Diary of a Mad International Solo Traveler

Dear Diary,

I did it.

I traveled solo internationally to the south island of New Zealand and came back both mentally and physically intact. Well, as intact as a mad baby boomer can be. Whatever.

I know it wasn’t a huge stretch. New Zealand shares an ocean with my homeland of California, it’s language is one I speak (except with a way cooler accent), and the crime rate is pretty much at a “sleep on the street and still be safe” level (mostly).

This is the first of many posts on New Zealand, because as you know, I’m a very human traveler and the mis-adventures must accompany the adventures in honest storytelling.

I need to preface this post by saying that I had high expectations of New Zealand. Having been #2 on my bucket list (It would just be too sad for me to go to Tahiti alone which as you know is #1, and you also know I have no illusions about actually getting there with my Wyatt Earp type hubby) for most of my adult life creates, over time, no small set of ideals. Now couple that with the cost of such a trip and the amount of gorgeous photos on the internet (learned through experience they are taken by professionals at a special time setting I don’t have, or Photoshop enhanced) and the bar is so high I had already started mentally preparing myself for some degree of letdown.

New Zealand in reality blew away anything I could have ever dreamed of. Like the Grand Canyon, there is no photo or prose that can accurately capture the ridiculous amount of beauty that has largely remained unarranged by the hand of man (I spent most of my time in the “bush”). Now add the beauty of the people of New Zealand (referred to as Kiwis going forward), and it is a place at “bucket list with value added” status. The stuff dreams are made of. Truly.

My trip however was not without a few hiccups.

My first stop on the itinerary of my two week adventure trip with a company specializing in the small group south island bush experience was to be spent in Kaikura, which just mere days before I arrived had been hit with a devastating earthquake. My heart broke for them.

Since I am from California, I am familiar with Earthquakes, even the occasional devastating one…which makes me also savvy of aftershocks. And since I was flying into Christchurch (which is just south of Kaikura and still recovering from a devastating Earthquake of it’s own) and spending a night there, I was a little on edge.

Much less devastating but still unnerving, my flight had left LAX 2 hours late and subsequently Qantas held a flight for me from Brisbane to Auckland (not on my original itinerary and definitely not on my checked luggage), and when I had to catch a puddle jumper sized plane from there into Christchurch, I had the sinking feeling my checked luggage hadn’t made the same trip.

It hadn’t.

BUT, my Qantas experience didn’t take away from the beauty of Australia that I managed to capture from my airplane window and boded well for the coming attractions of what I would find in New Zealand. This is an aerial photo taken outside of Brisbane but I’m not sure if it is the Coral or Tasman Sea…(untouched by special timing or Photoshop).

img_1262

CRINGE WORTHY MOMENTS

  1.  My hubby had purchased a special international data plan for me that should have more than covered my communication needs whilst on my adventure. As soon as I touched down in NZ, I got a message on my phone that I had used 80% of my international data plan. Turns out all those games I played waiting at the airports were not on a very strong wifi. Dang it. 
  2.  My first experience going through customs without a traveling companion was much more embarrassing than anticipated. My hands were full with passport, associated custom claim forms, phone with proof of return air booking, two outerwear jackets, and carry on pack…which did not make for a smooth transition from customs officer to inspection officer. You know how in comedic movies the clumsy actor drops some of his stuff and then as he walks forward to pick it up he kicks it even further away? Yep…that was me, and I was as surprised as anyone at my spontaneous Jim Carrey like performance. The customs officer watching me even left her post to help me move forward by carrying some of the stuff I kept dropping and kicking, that’s how pitiful I looked. Sigh. I never realized before how much of a pack mule my hubby is.

Moving on….

I didn’t have the luxury of sitting around a few days until my luggage showed up, nor could I afford to replace all of the specialty clothing I had packed in the “only slightly larger than carry on sized” polka dotted suitcase I affectionately call Dottie. Because Dottie is more than just baggage, she is like a very large purse to me. A friend really.

And she accessorizes what’s left of my city girl psyche. You know…like Legally Blonde or something. I may be a late blooming outdoor adventurer, but dang it, I’m holding onto a little of my inner Barbie.

I filed a claim for my missing Dottie and hailed a taxi to my hotel which was about 20 minutes away. Thankfully, Maryvale Manor did not disappoint.

maryvale

Truly lovely place and after 17 hours of waiting/flying/waiting/flying/flying, I was so happy to take a hot shower and have a cup of…tea.

My first inkling that I “wasn’t in Kansas anymore Toto” was the conspicuous lack of coffee amenities. 17 days later when I returned home, I kissed my hubby, my dog, and my Keurig in that order. Not sure of the order if the Keurig had met me at the airport.

My lack of travel savvy and old school authoritarian upbringing compulsively ensured I  followed the rules of the adventure company that asked you only bring 2 carry-on sized bags (silly me, it turns out nobody else did). In hindsight, I so wished I had packed like a Legally Blonde type city girl.

CRINGE WORTHY MOMENTS –

  1. Why oh why did I opt for the lesser expensive electrical adaptor? I plugged it into the wall outlet and felt quite smug about my planning. Then I plugged in my US iPhone plug with a USB port and the adaptor promptly fell out of the wall. I stared at it in disbelief. I had to find some random things to stack and prop the adaptor up to the wall outlet, then plug in my appliance to the adaptor. This turned into a nightly ritual for me during the trip, and since wall outlets are at much different lengths from the nearest surface, it was not an easy feat. It was also the first thing I threw into the trash upon landing at LAX.
  2. Why oh why hadn’t I packed my jammies into my carry on? With my Puritan upbringing I could not walk around my room in the nude (and I wanted to enjoy the sights outside anyway), so back on with the clothes I had worn for the last day and night already. Yes, the ones I also slept in that night in the event of an aftershock and I had to exit my room with haste. Planning people, planning.

The next early morning I had a cup of tea (ok, now I’m starting to get concerned about my daily requirements of caffeine) and took another expensive taxi ride back to the airport where I’d hoped my prayers would be answered and Dottie would be there. I was already feeling a bit cross from a lack of coffee and the thought of spending the next 17 days in an outfit not appropriate for hiking, biking, and kayaking.

I arrived at the airport and reported to the Qantas lost baggage claim area (I’m making that sound easy to find, it wasn’t) and handed the clerk my receipt of the claim form for the missing Dottie. This is how the conversation went after she looked up the claim number.

Clerk – “This claim was filed yesterday.”

Me – “Right, yesterday.”

Clerk – Hands paper back to me and says, “Well, there has been no activity on it yet.”

Me – “So when can I hope to see activity on it?”

Clerk – “When they find your baggage.” And gives me a dismissive look as she turns back to her phone.

Me – “Could it have come in on a later flight last night or an early one this morning and it just hasn’t been logged in yet?”

Clerk – “Probably not.”

Me – “Really? Could you look in your newest batch of homeless luggage and see if it is there? I’m desperate as I am being picked up this morning and won’t be back to Christchurch for 2 weeks.”

Clerk – Takes a long look at me. Luckily, I would find out that this person was not atypical of Kiwis, and likely was from Australia (according to Kiwi sources). “You know, luggage looks the same and I wouldn’t know what I would be looking for. You need to wait until there is activity on the claim.”

Me – “First of all, I won’t know when there is activity on the claim because I will be out in the bush off the grid wearing exactly what I have on for the next 2 weeks. Secondly, my little suitcase has white polka dots on a black patent leather background with a red ribbon tied around the zipper pull. Can you please just give a little look? Please, I’m begging at this point.”

Clerk – Groans, turns off her computer, and disappears through the door that I envisioned housed a warehouse full of luggage, but in reality couldn’t have been much larger than a small room. She promptly returns through the door carrying my beloved Dottie. I gleefully provide my luggage tag and virtually floated away rolling my beloved behind me.

It pays to accessorize.

Before leaving the hotel that morning, I had used some of the 20% I had left on my international plan to contact the adventure company and let them know to pick me up at the airport instead of the prearranged hotel. I checked the time on my barely recharged phone and noted I still had an hour before being picked up.

CRINGE WORTHY MOMENT –

With Dottie in tow, I headed to the nearest place that emoted a coffee aroma and checked the menu. I assumed that the menu was like Starbucks,  it said a shot of espresso under where the house coffee of the day was delineated – I happily ordered it and thought that my morning was turning out to be a rousing success.

When my name was called, they handed me an extra tiny shot glass of espresso. The panicked looks from my tiny little shot glass to the menu and over again instantly gave me away. I realized that everyone in the small shop was staring at me. I took my tiny little shot glass, grabbed a napkin, and sat down with grace and dignity and sipped it as if it was a proper cup of coffee with a shot of espresso IN IT.

No Toto, we are most definitely not in Kansas anymore.

To date – Qantas has an open claim on my dear Dottie, which really is no matter since after my trip home with them left me stranded in Melbourne for 13 hours at night with no Aussie money …they are dead to me.

Until next time dearest when the adventures and mis-adventures of a city girl turned late blooming international intrigue seeking mad baby boomer in New Zealand begin…

 

 

Advertisements

Get Mad About It

Just get mad.

That’s what I tell myself when I feel like I can’t go on. Can’t take the next vertical step, can’t row another single stroke to move my kayak, can’t push one more pedal to keep my bicycle upright. And it works. I’m not proud of the amount of cussing that went into the last 1/2 mile of my first backpacking trip. It was solo, so nobody got injured from my verbal tirade except maybe my immortal soul.

When my hubby or kids make me mad, my house is cleaned in a snap.

Mad for me, is a motivator.

And yes, I use the term “mad” loosely. It can mean angry, crazy, tightly wound, or deeply passionate in my world. It’s a multi-use word. Like y’all.

And my blog. That’s why it’s called Diary of a Mad Baby Boomer. Not a happy, sleepy, bashful, dopey, or terrified Baby Boomer (Terrified was the 8th dwarf I think).

Mad means no mercy for myself.

I have mercy for all other things, in fact if you could have witnessed me catching a salamander in our shower just now, you would be laughing madly (see how I used mad  there instead of hysterically, and it works right?). I don’t know why, but lizards are particularly nerve-wracking for me.  Maybe I think it rather unfair of God to put feet on a snake. But…I did battle with that little bastard to get in a cup, and he did not go quietly (why so many times underneath the cup?).

Now he is happily residing in the garden. Mercy.

Besides, how many times could that poor thing take a shower with my hubby and have it not be cruel and unusual punishment?

But this is not a lizard post.

My greatest endeavors have been birthed after getting deeply mad about something. Like my trip up the west coast solo. It was born in madness, but ended in bliss.

About 7 months ago I got very mad. So I booked a solo action adventure in New Zealand. Right up there at the top of my bucket list. I was really, really mad.

Since then every hike, every kayak endeavor, every bicycle ride, every single circuit training exercise has been leading up to this trip. Don’t be too impressed about the aforementioned, they’re like little old lady versions of the real thing I’m sure.

Nevertheless, I have worked HARD! In fact, in recent weeks I broke through to almost double the weights in my circuit training.

And now, this trip is only a couple of weeks away. So what would I have to be mad about you say?

My body has been working against me every step of the way. It doesn’t mean to, it just gets confused on what it’s supposed to be attacking, so it attacks itself. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (with autonomic involvement) is a little bitch. The Lupus link.

But this is not new you say. You’ve been on chemo meds for 10 years. Why get mad now?

Because I have Pneumonia! Arghhhhh. Some little snotty nosed, sneezing, coughing kid kept running an orbit around me at the grocery store and I knew instantaneously that this was not going to end well.

Not his fault. He’s just a kid. I just have a compromised immune system. And it’s just that time of year. A toxic recipe for an immune system that is already working double time to repair nightly from that circuit weight increase.

I’m slowly getting better, but my body is not my friend. And as much as I would like to jump right back into where I was, I run the risk of becoming truly debilitated as a result.

img_0448

I know this from experience. It takes me 6 months or more to recover from Bursitis when I decide to push my joints farther than they are willing to go.

So here I lay, 10 days in bed and counting. Losing muscle mass at a faster rate than I made it, and in terrible, inexplicable pain (ah, the joys of auto-immune disease).

So it has left me no choice. I am just going to have to get mad. Real mad.

 

And I will make it to my destination, both mentally and physically as a result of much prayer and even more madness.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

Bodie, California – A Wild West Wonder

Dear Diary,

It started out so predictably. We would go and see the ghost town of Bodie, California, and then check it off of our bucket list. But it was so much more than that.

Whether it was 150 years ago or today, I don‘t think anyone is able to walk out of Bodie the same way they went in.

Bodie piques an interest that will never be sated. It stirs feelings that will never be described. As a perfectly preserved window into the past, it portends our own future.

But first, it is important to note why Bodie stands so far apart from any other ghost town.

From anything else really.

Dearest, you know I am not new to ghost towns. I have been walking in the shadow of wild west history since I was a little girl being dragged along with her parents and their rock hounding club in Death Valley. I was only about 3 years old when my mother and I were shot at while exploring an old abandoned mine there. Evidently, it wasn’t so abandoned.

Since then, the web has provided information pointing us to ruins that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. I have explored so many more than I have shared here, so I would say I am a pretty good student on the subject of ghost towns.

So imagine my surprise when Bodie humbled any preconceived notion of what it would be.

Unlike its countless other ghost town counterparts, Bodie is truly frozen in time. It is maintained in a “state of arrested decay”, and has been preserved as such since each shop owner and/or resident locked their doors and walked away. Each business and residence has been preserved as it was left, I chose to take their word for it.

But I had to know more.

I couldn’t wait to get home and google Bodie to start trying to answer the whos, whats, whens, and hows. Let me forewarn you if you ever intend to do the same…your mind will literally explode with the volume of information.

The only problem is…even the information published at the time goes from accurate, to slightly embellished, to grossly misrepresenting the actual facts. Now add 150 years, and it’s like playing telephone across generations. So how does one determine what is true?

I don’t think anyone can know what is actually true except those who lived and died there.

But I have to say, http://www.bodie.com provides a plethora of information that seems to perform “due diligence” in providing as accurate data as they can, or at the very least, provide a platform from which to plunge into the web. Many of the vintage photos in this post are from there.

Take the man who the town is named after, which was actually spelled Bodey or Body. His wife changed the spelling to Bodie because she liked it better OR a sign painter misspelled it and it stuck. You begin to see what I mean already?

Another website that drills down to authenticating information is http://www.findagrave.com. I went to this website and put in “Bodie” and what followed was at least 8 hours of reading that I don’t mind that I’ll never get back. It lists all of the sections of cemeteries within the cemetery (Boot Hill, Chinese, and the three “respectable” areas of the main cemetery) with all information available for the known respective interments (and how they got there, if known).

Again, if there were hundreds that died in the winter of 1878 – 1879 alone, the interred list is under representing how many people are actually buried there. Not a surprise it is lost to the ages, since records have burned twice in the city’s lifetime and wooden headstones are long gone.

To paraphrase the answer to my original question (why is Bodie so intact)?

It appears to be thanks to one man and his family, James Stuart Cain.

James Stuart Cain

Jim Cain arrived in Bodie (originally from Quebec, Canada) at the age of 25 with his new bride Martha to make his fortune, and make his fortune he did. He wisely became a lumber baron ( wood being the single most required item in Bodie for living, dying and everything in-between), a mine owner (in which he struck gold, both literally and figuratively after suing The Standard Mine Company for pilfering his lode), bank owner, and ultimately the primary land owner of Bodie, California.

Jim and Martha Cain 1879

James and Martha Cain

An excellent article about the life and times of James Stuart Cain and his intrinsic connection with Bodie;

HEALTH02PELibrary

In the 1940s and 50’s there was a rush to pilfer anything that could be carried from old west ghost towns, in fact Bodie’s sister city of Aurora, Nevada was decimated. As a result, Jim Cain hired resident caretakers to ensure Bodie would not fall into the hands of hungry antiquities bandits. There they stayed until the California Park Service bought the town from Jim’s children in 1962.

Now, the town protects itself. There is an alleged curse associated to anything that is pilfered from Bodie. The park rangers get mail regularly containing items taken from Bodie (even something as seemingly insignificant as a nail), begging them to put the items back so their bad luck streaks will stop. I used to think that this was hype made up by the park rangers, but after reading some personal accounts of tragedy after taking items from Bodie, I’m not so sure.

A debris field like this (one of many) would not have survived in an “unguarded” ghost town.

debris field

I had no intention of taking ANYTHING from Bodie anyway.

But I was wrong about not taking anything from Bodie. I took home a renewed reverent respect for the hardships our ancestors endured. The fact that any of us are still here is a testimony to the grit of our grandfather’s fathers, and their women.

Bodie was extra harsh. At just under 8300 ft. in elevation and situated on a flat plateau with no trees or hills to block the wind, the weather is some of the worst in the lower 48. Bodie frequently boasts the lowest temperature in US cities. In the harsh winter of 1878 – 1879, hundreds of people perished from the bitter cold and disease.

Bodie Post Office in Winter

Bodie Post Office

When I visited the cemetery, I was reminded of how much we take infant mortality for granted in our modern day and age. Too many children there.

This photo I took of a bedroom was initially because of the draped curtain, but what resonated with me was the baby sweater on the dresser. Why didn’t they take it? Who did it belong to? Did they outgrow it or something much worse? Bodie created more questions than answers for me.

babysweater

Bodie, like most ghost towns, was remote even in its heyday. Getting supplies in and out of Bodie, especially in winter, was difficult to impossible as it is prone to “white out” storms and heavy snow conditions.

Bodie receiving a supply wagon in summer.

bodie supply train

Bodie was violent. Very violent. Besides having 65 saloons, a red light district, and more than one opium den, there was gold. Miners were paid handsomely, and did not hesitate to frequent saloons, gambling halls, and the company of like-minded women. With 6,000 to 10,000 residents (depending on whose calculations you believe) at its peak, Bodie was a bustling town.

“Saloons and gambling hells abound,” reported San Francisco’s Daily Alta California in June 1879. “There are at least sixty saloons in the place and not a single church.”

Bodie 1879 –

Bodie 1879

 

“Besides the business and professional men, mine-operators, miners, etc., there were hundreds of saloon-keepers, hundreds of gamblers, hundreds of prostitutes, many Chinese, a considerable number of Mexicans, and an unusual number of what we used to call “Bad men”-desperate, violent characters from everywhere, who lived by gambling, gun-fighting, stage robbing, and other questionable means. The “Bad man from Bodie” was a current phrase of the time throughout the west. In its day, Bodie was more widely known for its lawlessness than for its riches.” (Smith 1925)

Bodie – 1890

Bodie_California_c1890

Most of the opportunistic miners (and associated violence) left the town when it began it’s decline from the “bust” period, even before the devastating fire of 1892. Most of the miners and business owners who stayed and rebuilt were family oriented.

General Store in Bodie – 1880

Bodie general store 1880

General Store in Bodie Today –

Bodie Store

The town suffered a steady decline and was nearly deserted in 1927, but in 1928 a resurgence occurred when several big money mining companies invested in new processes and equipment. Within 2 years the companies suffered heavy losses and were gone.

Main street in Bodie  nearly deserted in 1927

Bodie 1927.jpg

Main street in Bodie after 1928 Resurgence

bodie resurgence 1928 to 1931

Then, as if on cue, in 1932 a devastating fire burned most of Bodie (started by a 2 ½ year old who was angry about his birthday cake and set his kitchen table on fire). The town never recovered. The remaining buildings represent only 5% of the original structures.

Bodie before 1932 fire –                                               Bodie After the 1932 fire

pre 1932 fireafter 1932 fire

 

Bodie died a slow death. Unlike its boom and bust counterparts, Bodie stayed alive (even if it was just a handful of miners and their families) until the last mine closed in 1942 as mandated by the federal government to close non-essential mines because of World War ll.

But true even until the end, Bodie’s last 6 residents were plagued by violence and mystery as 5 of them died untimely deaths. After one man shot his wife to death, 3 of the other men shot him dead. According to legend, the ghost of the murdered man would visit the three men, shaking his fist. Soon all 3 died of very strange diseases.

Here is my photo journey through time. I tried to include then and now comparison photos wherever possible.

Jim Cain and the Bodie Bank. Notice the distinct vault door behind him.

Bodie Bank Interior.jpg

Bodie Bank Exterior.

BodieBank-pre 1932

Jim Cain opening the vault after the 1932 fire –

Vault 1932

Bank vault now, notice the vault door characteristics are still easily identified.

Bank Vault.jpg

Bodie Safe in 1932 –

Bodie Safe

Bodie Safe now, it’s empty. Like mine.

Inside Safe

Fire house now.

Firehouse.jpg

Methodist Church then – not sure of the year.

methodist church.jpg

Methodist Church now.

Bodie Church

Inside the church then.

church-ten-commandments.jpgInside the church now. The Ten Commandments that are hanging on the wall were stolen. Let that soak in for a minute….so hopefully they read number 7  (Thou Shalt Not Steal) after they got home. Please note that church pews have not changed in a hundred years. Meant to keep us awake I guess.

church.jpg

The original school building was burned down by a boy who didn’t like going. This school house was originally a boarding house. At one time, there were over 600 children registered, but only about 100 at a time would attend.

Bodie Schoolhouse

I have the exterior photos now but forgot to upload them…here are a couple from the interior now. That poor globe has seen better days.

School

On the chalkboard behind the teacher’s desk, she (Ella who married one of the Cain boys) writes that 8 graders have an assignment due. It’s those small details that are timeless, and make Bodie a very special place.

school2

This shirt hanging on the wall in the doctor’s house. As if someone just hung it there.

shirtonawall.jpg

A home owned by someone with means. The furniture is still beautiful. The pictures still on the walls. It is rumored that the rocking chair still rocks, sometimes on it’s own, sometimes powered by a spectral woman knitting.  The multiple layers of wall paper were all they had as insulation from the cold.

rich persons house

An icebox with a stepping stool still under it in another home.

Refrigerator

If Bodie is on your bucket list, you might want to make plans sometime soon to visit. Homes like this one will not last too much longer. The state park is dedicated to keeping time suspended, but will not rebuild them when they cave in.

Urbandecayhouse

The undertaker’s shop. There were two children’s coffins, one in the front room, one in the back with the white expensive display coffin barely visible here. Very unnerving. There were a couple of fellas that were selling expensive coffins, then would go out and dig them back up and resell them. They were caught. Things didn’t end well for them. Karma I say.  Their story is on the Find A Grave site.

Undertaker

One of two hearses displayed in the old Union Hall building which is now a museum.

Hearse.jpg

The James Stuart Cain house. I’m not sure why the cupboard doors are open in every room. Maybe I don’t want to know. The place is allegedly haunted by a Chinese maid once employed by the Cain family who doesn’t take kindly to adults. Duly noted!

cainhouse

cainhouse2

Look how huge a simple radio used to be.

cainhouse3

Standard Mill in 1879 –

standard mill 1879

Standard Mill today –

stampmill

Bodie children in front of the Standard Mill, undated. I hope they all lived very long lives.

bodie kids on mule

These massive iron elevators would lower workers deep down into the earth via cables and mine shafts. There was no margin for error if you couldn’t keep your arms in.

elevators

I can tell you this, while I was walking through Bodie, I often got the feeling that I was the one being observed. I felt as though life was going on as usual in Bodie. Just as it did in 1880, just as it will forever more.

Bodie 4th of July celebration 1880 –

1880 fourth of july

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

That Time I Got Hit by the Crazy Train

Dear Diary,

I broke a bone yesterday. It’s ok though, the bone is a small one. I know what caused it too, I got hit by a train.

Even though I got hit by the Crazy Train 9 months ago…the physical manifestations of a hit that hard take a long time to show themselves.

Remember when I wrote about disembarking the Crazy Train back in October? No? You can read it here…Disembarking the Crazy Train.

I was woefully ignorant on how far the crazy engineer (my Narcissistic Mother) would go to make me pay for that.

Stupid me…acting all strong and thinking by disembarking the Crazy Train I could actually get away from it. Oh no…that’s not how the crazy train works. By disembarking I actually bumped the Crazy up to a whole new level. I should have seen it coming, but I got hit from behind.

After a lifetime of crazy, what could possibly have affected me so deeply that it has taken me 9 months to actually write about it? That’s easy. She hit me in the place where I am most vulnerable. By inviting all of the people I love the most to ride her Crazy Train. The people I hold dearest. Who are those people you ask?

My children and my deceased sister’s children (also my children I like to think).

She wrote one of her poison letters to me and sent copies to all of them. The most poisonous of all. She has outdone herself.

By the grace of God, I was out traveling when my copy came in the mail. My daughter picked up the mail, opened my copy and read it. Evidently it was so evil that she threw it away (or so she said), and never intended to let me know of it’s existence. She intended to try and protect me from my own Mother.

It worked for a few weeks evidently, but she felt guilty deceiving me and finally broke down and told me about it. My daughter said the letter was so bad that she was hoping none of it was true. She went on to say that we could  pretend it never existed, but there were copies sent to other family members.

With just those few words I was pushed, and started freefalling, into a deep crevasse. Like anyone who is falling, I tried desperately to self arrest the descent. Clawing at the sides of the deepest and darkest places in my mind to keep some sight of where the light might be so I could find my way back out.

I started with damage control. I called my niece to ask if she had received a copy of the letter. I could tell by the pity in her voice that she had. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went.

Niece – “Auntie did you read it?”

Me – “No, Daughter (not her real name ha!) intercepted it and threw it away.”

Niece – “Good for Daughter, nobody should have to read something like that.”

What? I thought I knew what my Narcissistic Mother was capable of, but how bad did it have to be that NOBODY should have to read it?

I assured her that none of it was true…but this rang hollow with both my niece and I since I hadn’t actually read it.

With that I was yet again sent spiraling down the rabbit hole even further.

I called my son. “Yes Mom, I got it.” I tried to downplay it with “well you know how Nana is.”

“Yes he said, I know how she is. I called her and she told me that she never wanted to see or hear from you again after how badly you abused her when you took her on vacation with you last June.”

WTF?

Trying to self arrest again I said, “You mean when I tried to take her to one of her favorite places in the world and make it perfect for her because she may never make it there again? That time?”

My son replied, “Yes, but Nana has a much different story Mom. She said you abused her, are evil, and you will bring us down with you into hell if we go around you. Don’t worry Mom, we know that can’t be true.”

Falling…still falling.

Before I bid him goodbye I tell my son, “Please don’t tell me anymore of what Nana said. Not if you love me and want me to stay on this Earth.” But he continued on anyway…”she said to tell you never to contact her again, and when she dies she doesn’t want you at her funeral.” I think he thought by telling me this he would be igniting a fire in me to fight back. But that’s not how this dysfunctional relationship ever plays out. I may be mad, but I know better than to get into the ring with a narcissist. They fight dirty.

I told my son I had to go and hung up the phone.

Injustice has always been something I can’t endure. And now…I stand accused and convicted of a crime I not only didn’t, but wouldn’t commit. Evidently there was much more slander in the poisoned letter, but who cares what it said. Just this little taste was so toxic I was rendered paralyzed. She played the “victimized little old blind lady” card.

So here I am. In a deep hole. So dark that I have no  idea which way is up. I am 5 years old again and so full of self loathing that I am quite sure that not even Jesus could love me. So enraged that if I have to share heaven with her, I don’t want to go.

Depression has always been an ugly word to me. I know it’s real, I have the suicides of my Daddy and little sister to remind me. But I hate the word because my dear Mother used it as a crutch to make everyone wait on her. “I’m too depressed to get up.” was her mantra, thereby (as the oldest) creating a overdeveloped sense of being responsible for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around me. I loathe the word.

But a perfect storm was already set into motion and depression was bearing down on me. Just a couple of minor things happening at the same time as my Mother’s newest betrayal and I was down for the count. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t even get out of bed for a couple of days.

I normally am a master of disguise. I can fool even the most intuitive of audiences. So I feigned illness (well I feigned physical illness anyway), which is another of my taboos, while I desperately clawed at the sides of my dark prison to find a way out. The more I struggled, the deeper it seemed to get. Like a psychotic quicksand.

When I finally was able to get up and put on my cloak of normalcy, I was out of step with the world. Standing in line at a store, I looked around me and wondered if they could tell I was an illusion? Would they notice the real me was being held in a prison of pain with no hope of being helped back out?

That’s the conundrum of depression. When you need to be saved from yourself, you cannot ask for it. Depression steals hope. It steals even the idea that you might be worth saving. I didn’t even bother talking to God because I was sure he could not hear me from this place.

The more I told myself that I didn’t care, the more my auto-immune disorder was fueled into a full blown flare that even now is not quieted.

So the months passed in this suspended state of desperation. Going through the motions of daily routines so that the dark musings in my mind could not be detected. How often did I wish for death to deliver me? Every. Single. Day.

But as I clawed desperately at my prison walls, I remembered a familiarity of this place. I had been here before. Many times. In the past, when I finally made it out of this dark place, I would block out the memory that I was ever there. And now it is a slow realization that this is the place my Narcissistic Mother and Abusive Step-Father made me call home when I was growing up.

So I stopped clawing. I sat quietly and waited for redemption, if there was to even be any I couldn’t be sure. My mother had pulled the rug out from under me and I was left with all the dirt I had swept under it. So fresh I could still taste the blood in my mouth from the beatings, so real I could feel the terror as I heard my step-father’s car door close when he came home from work. And so alone.

But I kept still in my dark place. I knew that nobody would come for me. I was trapped deep in my mind. So deep, I couldn’t even find myself. I dared not look in a mirror. I would be looking at a ghost.

stock-photo-a-woman-covers-her-face-reflected-in-a-broken-mirror-or-the-shattered-life-concept-141673471

And then I saw it, a tiny crack of light. Through the tiny crack of light, I heard a voice. A familiar one say, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Oh my gosh. I remembered how I got out so many times before now. I remembered that it wasn’t me that found my way of my own private hell, it was my faith. I remembered that nobody can be so far gone that they can’t be found.

Even though I thought I could never write in my Diary again (because remember I have to be honest), I remembered that I am already a MAD baby boomer …so I have set the bar low. I can’t really let you down then, can I Diary?

My daughter asked me to find something in her room for her recently (she is living somewhere else but hasn’t actually moved out of her room yet), when I ran across the letter from my Mother she said had been trashed.

On the back of the envelope it said, “I know you are prone to throwing things away, but you really need to read this.”

No…I don’t Mom. I really don’t. You are done here.

I promptly trashed it.

I am still deeply angry at my Momster for running me over with her Crazy Train. I am still paying for it through my dis-ease. My dark auto-immune passenger is not easily put back to sleep. But I remembered that the best medicine is also the sweetest revenge.

HAPPINESS.

So I do what I always do when faced with a long climb to get back to the top of the  happiness scale. I turn to my bucket list and book a trip. I can happily announce I have six months to get back into physical shape and be ready for hiking, biking, and kayaking NEW ZEALAND!

As for all of the kids? Nothing’s changed. Turns out that the letter really says more about her than it does about me. And the broken bone? It will heal. They always do.

Yay! I’m so excited and HAPPY! Did you hear that Mom?

I win.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piute Springs – A Trek Through Time in the Wild West.

Dear Diary,

How appropriate that on the last day of 2015 we took a trek back in time to the real wild west of old. To a place so far off the beaten path that one feels like they might be intruding on unseen activities going on has they have for a thousand  years.

We continued our quest of following sections of the old Mojave Road. We headed out to explore a place just off the “old government road”.

This road has been used by Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, explorers, Mexican traders, the Pony Express, American Cavalry, miners, and western settlers alike.

All with the same quest; to reach California.

Long before any non-native set foot in the area, legend has that bands of Paiute, Navajo, Apaches, Chemehuevi, and Aha Macav (Mohave) Indians fought for ownership of the most valuable resource in the desert.

Water.

And as we would find out for ourselves, Piute Springs has plenty of it. Cool and fast flowing water that comes up out of the ground only to disappear back into the desert in just a half mile.

Waterfall

The native Americans used this route to trade with coastal Indians in California. The Mohave “Runners” could cover 100 miles a day in some of the most inhospitable terrain to be found.

Mohave Runners

Just trying to hike amid the cactus is challenge enough for this city girl…I can’t imagine running through it for a hundred miles.

Piute Canyon

Ok dang it, I’ll just admit that I can’t run a half mile anywhere. Even if someone was chasing me. With a gun.

The earliest recorded non-native traveled this road in 1776 in the form of Francisco Garces, a Spanish Franciscan missionary who would convert the first area native to Catholicism in what is now Hesperia, California.

Francisco Garces would be killed in Yuma just a few years later by natives as a punishment for Spanish settlers violating terms of their treaty.

The Mohave tribe first provided guidance through Piute Spring for Friar Garces into what is now known as Cajon Pass in 1776, and for many more  for the next nearly 100 years until the Mohave and settlers/soldiers/miners became increasingly hostile over what amounted to simple misunderstandings. As a result, Fort Mohave was erected at the Colorado River to keep peace and provide protection for white settlers.

Fort Mohave no longer exists.

Just 22 miles west of the Colorado River however, lies the ruins of what is now known as Fort Piute (originally called Fort Beale after the man that brought camels into the area as a failed experiment).

So off the beaten path we go to find this relic of wild west history. 21st century explorers replete with our spirit of adventure and a well appointed off road vehicle.

God bless GPS. Within just a couple of hours, we had traversed a very rough road (I actually have city girl bruises from foolishly trying to rest my arm on the door while being bounced around like a tournament ping pong) to reach our destination.

We parked the Jeep and equipped ourselves in preparation for going back in time. For peeling the layers of human habitation and walking among the remnants of those intrepids in whose footsteps we were about to follow.

The most obvious and looming is the ruins of Fort Piute, built in 1867 and abandoned in just 6 months.

Fort Piute

IMG_0092[2].JPG

I walked into the fort and as always, am filled with a certain reverence for those who came before me. Especially in a place as harsh as this.

As I looked back at our lone steed parked below and took in the beautiful vista, I thought about how this place had been a flashpoint of violence for generations of peoples.

View from the soldiers quarters room.

from fort.jpg

map-ft_-piute-300x225

Fireplace

Fireplace.jpg

And I don’t feel alone. I feel as though there are still sentries here.

What looks like a fort is really just a single layer amid many layers of human struggle. Layers of time one on top of the other like an onion. The Indians, the Spanish, the soldiers, the homesteaders, all imprinting this tiny half mile of land with their own blood, sweat, and tears.

Just a few feet from the fort is the snapshot of a layer from 1929. The Smith family lived here and although it is overgrown, I can still see where their home sat.

Smith house.jpg

Really? They had a regular ole car that managed to carry them to and fro? I’m not feeling so good about my bruises from the Jeep right now. A little wimpy in fact. Nothing new.

smith area (800x600)

Members of this family still live in nearby Needles, California.

Just east of the Smith home lie the layers of ruins from two failed farms.

In 1928 Thomas Van Slyke homesteaded here to make a go of farming fruit and grapes. He patented the land and subsequently sold it in 1944 to George and Virginia Irwin who attempted a turkey farm. A letter from George and Virgina Irwin to a Mrs. Welsh in 1957 brings this couple to life with their own words…


George and Virginia Irwin to Mrs. Welch, 7/10/1957

This letter was found at a garage sale by Keith Collins.

Wednesday July 10, 1957
Box 247 Needles, California

Dear Mrs. Welch;

We have been the owners of Fort Piute or as it is known in the War Department records, Fort Beale, named after Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale who made the original survey in the year 1853, since 1944. The property was purchased from Mr. Thomas van Slyke who took a homestead and later patented the land in 1928. Mr. van Slyke told us that the fort was built in 1867 and it was one of six such redoubts that were established along the old Government Road from St.Joseph Missouri to Los Angeles (Wilmington – Fort Drum). This road roughly ran paralell (sic) to the 32 meridian and was surveyed as early as 1847 just prior to the finding of gold in California. After the news of the gold strike activity was increased in making roads across the country therefore these stopping places were established which were near water and were approximately one days traveling time between stops. There have been many articles published about this old Government Road and it would take a small book to elaborate on the history of this road. However we like to pass on any information that we have and we are in a position to refer you to Mr. L. Burr Belden who is the history editor for the San Bernardino Sun newspaper. He has at his fingertip pictures and the full story of this famous trail. May I suggest that you write him in care of the newspaper. I feel sure that he will answer any questions you might have. If you are ever out here near the fort drop in and see us and we will be glad to talk to you about the fort. We live at tne Metropolitan Water District switching station 25 miles west of Needles on Highway 66. As you no doubt noticed the area is replete with Indian writing petroglyphs. These writings are very old and even the Indians who live near here at this present date do not understand them nor can they interpret their meanings. Also there are numerous graves located along this trail and unless one were pointed out they would pass unnoticed.

We hope this information will be of help to you and would be glad to speak to you in person if you are ever out this way.

Sincerely yours,

George & Virginia Irwin

As for the ancient petroglyphs? Yes, they are there providing a deep time layer amid the more recent ruins of the turkey farm. Pet-Mojave-014

The ruins of the turkey farm and the home of George and Virginia (feel like old friends now don’t they?).

Turkey Farm (1024x755)

Lastly, I add my own layer in the form of footsteps as we hiked the “old government road” (old Mojave Road) through Piute Springs and back again.

Me and Lucy.jpg

What an ending.

‘Til next year dearest.

 

 

Hole in the Wall, Mojave National Preserve California

Dear Diary,

Some of the most memorable trips are those that you decide to take on a whim. This is one of those.

And very far off the beaten path.

In fact, this one is so far off the beaten path I questioned our sanity on the way there. I definitely questioned who in their right mind would want to live in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. But that would be a rhetorical question, because one thing never changes with the desert eccentric (also known as desert rats)…they’re just plain crazy.

My hubby is part of that tribe.

While I pine for the ocean and forests, he is most at home where there is no shade, no water, and temperatures are in the extreme.

This place was no exception.

We recently embarked on a quest to follow the Mojave road.  The road originally created by Native Americans as a trade route between tribes of the Mojave Valley and the Coastal California Indians.

One can traverse this road in 2 – 3 days,  but because of work commitments, we intend to take it in sections.

Hole in the Wall in the Mojave National Preserve was our most recent destination. While it is not technically on Mojave Road, it is a point of interest we didn’t want to pass up. I was as excited as I can get about a remote place within a remote place in the middle of nowhere.

The Mojave Road is noted in green, Hole in the Wall is circled in red.

MojaveRoadmapcampsites

Since we were coming back to So. California from celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in Arizona, it was a perfect time to fit this little side trip into our itinerary.

I noticed this destination was between two places with pretty ominous names…Death Valley and Devil’s Playground. I don’t know about you, but I make it a habit to avoid anything having to do with Death or Devil.

Not my desert rat of a hubby, these kind of places are right up his alley, so off we go to camp between them. The soft creamy center of a Death and Devil sandwich.

Saints preserve us.

While I was busy wondering what he was getting us into, I thanked God it was winter time and not summer. Death Valley became the hottest place in the world on July 10, 2013 when it reached a record 134 degrees. Not hard to understand why it’s called Death Valley. I don’t even want to know how the Devil’s Playground got it’s name.

Upon arrival to the Hole in the Wall campground, I had to admit the campsites are very nice. I was pleasantly surprised that we were the only one’s there. We set up our camp and walked to the ranger station to get a map of the area in anticipation of hiking the next day.

This would be Lucy’s first camping trip in our posh rooftop tent.

IMG_0882

We hadn’t even gone 50 feet before I noticed that she had already attracted a large chunk of Cholla Cactus in her fur. Cholla cactus is a nasty foe and I try very hard to stay out of it’s way. It’s called the “jumping cactus” because you don’t need to be near to attract a painful hitchhiker.

Cholla-Cactus

With Lucy’s fine hair, it was embedded so deeply that I’m sure we appeared to be performing surgery if there had been anyone there to witness it. Needless to say, I carried her the rest of the way to and from the station.

Such city girls her and I.

I was excitedly waiting to have a campfire. You can’t really have campfires in So. Cali so this was a real treat for me. We cooked our evening meal and settled down to wait for sunset. Now that all sounds pretty standard for camping folk doesn’t it?

Here’s the problem.

California cold

I remember thinking that it would be nice to be in colder temperatures since I had spent most of the summer boiling.

That is until it actually got cold. Silly me.

As the sun went down the temperature dropped accordingly. By the time my hubby started a fire, I was already frozen through and through. Even my butt was cold, and I would have thought something with that much padding would be insulated.

In this photo I am considering actually jumping into the fire (don’t worry, I would have handed Lucy off beforehand). I am totally not joking.

IMG_0895

Evidently, the above applies to California dogs too. Lucy wouldn’t stop shivering until I put her under the blanket.

Needless to say I didn’t sit outside long to enjoy the campfire experience. Forget the smores.

We got into our tent and for only the third or fourth time in my life I could see the condensation coming out of my mouth when we spoke. I would have said I was in hell, but it wasn’t warm enough.

Thankfully we had brought a propane heater (I can’t say we, my hubby had the foresight to bring it). I also had brought my Kelty Ignite 20 sleeping bag, but I wondered about the rating. Is it rated for 20 degrees or for a 20 year old (and not a more “mature” woman). I suspect it was the latter because I was paralyzed with cold.

Even with the little heater going full blast, my hand was too cold to hold my paperback book so I could read myself to sleep.

Thankfully I had brought an extra blanket because the little Walmart doggy sweater I had gotten Lucy was not enough. I wrapped her up and tucked her between our sleeping bags.

My hubby and I laid there staring at each other like burritos in a freezer.

Finally Lucy and my hubby fell asleep with both snoring. I alone laid awake to battle the cold and cacophony of nasal noise. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I promise you it was not soon enough.

Where I live, I am accustomed to roughly 360 days a year of sunshine, but never have I been so happy and appreciative of it until I felt it warm the tent as it rose.

When I felt I could finally peek outside of our tent without suffering the loss of my nose due to frostbite, I noticed Lucy’s dog water had been frozen solid. Another first for me.

IMG_0896

The arid barren landscape belied how cold it was. I felt like there should be 10 feet of snow on the ground, but with an annual rainfall of only 3 inches a year, I reckoned that doesn’t happen much.

After a cup of tea (oh thank you for being so fast Jet Boil!) and hot oatmeal, we headed out to follow the only trail in the area. The 6 mile Barbour Peak Loop trail would meet up with the short 1 mile Rings Loop Trail, which traverses the Hole in the Wall canyon.

Having learned my lesson when we were stranded by the flash flood in the Grand Canyon just a few months ago, I brought the ten essentials. My hubby had to backpack Lucy since the area was full of a variety of cacti including the “jumping cactus”.

IMG_0905

I remembered what a friend from Nova Scotia said when laying eyes on the California desert for the first time…”it looks like the surface of the moon”.

I would have to agree. And just as inhospitable I might add.

I suspect that the area looks exactly the same as it did 150 years ago when Mojave Indian runners would cover as much as 100 miles a day on foot. With one exception…see those vapor jet trails overhead as I strike a pose?

IMG_0901

They are from maneuvers being performed by aircraft from nearby Fort Irwin (I’m assuming since it’s the closest military base).

One aircraft came so close to us that I’m pretty sure I saw him tell his co-pilot “look at those fools down there.”

The only sign of life was this pesky bull blocking the trail, or was he protecting the only tree?  He was quite large and immediately started to stare us down.

IMG_0918

No worries I thought, I have my trusty “loudest whistle in the world.”

I put it to my lips and blew out a disturbingly shrill sound that was so loud I thought the blast might bring down one of those jets.

The only way I knew the bull even heard it was the barely perceptible muscle twitch in his back leg.

Wait a minute, this isn’t supposed to be how it goes. The animal is supposed to run away in fright.

No way, no how. This bull was dead serious about standing his ground. I imagined how easily he could run me down and put one or both of those horns through my spinal chord.

My hubby and I carefully made our way backwards and took an alternate route that gave Mr. Horns a wide berth. I never turned my back on him, but made sure to not lock eyes either.

Lucy however, set a decidedly perturbed look on me that seemed to say, “thanks for assaulting my very sensitive dog ears for no good reason.”

We reached the Hole in the Wall canyon which was easy to spot, since it was riddled with holes.

IMG_0925

We sat at the foot of the canyon entrance in the photo above and ate our packed lunches.

There were interesting sizes and shapes of holes everywhere as we entered the canyon in anticipation of the Rings Trail.

IMG_0930

And finally we were upon it.

My hubby headed up first with Lucy on his back as I brought up the rear. There are 4 or 5 sections of ring loops that are straight up. This is a photo of the first section.

IMG_0931

He made it look so easy I scrambled up behind him. The first section wasn’t so bad. The second section wasn’t horrible either. The third section (I don’t have any photos since I was using both of my hands to keep from plunging into the abyss below me) was an entirely different story.

I put my left foot onto a rock, then found a foothold with my right foot, then another with my left. I realized that the next foothold was roughly half of the length of my body above me. I tried to move upward, but the absence of a thigh muscle prevented me from executing that “step”.

Dammit. I was stuck. I couldn’t go up or down.

I called out to my hubby and said I tried to make the Paul Bunyon step but I didn’t have enough strength in my left thigh muscle to make it happen.

He replied, “You can do it, just do it”.

You know what? Shouting down the Nike brand mantra doesn’t miraculously make my left thigh able to perform a giant leap in mid-air while my right arm tries to support my pear shaped body (in other words, a big butt) by holding onto a ring.

If I could do that, I would already be a medal winning rings gymnast in the middle-aged category of the Olympics (if they had one).

He should know that I already tried my damnedest before I had to admit I was stuck in the first place. How in the heck did he do it with a dog on his back?

Thankfully my Eagle Scout hubby had brought a rope and he was at a place in the trail that he could set down the dog, make a loop in the rope and throw it down to me.

I put the loop around me the best I could with one hand holding onto the ring, while he braced himself against the rocks to pull.

When I said I was as ready as I would ever be, he dragged me up while I did virtually nothing to help since I couldn’t get a foot or handhold anywhere.

By the time I made it up to the landing where he was, I was a sight to behold. My pants had been pulled down as I was drug up, and I sustained a bloody scrape on my knee from getting onto the landing.

Just call me Edmund Hillary.

I was horrified to hear voices coming from below me, I rushed to compose myself before they came into sight, but thankfully they were struggling and not making good enough time to catch sight of me.

That was a blessing for both of us.

I redeemed my pride in a small way by making the next section by myself (it wasn’t hard in other words).

Before exiting the canyon, I rolled up the rope and slung it over my shoulder and walked out like a boss that had actually been rock climbing.

Like this.

200166657-001

Not from being drug up the rings trail, definitely not like that. Never mind that bloody knee.

The trail took us passed the rangers station where my hubby went to use the restroom (and probably check for a hernia) while I amused myself in the main area where the ranger sat.

He took one look at the rope and the knee, and he knew. He knew.

I blurted out, “you should warn people that the rings trail is no joke. It’s very hard!”

He looked me square in the eye and said, “little kids do it all the time”.

Really? That’s how we are going to play it?

I retorted, “That’s only because they have muscles and joints that are still brand new right out of the box ya know.”

Take that Ranger Smart Aleck.

As my hubby and I walked down through the parking lot and onto the road that lead back to our camp, I noticed a middle aged woman in very fashionable high heeled boots (I presumed they were taking a side trip from Las Vegas) getting ready to take on the rings trail.

Good luck with that.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Summer Without Makeup OR This is Me Kicking Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder’s Ass

Dear Diary,

Dearest, you took these journeys with me in posts this summer 2015, but pictures are worth a thousand words. This is me pushing beyond the fear, the doubt, and the pain to conquer them all.

If I can do it, anybody can.

In order of appearance; Crystal Cove (So Cali), Icehouse Trail, Mt. Baldy (So. Cali), Toroweap Overlook, North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona),  Pink Coral Sand Dunes (Utah), Slot Canyon (Utah), Pine Lake (Utah), Red Canyon (Utah), Side Canyon, North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Point Sublime, North Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona), Gold Bluffs Beach, (Northern Cali), Fern Canyon (Northern Cali), Cedar Glen, Mt. San Antonio (So. Cali), Havasu Canyon/Havasu Falls/Mooney Falls, All on the Havasupai Indian Reservation (Arizona).

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Until next time dearest.

Supai/Havasu Falls Trip – And How We Survived the Flash Flood of September 2015

Dear Diary,

There are moments in time that forever alter the course of your life. Some are planned, some sneak up on you like a thief. This one was the latter, but what this thief took was all of my preconceived notions about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), judgments of other peoples based on my own lifestyle bias, what a vacation may or may not be all about, and left me awash with a much different perspective. The chain of events leading up to our struggle for survival started out predictably.

Pre-Trip – We spent the night at Hualapai Lodge on Route 66 which is the last bastion of creature comforts before heading out the 60 miles of Indian Highway 18 to the Havasupai Hilltop Trailhead. Three notable things happened this night.

  1. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make a Native American smile back at me, or even acknowledge me passing through their world. I assumed they are still angry at Caucasians, and rightly so.
  2. There was an extremely loud and obnoxious group (hiding a little barky dog in one of their purses) staying at the hotel and I hoped they were not going down to Havasu Falls.
  3. My husband bought a hat at the gift shop and while checking us out, the Hualapai Native gave it an old Indian blessing that nothing bad would ever happen to my husband while wearing it. He didn’t really pay attention to it while I thought it was incredible, and took in every word and gesture. I was mad at him afterward for not taking it more seriously.

Day 1– We checked the weather one last time and noted a 30% chance of rain, with only a 10% chance the next day. We added rain gear to our daypacks.

We drove the 60 miles to Havasupai Hilltop early in the morning to try and get a jump on the desert heat. We had a 10 mile canyon trek ahead of us (8 miles to the Supai village, and another 2 miles to the campground) and had to drop off our backpacks at a designated area to be hauled down to camp by mules (there are no roads). We had daypacks full of water, food, and other essentials that wouldn’t fit into our backpacks. We were not traveling light as we felt it necessary to plan for any contingency during the 5 nights and 6 days we would spend in Havasu Canyon, which is on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon, a world away from convenience stores.

Us at the trailheadTrailhead2

The trek down was long, hot, and humid (it rained a little along the way), but incredibly beautiful. I was so glad we had not opted to take a helicopter flight down. The vastness of just this arm of the Grand Canyon is so magnificent, you begin to get a small glimpse of how insignificant a human is on it’s truly grand scale.

On the trailTrail1

From research on other blogs…I knew to be aware and steer clear of the mule trains that traveled back and forth along the trail. It is the only way for supplies and mail to be delivered to the village (some supplies are taken by helicopter).

One of these mules would be swept away and drown the next day (I learned from the owner/driver of this train who took our gear out later in the week).

Muletrain

We got our first glimpse of the blue-green water in which the Havasupai get their name before entering into the village. It is a part of nature that defies being accurately captured in any photograph.

The blue-green water (natives don’t say turquoise).

BlueGreenwater2

My hubby entering into the village just ahead of me. hubby into village

Did I see the animals described in other blogs? Yes. Horses/mules so painfully thin that every bone in their body was evident, and I wondered how they were still standing. It haunts me still. But I also saw well fed horses and mules. I saw a young man intentionally trip a black dog that was at a full run and it went tumbling along the road for at least 6 feet, but got up and kept running unhurt. I tried not to be mad about it. I’m still trying.

Did I see the trash others described in their blogs? Yes. But I also saw neat and tidy homes. I intentionally did not photograph either what I thought to be the good or the bad, as photos tend to capture only a tiny fraction of what may be a bigger picture. More on this later.

The landscape kept getting more indescribably beautiful as we hiked past the village. Waterfalls were everywhere.

Little Navajo Falls on the way to the campground. Littlenavajofalls

Next was Havasu Falls on the way to the campground. We stopped and refreshed ourselves here. Despite the photo I was able to capture with no people, the place was quite crowded. We all eyed each other as interlopers on a personal dream. In other words…not in a friendly way. Along with the landscape, this would change drastically in just a day.

Havasu Falls in all of it’s spectacular glory pre-flood. Havasufalls

The campground was much more crowded than I expected for mid-September, but we were able to get one of two adjoining campsites creek side. We left our daypacks there to hold it and hiked back up to the campground entrance to wait for our backpacks to arrive by mule train.

While we waited, the obnoxious group arrived (just as loudly and with much fanfair as in the morning at the hotel) and headed into the campground. I knew it. The most I could hope for now is that they would not be within earshot.

Our backpacks arrived and we headed back to our spot with our gear and to set up camp. Who had set up camp right next to us? You guessed it, the obnoxious group. The cigarette smoke was noxious, barking of the little yappy dog was endless, and the incredibly loud voices ensured the conversations of the 6 people would drown out the sound of the babbling creek.

I was really mad about it and vowed to find another campsite the next day. How could I know that every decision being made this day and the next would mold the fate of each of the people making it?

Our camp taken from the side so as to block the OP (obnoxious people).

ourcamp

That night I slept with an awareness of rain off and on all night. The next morning we awoke to a glorious cloudless sky. The rain from the previous night had left not a trace of change to the landscape, and this contributed to a false sense of security of events in our very near future.

Day 2 (Flash flood day) – We dressed for the warm weather and for our 7 mile round trip trek to both Mooney and ultimately to Beaver Falls. I emptied my daypack of the ten essentials (except water and a water filter for some inexplicable reason) for the first time all summer as I was tired of carrying a load from the day before. A mistake I was soon to deeply regret and will never make again. Luckily my hubby did not follow suit.

As we headed out I noticed a campsite was still available that I had found the day before (when this photo was taken) in the middle of where the creek split that was perfect and far away from the OP. me on the brdige

I knew with new people arriving this day (Monday, September 14, 2015) it wouldn’t last long, but my hubby objected at the amount of work it would take to move our camp. I was mad about it, but to placate me he said we could move if when we got back from the day’s adventures it was still available.

Another fate molding decision to be sure. In just a few hours the people that were on islands would have to be rescued by both Supai and federal rangers. The bridge I was standing on would be tossed aside by a raging river.

As we started out on our trek my hubby snapped this photo. I would have you note the deceptively blue skies.

trek

We proceeded onto the vertical corridor of various gangways, each slippery and requiring a different skill set. The warning should be duly noted by all proceeding down it’s treacherous throat.sign

I proceeded with the necessary caution especially due to the wet conditions from the waterfall mist.

MF1

And down…

MF2

Note the still cloudless blue sky…MF3

 

And down…

MF4

Finally we reached Mooney Falls. Taller than Niagara Falls, this is as close as we dared get.

Mooney Falls

We didn’t tarry here but to take the photo and we were on our way to Beaver Falls another 3 miles down the narrow canyon. We were blissfully ignorant of the clock already counting down on a wall of water headed our way.

Onward we went, crossing the creek several times throughout our little trek. Fatefully I snapped this photo of the place that would be impassable in short order, and trap us in the canyon for over 15 hours. This shoreline would disappear under a seven foot swell that would roar and rage as swiftly as an over fueled freight train. creek crossing

We stopped to take photos of flora and fauna along the way, had a leisurely lunch near Beaver Falls, not knowing that every one of these moments would waste what little time we had left to make it out of the canyon.

Big Horn sheep trailside..big horn sheep

We finally made it down to Beaver Falls where we talked with two other groups…one group would leave the area slightly before us, and one group of 5 beautiful young Asian Americans we would pass as they made their way to Beaver Falls as we were headed back. I would worry myself sick about these 5 people all night, not knowing that they were rescued by helicopter, along with the group that had left before us. We alone would be trapped in the canyon.

This is a photo of me being all dumb, fat, and happy in Beaver Falls. The first clap of thunder and our first indication of a storm would occur just after this photo was taken. We hadn’t noticed that the sun had quite suddenly disappeared. Beaver Falls

How could we know that it was already too late.

We took off running as the skies were lit up with bone chattering thunder and blinding lightening that seemed to happen simultaneously. The rain poured down making every step muddy and making the trail increasingly harder to find.

running

Then we saw brown muddy waterfalls forming all along the canyon walls, and terror gripped me as the full realization of what was happening hit. In the same millisecond I took in how narrow the canyon was.

canyonwater1

We ran faster still clinging to futile hope that we could make it out. The canyon walls became monstrous spouts of water.

We were becoming surrounded by brown water as seen in this photo. canyonfilling

A rescue helicopter passed us several times and at some point I knew they saw me, but never stopped. I didn’t know they were busy with the 5 downstream. What we did know at that point is that it was up to us to save ourselves.

My hubby’s inner boy scout kicked in and we made our way further upstream where there was higher ground, but not high enough. We reached a point where we had to cross the rising water to get to a knoll my husband has spotted. I would not be more terrified than when he directed me to a point that he felt was safe to enter and I dropped into a hole with water up to my neck.

As I struggled to get my footing and felt the water taking me with it, I screamed for my husband and he was able to grab the hand I had held out and pulled me back and up to where he was while I got footing to keep following him. We held hands to steady each other and finally made it to the other side. We later learned from a Supai ranger that we should have held onto each other’s shoulders. Swift water rescue was not something I had learned for my summer of backpacking.

We reached the high point and settled for a minute to watch the water below. It continued to rise until nothing was recognizable. As it rose it started foaming like a mad horse charging blindly through the canyon. Then we saw debris. Lots of it. Huge logs and tree limbs and even cut lumber (later we would realize this was parts of picnic tables and bridges).

We sat there helplessly watching as the world transformed. I’m not sure if I withdrew into my poncho to retain body heat or to distance myself from the grim picture before me. ponchome

Always a person of action my husband suggested we move further down the trail to see if the water was passable.

When we came to the water’s edge, I stuck my six foot stick into the water and it disappeared. The waters edge kept collapsing into the roiling brown river that moved up and down like a swift moving canyon serpent devouring everything in it’s path.

To enter into it would have been suicide.

We returned to our vantage point and took stock of our situation. We looked for anything to take shelter under. Even though it had stopped raining (temporarily as it turned out), the river kept rising.

My enterprising hubby had noticed an animal den and we went back down to find it and see if we had to fight an animal for it

Luckily it was empty and we proceeded to move in and make it our own. It would be our home for the next 15 hours. And even though we were wet, cold, hungry and tired, we were thankful to have it.  caveme

I had 15 hours to think about the events leading up to this moment. We had made judgments about a 10% chance of rain based on our So. Cali knowledge (which means no rain), and we were paying for it.

I said prayers for God to preserve our stuff so I could someday have warm clothes and food. Then I realized that our ordeal was not over and I prayed for the rain to stop and the water to subside before I had to spend another night here. Then I just prayed that we would live. I also prayed for the animal that lived here to not return. It didn’t.

Our view before it got dark…cave view

At some point during our long night it did stop raining. We had to exit our cave about once an hour to stretch our cramped legs and to check the sky.

I pondered if the Indian blessing my husband’s hat played a part in our being able to survive thus far.

At one point I noticed that there were little points of light twinkling in the jungle outside our cave. I realized I was seeing fireflies. I hadn’t seen them since I was a little girl spending a summer with my Daddy in Oklahoma. I had forgotten about them since then. For a moment I was transported back in time and was with the Daddy that I miss so much. Such a magical gift at such a frightful time. I will remember it forever.

It was a long night and my hubby and I worked hard to make little jokes in an attempt to make the other laugh. Like me telling him I was looking forward to my spaghetti being rehydrated by the time we got back. We shared two packages of cheese crackers my hubby had squirrelled away in his daypack. God bless him.

Finally, the sky began to become light.

Day 3, 4, and 5 – When there was enough light to make out footing, we headed back up to our vantage point to check the water levels. In another answer to prayer, the water had receded but was still muddy.

We used our staffs to check water levels and made our way back to Mooney Falls and the vertical jungle gym that was now muddy in addition to wet.

We were tired so it was tough going back up, but we did it. I had imagined during the night that the whole camp would erupt in applause when they saw us making our way out of the canyon. We would be reported as missing by the OP when they noticed we had never returned.

The reality was much different.

There was a Federal Ranger filming the canyon at the top of Mooney Falls where we made our grand entrance. He was nonplussed at our appearance and seemed much more concerned with the landscape. We told him about the 5 young people we were worried were still in the canyon and he made a note of it.

Later I would put together when I heard that 9 people had been rescued out of the canyon. That would account for the party of 4 that left before us, and the 5 youngsters downstream from us.The ranger still sent down 2 others to double check that nobody else was left between Mooney and Beaver Falls.

He said, “The flash flood happened so quickly.” I thought that was curious and still wonder why he would tell us something that was so obvious we already knew. Don’t get me wrong…everyone entering the back country needs to take responsibility for their own actions. Period. But after I returned home and read that seven canyoneers  were killed by a flash flood in Keyhole Canyon “despite Ranger warnings of imminent flash flooding” I thought back on what the ranger said.

Were they really warned though? I wonder. I can’t help but doubt they would have gone in knowing that flash flooding was imminent. We wouldn’t have.

As we made our way through the campground we didn’t really notice the destruction as much as we noticed it was eerily empty. I dreaded seeing what had happened to our campsite.

Another prayer answered. Our campsite was one of only a couple creek side that was left untouched. The flood waters had eaten up shoreline before and after our tent but mysteriously went around our tent. Not mysterious to me. God had answered my frivolous prayer.

The OP’s had been also spared but were silently and quickly bugging out. They obviously didn’t report us missing as they never even looked our way. I didn’t care anymore if they stayed or not. I was just happy to be alive and to be able to get into dry warm clothes and eat!

This is how close the water came.closeness

We spent the rest of the day eating and sleeping. A few die hard campers returned and we learned that the camp had been evacuated and most campers bugged out that morning.

The route to Beaver Falls was closed for the duration of our stay.

The next day we offered to the Supai Rangers to clean up the trash around Havasu Falls, and from then on worked with the humble, hard working Ranger Ron who taught us the proper swift water rescue technique.

Here he is already at work on repairs. The two rangers to everything by hand.

Ranger Ron

We cleaned up Havasu Falls and then took a dip in the waters that were slowly turning back to it’s normal color. As if nothing had happened. The black dog I had seen being havasufallsafterabused earlier found me and we became fast friends.

As I watched Ranger Ron and other natives interact, I realized that I had completely misjudged their “niceness”. Their communications are quick and direct. Not filled with niceties or superfluous language. Nor do they feel the need to apologize for it.

We walked around the camp and took in the devastation. The zip line was still up from rescuing people from the island where I had thought I wanted to move. zipline

The campsites like ours just downstream from us. damage

The rangers have their work cut out for them for awhile…

damage2

My hubby’s victory pose over the flash flood of Havasu Falls Sept. 2015.

victorypose

On day 5 we rose early and took the helicopter out to the “hilltop”.

I left a much different person than who I went down the canyon as.

FOMO (fear of missing out)? Never again. Each journey is the one we are meant to travel, not the dream we build from other’s experiences.

As I sat in the helicopter waiting to take off I couldn’t help but wonder, how would we fare if our lives/community were laid bare for hundreds of travelers a day from all over the world to judge us based on their egocentric standards? I doubt that our lives would be as picturesque as we would like to think.

We don’t have the right to judge other peoples here or anywhere. Their world is not ours, and if we have been granted the privilege to travel through it, we must focus on the experience it leaves us with, not the one we bring with us.

As we parted, Ranger Ron told us we were welcome on Havasupai land anytime.

I had an incredible experience and it was a value added bucket list trip for sure, but I think once was enough.

Until next time dearest.

 

The Next, Next Big Thing

Dear Diary,

I seem to be sensing a pattern that some of my poorest decisions are made on the spur of the moment. Without THINKING them through. This last one was SO poor, it has cost me my next big thing.

What could have possibly been so bad that it would cost me so much? What could be so bad that it could not have been easily fixed for something so important?

Easy. Blisters.

I had gone to the city of Huntington Beach to enjoy my great nephew’s first birthday party, and to help my niece get ready for it. I finished early so decided to head down to the beach and do some training for The Lost Coast trek, which was supposed to happen at the end of August.

That in itself was not the poor decision. The poor decision was that I wore flimsy little fashionable flip flops to walk 10 miles. The rest is history.

The half-dollar sized blisters on the balls of both of my feet have been a serious bear to deal with. They formed under the hard part of my skin and have taken forever to heal. I won’t add a photo, I wouldn’t want to see it.

Whether it be God saving me from something worse that may have happened on the trek, or just an unfortunate series of events (as Lemony Snicket would say), the window for completing the Lost Coast solo has closed for this summer. That’s the bad news.

But here’s the good news…the Next, Next Big Thing is upon me! And for this one my hubby is going (’cause it’s on his bucket list). Next week we will be heading out to the Havasupai Indian Reservation (in the Grand Canyon) to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water”, and you can certainly see why…(none of these photos are my own but I will have some soon!). Havasu_FallsThe calcium carbonate in the water is what gives it such an unusual color, and is ultimately why it is one of the most unique places to visit in the world.

The logistics of getting there is not easy.  I had to start way back in February to try and get a permit. It takes a bit of patience, since the Native Americans are inundated with calls (they open up the new year of reservations in February) and when they are done answering the phones for they day…they are done. So after 4 days of calling I finally got through and the only days they still had open were for September, which worked fine for me.

Permit number….check.

Being from LA though, it has been hard not to be able to go somewhere electronic (as in online) to reassure myself that my reservation number is good to go. This method of reserving doesn’t exist. The Havasupai do everything the old fashioned way. Which means I have to squelch my urges to reconfirm once a month (no I’m not obsessive compulsive, but I hang out in that neighborhood).

I am forced to admit here that yes, I have called to check (because once the permits are all gone, answering the phone becomes a bit more predictable) and they patiently laugh and tell me, “no we don’t want to check your number, the fact that you have one means your reservations are good.

Cool.

So next weekend we will be heading out to the old Route 66 out of Kingman Arizona, then a 2 hour ride down a dirt road, then park and hike down the 10 mile trail to the village of Supai, then another 2 miles along Havasu Creek to the campground where we will be making our home for a week. Supai is the only village left in the entire USA that still gets their mail by horseback. The tribe turned down the US governments offer to build a road down the canyon walls to the village. Consequently this little dot on a map remains remote. Very remote.

And all of the work will have been worth it to enjoy the five very different waterfalls. No matter how hard they may be to get to.

10981544_10203661697243340_6533061748091159209_nYou know me by now dearest, and will have known how much research I have already done to prepare for any known challenges.

Except one.

After having read blog after blog about this place I am resigned to the necessity of steeling myself for the inevitability of what we in LA would call animal abuse. The long steep trek in and out of the canyon is the only way to get supplies in and out of the area (including trash) so the horses who perform these jobs are driven hard. There are photos of sores from saddles oozing blood. Eeeeeeek!

Several of the blogs mention a horse being pushed off of the canyon edge by it’s owner in a fit of temper, and every tourist for months had to walk by it’s rotting carcass. Oh God help me, this is going to be tough. I’m such a softy for animals. There are also dog packs that roam the reservation freely (and I fully intend to take dog biscuits with me because they can be quite thin) and are not shown the affection we shower our dogs with (eeeeeeeek again!).

But I also reverently respect the ways of other peoples. So I will suck it up and try not to let anything I notice ruin my trip.

Nuff said on that. Let’s get back to the good stuff….

Mooney Falls

So with permit number in hand (geeez it’s hard not to be able to print something out) and pack on back…we will be heading out to our next destination off the beaten path.

Oh and while you’re at it…can you say a prayer for no rain? The canyon is narrow and if it rains hard or for any length of time, flash flooding is not only possible, but probable. Plus our waterfalls will look like this…

havasu_flood

So no rain dancing for the next three weeks ok? But then again…the adventure doesn’t start until the unplanned happens right?

Have you been there dearest? If so…what should I know before I go?

Until next time…

Gold Bluffs – A Beach Off the Beaten Path

Dear Diary,

Oh my goodness. How do I begin to describe a trek with sea mammals, land mammals, live animals, dead animals, and 10 miles of mostly inaccessible beach all served up on a plate of adventure? Easy.

Gold Bluffs Beach.

The deadline I gave myself for The Next Big Thing had to be moved up a month…which means I am almost in the month it was moved up to (August). Whoa there time, I’m not ready!!!!!!

I have yet to spend a night with all of my new fancy shmancy backpacking equipment. Or for that matter even hike in it. In the wild. By myself. With wild animals.

So there are many questions to be answered, nonetheless is the top one on the list – Can I even walk 8 miles a day in the sand?

I had an ulterior motive in camping on Gold Bluff’s Beach in the Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. I had to know the answer to that question. If the answer was no, why bother with any of the rest of it?

If the answer was no, I would simply dig a hole in said sand, and bury myself in it. Because where am I without hope? I didn’t want that to happen, so failure was not an option. Or so my personal coach self says.

The Lost Coast Trail (my next big thing) is just south of Gold Bluffs Beach, so I set aside one of our 3 days there to make an 8 mile trek (4 miles there and 4 miles back) along the beach.

I set out with the 10 essentials which consisted of my navigation equipment (compass, GPS on my iPhone, and iPhone charger this time), safety equipment (the bear spray I had forgotten the day before), lunch, layer of clothing (a puffy vest), matches, flashlight, sunglasses and cap, 3 liters of water, emergency shelter (one of those .69 cent foil looking things all folded up to about the size of a wallet in plastic, I have never actually opened it), and parachute line (I have no idea what that’s for) on my back and a great deal of optimism.

You have to have optimism when your only survival skill is finding parking in Los Angeles.

I also brought 3 different cameras. If I didn’t make it back, at least there would be some good film footage of whatever ate me.

I took off down the beach with some familiar companions; the very vocal personal trainer self, who keeps me focused from distracted by shiny objects self and whiny that’s good enough self.

Yes, they all reside inside my head.

The pain from my dark passenger (that’s what I call my Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement, formerly known as the Lupus Link) is real. I wondered if it would rear it’s ugly head, but it usually waits until after the personal trainer self has gone. I was feeling pretty darn good after my trek in the Redwoods the day before.

And Jesus of course. Jesus is real too. He’ll prove it once again on this trek.

I looked ahead to my destination…the end of the beach. Way down there where the land curves out to meet the sea.  Or 4 miles towards it anyway. I was giving myself 8 hours to make it happen. I told my daughter to not call the cavalry until after 10 hours.

Not that easy to discern where the end of the beach might be in this photo, but you get the idea, don’t you dearest? Destination

The weather in Northern California in July is simply divine. A perfect 79 or so degrees and with a little cloud cover, who could want for more?

Besides, getting to spend the day alongside my favorite (the ocean) would mean I could handle a lot worse than this. Ok, maybe a little worse than this.

Within just a mile or two, all sign of human footprints were long gone. When I looked behind me, the only thing I saw were my own. Now we’re talking.

footprints

Gold Bluffs Beach is only accessible from a few places, none of them are easy to get to (ok, 6 miles down a dirt road is relatively easy, but I mean by LA standards), and those were gone once I left the campground. I didn’t expect to meet anything or anyone along my way, but I would be pleasantly wrong in short order.

Another noticeable change was the cloud cover was completely gone. It was then that I realized I had not applied nor packed any sunscreen. DANG IT! That is one of the 10 essentials with sunglasses and hat. This would be extremely problematic since I am as fair as fair comes. I already have a million sun kisses (freckles) from tangling with the sun in my youth. I have no wish to burn today.

And there is a second, more deadly reason. That pesky dark passenger gets easily awakened by the sun. I DO NOT WANT THE DARK PASSENGER AWAKENED! The dark passenger does permanent damage when it is fully awake, and it is too hard to get it back to sleep.

I couldn’t bear to go back though. A lot was riding on this trek, and I should be replicating what I would be facing on the Lost Coast Trail. I wouldn’t have a camp to go back to then.

So I did the only thing I could think of, break out my puffy vest and drape it over the arm that was taking on the most sun. It was sleeveless so wearing it was out of the question. But I was on-trend.

I let down my hair to save my neck, and carried on. Soon the sun would be directly overhead though.

I noticed something in the water as I walked along. I stopped and waited to see if it would come back up…and it did. Up and down, up and down, over and over. Only skimming the surface to move farther up and down the shallow water. I thought at first it was a seal, but it was too small.

It was a sea otter. Oh my gosh what a treat! His little head finally stayed up long enough to get a photo, but not long enough to zoom in! Click for a closer look. Aviary Photo_130832156696986887

This completely took my mind off of any other little thing and shot me full of joy adrenaline. There were about 3 or 4 of them I think. I stayed and watched them hunting for awhile, they need to eat 30% of their body weight a day to survive. That’s a lot of crabs! The evidence of their handiwork was strewn all along the beach. I picked up a large claw that had just washed up from being discarded by the otters and packed it away for my daughter’s bf.

I’m a giver that way.

So merrily on my way I went. Then distracted by shiny objects self and the dreaded I must save the planet self made themselves known by taking on a peculiar habit I was unable to break for the entire trek. And that was picking up any and all trash that I found washed up on the beach and place it far above the high tide line.

Plastic shall be the death of Earth. Oh sorry…that was I must save the planet self butting in on my post. Ahem. Moving on.

Evidently this new habit was just fine with my personal coach self. It never said a word, but I detected the whiny that’s good enough self faintly and prudently protesting that I probably should be saving all of those steps for the trek. Poor “whiny”, nobody ever listens to her.

I was up to 3 miles now and to my left I sensed something larger than a sea otter popping up regularly, but every time I turned to get a better look, it was gone. I finally took my camera and while still facing forward, managed to catch my curious companion in the shot. A California harbor seal! Again, no time to zoom on this one. Seal and arrow

As it turned out, this little seal would follow me for the whole rest of my day, but for now I just felt blessed that I got to see another ocean mammal on my adventure. I hadn’t expected such happy luck. When I would look over he would dive, but very soon he realized I was no threat.

In fact, I’m sure he thought I was the slowest swimmer in the world. Curiosity got the best of him though, he couldn’t let me out of his sight. I loved that.

The sun was straight down on me now. I moved the vest back and forth over each arm, trying to temper what I knew was coming in short order.

On my right I saw two humans a little farther up. I could see they had spotted me and had walked into my path, clearly waiting on me.

Well now. I hadn’t banked on this either. I finally made my way up to the couple and we exchanged hellos. They asked if I had come from Fern Canyon. I said no, I had come from a little further down the beach at Gold Bluffs Beach Campground. They said they had braved a long treacherous descent down the cliff from the Coast Road to get to this point looking for Fern Canyon. I told them they could get there from here, but that it would be about a 6 mile round trip from this point. In the sand.

This was clearly not good news for the female of the couple. After all, they were at least my age and had already had a long steep descent and a bit of a walk to get to this point on the beach. The male half was determined to see it though.

I asked them why didn’t they just drive down there?

They both looked at me with gaping mouths. The man said, “You can get there by car?”. I said yes and gave them the instructions. They were downright giddy.

Here’s where the Jesus part comes in. I blurted out, “you wouldn’t happen to have any sunscreen would you?”, without even thinking. This is so far out of character for me, it couldn’t have BEEN me. I can’t ask for help normally. I just can’t. I don’t know why.

The woman said, “yes I do” and promptly handed me some Neutrogena sunscreen out of her purse (yes, she trekked with a purse…I can respect that).

I was saved. Just in time to hopefully keep the dark passenger in check. Thank you God for that. I wasn’t greedy, but chose to take just enough to cover my arms. I would take my chances with the rest.

We cheerfully parted ways, each of us getting what we needed just in the nick of time. And people say there is no divine intervention. I most humbly disagree.

I carried on, knowing that my destination was just ahead. Then I came upon something so curious for a city girl. I didn’t know what it was at first but quickly realized it was the hide of an elk. Elk Carcass

My city girl self immediately said “yuck”!  But my silver lining self quickly followed up with “just think what it looked like before it was reduced to being Davy Crockett’s blanket though”. I love her.

About 20 feet down the beach I found a couple of it’s rib bones and a couple of it’s spinal vertebrae bleached clean and white from the sand, water, and sun. I packed those up for my scientist daughter.

I told you I was a giver.

And off I went, picking up random trash, and checking for Sammy the seal along the way. Yes, I named him. Don’t tell anyone.

I noticed a large (and I mean large) white thing on the beach. Not moving. No threat. So I approached with caution. All the while I could hear my whiny that’s good enough self  saying “why, why, why?”. Faintly.

Poor thing, nobody ever listens to her.

When I got up to it, I knew it had to be a ginourmous fish of some sort but like city girl self said, “how in the world would I know what this is?”. I was both horrified and intrigued at the same time. I took a photo of it to be identified later. You know, in case I should ever run across something like this again. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Turns out it is a Triggerfish. Who knew? I would have put my pack down as a size comparison, but um…no way. Not in this life.triggerfish

Before I knew it, my handy dandy little GPS app chimed out…4 MILES.

Yahoo! I made it! My ankles and knees were definitely feeling the effort of trekking in sand, but I was good to go otherwise. Fatigue was not yet a factor but I was beginning to be a little weary. No sweat. Time to turn around and go back.

Then my personal coach self demanded to be heard. “Look how close the end of the beach is or at the very least, an impassable bunch of boulders. You mean to tell me you are going to quit when you can go another mile and be able to say you did it?”. End of the beach

Whiny that’s good enough self said, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I only agreed to 8 miles there and back. Not 10 miles”.

“Fine. Then you don’t get to eat lunch.” my personal coach self fired back. Gosh, she can be such a bitch.

But all of my selves like lunch, so onward I went.

Almost there, I noticed a large rock that provided some shade on a meadow next to the beach. It was the only shade I had seen all day. I headed toward it to eat my lunch and give my legs and feet a little break. Rock by beach

As I climbed over the small high tide bank and toward the rock I saw something coming into view that seemed to be staring back at me. Something large. Very large. What the heck?

I grabbed onto my pepper spray and tried to grab my courage, but couldn’t find it.

I wanted the shade damn it. I cautiously moved forward, it did not move. But it was looking at me.

As I was able to see it a little more clearly, I believed it to be a Roosevelt Elk laying down in the meadow. Don’t be impressed, I learned it on the internet while researching the area.Elkandrock

I dropped to my knees in awe. I didn’t want to scare it away, or be any closer for that matter…this thing is huge.

As it turned out, kneeling down where I was turned out to be quite the error in judgment. I was in a sea of some of the worst stickers I have ever experienced. They were in my knees and the lower part of my legs I was sitting on, not to mentioned what happened when I tucked my shoes under my butt. Not good.

I needed the shade more than ever.  Luckily the sense of awe helped temper the screaming pain suffered by the stickers in my skin through the “moisture wicking” paper thin pants I had on.

I stood up into a bent position and slowly but doggedly “made for the shade” if you will.

When I finally got there I looked over and realized there was a herd of them eating and relaxing in the meadow. Oh my gosh. herd

There were more to the right, but to get a good photo of the entire herd I would have had to advance. Nope. Not going to do that.

I needn’t have been worried about scaring them. They were entirely indifferent.

How many people can say they lunched with a wild herd of Roosevelt Elk on the beach? My personal coach self can….and does. She never lets me forget that if it wasn’t for her pushing me (and denying me lunch), this wouldn’t have happened. She is intolerable. But right.

What magic!

I soon enough finished pulling those wicked stickers out, eating my apple and half a PB&J sandwich, and was back on my way. The end was in sight.

The boulders were indeed impassable, in fact where I climbed over to get to the impassable rocks was probably not accessible during high tide. I caught a glimpse of the shadow of myself when I was climbing to get a photo of what was on the other side.

I had already gone native. In just a few hours. I had completely forgotten that I’d picked up some pelican feathers and stuck them in my cap. Pocohantus

The view on the other side. Beautiful.

beachonotherside

But I had to go. Even my personal coach self was satisfied.

The end of the beach gave me a glorious send off.

Roughsurf

I looked over toward the meadow to say a mental good-bye to the elk when I nearly came out of my skin. One of the elk had moved directly onto the beach. I’m not going to lie, it scared me a little. Elkonthebeach

Maybe she was just bidding me goodbye in a glorious fashion as well. Thank you for that Jesus.

There came a truck driving down the beach gathering drift wood and unless they have an exclusive agreement with the State/National park, that would be illegal. That’s not what made me really really mad though. In many cases, the trash I had so neatly piled above the high tide line was right next to the drift wood they were collecting, but they never bothered themselves with the trash. Even now all I can do is sigh. I wish I had brought a trash bag so I could have taken it myself. Maybe I’ll make that the 11th essential. Never mind.

I was gong to get mad about the tire tracks ruining my photo shots, then my silver lining self pointed out what a gift (from my trekking partner Jesus no doubt) they were. They were so much easier to walk on. I thanked him but didn’t use them. I wouldn’t have them on the Lost Coast Trail.

If not for Sammy, the trek back would have been rough, but he was ever there. Sometimes swimming ahead, sometimes just staring at me while bobbing up and down or diving into a breaking wave. But never still.  Always moving. Which helped me do the same…er samey. What the fatigued mind comes up with is frightening isn’t it?Aviary Photo_130832169777237671

My little otter (no name) was on the beach this time, digging for sand crabs. He didn’t appreciate being interrupted.SeaOtteronbeach

When I finally headed into camp, I was elated, but more than a little sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon that I was not only able to do the 8 miles, I could do 10 on my first try. But I was sad that an end had come to a most magical day.

I handed out my “gifts”, enjoyed a much earned hot meal, and headed back out to get a closer look at the sun lower itself into the sea.

And I gave tribute.

Sunset Until next time dearest.