A Day and a Walk Around Berkeley

I’ve been in Berkeley for a month now. My second day here I decided to take a couple hour walk around the neighborhood and the main commercial area, Shattuck and University streets, with my camera for fun, exploratory purposes.

Oh, and the picture of the boat was taken the morning of my drive over from Davis. It’s perched on a bluff, a few hundred feet above a reservoir. Why it was left, I couldn’t say, but it had obviously been there a long time (months? years?).

71 – California Dreaming

California, so far, is like a dream. Specifically San Francisco, Berkeley, Point Reyes, Marin County, the mysterious pacific coast shrouded in fog: in short, much of the Bay Area.

Point Reyes is a beacon of Earth’s agelessness and perfection. Of what is possible. Ancient trees tower above one like monuments, like ancient colossi. Douglas Firs with their ridges of bark as thick as one’s fist, like ropes to be climbed up. The hiking trail twisting its way up and down and through, soft and damp, spongy, loamy, guided on both sides by the lushest, greenest vegetation I’ve ever seen, all fragrancing the air with verdant, earthy aromas of  life and amazement, of how this world once was all over ….

I wish to put what I’ve seen into words, but how can I!? The magnitude of the task binds the gears of my mind and wrenches the cogs off track. How does one translate the colossal magnificence of such an ancient, prehistoric world (or anything, for that matter) into idea, into these scrawny characters that even when strung together into something greater than their individual selves are little more than a whisper in a  storm, that are not truly experience, but merely place holders for experience. How can one translate a piece of bark into a string of characters and somehow communicate all that is that piece of bark and what it means to be present to it?

Words are like fake fruits and pastries in a display case, but even more pathetic, because at least those things, as false and unreal as they are, maintain a resemblance to that which they imitate, but words, words are nothing. Just amalgamations of parts of an alphabet. Just attempts to translate a feeling, an emotion into a communicable symbol that still can’t ever communicate properly that which they must. They’re idea, and idea is only something in the world of idea. In the world of experience, which is Life, they’re just “POOF!” They’re even less substantial than the fog that rests just off the Marin coast, the fog that appears so thick, so heavy and luxurious that one would delight in wrapping oneself in it like a blanket, or weaving it into a sweater, or filling a pillow. Yet the world of idea is a fun world nonetheless, because it is an imaginary world. It is unreal and completely made up. And that, of course, is its virtue. And the challenge of describing something! All one has to do is read a few quotes from Giacometti on painting and sculpture to get the gist of what that’s like.

The trees were tall. Colossal like the dreams of history’s greatest thinkers, but greater and older still. Untouchable. Incomparable. Point Reyes, you stir something in me that I can only call awe, but what is that, and what does it mean? I’d like to smash it with a hammer…. The temperature cooled as I moved closer to the shore, like the Pacific itself was washing over me, and when I did finally gain view of that vast, empty nothingness that had no horizon but vanished into the fog like life into death, I could only stop running, and stare, thunderstruck. “THIS is what is meant by eternity, ” I thought. “This is immortality.”

It’s like digging a hole. Digging after something  buried there that can’t ever be excavated. But this isn’t a physical hole, it is a hole in my mind being dug. It is a metaphysical hole—the idea of digging the idea of a hole.

Utah and Nevada

Not a whole lot here because I spent little time as I was driving to California, but there’s a few not terribly shabby photos.

70 -Love and Hate, and Thinking

I think I hate road trips. Of the vehicular kind. Not so much the self-powered-on-a-bicycle kind. There is, obviously, a greater sense of adventure, and a more seamless connection to one’s environment—the relationship is felt more acutely; the suffering, if there is any, is different (of course, one doesn’t suffer much sitting in a car other than perhaps from monotony and ennui, so maybe in this case they are similar), and the joys are greater, the pleasures more pleasurable. Less is lost, more is gained and seen. To stop for something, say, to take a picture, is a simpler task. You are not polluting…

Sure, in a car one covers more ground but feels like a slug. Just sitting. Sitting, sitting, sitting. At least today I hiked part way up a mountain. I think my photographs of the salt flats should turn out nicely.
The fifty or sixty year old waitress at the Black Rock Grill, where I’m having dinner, across the street from The Cadillac Inn (a homey, inexpensive, little place that I would recommend, run by a single mother) in Lovelock, NV, is having a conversation with a cook. “We’re shaking our cans out here!” she exclaims (she and the other server mercifully are not). But she is so mirthful. So friendly and amicable. Would that all the people of this world be like her on a daily basis.
The sunset. The Nevada landscape. Can one be separated from the other? They will forever be inseparable to me. I’ve recorded myself rhapsodizing over them… it, while driving.

Nevada is vast. It is like a piece of classical music, Beethoven’s 9th perhaps, become geography. All vertiginous highs and vast, yawning lows (that Great Basin!), and those highs erupting from the dry ground of the valley, apropos of nothing, like stalactites up, up, up! from the floor of a cave, nonetheless, projecting harmoniously, and all the while the shimmering interstate insinuating itself in thread-like fashion through the warp and weft of the land, winding on continuously over tall masses and plummeting back down again whatever the topography be.

A narrow scrawl on a limitless sheet of paper.

The Spirit of Mis-Adventure

It wasn’t that long ago that I was in the state of New Mexico after having spent most of the days of the previous two months on my bicycle meandering my way across the United States. Hanging out here in Frisco, Colorado for the past month living with my friend Doug, meeting new people, adjusting to a routine of waking up in the morning making a cup of coffee and reading for an hour outside, breakfasting afterward, deciding when I’d like to go for a hike or a trail run (or both), spending time at the coffee shop just around the corner, editing manuscripts and photos, brainstorming ideas, journaling, and so on and so forth, it seems like that bike trip was nearly a lifetime ago.

This trip I speak of ended with a knee injury, minor though it was, on my way from Taos to Santa Fe. To my surprise and enormous delight I found that after a day of rest I was still able to walk, hike, and run pain free. I ended up spending a couple weeks back and forth between Taos and Santa Fe debating on what to do, eventually purchasing a cheap car with which to continue my westward, photographic journey. But here I am now, and for the foreseeable future.

Immediately upon arriving in Frisco I was to be shown around, starting with Mount Royal which looms over the town like a minor Mount Olympusresidents and tourists alike hiking up it to offer their gratitude for perhaps the nearly always fine weather, or perhaps the magnificent views, or perhaps this beautiful, awe-inspiring place where they are lucky enough to live or visit. Or, perhaps it’s all of these things. There are no bloody sacrifices that I know of though, unless one counts anyone who might have taken a tumble descending the trail a little too swiftly and carelessly (raises hand).

Another thousand feet above Royal is Victoria, and then another thousand or so feet above Victoria lies Peak One of the Tenmile Range, and this is where we were to go on my second week in town.

The idea was simple enough. Wake up not too late and hike up to Peak One, then from there see what’s what and maybe traverse a few of the other peaks, weather permitting, and wander back down and find our way back to town. Unfortunately, Doug had been working his construction job rather maniacally that week, and the week previous, and was really hurting. Specifically, his calves were like red-hot staves, and we were only to make it to Mason Town (about a third of the way up the ungodly steep trail on Mount Royal) before we decided to call off that particular challenge and instead change direction and go for a hike along Peaks Trail which runs south to Breckenridge.

He really must have wanted to hike up to those peaks, though, because at the confluence of Peaks Trail and Miners Creek Trail Doug changed his mind again and asked if I still wanted to hike up there, to which I replied with an affirmative.

After an hour and a half more of hiking, and stopping several times to turn and look around and wonder to myself how it is that he who has both run and cycled across the country is moving so slowly (obviously never underestimate the power of being overworked), and having made our way to the rather patchy, ragged snow line, and attempting to avoid stepping in snow at all costs as we were both just wearing running shoes (and I in shorts), we came to an impasse: snow, at least knee deep and blocking the trail for as far as we could see through the trees.

However, as luck would have it we were in a breach in the forest that, looking up towards Tenmile Peak (Peak 2), seemed to continue all the way up the slope, like some giant had taken a monstrous axe and, raising it above his head took one massive swing and clove the forest in two leaving behind a field of boulders and loose rocks that began far upslope against the impenetrably solid rock of the mountain projecting itself towards the sky—indifferent to the fact that it is crumbling and eroding away slowly, inexhaustibly, over millennia, but realizing too that that doesn’t matter this day because it is still, and will be for our lifetimes and many other humans’ lifetimes to come, utterly there, inflexible and unyielding—and ended, basically, at our feet on the trail.

I suggested hiking up that way as the best course of action being as our choices were rather limited: continue on off-trail, or turn back.

And so it began.

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As is often the case, things aren’t always quite so clear as they appear to be at first observance. Farther up there were stands of pine trees and firs along with the snow they harbored blocking our progress. At this point it seemed utterly absurd to turn around out of fear of our feet getting wet and cold and so we clambered through, sometimes post-holing, other times finding strong foundations which we could easily hike on provided by smaller trees still bent over and buried by the snow’s weight. Eventually we came out into an open scree field that quickly steepened so that we were using our hands at times to almost crawl up the slope. We had to make a decision too about what the best line might be to continue up the mountain.

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As I seemed to be leading this part of the hike I took the bull by the horns, spotted a section that looked a lot like an enormous set of stairs and headed off that way, Doug looking on from behind me probably wondering why I had taken what he perceived as the more difficult of the two options we had debated over.

It wasn’t long before he was following me, but the skies had been clouding over for an hour or longer, and we had received some scattered bits of rain while clambering through the open field, but now thunder in the not-so-distant distance was making itself heard, and we even dealt with a brief shower of hail while I waited for Doug near my “stairs.” It was at this point, with resignation, that we thought it best to make our way back down the mountain, especially after he took a tumble when a seemingly solid hand hold broke loose. The question was, then, “which way?”

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 Thinking it a bit boring to just turn around and head back, I ran reconnaissance to a ridge northward we had previously looked at as a way up to the peak, to see what lie over its edge. What did lie over its edge was a gorgeous valley of brilliant green, flecked with the grey of rocks and boulders, like the inverse of a lichen mottled stone; fallen trees that looked like matchsticks from our vantage; and a criss-cross of shimmering ribbons of water: small brooks and creeks which all seemed to feed a much larger stream even farther below as the valley curved towards Frisco between the contours of the mountains.

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 The issue, perhaps, was getting down to that valley floor some two or three hundred feet below. I called Doug over to take a look. The undulating slopes all the way down were completely covered in snow. I thought it funny, considering all the effort we had put into assiduously avoiding stepping in snow that we were now considering traversing these slopes where there wasn’t a bare speck of ground for hundreds of meters all around us.

Doug first, glissading down on his butt, and then I, attempting to ski in my shoes and failing miserably so that I took the same way down Doug did only to end up with one leg laughably stuck in the snow up to my hip, the other up to its knee, and my left arm jammed up to my shoulder so that it took me a good while of struggle to work myself free.

We still had a couple hundred feet of slipping, and sliding, and sledding to do before we reached the valley floor as the slope that we slid down was multi-tiered and we had come to a stop at a place that was level. After laughing and struggling through more thigh-deep snow we came to another spot that looked appropriate for sledding. I was the first down this time, deciding not to attempt to “ski” it, and quickly focused with my camera on Doug as he wasn’t far behind me.

The rest of our hike back to town was a mostly uneventful, albeit stunningly beautiful, two hours of stream hopping, clambering over the multitude of fallen, mostly rotted trees dry as matches and nearly as brittle, wandering onto and off of unknown trails that while clearly marked had obviously not been used in years, and blundering our way through the forest in what we figured to be the general direction of the town, lost but not lost.

The hike that the two of us went on can be seen as a microcosm of my bicycle trip. In both cases there was a clear plan to start with, but unforeseen circumstances derailed it. From there two choices were made clear: either turn around and go home, or reconfigure things and continue the adventure in a different way. Obviously, the choices were made to keep going, in whatever capacity.

Life is full of unexpected surprises. That’s a statement that sounds cliché, but it’s a reality that becomes more apparent the second one walks out the door on an adventure, whether it be a multi-month crossing of a continent, or something as trifling as a day hike. Had I not hurt my knee on my way to Santa Fe I certainly would not be in Frisco right now, which of course means that none of this that has been written about would have happened, and had Doug and I turned around and just gone back to town we would not have had what was, in my mind, one of the most fun, exciting, spontaneous, and utterly unexpected adventures that I’ve ever had; not in such a long time have I felt so much like a little kid until that moment of brief and inexpressible joy when I slipped, fell, and slid down the snowy slope on my butt. The combination of the risks involved in climbing up some of the steepest parts of the mountain where a tumble could potentially result in serious injury, the sheer joy of sliding down the snow-covered slopes like a child in naught but shoes and shorts, and the rather dull portion of the hike up to the point where we decided to veer off trail provided an adventure with that balance that I think is so seductive of these sorts of things. It’s like that supreme balance of salty, bitter, sour and sweet in a particularly delectable dish that lingers in your mind long after the meal has concluded.

In conclusion, these adventures, which are each just multiple links in the single chain of the odyssey that is my life (or anyone’s life who so chooses to venture out on one) are lessons in persistence, perseverance, and stubbornness, but also, flexibility, open-mindedness, and acceptance. These journeys we embark on, which we can never know their end results, which have no end results but continue on indefinitely like ocean wave after ocean wave roiling upon the shore are in reality one single entity or event, or, as Alan Watts would call it, a “thing-event”—the ocean—each wave being what we distinguish as an individual, distinct event or thing, and as all of these waves are made up of that one ocean, and the forces that work upon it, they are connected in ways that we can not fully, or even partly, comprehend.

Is it not true that the longer one sits on a beach gazing off into the ocean, mesmerized by the rhythm of the waves’ surge and crash and pull, that the waves and the ocean become one, each successive wave becoming less and less distinct than the last?

News, Updates, Assorted… Stuff

Hi. If you’re one of the handfuls of readers of this blog, which you are if you’re seeing this in your email or your WordPress reader, you will know that I am no longer on a bicycle trip/journey/adventure/odyssey, and if you’ve paid any attention to the occasional dates that are affixed to certain posts you will know that this has been the case for some time. I’ve had a backlog of hand written journals to get through, and now, alas, this backlog has more or less come to an end (well, it properly ended some posts ago while I was in Colorado, but I’m only now acknowledging all this in a conversational way). However, I have several voice recordings that I have not transcribed into text, as well as some thoughts that I typed into my phone, which I will collect here. As of yet I am uncertain as to whether I will post all of these as one or two separate large posts, or break them up individually. I have a feeling this decision will be dependent upon the length of the individual pieces, some of which are extremely short, though none are particularly long.

Currently I am in Berkeley, California, house-sitting for the next two months (until October 20). I’m very much uncertain what I want to do after that, and, naturally, with my wide assortment of interests but only this one body to experience these things with, I have to pick and choose carefully (or not so carefully because whatever I choose it will be the “right” choice, I’m certain).

Here are the options I am debating between. Also, if you have thoughts on any of this feel free to leave a comment. This may sound like a strange request, since I never address the reader directly, but instead post journal entries and photographs at a whim, none of which are ever directed to anyone, or written for anybody other than myself. And that has been my intent for the whole of the existence of the blog. To have something directed to you is then likely something of a surprise. I’m not sure if, or how much, this will change moving forward. I’m tempted to write to an audience, and less to myself, or make an attempt to find a balance between these two modes. I’d like to present a warmer, more human presence in the blog. On the other hand, does this matter? I don’t know, so I suppose I’ll just continue feeling my way along and allow things to develop as they will naturally, as in my opinion, that is generally the best way to go about most anything.

However! Onward! To the future! Or the current present…

My original “plan” for this blog was to provide a public place of record of my bicycle trip which came to an untimely end around Santa Fe, NM. Though, perhaps it was quite timely, based on all the wonderful experiences I’ve had since the injury (which I imagine has healed by now): purchasing a cheap car (I haven’t owned a motor vehicle in over a decade) and driving up to Colorado, a state that  I hadn’t planned on visiting, to spend much time with my long-time friend, Doug, and while there making a friend who has provided me the opportunity to visit Hawaii cheaply; developing an interest in trail running; hikes up Grays and Torreys Peaks; traversing the entirety of the Ten Mile Range (I didn’t actually write about this, but my Instagram has some details if you’re interested) and so much more.

Now that the bike trip is over, at least for the next few months, what will I be putting here? And what ideas do I have for the future? 1) At the end of my house-sit I can go to Hawaii for a month, leaving my car and bike—safely—here, and then spend most of December on a long road trip back home to Maryland in time for the Christmas holiday, staying there through the winter and then either, picking up the bike trip again in the spring (going north and west this time), or road-tripping up to Alaska to find summer work at a seafood processing plant or on a boat ($$$$), and then going to India in the fall/winter for a walking/running trip as a way to explore that enormous and enormously complex country (again, writing and photographing along the way) which would also give me options for Central and South-East Asia; 2) I could just stay here in Berkeley because honestly, the Bay Area and Marin County are some of the most astoundingly gorgeous places in this country one could possibly ever want to live, and are fantastic for trail running, cycling, and anything else outdoors related, but also Acme and Tartine are hiring, and I’d seriously love that opportunity to learn how to make incredible bread or pastries, but this would require of me to put any adventuring on hold for a minimum of a year, something I’m very reluctant to do; 3) I could do everything from option one minus going to Alaska and/or cycling, but instead go to Georgia/Armenia and volunteer on the Transcaucasian trail building project, which would be a great opportunity to visit a part of the world that I am enormously interested in, and contribute to a worthy project in somewhat still developing countries, AND potentially use that area as a jumping off spot for an international cycle tour (I’ve long wanted to visit Central Asia, which is just a ferry ride across the Caspian Sea from the Caucasus); 4) I could stay here until spring, like I had originally planned before growing a bit homesick and meeting cool people with thoughts of going to Hawaii, and pick up the bike trip then (of course this would require finding semi-permanent residence in an expensive area (not ideal!)).

I think that’s about it.

I should find a job while I’m here, but all the jobs I want I would feel horrible leaving after just two months, yet I honestly can’t see myself staying here right now (I could, however, see myself moving back whenever I’m ready to settle down somewhere) because there’s too much I still want to do that I wouldn’t be able to if I were to find a wonderful job here. I’ll probably end up doing some combination of one and three. There’s also the off-chance that I just move back home and stay there if given an opportunity to do something cool. Right now, frankly, I have no idea, but thankfully I don’t need to make a decision until November (of course, assuming I go to Hawaii, which the likelihood is really high, I’ll be making that decision well before October).

I’ve written a fair bit here, and I have a lot on my mind too. This likely won’t be solved any time soon, but hopefully I can at least continue to provide some content (I’ve written a few things since being in California, and I have an adventure article I wrote for a magazine, but had the submission declined, which I will post here). In the meantime, thoughts?, opinions?

Colorado