To Virginia and Back, In A Week. Part 1 to the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

Recently a friend of mine was given a chance of a lifetime, but it also meant she would have to move from California to Virginia. So when she asked if I would come along with her and her boyfriend to drive across the country, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I’m an adventurer, how am I supposed to turn down an adventure? So even though I only came home from another adventure a few days prior, I packed up my bag again and was off to adventure on the open road once again.

When we left we only had four days to make the 40-hour drive to Virginia. The only problem was we were only going to drive for six hours our first day as we had planned to stay overnight at the Grand Canyon and visit it in the morning of the second day. I was more than happy with this decision. After all, it’s the Grand Canyon. No matter how many times I visit it, I can’t get enough of it. Plus I convinced to team to travel a little out of the way to visit Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona. I knew it would add a couple of extra hours to our drive, but I also knew it would be so worth the time.

When we woke up the second day, we quickly broke camp and entered the Grand Canyon. We saw Mather Point at early light, the partly cloudy skies added to the ambiance and spectacular views of the canyon. Often times a scene like this looks as though you are stepping into a painting, it’s so beautiful, you think that it can’t be real. Then you breathe, and you know it is real, that this splendid beauty and chaos is the most real moment you have had in a very long time. 20160505_070408_Richtone(HDR)

Soon we were leaving the Canyon and heading north on the 89. We were going a bit out of the way, but I knew this detour would be worth the hours lost. I had planned to make an important rest stop at Horseshoe Bend near Page Arizona. It took us nearly two hours to reach the parking lot of the bend, and the sign marking the area was no help at all. It’s tiny, one blink and you’ll miss it. That is if you don’t notice all the other cars turning into a random dirt road and lot.

As we hiked towards the Bend, I was anxiously rushing up the hill that stood between me and that marvelous natural wonder. Once I was at the top, I could feel my asthma kicking into overdrive, but I didn’t care. I could already see the top of the formation, and it made my heart skip. The soft sandy trail down was not going to slow me down, nothing would until I was finally setting foot on the Navajo Sandstone. It was already midday, and there was a lot of people gathered at the mouth of the cliff, but lucky for me I was able to grab a spot that had unrestricted views. IMG_20160505_125509

As I sat and soaked in the view of from the cliff face, I let my feet dangle off the edge. I’m terrified of heights, I don’t even like to be on ladders; and yet this was fine. Maybe nature just has that effect on me, or maybe the beauty of nature is like the flame to a moth for me? Regardless, I could have stayed all day on that edge just looking down at those cliffs and the river, and not feel like a moment was wasted. Unfortunately, we had to be hitting the road. So I had to say goodbye to Horseshoe Bend and hello to the open road.

Advertisements

Thoughts on Solo Wandering.

In the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to been able to travel and explore my country. I’ve been up and down the coast. Driven across the the country a couple of times. Swam in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Been to the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Alaska. I’ve drank the water from a melting glacier and tasted the salt of a desert from a dry lake bed. It’s been an incredible journey. Filled with amazing moments and sights. Memories that I will always remember. The kind that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, no. There are times, I admit, when the solitude felt too much. I’d sit there in my camp, looking up at the stars and the silence becomes too strong. The deafening silence, so strong that I could hear my own heartbeat, and it hit me. “I’m alone…” truly alone. No one around, no cars passing by, no planes, no cell service of any kind. Just me…and I’d wish that someone was there with me. A friend, a lover, anyone. Just someone, so I know that the world didn’t end while I was away.
20141112_172136
Often times I feel like entering a new town was a bit challenging. I would come in, by plane, bus, car, or even walk in, and I wouldn’t really know where to start. Should I find food first, or should I try to find someplace to sleep? Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be challenging too. I hear it helps if your very attractive, but unfortunately I’m not gifted in that department. I am, however, funny, and approachable, so that helps a lot. Once people can get a good vibe from you, there more friendly and will point you out in the right direction, or give recommendations on where the best pizza is, or a good place to camp. If your lucky enough you may even find someone willing to have a pint and share stories with.

I think most of my favorite encounters with strangers has taken place in a bar. I’d go in alone, and usually end up making a friend for the night, but it’s not always so. There have been plenty of times where I entered and could not strike up a conversation with anyone. I don’t know why either. Was it because I was a stranger with a backpack? Or did I just catch them at a wrong time, when they didn’t feel like having a companion? I know sometimes that even I just want to be alone with my thoughts. So I don’t blame them, not at all. So I’d drink my drink in peace, and then be on my way. Sometimes it felt like no one even noticed I was there.
wpid-20150703_000734_lls.jpg
That is a thought that can haunt you, once you realize how real that can be. Imagine going somewhere, anywhere and no one really noticed you. How would you feel? Maybe you don’t think about it much, but I do. I could go missing for one reason or another, and imagine if no one even noticed I was there in the first place? It makes me want to stand out in a crowd. Not because I want the attention. I just want someone to realize I’m there. I just want someone to remember me.

Sometimes that is easy too. There have been times when I have just been wandering, and I’ll end up coming along someone who needed help. So I’d help them, in any way I could. It didn’t matter if it was giving a fellow hiker some much needed water, or helping someone who had gotten into a car accident. I would do what I could. Those are the ones that I know will remember me. Even if it’s only the thing I did for them that they remember. It’s more than enough. Because I think I want them to remember the act of kindness more than the man who did it. Maybe, just maybe, if we act a little more kinder to people, they will pay it forward? If they pay it forward, then maybe those people will do the same. Maybe a tiny ripple can change the tide. Maybe a lone wanderer can change the world.  038

I’ll Meet You At the Trail…Or At Least I’ll Try To.

This past Sunday I was supposed to meet up some friends to hike a portion of the Mt. Wilson Trail in Arcadia California. We had been planning for over a week to meet up at the trail head at 7:30 am and hike up to at least Orchard Camp. I haven’t hiked this trail in about a year, and I remember it being very challenging. So I really did want to get an early start as Sunday was the projected hot day of the week with temperatures reaching the mid 80’s.

It’s 6:45 am and I’m barely getting out of bed. I rub my eyes in disbelief. It feels like I only just closed my eyes. It was as if I had blinked and jumped ahead in time. Last night was restless, but luckily I don’t feel groggy. I hurry to get ready and soon enough, I’m out the door. I look at the time and it’s already almost 7:30, well it looks like I’m not going to make it out there in time, even with the traffic being almost non existent, there is no way I’m getting that far in a few minutes.  I send a text message to my friends from a McDonald’s parking lot, letting them know I’m running late and that I’ll meet them on the trail. After I send the message I decide to grab an Egg McMuffin. I figured I was late already, might as well get some calories in me before I hit the trail. 20160417_122228_Richtone(HDR)

By the time I get to the trail head and reach the sign in box, it’s almost 8:30. I think to myself “Damn, I’m going to see them when their coming down the trail.” I decide to just enjoy as much of the trail as I can before I meet up with them and I proceed up the long steep hike towards the top of Mt. Wilson. The first portion of the trail is exposed to the east and there is no shade at all. The warm spring sun beats down on you as you climb higher and higher up the dusty trail to the top. Even though it’s still morning, I’m already wishing I started earlier. Other than the sun being very warm, I feel okay. I’m doing pretty well on this trail, even though I haven’t done a hike this strenuous since Flattop Mountain in the Summer (Which is easier than Wilson), I’m making good progress.

20160417_122337_Richtone(HDR)

Soon I reach the first place most people take a rest at, and that is called First Water. It’s a nice shady area with a little creek going through it. Even though it’s a pleasant area I don’t stop long. I’m too concerned with finding my friends. So I continue on up the trail towards the next stop, Orchard Camp. It’s only two more miles up from First Water So I figure I should be seeing them soon.

20160417_102801_Richtone(HDR)This portion of the trail is so much nicer.
As the trees provide much needed cover from the sun. I think this is my favorite portion of the hike. It’s so beautiful, the trees, the mountains. The people seem more friendly and happy. It’s just so wonderful there. It was even better seeing a bunch of butterflies hanging around the trail. Everywhere I looked, I would see a butterfly. It would either be resting or flying about in the air. They made me happy and I had to stop and just enjoy them for a while.

As I approached Orchard Campground I thought I would finally see my friends, and then we could travel the rest of the trail together. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and didn’t find them.Could they have gone up to the next stop? Maybe? But it was getting closer to being the hottest part of the day, and I didn’t feel like going any further with the heat. Perhaps I missed them when I stepped off onto a ledge to get some pics? It’s possible, only one way to find out, and that meant I would have to keep going and hope to find them. Somewhere down the trail.

 

20160417_110417_Richtone(HDR)

As I began to begin my decent, something strange happened. I actually felt alone. I’ve gone on many adventures alone. It’s never bothered me before. So what’s changed? Me, I guess. Sometimes life just catches up to you, and sneaks in a hit when you least expect it. So I was alone to my thoughts as I rapidly descended down the trail. Now everything seemed just a little dimmer, a little quieter, a little colder. I don’t think I ever wanted a hike to end so soon. Usually I just relax and take it all in, the beautiful chaos that is nature, and I’m humbled and amazed, but not today.

As I was getting closer to the trail head, I kept seeing more and more people 20160417_102318_Richtone(HDR)beginning their journey, at the mid day point, in the hottest part of the day, and I wished them well in my mind. Some didn’t even seem to have water with them. Are they crazy? I thought. Surely, they must know that you shouldn’t attempt any trail without water. Then I saw a man with a beautiful all white Husky looking dog. They were making fast progress up the mountain, but the dog was heavily panting. As they passed I asked him, if he wanted any water for his dog, “Sure if you have any you can spare.” I quickly removed my Camelbak water bottle and unscrewed the top. As I began to slowly pour a stream of water the dog quickly began to lap up the water. She was very thirsty, and it was only the beginning of the trail. They still had easily a mile and a quarter to go before First Water. The dog quickly drank almost all of the water. She even managed to stick her tongue into the bottle to get even more water. I just smiled and let her have as much as she wanted. When she finished her owner thanked me and I’ll never forget this, but the dog gave me an incredible look. It was as if she was wondering where I was going, and why I wasn’t going with them. I told the owner it was a tough hike, and he said they wouldn’t be going too far. So I pet the dog on the head and I left.

As I exited the trail, I checked my phone for any messages from my friends, and I had a couple but nothing about their whereabouts on the trail. I checked Instagram and sure enough they had already posted some pics. So with that, and feeling a little defeated by the mountain, I decided it was time to head home for a much needed shower, and perhaps a victory, or in this case a defeat beer to enjoy on this beautiful warm spring afternoon. I feel like going back to this mountain soon. There is something about the challenge of it that I like. It’s tough, and demanding and unforgiving. A perfect place to hone yourself for a life of adventure. 20160417_122154

To the Next Unknown!

I feel tired. I slept somewhat good, and yet I’m still tired. The insomnia isn’t getting better. If anything it’s way out of balance. Days go by and I can barely get in a couple of hours and then I’ll have a day where I can’t stay awake as my body desperately tries to catch up on some much needed rest. It’s safe to say that despite everything my head feels like a mess. An all too common state for me. So common I actually feel weird without it. It’s practically the norm, and that’s what scares me.

If you’ve been a follower you know that I have had bouts of depression before, as well as thoughts of suicide. I can safely say I don’t feel suicidal now. A slip near the ledge of a mountain trail the other day, confirmed how much I really do want to live. Still with this resurgence of depression, I know it can only be a matter of time before the darkness totally takes a hold of me. Which is why I’m doing this now, well maybe not so much the blogging. Actually that’s not true. I find blogging very therapeutic. There is just something so liberating with sharing your world with total strangers470336_3663690064846_1134808599_o

Anyways, back on topic. I guess this is me announcing that I’m going to be starting anti depressants, or at least I hope I will be. I’m currently getting ready to see my doctor, and we’ll go through everything. I’ll tell my doctor that exercising is not working. I’m loosing weight, which is nice, but I don’t feel better afterwards anymore. I started reading more, but I find myself loosing interest no matter the genre, and I don’t finish the book. Socializing has been difficult, to say the least. I don’t really make plans. I just text a bunch of my friends to see who is free to do something, and that doesn’t always work. I don’t blame them if there busy doing something else. They have lives after all, it’s just hard for me to  make plans because I never know how bad it’s going to be on certain days. The good thing is more often that not, I still have the will to get up and do something. Even if I have to do it by myself I still go out for a walk, or grab a bite to eat, or even a pint.170759_1862045229793_621927_o

I don’t even feel bad doing stuff by myself. I’ve been very independent throughout my life. I’m actually quite use to doing things by myself. So that doesn’t bother me at all. Just sometimes I wish I had another human to talk to, just so I don’t have to think about the things in my head. It’s kind of strange how things change. I’ve been very content at being alone, I travel by myself. I use to prefer it that way. Just me and nature. Discovering each other. Being pushed to my edge and coming back home victorious from a desert or a mountain. It was great, but now it’s not the same. Now I feel the solitude. The defining quiet when you are in the middle of nowhere and you can hear your own heartbeat. It’s maddening. Now I’m eager to have a companion come along with me. So much so if someone can’t come, I now delay the trip, just so I won’t be alone. I know that brings comfort to my family and friends, but I don’t like it. I miss being comfortable in my own solitude.

So wish me luck, as I start a new adventure.IMG_20160418_083541 I have no idea what is going to happen once
I change my brain chemistry. I don’t know if I’ll even change or not. Everyone reacts different, and it’s a little scary when you think about it. I’m stepping into a new unknown. A trail that has never been treaded on. A trail that I can only hope will take me to a better place. I guess it is a lot like exploring. You set your sights for the horizon, and you not only hope to see something new and beautiful, but you also hope it’s better than where you are currently at. So don’t fret for me, instead let’s raise a glass to new horizons.

Not Quite the Adventure I Was Looking For…

I’ve been here in Alaska for a month and it has been an incredible experience. I came up here to work the annual salmon run in order to finance my future adventures, and  possibly squeeze in some adventuring with every chance I could get, and while I have been doing that, and things were great, that all changed this past week.

My company sent me up to Dillingham to help out the plant there. It was a nice change of pace and scenery and the little down time I had I took advantage with bike rides through the rolling hills of the Dillingham country side. It was such an incredible experience to be the only one on the road while being treated to fields of green stretching out to the mountains and river in the distance. The rush of going down the hill and letting go of the handlebars was so invigorating, I can barley describe the feeling. In fact I don’t think the word invigorating really does it any justice at all. It is truly an incredible experience.   wpid-20150722_222122_richtonehdr.jpg

After a week in Dillingham I was supposed to go back to Petersburg with a bunch of my co workers. The company had charted a plane for us to get back. We were supposed to have a quick stop in Anchorage to refuel but it turned into an hour layover. We were then told six people would have to stay the night in Anchorage and that they would be compensated for staying. Since I’m always looking for an adventure, I volunteered to stay behind. They gave us our carry on bags and then the plane left. Thinking that the company was going to get us a hotel, we all waited patiently in the terminal awaiting to hear of any news. Hours passed before I called the company to find out what was going on; only to be told that the hotels were filled up and we were on our own for the night. Two people left because they knew someone in town and didn’t want to wait in the terminal. Leaving only four people including myself in the terminal for the night.

As the night began to press on, we started getting restless. We had no money, some didn’t have phone service and we were stuck in the terminal for the night. I kept counting down the hours until my direct deposit would kick in, and then I knew I would be free. I had called up a hostel and they had plenty of space. I thought I would cab it, and maybe walk the city after checking in, but as time went on, I knew that wouldn’t be an option. The tree other men I was with, had little to no money on them, no direct deposit and one was suffering a migraine. One man used what little money he had to buy us all McDonalds for dinner. I knew that when my direct deposit came in, that I couldn’t leave them here. They were angry, and suffering. I just knew I couldn’t leave them behind like that.

When my deposit went through I called a local hotel and they had a suite that was available, and they offered me a discount. So I took it, and made the reservation. I then went back and informed the men, that I got them a room, and the hotel was coming to pick us up. Their faces immediately lit up, and their mood changed. Within minutes we arrived at the hotel and after I finished checking in we went up to our room. They were so happy with how big it was. Two huge rooms, one with two queen size beds, another with a fold out couch, tvs in every room, a fridge, microwave, the bathroom had a spa tube and a separate shower. It was amazing. One of the guys told me, that he had never stayed somewhere that was this nice. I felt happy that I was able to help these guys out. I didn’t even really know them, I had just learned the names, and yet here we were, “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers…” we would sleep like kings tonight. wpid-20150723_154439_richtonehdr.jpg

The next morning we were back at the airport. We were all on different flights and mine left first. I left Anchorage at eight and was headed off to Juneau. I was suppose to have a three and a half hour layover before my next flight, so I decided to catch a cab and head into town to see some sights before I left. I’ve been wanting to visit Juneau so I took this small opportunity to do so. Shortly after arriving back at the airport I learned there was a problem with the aircraft and a smaller plane was taking it’s place. This meant that some people would be spending the night in Juneau. I volunteered to stay. I don’t really know why either. I was desperate to get back to work. I literally only had a change of clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste with me. The rest of my luggage was already in Petersburg, but I choose to stay. Maybe a part of me thought or hoped I would see the girl that I meet in Petersburg, even though I knew that she wasn’t here anymore. Still something compelled me to stay.

The airline gave me a room, a few meal tickets and and a flight for the next day,wpid-20150724_194425_richtonehdr.jpg for my travel troubles. After checking into my room, I went on a walk. The views around Juneau and it’s airport are breathtaking. In some places you can see the glacier. I found a small hiking trail that was actually very pleasant and empty considering how close it was to the airport. I’m glad it wasn’t too long of a hike though because the only shoes I had were my Ultra Tuffs, which are just rubber boots. Then again, I guess you can’t be a true Alaskan until you have done a hike in Ultra Tuffs.

As the night began to creep in and I wandered back to my hotel I couldn’t stop thinking of so many things. I thought of home, of my family and my friends. I thought of cats, I thought of places that I still want to see and the things I still want to do. I thought of all that and much more, and yet I didn’t feel lonely or alone, even though I was completely alone. I didn’t mind it, but at the same time I kind of missed everyone. Now I’m back in Petersburg, eagerly awaiting to start working again so I can earn enough money to have more incredible adventures.

 

An Unexpected Encounter and a Day of Adventure.

The days are long here in Alaska. The tiny town that I am residing in for the next two months is quaint and everyone is friendly, yet I feel a little out of place. It’s been hard to make any connection that lasts longer than simple pleasantries. Then one day, I was walking by the Ferry Terminal and I stumbled into someone unexpected.

It was a cloudy and cool day and as I was out having a walk near the ferry terminal. I wore my daypack, because honestly, I feel naked without it. As I walked I found myself caught in my own thoughts. A squawk from a soaring Bald Eagle flying above caught my attention and I found myself watching it fly above me. They are a common sight on this island, yet I can’t stop myself from watching in amazement. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, WHAM! I felt myself collide with another person, and the sound of a smart phone impacting on the ground in a loud thud rang in my ears.

“Sorry, I didn’t see you.” I exclaimed.

“No, it’s my fault, I should have been looking where I was going.” I heard a soft voice say.

I picked up the I Phone on the ground (thank god for Otter box). It was that moment I finally saw who I ran into, as I handed her phone to her. She was in her early twenties, sandy blond hair worn short, and striking blue eyes. I think my jaw dropped.

“Are you okay?” I finally said.

“Yeah, I was just trying to get a picture of the Eagle”

After laughing off our disastrous meeting, we started talking. She told me that she was traveling through to Juneau where she was going to be visiting the Ice Fields and other amazing things. I told her about my great Alaskan Adventure. It was great to have a fellow adventurer to talk to. We shared tips, and stories about traveling and exploring. She spoke with such passion and excitement, and she was even excited to hear my stories and plans. Things were going great, until I learned she is only on the Island for a day. She embarks for Juneau in the morning. I almost let that be the end of it, I was about to say something along the lines of enjoy Petersburg while your here, but instead, I quickly said

“I know some trails here…I can show you them if you like, or perhaps you would rather fancy a pint?”

I honestly can’t believe I said “fancy a pint”, I would of rolled my eyes if she wasn’t looking at me. Lucky for me she thought it was awesome, and so we were off to enjoy a day of adventure and having a victory beer at Kato’s Kave latter that day. I took her to Outlook Park and showed her where the Devil’s Thumb would be, it it were not covered in clouds. We then went to Sandy Beach, hoping to see some petroglyphs, sadly we did not find any. We then went through Hungry Point trail, and took in the sights of Petersburg Mountain, the muskegs and a deer.

Even though we didn’t see some of the things we were looking for, we still had a great time, and shared some awesome stories. Despite having such a busy day we still had plenty of energy to have a couple of beers at Kato’s. She remembered it as the bar mentioned by the author from Into the Wild, and thought it was really cool to be in the same place she once read about. We then spent a good amount of time talking about that book, and McCandless, and I was really thankful, I just finished the book the day before.

Looking back on that day, I find myself missing the girl I shared a day with. Maybe because it was the company, maybe because I had a crush on her, or perhaps it’s becausebecause I felt like we were kindred spirits? Regardless, I now find my self returning back to the ferry terminal. Even though I know she won’t be returning back to Petersburg, and a small part of me is glad she won’t.

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty now that they’re gone. I guess I just miss [her].”