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Posts Tagged ‘walking’

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

Florence

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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10/27 – salt lake city

I am not a car. I am a human being. This i want to yell. I yearn for a place that is geared towards people rather than cars. I yearn for a place that is built on a human scale. At times i wonder if cars have become a species that is taking over, like in many a sci-fi film for it seems that in America the landscape is geared towards them. What i am writing is nothing new, not even to me, but i can ignore this feeling no more. I have wandered north america, and the usa for too long, and the landscape makes me sad. all too often it hurts to walk, the body is fine, but the soul screams out and feels overwhelmed. there is no where i want to go. I am a person in a land built for cars.

I feel this more intensely here, in a city designed for the car, but it is something that has haunted me for many a year – in so many places around the continent. Why not just learn to drive again and somehow buy a car – you ask. Perhaps i could, and i am just being stubborn and refusing to accept the society we have created. Maybe i am, but i feel that something has been lost, something that must be reclaimed – somehow. But how?

At times i have been yearning for Central America or Mexico – the lands where i was last winter, the lands where public transit and public space looms large. A place where you could almost always find some sort of transportation – from a deluxe bus that puts greyhound to shame, to a chicken bus – the school buses of my youth, to the back of a truck, where in the cities buses, collectivos (communal taxis) and in guatemala tuk-tuk (three wheeled motorized taxis) could take you anywhere. Though it is not just the transportation, it is that despite the crazy traffic, many places are still built to human scale (though the big cities are the sprawls of the car). They are designed for walking though the sidewalks are narrow and uneven and suddenly disappear, and the cars zoom through and do not stop and park anywhere. The Cars are part of the equation, but they are not it. People still walk as a means to get around, and for fun. A pedestrian is not an anomaly. Still, the danger looms, making it less safe to walk around.

I am in a city where in many areas it hurts to walk. the neighborhood where i stay is older, one of the first, and is built to a human scale with narrower streets with sidewalks separated by a median of grass and trees, but once i leave i am faced with the wide boulevards full of cars. And even in this area you see few people on the street, and i think that is it.

Public transit in this city is fairly good, with buses passing in many areas every 15 minutes to half an hour. The trax light rail train runs more often and the system is being expanded, as is the front runner train to link the communities to the south. But once you get off, there is little around. The trax to the south is built upon old railway tracks, and stops at park’n’rides with little else around; buses run to and fro but it is a wasteland to the eyes.

In town the blocks are long and the streets are wide – sidewalks exist separated from the street, but few walk along – only those like myself, the poor, the young, the homeless, and the occasional other person. While walking is possible on the main streets, you are overwhelmed by the cars – they are not to human scale. you must push a button to work the pedestrian crossing light (yes it exists) and if you come as the street light changes, you must wait an entire round. The effort is made but you become overwhelmed, and feel visible and exposed as a pedestrian.

The problem is lack of the public sphere – few people walk here and the only ones in parks are the homeless or barely housed so it seems. Yes people are busy and days are getting short, but lunch breaks, and after work – at home alone or with a few others in private space in front of the tv.

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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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Sunset bay is a bit of a misnomer for i never saw the sun. and maybe the fog came down on me. The hiker-biker camp here like in all the state parks is a world of its own set off from the main campground. The camps at 5-6 dollars per person for cyclists or pedestrians are in all or most of the oregon state parks along the coast, and they are where i spend my nights. will free showers and individual pricing they are the best deal around for a foot person like me. While the parks all have a standard, and there is a certain overall feel, each park and hiker biker site has its own flavour and community, and of course with people passing through nightly it is never quite the same. and now at the end of july they are getting more crowded than i have experienced them before – in previous octobers, and sometimes in the rain, and the past week the number of “serious” touring cyclists on vacation seems to have grown, and i don’t know if it is this area or the week, but fewer nomads, bohemians, and long term cyclists are to be found, and as a walker i have felt myself more of a curiosity.

i feel claustrophobic here in this camp – something else i wrote this morning as cyclists in pairs and threes were pulling out, and now some more have just pulled in. This is the smallest site i have been in, and as i noted the bike traffic has picked up – and as i have just discovered this is a stop listed in ‘the book’ – a tour guide many follow as the bible. and here all look out on a common area, no trees to divide or spaces between, and there is so little flat ground here, that i had tents on each side a foot or two away – or rather one was not a tent but a couple sleeping on the bare ground. two guys moved in and almost took over my table – yes, or course i would share i said, but then a bike parked at each end and their stuff strewn about – i bristled inside but then talked a bit, and shared an evening in conversation with them – two 60 somethings that are friends from junior high, one still living on long island – and i realized i picked up his new york vibe, and while he enjoyed his trip felt a bit out of his element and the other in mount shasta who had taken more of the hippie route. And had hot water for some tea and hot coffee in the morn. And today a dad and his daughters and a more elderly man are here – and they two are following the cycling book. for a while i felt lonely despite the people around, more lonely that at times when i am alone for i realized all else shared a common bond – a trip much the same and i was out of the loop, on my own voyage of sorts. And i have noticed a bit of a split between the hikers and bikers before, for they are two very different trips with different joys and frustrations, and tips and speed shared between those on the road.

Though with the cramped quarters in this zone – with three picnic tables in the center – people tend to mingle more. It is not like the little alcoves at tugman the night before, or my space hidden away under the tree at beachside, or the larger treed area at honeyman where i was able to grab a nook, or at washburn, then an emptier place – and a bit of privacy, and though south beach in newport was more open and right by the drive, it seemed emptier and people were not on top of each other – and as a result many kept to themselves. But elsewhere i have met other walkers and those who travel by foot and thumb and had more a connection to a few of those around, and here those that come through in groups often know each other, having already met several times on the road, and know they will probably meet each other the following night. and in this camp, i have met no one else truly on their own. The first nights out, further up, met other solo travellers, and now i also see more of a gender balance, for a few days i had been the only woman around.

And while i sit and enjoy a campfire, i know i am slightly out of place – i talk to the older man at first, a 77 year old retired physics professor who is doing the coast and then a inland and across the mountains, meeting his wife somewhere in land for a few days. And the college students from minnesota are going to the bay, as is the dad with his teenage daughters from arizona who is going by the book. he takes his daughters on a major trip each summer to expose them to the world – samoan islands, scotland, and the pyrenees’, are just of the few places they have gone – and as a result the girls seem open to the world around, and more open than him to a hiker like me – and so different from the other teenagers who i see in the bathrooms with long showers and their makeup cases and blow dryers complaining about the cold. He asks questions of the guys like what is your favourite book, and what do you feel is the biggest problem in the world.

Still i feel apart on a different trip like i often have felt in the mainstream – the goals are different as is the road, and i connect but partially. And they all move on together and i continue my journey alone – but to encounter new stories and adventures and connections of my own.

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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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Sun shines today. A circle of bright blue over the city center surrounded by clouds. They are heavy and dark. Despite the strong wind that blows through, they do not seem to have moved. The threaten, but have not opened up, yet.

I awake in the morning and see the blue sky. rejoice and hurry up to get out and meet the day, no lingering inside for me. The air is cold, the wind has a bite. I look up there, see the gloom, and wonder how temporary this reprieve will be. For rain is what the weather predictions all say. I grab a coffee and sit in the parkette, a brief patch of sun before the storm blows in. I wish to walk out to the place where the plants do grow and people really live, but the clouds are heaviest over there and i fear that i will get caught in the rain. I turn back, pace around,

i walk out again along the water front. Water is choppy today with white caps on small bumpy waves. The plants are smaller, not protected from the wind, or the salt in the sea air. A huge cruise ship is in the port, larger than most of the buildings that surround. On its way to Alaska, but that no longer appeals to me. Ferries go back and forth, and the Victoria Clipper pulls in. I stare at the snow-capped mountains to the north, and realize i have lost all interest in returning there. I feel the breeze and remember the chill. Though i have been thinking of alaska since i came back to this country, i believe that it, and all that lay north, is a part of my life to be left behind. A feeling that has come back so many times, though when i came up here it was still in the back of my mind. I walk past the huge grain elevator and out down to the shipyard full of commercial ships to transport goods and to catch and process the fish.

This park is cut off from the city above, and even the buildings down below, by the impassable railroad tracks and the tall fence. The park is a strip of green, with a few benches to pause and a path to cycle and jog or walk along. I am in another place where people pass through, at one end the cruise ship and ferry terminals, and at the other, the ship yard. Neighbourhoods lay above, on top of hills with steep rocky sides. I must cross an inlet to reach one, on a long busy bridge in the wind. And i do not see a road going up the other that lay on this side of the bridge, only fast avenue that circles around the base. I sit for a minute in the bright sun, though the wind that blows fast hurries me along.

I am in a port, where all come and go, a place that people and goods journey from and return back to, passing through. I did not go to the place where people invest their lives, and i am disappointed that i find myself wandering here. Stuck between the zones once again, no longer desiring to sail away and look at why i found myself here. I turn back along the shore, do not continue on the path through industrial zone, and find myself in the center of town, that dark place i do not wish to be. The sun still shines overhead, and the clouds still loom around. I am tired now from my walk along the shore, but still wander the center more, loosing track of what is important, revisiting that dark zone, walking up and down shadow covered streets. Losing the light i had on the path and feeling to exhausted to walk out the other way. I sit inside and the sun does shine. I never made it to the other places i wished to go (though i later heard it rained there)

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It was a short journey from the hostel at fort mason to the warming hut just below golden gate bridge. The walk there and back took just a few hours but revealed to me much about many longer trips i have taken. It was a journey out from the centre and back again. a circle? a spiral? a treading old paths? or perhaps some combination of the three?

It was a perfect sunday for a stroll. But i laze the early morning away, sitting outside at the picnic table, by the eucalyptus trees with the peeling bark and the magical scent. I smoke a cigarette but then put it out wanting to smell the tree. i breathe deep, i breathe slow, i want to take it in, my nostrils smile, i am at ease. Lime green parakeets fly between the trees, a hummingbird almost the same colour buzzes around, never resting so it seems. I talk to another in town waiting for a boat, his ship to sail and while i am calm and enjoy the conversation, i feel that i should walk on. The water that peaks through the trees calling me forth.

I walk down the stairs to the open green, glance towards the water, the boats below and the bridge that spans the opening to the bay. The sun shines bright and i will walk along the shore. I wish to turn right, but i head left, into Safeway instead. I thought of chestnut street in the marina district and said i did not want to go there. But soon i found myself heading up there. Again. The truth be told, i wanted a smoke. i lost my lighter and had used my last match the night before. There were few at Safeway, and overpriced at 1.99. So to save 50 cents, i decided to walk along into the zone i said i would not go and see what i could find.

Don’t get me wrong, the street is nice, very nice. But bland. It is the land of white bred yuppies who stroll along, or jog down below, with well toned butts and dogs, of blond stroller mommies and singles who check each other out, and all is beautiful from afar. Cell phones in hand, and bags with chic labels in the other, the bodies are tense, and many of the smiles seem strained. despite the relaxed image of the place, a stressed go-getting vibe lurks below. I walk past the chain coffee shop and the nice restos and bars a few with chairs outside, past stores selling clothes and beauty and banks, and look for a place to buy a lighter but no one smokes down here. There is nothing radical about the place, the safe edge of the good life and the beauty and shine seem but skin deep. I turn a corner and but my lighter in a gas station on busy lombard street. And walk down to the edge of the strip and light a cigarette and continue on my way. But it was my craving for a temporary fix that brought me here, something that feels good one minute but does not sustain.

The Palace of Fine Arts was on my way and i cannot resist its allure. A large roman/greek rotunda with a golden hue it dominates the landscape. The columns are huge, and the pale dome stands above, and carvings statues of women meant to represent contemplation, wonderment and meditation cover its top. seagulls fill in the lagoon in front, and green foliage and flowers surround. I pulled out a book and sat down on the bench and read for a while, transported to another zone. I take a picture for a couple, watch a young girl strut in too large high heels, trading bites of sponge bob frozen products on stick with her brother and finally leave when a group of teens dressed alike, purple tops on the girls, grey button down on the guys come for another photo op. I could sit and read in the sun but i feel like i must press on.

I wanted to go to the warming hut just before the bridge. I cross to the shore and walk and take the path out to the sea. . I go past the dog zone, a convention of great danes so it seemed. the beach was crowded with families and i watched kids and dogs play. Joggers on the path run along, some with smiles and others with scowls all with the ipod. A few lost cyclists, on blazing saddles bike, off their mapped course over the golden gate bridge. the sun gets hot, and i see the flowers and plants that grow along the path, not as brilliant as those planted by the palace, but a soft wildness to them. Should i stop here, but i look beyond, and see people sitting on the lawn much further along.

i head off the path to the sports basement that is there, a place i have not been in, i stop short of the door and ask myself why, do not seek the purchases for a life i seek not. I walk back down ready to crash, but look at the bridge and continue on – tired. The fatigue overcame, but i journeyed on through what seemed to be the endless field, i pause not to see, but focus on getting there, a sign .5 miles and suddenly that seems far away.

I get there and wonder why i came – the area is full but what did i expect, a sunny sunday afternoon. Families and small groups overflow the picnic area, and two women jockey for a space on the lawn. I see barbeques and table laden full. A long line for the gourmet hotdogs at 5.50 a pop. The shop and cafe is crowded, the line is long, and moves slowly as people are still undecided when they get to the counter. A man samples artisan dark chocolate and i taste more than a few. I am feeling crowded, as the man in front of me waves his hands and body around, arm coming close to my face. Another man with his two young kids blocks the cream and sugar stand. I begin to feel the buzz and am overwhelmed.

I finally get out, look around and find a bench further along. Why did i need to wander so far from centre i wondered, from the place where i began. i dreaded the walk back to the hostel again, long and along the sand. What brought me here and why do i go, moving for its own sake? I turned around and saw the city and thought oh no, is this what i must face in order to return to my temporary home.

Why do i go – its towards the bridge, the opening to the bay. The place where the bay meets the sea, where the ocean comes in and flows out once again, linking this place with the world beyond. It is the gateway to the beyond, to the open ocean and it calls my forth. I stay on the side where it is calm and today do not cross the bridge. I like the calm of the bay, do not seek the raw energy pounding me. I have walked the bridge recently a symbolic crossing, despite the cars, a cross which for long i was afraid to make. Today i am tired and content to look across the bay, staying on the ground where i am. I recently came from the north another way and need not see what lay there. Have i stopped short from the journey i should make, stopped and not crossed over, or not dared to go beyond the border. But these are familiar, i know what lay there, and today i am tired, and do not venture forth.

To go back to centre i must walk towards town, follow the inward flow of the time. I stare at the darkness, the hard concrete jungle and the transamerica building and dont want to see, for it is so much easier to walk away from the built up world we have greater, to move outwards towards the sea. I have felt this before in other locales, and vancouver comes to mind. A liberation with my back to the buildings and a sadness when i return, But i must walk along. i sit a while longer, sip my coffee and eat two more of the chocolate samples i took, watch the water and the people walking along, smiling, playing, a man bawling out his kid. and then start the journey back to the center.

The wind has come up, a bit of a breeze, and blows upon my back, pushing me, helping me go. I begin to relax, and smile within. I am walking the right way not into the wind. The tide too is coming in. Not forcing myself up against the elements but going with the flow and the blow.

I walk along the beach this time, the tide is coming in. It seems emptier now, behind the grassy mound. I had not realized but the shore line turns and i do not stare into town, I look at the hills across the bay and the island of Alcatraz. i turn and pause every now and then, turning my glimpse backwards, the golden gate bridge glistening orange int he sun. The city appears from the corner of my eye, but more often it is the palace of fine arts.

I watch the dogs, off their leashes, run along and play. A wet happy golden/setter greats me, and shows my his stick but will not let it go. Another is busy digging a hole until a small mutt comes along, off to greet and sniff a butt. I watch another golden fetch a ball tossed into the sea, just a bit, One went out a little too far and he watched for it to come back in. he would wander out between the small break but would not let his feet off the ground and the ball remained just slightly out of reach. He could not let go of the firmness beneath, and trust in his instinct to swim. He looked and waited and was hard to get away, until his person called him back in. I sat there a while and watch the ball drift further and further out to sea. Later i saw him walking along, happy but eyeing the other dogs balls. And it reminded my of myself, remaining precariously on my ground.

i pass on through a more chaotic zone, filled with people, kids and dog, crowds. close to the parking lot, a leash free swimmable beach but way to busy for me. Close to crissy field, where people do not have to journey too far, more gatherings and groups and noise right here. All seem happy in the noise, alive in the sun. and i think of those who journey not too far, staying close to the parking lot of life.
Find myself sitting by the pond once again, children feeding the seagulls that fill the place. A girl tears a tortilla and tosses the chinks into different directions while a boy who kicks the pigeons away throws it in whole and watches the gulls scramble and jostle much to his delight. I sit on the grass in the shade, and eventually the dampness soaks through my pants so i venture on back. and my stomach is starting to growl, and my bladder though i just used one of the restrooms a short while before.

This section of the walk takes me along the road, back into the land of joggers and bikes and cars that do not seem as annoying as before. As i turn down a freight ship enters in. The path turns past the parking lot, and more solos and pairs sit on benches eating lunch from safeway bags. I turn down to the water, to the smaller boats, singles and pairs sit on benches eating from safeway bags watching the water, watching the single person sails come back in. I go to the store, buy some food, wait in a long line and my world is transformed. I cut through the packed field and back to centre where i began. I sit on the table under the eucalyptus tree, smoke a cigarette, and have a small chat. i enter in, meaning to integrate, but take a nap and wonder why i rushed back so soon.

How far do you go from center, feeling you must. Say i will relax once i get there. Your body is tired but you press on forth, say once there i can stop. By the time you arrive, it is not what you pictured and does not offer the relief you crave. it is busy and crowded and there is little room and you wonder why you did not stop before. What brought you here, a silly reason and you wonder if you should press on some more. The distance travelled for so little. You wanted to sit, but said you must move, not time yet, and now you are restless in place. It felt so still, kids playing and dogs, flowers that bloomed, and array of colour, what made you go so far out. But you reflect and pause and collect your strength and head back in the direction from whence you came. You imagine the terrain you must pass through, and the journey to centre seems to hard. But you travel along a slightly different route, see the beauty along the way and realize why you made the journey out far. You pause and linger in the discoveries you’ve made, and the closer you get to home the more you wish to reach out and explore. the wind has come up and blows in your face, and it is so distant to that other place. you make your way back to the centre you missed and wonder why the rush to return.

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