July 8 2019 Alvord Hot Springs
I hit the road early this morning, saying goodbye to Kirsten and Matt. I felt really sad and pretty lost, which is how I’ve been feeling since I left the CDT in New Mexico. I am not sure where I am going and what I will do but for now it is enough to just go to a few places and have some new experiences. That’s what I am telling myself anyway.
I have been wanting to see the Steens and to go to the Alvord desert since the late 90s and so it is nice to finally be heading that way. I’ve been thinking a lot about my life in the late 90s in Portland. Probably because I’ve been listening to lots of music from that era and thinking about all the shows I went to during that time in my life. Some of it I remember quite clearly and some of it I remember it seems for the first time. Like, oh yeah, I did see Ben Harper and The Cure in the same night. Wow!
I turn back to driving and remember these times are part of my story, and if I am a storyteller then in behooves me to take the time to roll those memories over in my mind. About the night Alison and I went to see Elliott Smith at EJ’s, how we walked over there and Kevin (who we both had a crush on) was the door guy and we were in that room with not too many people for the show. Or seeing Sleater Kinney at La Luna before it became the Pine Street Theater (who knows what it’s called now) with Quasi and so many others. Going to shows was a way of being seen, being out was a way to feel the city that seems unavailable during waking workday hours. When my drinking started to advance and I would drink more during the day it felt wrong somehow to be out in these venues, without darkness and without live music. That’s when I stopped going to shows and left Portland for the second time. I knew I would be back, and when I did come back in 2011 everything was different for me because I was sober, just a year and a half then. I didn’t go out, I put my head down and worked, saved only to leave a third time. Maybe for good?
July 9 2019 Alvord Hot Springs
After breakfast and coffee I decided to hike up the dirt road into BLM land and Steens. It felt wonderful to be hiking, even if on a dirt road. Nine miles round trip and 2,000 feet of gain felt good. The knee is still sore and I’m glad that I’m not carrying a pack right now. But I want to so bad. But more, much more than a sore knee is keeping me from backpacking right now. It’s an itch in the back of my mind. I know I’ll figure it out, it just takes time.
Justin and Brooke, the couple who, along with their two boys, are the caretakers of the hot springs, suggested that I drive out on the playa for kicks. I was a bit hesitant; what if some kind of rare bird nests out there? I didn’t want to fuck anything up. But in the end I did drive out there, and it was a blast. I didn’t even drive fast. I think my top speed was 45mph. Whatever.
I spent the rest of the day soaking and taking naps in the shade of the changing area near the pools. Not too many folks here, which is nice.
Tomorrow I’ll drive down to the Ruby Mts. and explore a bit. Maybe try the pack. I don’t know.
July 10 2019 Thomas Canyon Campgrpound, Ruby Mts.
I got to Elko, NV around 2pm and got ice, water, bagels and some fruit. It was a quick drive south to the mountains and I checked out the trailhead that I’m thinking of hiking up tomorrow. Looks like lots of snow. Still! I think I’ll give it a go anyway.
it’s nice to be in the tent next to a creek, under the mountains. I still have this nagging feeling.
And it’s ok to feel that way. so much has happened this year, and last year. I really haven’t felt content, aside from hiking, since I finished the AT in June of 2018. It seems like after that I kind of sunk into this funk. I thought that hiking the CDT would be the think to pull me out of it but I know that’s not how hiking works. It’s much bigger than that.
I know I did the right thing by getting out of the situation in Cobb. I care for Keith but so many things just weren’t right. I felt trapped. Note to self; never, ever, ever move in with someone when you know it’s not right in your gut. no amount of pretending that it will be fine, no amount of thinking, “this is just how things are” will make that feeling go away.
And I feel a certain kind of guilt for letting it go on as long as it did. That too, will fade.
July 11 2019 Great Basin National Park
I was up and hiking up the trail with a pack (!!!) early. I forded an ice cold run off river and soon was postholing through deep snow banks. After a couple of miles I decided to turn back, something I don’t think I have ever done on a backpacking trip. I’m just not ready for a pack. Try as I might.
I gotta listen to myself.
I was happy when I got to the car. I changed my socks and put my wet shoes on the dashboard to dry as I drove. I was keen to get to Great Basin, and now that I am here I know I made the right choice.
I got a nice little campsite in Brooks campground. Most of the folks here are outdoorsy types; hikers or mountain bikers, or road bikers. Great Basin strikes me as a backcountry national park; most of the cool things to see here require hiking. Tomorrow I’m going to hike up Wheeler Peak, which is over 13,000 feet. I’m excited for it and I hope it goes well.
July 12 2019 Great Basin National Park
Wow. Wheeler exceeded all expectations. I felt like I was hiking in the Sierra. I left the car around 6:30 and was hiking on a gently graded trail through aspens. A mile or so later the trail branched off to Stella lake and the Bristlecone pine trail. I wanted to see the Bristlecone pines but the trail is still under snow with some steep traverses and I’m just not into that. So I kept on up to Wheeler. Once I got up on the shoulders the wind really picked up and my blue wind shirt was no longer effective. Which is something that has never happened before. The blue wind shirt is usually always effective when I wear it. I was glad I had thought to toss my rain jacket into my day pack and I put it on and presto: no more wind chilling me. I carried on and by 9:30 I made it to the summit. There were a couple of other hikers there, and I chatted with an older couple from Menlo Park about hiking in the West. They seemed so familiar I’m sure I have seen them somewhere on some lonely peak.
The hike back down was joyful and I had the good fortune to see a huge stag just below the treeline. Man, I’m really going to miss the mountains when I go to Missouri. Will I survive?
Also, I had a dream last night that I decided to go back to school and get my teaching certificate. It was incredibly powerful and I need to think about this.
A note about Bristlecone pines: the oldest Bristlecone pine recorded was Prometheus, at an estimated age of 4,900 years old. This number was reached by counting growth rings. However, Bristlecone pines do not grow a ring for every year. Which makes their actual age much greater.
Bristlecone pines that grow at lower elevations, in areas that are protected from the elements do not live long lives. They usually die around 3 or 400 years of age. The ones that live long lives live up high, in the wind, exposed to storms with no protection.
July 13 2019 Denver
I woke up early after a particularly depressing evening. Which kind of surprised me since I had such a great hike earlier in the day up Wheeler Peak. Everything hit me: leaving the West, which is home, not knowing what to do with my life, which really is the big thing right now. This cycle of working jobs, saving money and hiking is fun but really not sustainable and I need something that will provide me with the money I need to hike, travel and live. I don’t want to be 50 and applying for a job at Starbucks.
I decided to head to Missouri and cut my road trip short. I think it’s a good choice since I am unemployed and need to figure some things out. I don’t think there is any right place to do that, and I think in many ways I have figured some things out so I need to stop being so hard on myself.
It was fun driving here and driving across Utah was wonderful. Lots of thunder storms and it was very atmospheric.
Tomorrow I’ll get to Colombia.
July 14 2019 Colombia
Here I am. What a long drive. Not like driving through Utah and Colorado. Driving across the Plains is kind of tough and not very exciting. So I am glad I have arrived.
I have mixed feelings about being here. I love my family. I’m just not keen about living with them and I feel so sad about not being near mountains. I feel like I have been punched the chest and I don’t know what to do.
July 25 2019 Colombia
Well I about died of heat stroke on a hike last week so I have decided to stick with the gym until the heat and humidity have died down. Being back at the gym feels wonderful and I feel something like content.
I have also decided to get my teaching certificate here in Missouri for the time being and possibly go back to school to get my Masters in Education. This is something I have said I would never do which means that I am interested in doing it. Ha. I would be setting myself up for the rest of my life and I feel like I need that. Now is a good time to do it. I can’t keep dirt bagging forever. I mean, I can, but being homeless sucks and I don’t ever want to be in a position like I was, living in Cobb, again.
So, new chapter, here we go. It’a about time I leveled up and I am so ready.