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.
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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.
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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’m Afraid of the Ocean, So Why not Go Kayaking On It?

We woke up early in the morning as we had a big day ahead of ourselves and wanted to get a head start. So after making a Rolling Stone  for breakfast (because what else would a geology lover eat?) We headed out in the light of the dawn to drive to Spooners Cove in Montana de Oro State Park. The drive down was excellent. The highway was wide open and the way the light was hitting the rolling hills of the area, it was magical. I purposely played “Circle of Life” as we drove. Seriously if you have never listened to that song while driving in the morning, you need to. It wakes everyone up in the best of ways. IMG_20160426_112051

As we drove through the eucalyptus forest entering Mantana de Oro, it seemed like we were going through a new and far away land. Even though we were merely nearing the cost. Soon the forest broke and we drove pass Spooners Cove (one of my favorite beaches). We parked up ontop of a small hill and near the trail head for Bluff Trail. This is the trail that we will take in order to get down to the tide pools.

Bluff Trail, is kind of a unique trail. There really are no trees or shade on this trail, and wraps along the steep cliff faces of the California Cost. Small shrubs are abundant off the trail and the wildflowers are in bloom. There are certain areas where you can get close to the edge and see the beach and crashing waves below, but be warned. These cliffs are prone to weathering and can give away without any warning. So please be careful when you are enjoying the views20160423_080133

Before I knew it, we were heading down a long woodenIMG_20160427_183651 staircase and to the beach below. Sand greeted us at first but it soon gave away to the exposed layers of shale, and shallow pools of water where sea anemones bloomed. I walked cautiously over the floor, trying my best to not step on any barnacles, crabs or snails. Exploring every pool of water I could. One could say they were all the same, but only a fool would utter such an understatement. Each pool was unique, each pool brought something different and offered a new perspective to life under the sea.

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After spending the whole morning exploring tide pools and sandy cliffs it was time to head back up to Morro Bay, to kayak in the presence of Morro Rock, and all of her glory. Upon entering the kayak rental shop, my nervousness was subdue thanks to friendly and warm staff. After a short crash course on kayaking I was getting into my kayak and off into the open water of the bay. I must admit, I’m terrified of the ocean. I don’t like how I can’t see what is going on around me, and knowing that there are things that can kill me living in the water. I freak out whenever I feel something touch me while in the ocean, and that is why, for the most part I avoid it at all costs. However, I’m also open to new adventures and experiences and I really wanted to see the Morro Bay sand dunes, and there is only one way to get to them. So off I go into the kayak, and onto the water.

I paddle around for a bit just trying to get use to it, and getting my form down. I paddle up to a floating dock that is littered with sea lions. As the wind picked up I was quickly reminded of how bad they smell, my god, how could I forget that? I quickly paddled to the other side and everything was much better. Morro Rock stood majestically in the near distance, and I knew I would have to risk it and take a picture. I fought against the wind and current in order to get a few pictures of it from the kayak, hoping the whole time that my phone wouldn’t fall into the ocean. After getting a few shots I decided that it was time to check out the dunes. IMG_20160424_143340

I pulled my kayak up to the dunes, because I was overly cautious that the tide was going to come in and pull it out into the bay, and that was the last thing I wanted. Once at the dunes I went for a walk with a friend through the allowed passage to the other side. During this time of year, a lot of the area is roped off in order to let the native birds nest without humans tromping through the area. We walked and talked making the most of it. Even though walking through the loose hot sand was difficult it was fun, a bit long, but fun none the less. After some time walking through the sand we were rewarded to the sight of crashing waves on the beach.

After resting among the rocks and laying in the sand I decided I wanted to head back to my kayak and paddle around the bay more. I still had a couple of hours left on my rental and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. As I paddled out into the bay it wasn’t bad. It was quite easy actually. I just had to paddle more on my right than left in order to keep straight. It was nice and peaceful out on the water. After I went as far as I could one way I turned around and went in the other direction. As I got near the docked boats the wind started to pick up and it made navigating among them difficult.  All was good once I passed all the boats and I soon found myself near some sea marshes that had white cranes looking for food in the reeds. 20160423_161256

I sat there in my kayak for a while just enjoying the moment, letting the current take me a bit. Everything felt great out there, I almost didn’t want to come back to shore. The sea had taken a hold of me, but my time was almost up and I knew I had to get back. So I began heading towards the docks. This is when things got tough. The wind had picked up tremendously and so now I had to contend with waves as I traveled up the channel. I was able to deal with the situation, just had to paddle a little harder and work to keep my balance but as I paddled I was encouraged by a man on a sail boat. “You go dude” he shouted as I paddled by.

In no time I had arrived back at the rental safe and sound and without falling overboard. I was a bit soaked from all the waves, but still I couldn’t complain. I had accomplished what I have set to accomplished. I felt like I was able to come to grips with one of my biggest fears and have a good time while doing, and I as I drove back to camp. I couldn’t help but feel happy with that. I now look forward to doing this again in the near future.

 

Feeling Cool at LeConte Glacier

It’s another cloudy and overcast day here in Southeast Alaska. The days prior were sunny with some clouds and it was a welcome change from the usual rain, but now the clouds have returned to cloak Mitkof Island from the sun. Still, the cloudy cool day can’t put a damper on my mood, for today I travel to somewhere new, some place special. Today I visit a fading giant known as LeConte Glacier.wpid-20150908_150051_richtonehdr.jpg

It’s midday and I’m off to head towards the dock to catch the boat that will take me to glacier. As I move through downtown Petersburg, I see the towns people continuing on with their daily lives. They move about the streets, and proceed into shops. Dogs wait anxiously in the beds of trucks, for their beloved owners to return, and I stroll through not even trying to contain my own excitement. I’ve dreamt about visiting a glacier for a long time now, and my excitement grows as the time to leave draws near.

I arrive at the meeting spot, and soon we are off to the nearby dock to board the jet boat. Once on the boat I take a seat in the front, just to the right of the Captain. I’m shocked that the seat is empty as this seat will surely have some of the best views. As I sit, the Captain goes over the standard emergency procedures and information, I do my best to pay attention but I can’t stop thinking about that glacier; sitting within the mountains, just as it has since the ice age. I can’t wait to bask in its glory!

As the boat leaves the harbor it begins to speed, to our destination. I’m taken aback as the jet engines roar and force water through them, propelling the boat across the water. It’s exhilarating, like the first time you ever sped on the open road, only better. Even though we are traveling fast on the water it still takes the boat a good 40 minutes to reach our destination. Luckily for me, time seemed to travel fast on the boat, and before I know it, we are beginning to be surrounded by icebergs.wpid-20150816_145842_richtonehdr.jpg

The area that glacier inhabits is stunning and beautiful. Jagged icebergs float among us, like abstract ice sculptures, weathering beautifully in the cold ocean. The cliff faces on either side of the channel are polished smooth from the glacier. New life has begun to take hold on this island, as young trees and plant life now grow on land that was once covered by ice, only 20 years ago. The large U shaped valleys carved into the rock are covered with vegetation, the green plant life is so vibrant in contrast to the grey stone, and the white snow that it borders.wpid-20150816_141535_richtonehdr.jpg

The glacier warns us to keep our distance as loud thunderous cracks from the glacier moving echoes through the valley. So we keep our distance from the glacier, staying a good quarter-mile away. The glacier stands majestically in the distance. Only allowing us to witness her beauty but not touch it. I reach out of the boat and grab a small chunk of ice that was floating in the water. It’s cold in my hand but I bring it to my lips in order to taste it. The water from the melting ice is unbelievable. It’s the best tasting water I have ever experienced in my life. I think to myself, how fortunate I am to be here, to see this marvel of nature, and to drink water that was frozen so long ago.wpid-20150816_150658_richtonehdr.jpg

Time seemed short in the presence of the glacier, because before I knew it our four hour tour was coming to a close. As we returned back to Petersburg I kept thinking about the glacier. I wondered what it would have been like to visit it ten years ago, and how much it has changed in such little time. It reminded me of why it is important to me to be going on these adventures during this moment of my life. After all, it’s like what I keep telling people who I meet “I’m not running away from things. I’m running to them. Before they flare and fade forever.” There is so much to see in this world, and only so little time to see it. So if you are reading this, and you’re thinking about going somewhere you always wanted to see. I beg you to do everything in your power to do so.

Until next time. Never give up. Never give in.

Raven’s Trail

It’s been nearly a week since I’ve arrived in Alaska and it has been a roller-coaster of excitement and adventure already, but the past day and a half, everything has come to a slow halt. It’s mid day and I’m laying in my tent listening to the rain land and bounce off the fly and the nearby gravely ground. It’s calming and soothing to listen to as I read Call of the Wild by Jack London. However, no matter how pleasant and relaxing this is, I’m not content. I can hear the wild lands of Alaska calling me to her trails. Waiting for me to try and test my metal against hers. I contemplate putting on some rain gear and going out. My better judgment convinces me other wise.

Now it’s 16:00 the rain has stopped and I can’t contain myself anymore. There is a trail, nearby that I’ve been itching to try. So I pack my daypack and I’m out to try and conquer the trail. It’s a mile away from my tent, but it goes by quick. The road to the trail head is easy and not very traveled so there is nothing to slow me down. In no time I find myself at the trail head. A wooden sign surrounded by quarried diorite leads to the trail. First I’ll have to follow a service road for a half mile, and then the real trail will begin.

Even though this trail is a stone’s throw away from the airport, you wouldn’t even notice it was there. Only two commercial flights fly out of the airport each day. Any other smaller aircraft traffic is minimal at best. The road stretches out through the muskegs, as spruce saplings rise up from the mud, trying to claim it’s own niche in the world. I’m surprised by how well the trail is marked. A bright blue arrow points it out, as it could have been easily passed if it had not been. I half expected to see a cairn, and while I’m tempted to make one, I know it’s already 17:00 and I need to hit the trail.wpid-20150702_183626.jpg

The trail is a row of boards, or like a really long plank that leads through the muskeg. The boards have fish net on the top, and this helps get a good grip, because I imagine that with all the rain and mud it would be slippery. This kind of trail is alien to me. I’ve never encountered such a trail in all my travels. If you are traveling with a companion you would have to travel single file as there is only room for one on this trail. There isn’t even enough room for trekking poles on the board, it’s that small. Soon I exit the muskegs and enter the forest. It’s a surreal experience, the vibrant greens, and stillness, and the way the light peaks in through the branches. It’s more than what I expected.

Soon I come upon two hikers a man and women, both appear to be in their mid twenties, and both are very friendly. Luckily we came upon each other at a wide part of the boardwalk (the only part on the whole trail). The woman asks where I’m headed, and I tell her I’m going to the cabin at the top. She informs me it’s not at the top, and the man confirms. They tell me once you summit you will follow the path down further and onto another peak and that is where the cabin lays. After exchanging more pleasantries we are both headed on our paths in separate directions. I had no idea this would be the only human contact I would have on the whole trail.

As I enter the thick part of the forest, the boardwalk disappears, and I finally feel like I’m on a real trail. It’s muddy, and rooty and if you don’t keep your wits about you, and mind your footing, it will cost you. I almost catch a face full of Devil’s Club as I was watching my footing. Luckily my spider sense kicked and I ducked and narrowly avoid an unpleasant encounter with the thorny plant. The trail starts to get even harder, I think of all the challengingwpid-20150702_192004_richtonehdr.jpg trails I’ve done: Mt. Wilson, Mt. Baldy, Bright Angel, Angel’s Landing, I think I’m prepared, that I can handle it, that it won’t be that bad. While I was prepared, I underestimated how strenuous and challenging it would be.

Soon I’m gaining a foot of elevation with nearly each step that I take. The trail has round logs that sort of make a steep staircase, and I do mean steep. At times it felt like I was climbing more than stepping. To make matters more difficult the logs and trail are all muddy from the recent rains, making the trail more difficult. After a mile and some change of mostly steep elevation gains the path begins to even out and soon you reach the peak of the trail. Most trails peak to barren rocky tops, but not this little mountain. It’s covered in muskegs. I try not to linger as the standing water attracts the mosquitoes, but I notice the sun is low in the northwestern sky. I decided I’ll press on for another 20 minutes and if I don’t reach the cabin I’ll head back.

I move as fast as I can on the slippery boardwalk through the muskeg and brush, and after 20 minutes, the cabin is no where in sight. I pause for a moment. I check my map, I can’t be too far from it now, but then I realize the light is getting dimmer and I still have some thick muddy forest to traverse. So I head back. I’m really rushing now, as I do not want to get stuck in that forest with no light, because even with a head lamp and flash light I know the trail could be difficult to find. As I enter the forest, my fear comes to realization. It is much darker in here than I anticipated, and like I feared the trail is hard to see even with my headlamp. I try to pick up my speed but soon I slip and nearly fall. That slipped would of cost me dearly had I not been using my trekking poles. I slip again, and again, and finally I let the trail win. This will not be a speedy decent. I will have to take my time and watch my footing.wpid-20150702_211913.jpg

I make sure to make noise and bang my trekking poles together every few steps. After all this is bear country, and I do not want to surprise one on this lonely trail. I nearly go off trail once as I was following mud tracks and broken vegetation but I stopped and looked around and knew this wasn’t a trail. I had to back track several feet and luckily I spotted a blue diamond telling me which way to go. I count my lucky stars as an off trail adventure in this forest in the dark could cost me. I won’t lie and say the thought of getting lost in here didn’t cross my mind, or that I wasn’t afraid. Fear was with me, as I descended, but I used it as a strength. After all fear is a super power. It can make you stronger, run faster, jump higher. Adrenalin is like rocket fuel and it will course through your veins making you think faster, make it seem like time slows. How could you do the impossible without fear?

Once I reached the boardwalk I feel a little relief as I know the worst is over and and soon I’ll be back on the service road. I make haste on the boardwalk, as I still feel uneasy being on this trail in the dark. The good part though, was that there was more light on this part of the trail, due to less dense vegetation. It isn’t long before I’m back into the muskeg and the service road is in sight. Once I take that first step onto the road a big sigh of relief let out. Still I knew I had a half mile of service road through the muskeg to be really in the clear. Once I’m back at the trail head and reach the main road, I feel immediate satisfaction. I made it. I just did an intense trail, got caught in the dark and I still made it.

Looking back on this adventure I will admit that I was foolish for trying to accomplish this trail so late in the day. Or underestimating the trail. I didn’t have enough respect for the trail when I started, but now I’ve learned. Now I’m wiser, and now I realize just how wild my future adventures in this land will be. Also you will pleased to know I ran into the nice couple the next day on my way to the Laundromat. The woman explained how they were worried about me venturing out so late. It was good feeling to have, and we were all happy with the outcome.

Feeling small at Grand Canyon National Park.

Sometimes you don’t really know where you are going. I for one can attest to this. I maybe for the most part stuck where I am, but any chance I get to go somewhere I do. Sometimes it feels like I’m just running in any direction that I can, just so I can see or experience something new. So when a friend invited me to go to Flagstaff Arizona for a road trip, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

My friend and I have become great pals over the last year. We both have love exploring, beer, and enjoying a good laugh. On top of that we have some friends in Flagstaff that we will be visiting so it’s even better. These three people that I had the privilege of spending time with mean a lot to me. In some ways they are like my family.

So one day while we are all together one of them brings up going to the Grand Canyon for the day. It’s not that far of a drive, and I’ve never been to the south rim before so I was all for it. After running a few errands and getting some stuff for the road we were off. Sitting in the backseat soaking up the views of the San Francisco Peaks and the Ponderosa Pines, brought me back to a time when I traveled a lot with my friends. Like when we traveled up to Yosemite and spotted a tornado near Panum Crater. Or the time we drove through some of the Sierra Nevadas on our way to Fresno, and had a whole camp to ourselves; and many other similar adventures.tZK84Yy - Imgur

It’s funny really, when I think about it. I always thought I would leave first. I never imagined that I was going to be the one left behind. I think it’s actually better this way to be honest. Maybe I needed them to all leave so that I could finally leave? I was actually supposed to leave almost a year ago and I pushed back my plans so that I could have more time. I’m glad I did, because after I leave. I won’t be able to see any of them for months.

When we arrive at the Canyon there was a good size crowd there. Which I really don’t mind, it saddens me when I visit an empty national park. We go up to the fence and the sight of the canyon is magnificent and breath taking. Only problem I have is that there is a fence between me and the canyon, but lucky for us there is a trail that goes along the rim, so we take it. It isn’t long before we are away from the crowds and the fence. Now we can truly walk up to the ledge of the rim and gaze in wonder..IIhpKo3 - Imgur

Being on the ledge and looking out into the great below is like no other feeling I have felt before. The way the rocks are layered and how the Colorado River meanders through it. The lush of green at the bottom of the canyon and the reds near the top, it’s just wonderful. Seeing it stretch far out into the north, it appears to stretch on forever, even though it doesn’t. I sat there high on the ledge, my feet dangling off hanging in the wind. It felt peaceful and invigorating at the same time. There is just something about that combination of sensations that helps you realize that you are alive, and at any given moment that can all change. It reminds you to appreciate the good and the bad that life has all to offer, and that for now it still has more to offer.

An Unexpected Companion

Ever so often, you feel like you are at a crossroads in your life. You don’t know which way to go. What path you should take. The road that brought you here to this crossroads was a rough one, but it started to feel a little easier. You tell yourself “Maybe you were just getting stronger along the way?” Or maybe things are just getting easier? My life has been filled with these sort of dilemmas for the past couple of years. One time life threw me such a curve ball and I swung and miss so bad it left me hurt. I had the longest second in my life, and I didn’t know how to carry on. So without really telling anyone, I set out to the desert to clear my head.

The semester had just ended, and while my friends were beginning to enjoy the start of the winter break, I couldn’t focus. I remember telling my best friend what happened. I remember going to her house because I really needed someone to talk to. She was always great for that. She helped me through a lot, but I still didn’t feel like I was really moving on. So I came home and packed up some camping gear, because when the sun rose, I was hitting the road.

It’s eight in the morning and I realize that I over slept. I should have been on the road already as it was going to be a long drive. I had trouble sleeping the night before, not because of what was bothering me, but because I always have trouble sleeping before leaving on an adventure. I rush to get dressed, make a quick breakfast and grab my field pack. I had to hurry if I wanted to get there before dusk. My destination was a good five hours away, so without any more delays I was off to be alone in the desert. 20141120_155532

The sun hangs low in the western sky as I pull up to camp off the dusty beaten road. As usual, no one is here. There isn’t a soul around for miles and miles. It is so peaceful here, some people can’t stand it being this quiet, however, I kind of like it. I quickly set up camp and then decided to do a little hiking while there is still some sun out. I can’t go too far because it will be getting dark soon. I set off towards the nearby mountains just north east of camp. The gravel crunches with each step along the lonely trail. I keep thinking about my mistakes. I keep thinking of how much of a fool I am. That is when the solitude begins to hit me, and I start feeling alone.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye something moves. I turn to look and not too far in the distance is a lone coyote. It stands there watching me, as I watch it. I keep walking, making sure not to act like prey. I keep looking over my shoulder and I notice it is following me, not directly behind me, but off in the distance to the side. It’s not trying to hide, and it doesn’t seem to be stalking, just following. Maybe it’s just curious? I don’t know. After a couple of minutes of hiking I see that it is now keeping pace with me. Instead of it being slightly behind, it’s now off to the side of me. For some odd reason, I start talking to it.

I start speaking out load, as if it can understand me. I tell it what’s been troubling me and why I am here. It doesn’t seem to mind and just stands there watching me.  At one point I actually looked at it and ask “What should I do?” It just looked at me, and everything went quiet. It was only a moment but it felt like a long time, and in that moment I felt at peace. I felt relieved. The coyote then sniffed the air then turn and ran off, checking over it’s shoulder to make sure I didn’t follow. I stood there and watched it run off. I then waived at my once unexpected companion, before returning to camp for the night.20141120_122202

I don’t know why that coyote followed me. Perhaps it thought I had food or that I was food? Or maybe, just maybe it was nature’s way of saying that everything was going to be okay, and that no matter what, I’m never truly alone. What if we are never alone, and always have a companion in someway? A constant companion. Always there to make sure we come back home. I like to believe that is true.

Until next time. Never give up. Never give in.