For me, 2019 brought a big shift. In the fall of 2018 I knew that I needed to make a change. I had resigned my management position at McCarthy Lodge, at the end of the summer season, but it wasn’t quite clear what I should do next. Should I look for another seasonal summer Alaskan gig? Or should I look to do something else entirely? Was I going to continue to live my nomadic lifestyle, spending summers in Alaska and winters in California? To complicate matters, my health had suddenly taken a bad turn, back in the fall of 2018, and problems in my gut had led to me losing a great deal of weight (which was alarming because I’m already a skinny dude). I was feeling extremely low energy, to the point where a simple, short walk just about did me in for the day. At that point, all options were on the table.
My writing has been going pretty well so I had to drag myself away for a nice hike. I was helped in this by Paul, a photographer friend of mine, who is working on a photo book of abandoned places like the mines in this area.
Long day of hiking yesterday, then back home to the cabin, late, where I took a sponge bath. Not a stitch on my bare back and wouldn’t you know it? One of the locals came around for a visit, right up to the porch. I ducked down and peaked at her though the window, a mama bear with a cub, the cub playing in one of the (many) trees in my yard. I snapped a quick pic while she ambled away. Then I quickly put some pants on.
I’m mostly on foot, out here, in terms of navigating myself to and from places like the mail shack or the Saloon or wherever the bonfire may be. Hence I’m always on the lookout for a ride. On Saturday I got a lift in the bed of my buddy’s pickup truck. He had taken out the passenger seat and besides that the dog looked comfortable, so I jumped in back
I wrote up a humorist piece (attempting to channel a bit of Melville) as a therapeutic way to bring myself some resolution after my rather harrowing three-thousand mile road trip when the malevolent tire that wrenched itself free from its axle and attacked my Fiat 500. I wrote this piece to be read/heard, and I read it at the Thursday Open Mic Night at the Golden Saloon here in McCarthy. It was well-received by some, but the venue wasn’t very suitable to read a long piece like this — but I had a good time. I thought that I would repost it here. It’s been written to be read/heard, but I think that it should fair fairly well on the page/screen. The greatest inconvenience will probably be that I italicized words or phrases that I wanted to emphasize, in the reading.
I was enjoying a nice drive, heading west on Highway 16 in central British Columbia, when a tire flew at me, loosed from a vehicle that was heading the opposite direction. My car is fucked but thankfully there were no injuries. If anyone has any advice on handling auto insurance claims while traveling abroad, I’d love to hear it.
I’m slowly working my way north in my subcompact Fiat 500, which I converted into a little camper car, of sorts. I stripped it down to the bare bones, took out all the seats with the exception of the drivers seat (which I admit to giving consideration, however short-lived, to the idea of taking it out as well), and I stuffed it full of stuff with just enough room for a sleeping area where I can stretch out long-ways on the side of the car that formerly housed the passenger-side seat.
I’m trying to make the most of my remaining time here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I start out tomorrow and in the meantime, I’m packing and getting the car ready for the trip up north to Alaska, but I try to squeeze in some walking and hiking time. I was hiking a few weeks back with an activist friend, Nick, a union organizer. I was introducing him to Fall Creek State Park, which is walking distance from my house. Fall Creek is also my go-to trail because apart from being so close and accessible it’s also not very heavily trafficked. It’s got all the splendor you’d expect from a Redwood forest — towering, serene trees, a barrage of gorgeous greenery, and a stillness that serves to refresh the civilization weary soul.
On the occasion of the expiration and intended renewal of my passport.
After a morning meadering through Arches, I drove an hour or so, to Canyonlands National Park. Whereas Zion had been overrun with buses and cameras and all their many peoples, and while Bryce and Arches were pleasant but still felt a bit crowded from time to time, Canyonlands was like hitting the paydirt of personal solitude. Of the four Parks I had inadvertently save the best for last. Canyonlands was my fave.
After viewing the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, I drove for a while and spent that night at a rest stop on the Interstate, which probably doesn’t sound particularly appealing, especially since I was sleeping in my tiny Fiat 500 (converted into a little camper-car), but the views from the rest stop were quite phenomenol. At this point, I was in the heart of some of the grand scenery of southern Utah — and most significantly, I was well off the beaten path, so I could take in the views the way the writer Edward Abbey and other writers and desert monastics have always talked about: as a reflective, solitary endeavor.
After my day at Zion National Park, I was a bit uneasy. Zion was completely overrun with tourists. I couldn’t even find an open parking place at the Visitor’s Center, even though the parking lot capacity was like a shopping mall. I had three more Parks to visit, and I wondered: would they all be crowded out with homo spaiens? I spend my summers in McCarthy, in the middle of what is the largest National Park in North America. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is also fairly empty, and I often have the sense that I’ve got the whole damn Park to myself. Was I just spoiled by the unspoiled Alaskan wilderness?
A few months ago, in early October, I took a road trip through southern Utah, visiting four National Parks along the way: Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands. It was the beginning of an extended trip. The plan was to start at my home base in California, then a week of driving through southern Utah, then on to South Dakota to visit family, then on the way back visit a few friends in Oregon. I was pretty low energy at the time. Due to my summer tummy troubles, I wasn’t able to eat much, but for the first leg of the trip I felt well enough to be able to soak in the stunning southwestern scenery.