Homeward Bound

The stress of living in an excessively noise- and light-polluted space longer than we had hoped had put me at the end of my rope. I could feel the bruising of many nights of interrupted sleep, near-daily intrusions of an often antagonistic neighbor suffering from dementia and other unwanted pollutions including the periodically sprayed pesticides near-by manifesting in my being. I was in desperate need of a cleanse of some kind. The less than ideal, longer-than-expected living situation had also seemed to contribute to a recent and unexpected health concern I wanted to quickly reverse. We needed a change of space, and we knew living in our new forested space would help. 

Normally I would have felt great elation at being dropped off at a trailhead for a few days of backpacking, but this morning, nothing was right. The stress of the last place we called home lingered in my being and seemed to influence my every moment. This morning was no different, I was short-fused from it all and took off from the trailhead with my dog in a speeded frenzy. 

I didn’t like hiking like that. Blazing off under my own fumes of discontentment felt sacrilegious to who I was. After around two and a half miles of non-stop-go, I began to cool off and the heavy fumes that fueled my erratic start began to drift away. I knew I was coming closer to who I was again as we climbed gradually towards the feature of this hike: two peaks who shared a white-rock-painted saddle. 

I could see the peaks in full splendor. Visually I estimated their distance. It is a sort of game I played with myself. While hiking for months-on-end in past long adventures, I became quite good at estimating distances visually with decent accuracy, I wanted to see if I still “had it”. 

As the fumes fizzled away, we climbed higher until we reached what looked like a ecological transition—overly exposed juniper shrub and oak land turning gradually upward into views of ponderosa. Up ahead, as we veer off from a fork in the trail, was a dirt path with no signs of foot traffic. We’ve reached the mile where most people decide to end their journey and reverse course. 

Ahead of us I see a short dark figure and some movement and realize it is a collard peccary. Swiftly, I reached for the lead I carried conveniently on my hip-belt and leash my dog. As we quietly make our way through, the wandering peccary veered off to the side of the trail standing back only around 20 feet or so. Making huffing sounds it braved a few bluffed charges anxious for us to move along. It seemed as though the they were anxious to reunite with another peccary on the opposite side of us. Sure enough, we walked passed another individual to the left of us and the two peccary quickly reunited and disappeared into the underbrush. 

The trail which has been a gradual climb from the start begins descending towards a creek we will follow upwards for the next few miles. As soon as we reach the creek bed we search for signs of water. Bone-dry, for now. We’ve hiked the same creek at a lower elevation where it usually flowed and I hoped that we hadn’t reached the top of its life-spring yet. While I did pack plenty of water for the two of us, finding more would be nice.

This is a very short trip. Three days and two nights I know is far too much time for the amount of miles we’ll end up doing. Often there are enough natural wonders to keep us from wanting to leave the trail too soon, but for now, water is an important factor that will ultimately determine the length of the trip. If we don’t find water along this creek some-where, we’ll have to think about possibly hiking up, over, down and out towards home tomorrow. We shall see. 

For now we seem to be making too much progress anyway, it’s barely noon and we’re nearly a third of the way. We’d better think about slowing and even a nice place to camp and spend the rest of the day. I left in such a frenzy, I even forgot to pack the book I had wanted to bring. And so, I am left to my thoughts.

We find a flat grassy spot along the creek tucked away beneath several oaks. Drinking some water I sat for a long while as Dharma explored about. Without a book and with plenty of time, I contemplated the way I had been feeling and how unfortunate it was I carried any of it with us into the sacred wood. Even though it felt as though an uncontrollable invisible force was let loose to run rampant within me, I felt disappointed in myself. Why couldn’t I get a handle on it? Why did I let it tear me down? 

I knew why. It was my own truth. 

I had been feeling like a caged and beaten animal. The same incessant industrial noise I have struggled with near what was considered our home for the last few years, had also followed me here. At the start of our hike, there is a noisy highway at our backs as we walk towards the mountains. It always takes walking around two miles away before the noise begins to fade away. It was part of my hurried start. Another layer to the recent disturbances I have had to live with. 

But now, as we sit amongst squawking scrub-jays and the other elusive sound-makers of nature, I begin to get out of my head and melt a little more into my wholesome surroundings and a hint of being more present illuminates itself. 

After eating a small lunch made up of a handful of granola and coconut bites, I drift off into a long nap on the open forest floor. Awakened by the heat of the day and a shift in sunlight coming through oak’s branches now shining directly on my face, I look at the time. It’s still early. The rest of the day was filled with restless wanderings and emptying of the mind. It was a long, drawn out evening before we finally got sleepy enough to call it a night. 

My goal for the next day was for us to take our time. We awoke to a pleasantly chilled and quiet morning. Measuring our miles and time against what liters of water remained, I figured we’d be up to the peak’s saddle in no time with plenty to spare for our next day. Still, finding more would make for a more pleasant hike. 

Just a mile or so from where we camped the creek’s life-spring began to make itself known by the various patches of greened bank vegetation. After skipping an unfortunate cow-trampled pool of water with algae-blooms and droppings we find a crystal clear pool with good flow further upstream. We gulped down much water and refilled our water bladders. I scoop my cooking cup into the water and splashed Dharma teasingly with it. In her most radiant dog-like joy she begins running around me then up an down the creek in delight. 

We make our way to a five way trail junction and take the south-west veering one towards the base of the peaks. An unmarked trail veers upwards to the left off the main. Intrigued I choose to follow it deciding we’ll make our way up to the saddle from there. As we rose higher, rounding one of the Twin Sister peaks, I climbed ever so carefully over a massive downed ponderosa lying steeply across the trail. As I make my way gingerly around and over the hazardous downed tree, Dharma effortlessly trails beneath it through a space made just for her. 

Stepping into the saddle we’re met with surprisingly majestic views. The striking alabastrine rock-capped saddle bridging the two sister’s together elevates the beauty of the views surpassing my expectations. Happily we regard one another. Dharma’s seems to realize we made it to the point of highlight and wears her best dog-smile as she explores the awesome space for herself. After exploring various rock formations, we nap briefly beneath a dwarfed bonsai pine. In fact, there are many bonsai-like trees that seem to spring right out of the alabaster rock. Curious, I wonder how long their tap roots must be and marvel at their ability to survive.   

Before too long we make our way down, somewhere between the northernmost peak’s base and it’s top to find home for the night. After spending another unusually drawn out evening and night, we awake to another peaceful morning. As I eat my breakfast two large wild turkeys amble through our camp seemingly unfazed by our presence. It was nice to see. The evening before I had pondered why the forest seemed unusually quiet. I had expected to see, and hear, more birds bouncing about. This morning I think the same, worried about the incredible loss of birds the world is experiencing when finally some Stellar jays and warblers come bouncing through. Relieved to hear life active about the tree tops, I am grateful for their presence.

The hike down towards home is a familiar one, though I do still manage find some new surprises amidst the trail’s familiarity. Still, it seems, there doesn’t seem to be anybody but us out here. A set of old tracks of large bootprints heads towards the junction we left behind and is nearly erased by a few days of natural elements.  We round the last mountain where I can now see our piece of land, tucked away in the forest below. We’re only around a mile and a half to home and in a final decent down and a hop and skip across the scenic byway, we’re at our property’s boundary.      

Dharma’s runs ahead knowing we’ve reached the end of our short journey. As I approach the heart of our peaceful forest, I think of the idea of public land blending into “private land” as an absurd notion. With so many beings calling the forest home and with its past prehistory of nomadic native wanderers thriving across this space, I cannot fully embrace the idea of ownership. The thought disturbs me a little as I walk towards our inconspicuously positioned camper. I had had many notions of being able to do this particular hike soon after moving to our new forest home. While it certainly was a wonderful feeling to be able to do such a hike home, in my heart I wanted to shake the notion of ownership altogether. It was not how I wanted to lean into our new life in the forest. But more on that later… For now, we’re home and in need of a shower and some food. 

More photos to be added soon for this post, check back later. Due to poor service, my posts have been delayed. But, I am catching up 😉

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