Archive for August, 2010

I am back at harbin once again and feel like i have entered a different world – one that is more urbane, prosperous and polished. and when i sat in my tent and at my picnic table in that national forest campground outside Gasquet this is what i yearned for. i felt so far removed from the mainstream and that my life was to be on the edge of the road and i would crawl into the forest and reside in there. and i have written about harbin before – but how it feels to you depends on the direction from which you come.
I have previously arrived from the city, twice from the bay, and once after a day in seattle but had been out in small town zone. Now i come from the oregon coast and northern california and rather than being a retreat from the mainstream it is a way of entering back in – cars (mainly shiny and newer) fill the parking lot, i sit in a cushioned chair and earlier sat on a lawn. last night i watched a movie. and there is the kitchen, the cafe, the restaurant and the store so easily at hand. and from my tent site a short walk to the toilets which are individual affairs. and of course there are the pools, a place to soak. And the people seem so well dressed when they are wearing their clothes, cute pants and dresses and tank tops – first hand and quality made. And this is not just harbin, but the california of my mind, that represents this change – though this california is not the whole state, and was not many of the northern towns though i saw it more and more as we moved on south, out of the grey coast zone.

And this morning as i sat in the garden after a long soak and drinking an excellent americano i thought what i different world i was in that where i stood waiting for the bus outside elk prairie campground up on the coast 24 hours before waiting for the bus to pull off the highway in the cool grey morn waiting on the on ramp from the scenic parkway, with very little else around, i had packed up early and walked by the open land then stood on the road saying goodbye to the redwood trees, feeling that it would be a long time before i saw them again. And then i sat on the corner waiting, had set up with del norte transit to stop at the location the previous afternoon before i left crescent city and decided to camp down there.

And on the way down i passed through so many zones – that now seem like a blur – the greyness of northern humboldt, the greyhound bus, the heat and sun coming out near garberville – that strange hippie town that usually agitates me – but this time did not lash out as we passed through quick, the 101 as it becomes a divided highway, mcdonalds in willits as we stopped for lunch, two hours on the edge of ukiah – eating a burrito at a mexican store and resto across the street from the bus stop – lake transit to lakeport which looks like a cute town, then down the west side of the lake on highway then twisty road – so much not written here.

How easily it is to shift between worlds and i feel that this is fantasy land, make-believe, pretend – not only the retreat center per se, but this whole stretch of california extending for over a hundred miles in each direction both north and south of the bay. It is the land of luxury, of the boho vibe, of good living, organic foods and new age thought but of course not for all but that is what i see here.

But back to up the road – and now this afternoon i feel in a different world than i did before yesterday on the edge of ukiah waiting 2 hours for the lake transit bus – greyhound was late, so missed the connection and that felt so different than the same time the day before as i got on the bus to leave crescent city,

and the day before as i sat in the campground outside gasquet, and the day before as i walked highway 199, as the day before when i sat in the sun in the redwoods,

and the day before when i arrived there after a long trip and had just recently set up my tent and the sun emerged and i was so happy to be off the coast,

and the day before in brookings – i think i was heading back to the campground from town, but that day (which was just over a week ago) was not so different from the day before as i had done similar things but felt very different inside)

and that was different than the day before when i arrived in brookings at that time, and the day before at humbug,

and the day before eating fish and chips in bandon

and the day before on the cold cape, and so on, and between each of those moments at around three, so much had transpired. but now i think i will be here through the weekend, a bit of time to live life more slow.

now i have been at harbin for several days and all that seems but a blur – i have more to write about my time here but somehow the words will not come out – i have indulged – soaked in the pools, layed on cushions watching movies on the big screen, lounged in a comfy chair for hours on end, eaten full healthy tasty meals, gone to yoga a couple of times and more, but somehow this seems empty to me and i feel more disconnected than when i was out on the road and here in the coffee shop in middletown i feel more real. And the world of the harbins and the nice shiny vibe does not seem like the world i am meant to live in – though i appreciate it’s comforts and luxuries that abound. But it is a retreat center and feels cut off like a fantasy land, but one where i really do not fit in. And i have felt old emotions and feelings coming back to me – another person arising within.

it is more than harbin per se that produced this change in me – coming here that day on the greyhound bus with the grouchy driver, and the highway that became a divided road, and once out of the grey zone, the buildings and cars that were new and prosperous so it seems – but also the division seemed more real. and i felt a loss of the friendliness of the grey zone though i still encounter it in many places.

And it is a stasis and being where i feel i do not belong, and i feel disconnected and an outsider here. While that is often the case when i am not in physical movement, there is something more going on here – something that i cannot yet write about. but this is a time to process the experiences of the past few months and remove another veil that covers my eyes.

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I sit in my tent in the grassy flats campground in the six rivers recreation area of the national forest and wonder why i paid for a campsite last night. or do i? for i was exhausted when i arrived here after 7pm, and felt that i could move on no more, and did not trust my decision-making to stake out a backwoods campsite for the night.

the land is do different here – hot and sunny and dry. I still hear the waters of the smith river, but my tent is on rocky ground surrounded by spindly madrone (arbutus) trees, the seem so thin with their peeling red bark.

now it is morning and i do not know what to do – i feel that i have really crossed the line this time, sitting alone in the national forest, five miles up the road from the tiny town of gasquet. and i do not know where to go or understand this road i am on. it’s like i have taken the final step outside, and do not know how to make my way back – so what if i am a bit crazy i want to say, don’t understand why much of the world lives its way, and here wondering how i will survive in a landscape that does not like people like me.

Yesterday i left the grandeur of the redwoods about 11am, i woke up to the sun and did not want to go – but there is the two day limit on the hiker sites, and it was time for me to leave. i talked for a bit with a biker who pulled in, one of the many who lives 6 months of the year on his bike, moving around from place to place, carving out his own kind of life – for i know he would not fit in with regular society. and he had an attitude, one of getting back at people, but seemed to be accepting of who he was.
i walked to the store, a mini-mart- a mile up the road, and hung out there drinking americanos from the espresso bar and cheap deep fried burritos from the “deli” as i made a decision on where to go – had missed the bus that would take me inland to grants pass, medford, or klamath falls, and none of those places appealed to me would i go back to crescent city and camp and on monday when busses run, catch one down the coast?

Harbin has been calling me, a place to be, but was not sure if it was the devil tempting me. and more redwoods as i passed on down, but through an area, humbolt counrty, that i have avoided travelling through. and for a day or two i would be close to the ocean again.

so i decided to hitch out to gasquet, and find myself a campground or camping spot for a night or two. buses inland pass through every morning, and on Tuesday one goes out to the coast that will connect with others going south. but i cross the road and see a woman sitting there with a sign and all of her stuff – and she had alot of stuff – two pull trailers piled high with bags and crates for the two (more?) cats that travelled with her. Her sign said oregon – roseburg please, and as we talked i found out she had been sitting there for 26 hours or more – waiting for the lift to appear. she said old folks were the best, and talked on how she had been in the paper elsewhere, the lady on the side of the road. She told me i had a lot of stuff, but it was nothing compared to her load. Yes, she was crazy but nice and kind, a story to tell and a life to share and we chatted for a little while. i would have liked to talk longer (i think i might have seen her before elsewhere, but with the uniform that the road life leads to, it could have been somebody else) but we both needed to move on from where we were. and i recognized myself in her

i walked up ahead, but there was no place to stand without competing with her, so i crossed the road and said ok, i will go back out to the coast, but as i stood there for about 10 minutes, that direction began to feel so wrong to me, so i turned around and started walking against the traffic on the road, thinking there must be a place to stand though the sign said winding road – 5 miles – and in california that really does mean something.

so i walked and i walked and i walked all day – finally stopping in gasquet about 8 miles up the road and now the walk seems almost surreal – a haze and zone i was in outside myself, putting one foot in front of the other, at times taking my bag off to rest, walking that narrow winding road, with minimal shoulders in some places, and through rock slide zones, in the heat of the sun and burning my shoulders as i have removed my coat and long sleeves and am wearing only a tank top – and almost running out of water as well. actually it was the lack of water that made me push my way on up the road – for if i had enough i would have found a patch in the woods to camp out for the night a long way back. But i plowed on, the scenery beautiful, dryer and more a mountain fee, and i looked at the smith river down below, rushing down, or some pools in deep rock formations where people were jumping off cliffs. and the beauty of the land beyond the coastal zone spoke to me so loud and clear – a very different zone. the walk was tough as i had to step into the brush as rvs or trucks made the blind curves, and i felt in zone, so alert, as i watched and was aware of all that was around. and the land got dryer the further i went, and my legs felt like jelly after a while – at one places as i walked on the other side of the barrier on a narrow path on the edge of the cliff, i wondered if i would give way, but then i saw a sign for a crossroad and knew i must be nearing the town. and i felt exhausted and so alive simultaneously.

I finally got to the town of gasquet and saw nothing on the road – only a broken down, closed biker hotel and a village of houses off the road and wondered what the hell i was doing here. then i found a little store – cafe further on up and sat and drank soda and water and had a bagel and checked my email – it was about 6pm and i felt like i could walk on no more. i sat then asked about a place to camp, and was directed here up the road.

I could not walk it so i stuck out my thumb figuring i would be out of the town boundaries quickly enough and if need be could sleep in the bush but i felt a rough edge around the town despite the kindness of the people in the cafe. A woman in a small truck stopped and gave me a lift – a native woman from crescent city (i think) on her was to washington – her truck was full of stuff and smelt like fish, and i wondered if all her belongings were in there. the road turned to four lanes and widened as we passed the town, and she did not hear when i pointed to the first campground three miles from town on the other side of the road.

So i came in here, and there was space, did not take one of the walk in sites, a group of guys partying had one and i questioned their vibe and there was no one else in that area so i took a regular site – all the same price at $10 a night. just after i paid a forest service person came in- and i talked with him and he said you can camp almost anywhere outside campgrounds where not posted for free, and i feel that maybe i should have done that. but i feel sound a sleep on the hard ground, the highway just through the trees, and sleep 12 hours and felt relaxed and now i feel it is time for me to leave.

i stay another day – no energy to move on – now after 5 i sit in my tent – running out of food, knowing tomorrow i will have to go – but where? i wish that i had a place to land, to plant my feet for a while, but i do not, and it seems that the road is my only home. i have ventured out into the unknown and feel i have no place to land, but as i sit in my tent and at my picnic table, wander down to the river for a short while, i feel restless and alone, talked to nobody all day, and so little conversation in the past few. how i long for a place that i can grow and shine, feel accepted and not have to hide away – but just as i do not understand the others, they do not understand me.

i send this message from crescent city where the temperature is much cooler and the sky is grey once again. i will go down the coast and inland from there. i walked two miles in land towards gasquet, the road and nature was all there was – beautiful and dry, nature abounds, and ride the rest of the way into down in the open back of a truck with a brown lab looking up at the sky and the tress and backwards as we wind on down the road.

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I sit in my tent under the redwood giants and i have to thank them for being alive. their grandeur and energy overwhelm me and i have to thank them once again. They remind me of how small i am and how our lives are fleeting, just temporary – for these trees have lived hundreds of years and tower above all that is around.
and then i remember how few remain – just about 3% of the forests that stood 150-200 years ago, most chopped down and used for building for furniture and more, and most now remain in the protected areas of national and state parks on down the coast. and as i thought of their endurance, the lives they have seen, i realize that the old ones are the lucky survivors of that time. Today i went out to the stout grove, and saw other tourists passing through – awing and marveling over these giants and remnants of a time gone by, appreciating them for what they are – but for how long were they not valued in and of themselves, and were like so much today – people, elements and other life – just valued in terms of their short term use to us.
in stout grove there are several fallen trees, giants that have tumbled in more recent years – their short wide root systems exposed. and i have to think why one and not the other fell, and what determines when one goes. I thought of the other giants, further up the coast, the hemlocks and spruce and cedars of the other old(er) growth forests, and of passing through after a storm, seeing a few laying downed beside the road or over roofs and asking why these now – for they seem so permanent and so old to boot. and others with first marks, and one that lightning hit. And here in this campground knowing they stood in several feet of water in the big flood. but the survivors live on and show their light, and i thank them for being here.

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I am camping in Jediah Smith Redwood, my tent planted between three old growth redwood trees, and it seems so small compared to their grandeur. and so do i. My site, probably the best in the park, is circled by many more of these ancient life forms – hundreds and hundreds of years old, and others in the campground may have seen a thousand or more. and i think of all they have witnessed in thier lives, standing, growing tall, enduring the changes and catastrophes of the years , the endure and thrive and have such a rich presence. and i thank god for bringing me here. and the park of this morning on the coast, and the towns i passed through and bus rides i took seem eaons away.
my energy has calmed since being here – was rushing through and off kilter for the early part of the day. i woke at 3am and never really went back to sleep and packed up my tent in the damp grey before 7am and walked into town to catch the bus south at 8:45 not entirely sure of where i was going to. and by the time i got to brookings at 8am a steady drizzle was coming down as it would on and off for the ride south to crescent city california.
and i could feel the energy, the twitching in my face and movements of my arms, overnight and i felt more and more that i had to get off the coast. the afternoon before when walking back to the campground, i had a feeling of walking in that twilight zone where all seemed a bit unreal – and i felt that life was going on but something big was about to give. and at night in my tent the cool damp earth beneath seemed less stable than it usually is.
the first bus took my south to smith river, the convenience store beside the casino, and the whole ride down i felt not myself – a transformation or something, that energy rush that i had experienced in santa cruz and down the coast – the landscape seemed sad beneath the grey, the homes and people all worn down, a guy at one stop before 10am out in sock feet, drinking a cheap can of beer and smoking a butt, but giving another money so he could get on. Crescent city was still a grey sprawl. I thought of previous times i passed through and hated it here, sitting in mcdonalds for 2 hours in the rain waiting for the bus to continue on a few miles south when greyhound ran through back in 2001. and i try to remember seeing the beauty, but that was another time in the winter sun. i still felt like the earth was about to give and could i get away soon enough, and i sat by the bus stop waiting, waiting, for 45 minutes but what seemed like days hoping i could get out of this place. And that energy and those feelings kept on rushing through.
I catch the bus out of town and get here to this magical place, down highway 199 which twists through the ancient groves. i feel calmer away from coastal air. But, then when i go to the bathroom i see a sign marking the high water level of december 22 1964, the tsunami from the huge alaska earthquake, and the line was over the top of the bathroom door.
the sun broke through for a few hours – at about 330 pm. i sit at my picnic table in this quiet area and thank god that i am here. and tonight i get to sleep beneath the trees, my tent in an alcove surrounded and dwarfed by three. And i feel their presence within me and marvel at their lives. somehow the magic of the world has come back alive.

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