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.

 

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 Where I Wanted, But Where I Needed To Be.

Here I am sitting in Anchorage again. This is the second time in three months that I’ve been here. Far away from almost everyone I know, and alone in the beautiful cold. It’s been surreal here. I think Anchorage is the only city I’ve been to where I constantly see strangers with familiar faces. I keep seeing the same people every time I’m here. Only problem is they are not the ones I’m looking for.

I came out here on nothing more than a whim. I spent my summer here in Alaska and I fell in love with the state. I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to return home, especially after my last week here in September. You would think that I should know by now that I should always expect the unexpected, and that nothing ever goes to plan, but I digress, I came here chasing a dream. In my search for the dream I left behind I found nothing I was looking for. Then something unexpected happen, no not the dream I was chasing, but another form of an echo of the past.

As I sat in a bus station in the cold night waiting for a warm bus to take me back to the room I was staying at, a middle aged homeless native came and sat by me. He was friendly and his face was inviting, I welcomed his company and we began to engage in a conversation. The faint smell of booze came from him, but I didn’t mind, it was bourbon, a favorite of mine, so I welcomed the smell. Then something unexpected happened, he told me he was dying from cancer. I told him I was sorry to hear about that, and he quickly told me not to be. He then told me that two years ago he lost his daughter to suicide, and this past year he lost his son to suicide as well.

My heart sank as I heard him tell me this. You can see the pain in his eyes as he spoke. As a person who has lived with depression and have battled suicide as well, I felt like it was all too familiar. He told me without his kids in his life, he didn’t feel the need to keep on living. That burying your children is the worst thing a parent will ever have to do. As he went on, all I could think of was my parents, my family and my friends, all that helped me out of my last bout. I remember that at the time, when I thought I couldn’t take any more pain, the only thing that stopped me, was knowing I would be transferring that pain onto them. That was something I was not willing to do.

Soon my bus arrived and I said goodbye and that it was a pleasure to meet him. I walked out and as I waited in line for the bus, I knew I couldn’t leave. Not yet, not without saying something. I ran back to the door of the station opened it up and said. “A year ago, I almost took my own life as well, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So now I live for people like you.” A big smile cam on his face and he said “Bless you”. A gave him a nod and I left, just making my bus before the doors closed. As I took my seat I looked back at him and saw him sitting there. Still smiling from ear to ear. I was happy for this unexpected encounter. I don’t know if my words helped him, as much as his words helped me. Perhaps we both gained something we needed in that moment.  I haven’t been depressed in over a year now, but the memory still lingers. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, not one line. I’ll always remember so that I know that I can survive it.