i know its early for a first break, but believe it or not, i need a break. i have been going non-stop since i quite my jobby job. there was just so much to do and people to see and stuff to work out, that i didn’t get a chance to just process all that was happening. i kinda figured i’d do it on the drive to kansas and back, but nope. i was just focused on driving and making plans with the people i was meeting up with there. then i thought i could chill out on the way back. you know, take the more southern route through colorado and stop at some hot springs, have some beer, write… but i was just so tired and exhausted, mostly emotionally exhausted to be honest. when you leave your dream job, it can be troubling. the last 6 months of working there was really hard on me.
i don’t know how to explain it, but it just stopped feeling like the collective was working together. many people thought they knew what the co-op needed, but couldn’t hear what anyone else was saying. there were lots of power dynamics happening and i got caught in the middle. then there was the disagreements on calling the cops or not when people felt or were perceived to be violent in one way or another, especially the people experiencing homelessness or some form of mental illness. i guess on most levels i (as a white human in this country and especially in portland) i feel pretty safe emotionally, physically, and mentally. in most of these instances my concern was for the safety of those acting out, and on those around who don’t typically feel safe. calling the cops makes very few people actually feel safer….anyway, my dream job was no longer my dream job, which made me create and follow through with a new dream. so that is what i am out here doing.
so here i am in seaside taking a break after only 2 days out and 20 miles in. i am going to catch you up a bit. so here are the answers to the question i get most often. after this, probably later today, i will tell about the last couple days.
as i begin to share my adventure plan with people i am invariably asked how did i come up with this idea. or how long have i been thinking about doing this, or some variant of this. and when i am out walking around thinking, i am reminded of so many times i’ve wondered about doing this, and some of the inspiring (in one way or another) people who’s stories i have heard about. the main ones that come to mind are: utah phillips, woodie guthrie, (and all the riders of the rails that they talk about), everett ruess, and to a lesser extent john muir and thurou (to be honest and somewhat sacrilege, i don’t really like muir. yes, he started the protecting the “wilderness” areas and all that. however, they were super racists and displaced the people of that land that already cared for and had a relationship with the land. so i find him and all the worship he gets annoying). people ask me about the peace pilgrim and other folks who walked across the country with a pointed purpose. i have certainly been affected by them and their convictions, but not really. then i am asked about the book and movie wild. sigh, i was not inspired by either, but i get why people are. there are so many thru-hikers who’s blogs and books i have read, and thankfully there are more and more female identified folks writing and getting published, and they have been super helpful and lent to the dream. however, they all, at some point, ask why can’t this be life? i ask just because the trail ends, does that mean i have to stop walking? i say no, well until the money runs out and i have to stop for a minute and make some more. so yes, thru-hikers have been inspiring, but this is not a thru-hike.
so, i’d say ruess has been my biggest influence. i stumbled upon ruess after one of my very first backpacking trips. we did a few days up in zion national park. once we put on a clean (for me dry since i jumped in the river as soon as we crossed the bridge), consumed the biggest salad and coldest beer i could imagine, we then stepped into a cute little bookstore. here is where i found a book called “everett ruess: a vagabond for beauty” by w.l. rusho. mostly it’s a collection of ruess’ letters, journal entries, poems, and woodblocks. i fell in love with his story. and for sure i fell in love with the romantic notion of a young person stepping out of the city in search of….well beauty. that introduction had to be 12 years ago.
i’ve read and reread this book and lent it out so much its falling apart, held together with a rubber band. it wasn’t until i moved to portland that i ran into anyone else that had heard of everett. seems most people have heard of him from the book into the wild. kroukhou spends a good deal of time talking about him as he pieces together the story of chris. i still haven’t been able to bring myself to read that book. i saw the movie and was somewhat annoyed. i do really like the soundtrack. but for some reason, the thought of reading this book just repulses me. this happens sometimes. it happened to me with “wild”. i forced myself to read it like a child who doesn’t want to eat their dinner….just like that child that submitted, i wish i hadn’t. so i may never read it, but i am curious about it, so who knows….
anyway, the questions all the above people bring up for me are fairly basic. 1) is a modern-day everett, guthrie, utah, vagabond rail rider even possible and if so what does that look like? 2) where are the women, people of color, queer folks? where are their stories? or do they end (and therefor never told) by a lynching, prison, violent death, institutionalization? also is there a level of survival that keep non-white men from having their stories told from an adventure format? also also…this had been the life of the traditional people of this land befor the arrival of the european conqueror. what is the privilege that “allowed” the exploitative life of people like thurou or ruess and especially muir? what is the difference between the utah, guthrie folks compared to the everett and muire and chris?
poverty for sure. mental health for woodie guthrie (any doubts? read his autobiography). those two groups of white men have access to different privlages of american culture. some, like utah philliups, are trying to fight against this oppressive regime of a colonizing culture. many of those riding the rails where looking for seasonal work, migratory work. leaving lives that they couldn’t fulfill, all kinds of stories of people who capitalism leaves out. people who don’t want to or can’t for various reasons, live in this world.
for some reason, i feel like i fall into both and neither camp at the same time. i want to adventure out into the wilderness in search of beauty. the beauty of nature of the people who know the land. to find the beauty of people i have very little in common with besides a love for the outdoors. but i also feel like i don’t fall in line with the status quo. i believe that the bigger, better, faster life-style that is getting even faster and faster as we are lulled into a false sence of security. i’m tired of people telling me what it means to be however i am identifying today, and i only feel that it is getting worse. that the more we refine how we identify, the more specific we get in our specialty, the less we are able to see the bigger connections. the less we are able to develop empathy for people we do not know. the less we are able to put together the connections that make us all homosapians, animals if you will.
i just want to explore/experience/get to know the people and the places that i move through. this is getting harder and harder to do in cities. they are all getting so homogenous. it doesn’t feel as genuine anymore. the gentrification of the cities is beginning to feel the way it did when non-queer folks showed up at the gay & lesbian bars. coming by because it was cool, the music was good for dancing, the people beautiful, but they wanted to feel safe and wanted to be like their neighborhood bars, so they took it over and offended most everyone. then, since that queer space is now safer for white folks to move in and be trendy, hip and happening, those queers, other creatives and the rest of the folks living there at near or below poverty level, get pushed out. that is how portland feels to me now…and what is happening to the “up and coming” cities around the country. so i could move to another city again, but name a place this isn’t happening.
and i fear that this is what is happening to the trendy trails like the pct, at, cdt. i fear that as more and more people descend upon the major trails, they will become like the interstate highway systems where people cross the country faster and faster and we forget to stop and get to know the people, plants, and animals of the land. and what is the up and down stream effects of all this activity on some trails? also, it has become a major commodity and purchasing of latest and greatest gear. the gear industry is exploding, but who makes it and for whom are they making it? this is a rabbit hole of sorts that i will go down later.
i think that this is one of the appeals of everett ruess for me. he floundered. he knew he didn’t know lots of things and didn’t pretend to. he talked to people as he encountered them, but doesn’t seem to seek them out. he, indeed was very privileged even during the times of the depression of the early 1900s. we seems to have been known to walk into any place and make himself at home. he didn’t seem to know how to be a stranger which is indeed a privilege of the young and the cis white hetero male. he seems to have made friends with some of the indigenous folks of the canyon lands. and then he just disappears. some think that the mystery of his disappearance has been solved. national geographic has a huge article on it, but in the end it is still in question. i like the idea that he and his donkeys just rode off out of range. maybe went on into mexico. perhaps just blended in with one of the indigenous villages in the area.
so how has this inspired or fed my ideas of this adventure?
i want to travel around this country. i do not want to travel on the roads.if i did i would do a bike tour, and i don’t want to bike over the mountain ranges and i don’t want to walk on hot stinky roads. i want to meet the people in the small towns along the ranges. i want to meet more people who are living and working in the forest, wild spaces left in this country (and not in this country). i want to hear their stories. i want to walk the land with them. in a time when we think we are so super divided, and we certainly are for fear can indeed to that, i think if we take the time and move slowly enough to get to know one another in ways that feed empathy for how we each got to where we are, we will find that there is not so much reason to fight. we might learn that most of our most basic fears are the same…we shall see.
i’ll resupply as i pass through towns.
no i am not afraid of bears, cougars, or other wild life…snakes are a phobia for me. white men do make me leery. as i camp on the coast, i have realized i am afraid of sneaker waves, midnight high tides with a sneaker wave (am i sure i pitched my tent far enough back?), and cars on the beach running my tent, and subsequently me, over. i guess the thing i am most afraid of is being stuck in an institution of some kind (prison, hospital…). i’m a little afraid i may never come back for one reason or another, but mostly wonder what and why i would return. and no, i don’t know that i will return to portland to live.
i don’t have many plans outside of what will happen after the oregon coast trail. i will check the snow levels around that time and decide then. i have a few ideas in mind.
no i’m not actually walking across the country, but kind of around it and up-and-down in a kind of migratory route.
not taking a gps unit. getting lost is kind of the point, but also, i’d already need to have back up paper maps, so why don’t i just use those anyway. when it comes to having all the cool gadgets and such, i ask myself what would people do before these existed? well, they developed skills and such. that is what i plan on doing.
yes, i will have my cell phone (and can download maps and trails onto it), but it will have the most basic of plans and such to stay in touch. i also have this here tablet to write….
i hope to connect with local (to where i am at the time) trail groups and organization and hopefully do some trail maintence or work with them in some kind of capacity.
yes, i will stay vegan, however, i have gotten some wool blend base layers for so many reasons that include not wanting hypothermia, weight, comfort on hot and cold days, synthetic gets stinky and is being made of oil really any better? cotton is nice, but its heavy and doesn’t dry quickly, however, i do have a cotton shirt to sleep in because it was designed by someone i know and its super soft.
gear-list….i will make one soon, i promise. while i am here at seaside i will do yet another shackdown…i want to lose 5 to 10 pounds still from my pack…speaking of, i am going to make some lunch…..