Posts Tagged ‘travel’

I have done it – traversed the Oregon Coast by public bus (almost) – coming out to the coast in Crescent City, CA and stopping in Astoria, OR today, though i may continue north through Washington – yes by public bus. I have done sections before, but never have gone from end to end, and this time i did it in reverse, taking my time, camping out on the way.

Most of the coast is linked by county transit systems, as Greyhound stopped running out here years ago. There is one 24 mile gap between Florence and Yachats, and i have heard murmurs of a connection coming one day. I love this mode of travel, for here the riders often talk to each other on the bus, and you get a view of the coastal communities you would not otherwise. It is not fast – most systems run 5 or 6 days a week, with sunday service non-existent, and there are only a few buses each day. I like to camp which is an inexpensive option with the hiker-biker sites in the Oregon State Parks. Although most buses make flag stops along the way, i often carry my pack several miles. The transit system can also be handy for anyone walking the Oregon Coast Trail, or cycling the oregon coast bike route  (most buses have 2 bike racks)

These are the transit systems i used going from south to north

To Crescent City (or Brookings, OR)

SouthWest Point from Klamath Falls (OR) Amtrak,  Medford(greyhound, ashland) or Grants Pass (Greyhound) – passing through towns on the way. I got off in Hiouchi, by Jedidiah State Park (redwoods) to camp for a night.

Crescent City to Smith River (for connection north)
– Redwood Coast Transit
also connects from Arcata (Greyhound, Amtrak bus) and highway 199

Smith River to Brookings to Coos Bay
Curry Public Transit runs up the coast as far as North Bend, stopping in the communities of Port Orford, Gold Beach, Bandon, and Coos Bay, and allows for flag stops on the 101. I took several days to make this trip, stopping off at State Parks enroute .

Coos Bay – out to Charleston (side trip)

Coos Transit   travels around the towns of Coos Bay and North Bend and out to Charleston, where Cape Arago is only a few mile walk

Coos Bay to Florence

Porter Stage Lines will take you to Florence (also to Reedsport) and inland to Eugene (Greyhound, Amtrak) and Bend and beyond


There is no bus service from Florence north to Yachats (about 26 miles). I must admit, i hitched this stretch this time from the north end of town, though i walked it southbound a few years ago, over a few days. Rhody Express will take you to the north end of town. The Oregon Coast trail, takes you both along the beach and the road. There are several campgrounds, both state and forest service along the way.

Yachats to Lincoln City (and Otis to connect north)

Lincoln County Transit  serves the many communities along this section of the coast, with buses from Yachats to Newport, Newport to Lincoln City (and to otis for northbound connections), and to Toledo inland. There are also local services in Newport and Lincoln City. With many towns, a variety of trails and landscapes, and four state parks with hiker biker sites, traveling this section of the coast is a breeze. At Newport – you can go inland to Corvallis and beyond on the Valley Retriever

From Otis through Tillamook to Cannon Beach

Tillamook Transit connects through to cannon beach, with service into Portland as well. The system has several bus lines that will take you to Pacific City, Oceanside and Netarts, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach, and up to manzanita and-Cannon Beach, with connections made in Tillamook. In addition to the state and forest service parks, Tillamook county offers several county campgrounds with hiker-biker sites.

From Cannon Beach to Astoria

Clatsop County transit – Ride the Bus – has a direct bus line that will take you from Cannon Beach to Astoria, stopping in Seaside and other communities. At time of writing, this transit system had experienced major cuts (from almost hourly service to a few times a day etc)  but hopes to rebuild.

Beyond Astoria

once in Astoria (or seaside, cannon beach( you may go back to Portland  on NorthWest Point or continue North to Washington via Pacific Transit  to Aberdeen and from there up the Olympic Peninsula to the tip and around – or take the ferry to Victoria BC and north, or inland to Olympia and from there to Seattle and beyond, the inland side of the Peninsula.

Along the route you will meet many people and see places in a new way. the journey is not quick, but life is a journey and not a destination.

Update 2015

I once again spent the summer travelling the coast by bus – the system has greatly improved. with the North by Northwest (OXO) system linking the various transit systems and offering 3 day ($25) and 7 day ($30) passes that include a return between valley and coast and unlimited coastal travel. http://www.nworegontransit.org

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Waiting Stations

It is the early hours of the morning. My train got in at 4am – i wait in stations for the sun to come up. It is 5:15 am – the Amtrak station – a small simple waiting room – has shut for the day. it won’t open again until 10:30 pm as trains pass through here in the late night and wee hours of the morn. The greyhound station across the way has opened up and we are allowed to wait in here.

Waiting in this station is my one experience in salt lake city several years ago – a layover and bus change on a sunday morning i believe. It is all i know of this city, so can i really say that i have been to SLC. I remember the area as being more hollowed out than it is now with the light rail and city bus stations that are here. The station too is brighter and cleaner than i remember.

I feel hollowed out – my bag, my boots, even my socks are worn down, and i feel that way myself. And i feel that way not only from the 17 hour ride, and waking up at 330 am (which was 230 for me). I seem to be the only solo woman in here, and others seem as bleary eyed and worn as myself – or more so. It has been raining and i enter bus station zone. Vending machines with their loud hum, bright fluorescent lights (that actually light up the room), metal benches – kindly with some arms removed so a few people can lie down – others sleep on the floor – a TV tuned to the news channel. It is a fairly industrial building with an exposed ceiling of tubes. They still have lockers here, and game consoles, an atm, and even an internet console – but it still is bus station zone – one of the nicer ones i admit – with multiple doors to the outside, and names of destinations overhead. It is fairly empty at the moment, a while until the next buses come or go, so it is missing the lines of people and bags standing in front of the doors.

The greyhound station may be nicer since it is part of a larger transit center at the edge of downtown – with the frontrunner, trax, buses, amtrak and cabs – a waystation of people coming and going, and with nowhere else to go. I listen to the hum of the machines and feel their vibration. Despite the bright lights all seems dull. It is a waiting rule – a room of waiting, and that i do.

In that sense it is similar to other waiting rooms – hospital, doctors, government offices and more – for the action here is waiting – the difference lies in what you are waiting for. In each case you are dependent on someone else to grant you what you need – the bus to take you along, the official to grant you something, the doctor to cure or advise you. It is a type of enforced stillness, but often you are not still. A waiting room is a place between, a holding zone.

A man paces. Another who had been sleeping on a metal bench on top of his stuff now sits, staring blankly at the screen. At this time of day there are no children; those at the amtrak station caught a cab, and were not waiting long enough to become too terribly restless. The place is fairly empty, so few engage; proximity does not force them to interact, or turn away.
Do i find myself here, sitting in this place, because that is what my life has become – a waiting, a waiting for something, a non-doing but not in the positive buddhist sense, a passivity. Others, like myself, sit with the cheap worn baggage that they carry.

It is a place of deader eyes and dulling skin, and i realize this can be the look of the poor and the down and out who spend so much of their lives waiting – not only the self-induced waiting on a miracle, but waiting on things, for that is part of what it means to be poor – waiting on officials, waiting to fill out forms, waiting for answers, waiting for housing, waiting for food if you do not have money to buy, waiting and waiting and being on hold. How much has my life been on hold – waiting?

I have usually avoided arriving in places at this time of the day – early morn with time to kill. I have avoided that expression in recent years “killing time”, but that is what people are doing here in this waiting room, what i am doing, killing time. This killing is why these places often feel “dead” or “lifeless” despite the people who are within. It is a time of impasse, of inaction, of dull eyes, and i feel myself as being more down and out. That feeling dominates these places, and can breed.

It has been a while since i have been in these stations. No, that is not true. I recently spent time in San Jose Diridon station, an hour less than a week ago, a station with dark wooden benches and dim lights, and while it felt similar it was also different. For one, i spent time outside, talking with others and thus was engaged. secondarily, it is also a commuter station of people quickly passing through as part of their daily lives, so there is rapid movement among the waiting. A week of so before after just missing my connection to monterey,i waited, and waited, killing time after i had managed to wander downtown. I had waited in the train station in Merced as well, a place i have waited a couple of times, sitting in a room with others who are doing the same thing. But i forgot about that, for these are dead zones of time, and though i have spent much physical time here, i bracket it and do not include it as part of the experience . it is “other” – a place in between, and somehow is not “real” or important, but it is.

This station, and other waiting rooms of travel, seem different from bus stops at the edge of the road, or even the transit center of short distance commutes like the transit center in santa cruz where i spent 45 minutes, but there i was talking to someone, and the movement around passed more rapidly. And it is different from the benches outside the ferry building yesterday morning where we waited for the bus to take us to the station in emeryville where we were to board the train. The action of those waiting was similar, a dulled expression, or a nervousness as people looked at tickets and the time, and over to the direction from which the bus would come. Outside on the street the energy of waiting is less contained with others walking by and street life around.

Buildings are containers of the energy, they enclose it, and it can bounce off the walls. It is like waiting rooms in airports – people glance around but do not look, some read or play on laptops, but rarely is this energy focused on the action at hand – it is more diffuse – and at times tense or bored. Sometimes there are more distractions at hand, the tv that plays the news, games, places to eat, but they are distractions at best.

I had forgotten about this zone, though it was not so long ago that i was here. It comes back to me, and i wonder how much time i have spent here. but that is like a return to any zone – for they are landcapes of the mind as well, but there is a sucking into lethargy here.

I think of the last time i arrived in a city before dawn. it was in Oaxaca last spring. I waited in the first modern bright bus station i had been to in a long while. I drank coffee at the cafe in the station – amazed by the modernity of it all, and the middle class life that was around. But still, it was a waiting, a waiting to move on in to the city. This is a poorer waiting zone – especially at this time of day. a place of worn cheap running shoes and discount baggage. And it reminds me now of Seattle and Eugene, the last greyhound stations where i have been, and they were much grimmer than here – Seattle – dull and grey without enough benches to go around, and eugene a greyness that surrounds. Here is brighter and modern and kept up and clean, but it still has that sucking feel.

Since those places i have waited at many transit stops by the edge of the road or stood with my thumb out waiting for a car. But somehow they are different – for you do not feel isolated, and connect with what is around. Even the ferry terminal in Vallejo was different, for i drank coffee and enjoyed the break, and was engaged in what i was doing.

But how much time have i spent here in this waiting zone? I now feel like i am back in travel zone – the one zone i wished to avoid, and i wonder if being here is my will or gods call. Memories of times in this zone come flying up – a long night in the port authority bus terminal in new york a few years back, of “killing” several hours in Guadalajara airport this spring, of a night in dallas or was it houston in 2002 – it does not matter for all i saw was the station late at night. I remember familiar bus stations – vancouver with wooden benches and the outside, calgary – a dark weird zone but with a cheap breakfast appearing cut off from the town, edmonton, where i often left my bags and went for coffee and dinner and then returned and waited inside – the list goes on and on. In some places i just wait, and in others i engage a bit and transform the zone – or at least a bit, for there is part of me that is waiting.

I think of central america and the chaotic bus zones – with food sellers and people yelling, and much action around – and there it seemed a bit less like waiting – the action was less contained and i was engaged in the moment to an extent. And i remember recently waiting at a bus stop in Tuolumne meadows in yosemite park, but the edge of the road, with sights around, visible to all who drove and walked by, and though i was not in a physical zone, or one that was apart, i had entered that waiting zone of the mind, focused on and worrying about when the bus would come – in that in between place of tense waiting and nothing more.

How much time have i spent in waiting zone – not just in the physical stations such as this, but in life, waiting for something to come or change, waiting for the next step of my journey, waiting – neither here nor there but in-between. And i have also spent so much time in it’s cousin’s zone – the decision-making and planning zone – no not the action zone of that, but the fretting zone, the zone of impasse and inaction. The zone that is not engaged.

Maybe that is why i find myself sitting here in these stations once again. I have been here over an hour, and it hits me – am i still in waiting zone, or am i engaged, for i have been writing all of this down and exploring the concept of zones, and so i am not merely waiting.

The machines still hum, a woman smiles as a yawn, a muffled announcement is made, more people shuffle though after a night on a bus, and others place their bags in line for one that will leave. a few men still sleep on the floor. it is still dark outside. The place begins to suffocate. i will go out and to the town and walk around

(I type this the next day, for the station in the early hours of the morn is not the place for to have my computer out. i went to town, and walked around, and realize in doing that i had returned to waiting zone – the internal zone that is not necessarily linked to the place outside)

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I find myself in Salt Lake City – a place i have not been – and that is the reason why i came here – for a fresh perspective – a place without a personal history or really much of an imagined context, for i really knew little about the place:the mormons, the olympics, skiing, growing – but that was about it. I had little preconceptions about here and thought i could be more clear, with a fresher mind. While in many ways this is true, during my short time here i have found myself in familiar zones.

Part of the reason i left the coast, is i found myself repeating patterns of place both inside and out and felt that i could not break free or get clear. My messy writings on this will be posted soon. In San Francisco i felt like i was being pulled into the tourist zone, one which i felt was sucking the energy out of me – but in leaving i wondered if i were to just keep on repeating that zone. And in some ways i have, for this place is new, and many of the sights i will explore (there i felt i had done all the sights to death) and also that my eyes and senses are fresher and clearer (despite the exhaustion of the day) for they lay themselves on sights that are new.

But i have also found myself back in many zones that are known to me – zones of place, though they may be spread apart by hundreds or thousands of miles, are closely associated and truly part of the same zone. I began to ponder this as i waited in the train and bus stations for daylight to break, and remembered the waiting zones of these places. And then as i went downtown just as the city was waking up, i found myself in a starbucks in a hotel – the only open place for coffee i could find, it was across from the convention center and full of business people, and i realized it was the downtown business/office zone that i once knew all too well. As i walked the streets, wide boulevards with long blocks, i was reminded of other western cities.

It truly hit as i went to the library that was part of the appeal after i thought of this town and imagined myself coming here. I looked it up on the internet, and it seemed open and airy and inviting, and somehow familiar. Now libraries are a zone that i know very well, for they are a type of place i visit in each larger place – town or city – where i go, but as i walked inside the glass covered atrium, i said “i know this place” and i did. It reminded me so much of the Vancouver Public Library, a place i love, and in a city i had been thinking about before i came here. i looked it up and the two libraries were designed by the same architect Moshe Safdie, who while born abroad, has many of his roots in Montreal.

Each zone (though the specific place may be different and may be “new”) calls up memories, emotions, modes of behaviour, thoughts and the like. We travel not to different places but to zones, and while each may be distinct, there is something that links and binds them well beyond their geographic locale.

we may travel many miles, but find ourselves back in familiar zones. While we think of the chain fast food restaurants, the strip malls and big box stores, and the hotels where the rooms are (almost) exactly the same across the nation, and the homogenization of the landscape allowing us to remain in our comfort (or discomfort) zones no matter “where” we are, for we remain in the “same” place. But it is much more than that.

when i was in central america last winter, i found myself going from colonial town to colonial town as many travellers to the region do, and while each had its unique features, after a while i found myself calling these towns a zone, as are beach resorts, theme parks, the urban created “tourist zones”, the market places (though they differ between north america and the neighbours to the south) and to certain extent even national parks. And it is more than just travel, the (different types)suburbs, the new rising “creative” inner cities, the bohemian neighbourhoods, the college towns, the office parks, the malls, all often have much more in common with each other than with other zones that are physically much more close. And often we travel from zone to zone to zone, coming back to very similar spaces, both inside and out. And i have written this before – notes of when i went to Seattle this spring – the multitude of zones there, and how i kept finding myself back in familiar places.

There still is diversity, and a larger place can be thought of as “unique” in the way that the different zones within are linked. and it makes me wonder, as i have before, is the earth really round and whole, or is it merely a multitude of zones connected by threads? (which first occurred to me in Seward, Alaska – its own special place, but also both a part of and containing many zones (the small town at the end of the road, the place enclosed in a mountainous container where you do not see out, the alaskan tourist town etc.) .

So i am in Salt Lake City, and after a nap my mind feels refreshed, and the clutter of the last zone has unscrambled a bit. It is fresh, and it is old, but my perceptions feel more alive. And within, the combination of zones i travel through, is a different combination than elsewhere, and i am able to once again see the uniqueness amongst the similarity. In coming here, i ask myself what is it about these zones (within as well as without) that i am to learn? And what zones within myself brought me to this place?

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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 almost gave up – put my pack back on and started walking – imaging that i would have to stay at jessica honeyman again – a wonderful park but this time it was not where i was called – and i had seen more cyclists on the road, and at this time of the day – just after 5pm, i had seen quite a few that i imagined might be stopping there – and i did not know if i could stay, had spent my 3 days (the maximum allowed in a hiker-biker site) and was not sure if you had to be out 4 or 7 days before you could stay again – i had been out 5 though it seemed much longer than that. But i withheld lighting up my cigarette that i had taken from my pack, and walking forwards i stuck out my thumb, and a car pulled over for me and was going past where i wanted to be. i had told god i would accept whatever, but that morning back in newport i had been so sure and all day i felt the energy pouring through me and my face, body and molecules loosening up and transforming once again.

And now i sit in my tent in william tugman park, just south of reedsport and in less familiar land. i have been through here a couple of times, but going south from florence i left my familiar stomping grounds. and though i travelled only about 60 miles, by bus, foot and thumb, it has been a long day passing through zones and with various encounters, and i feel like i am in another place.
This morning the sun was out when i got up before my alarm, and though the fog threatened to roll in, it never did – at least where i was. I had a few hours before the bus south to yachats where i would have to stick out my thumb. I had a leisurely breakfast – the standard fare with a coffee from the hospitality hut, and packed up my tent in no great rush. I walked out to the highway where i would flag down the bus – i had told the driver the night before i would be there, but wasn’t sure if he did the morning runs. I got out there with 10-15 minutes to spare and stood watching the traffic flow by. and i thought to myself the edge of the road can be a very lonely place – i stand exposed to all who pass by – so obvious with my bag.

the bus comes with the woman driver who took my from yachats to beachside last saturday, she is sweet and seems to remember me. this run is empty unlike the last one of the day which i had taken from town the past two nights. i feel lighter and smile as we drive down the road and feel like i am going in the right direction – two hikers get off at seal rock, and i think of the time i hiked from there a few years ago – the fog came in thick for a short while and i could barely see in front of me. we pass through waldport, pick up a remote teenager whose hair covers his entire face, hiding away and i think of how my hair once did that. I notice more cyclists on the road and wonder where they all are coming from as the hiker-biker site where i stayed had only five plus myself. We get to yachats such a different vibe, with the larger resorts going into town, and a few galleries and a sign in front of a store advertising organic fibers. i had been thinking of scones and coffee at the green salmon, so of course i had to stop in there. It is almost noon and the place is filling up and there is something different about the vibe – and as i sit down a 50-60 something man with short styled grey hair and understated dress pulls out a ipad and explains all his apps. he and another local lament the lack of a health food store, but praise their special loose green tea. and the people seem much less weighed down, but at the same time more reserved; they are the “good people” the liberal alternative professional or rich young seniors who make up this place, and with good manners they also hold back a bit.

I pick up some emergency food at the overpriced small grocery store – odwalla bars on sale and peanuts as i still have cheese, fruit and radishes from the other day – and walk over the small bridge to just south of town – take a break and look at the bay and think it wouldn’t be so bad to get stuck here and walk out to cape perpetua – but then i remember the uphill climb on the amanda trail and how for several miles there is not a straight stretch on the road, and go back to the highway and stick out my thumb. I’m still amazed at what a totally different world this place is from that other town just eight miles up the road.

The sun still shines and the wind is a heavy breeze. I set down my bags and watch the packed cars go on by, not whizzing as the exit the 25mph speed limit zone – some go on by, a few avert their eyes, and i’m sure some comment on me – but i stand and wait about a half hour until finally an older hippie looking guy pulls over and gives me a lift as far south as florence.

His car is older and looks out of place with the shiny vehicles in this town and the rv’s that ply this road. He has three long braids hanging from his chin, longish grey hair, a fuller face and a cigarette in his hand. I give him a glance and take a sniff – not high or drunk from what i can tell or smell, and get on in. As he tells me some of his story, talking a mile a minute was we drive down the coast, i learn he’s been sober for 13 years and an ex-druggie for about as long. he lives in florence but drives this route almost everyday just to get a view – on his way back from taking a hitchhiker up to lincoln city. We take the curves of cape perpetua and he says he comes to see it each day, the waves and rocks and cliffs and more, his place is inland from the sea. he tells me of a mountain lion in his yard, of gathering abalone near cambria and visiting hearst castle as a child, about collecting rocks near hecate head when we stop for a traffic flagger going over the bridge, we talk of global warming and icebergs melting, and then he points to a picture hanging – says that’s my daughter – though 7 years ago – how he had a fling in las vegas with his first wife, while married to the second, and that resulted in this girl he dotes on, and he told me all about her. We get to florence before i know, and he drops me at the fred meyer at the north end of town.

now florence is one of those long towns spread out along the 101, so i decide to wait for the bus that will take me to the other end. I know it goes there, but not sure where or when it passes but find a cart attendant who is willing and happy to let me know – i have about 40 minutes so i decide to go inside. I have to pee but am not sure what to do with my bags, and dump the backpack in the hall outside the restroom and then into a cart as i buy some dinner and breakfast for the next day – natural peanut butter is on sale, and the aisles and produce section overflow and it make me want to cook (and i do not venture into the other sections).

The bus is empty except for an older couple who ride the bus for fun; they know the driver and he knows them. The radio is on playing classic rock and the drivers harley jacket it over his seat. Being a small town bus route we go all over to get from one end of town to the other – circling around some blocks what it seems to be several times – past all the grocery stores, the library, the seniors center and the hospital. and as we drive around i know i could not settle in a place like. The driver waves at people on the road and in other commercial vehicles, and finally drops me by the bridge where i thank him for the tour of town.

This is another hub on the coast and the traffic is heavy – i cross the bridge and look for a place to stand. I try a bit in one locale – no – walk 3/4 mile up the road and stand for 25 minutes more, then continue on where i wait over half an hour – before almost giving up. I had felt the energy flowing through earlier that day, and now i ask myself just what have i done, should i have gone inland to eugene and beyond; should i have taken a bus inland from newport? am i deluded once again?

But then the car stops. i hesitate – a harder looking 20something guy with a wicked tatoo on his arm, another messy older sportyish car with cans lying around – but i glance at them and they are piles of monster cans and other energy drinks. he is going to coos bay, i say i’m going just south of reedsport, and get on in. he feels like a coos bay guy, that rundown town with edge, and heavy metal comes from the radio but at a low volume than god, and he drives carefully, very carefully i’d say, like he wishes to avoid getting stopped and has probably done some time and has seen the lower side of life. still he comes from his landscaping job, and while is quiet, tells me a bit about camping here along the coast and says tugman is a nice place to go, and asks if i mind before he lights up a cigarette. He’s originally from california – i did not ask where – but i imagine somewhere in the south – and says he doesn’t really know north of florence when i tell him i started today in newport.

The road changes south of florence, inland with trees and lakes formed by the dunes – gently windy and it feels more isolated and wild. I feel like i have entered a new zone. We pass through the sad towns of gardiner – a small patch along the road with white houses and what appear to be mainly closed down stores (and a bar), through reedsport – also kinda sad – 2 grocery stores a pacific pride and an older safeway, and a mcdonalds and DQ and a few smaller shops, and up the hill a shinier health food store, that like most i have seen in this state, announces that it accepts the food stamp cards. Another town that struggles though and where life goes on – and through winchester, which has a bay, and a few small motels as well, then back to the tree lined road (though i peer behind and see more than one clearcut) without homes or shops and then by this lake and you don’t really think you are near the sea (except for the now stronger wind of course). and now i am here and it is getting dark and tomorrow is yet another new day.

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I embark on the first major journey i have taken since i returned to the USA. – i head up north to Seattle over 700 miles away. I wonder what i am doing, and why i am heading up there. I have been up and down this route before. It has been in my mind for some time. I let it go, but it kept coming back. When i sat in the station i told myself no, i cannot travel no more. But i go and this is my journey on the Amtrak train.

I am on the train – i sit backwards again, but it is dark and i cannot see outside. I am tired, after 10pm, my bedtime, but i cannot yet go to sleep, a connection to make, the next train to catch at 11:59. and i won’t arrive until tomorrow night.

It is morning now.The train sits in the station at Klamath Falls, just over the border in Oregon – in ahead of schedule and 45 minutes for a smoke and I debate if i should have just one more. I am tired, could not sleep last night, my mind tossed and turned as did i. It is a fuller train and I share a seat with a young guy who looks like a clown. tattoos of stars and moons all over his face, a row of skulls and the word “speedy” hidden by razor stubble, a rose and more on his neck and face and snake on his arms and who knows where else. He wears a bowler cap and checked cheap tennis shoes. He is from Fresno, that city i have heard little good about. He’s not too bright and talks about his dogs and asks me to read the schedule for him. When he opened his red duffle bag it smelled like skunk, not the black and white animal that runs around, but the weed you smoke. His eyes are vacant, his voice is sad, and simple questions come from his lips, a lost traveller in the world.
The land here is harsh, still snow on the grounds in the mountains coming in, and outside at 8am it is 39 degrees. Open grasslands high up in the mountains and spindly pine trees, the others do not have their leaves. And i know this is not a place for me – still hills or rounded mountains tops contain life of sorts. wide valleys, reminds me again of sierraville – dry in these lands, with threats of fire i’m sure. Snow capped peaks out in the distance. I feel like i have returned to a previous time and place.

i remember the concierge in our car from a previous trip. Grouchy last night when we boarded the train, long lines on the platform in sacramento. This morning he seems more open, a sense of humour, guess he was able to sleep last night. Still a curmudgeon of sorts, his name is Mike, as he complains about the lack of double seats, a work mate, and the people he put on.

And as i travel on,I feel it blocks my writing, for it is harder to do when you move, then i realize that it is the act of travel where i have collected my stories.

The train pulls out of Klamath, into a wide open valley, brown grass wetlands and snow-capped peaks. I feels lonely here, through ducks, geese and more swim about. We pass a few weathered small wooden homes in a “village” of unpaved streets. The lake at last, a relief is felt, It is a land of ranches, and cows graze on the other side of the tracks which skirt the edge of the lake, This is not as lonely as the grass filled valleys, but i cannot but feel that something happened here so many of thousands or millions years ago. The lake feels almost sacred, but that general feeling is that of collapse. Ponderosa pines are lonely.

We have entered into the Cascades , crossed onto their east side, but are still near the crest. a snowy wintery scene, on April 30 too late for this. the trees have changed -Douglas Firs have replaced the ponderosa pines. a winter wonderland, just passed ski hills on the other side of the lake. Clouds overhead, a mist of grey, but sun rays peek through, brightening the snow. this is another zone, as we begin the 3800 ft down to Oakridge. After we passed through the tunnel beneath the crest, you could feel the change, much more snow on the grounds, and the sky turned to grey. This is another world. Another zone of being. Snow flakes blow through the air. Not only another zone but another time. melting creeks run down the hills. Tunnel after tunnel passed through into the dark and back into the light and go through a few snow sheds. there is no snow in the valleys down below.

We are out of the snow zone. I got in a conversation with a guy behind me who could not make it to his meditation retreat and then turned around and looked out the window and the snow was almost gone. Green dense forests and nurturing hills – the area around 2500 feet is much different that to the south. It starts to feel a bit like home but then green closes in. Soil feels more forgiving, little buds on the few deciduous trees. Begins to feel like oregon – a sadness in the forest, i feel it enclose. There is something, deeper, more primal, in the land.

Descend into Oakridge, feels more like home, moss grows on the side of the trees and ferns curl up from the ground. Blackberry bushes grow thick along the rails. Less crackly but denser and heavier here. clouds sweep in lower and the sky descends. Tress hide the contours of mountains, shapes and outcrops not revealed.

It is green, a heavy hanging green, deep rich and lighter too. The only break to the green are the bright yellow flowers of the scotch broom. no riot of colour of yellows, oranges, white, purple and pink. The sky hangs grey and not the contrast of a bright blue. Seems moss covered many of the brown rocks. No more contrast of the snow. Forest is dense, mysterious, wonder what lay in there. Earth feels moist – such a part of the place, feeding and nurturing all that lives above.

We descend downhill towards Eugene out of wilderness to countryside. Homes, orchards, cows and winding country roads.

The train pulls out of Eugene – we have entered yet another zone – the flatlands of the Willamette valley and though the track does not curve along, the train rocks back and forth. We passed through town, with trees and centre and i remembered the place, got off for a butt, the air felt cloying and was glad to pull out of there. The heaviness descends, the sky both blue and grey, pull out through industrial lands with piles of logs. Feels like i have returned to a zone i passed through several times and i feel why i did not stay. it makes me ask is home something you create and not something you return back to.

Wide expanses of green flat fields, clouds hanging low, foothills on both sides. Another land down here. i know it is bright and hot in the summer sun, but here it feels like another land caught into a bowl, not of mountains or valleys, but of sky and earth. I begin to feel heavy, pass residential areas, and a slow sluggish sadness creeps over me.

Memories come back, it starts to rain, moisture all around, green fields with puddles about and even homes blend it. Another valley, a valley zone, but different here. Sky feels low. Firs are gone. Or is it that i have moved out of dome car? Trees dwarf the single storyhomes. a few low hills like domes – all pyramids.

I am in the Portland station. Went and picked up food at subway, out of the station, under the underpass. The sky is cloudy and this is the land of grey. Ugly buildings glass and brick. It is flat here, and highways circle the city centre and cut through, bridges cross the river, it flat around here. Small hills in town pyramids?

I now really question what i have done – leaving the land of light to the land of gloom, then i remember many people love it here, and life does thrive too. More down to earth in the rain. Still i feel caught in another bubble, thicker where all does vibrate more slow. tears on the way and i must wonder was this my depression out on the coast, that all does not float up into the sky or bounce off hard stone, but slowly soaks into clouds and trees and softer earth. Was like a container that held me close, but now do i need a container or a place where i can expand and reach for the sun?

I cross the bridges to Washington, a station stop in Vancouver. houseboats on a river. I think i may be heading the wrong way. I think about Seattle and the gateway to Alaska. The north was where i gave up on dreams, and that california had been the land where they lay. But the Northwest called when i wanted a home, and i remember thinking once again of Port Townsend another locale of dreams.

I sit in the lounge car, drinking a coffee, my third today, and it makes me realize why seattle started americas coffee culture, the grey of the day, no sun been seen, just a grey to night to grey, and then drizzle and rain, makes you want to sleep and crave something comforting and warm. And also why the pot culture from Northern California to Oregon, the laziness that pot makes you feel fits in so well to the vibe of the place, relax, sit on a couch, mellow on out.

I think i loved the nurturing feeling that i could get when i came out here, the same nurturing feeling that became claustrophobic. I would sit in Vancouver, look up horseshoe bay, the rounded mountains and the sea and you could feel its caress, and sink into the ground, and the sky acts like a blanket, and you are surrounded. Now it feels like an overbearing aunt, with flabby arms and sweaty breasts. The day will change, and so will i but maybe it is time to expand.

I think of this compared to the raw stones that i have just come from, and the deserts that i came from before, here all is hidden beneath the life, you do not see its raw contours. it is softer and gentler and heavier too, so much plants abound, the forest floor oh so busy, with ferns and moss and more. And so you see neither the pure rays of the sun, not the hard contours of the earth.

I must make it through, i go back, but back to let go, but i think i have said that before. I am tired of my story and i feel the need to write it and organize it too. I go there to move forward.

We have returned to the ocean, or bay, salt water and drift wood around. The sky is still grey. what have i done. But it feels so familiar, like home to me and i wonder if i can grow it through. We pass on up into the city, houses, factories and more. I get off the train in the Seattle station, ahead of schedule and begin a new chapter in the story and enter another zone.

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I journeyed up and through Yosemite National Park . I have been here before, so what i experienced was not with fresh eyes. i was not only brought to this time and place, but had memories come up of my visits before and was taken to lands far away with thoughts that floated on through.

And i know this is the monkey mind that is refered to in meditation and other practices of consciousness, the mind that jumps around, from branch to branch and tree to tree. And as i experienced the wonder and all else around, i could watch this monkey of mine from a distance, let the thoughts pass on through, come in and out of consciousness. I began to wonder what we bring into our experience when we come to a place? Can we view anything pure? And what does experiencing a place bring up in us? So the story of my visit to Yosemite in April 2010 covers many years and miles and this is some of it.

My journey here really began when the bus pulled out of the train station in Merced. There i was leaving the flatlands behind and going to the mountains. The bus drove through town past older houses, some of wood, with porches and yards and trees, on streets with sidewalks, different from the new developments i had passed by (and which i remembered) and i thought of small towns with pedestrian friendly tree lined streets, towns up the coast and across the county where i have been. The streets were empty, a few cars on the road but devoid of people, a woman carrying a bag from a house to a car, a man cycling down a street, and then finally as we edged near the end of town, a lone figure sitting out on his porch on a warm sunday morning just after 11am – and i thought of suburbia and all those empty communities, housing people but devoid of life.

Outside of Merced strawberry fields dotted the road, baskets beside the rows of the low-lying plants waiting to be picked and i thought my times picking strawberries and how my back hurt. As we road towards Mariposa, past the flatlands into the foothills where black cows grazed on green hills, no trees to be found, i thought of Ireland, where cows grazed on similar terrain. When the grass and fields turned to majestic oak trees, i thought about driving up to Clear Lake with Robert on the way here in 2008. and the first time i saw these trees. And i thought of our drive here on route 49 where colored leaves still hung onto trees, feeling like fall in December.

As the oaks made way to pines i thought of the Sierras, not only here but further north, Sierraville – my time spent there, Lake Tahoe (though that does not look the same), and a hike near Armstong BC where there were a lot of pine trees, and other places with pines, and the way they blew in the wind when i camped at Sierra Hot Springs and other drier mountain ranges in general. We came to Mariposa, a gateway town with hotels, services and shops, and i thought of other mountain tourist towns. Fernie, BC and Canmore, Alberta – the gateway to Banff, came to mind though they are larger and much more developed near higher mountains and ski hills. And the landscape is harsher here than on the coast and i thought about places i had been in the Canadian Rockies. And i thought about Canada, and the north – places where the land is not always so kind.

I got to the Yosemite Bug Resort in Midpines, the place i was to stay. I got off the bus and remembered my previous time here, and getting off the bus then, and the month spent driving around California with my father and how frazzled i was when i had arrived. I had to lug my bag up the hill, and felt a tug in my back , and i remembered carrying it across Fishermans Wharf that morning – how heavy it felt, and how the strap on the back had snapped leaving Monterey so it was even less ergonomic than before, and how i carried extra food and the times i had done that before. I stopped to look at an orange flower that grew by the road, and thought of the California poppies along the harbour in Victoria. I looked at the view, the road below and remembered coming up here before and i felt the weight i and the heat of the sun, and i thought of longer uphill walks with my bag and how it seemed easier then – the four km walk up mountain roads by Kootenay Lake when i was hitching up from Nelson BC from Ainsworth Hotsprings to the campsite back in 2005, and then of my walk down 20 miles of the Oregon coast less than two years ago.

And when i got into the Bug Backpacker resort with the cabins and dorms, restaurant and “spa”, and saw their own tour bus, i thought of other places like this, in the Iguana Perida in Santa Cruz Guatemala and El Retiro in Lanquin, self-contained backpacker resorts, and i looked at the private rooms and fancier cars, and thought about Harbin. I walked a small trail down to the creek, and then up to the upper parking lot which provided a view, and it did not seem as clear, and i remembered there had been no leaves before.

The next day, i rode the YARTS bus up to the park, and remembered much of my journeys there before. The sun shone into the valley and lit up the mountains. Wildflowers of yellow and purple covered the sides of the hills and i thought about wildflowers in alpine meadows and realized i did not know any of their names and remembered walking by the shore in Monterey where the flowers had been as abundant but different, and i was frustrated because i did not know their names either. As i watched the rushing Merced river, tumbling over boulders with the spring thaw, i thought of other rivers, across Vancouver Island, and times on buses i wished we could stop and get out to look at them. And then as we passed the juncture where highway 120 merges in, i remembered i had been able to get out of the bus one cold morning at look at the river as the bus stopped, road construction or plowing up ahead. And i thought of how Robert and I drove in along the other route, and i thought about him.

Finally, i got into the park and Yosemite Valley. I looked at the views, and wondered if my eyes were jaded for i had seen it all before – but every time is different, and i saw some anew, still i know that i compared and contrasted much to my previous visits there. The sun was at a different angle as i made a hike – days much longer at this time of year. Snow was absent from the valley floor. Waterfalls ran full, powerful and mighty, and some appeared where they had not been before in the early winter before the snows after the summer had dried all up, or earlier in march when all was still frozen and snow packs up top had barely begun to melt. And i thought of the power of water and how it carved out the land. Of course it was much busier than before, and i remembered emptier trails and camping with Robert in the almost deserted campground. My mind flung forward, and i wondered what this place was like at its peak, overcrowded and more and was thankful that i was here on this perfect spring weekday.

But my mind not only wandered in time, but in space as it had on my journey here. As i passed through the village and saw the rangers in uniform, i thought of national parks in general and other places i had been. On the crowded shuttle bus where the driver stopped and paused for a while, i remember the free busses in Acadia National Park and how i had to show one driver his route, and how the buses were so empty in the Grand Canyon in February 2002. The bus was full with women from a seniors group in Roseburg Oregon, and i thought of the retired communities on the Oregon coast.

I was hot, still hadn’t taken off my coat, saw the dry landscape and for a moment i was transported to a hike outside of Radium hotsprings, the day much hotter, the grass crackled, and grasshoppers made their special sound. I looked at the falls streaming down cliffs, and thought of other that i had seen – and a ride near Hope BC (i think) where water fell down the mountains around.

I stood in the mist of lower Yosemite Falls, in their full glory,much stronger than before and i could not walk up on the rocks where i had gone and loved. The path and lookout at the bottom were wet from the spray and i thought of the mist at Niagara Falls and how it had been redirected over the years. And when walking up the Vernal Falls trail with the rocks and boulders all around, i thought of rocky trails on the Bruce Peninsula and the rock formations down in the Niagara Glen.

And i walked on the wide trail to Mirror Lake and the crowd petered out. Only a single couple walking towards me, so tiny it seemed, dwarfed by the majestic pine trees that grew especially tall in this place. And i thought for a moment of large trees, the sequoias nearby and the redwoods, the giant cedar, hemlock and spuce further up the coast. My feet began to hurt and i remembered the feeling I not had in some time.

And i thought of how this place acted like a springboard for memories, and i then thought of a professor in grad school who gave us one text and asked us to use it as a springboard to explore social theory. My background was limited and i did not know where to jump off. I realized that the more experiences we have had the more we bring into a place, knowledge and links to all that can be related. How difficult it is to see the world afresh, as if through childrens’ eyes.

I had been wondering how different it was for those who were here for the first time, or how it was for me my first time here when i saw it with fresh eyes. But are the eyes and mind ever fresh, especially here, for who has not heard of Yosemite National Park, and how many images of this place exist in the public consciousness. It was not only memories that came to me, but associations made far and wide. I brought in experience of similar places i had been, pine trees, mountains, dryer landscapes, national parks, waterfalls, people, and more. And do we not do this with all, often unaware. For it is how we learn (this is a tree (oak), that is also a tree (pine), a tree is a plant, this flower is also a plant and so on) and negotiate the world. Everything comes in to how we perceive a place, all that has happened, all that has been experienced, is brought forward and caught in place.

Being here also brought back memories i had long forgotten about, just below the surface, something in this place activated then. And is that why we return to, or avoid, different places, to reopen neural pathways in our brains, to experience not only what is there, but all the associations we have made.  Much of my usual chattering ceased, worries and cares, yes i still had some negative thoughts, worries, quick judgements and more. And thought about writing this.

A few times i caught myself, a few minutes on the path, when i got caught up in one of the images and stories and was no longer where i was, no longer in the now and here. And i thought, now that is the monkey mind taking over, removing me from the here and now. Was my monkey overactive that day? Or was i merely able to stand back and watch it at work? It can be tamed, or merely observed, but can it be erased? And should it be for it shows how all is so connected and interlinked, different and yet the same. And i think of another national park, Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, where i watched the monkeys play in the trees.

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I don’t know if this trip came easily or if it was hard. In one way it took me four months, one relationship and many thousands of miles to get here, and in another, it happened instantaneously in a single day. And the decision to come here was not all that clear. But looking back i know i was meant to come, not for an event that happened in the city, but of a decision i made on where to leave to – a decision that opened a new chapter of my life.

In some ways this journey started in Alaska, and with decisions i made, and did not make the summer i spent there. All i knew i that i no longer wanted to travel aimlessly, and when i left at the end of September, i never imagined that i would come back here. That summer is another chapter yet to be written, but one like many others ending with a future barely planned and a destination unclear. I thought of going to many locales, Hawaii, Colorado, or back to the Northwest. And as usual when uncertain, i turn back to paths i have tread before, and headed back to Seattle, out of which i had flown, and to where tickets were cheap, another point on a circle returned to yet again.

I spent no time in the city but went out to camp on the Olympic Peninsula. After a few days of more camping in the rain, i “realized my folly” and thought to go to Colorado, where i imagined maybe i could work for the winter, and to where cheap tickets could be found. That time is another entry of decisions and circumstance, but the road called me, i went down to Oregon, one last time i said. Another plan was in my mind to check out a few other towns, and also i had not lived my dream of walking and taking transit all the way down the coast, at least as far as Crescent Beach. I was wavering, i was unclear, but slowly i journeyed down. And my intension to make my way south to San Francisco was made late one morning in Yachats, Oregon – the library with a computer where i could book a ticket to Colorado, opened an hour later than i thought, and i would barely make the bus back up north, So i decided to walk on south. But that snap decision, made sitting on a log by the shore, brought a new adventure, and changed my life some more. And now that i sit here and write, i realize how many small decisions took me to that time and place, and the decision i made that day. I never made it down by bus and foot, but that is even a longer story. I arrived in San Francisco four months later, from the south, having travelled thousands of miles and having my beliefs, dreams, and emotions turned every which way, inside and out.

The day i actually arrived here, I came up here from Washburn campground, between Cambria and San Simeon, from that area below Big Sur to just south of Morro Bay, that had been my home for about 6 weeks, and almost all 2009. The story of how i got there is long and complicated, but the morning i left, the doors opened up and i made my way here almost seamlessly. As if i was meant to come that day.

I arrived to Morro Bay with Robert on January 3rd, the first two days of the new year spent driving madly from Elephant Butte and Santa Fe, New Mexico back out to the California coast. We camped together one night at Washburn early in the month, but this time i was there camping on my own. I had not liked th e campground when the two of us had been there, too open with too few smaller trees, and a long walk down a hill to the shore. I pushed us to leave never imagining i would find myself back there. But our trip had been stressful, our differences shown, and on one fateful warm sunny morning in Plaskett Creek on Big Sur, all came to a head, we got in yet another fight, i went too far, and he drove away to look at the sea (in Oregon). And so Washburn at San Simeon was the campground i made it to when i hitched out of there a few days later.

So the Washburn primitive campground at San Simeon State Park would be my home for 10 days and then another 7. And it became my home indeed, a place of rest, or recollection, and a place where i came to see the many angels in our lives. The first angel picked my up thumbing on the 101 and drove me all the way down, though his stop was really miles above, to catch a woman also named alice, who i met and sent her love. He drove me to town to the grocery store, said he need to shop (though he picked up just a few quick items), and then to the primitive campground up at the top. And there many people were so good to me, from some who gave me lifts to town, to the camp hosts and the park ranger, some of the fellow campers who were staying there with no place else to go, to the ex-police chief from mormon utah who found me my first lift out, was concerned for me a woman camping in a tent alone and there without a car, and Ron who drove me out of Washburn when i had originally thought to go back to San Francisco.

But i was not ready to leave, still in shock and feeling so lost, San Francisco just a place that came to mind, a familiar place to go back to, so when Ron suggested splitting the costs of the more expensive campsites in Morro Bay, i rejoiced at the opportunity. We shared a site for a week, him in his beat up old van and me in my little dome tent, sharing morning coffee, and a chat in the evening for a week, until one day the site we were on had been reserved, so we went back up to San Simeon, and the primitive campground at Washburn where i stayed just over a week.

Yes, I spent a month lost, not knowing what to do, just living day by day – slow walks to town to buy groceries and more walks on the beach, meditating and reading and taking life in stride. I also felt that i had stepped so far outside, sneaking showers at the pricier campground down below, days unbathed, boiling water for coffee in a scratched dollar store teflon frying pan and so accustomed to living outside, could i ever now make it back to the norm. But with the help of the angels, and the nature of the coast, i slowly came more alive. The stories of that time and the people and that place are valuable and many, and need to be told more elsewhere. And though i grew in my time there, seeing angels around, and a base in myself, the rains were coming in heavy and steady and i had to go.
The weather in early ’09 had been variable to say the least, from record hot sunny days, to periods of rain which turned to snow on the hills just above. The rains were coming in and the ground was becoming saturated, unable to absorb anymore. i had been in the campground for quite a while and my time was running out. A place where i had found peace, and a place where i did grow, but again a place i was not meant to stay.

How was i going to get out i asked myself, major storms were coming through, weather alerts all around. to go to the hostel there with its lockout? The hotel prices had skyrocketed for the weekend. i had been thinking san francisco off and on for maybe a week or several days – not a place of desire, or a place to be, but a major hub around, and i really saw nothing there for me, but then again, i did not see anything anywhere for me.

I barely slept that night planning to make my way out on the bus. Late that night a van pulled in shining its bright lights on my tent – a trailer different from the rest – created for the outback in australia. In the morning, a twenty something with dreads emerged and a curiosity and strange bond arose in me. we said hello and a little while later Ron came by and asked him where he was going. San Francisco or Monterey, and offered me a lift later in the day.

So that intention put out four months or so before, let me to san francisco – a circuitous journey and as i think of it, what felt like 10 years lived in four months, and age me it did do, older, wiser and more worn down. And that morning, valentines day, i was on my way up there.

God smiled, and the rains held off for the morning, and i was able to dry out my tent, and pack my stuff without all getting wet. We left mid-day for the drive up Big Sur, that scenic drive on the coast. We chatted a bit, he going north from LA back to his family, his business had crashed, designing specialty outback trailers, and he was going home for what he hoped would be just a little while. The sky opened up, rain poured down, bouncing back off the ground just as we passed Plaskett Creek. We stopped for coffee at almost $3 a cup on the way, he got a call and said he would have to stop in Monterey and would drop me at the hostel there.

When we got to Monterey the sun was out again. The traffic was heavy, and we both felt overwhelmed. i did not know it was the weekend of the major golf tournament. I had not called for reservations, and we found the hostel was booked full for the weekend. I breathed deep, and he agreed to drop me back off downtown – i guess i would go to San Francisco after all. The Amtrak bus to San Jose no longer stopped at the place it had a year before. I looked at the schedule and saw that it was due in just a few minutes, i walked up to the transit plaza, backpack on my back, and a policecar slowed to look at me. I made it to the stop a minute after the last bus for the day was to leave, but thankfully it was a few minutes late. It took me up to San Jose where i caught the Caltrain into the city and saw couples with flowers and remembered it was Valentine’s Day. I had no reservations, and it was evening when i arrived, but my hostel of choice, the city centre had plenty of room, and the rains did not begin until the next day.

I remember little of that time here, but i know i slept in a real (bunk) bed, alone – first time in a long while, and took a bath and washed my clothes and spent time in the library and walked around, and cooked full meals involving several burners on a real stove. The rains lasted several days, but the storm on Big Sur and below did not cause the landslides they feared.

I came down to the hostel at fort mason after a few days, still not knowing where i would go. The weather turned nicer, that i know, for sun was out the day i walked in the Marina district, and took the first cash advance on the visa card, taking money from my dad. I also know that i went to Ocean Beach and spent a day in Golden Gate Park with a guy i met who live there – yes in the park, a secret shrub, where he had spent much of the past two years. I had sat on a bench to eating a snack and he came up and talked to me – i remember his eyeglasses with bright blue safety pins – and something striped that he wore. He was schitzo he said, cut off from his family, his disability check mailed to them and they sent him the cash, just enough to get by, and from the amount he quoted, i could tell, they kept some behind for themselves. We talked of journeys, he’d travelled around, of retreat centres and energy. i met him another day outside his safety zone, for a coffee up on van ness another area i had never been, we spoke of life and became increasingly paranoid, feeling the edgy vibes of those who walked determinedly were directed at him. From our previous conversations i believed that he saw auras and human energy, but like so many in our culture had never learned to work with the perception he had, and then saw it all directed at him. I never saw him again but he sticks with me, for i had seen so many just like him, whose gifts in seeing more were dishonoured and denied, and rather than being a blessing, to be nurtured and refined, had it turn into a nightmare, distorted by the pain of having it denied.

Now sometime in my week or so here, i had picked up the free new age magazines from the boxes on the street. This is something i do all the time so there is nothing special about it per se. But as i browsed through i saw the ad once again for Harbin Hotsprings – hotsprings, yoga, meditation, sound and more with camping at a great price. now i had seen the ad a year before and it called out to me. Like many other retreat centres, of new age and alternative health and spirituality i was drawn to them but did not give myself permission to go. I almost went in 2008, but became afraid, and convinced myself it was too cold to camp and worried about the clothing optional policy. I had been looking at retreats for several years, yearning, but told myself no.

But this time, i dared to take a chance, i really had nothing left to lose. I would go though it was colder out than it had been the year before, but i was toughened up by 8 months of so of mainly living outside. I delayed leaving by a day, that is for sure, went with hesitation, but left to there, taking the ferry across the bay and a long bus ride up through wine country. And so began a period of healing and opening up, and trying to live – a spiraling circle that has brought me back here.

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On some journeys all doors open for you, tickets come cheap, a ride comes through, and all runs on time. And then there are other trips where delays stand in your face. My trip here to San Francisco in January 2008 was one of those. in fact, there were considerable delays. I came again this time from Oregon, not from Eugene from where i had come in the previous time less that three months (but seemingly years) before, but from Seaside where i had spent 40 days and nights and then some more. And in between those times, i had criss-crossed the country as well.

It was January (2008) when i arrived, and it was not until the middle of March that i would leave the area for a good time (until February 2009) not really expecting to come back again. But then again, the last time i was here, i did not imagine to be back so soon. In those three months i went south and north, alone and with my father. Though it became a time of frenetic movement, I did not leave California. But the story of my movement, the story with my dad, began and ended in San Bruno, a suburb of town near the airport, and will not be covered here.

But as i said, my journey was delayed, and i wondered if it was a good decision made, but it was an experience lived. I had been in Seaside over a month, and felt the slowness come over me, i felt like my time there was done. I wanted to start the new year in another locale, but i stayed the night and went to Portland new years day instead. The weather was Oregon rain, and despite the glitter of that city, i wondered why i came. My call was to go to San Fransisco, but i delayed and procrastinated for a few days, sitting in the public library, soggy, in front of the computers in the main hall, or one in the side room, looking at lands afar. By the time i decided to make the trek, the Amtrak fares had gone up high. My shoes were wet, i made a decision, i was going to go, so i went down to the dull greyhound station, a bought a ticket for 6:30 pm the following day, saving several dollars that way.

Now in Portland the greyhound and Amtrak stations are just next door to one another, but they are worlds apart, both are older, but amtrak is welcoming, has wooden benches and service with a smile, while greyhound is more concrete, with dim lighting, low ceilings, and a few plastic seats.

The day that i was to leave a storm came in – i spent the day drinking coffee, and at the library trying to keep myself dry. I went to the station early and got my baggage tags, but i felt something was off, i did not know why. The woman at the counter tagged my bags with what seemed to be hesitancy, but read me the gate and told me the time the bus would load. after i got in the security guard came in, and set up his table where he screened people through. I went out for a butt, heard some people murmuring about the bus and snow. I asked myself, was it delayed and when would it come, and then i looked at the ticket desk and saw some with bags walking away. I waited for a call to see if the bus was cancelled because of the storm. I looked around and the at the clock and then at 6:10 i went to the desk. The bus had just been cancelled, the pass has been closed due to heavy snow, there will be no more buses out tonight. my ticket was non-refundable, and the hostel was booked that night, i checked the time and then asked by chance, can i use it again at anytime. They stamped the ticket with the date the bus was cancelled, i could not get a refund, but could use it later.

I ran over to the Amtrak station where the bus to seaside departed i believe at 6:35. I had just a few minutes to buy a ticket, a couple dawdled in line, but i got the ticket and ran out to the bus just as it was ready to pull out. Now people in Seaside had told me i was crazy to want to go to San Francisco, a big city in California to the south. And i had wondered about my trip, somehow i was brought back to the place, something drew me back there. Another storm prevented my departure from Seaside, almost a month before, and now another brought me back there. I had thought that chapter in my life (still to be written) had ended with the year 2008, but like the circles back to San Francisco, circles had, and would again, take me back to Seaside.

I arrived, walked in and dumped my bags, your back rick said, now working the desk. The bus was cancelled i said in a rush, the pass was closed with the storm. I went to my old room, and to the familiar bed, and slept tight for the night, feeling like i had come back home, and glad now that nick had left. I got up early the next morning, to see if i would have to catch the bus, not really wishing to. I called the greyhound toll free number and got the recorded message that listed cancellations from the week before. i logged on to the computer before the front desk opened a bit worried the manager would discover that i knew how and checked the website. No buses were going south that day. I waited and waited and kept checking back, but for 3 days the message appeared, the buses were cancelled from Oregon to California, it had been another major winter storm.

The room was not to remain my own the following night, a girl came in and moved in there, a student on a winter break trip, but one with a car. the next day was nicer, the rain had slowed, and we went for a hike on Tillamook head, the wind came up and i caught a chill, but still went out to look at cannon beach and caught the bus back to seaside on my own. I had been feeling like i was catching a cold, had almost not gone on the hike the truth be told. But i had a chance, a lift in the car, to take me to the headland and more – and i missed the trees and the rocky vista, and after all what was a little rain. But that night the cold took hold, and though the buses started up after two days, i stay for over a week recovering, sleeping and reading in bed.

David, the sweetie despite his alcohol and methadone, kept warning me of the city and to stay away. He’d been to Portland, into the city for a few days, and was glad to get back to the serenity of winter in a coastal oregon town. Rick was working harder, and with Nick gone away, maybe there was place for me. I was lulling back into seaside zone but the dramas also pushed me away. I was tempted to change my plans, but i still had the ticket in hand, one that could not be returned. The dramas got stronger as the week went on, the young guy who lost his baby to social services after trying with his ex to raise it in a cheap motel room had his part-time hours stocking groceries at Safeway cut back even more, and there was talk of him having what work was around there. And then there was the crazy who looked at all with suspicion, she finally talked, became incomprehensible, and had to be taken away.

My last night a new man came in, from a sunnier place, to relive his youthful memories of summers spent in Seaside. We talked outside of many things, the chatted and drank cheap beer in his room with the young guy. The conversation got esoteric, and the kid left very soon. He fell into a trance and told me details of my past and drew a picture of a lion exactly the same as i had once drawn. he spoke of my future and called me a blocked artist said i need not go to San Francisco – that my future lie neither here not there. I knew i was leaving and so did he, and said maybe i would end up near there – near the russian river – but not right away, may take several journeys first. We more drank PBR, that awful cheap beer, and talked away till late in the night. When i got up my legs were wobbly, and i spent time over the toilet bowl throwing up. My elation turned to sorrow, it felt like my life were coming on up, and if i had come to hug a toilet bowl i just had to get away.

The next morning i peeled myself out of bed, said goodbye to seaside and got out on the road, taking the amtrak bus back to the city. The trip seemed long, my head did hurt, so i caught the first greyhound out of Portland. It was the schedule i avoided when i booked my bus, with a five hour layover in Sacramento in the middle of the night.

The bus had the usual cast of characters – a girl out of prison, another fighting for custody, a guy on a last leave from the army and more – and for much of the time i had to share a seat. I remember the break in eugene, got coffee at the starbucks but little else except that the pass over the mountains was clear.

We arrived in Sacramento just before 2am; the bus to SFO would not leave til 7. I sat out back and had a smoke, listening to loud rap coming out of a souped up car and looking around the corner watching a drug deal. I went into station, talked with one of the smokers who i met on the breaks, he knew the place, and me and two guys walked the deserted streets of downtown to a Dennys in the middle of the night where a middle-aged waitress with big hair kept filling our coffee cups. i forget their stories now, one out of jail to start a new life, and the other in a transition of sorts, and on the way back one smoking some crack. still it was he who digged deep and gave the man sleeping on the street in the ragged long coat $10 of his own.

I got to san francisco to the grisly greyhound station and walked to the hostel where i was to spend my time. It rained for several days i think, and was it this time i discovered the beach, went on more walking tours, spent time at the library and walked to golden gate park, discovering the city and remembered to meditate. The story of this time remains a blur, mixed up with my time here just months before. A time of transition, of calm and panic, for i no longer knew what i would do, and the polish of the city was gone. I made so discoveries but also lost some of the dream that was contained in this place. (that time here is another entry, written together with the time before)

I was out of cash, and began to worry and made my way down to santa cruz and monterey. It was there that I found out my dad coming out for a visit and i would meet him for a few days back here. i came back a few days sooner than hoped for I enjoyed my time in monterey and did not want to leave. The manager said could stay more than the allotted time – but one day he was not there an employee instead, and told me i had stayed too long. I came back up here to wait for my dad, staying down at Fishermans Wharf. Walks around, in the moment, a sense of calm, but a storm brewing underneath, i wanted to stop this existence of mine. A few days later i was picked up at the hostel by my father and headed out to the suburb of San Bruno, and another month long chapter of life on the road in a circle back to the suburbs again and then yet another phase of my life that led me back here again.

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