15

March. My 15th month on the road. I didn’t quite do it like Jack Kerouac, but damn, I made a good run of it for sure! It was (is) tempting to keep going—run off to foreign lands on my time off to visit the beautiful strangers that I met along the way, or meet new ones—yet my feet are craving the earth, and in that earth, roots. That doesn’t mean that my wanderlust will magically disappear, or that I won’t have the nights alone wishing I were on Barbados drinking with a table full of men doting on me in the warm night air…mmm. Ok, wait, back to the present! Roots. Yes. I am very much looking forward to doing something I’ve never done before, to see what I get that I’ve never gotten before. People always say I’m so brave for living the life I’ve lived, but the funny thing is, planting myself with a house and property in the middle of a beautiful Southwestern town is probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done. A friend asked me yesterday if I was feeling anxious or nervous about it. With all honesty and complete calm I said no. “Actually, I’m more calm and excited than I’ve felt in a long time.” I think part of it is that I am realizing with more conviction just how powerful my thoughts are in bringing me to the places I imagined, so I worry less about where I am going. I know what’s coming—because I have created and believed it and felt it and know it exists already. Each time I see my thoughts materialize, I have more faith in the next ones, and it charges me up.

As I write this, I suddenly have a terrified feeling of publishing these words, imagining people out there—my friends, strangers, coworkers—saying to themselves, “Oh my God what has she been smoking out there in her tent this year!” But then I think of my many self-helpery mentors out there who I’ve listened to all year and beg me not to give into fear of excuses or intimidation, and be who I am. So, yeah, Ok I guess I’ll just speak my truth and not worry about being perceived as too woo-woo (a word I taught my dear friends in Tucson who now think it’s the coolest word on the planet!)

I could go into all of the magic that has happened to me this year, but I’m saving it all up for a book or a (different kind of) blog, or a speech, or just something where I can compile them all into neat categories with great stories to match. So, stay tuned…

For now, what I’d really love to do is make a list of numbers and facts that these past 15 months has brought: How many miles did I drive? (around 13,000?) How many National Parks? (8) What was the longest road trip I made? (SF to Vegas) ...and then there’s the fun stuff like: How many lips did I kiss? How many other people were ever in my tent? (Just One…) How many times did I rollerblade? How many trips to Value Village did I make? And, I want to make top 3 highlights from each month: D20! Tony TNT! Bacon Saves! Jim the Cowboy!

…coming soon.

Thank you for all the memories—the morning chills, the hot springs, the love ache, the heartbreak, the reunions, the new sparks, the soft sheets, the soft snow, the wet noses, the wet lips, the chills, the heat, the planes, the trains, and the automobiles.

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The hike to Colchuck Lake.

As I was ready to leave Levenworth this morning, I got the call that my friend, Nelle, had passed over the weekend. It was devastating news, as she was one of the most illuminating souls I have ever had the chance to meet—and although I have not seen her in many years, it crushed me. I rebooked my hotel room and decided I would dedicate this day to her. Last night, I was gifted a handful of wine tasting coupons from a couple I had met drinking spiced cider by the fire, and I knew that would have to be part of my tribute to my wine-lover girl, Nelle. I looked up hiking trails in the area, and found pristine reviews about a place called Colchuck lake- a 5 mile hike up to a mind-blowing view in the Enchantment mountain range. I promised I would make it to the top and dedicate the view to my friend, then raise a glass to her at the bottom.

I always get a bit nervous wandering deep into forests alone, but I saw seven other cars in the lot, and found comfort in the fact that if there was a bear or cougar, I wouldn’t be the first to know. I was over an hour in before I came across another soul. The scenery was so captivating—with snow capped boulders, rushing rivers, and frozen waterfalls—that I wasn’t too concerned about being solo. Yet, after another hour, and another thousand or two feet, it hit me that I was by myself, in the middle of a tundra, with only a bottle of water and a camera. Any other day, and I may have just called it good and turned back for fear I’d become the example of why they say not to go hiking alone—but I was able to move forward because I had a promise to keep. The last mile of the hike was grueling, and I was half in tears just begging the mountain Gods to make the lake appear. I said to myself, “If this were easy, it wouldn’t mean as much, one foot in front of the other, keep moving.” When a spot of blue finally peeked out from the trees, I wasn’t fully prepared for what I felt—my breath jumped, my body froze, and tears came to my eyes. I was utterly alone, standing on the edge of a cliff, crying as I witnessed truth in beauty. The water was completely still—frozen into layers of crinkled cellophane, not a ripple, not a sound. The cascading rock face was drizzled with lines of white icing as it looked down at its distorted reflection below. I’ve never witnessed such stillness in the air—it’s like time stopped— the Universe pausing in a moment of silence for its newest angel. I stood on the verge of rock and water, closed my eyes and felt my mind’s eye drift—I could sense my feet leave the ground and float above, existing neither in my world or in hers. It was a beautiful space in time, a oneness of existence with all that has been. I opened my eyes and witnessed the majesty of the mountain once more. I offered my deepest gratitude, warmed my hands against my heart, and began the descent back down below, carrying with me the last memory of me and Nelle, and knowing that now she is surrounding us everywhere—in the crisp fall breeze, in the smell of a freshly baked pie, and in all the little nuances that she appreciated in her very special time on Earth.

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The Metolias.

Most times, I don’t plan where I’m going to go until the day or so before, doing a fairly quick search on my favorite site OutdoorProject.com or Hipcamp.com to see what sites are available in certain geographic areas where I am near. This week, my end goal was to end up in Sisters, OR, where I had a blind date with a pilot from my company who lived there, and then jump off 20 miles to Bend after. On the drive down from Portland, I encountered nothing but stormy skies, engulfing my path with a whiteout of clouds and rain. I had picked out a specific campground on the Metolias river, which I planned to spend one night, but I was getting nervous that the rain would deter my perfect riverside picnic. As luck would have it, ten miles out from the turnoff, the sky peeled open with clear blue skies. I followed the directions and drove to the very end of the long dirt road past several other campsite turnouts. I thought for sure that this site would be empty, as it seemed a hidden treasure being so far out. Lo and behold, every site was full—save one—but it was right on top of the neighbor site to the right. I did a loop to see if there was anything else, but there was nothing. I pulled in, got out of the car, and took a stretch and a breath while taking in the majestic flowing river which was roaring with gusto right before me. I noticed a man to my right casually fidgeting with his fishing pole, so I walked up to him and coyly apologized for encroaching on his space. He gave me a warm smile, brushed off the supposed invasion, and welcomed me with kind eyes. Moments later, he motioned to his trailer where a beautiful woman emerged, and introduced me to his wife Cathy. From that moment on, the three of us were kind of inseparable. Chris watched in fascination as I popped out my little red riding hood, and within minutes, I was cozily and discreetly perched aside them. A few hours later, Chris and Cathy commandeered a raging campfire and invited me to join them. We corked several bottles of red wine and shared dozens of stories of our collective wanderlust adventures. I learned they were rounding out a four month cross-Canada/America road trip, and that the very next day would be their 39th wedding anniversary.

I wanted to something special for these new friends of mine, so I searched my Mini for anything that could resemble a present or an artistic gesture for such an event. Luckily, I found a drawing pad and colored in a sketch of Venice, Italy which, to me, embodies romance and adventure—the epitome of these two kindred souls I had just met. I left it on their picnic bench first thing in the morning, had a coffee, and then wandered up the river’s edge on a 10 mile hike along the river which I soon learned would steal my heart. Cathy had described the color of the azure waters as they passed under the foot bride, but I had no idea how true her words would be. The colors of the foliage along the banks were breath taking, and the feeling of the water’s rush I could feel in my veins. About three miles in, I was rudely awakened from my splendor my a sharp burning pinch on my butt! At first, I thought I was bit by a poisonous spider, doomed to loose a cheek, but then saw the yellowjackets spiraling up from the ground and knew I had been a victim of their folly. For the next seven miles, I was grabbing my ass and rubbing it with furvor! As I returned to the campsite, I saw C&C gathering their fly fishing gear together, and they came up to me to give me a hug for the gift I left them. “Do you want to come learn how to fly fish today?” Chris asked. Wish giddy glee glee glee I beamed an astounding “YES!!!”—and thus commenced the first day of the rest of my life as a fly fisher… I. Was. Hooked.

My friends Chris and Cathy captured my first hours as a fly fisher :)

Detroit Lake

On the way to Bend, I would stop by Sisters—but before Sisters I would camp at the Metolias, and alas, on the way there, during a five minute clearing of the rain, I found this… I jumped out of my car and flew down the ravine onto the plain of—what WAS this?? I snapped a few photos, stood on top of a tree trunk in awe, and then the drops began to come down once more. I darted straight back up the hill to the cover of my car and took one last glimpse before moving on.

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ONP & Mt. Rainier—D20

Once I had my LRRH (Little Red Riding Hood), I knew I could go for more extended periods of time camping. For my next week off from the jets, I chose to explore the Olympic National Park in Washington. I was starting out from Tacoma, so my route took me from the south up to the west coast, rounding the north, and then jetting out back east. I only had one place picked out: Hoh Rainforest. From my brief research, it looked magical and drippy with character. The Hoh did not disappoint—I visualized and found the perfect camping spot on the corner of a lush road with a fallen tree, two dogs across the road, and a white van next door (ask me about my visualizations later… they’ve been extraordinarily profound lately!) Anyways… as you can see below, it was like magical fairies gifted Heaven down to me and smiled. I spent a joy-filled evening just sitting by my campfire and watching the world not rush by, then the next day I hiked five miles through the forest, passing waterfalls, rushing rivers, and serene hikers who had spent the night sleeping next to them.

Continuing up the coast, I didn’t have much of a plan, but looked at my map and saw—Beach #1, #2 and #3. There were short hiking trails attached to them, so I decided that this would fill my day, and I would end at Mora Campground just a crick away from the water. I think my jaw literally dropped open when the hiking path opened up and I saw the view of beach #2. Giant mounds of earth and trees reached out of the shallow waters against fallen remains of their ancestors lying on top of each other on the sandy shores. The tide was low, so people were actually able to walk all the way out to one of the monoliths (I did not because I was not in the mood to go barefoot and have my feet freeze off.) This was my first experience with a beach in the PNW—and I knew right then that I need more. A lot more! I proceeded to hike to beach #3. As I walked, I imagined a man at the end who would chat with me and share some great information… lo and behold, I met him. He told me about a great site he’d just left in Rainier Nat’l Park. “Do you remember the site you were at?” I asked. “Why, yeah I do! It was D20! It’s truly breathtaking, the best site in the whole campground, right on the edge of the cliff overlooking Mt. Rainier.” Right then & there, I knew how I would end this road trip. D20—Here I come!

I read there were hot springs nearby, so that was the plan for the next day. I found the very last spot at Sol Duc campground that night and shared my wine with a woman who pulled up next to me in just a pick up. She was hiking and soaking all day, ate a bite of a sandwich, and set up her camping mat in the back of her truck. I invited her for a glass, and we ended up chatting for over an hour by the campfire. The next morning, I gave her my (now spare) air mattress and wished her a happier sleep for the remainder of her journey. Then off to the soaking pools I went. It was two hours of blissy hot pools mixed with quick dips into the frigid cold waters. After feeling quite noodly, I showered and decided to head to the next mystery spot. On the way out, I got into conversation with a lovely woman named Spring who lived nearby. She told me of Diamond Lake, and a great little secret spot where I could go and take my chair and wine and get away from the masses and twirl my toes in the water. She also invited me to stop by her home and say hello and, heck, stay the night if I wanted with her and her husband. I memorized the directions to her house, and bid her adieu. I did end up driving by the next day, but I got shy and decided to just wave and continue on, appreciating the openness and warmth that she offered me. I also wanted to find this secret spot at the lake as soon as possible! On the way to the lodge, however, there was a big accident, and the only road was backed up for miles, so I took a detour to explore the edges of the north end of the lake, maybe have a picnic. That’s when I came across my own private Idaho—or, in this case, a dock. Nobody else around, just me and the breeze coming off the lake, the water lapping up on the shore, one beer, and a sandwich. Perfect. The traffic cleared and I made my way to the lodge—following Spring’s directions, I actually found the secret beach, twirled my toes in the cool sand, and sipped my glass of chilled pinot gris.

Time for D20. The whole way out to Rainier, I envisioned pulling up to D20 and seeing it free, setting up camp and reveling in the views that my #3 beach guy had described. I saw myself saying hi to my neighbor, him inviting me to share some wine and a campfire, and us having a stellar evening together. (I’m telling you, people, this stuff is pow-er-ful!) That is exactly what ended up happening. Well, not exactly… D20 was occupied, so I took D19. But guess who was in D20? Yup. The guy who invited me for wine. The next day when he left, he passed on his campsite to me, so I spent day 2 in the exact spot the beach #3 guy had told me about, sipping my coffee at the edge of the canyon where the white river flowed through, staring up at the glacial mountain above which adorned a white cloud cap at its peak. The stars were out full force, and I even saw a shooting one… so bright, it made me gasp.

The ONP held up this year’s tradition of each place being my favorite—each one bringing just as much happy happy joy joy as the last, but with different characters, shifting scenery, and wild surprises.

Below, some of the images that can’t even come close to sharing some of the magic with you…

The incredible lush & beautiful Hoh rainforest campground.

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Hike to Beach #3, where I met the man who told me to go find D20.

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Below: My “hike” 5 miles out to sea to the New Dungeness lighthouse & a hidden treasure private Shelly-dock on Diamond Lake!

Mt. Rainier and the stunning Whitewater campground.

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Finding Bend

Annette had been asking me to visit for years. I had this sneaky suspicion that once I did, I’d never want to leave. Turns out, I was right. By day two, I knew I had found my new home.

I’ll admit, Annette laid on the Bend-charm thick! She has every toy known to woman—paddle boards, bikes, camper, kayaks, snowboards, 4X4 roller skates, the list goes on and on. Day one, four of us girls took a ski boat up to Billy Chinook lake and wake-boarded all afternoon, then filled up the ‘fatties’ and swapped out to wake surf. That evening, we biked around town, crossing the magical Deschuttes river where the river surfers were out playing, and ended at an outdoor concert venue to watch Brandy Carlisle sing her soul out. Day two, we hiked to the peak of Tumalo, where one is rewarded with 360 views of the valleys and other peaks beyond—most notably, Sisters and Broken Top. Afterwards, we threw the SUPs in the car and drove past handfuls of crystal lakes until we arrived at Hosmer Lake. The dogs both hopped on Annette’s board, as they’ve done hundreds of times before, and we roamed along the path that weaved like a river through the tall grasses that rose from the shallow waters. The image here is from a spot where we stopped along the shore to share cans of vino and gawk at the pristine landscape around us. While I was paddling down the ‘river’—snow speckled mountain straight in front of me, sunshine on my shoulders, dogs on SUPs behind me—the feeling enveloped me like no other: THIS was home. I knew it as sure as shit (as my Dad would say). I’ve been on cloud 9 ever since, envisioning my magical unicorn world (as I call it) and all of the adventures, love, and awe that await.

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SF to PDX or Bust!

So, I think it’s about time to start adding in casual, unprocessed photos to this year’s TDM pages! I want this blog to not only be an artistic capture of the year to share in a pretty, professional way, but also serve as a photo-journal of antics that I can look back on later and remember all the details and in between moments. With that, this next post is actually supposed to chronologically be before the previous one. But, alas, here it is in all it’s raw glory.

Originally, I had anticipated hitting up Denver & the Colorado cities for the fall. Then when I realized that my dear friends Bridget and Randy were getting married in Portland on August 10th, I changed courses and decided to drive from SF to PDX, and then from there explore the Pac North West. (Sorry Denver, I know you were anticipating my arrival with bated breath) Life has such a beautiful way of swinging us around to our destiny when we need direction.

My dearest ginger, Justin said he would join me on the road trip up the state. We stopped half way in a town I don’t remember, but the Airbnb was UhMazing and we found the quaintest little restaurant on the river by accident where we soaked in every moment of being alive and on an adventure together. Once we reached Portland, we met up with our old best roommate ever, Amy, and brunched and shopped like the best of ‘em! The wedding was one of the best I have ever attended—full of pure love, joy, and dancing! (Oh! The dancing!!) What a wonderful induction to the state that I would soon call home…

Beware. After a night of incredible fun, you could end up with a supersized bloody mary in your hand, a useless paper straw, and a hairstyle by Woody Woodpecker!

Life changer! Little Red Riding Hood

I don’t know what took me so long, but once I finally made the rash decision (after 10 months of research) to invest in my roof top tent, life- was- changed- forever! Best thing I ever did. My first overnight was at Frog Lake, in the Mt. Hood National Forest. I was thankful to have a privacy so that no one could see me struggle getting the tent down for the first time (later I would discover that the key was using the ladder as leverage.) I slept like a— well, not a baby, cuz I don’t sleep well lately, so hmmm…. I slept like a happy, comfy insomniac! It was heaven! I even did a down dog when I woke up in the morning, filled with giddy smiles as I felt the immense room around me and the padded floor (as opposed to the previous deflated air mattress that left indentations from my hip bones at 3 am.) Yes indeed, this was PURE luxury! (Stop laughing, Sprinter Van people, you elitist snobs!!! …just kidding, I love you) Anyways, day two I drove to Smith Rock State Park, which is one big mind blow surrounded by a river, and then ended up camping lakeside at a quaint little volcanic waterhole called East Lake. The following day, Paulina Peak beckoned me to climb her before heading off to the place I would discover would become my Paradise on Earth. (You’ll have to keep reading to see where that is!)

Little Red Riding Hood! Day one—Frog Lake, OR.

Little Red Riding Hood! Day one—Frog Lake, OR.

Smith Rock State Park, OR.

Smith Rock State Park, OR.

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Sunset at East Lake

Sunset at East Lake

Awesome camp neighbor, Sonny the dog.

Awesome camp neighbor, Sonny the dog.

Waking up in LRRH on the shore of East Lake.

Waking up in LRRH on the shore of East Lake.

Coffee in the sand, with my beer bar mug from a layover in WKW..

Coffee in the sand, with my beer bar mug from a layover in WKW..

Half way to Paulina Peak

Half way to Paulina Peak

Paulina Peak (East lake is on the right)!

Paulina Peak (East lake is on the right)!

Mt. Rose peak & Yosemite

After the High Sierra music festival, I drove through Tahoe and decided to visit Yosemite on my way back to the City. I had a recommendation to climb Mt. Rose, but didn’t expect to go all the way as it seemed crazy long and far. Ultimately, I took the wrong turn and ended up there anyway! But what a view! The last 1/4 mile was brutal, and I felt like I was on the final approach of Everest! (Ok, not really, but it was hard.) I was rewarded later that day with the perfect campsite just outside the park gates. I put my blanket down on the edge of the lake, made myself a G&T, fluttered my toes in the water, and read a book whilst soaking up the mountain sun. (My sunburn later reminded me that in my glee I should have been more prudent) The mozzies came out with fury at dusk, and I had no camp wood, so I climbed in the back of my MIni and watched the light fade away as I drifted off to sleep. At dawn, I was wide awake and jumped out of the car to capture the sun rise over the lake, eager to start my journey through one of my favorite National Parks on the planet. One that I had been absent from for too long.

The view from the peak of Mt. Rose with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

The view from the peak of Mt. Rose with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

My pristine view at Tuolumne Campground, just outside the gates of Yosemite.

My pristine view at Tuolumne Campground, just outside the gates of Yosemite.

Sunrise just before heading into Yosemite.

Sunrise just before heading into Yosemite.

Muir Lake. Yosemite.

Muir Lake. Yosemite.

Warm Waters and Sparkly Hearts

I had 3 days off from work, and as fate would have it, I was asked to join a 3-day hot-springing adventure from San Diego to Reno in my dream vehicle—a Mercedes Sprinter van. Unicorns and rainbows flew out of my pores and I accepted with glee. He swooped me up from the airport and we headed straight through LA to get to Deep Creek Hot Springs, on the edge of the Pacific Coast Trail. It was a 45 minute hike down the valley to reach the river, and with a short cold crossing, we emerged up the opposite banks to climb into our first of many hot tubs of goodness. There were several PCT hikers who came down from the hills and joined us, soaking their tired feet and rejuvenating their bodies in the healing waters. Of all the hot springs I’ve been to in my life, this place was the most picturesque.

The next day we headed up the 395 and found some great little pools off the side of the road that you would never know were there unless you ‘knew’—as my partner fortunately did. There was a cascading flow of half a dozen pools making their way down the dusty road, all of which were magnificently clear and sparkly from the fools gold laying with the sand on the bottom. After trying out all of the pools and having a makeshift spa day with sand scrubs, we continued north to Mammoth Lakes to find a hidden tub in the wilderness. As we drove around the dirt roads seeking out our treasure, I got a dejavu feeling I had been there before. It wasn’t until we walked down a path and saw it that I knew. This was the Crab Cooker! I could hardly believe it. Back in 2003, my boyfriend and I spent New Years in Mammoth with some friends. It was winter, tons of snow on the ground—we took Matty’s Ford Explorer and drove in the pitch dark out into a the middle of nowhere. All of the sudden he jumps out and said, “We’re here!” “Where??” I thought. The rest of us piled out of the car and saw steam rising from the ground. The tub was so hot that we had to dump snow into it to cool it down. Then, we all stripped our clothes off and hopped in, beers in hand, milky way shining from above, cheersing to the new year. It’s one of my favorite memories from those days. This time would prove to be no different. My new love interest and I were now soaking the day and night away, meeting wonderful fellow travelers and sharing cans of beer, watching the night fall. The stars were bright against the black of the moonless sky… until. “Hey guys! The moon is about to rise!” I said, “Let’s all sit in silence and watch…” With that, we all turned towards the mountain in complete silence and together we observed the arrival of the moon as it morphed from a dot to a line to a crescent to an orb, brighter and brighter, moving faster it seemed as it rose above our heads. There was a non-verbal celebration as we all smiled and gleamed at what we were experiencing, sitting in the warm waters with strangers, appreciating the glories of nature.

Zion Ranch West, UT.

Two black birds approached as I stood there in awe of the wide open landscape I had just entered.  I heard them caw softly and covered the sun and squinted as they flew over Oso and me.  The panorama was so quiet, so still— they were a solitary duo in motion— and as they passed, the only thing aside from the silence was the sound of the air as it swooshed across their wings… whhh, whhh, whhh… they flapped across the blue sky and disappeared over the grassy ridge.  I stood in awe, in bliss.  A moo of a cow.  The buzz of a fly.  The hush of a plane overhead.  My kitchen sits now upon a rock cluster a few yards across from a patch of flowering weeds and strewn sticks.  My living room is a camp chair next to an Rtic cooler side table.  The Jambox plays softly with tunes of Latin jazz, African beats, and Brazilian samba.  As the night stretches across the plain, tiny orange firelights appear in the fields accompanied by murmurs of friends laughing.  This might be the most pristine, beautiful camp I’ve ever made my bed.  The crickets are starting to sing now, my own fire crackles, and the warm breeze touches my cheeks as I lift my wine to my lips and smile out at the nothingness that is filled with everything.  My citronella candle burns but does not keep all of the insects at bay.  It’s ok, I welcome it all tonight.  This is too magical not to share.  

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