this morning from him. Turns out the two of them went backpacking together. Nobody wants to go backpacking with me.

Fine then. I will never ask anyone to go backpacking with me. I will do everything I want to do alone. I hate people.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Interview number one tomorrow

I will probably have a phone interview tomorrow for the job in Washington. I'm not sure I want to live in Washington but what can I do anymore? There are no jobs in Santa Barbara. The Man is sad that I am looking at jobs out of the area. He says snarky things about how I don't have a good job and so now I'm looking for one and he's not quite understanding of the fact that there are no jobs in Santa Barbara. So he's both sad and snarky at the same time. How am I supposed to deal with that?

I guess posting a resume on a big job web site was not a good idea. I have been plagued by recruiters. I swear a sweatshop in India has me in their system now. I took all my contact info off my resume. I'm not sure I want to respond to anymore. I feel like a piece of meat covered in flies.

I really wish I could fade away right now. I am walking around in a funk thinking about how I will have to suck it up for at least 5-7 years to get my couple hundred grand saved up. How can I smile and pretend and play the careerism game for so much longer? I'm not sure I can do it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Job hunting and hiking

I posted my resume on a big online job board. I got two messages almost immediately. One is for a job at REI in Washington. Maybe I will move away. Maybe I am on my way to my hermit life. Maybe I will make enough money to buy a cabin. Once I have a cabin and a couple hundred thousand bucks, I will fade away from society.

I gave The Man a list of all the good Sierra Club hikes for all the weekends while I'm on my furlough. I asked him if any of them sounded remotely like something he would want to do. My thought was that if he wanted to do any of them, I wouldn't plan any long backpack trips that weekend. Instead I would plan to go hiking with him and the Sierra Club. Predictably, the answer was "I don't know."

It's pretty clear he wants nothing to do with me. So I will just go and live my life without him. So, this Friday I think I will pack my backpack and drive to work and leave from work directly to the trail. I will just head out and see how far I can get and still be back on Monday.

It saddens me to have to do this all by myself. It's not like I am against hiking solo. I just thought maybe we could hike together once in a while. So, solo hiking it is. I think I need a new trailname to go with my new solo self. I can tell you this, if I am really becoming solo, I will never ever have another relationship with another person as long as I live.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Planning some hikes

I have been furloughed for a few weeks so I have Mondays off for a while. I decided I could use this time for backpacking trips. I'm trying to make a big schedule of trips I can do each weekend.

I was thinking of perhaps using the Kickoff as an excuse to hike down near the border on the PCT. I could hike southbound into Kickoff on Saturday night where they are likely to be showing some good movies. I could watch a few movies and then go find a quiet place to camp away from the campground. On Sunday I could hike up to Mt. Laguna where the air is cool and pleasant. Maybe have dinner there or something and then go camp somewhere south of Mt. Laguna. Then in the morning on Monday, hike back to my car and drive home.

I've been looking through the rest of the So Cal portions and there really isn't anything else worth doing except maybe for the San Jacinto portion. Most of the rest of So Cal below Agua Dulce is all fire detour or boring. And I've done the part north of Agua Dulce twice already. Anything north of that is starting to get too far away as far as driving and better left for summer anyway.

So, except for this one little piece of the PCT, all the rest of my backpacks would be local.

I thought I might be able to do some kind of hike in the Sespe Wilderness. I could do something that centers around Pine Mountain Lodge. I could also return to the Buck Creek Trail. I got lost and missed that when I was trying to hike from my house to the PCT. The Buck Creek Trail is only 11 miles long plus a 2 mile roadwalk.

The rest of my weekends I could do shorter trips. To get around making The Man too lonely I could just leave on Sundays and come home on Mondays.

I'm feeling bummed out lately that The Man seems to have no interest in backpacking with me. He is pretty much passive-aggressive about his disinterest. If I ask open-endedly if he'd like to do a trip, the answer is "I don't know." If I ask if he'd like to go to XYZ and be specific, "I don't know." If I ask him if he wants to go to Kickoff, "I don't know." If I ask him if he thinks he's going to try to hike San Jacinto again, "I don't know." If I say how about a quickie overnighter to Blue Canyon, just a couple hours in the evening and morning and we're all done, he says "I don't know." He won't say anything else. I guess I will just have to live my own life and leave him to rot in front of the TV.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Hike to Santa Paula Peak

Yesterday Trailhacker and I went with the Sierra Club to hike to Santa Paula Peak. The hike was a car shuttle and about 16 miles of hiking.

We started at St. Thomas Aquinas college and hiked along the creek, which was flowing strongly, keeping to the right of the creek the whole way until we reached some switchbacks that brought us up to a trash-filled awful campsite. I hadn't been on this trail since around 1999. It used to be a wide dirt road and now is an informal trail all along the creek and a narrow trail on the switchbacks.

The campsite was disgusting. How can people stand to camp like that, surrounded by other people's trash, garbage, crap-filled toilet paper, used condoms and other stuff? We hiked to an overlook, stepping over broken plastic bags and strewn wrappers, to where we could see the waterfall and the swimming holes called the Punchbowls. What I remember being a really pretty swimming hole was covered in graffiti. It was depressing.

We descended from the campsite to the creek and began hiking up the East Fork. The creek was pretty high and flowing fast. The water was cloudy and silty. It was rarely more than about knee deep so it was not impossible to negotiate. It wasn't even very cold.

We slogged up the creek for hours, sometimes tangling ourselves in the alders which would whip me in the face from time-to-time. I really wished I had some safety glasses to protect my eyes. The sky was cloudy and I could not see with my sunglasses on and so hiked with my eyes half shut to try and protect them. It was rough going and exhausting.

The creek itself was mildly treacherous. I am a creek crossing weenie and not being able to see the bottom had me moving slowly so that I would not fall. Many of the hills and benches we climbed over were slippery and crumbly. I was thinking I might poop out completely. Our leader was a bigger death marcher than I am and we were never allowed any break time at all.

Just when I thought I couldn't go any further, we stopped on a bench above the creek for a little rest while the leader and one of the other hikers scouted around for the "trail." The leader found it on the hillside above us. We then left the bench, which was a hangout for big banana slugs, and climbed steeply up the side of the hill to a "trail." The trail looked to me like a bear trail at the most.

It was good to be on a trail again. I was able to pick up my pace and keep up a lot better. The trail was faint but easy to follow. We winded up to a ridge and followed it through lovely oak forest with lots of duff. I really liked this section of the hike.

Next we followed the trail past some old wooden posts that must have marked something long ago and joined a slightly better trail. This trail was lined with rocks to better see it among all the fallen oak leaves. We followed it to a wonderful camp called Cienega. The area was full of huge oak trees, big cone spruce, primeval giant ferns and tiger lilies which weren't yet in bloom. We stopped for lunch at long last at the biggest picnic table in the world and sat on comfy reclining chairs made from enormous old logs.

After lunch we continued climbing along a very good trail up to the peak. Santa Paula peak once had a lookout tower but all that remained were burned posts where the structure had stood and melted glass. Fog covered the valleys but we could see Hines Peak, the Toptopas and even the snowy San Gabriels in the distance. It was an amazing and beautiful view.

After enjoying the summit, we headed down the trail. It was still 6 more miles to our cars at the end of the shuttle. We descended endlessly into the fog, switchback after tick-strewn switchback. Gratefully I was far to the rear of the pack where I picked up very few ticks.

We finally reached a grassy dirt road in the middle of a green grassy hillside with a few wildflowers popping up. We spent some time brushing ticks off and waiting for the hikers behind us to catch up. Then we were off down the road, chasing cows and trying to avoid stepping in mud or cowpies. We passed gorgeous oak trees and finally reached the avocados and lemons of the ranch that let us park on their property.

We drove back to Santa Barbara where I took all my clothes off to take a shower and do a tick check. One got me. Trailhacker tweezed it out of my skin. Today the bite feels like a painful bruise.

I didn't much care for the treacherous creek hopping, but the area climbing toward Cienega was wonderful. I would love to return to Cienega someday just to be around the giant old oaks and ferns.