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.

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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.

 

Purple Rain, on the way to Morro Bay

I’ve been driving through the Los Angeles traffic for nearly two hours when the congestion finally seems to break. I’m only in Ventura and I still have a ways to go. Morro Bay is my destination on this trip, and even though I can feel my morning caffeine begin to wear off, I can’t help but feel excited. I’ve been impatiently awaiting another outing since my last overnight trip to the Trona Pinnacles and I must say it’s been too long since I’ve slept in a tent again. I don’t know what makes camping so special but it truly is. Maybe it’s being detached from civilization? Or maybe it’s just a connection with mother nature that puts one’s mind at peace? All I know, is that I love it, and it makes me happy. 20160422_130254_Richtone(HDR)

It’s about 10 am when we arrive at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo. My legs can’t wait to get out of the van and walk around and the first step on the parking lot feels like heaven. I take in a deep breath of the salty air and it comforts me. I can already hear the waves crashing along the beach and I quickly grab a couple of things and begin to head off to the beach. Even though it’s early the beach already has some visitors on it, but lucky for me and my group we know an area that is less traversed. As I climb onto the pillow basalts to avoid the crashing waves I’m treated to a small but private stretch of beach. There isn’t a lot of sand at this part of the beach but that doesn’t matter. I’d rather look at the rocks anyways. I boulder up some of the structures and I perch myself up not too high but high enough just to get a better view. The sun is shinning and wind feels perfect and there are sea otters and seals playing in the water. It’s almost perfect here. I almost wished that we were staying longer than a couple of hours, but there is much to see and do, before arriving to camp.20160422_121351_Richtone(HDR)

We’ve only been driving for a half hour when the skies begin to pour with a vengeance. We knew before heading out, that we were going to get rain, but for a moment we forgot all about it, and felt surprised as the rain began to pour.The whippers on the van moved fast to keep the drops clear for a view of the street, but it didn’t seem enough. This storm was hitting hard. As we came closer to our next destination it began to lighten up dramatically. The once powerful and mighty storm was now just a light sprinkling and when we stopped, I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures. That’s when the music began to play in my head. I could hear Purple Rain playing and I felt a little sad about the recent lost of the artist known as Prince, but so happy to have known about his work before hand. It’s funny how a celebrity death can hit you so hard. You may not have ever meet them or knew them personally, but through their work you felt a connection. You grew up learning about yourself and making memories and having experiences to their work; so when they die, it’s like a piece of you died too. 20160422_142842_Richtone(HDR)

As we walked down to the Estero Bluffs we were treated to a field of blooming mustard plants before reaching the beach. Once at the beach we spent some time looking around. I found a couple of hidden plastic Easter Eggs, and I wondered who had an egg hunt here? One of the eggs was empty but the other had some candy in it, but the ants had already claimed it as their own. It was beautiful there at that beach. I got to see the remnants of the storm pass by and leave us and welcome back the blue sky and sunshine. Soon after that it was time to finally make our way down to camp to set up for the night.20160422_163904

I had never stayed at Morro Strand Campground before. It’s a little too close to  civilization for me, but it wasn’t too bad as it is right on the beach. I pitched my tent on a dune and then went for a walk along the beach as the sun began to set. The beach was littered with sand dollars and I watched the sandpipers congregating as they searched for food in the sea foam. Morro Rock towered in the distance in the evening glow. I watched in amazement for a while just trying to take in all the scenery. It really was a wonderful day for adventuring and I’m looking forward to getting a good nights rest. After all tomorrow will be another busy day. 20160422_195644_Richtone(HDR)

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.

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.

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.