One Week on the River

I sit out here on my deck. I am looking at my Chaco tanned feet, feeling the wind as it whirls around me in my underwear. I have a drink, the last of the couple I poured, and can neither see or hear another human being. 

Cache Creek, Oregon

I took a brief hike today. This was the first time I got off this property since I landed one week ago. I have been tired and excited and scared and hot and sweaty. Last night I went into the bedroom sometime after 7:00 pm. I put on my jammies and lay on the bed, telling myself I did not have to fall asleep, but just rest. I have been dragging, tired from the physicality and the heat and not eating right. I lay there and, sure enough, I feel asleep. I have not been sleeping well, due to the heat and the isolation and the light and the unfamiliar surroundings. There is light until late, just after 10:00, and it picks up again around 0400. I am extremely sensitive to the light. So, I lay on the bed and told myself to rest. Gladly, I slept. My body and my mind needed to rest. Just rest. 

I woke sometime in the middle of the night and went pee. Then, I reached to my upper arm as I felt something, and something was there. I freaked, threw it off me and lost my shit a bit. It was something, but I never found it. I got the flashlight and looked around, then got the blanket off the floor. I have a thing with unknown things in my bed. I hate unmade beds and things on the floor and bugs and… well, you get the idea. At this point I am even in a house and not the tent. Shit, bugs are everywhere. 

I got my flashlight and walked around the house. I was anxious due to the thing that was on me and never found. I shined the light outside, and saw not one thing. The sky was overcast, so no stars to look at. I had been in bed about eight hours. It was still dark and I knew I needed to continue my rest. I knew I was not done. I started an audiobook to help. It did and I was not up until 0600 in the morning. Damn, that was nearly 12 hours in bed. But, I felt better. I felt more rested and my muscles had calmed down and I was not dragging. I have been pushing myself, working hard because I want to, and doing things I should do. I have been working in the heat and working all day long. I needed to rest. 

Thankfully, the morning was cool and overcast. Hike!! I had not left this property since I arrived, as I take my responsibilities very seriously and had not really had time to mess around. I put on a tank, sports bra, pants and hiking boots. I got my trekking poles and set out. I went up this runway, which was way overgrown. Literally, a landing strip for small planes. That is how they rolled back in the day. I then started over the hills, with no trail or real destination. I had an 0830 check in time that I did not want to miss. I decided to walk until then. I found an old barn of some sort, which I later learned was a domestic sheep shearing shed. I then saw a little group of deer with a couple nice looking bucks, and turned around when I found what looked like a turkey kill. Shit, I forgot to pack a gun. I got spooked and turned back. No big cat was going to get me unarmed. 

I returned to the house in time for my 0830 check-in call, changed into more public friendly clothes, and started the rest of my day. The maintenance crew came and installed a new walkway, the tour boats started to arrive. I got an invitation to tag along for a couple hours. This tour did not go far, just about 90 minutes up and 60 minutes back. FUCK YES I wanted to come along! I felt guilty leaving, but closed up the house and heard the words of the staff that encouraged me to take advantage if offered. The ride was fun and a rush and beautiful and educational and awesome in all ways. These tourist-types just sat there and I was hanging off the boat the entire time! It was like dirt bike riding but on the water. 

When I got back there was another tour crowd, so I fell back into work mode and talked and guided them around. The maintenance crew had left and now it was my job to paint the walkway. Fine, that is what I am here for, right? OH, but wait, there are presents in the house!!!  The other tour company took heed to my request and brought my fresh fruit!! Not just any fruit, but mango and cherry and apples and grapes. They went all out and I am giddy with excitement at the offering. In fact, I ate quite a bit in honor or their arrival. I will thank them properly next run.

I spent the next few hours preparing for my painting project, visiting with tourists and eating. I skipped lunch to ride the river, and I am glad of the choice. I had a ball and loved it. It was me and a young girl who were hanging off the boat, putting our hands in the water, and sticking our heads in the wind. I mean, why not? Feel this water, feel the wind, smell the air and totally live in this moment. You may never get it again. If the Pilgrim is to walk away from that which s/he doe not love, then s/he is to run screaming and jumping into that which s/he does love! I was all in and it was amazing. 

Hillside from the boat trip.

Here I now sit out on the deck of this remote place. I am feeling the wind and hearing the river and seeing the clouds and the sky and I am smelling the air and tasting the cherries there were delivered to me earlier today. I have painted the walkway and watered the grass and cleaned the floors. I have hiked the grassland and felt the water on my hands as I rode the rapids. I have seen deer and sheep and turkey and quail and chukars and snakes. I have eaten apricots and blackberries. I have slapped off spiders and earwigs and moths and God knows what other bug that has landed on me.

I am amazed and humbled and lonely and sated all at the same time. I am in awe of this place and these hills and this river. I am washing my clothes in the sink and working my ass off when the tour boats arrive. I want to give them a nice place, a good place, a unique place, a one-of-a-kind place when they land. I am as alone as alone can be, and yet, I am inundated with people on a daily basis. I am out of touch with the outside world and uncaring at the same time. 

If you ever get the chance to be somewhere that is totally nowhere, for FUCK SAKE take it! Do it once. Even if it scares you, or thrills you, or you are not sure. Do it one time in your life to see, to challenge yourself, or to tap that deepest part of who you think you are. Just once be where there is no one else. Be where you are totally and unequivocally alone. Your voice is the only voice amidst the sounds of the water and the wind and trees. You see only the sky and the clouds and the hills and and whatever it is that surrounds you. Be with the bugs and the wildlife and the howls and the screams of the night. Remind yourself what and who and why you are. Be completely and totally alone. Just once. 

View from my deck.

Cheers.  

Doing it My Way

Today I am reminded that our journey is our own. The path we choose, the way in which we travel down that path, is ours and ours alone. Yours is yours, and mine is mine. We may share a passion for adventure or travel, we may swap stories or equipment or destination recommendations and have some shared commonalities. In the end, however, the key to OUR success will be to do it our way.

I fell into this trap while working at the Overland rally. I saw so may adventure set-ups that blew my shit out of the water. I mean, these folks can go just about anywhere and do just about anything in just about any weather. I walked around the event, taking in the sights and sounds. I was honestly overwhelmed by it all. It was easy for me to get caught up in the moment and only see the biggest and brightest of who was there and the set-up they had. Me with my bent tent and no way to cook felt small and inadequate. I felt out of place. 

I pulled myself out of this negative funk by talking to others who did not have the biggest or brightest or best equipment. They were making due with what they had, or they saved some money (literally tens of thousands of dollars) and either made it themselves or MacGyver-ed some older piece of equipment. They no more had the money than I did. You know what? We were still doing it; the IT that is the travel or the camping or the off-roading. We were still pursing our passions and finding ways to adventure. 

This morning it came up again. Twice. First, my darling daughter got all over my case for a couple reasons. First, my tent is six feet tall. What was I thinking? Of course I had issues with the wind and why did I need a tent that big and who does that – on she went. Then I got an ear full about how I pay for camping when there is free camping all over the place. Of course I need to find some work, paying that much, blah blah blah. I mean, she comes by this judgmental framework naturally, as it is in my DNA. I hear so much of myself in her words. I got an ear full about how I am doing it all wrong and the ways I can do this cheaper and with different equipment. Again, blah blah blah.

Next, I was reading a post on the Women on the Road Facebook group. A young lady was feeling inadequate and stressed because she was not living “the van life” full time and had an apartment that she shared and she felt torn between two worlds. I was first to speak up and support her to do this “van life” in anyway that works for her. This is not a contest nor is this, in particular, a race or formal challenge. She was feeling inadequate because she was, in her mind, not meeting the target of this thing she reads about called “van live”. Feeling inadequate and less than.

These are good reminders for me as I continue to struggle with my choices and the challenges they bring. I like my big tent and I love having the room and the space to put all my clothes, my chair when the weather sucks, and be able to stand up and move around. Darling Daughter said, “What, are you doing yoga?” Well, in fact, I can if I want to! I do not want to spend a rainy afternoon in a sitting position. I want my clothes with me so I can make the choices of what to wear based on the weather of the moment. I like not having to crawl around in the Jeep every day to get that thing I need, because it is probably in the tent. I like having a camp spot where I have things to do and water and a picnic table. I am buying a tailgate table for the Jeep so that I do have a place to use if or when a picnic table is not an option. It will not replace a picnic table, but will do in a pinch. I do have one of those solar heated outdoor shower things. I use it for dishes. Frankly, you have to have a lot of fucking sun to get it warm and there must be something to hang it from. Currently, for my $20 I have a pole to hang it from, but I do not intend to shower there. I intent to use the included shower with real walls and water as hot as I want for as long as I want.

I hear her in my ear, I read the post, and I know that I, too, succumb to the torrent of opinions and judgements and value-based observations of others. I will not do this your way and you will not do this my way. What I call an adventure you call glamping. What you call “van life” someone else will call weekend warrior. So what? Fuck them and fuck their opinions. This is me living in a way that works best for me, makes me happy, and of my choosing. If this does not work for you, fuck off. Conversely, I need to improve. I need to be confident in my choices, more supportive of how others are doing their own adventures, and look to be uplifting rather than critical. This does not always come naturally to me, as my daughter so blatantly reminds me. It is easy for me to feel superior in my gigantic tent with I see others in their one-person, low to the ground dwellings, struggling to get dressed. Then again, whose tent poles bent? 

The lesson for today is acceptance and confidence. Accept how others choose to accomplish their goals, live their lives, and the choices they make. Accept that I may have chosen differently. Have confidence in those choices, in what works for me, in what makes me happy. Have confidence to change any part of what I am doing for that thing or that piece of equipment that will or can give me a better experience. I have friends who like to say “you do you”. I hate that statement because, in a more personal sense, I am tired of “doing myself” wink wink. I do understand what they mean. They mean exactly what I am talking about.

Today, do what works for you and I shall do what works for me. Perhaps we can exchange ideas or tips or recommendations. Let us both work hard to support each other in whatever way we choose to live our lives as authentically, genuinely, and passionately as we can. Let us each have the confidence to stand behind our choices and not judge ourselves based on how someone else is living their travel adventure. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Oh, and God, while we are here, grant me confidence in my choices and the ability to support others in theirs. 

Cheers!

Art of the Pilgrimage

This is actually the title to a book that changed my life and my perspective. I hold this book in high regard. This book is my bible to this journey, this adventure, this pilgrimage. I was reminded of that today and I was reminded of how I lost my way.

El Camino de Santiago

I started this journey to address a feeling, an angst, a continual disruption to my peace; to calm the beast. I sought a way to live honoring my deepest and truest self. I took a coaching course from a friend (message me if you want details) as I knew I was stuck and whatever I had tried was not fucking working. I was not happy, I was frustrated, I felt trapped and I felt like I was not living my truest life. I was lost, adrift and I could not, had not, and did not find the answer. The coaching program provided the push I needed to really dive into the quagmire and sort it all out. It worked and here I am, over two months on the road, sans house, real address, most of my previous belongings. Here I am, over two months of being homeless and basically unemployed. Here I am, again, losing my way.

I am entering a period of my journey where I had scheduled work in exchange for something like attending an event or lodging, and even picked up some actual paid work. So far, I have been in WA and OR only. I am getting really, really antsy to get the hell out of here and really see some new stuff. Mind you, I have been in new parts of both states and I have seen new things and had new experiences. I have used this time to figure out what this new way of life is and will be all about. I have given away items, added one or two, saved and spent money. I have been in the wind and the rain and the cold and the heat. I am sure there is more to come on all fronts. I have visited my storage unit once, and will again soon. I have come awake in the middle of the night and forgot where I was and I have opened my eyes with the glorious shine of the morning sun. I have heard an elk bugle from miles away and shook in my bed as a train passed by. I have learned and learned some more and continue to learn and find ways to make this undertaking work for me.

I have also lost my way. It is so easy to get caught up in the details of having this journey that I forget to actually LIVE the journey and RECEIVE the gifts offered. After a lifetime of managing multiple demands and responsibilities, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, it is really easy to fall back into old patterns. It is easy to become distracted by the business of living and forget to actually live. I recently received the gift of this reminder and I plan to heed the message. A friend of mine is on a retreat to a place she loves. She is also in the process of arranging her life so that she can pilgrimage. Not just travel or live out of her car or van or what the hell ever, but actually pilgrimage. Becoming a pilgrim is a different thing, has a different purpose, and takes us on a particular purpose and intention. 

I lost my way because I got distracted with responsibilities. I got side tracked by conventional life. I was blinded by those very things that led me here in the first place. In fact, I am still and currently distracted by responsibilities. I got caught up in the business of having and getting, buy the shiny things, the gear and the equipment, the “have” and the “have not”. I got sucked back into the vortex of the life I left. Didn’t see that coming. 

I am in the process of making my way back. I am working to reconnect with that which led me to ditch it all and hit the road. I am working to get my fingers back on the pulse of that which moves me, soothes me, sparks my soul. I spent some time this morning while drinking my morning tea to look up and watch the leaves of the trees that provide me with glorious shade in an arid part of the country. I watched a bird take apart the bark of the tree so it can get to the coveted bug that lives underneath. I watched the leaves turn in the wind and listened to their rustle. I got out my PILGRIMAGE book and read what I had previously marked. I was reminded why I am here, why I chose this path. I was reminded that I am not living a conventional life, I am not living like anyone else I have met or know. I am living my life and I was reminded that is OK. My life is my life and I have to answer to no other human. I do not have to justify or explain or defend my choice to anyone. Ever.

I was reminded, as I flipped through the pages of this life altering text, that I have chosen an alternative. I look different, I act different, I dress different and I live different. I also have to remember that I spent nearly an entire year preparing, arranging, taking steps to make this change. I went to great lengths to have this experience and do these things and live this way and be this person. I have been distracted from this purpose. I let convention pull me away from that which I chose to that which has been most familiar. I got waylaid.

I feel like I am coming back. I feel like I am regrouping, reconnecting, and rediscovering that which lead me here, that which feeds me, sustains me, brings me unparalleled joy and contentment and peace. I am working to relocate the pulse of the life I chose, the life I worked so hard to get, the life that is mine and mine alone. I am turning my energies in and not out; to me and not away from me. I have been reminded why I left the job I hated, the mountain of responsibilities that ate away at my time and money, the community that threw up walls, the routine that sucked my energy. No matter what I do in a day I am reminded that I am NOT doing something I loathe, in a place I do not belong or fit in or am unwelcome. No matter how bad it gets out here, it is not there. I have to remember what this is NOT, no matter what it IS. I must remember that I am now in and of the world, not just looking at it from some distant vantage point. This is what I wanted, this is what I craved, this is what I chose. 

I still feel so very new to all of this and I am not surprised that I have had challenges. I have had missteps and mishaps and fuckups. I have had situations I alone created, and those that were imposed upon me by the Gods of the Universe. I am not shocked that I am changing and modifying and rethinking my gear. I fact, as we speak a tailgate table and cell phone holder are on their way! A couple months feels like nothing, and then it feels like everything. I feel so very new to all of this, yet I feel like I have found a groove. I have found and then lost my way.  

I am entering a period of giving to others. I will be housesitting for friends, volunteering for the US Forest Service, then working for an event management company. My time will not be my own. I will forgo the freedom of my journey to help another, explore a future career option, and feed my always hungry coffers. I will not truly be on my own until early September. I made these commitments, I intentionally signed up, I made these choices. I need not let that sway me from my over arching purpose, intent or goal. I can and will do all of these things with the mindset of a pilgrim. I will watch and listen and learn and observe and welcome the gifts that will come from each of these offerings. I will work hard to stay on my pilgrimage, to stay in that place of welcome, that place of observation, that vibrational space of the divine. I will read my book again and again, confer with my sister women who support me and carry me to and in this space. I will hike until I collapse, work until I can’t see straight, and stay the course of this life. I will forgive myself for my indiscretions and get my wheels back on the track should they again fall.

I will dig deeper, listen closer, and pay attention. Stay the course, live my life, have no regrets. 

Cheers to the Amen to that!

Why People Do This

The question begs itself – why are some people so moved that they hit the road? They forgo that which is most common in our polite society and live life on the cusp, on the edge, on the fringes? Why DO people do this?

Here is what I have found out so far.

Some folks are youngsters wanting that last rush, that last taste of freedom before they dive in, head first, to conventional life. These are usually college students in between terms, post graduation, or having left higher education altogether to “find themselves”. They really are not lost, they can just no longer hear their own voice. They leave for a couple weeks or months and travel in the US or abroad. The over-romanticized notion of backpacking around Europe. Some have money, some are financed by parents, and yet others just figure it out as they flit about on a wing and a prayer. This group tends to be young, traveling with a boyfriend/dog/partner or in a group of like-minded folks. A temporary solution to an immediate sense of discontent. Rock on and I hope you find yourself, or at least your own voice. 

Some are traveling and working in combination. These are photographers, journalists, artists, tutors… there are a number of jobs that, as long as you have some access to technology or electricity, you can perform and that will bring you an income while you journey about. Some of these folks will travel to sell their wares, such as painters or jewelry makers, while others are looking to record stories, such as photojournalists working with breast cancer survivors. Yet others in this group are hoping to sell their heartfelt stories as a way to pursue their passion of travel and have a means of support. Perhaps they are on the road full time and perhaps just part time and it seems to depend on the presence of a more standard job or the nature of their current source of income. I read of one woman who lives in her RV full time and has a full-time job. That is just her preferred choice of housing. 

I have found a group of folks who are paid in some way to travel around and tout the wares of this or that company, cause or social issue. Perhaps this is to promote the equipment the company makes, teach a sponsored wilderness survival skills class, promote some health issue, or perhaps to promote the Leave No Trace modus operandi. These jobs generally last one season, more than likely a summer. Some of these jobs may include writing or posting on web sites, some more mobile and involve travel and all of your gear and/or equipment is provided. Perhaps you travel to a regional outdoor gathering or show or event. I equate this to being a vendor. 

Then there is a group out here like me. We are just doing our thing, living our lives, having experiences as they come. We do not have a grand purpose or motivation. We are traveling alone. Maybe we have a dog or a cat, but alone otherwise. We have saved or sold things or divorced well or are actually retired, but we are for the most part self-supporting. Speaking for myself only, the point of this sort of travel is just to be. To live and see and do and experience all that the world has to offer. Well, not all. Just my little corner of it. I have no grandiose plans to drive through Canada or Mexico or South America. If I go to Europe it will be to visit my daughter in Sweden. I pick up side work when and where I can or want to, and volunteering is also on my agenda. However, I do not want to schedule myself so thick that I am out of time to just wander. I am not of the mind where I will answer to anyone or work on their schedule. I am out here for me and me alone right now. 

It is this wandering that soothes the savage beast. The autonomy that has called to me all these years. This deep desire to be and do and think for myself. Sure, there are stresses that come with not having a plan. There are unknowns that keep me awake at night and questions that may never get an answer. Aren’t there always? It seems to me that no matter who you are or how you live there are unanswered questions, things that keep you up at night and parts of your life that you wrestle with. Should I take that job? Marry that person? Get that dog? Buy that outfit? Join the gym or run that marathon? You worry about your bills, your kids, your house, your drinking, your parents, or you just worry. 

I have questions and worries and doubts, too. The difference is the context and the nature of them. I worry about bears in my camp and when I will shower next. I contend with spiders on a daily basis and how long my ice will last. Which trail to take and when to visit town. There are always things to which we must attend, always chores and items that need looking after. Folks who live on the road have merely shifted theirs.

I have taken a radical approach to live my life in a way that makes more sense than nearly anything I have done thus far. I hear of others that have made the same choice and I hope to meet them at some point. Living on the road means that we do not have a mailbox, that we do and do not have the internet, and we may not always know how to reach or recognize each other. We are out there, out here. I look forward to meeting some of my kindred souls, some folks who live on the road, live on the edge of society, or who choose and alternate path. I hope to learn a thing or two from them and connect in a way only we can. 

Salute to our way of life. Prost to a good camp site.  May you always have ice in your cooler and a full charge on your computer. 

Cheers!

Women and Fear

I recently was at an educational seminar at this Northwest Overland rally. This is a pretty large gathering for those who like to go off road and take their entire house with them. These are serious backroad travel folks. It spans the gambit of national and international adventuring, as well as the all too famous weekend warrior. There are seminars and vendors and like-minded people all around. Thousands, literally. 

I attended a seminar from a young lady who was supposed to talk about women and traveling solo. This was something she had done quite extensively, according to the description. She was young, later she said 26, was giggly and said “like” a lot. The women in the audience were not her age, and were mostly my age, or closer to my age than hers. I was looking forward to hearing about her gear, how and why she traveled, and maybe learn something. I tried really hard to have an open mind. Honest, I did. 

Until she talked about the times she makes up stories about a fake boyfriend when she is asked if she is traveling alone. She went so far as to talk about someone she knows who puts out an extra camp chair and even a pair of men’s boots as a way to supposedly ward off attackers. I was beside myself. She said this was “one of the tools in her tool box” and she had no problem using it. In all my years on this earth, I have never made up a story like that when I traveled alone. I cannot imagine the series of lies I would have to tell, and keep track of, once I started down that road. I mean, what happens if she later runs into the same people and the boyfriend is still “in the bathroom” or “paying for the gas”? What if she went missing and rescuers went looking for a couple? I was taken aback. I was actually surprised as she went down this road of safety and a strategy is the made up male partner. Not just a partner, mind you, but a male.

I see so many things wrong with this, I struggle where to begin. Are we, as women, so based in our fear, that the only recourse we have is with the presence of a man? Even a fake man? Are we still that dependent on others for our safety and security? The scary situations the other women described were all situations where nothing happened. It was the “maybe” or the “assumption” that something bad could or would happen. It was fear. They had no reason to fear for their safety, except the stories they have been told, the images we see, and the stereotypes were are fed as women. The situations described were the “what if” and not the “guess what happened to me”. 

From a young age females are taught to be careful, be on the lookout for harm, to be afraid of so many things! Being alone, the dark, the alley, strange men, strange people, the city, the country… the list goes on and it is all messages of fear. We are not taught how to be strong and confident and how to protect ourselves. We are taught all the ways we must alter our lives so that we stay safe. Lock the doors and windows, get a dog, have a roommate, don’t go out alone, don’t stay out too late, carry weapons. We are taught how to be afraid. This young lady contributed to the culture of fear that keeps so many women from pursing their dreams, their passions, or taking the opportunities for travel and adventure that call to them. 

I have been a single woman for more years than I have been partnered. Now, I am an older single woman. I took all the steps I could think of to protect myself. I have been trained in firearms, martial arts, some weapons. I have always walked and carried myself in a way that makes me a “hard target”, which means I seem like I can kick your ass. Previously, that was all talk and I had no skills to back it up. Now, I have skills to back it up. Well, some skills anyway. Does that mean I walk willy nilly down the alley in some unfamiliar place in the middle of the night? No, it does not. I am mindful of my surroundings, working to minimize my risk, yet not alter my entire life due to fear. I do not believe any one gender holds the key to my safety or to my risk. I believe that situations, such as large groups where alcohol or drugs are consumed, are more risky than some remote campground out in the woods. 

I wonder about the other women who were at the talk. I wonder how many do not or will not seek adventure due to their fear. I wonder how many think an extra camp chair will save their life. If asked, I always admit that I am traveling alone. It is the truth and I am not afraid. I may not always say where I am and I may limit any details, depending on the situation or circumstance in which it becomes a topic. I am proud of myself for taking on this adventure. I am proud of the preparations I have done and those I continue to practice. I will not completely alter my life due to fear. 

I really, really hope the other women will find ways to be confident on the road and in their travels. I hope they will be aware and mindful, but not see all other people, men in particular, only as signs of danger or their only hope of protection. I am bothered that this is the job of the young woman. She is working for a company and she is doing THIS training all over the place. I really want her to stop training women to be afraid or give them bullshit ways to address the issue. A fake boyfriend will not help you should the need arise and neither will his fake pair of real shoes. 

I believe we should work to educate and empower women to feel confident being and living alone. I believe we should educate and empower men to find solutions outside of violence and to be mindful of the culture of fear we all help to create. If you are scared to travel alone, dig deeper and explore what exactly you are afraid of and how you can accomplish your goal of travel and feel safe. Are you afraid of hiking alone? Being someplace unfamiliar? Not speaking the language? Not camping around others? There are hundreds of ways to travel and dozens of ways we can empower ourselves to be more confident. Address your fear as a way to open the doors to your dream of solo travel. 

Fear needs to go. Messages of fear need to stop. Confidence and feeling secure needs to stay. Exploring our fears and working to create solutions needs to happen. 

I said this before and I will say it again – FUCK FEAR!!

Cheers!

My Tent Bent and I Lost It

I arrived at the event on the designated day. I was a volunteer and got early access and my pick of spots. It was an open field in a little valley and the surrounding hills were gorgeous.

I had driven off Mt. Rainer the same day and I literally drove through gale force winds. I mean, so bad, a couple motorcycles were creeping along on the side of the road. I have ridden in wind like that and I would not want to do it again. The Jeep struggled on the highway. It was bad all day.

I got to camp, it was still windy, but not quite the same as through the other areas. I set up and took advantage of every possible way to secure the tent. The wind ebbed and flowed, with some gusting. I had been in wind before while on the coast. It held and I was feeling good. I got my bearings and familiarized myself with my surroundings.

Day two came. This was the day the vendors and the general public would be permitted to begin entry to the event. I was on the docket for a late afternoon shift. The day was sunny, and yet that wind continued. It would gust at times. I was sitting in front of my camp watching all of the folks get settled into their spots. So many different trucks and cars and equipment and gear that merely observing was entertaining enough. I had contemplated taking off to do laundry or even tourist about, but chose not to. Thank God.

It was mid-afternoon and the wind continued, with pretty significant gusts. My tent took one gust too many and the entire side just folded. Bent right in. Shit! I sprang up and got inside. The main connection point was bent, one of the poles was bent, and the entire thing was listing. I went back outside to see if there was anything I could do. The gusts continued and I was literally holding on to parts of the tent, straining against the wind. I took the hit as hard as the tent did. I am still not quite sure what happened or why, but a flood gate of doubts, intimidation, inadequacy and overall disappointment hit me as I stood outside and held the tent. Now what?

I couldn’t exactly just run to the store and get another one. The closest REI was several hours away, and that would also mean I had to pack up everything and do so in the gusting winds. I could just leave the event, although I had a deal to volunteer in exchange for attending. I am sure they would understand the extreme circumstance. I considered staying at a local motel or hotel or whatever was around. This is a small town and I am sure that would have cost me some money.

As I stood outside holding the tent, I called an REI to see if they had one in stock. We discussed the bent poles. There is nothing they can do to fix the poles. But, because I am in the timeframe, I can exchange it at no cost. But, the stores I called did not have one in stock so I would have to buy one and then trade it. But, I got it on sale and did not want to pay 1/3 more than I did originally. Shit!!

I now had to change my entire plan. I had planned to stay in the area until I was due at my housesitting gig. It is pretty here and I would work my way South East as I choose. Well, not now. I did not have a place to live and I needed to address that immediately. Do I head into the big cities around Seattle to get the tent and then come back out to the woods in this area? Merely getting the tent would kill an entire day, let alone finding camping and so on. I was more and more deflated as I hung onto the side of the tent and struggled for what felt like dear life. I called a store that is between where I am now and where I needed to be later. But, it was not in a desired area. But, they had a couple of my tents in stock. They could not hold it for me, but will reserve it for 24 hours. I planned to call back 24 hours before I thought I could be there and make the exchange.

I decided all of this while still holding onto the tent from the outside. I got my small rope from the backpack and used that to secure the top section of the tent to the Jeep. That was something. Once there was some security, and a slight break in the wind, I decided to get out my real rope, which was in my extra supplies tote. That rope is much better suited to this job. I took the time to secure it around Two parts of the top joint in the tent and then tie it to the roof rack on the Jeep. There was no other option. The tent was erect, albeit crooked, and would not fold in that direction again. It was all I could do.

This rattled me to my core. I got all negative and down in the dumps. I felt defeated and scared and questioned my entire life choice. I felt grossly inadequate and questioned my ability and my sensibility. I looked around at the set-ups others had and I felt like a child in a grown up world. I saw folks with complete living areas, the ability to cook and wash dishes and hang outside. I did not see anyone whose living quarters collapsed or who was struggling. I felt out numbered and out geared and out of place. I felt small. The tent broke and, apparently, so did I. I did not realize we were so fragile to begin with. I did not realize one little thing could bring the whole house down, so to speak. I did not expect the tent to fail and I did not expect myself to feel like I did, too.

It is now a couple days later and I feel better. The tent has held, I have worked some volunteer shifts to keep my mind off my troubles, and I have had some good interactions with folks here. I was actually recognized today, “oh, you are that lady who sold all her stuff to hit the road”. That was a nice boost. The wind has calmed down and, at times, stops altogether. I am safe and sound in my bent tent and it is OK. Nobody really noticed the list or the tethers. Nobody knows that the zippers are struggling or that the floor plan as shifted a little.

In fact, the Universe sent me a message in my dreams last night. I had a dream where I was taken care of, loved, appreciated, and held in high regard in a very supportted and loving way. It was a dream where I had a partner and he was all about making me happy. When I woke up, I felt safe and secure and loved and warm and comforted. Those negative feelings were replaced by this love and support. I woke up feeling so much better! As my day unfolded, I worked a couple more shifts to help pass the time and met some new people. I still have to call and get my new tent reserved. I am now considering a different tent, but I will not rush into anything. I am not sure where I will go after the tent issue is resolved. I am even thinking about a motel for a night, perhaps some brewery visits as a treat.

In the end, the tent was not a total fail and I am not the first or the last person who will have a harrowing time with gale force winds pelting their tent. I am still processing my emotional reaction to a non-emotional event. I know I will not give up and I refuse to feel discouraged or inadequate or undeserving. I will forge ahead, I will address the tent issue and I will find somewhere else to call home. I will continue to look inside myself and explore my reaction. I will be OK. The Universe even told me so.

Cheers and blessings!

Ten Miles and a Little Help

I have 21% battery but I just cannot wait to put this post together. Let’s hope my juice outlast my writing. 

I am in the Mt Rainier National Park area. Today was hiking day. I had chosen a route that I knew I would not complete or make it to the landmark. I had wrapped my head around that already. That means today was more about hiking with time in mind than miles. I am always mindful of the onset of dark, when I should eat, and what time I left. I had already had a hiking day Sunday, so I knew 10 miles was in the ballpark. I was hoping for more, as yesterday was driving day and very little walking around, let alone actual hiking. My day of rest. I should be ready today for at least ten, and around 12 would make me really happy.

I set out fairly late, for my taste anyway. I slept pretty well but had a hard time getting back to sleep after the middle of the night potty break. It was not dawn but my busy brain kicked in and spun ‘round and ‘round. I was stressing my next camping site, how it will go at the Jeep rally, the two weeks I will be isolated up the Snake River and when my next shower will happen. The usual fodder. It seemed to take nearly an hour before I got back to sleep. Of course, that means I slept in about an hour past my usual time. I did not leave camp until 11:00 by the time I had breakfast and packed and all of that. OK, fine, that just means I have to be more mindful of the time. Roger that. 

I had planned to eat about four hours after breakfast, assess the situation, and then be sure and return well before dark. I was dressed, packed and ready to roll. That lasted about 30 minutes. No sooner did I hit the trail than my body started yammering. This was before I even hit the trailhead I wanted to take! I was not even off the popular campground trail yet. Wow, this was going to be a long day. I was determined not to give up so quick. This happens, sometimes, I get tired quickly but then I can recover and make it all the way. Hell, this even happens in the fitness center when I do like 15 minutes of some cardio and am ready to crap out. I know this about myself so I know I should and will keep going. I also know to listen to my body and I promised myself I would do that, too.

I did run into two sow elk with their youngsters. I was mindful of their presence, not wanting to upset a new mother, and continued down the trail as noisy as I could be. I always carry my keys with me and they dangle outside of my pants on a carabiner. This is intentional so that I am making some sort of noise on the trail. Just shy of a bear bell, but not quite that touristy. Onward I went. I had read about this trail and it said that there was a 2700 elevational change. My last hike said it was 2400 feet and, though I doubt I did the entire thing, I handled that all right. I was game. Then it started. That elevational change started and it never stopped. I mean, it was endless! I was sweating bullets, out of breath, using my trekking poles way more than I should be. My body was just not having any of this.

I was 90 minutes in and ready to turn back. Nope, said I to nobody in particular, I was not quitting. I wanted to do at least five miles, to at least match the hike from the other day. But, man, this was hard and I was feeling it. I let myself stop a lot, catch my breath, slow my pulse. I also took the time to look around. I was clearly in elk country, as there was poop all over. There was Daddy and Mommy and even little Junior poop, all on the same trail as me. I made it a point to drag my poles in the brush now and again to make sure I did not sneak up on anyone. Some of this trail had pretty steep ledges and I was not about to meet Daddy elk on a switchback. 

The scenery was amazing and there was plenty of old growth trees, some that could rival the giant redwoods. I also noticed a lot of the trees that were down had clearly been ravaged for bugs. There was recent evidence of scraping, pawing and overall destruction of the remnants that had fallen. Ahh, bears. The campground I am at makes it pretty clear we are in bear country, with signs and warnings and bear lockers at your camp and bear proof garbage and recycling containers. The deeper I got into the woods, the more recent and the more evidence I saw. This did make me nervous and I tried not to be too quiet. Though meeting a bear on the trail would be a first, I really think I can live without this one. 

I have to admit, I was nervous. There was the sounds of a creek at times, and the sounds of the wind at others. I was hoping those would not drown me out. I made it to five miles and then back tracked a little to a great lunch spot. There was a nice flat stump I had already decided to use for my stop. I have a habit of taking photos of my lunch stops, not sure why, but the practice continues. I also know that what went up must come down, and I knew the trip back would be easier than the trip up. However, by this time my feet were hurting, my back started to ache, I was a sweaty mess and had to use bug spray for the mosquitos. I was legitimately tired. This was a very hard ten miles indeed. 

I made it back to camp and proceeded to drown myself in water, washing my face and dunking my hair and even taking a little sponge bath. I took my boots off, washed my feet and put on sandals. No blisters, but some red and sore spots for sure. I think I felt every one of those miles, and then some. I did notice on the way back that nearly the entire hike was up a hill of some sort. There is that and I did that and I am proud. 

I was setting back in at camp, getting a snack, and on my way to the bathroom. I noticed these two women and some kids messing around in the road near the potty. Well, she made a beeline right for me. She started waving and I sort of looked around like, who, me? Did she know me? I do not think I know her. She did not know me, in fact, she proceeded to tell me that she needed help and they were lost. She had been banging on the door of the camp host, who is nonexistent from my time here, and got no answer. Shocking. I’ve seen this guy only get in and out of his car and he is in his 30’s or so. Worst host ever, if you ask me. 

I did not think I looked approachable, but I do not think she cared as she was nearly in panic mode. I asked where they were from and where they were trying to go. She overshot their target by about a mile. She said she had no map. I told her I could help and she was very relieved. I had her follow me to camp where I gave her my map and some snacks for the kids. I explained where she went wrong and how to get back to their car. She was impressed with my camp, which made me laugh to myself. Fortunately, the kids were a little older and not toddlers and lady #2 had filled up their water bottle. 

I assured her they had plenty of time and lots of daylight left. I thought she was going to cry as she gave me a big hug. It was very sweet, actually. She thought they were on a loop, but they were not. Unfortunately, it would be about 1.5 or so miles back the exact way they came. I am sure the kids would get tired and I suggested pizza in town for them, and beers for the Moms. I continued to reassure her it would be fine, and pointed the way on the map.  

So, the end to my very tiring and sore day was the gift of helping someone else. I did not see any bears, I did make the ten miles, and then .5 more, and I was helpful to someone who did not plan their day at all. I mean, no thought went into their little stroll. I learned to push myself a little, and also to listen to my body. I hope they learned to plan better and always take the map. I was glad to help and glad she asked me and not some asshole. I also still have 15% battery. The Universe took care of us all today. 

Amen to that!