Celebration aka how the f#@k did I turn 50

Not only how the fuck did I turn 50? Seems odd that I made it through some situations that maybe I shouldn’t have.

To be honest, I’ve been thinking about this since I decided to leave portland last spring. I hoped to be out on the trail or at least in a tent in Mexico somewhere when this time was marked. But things shifted and changed. And then I was looking forward to being with friends and family on this occasion, but that plan also took a different turn. So here I was in a little mountain town.

I actually worked the day of my birth. No big deal really. Work a bit (that is why I am here) then off the next couple of days to celebrate and go a little nutty in planning and reflection. My co-workers welcomed me to work with a rousing mixed language version of happy birthday and a bottle of whiskey…these are some great folks. I was doing great.

Then I got off work

I decided to treat myself to dinner and a beverage and was going to head home. At a beverage station, I sat down to write and it hit me, when I wake up in the morning, I will be 50 fucking years old. Not that old to some, really old to others, just another day to most. I’ve never freaked out over a birthday before and didn’t really know how to do it so I just rode it out. My decision was to not go to sleep…then I won’t wake up and then I won’t be 50. I was very rational about the whole thing.

I wasn’t ready

Not yet

But

I’m not really open to the alternative

Not yet

I was headed to one of my usual hop-water spots, but at the last minute I went up the stairs instead of down and found a new place where I wouldn’t know someone…yet

The bartender asked what I was having.

When I wake up I turn 50 what should I have tonight

A local whiskey its on me. Happy birthday

Soon I was chatting it up with the band that was about to play: guitar, bass, banjo (mountain music)

And I headed home

I did sleep

I did wake

Everything was a o k

Mostly

I had things I needed to get done that day before I could get into celebration mode, but first, breakfast….remember those vegan rancheros I had a few weeks ago? Yup, I went back for more.

Soon I was caffeinated and fed and the day just took off. And I was into the swing of things.

Then I would get a text

Or a call

Or an email

All fantastic and loving and amazing

Meanwhile, I just kept trying to work out what this all means.

Nothing really. It all means nothing

Not in that nihilistic way of nothing, but really

I have been fortunate enough to “hike my own hike”

I have danced to my own songs in my head/feet in my own way. (I like to think emma would be proud)

Every day since I drove the hell out of that town I grew up in. Each day since has been a lesson in how to do that. And how have I been inspired to do that? People. Strangers. Friends….

ART. Art has inspired me.

Music

Photography

Writers: journalism, fiction, non-fiction, the uncategorizable

This song helped me understand myself (thank goodness it came out while i was still in my 20s)

Anyway, back to the celebration, celebration

It took me to the next day to go out and actually celebrate.

I made a great breakfast and started the day slow and easy

I went to the hot springs that  bubble up in the middle of town and had a nice soak and some good chats

Went to get a snack and some beverages

And the people I’ve gotten to casually know at my favorite spots bought my drinks as I told them I was celebrating my day. I had so many lovely conversations with so many great people

So here is what I have learned about myself in the last year…last year I spent my day with my great pals…pals who are like brothers to me

I was having a tough time trying to deal with so much from the co-op I worked at and making plans to take off to the unknown

Trying to make sense of it all. I really couldn’t have done it without them and all the pals that inspire and instigated with me (p.s. if I know you, you are one of them)

I actually did it

I took off

I set myself free from all of it

Well actually I traded one kind of stress for another

Stressors I couldn’t and can’t understand for ones I can

Makes one hell of a difference

It’s a journey that I hope does not end anytime soon

I don’t know what is ahead, but I relish the mystery

I yearn for the mystery

What and who is around the corner? I look forward to finding out

I am 50 years old

If my genes tell me anything, I am likely to live much longer depending on speeding trucks and texting drivers and rising seas and burning lands and toxic air and nuclear button pushing nut heads

I don’t want to settle down

But I do like going slower and looking and listening and smelling and tasting and touching and feeling

A reminder that home, for me, is a verb: a place in motion and I am just trying to not fall off

 

chilin like a surfer

i left the super cute bike shop and did seriously consider camping close by. the views of the ocean where certainly worthy of good nights stay, but i really felt like i wanted to get down to this campground that i had heard so much about. i had already skipped a couple places that people had suggested i go to, like papas and beer. to be fair, i probably would have stopped if it were called papas y cervesa. i do love potatoes and i do love beer and i believe that they are fantastic when paired together. but it was just too much of a tourist place and not much of a visitors place.

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so i kept on peddling up hills and coasting down hills. i only had about 30 km to ride today, so i decided to take all the time that i wanted. there was a graciously wide shoulder to ride on and some damn fine nice people to return waves to. the road was hilly all the way.

hills were not the tricky part here. the tricky part was the way the highways merged traffic entering and exiting the highway. fortunately, there were signs for cyclists to watch for traffic before crossing the merging lanes. i was usually accompanied by a pedestrian or two, and i still don’t know why but i think it was to catch the bus/vans that would be packed with people going to and from the towns. this version of public transportation fascinates me! for real! it did in peru as well. there are these minivans that people can flag down, and if there is room or someone is getting off there, they stop and you get on. i have no idea how much they cost, nor where/how you get off. i wanted to test it out, but no room for a bike…also i think i need more language skills, well actually i know i need to up my spanish game.

i eventually rolled into the the little village that held the k58 campground…so many things in this area are named for their location down the coast. so k58 is at the 58-kilometer marker.  this little area also goes by the name alisitos.

alistitos holds around 4 hotels, pretty nice hotels, all of which have a restaurant and/or bar of some kind. there is also a couple convenience stores and one sells beer/wine/alcohol. somehow this little way stop has 2 thai restaurants! it also has a shit-ton of americans! more on that soon.

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there weren’t too many people in the campgrounds when i arrived, it was friday afternoon, so i didn’t think much about it, but as i walked my bike up the coastline looking for a grassy area to pitch my tent, i met a few people living out of their vans or trucks that had set up camp….all with american accents. i eventually found the smallest of small patches of grass close to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach (this whole area overlooks the ocean with paths down to the beach. so i set up camp and then took the unloaded bike for a ride “around town”.

first thing i did was grab a cold beverage! in those 30 km i drank 2 full liters of water and was still thirsty, so i grabbed a mexican version of powerade. i was still having a hard time with the idea of buying bottled water and so far had avoided it. i was able to fill up at the hostel with “purified” water out of a refilled jug type thing. and i knew that if i kept going south i was going to have to get a couple “gallon” jugs to refill at water stations as if found them. the other option was to buy liters of bottled water to fill my vessels.

eventually, i found my way over to a courtyard and grabbed a cold tecate and sat to do some writing. i had some feelings and emotions to get out, and at some point, my phone was in just the right place to get a couple text messages! in playas i got some because, i was close to the border, but here i wasn’t expecting to get anything. so i bounced some ideas off some people about what i was thinking of doing and going. it always feels good to get some reassurance.

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i then walked across the courtyard just to see what was there, and it was a cute place with about 6 people sitting up at the bar…all americans who have been living in the area for a great deal of time. they didn’t talk to me much, just kind of looked at me funny (i had leaned my bike against a big pole in the courtyard. i don’t know that they liked seeing people that they didn’t know. also, they were all fairly intoxicated. they were talking about property, businesses going in and who owned them and who was doing the work. then this other guy came in.

the first thing i noticed about this guy was not what he looked like, but the noises he made. his first stop was at the drum kit set up on the stage. he was a pretty good. come to find out, he would be playing in the band lined up for the night. they were playing in support of an organization that he ran in the area and with just a few questions i found out a little more information.

this guy was born in the area but went to university in the u.s. and worked there until retirement and then returned to the area and eventually started this organization to help keep kids with their parents. there were a great number of “orphans” in this region, not because of death but what they called economic orphans – kids abandoned or dropped off at orphanages because the parents couldn’t, or didn’t think that they could afford to raise the kids themselves.

so this organization has a center where the parents drop the kids off on their way to work super early in the morning. they feed the kids breakfast and takes them all on a bus to school, then pick them up and brings them back to the center where they can do homework, be fed again, and also get introduced to people who can teach them various trades in a type of mentor-type program. then the parents pick them up in the evening and take them home. i believe that the organization also takes them to church on the weekends when there isn’t school. it seems that it is pretty tied to the church and his connections with various people in the united states for funding. the church isn’t you know my kind of gig. historically, i believe that “the church” has been one of the major colonizers of the americas. that being said, this projects seems to have really been effective in keeping families together and for giving young people the belief that they can do more than just run around town causing un-necessary trouble and just stealing to get what they want/need. the things this guy seemed really excited about was: keeping families together, educating and feeding young people, and helping young folks find skills so that they could work in a field that was beneficial to their community.

the other thing this guy and i got to talk about was a number of american ex-pats that lived in the area (the other americans had left by this time). i had asked him how people felt about the type of potential hypocrisy of the border issues with so many americans living cheaply in mexico. especially considering the proximity to the border (60 km is only 37 miles). he took a deep breath first.

the local people actually like it, they don’t mind it. it is good for the local economy. the local mexican people are able to get jobs in the businesses started by americans, or in their houses as cleaning or construction/repair. americans spend money here which is also good for the economy. so the locals they don’t mind, they like it. but the government. that is a different story. they don’t like it at all.

the way he talked about the government’s feelings i knew that i shouldn’t push it, so i didn’t. but it made me think some about all these things. i genuinely believe this to be true. though he is the only person from mexico that i specifically talked to about this, others i talked to encouraged me to come back, to consider moving there, and at the very least spend much more time in the area.

he told me to come back for the band later, and really i did plan on it, but then the sun went down….

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i got back to my campsite with a full belly of thai food and a soul full of good conversation, that after a wonderful sunset, i passed out…well i wanted to pass out.

the sunset was spectacular, but soon i was ready to lay down and read until i fell asleep. it only took a couple of paragraphs for me to be ready for headlamps out. then all the warnings and fears for my safety rushed into my mind, plus the ocean’s roar kept me from being able to hear anything else. normally i know that i will be able to hear some creature sneaking up on my little world, which is really only squirrels. but what really hit me was all the stories about thieve, which was only about 2% of the stories i’d read or heard of this area of the world, just came rushing into my mind.

then i would find headlights coming for me, well it felt like it anyway, but it was just people coming in late to the campground and they were clear on the other side of the park. it was making me feel like i’d completely lost myself because i never ever feel like this. the fear and anger was rising up in me in a strange storm of confusion  and bewilderment. so i took a deep breath.

in this breath i asked myself, is this my fear or other peoples’?

do i really feel unsafe?

what is the worst that could happen and then what would i do about that?

and eventually, i asked if i truly felt fear or is this just me taking on other people’s shit?

and really? i felt completely safe. everything that was playing in my head was other people’s stuff and not based at all on my personal experience. i knew my surroundings. people knew who i was and i had made myself known, in a good way, to those around me. the lot was closed off to anyone not camping there. this fear is not my own.

then i drifted off into a sound sleep.

when i woke to a wonderfully sunny but slightly cool morning, i noticed new vehicles had shown up overnight, so i stretched and headed off to get a cup of coffee and meet my new neighbors

as i walked up to the shop, i passed a guy who was getting ready to go on an early morning surf run. we chatted a bit. he was so excited to have the weekend to just surf and rest and eat and surf some more. i said that was trying to decide if i wanted to hang out here for two days, or start my way back up the coast that day, or just haul ass to be up in playas by sunday night.

he said, well stay and i’ll drop you off on my way back up to orange county. well ok sounds like a plan! and he went surfing and i grabbed some coffee and my book and that is how we spent the day. his plan was to surf all day saturday and then sunday get up early, surf some more, and then we could head out.

saturday was fantastic. i just sat and read and watched the surfers show up and head out to the beach. now to watch surfers get excited is something to see. as they changed into their wetsuits they would watch other surfers catch some waves and they got excited about what they witnessed which made them want to get out there even faster. so the campground filled with people there just to surf and have a good time.

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the surfers had some great setups. they had vans or trucks with all their cooking gear, camp chairs, food, beverages, hoodies for the cool evenings. i spent this time watching these folks and i came to understand surfers in a new way. and it wasn’t until waking sunday morning to a cold and foggy day that i really started putting it all together.

the months that i had been traveling down the pacific coast, i’d been watching surfers and the way they watched the waves. when the waves rose they ran out to catch them. when the ocean became smooth as glass, the surfers sat on their boards and chatted with one another until the swell returned.

but when i woke on sunday morning with a fog all around, i wondered what the day would hold for them, especially when i noticed that the fog was rolling down from the hills and out to the ocean, vs rolling inland from the sea, and it was beautiful. when the sun finally came up over the hills to burn off the fog, the surfers finally started stirring and walking around. what really shocked me was the fog rainbow. as the skies blued up and the fog was still hanging in the ocean, we witnessed a full rainbow from the coastline over into the ocean.

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then the fog returned and the surfers disappeared.

i walked around with a cup of tea watching the shifts and changes of the environment. and i caught up with my ride back up the coast. we set up a timeframe to leave our little paradise at a leisurely pace, but so that he wouldn’t be caught in a long line at the border.

as i walked around i noticed that there were people in the ocean surfing in the fog. which shouldn’t have suprised me. i watched people surf well into the end of the sunset the last couple nights, and what i way to watch the sunset…i can only imagine.

so why did i gain a new appreciation for surfers and surf culture? well there was no one out there maintaining the ocean wave so that they could have a perfect run. there wasn’t someone with an anti-fog machine to make it a perfect day, nor even a warming or cooling hut for when the water or weather was too cold or hot. you just take what you get and make the most of it. if the swell is rising, you run out and forget whatever else you had planned. if the waves disappear, you wait it out and enjoy the people around you.

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sure this is not unniversal. i’ve talked to some seriously type a people who ran people out of the way to get a specific wave, but down here, it ws so chill. they aslo sharred tips and ways that work for them, or wax that they perfered. if people gained trust, there might even be a sharing of special surf spots. and when someone else had a really nice ride, they were cheered them on.

so surfing is something that is going on the need to do list. this whole area had places to rent boards and wetsuits, and get some instruction. Next time i am sure to do this.

it didn’t take long to get back to playas (i was surprised at my ability to give directions that took us right to the hostel), but we managed to have some great conversations around mid-life and quarter-life crisis, and all the ways and reasons to step away from the race of capitalism. by the time he dropped me off, i felt like i had met a kindred spirit. who knows, maybe our waves will cross again.

 

Big Sur and More

so i finally pulled out of monterey after a long and much-needed chat with a good pal! its nice to know that i’m not the only one in my close crew that is potentially going through some kind of mid-life crises – aka what the heck am i doing with my life?! and its much deeper than that of course. when you don’t hold the standard american values, i find it difficult to know if i’m doing ok…and trying to figure out what i am supposed to contribute to this world is a whole other question…. i will keep playing with these questions for some time, but for know…wow! what an amazing 10 days or so i’ve had.

so yup, finally left monterey, what a beautiful ride down the coast! i mean geez! remember that monerey bay is a marine sanctuary! so while i was chatting with my pal, i was watching harbor seals play in the bay…as well as all kinds of birds and such. so yup i headed on around the bay and just kept being amazed!

my main stop for this day was point lobos state natural reserve. it was one of the places recommended to me, and it did not disappoint! at one of the points one of the park volunteers had a telescope where we could see the otters sleeping all wrapped up in kelp, and in the distance we could see and hear the sea lions. however, as i walked around the point, i found a closer spot where i watched several of the ottors playing (?) it was just spectacular. there is also this RED moss that grows on the trees here, it’s actually kind of rare and is dependent on really clean air and water (remember sanctuary). it was fascinating to see on the unique cypress trees there as well as on some of the granite as well. supposedly this only grows in a few places around the world.

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i was tempted to hide out for while and gorilla camp here after the rangers left, but i didn’t think i had that much further to go to a h/b camp, so i kept cranking the wheels. and its true, i didn’t have that far to go, but i did have a great deal of up hill to contend with and didn’t roll into pfeiffer state park until after the sun went down….but i have to say the sunset along this intense ride was fantastic! i just couldn’t stop moving and take any pics, but geez those hills just would not end!

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i rolled into camp and ate the shit out of a bag of chips and drank a beer that i hauled all the way from the brewery in monterey! i was so hunger and so tired! and i passed the heck out! i ended up spending 3 nights in this park trying to figure out if i was going to do the walk around or bike back out and around. i had heard that the walk around the bridge that is out was only like 15 minutes or so. i’d also seen a shuttle service, but i didn’t know about bikes, so i did the few hikes open and available in the park and enjoyed catching up on some calories (i ate quinoa and a whole can of beans each night!). i was also kind of sorting some things out. i’ve set up a way to do daily writings and meditation and stretching. it’s really clearing some webs out of the old noggin! its funny, i didn’t really talk to many people while here. a few on the trails, but so many people kept to themselves. except for the nice couple from queensland australia who are spending 3 months hitchhiking the united states. they were super nice! i hope they have a wonderful visit.

the best part of this time was sleeping right under the redwoods! it was magical. the worst part was how loud people were. so many people played music from their phones on speakers and talked loud and just genuinely took up a great deal of space….well i should say the american visitors. people i met from other countries, not so much.

so then there was the adventure of getting out and continuing south! i found the trail. it went straight up! with lots of wooden/dirt stairs! i don’t know how heavy my loaded bike is, but it was a solid test of stregnth…and new found curse words. and for some reason, as i was trying to heave my bike up a step, some older white man would decide this was a great time to ask me where i was going/from….ugh. when i got to the store at the top of the climb i had my first soda in a long time! and a bag of chips! and a cliff bar! and headed on down the road!

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life in fire

i’ve decided to try to stop riding around 3 each day so that i can enjoy where ever i am staying, because….why am i doing this? not to log miles for sure! so i rolled into kirk creek campground! what a wonderful hiker/biker camp set up! out-of-the-way, but not under the highway! access to the beach, but the view! holy crap! it was amazing!

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found at the top of the big walk-around

as soon as i got set up, i set off to find the beach. as i came up out of the h/b site, i met a woman and her daughter. what a delight! they were waiting for their friend and young son to come back from taking a tour up the coast a little more, but while i was exploring the beach, i saw that they had decided to come on down too! it was soooo soooo nice! the daughter is 18 months old and so independent. we sat next to the pools and tossed rocks together. the woman is from quebec but had recently moved to san mateo. she and her friend have known each other for 20 years or so and the friend was visiting for a couple of weeks. we had wonderful conversations.

i was kind of feeling a nap and snack need so we headed back up to our camps, but before i could reach mine, i ran into this couple in one of these camping vans you can rent. it was decorated in such a way that i had noticed it a few days before so i asked them if that was them. it’s a pretty cool set up.  anyway, they are also awesome! they are from sydney and on their honeymoon! and they like beer too! so after we had been talking for a minute, they offered me a beer (yes! thank-you), and we just kept talking and talking, and drinking. eventually the ranger came by (who is hilarious) and suggested they move to this other spot that has a better view and had just opened up.

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so they moved, i ate, and we re-gathered for the sunset. and the night went like this to the very end. every time i moved i got to stop and spend some time with both beautiful groups of friends who shared so much with me. i need to find something that i can carry and exchange for such hospitality….this night chocolate seemed to work nicely.

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one funny story, when i was camping in crappy place in monterey, a raccoon situation happened, not pretty and kept everyone up all night. well here, they also have raccoons, but my new friends from sydney had never really seen one up close, so tried to bait one close to us with marshmellows. one, we believe it’s the one the camp calls gordo, went for the chocolate bar i had set down. it was fun to watch the whole scene play out.

from here it is just a few miles down the road to gorda….and a massive land slide! and i mean massive. i didn’t know that this one didn’t have a detour or a round about, but as i sat in the sun trying to decide what to do (go back to kirk creek and pick up the road over the mountains and to the 101, or wait until 6:30 when all the workers leave and then walk through it. i was told, by john (a guy who has worked at this place for 26 years and so friendly), that bikers have walking through it at night and that it was only between 1/4 and 1/2 mile. i figured that was doable. so as i sat there for a while and ate some snacks, and chatted john up a storm, his boss came by. “you waiting to walk through this slide?” yeeeees?! “well put your bike in the back of my truck and i’ll take you across.” wait what? i don’t have to keep sitting here for another 4 hours? and john is just standing behind him nodding his head. ok! john helps me load up the bike and makes sure that i have enough food and water (he had already given me a banana and a deal on my treats). and i sat next to the 3rd dog i’ve met called chico…eventually chico ended up in my lap! lucky me!

as we moved though this work zone, i can’t believe i was going to try to walk this! holy shit! for real! the road was super rough dirt road that these huge earth mover trucks are using to get new ginormous boulder into the area to rebuild some kind of foundation to rebuild the land! and it goes down down down and then up up up! when i was dropped off (1/2 way up the giant hill) he suggested that if any one asks how i got around, i didn’t, i came up and camped and am headed back down…and that is exactly how i responded when i finally (seriously this was a serious hill…but i rode the whole way! with lots of stops). got to the final flagger. i pulled over to this trail head for salmon creek and took a breather. as i pulled in a truck pulled in behind me and asked how i got through. i said i didn’t. i camped up the road and am now headed back the other way. he said oh ok. we were wondering if you had found some other road or trail, and this was also a fine place to camp….so i did! and i reflected…wow! thank you thank you for that lift!

so here it is that i just camped out under the stars, no tent or anything. as the sun set, i laid there and watched the bats come out and the owl that sat on the top of a tree just above my head. i listened to the calls of the wild and the ocean and i enjoyed such solitude! it’s the first time i cowboy camped alone. somewhere deep in the night i suddenly couldn’t remember what i was supposed to do if attacked by a cougar! and then the jokes went through my mind….you older queers will know the jokes. then i watched the stars again! since the new moon and on isolated beaches…the stars are for real outstanding! but when i woke up…hungery hunger set in.

it was about 4 miles to rugged point, and i decided i could splurge on breakfast. i rolled into a super nice place! breakfast was all eggs and meat, so it was potatoes and toast on the patio…with a view and lots of coffee. the server was so amazing with all kinds of stories, and he added spinach to my spuds! i walked the property while the carbs digested and then started back down the road.

from here things get rolly (it was one hell of a hill from salmon creek to rugged point). i got a good groove and enjoyed the landscape. it was a big change from big sur for sure! things get super dry, but the ocean just keeps giving. at some point i came to an odd little place and there were lots of bikes! i hadn’t seen a cyclist for days! so i turned in and asked what was happening. turns out they were celebrating the opening of a new stretch of highway and bike lane. i chatted with some folks before heading out.

shortly thereafter was a turn off for a viewing of elephant seals! they were so fun to watch…and soooo big! geez! here i chatted with some guys from the uk that i had seen at breakfast. we had a nice chat about the changing climate and traveling. so many conversations actually and so many people from different parts of the world! and some more of the bikers from before stopping for pics and chats.

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i had one more stop before camp and it was for a beer and check-ins. for the first time since monterey i had mobile service! so i sent off some messages and check-ins, did some instagraming, and a little beer….i was near the william randolf hearst castle….wow! what a goofball! so he had like the largest private zoo collection at some point and released the herd animals out on public land. soooo i passed a herd of zebras! yes zebras out amongst the cows. then the roosevelt elk…. i don’t know what else he had, but that is what i saw.

finally came san simean state park and a not so great h/b camp, but it did have beech access for the sunset. i took some time to catch up on reading and walking about. i forgot it was friday night, so the campsite filled up with kids and families and was kind of loud, but mostly it was the fact that the h/b sites were right below the highway! but once it got quiet, it was so quiet. at some point in the middle of the night i heard some distance coyotes.

today….today i s beautiful day. i hope to end up in morro bay state park just on the coast side of san luis obispo. its about   from where i am writing this. and i am feeling pretty good! i know that some of the goodness is movement and sunshine and cool warmth. i know i have a great deal to deal with. i am heartbroken with the mudslides, the fires, hurricanes, the earthquakes, and all the beauty! i was brought to tears watching a butterfly play amongst some flowers at ragged point. yes, i have a great deal to figure out! one of those things is when am i going to take a shower again! but for now…this is such a beautiful world and i hope we find a way to limit how much we destroy by our consumption!

but today….today is so wonderful and i hope all these people driving up and down this road that will completely fall into the ocean at some point, know how magnificent this area is and take it home with them, and start treating their home as if it were like this…sacred and life-giving.

Thoughts and Reflections of My Time On Oregon Coast Trail

it should be mentioned that i have put off  the wrap-up of the oct because i still hold some frustrations. it’s not the trail’s fault, really. i’m sure if i attempted it in the summer like most people, it would have been a different situation. i do feel that walking, eating, sleeping, catching rides for a month beside the pacific ocean has been a kind of re-birthing process for me (how many times do we do this in a single lifetime?). i’ll talk here a little about the logistics of the oct and also the effects of the trail on me.

when i first starting talking about the hike around the country, i didn’t really consider this trail. i like strolling along the beach, not so much walking several miles a day with 40 pounds on my back. but early on, a pal suggested it mostly for the beauty of the southern oregon coast. i dismissed it as no, the pacific northwest coast and i are not close friends. i love the ocean and the beauty of the coast. yet, i prefer ocean shores that are more inviting for co-mingling. i love to swim in an ocean that does not require a full wetsuit.

as winter just kept dragging on and on, and spring was just an extension of a pnw winter, i caved. i needed to leave portland. i really needed to leave the co-op, and here was a trail without snow, low elevation (can not get too much lower than sea level and still be on land (yes, there are a few exceptional cities to this basic rule and more as sea levels rise). i used this trail as a tool, a resource, for taking the leap away from my life in portland.  because it exists i was able to leave…to walk away. and that was a great lesson. ya’ gotta know when to walk away. and for this, and this alone, no matter what i say from here on out, i will be forever grateful to the oregon coast trail, the national coast trail and bonnie henderson for all their work and easy access to all the resources one might need.

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before i start talking about all the reasons i hope to never hike this trail again, let me say, they all suggest hiking it in the summer. as in full on oregon summer… not april or may when winter storms are still making their way inland. summer is a great time for the coast trail whether it is for an escape on a hot weekend, or a hot month.

 

like i said, i hope to never ever hike the oct again. i would go back and do sections that i couldn’t because of landslides and closures, but as a thru-hike, it sucked. walking that many miles a day on hard-packed sand is not that much different from walking miles on asphalt, which there is a great deal of as well. add this to having sand in everyfreakingthingiown…still! i still find sand in things i have cleaned multiple times. and sand is hard on gear, especially zippers and shoes/socks (and that translates directly to the feet). most of my days were rainy at some point and almost always cloudy (for some reason the sun would come out on days i decided would be rest days). the temps stayed in the 40s or 50s most days, and that was super pleasant. i don’t remember really being cold except when i was tired or grumpy, or the wind was exceptionally harsh on my wet being.

what really got to me. what would sap my spirit…the inability to keep my feet dry and healthy mixed with all the road walking. i should have probably realized this was going to happen and had a pair of road running shoes to balance my minimalist trail shoes. but let’s face it; 10 miles on asphalt with 40 lbs (probably more on food supply days) is not a pleasant stroll. the days i got to actually walk on trail trail (like the amazing venture through cape lookout and cape perpetuai could really feel the difference. my body and mind soared. unfortunately these moments were few and far between. two of the capes i was really looking forward to were closed due to landslides and downed trees.

but i have to say, when things were nice, it was amazing! those days are engrained in my mind. why our minds remember the tough days most(i know evolution and survival and all that, but still) i don’t know. the days where i just laid in the sunshine, walked under brilliant blue skies, sat on a drift log as the sun set, went for a middle of the night stroll because the full moon kept me up, the sky alight with so many stars, the days i walked unencumbered with logistics of things i don’t really care about like a job, trump, the drama of some rediculousness. it was amazing. sure all that gets replaces with other logistics like food, water where i will sleep, does that weather and tide alert pertain to me? but its different.

you know what was great? i really never had to think about where i was. sometimes i would look at the gps on my phone, and the little blue dot would have me off into the ocean… i liked that thought. the only time i had to think about being on or off the trail was if i had to maneuver my way around town, or the sections where the cliffs made it impossible to stay on the beach. this happened more in southern oregon. that left me more open to process all the things that i had just let go of and contemplate the things i really want to focus on in my life. i could really clear all the parts of me and myself. it is super-duper duper hard to get lost on the oct.

that time and space left me to think these thoughts: why is it that those moments of important, basic life needs in today’s society become trivial, and those trivial things, like work drama take the lead roles in our energy attention? i know, i say this with a great deal of privilege, but these daily decisions, decisions i would check in on with myself and maps and various resources on a fairly regular basis every day, seemed like no big deal. i mean sometimes it was. some days i did not leave my shelter, and thanks to the pstyle, i really didn’t leave the tent! also, i went through at least one town almost every day. if i really needed food or shelter, i could find it…with enough money. i was also able to access the great shuttle system on the oregon coast! this got me though so many difficult sections when there wasn’t a good place to camp for over 20 miles, roads washed out from landslides, or the weather had been so craptastic that all my gear was on the verge of wetting through. thanks to great gear, i only had one day that this was a strong reality, and i took a shuttle to a hotel to dry it out. it had been raining for days and not letting up and the floor of my tent had finally had enough, so i made a call, found a bus, and got a hotel room. one plus for me with the pnw having such a wet and cold winter/spring? the coastal towns had a really tough winter and were willing to make great deals for rooms, and there was always a room ready no matter how early i showed up.

another plus for the oct… the people! i met so many amazing people! and i don’t just mean people who shared their precious well water, or gave me rides, bought me dinner and beers. but all the conversations and stories that went with those moments. with the news/social (suckcial? i’m working on it suckbook?) media, one is led to believe that people are horrible. that we can not find a common place to land on the major issues of our worlds. on one of those sites, an indigenous one, was a quote “what if i told you the left-wing and the right-wing are on the same bird?” and that pretty much sums up my feelings about our national politics. anyway, i was not sure how certain situations were going to go down, but the one’s where i actually got to talk with people…so good. strangers in cars with not even eye-contact…whole other story!

so… would i recommend the oct? i would if…you really really love the idea that the whole coast of oregon is open to the public! yes, this is fantastic. if you have plenty of money to pack really really minimally, or slack-pack and stay mostly in hotels and can afford the higher costs of food and such on the coast. i ate some shitty skippy peanut butter and cold white flour tortillas. do it in the summer when the coast is a super respite from the hot valley or desert days. if you don’t mind hitching or walking the long moments of road time, or picking up a shuttle. if you know people you can stay with along the way. or if you just have an itch to get going and you can hear it call your name! and you want to see alien species like this, or impermanent art.

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the ocean is great company.  the ocean is a favorite teacher of mine. i regret nothing of this adventure. i am also happy to be somewhere else.

movement, therapy, and thoughts

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there always seems to be a lot out there about how much certain activities are good for us. good for the heart, lowering our risks for certain illnesses. some have been said to decrease the symptoms of depression. whatever activity the person is trying to promote, or maybe the activity that has helped them the most, or many times, it’s the activity that they are trying to promote and make money from. they always come in waves. through the years i’ve watched several things become in as the fitness craze: yoga, power walking, running, biking, cross-fit, , hiking (getting out in nature), with the popularity of the book wild, the ptc specific long distance trail, fishing, swimming, triathlon, ultra-everyting….

the list could keep going on and on i’m sure, but i just finished reading the latest collection of essays by elly blue publishing;  cycletherapy: grief and healing on two wheels. its edited by elly blue and anika ledlow. i’ve enjoyed elly blue’s work for a while. her zines called taking the lane have been funny, inspiring, and moving. her focus is on women getting on bikes and moving through the world, so reading this new collection i was excited to see how two wheels have facilitated women healing various parts of themselves.

as i got towards the end of this collection, i was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is trying to find different ways of working with the parts of their life that are more challenging to them. as we talked, i mentioned some of the things that work for me i realized i actually have a lot of “tools in my toolbox” of coping mechanisms. i do love to ride my bike, go for urban/ocean-side/forested/river-side walks, i run, i do yoga, i do body-weight exercises, i occasionally push my body to its limits, i’m as gentle as i can be with my body nourishing it and soaking it in warm baths, i write, i chat with friends, i hide, i dance, i cry, i laugh, read, watch movies, have sex…. there are so many ways we can find for working with challenges and unpleasant aspects of being human, and movement is a big part of it for me.

in fact, working through some of the toughest and painful parts of my life is how i found some of the activities i love the most. i crave the woods when i am grieving the loss of a friend, family member (human or non-human). anger or deep pain makes me want to push hard, so running or long bike rides or strenuous hikes for days and days, dancing hard and fast till i’m drenched in sweat…. and maybe because these are the activities i choose during tough times, they are also activities i search out in days of celebration and joy… they just bring such peace of mind.

if i am searching out something more meditative, things i need to marinate in, i choose slower activities: yoga, sitting meditation, slower bike ride on a dedicated path, slower walks in the woods (especially by a river or the ocean), cooking good comforting foods, reading, playing music, a glass of wine, a hot bath…

i guess what i love about moving my body to different paces and rhythms is that it shakes the stuff out of me. i can force out the things i don’t want to see or feel about myself or a situation. i can get deeper and past the superficial aspect of something: what am i really pissed about or sad about or confused about? i’m not really depressed about getting old, but about not doing or being who i thought i would be by now. i’m not mad at that person for what they just did, i’m mad at what i didn’t do in the situation. or i not really mad i’m sad and i just want to cry, but i forgot how so if i push myself to my limits, maybe i can get past my own bullshit long enough to let go.

as i was thinking about all this, i got mad at the masculine nature of all the body movement sports magazines, books about the activities written by men that tell us how to do things properly. why do we trust men to tell us how to move our bodies? even erotica is often based in masculine movement and feminine sounds (thrusting/moaning). and one of the most healing aspects of of moving my body  for me, is the confidence i get in moving my body. i learn what i am capable of in that moment, and if i can handle this activity, i can handle anything. and if i am struggling making it up this hill, its ok to stop, slow down, take a break/give myself a break. i can recognize that i am capable of different things on different days. some days that hill on my way home is much tougher, some days it’s a total breeze. the more i learn to trust my body, the more i learn to trust myself and my instincts, my emotions and feelings. i trust that this surge of emotions is a part of my body and part of me and all those things are ok even if its tough. and what ever is going on will come to an end, a finish line, shore line, time runs out, i walk away…best lesson in buddhism is that everything in impermanent. and reading stories written by men about conquests of mountains, trails, mileage, proper technique and style misses the point for me. and i don’t want men, white men at that, to tell me how to move my body!

so yea, sometimes i push my body so hard. i want to physically hurt as much as i emotionally hurt, and once i burst through that threshold i eventually push through those feeling or emotions. sometimes the only thing i trust to handle my grief and pain is nature. i know the trees can bare my pain and won’t try to solve it. the rivers and ocean can hold my tears and my fears and won’t try to wash them away. my bike, my legs, my arms will carry the things i’m struggling with and give it all space to spread out before me so that i can see it for what it is. i don’t want any of this to go away. i want to learn how to live with it and work through it. i will never miss the people no longer in my life, but the pain becomes something i can hold and smile at, be grateful for. my anger becomes a window to what is really happening or where i truly see an injustice in the world and how i can participate in making it less so. it’s the clarity that i am usually searching for, and movement is how i find it most often.

so reading cycletherapy was a happy, inspiring, and refreshing change of pace. there are many voices and reasons for riding bikes. we/i want to hear more female identified voices, more voices from the fringes (watch for when i find myself capable of taking about the book octavia’s brood) about how we move through this world. the more voices in more diverse and dynamic styles and types of media, the more we see ourselves reflected in this world, the more we can change it to actually look outwardly the way it does inwardly… and there is another piece of the revolution!