The walking is long since done. Im home now . The camera was found by trail angels and sent back to the UK by post . Before returning to the British Isles I spent a few quiet days in the Sequoia National park visiting the Largest living things on earth , the mighty sequoia trees of California .
To be honest , i was tired and wanted nothing more than to be reunited with my loves ones . It was a long long hard journey . So gratifying and satisfying that even now its hard to put into words what this journey has meant for me .
The three days amongst the Sequoias allowed me time to reflect and heal . My body , mind and soul(s) have been stretched beyond anything i could ever have imagined . The physical challenges equalled consistantly with the rewards of the senses that were filled continualy by nature .
On my first day in the park , i saw two bear cubs and their mother playing together , and on my last i was blessed to meet a mother deer and her two new born babys . Photographs and words can not express these treasures that I now carry in my heart and memory . Loosing my camera helped me realise that sometimes just being in the monent is the ideal way to record it .
I made a mandala , a medicene wheel , a transitory gift out in the forest . On behalf of all of us . To offer humble thanks for all that we have shared through this journey .
The rain and the wind will take this act of creation . Time will take it back to the Earth and make it the mulch of tommorow .Maybe something will grow from it , after all , it is one of natures laws.
I was fortunate to return to a loving home , and a warm and kind village , where I shared my adventures as a fund raising talk . I told my neighbours , friends and family all about this wonderful experience and I felt the glow of excitment that the re-telling created . We raised 190pounds for a local disabled group to take horse rides . I felt very honoured to be a part of that .
Now im almost fully ‘integrated’ back in the swing of things , you might say , but somedays their isnan edge that remains . A hardness in my self that has grown from doing this walk . A confidence that we all walk a journey , a joy in hearing about others pathways , and a genuine desire to have further adventures on the highways of life .
I wake up this morning and make a cup of coffee , ‘this will be my last PCT coffee!’ I sigh . I start to break down my tent , ‘this will be the last time i break down my tent on the PCT’ i think . This process continues all morning until i catch myself thinking ‘this will be the last time i dig a poo hole in the woods on the PCT !’ . I confront myself and tell myself ‘ah..have a spoonful of cement and toughen up !’ .
Im still squeezing the air out of my sleeping mat when Eric comes around the path. I suprise him . He’s happy to stop and talk after such a long time on trail . The last time we talked was after the forest fire incident over a month ago . We catch up , and he tells me i should see other hikers this morning . As we talk a deer comes and watches us , we both enjoy her curiosity a while before Eric pushes on towards Canada . I wish him the very very best .
Its only about 10miles to Beldon town this morning , and i know its going to be pretty easy going . So i set off without much ado . Im enjoying the water here , lots of small rivers to cross . Balancing on stepping stones and fallen logs is one of the highlights of this section . But also the frog-lilly-greeness of it all . Watery mosses , overgrown brier , high lime grass and weeds , crowd the pathway that sometimes flows with the river spill.
I make a turn in the path and spy up ahead Sam . I sneak to within a couple of feet of him before shouting a loud “BOO!” . I laugh as he takes off a couple of feet in the air . ‘Wing-it’ is not long around the corner . He throws up his arms and shouts when he sees me . Then comes the ‘man hug’ . Its a perfect way for me to be finishing . In the company of a man who saw me through the biggest challenges . We swap a couple of laughs before we go our own ways . I leave him with a Starburst and a chorus of ‘Youll never walk alone’ . As soon as he’s gone i think about walking a couple of miles with him , just for the heck of it , but i know thats just the poet in me . I take a spoon of my own medicene , and ‘Walk on!’
I turn off the GPS , the path is clear, i dont need a map . I have no plan for the rest of the day , only the promise of a burger in Belden .
I bounce into a couple of day hikers , brothers, who ask me all about my journey . They ask me what I enjoyed most on my adventure . I cant answer . Im really not too sure . They see my camera and ask if im a proffesional . I feel myself wishing I was , and that i could stay out here and still earn enough to live . I tell them a few of my wildlife encounters , and they share their morning encounter with a pair of garter snakes a little way down the path .
I cross the paths of no less than six snakes in the short stretch to the trail head , each time i think that i am not going to be suprised again , along to prove me wrong comes another wriggle of colour from the wayside to show that I still have a lot to learn about tracking .
I come around a bend and can see a wide river below me . On its bank sits the little town of Belden . My mouth is watering .
Im coming down off the trail , and four hikers are at the trail head ,when i spot another snake . I tell them to hold on whilst we wait for it to clear off. I fist bump the group of hikers going onto the trail .This is their first day , this is my last day . A good hand over of the batton .
Moments later and i have crossed the old wooden bridge into tiny Belden , and am greeted by an unexpected and excellent sight. A stone monument has been erected there , by the river , amongst a grove of oak trees , it is carved with the following words : ” The preservation of this trail and the absoloute character of the wilderness, may help encourage people to return from our far too artificial world to an appreciation of the natural “. I thank the spirit of this pathway for delivering me here on solstice day , in the brightness of being and the blessings of Brigit.
Im sat on the back porch of Belden cafe , other hikers are also enjoying the menu . I have a cold cider , a burger and some chips . The other hikers introduce themselves as Rhonda and Rocketman, and I fall into my trail tales . Their trail angel offers me a ride to Quincy , and i ask for two minutes as i sign the trail register and quickly grab my pack . We chat about the trail in the car , and i wonder if i can catch a bus tonight to Fresno , the next stop on my way to the Sequoia National Park . I have planned for a few days of rest and relaxation there before my flight back to Britain.
I jump out at Quincy and am looking at the bus timetable , when i realise to my horror that I am not carring my camera . I remain so ridiculously calm that I know that i am close to vomiting . I try and try to remember where i last had it , and all i can see is it sat on the table of the Belden cafe . I walk to the petrol station for directions , and ask a passing stranger (who happens to be deaf) if he is going past Belden ? He nods and then tells me in pigeon English ( he happens to be Vietnamese) that he doesnt know where it is . My heart is still racing as we hit the highway with my phones map as a guide ( he happens to be the maddest driver ive ever met ) . His wonky and battered pick up skids around hair pin bends as he tells me about Jesus and living alone in America . All the while he is trying to juggle making eye contact with me and keeping an eye on the road . Im grinding my teeth and staring at the road , hoping he will get the hint and do likewise . Forty minutes of wheel squeaking terror later , i am deposited at the Beldon cafe , where my camera is not to be found .
Im slightly gutted to say the least . OK loosing a camera is one thing , but on my last day . I dont believe that irony comes in that shade of bad timing.I have no idea what to do next .I look at the local campsite by the river , but follow my intuition and go and sit at the wide porch outside the cafe for some attempted calm .Where , within minutes i meet Jenni . Jenni looked a bit like Julie Andrews and Julie Walters with a dash of fairy godmother thrown in when i first saw her. Not only did she buy me a beer and let me win at pool , but she also drove me to Chico and let me sleep in her garden .( i suprised the maid in the morning , who opened her curtains without a stitch on , but thats another story) . Jenni offered me gentle sympathy and loving kindness when nothing else would do . So what if she happened to be the second maddest driver in California, and skidded all over the road when a young deer ran out of the woods .
So my last day on the PCT ends here. Summer solstice . Longest (very definitely) day of the year . Lying in a friendly strangers back yard ,under the full moon , pumped adrenalin from two white-knuckle-wacky-race car drives , mind wizzing around about my missing 40gigabytes of film and photography from the last 90 days , and not really sure where I will be tommorow . Maybe this all has some deeper cosmic significance , but im blown if I can tell you what it is !
When we acknowedge the wild beauty of God, we begin to glimpse the potential holiness of our neglected wilderness. As humans ,citizens and believers we have become domesticated beyond belief . We have fallen out of rhythm with our natural wildness . What we now call ‘being wild’ is often misshapen , destructive and violent.The natural wildness as the fluency of the soul at one with beauty is foreign to us. The call of the wild is a call to the elemental levels of the soul , the places of intution , kinship, swiftness , fluency and the consolation of the lonesome that is not lonely .
John O’Donohue. ‘Divine Beauty’
Well i know that I maybe getting a little ‘clingy’ to the trail right now , but i also know the trail is not a romantic dreamer , and if im to cover this last thirty mile to Beldon im going to have to do some walking today.
Its solstice today . The day is resonante with this fact . Slow power seeps from dawn and i bow in gratitude towards the Sun .
The moments i spend with the woodpecker shooting video footage this morning are a true joy . Im knee high in a wash of golden fiery headed flowers . The day is just begining and Im already smiling from ear to ear .
I continue on , along the ridge . The larvic rocks conjuring up shapes and images . They fall inside my active imagination and bubble within the cauldron of insperation. I stop repeatedly just to look again at ‘The Rockery of the Gods’ .
Im chatting to Dad on the phone . Its special , solstice , fathers day and full moon all at this time . It offers me lots of reflection . I enjoy musing and walking. I tell my folks all about the Deer i saw last night , im practicaly bouncing . I realise my enthusiasm ,and I love sharing this wonderful place . Technology is pretty good sometimes .
I bounce into a northbounder called ‘rainbow’ . I chat a while , but i can see he wants to push on . I forget , i have no agenda . As he is walking away , i see a spider web high in the trees flickering rainbow colours over the forest path . I wonder if all hikers notice these little details . Now im slowing down , maybe im also opening up.
This is a special day !
I know , i know , i know . ‘Everyday is special’ but today somehow has been highlighted and underlined .
Time after time i stop and be . I start to drop down into a creek . Id like to stop at ‘cold creek’ for lunch , maybe get the solar panel out and take off my shoes for a while . … Ive been sat at the creek about half an hour and am finished with my green tea and enjoying a little light kindle reading when im startled from my chilling-outed-ness .
Im visited by no less than seven horses all with riders dressed in authentic blue coat costume and brandishing sabers , pistols , flags and cigars . They ask me if i have seen and “rebels or hostiles” , i briefly contemplate turning myself in as i am possibly guilty on both counts .
They water the horses give me genuine smoked meats and dried peaches , done the old way , and i smile really really deep inside . People are so amazing !
I stop on the track , as afternoon comes , i talk to ‘Diesel shack’ and ‘Brownie and Dizzy’ who all enjoyed stoping to talk , we throw storys of the path at one another in a well polished way . These dialogues between hikers have become such a pleasure . The sense of community that I feel when im talking to other hikers is a great treasure . In our modern ‘communities’ we have less and less purpose to talk about shared issues . Farmers talk about weather , hikers talk about trails , what does the local community dialogue about ? Without this depth of shared purpose our local villages have disolved and dispanded .Without common ground and natural issues to unify us we have become disparate and long for reunioun with our neighbours .
Later i am in a high field , just doing the last few miles to camp. Im negotiating a pasture that has recently had a lot of snow melt and the soil is wet and boggy. Im trying like ‘crikey Moses ‘ to keep my feet dry and channeling all my focus into this , when i look up im aware of a big (should i say huge) furry shape in the middle of the field .The big brown furry shape pauses momentarily looks up from its snuffeling and gives me the once over . Im absoloutly no threat at all. Bear goes back to his snuffling. In this moment i feel both out of place and complete .
I try with shaky hands to catch a photo and video . There is a huge respect in me at this moment . I know this is not my place , its his . I slowly walk backwards . Adrenalin is flushing through me , my heart beats hard as i look at my options , should i try to go around him , should i sneak back for another photo , should i just sit here and wait it out ?
I finaly decide on the text book aproach which is to make a whole lot of noise . Banging my hiking poles together i shout in my best highland accent “Buggr orffff!!” Then ,slowly walk back to the path . He has gone . I miss him already .
That was my last full day on the PCT.
Im making my dinner at camp , looking back on it , its possibly the most amazing day on record , but over the past three months , i seem to have had an awful lot of those .
Im struggling out of my tent this morning, stiff as a board , i have waited for the sun to put in an appearance , i will need to dry my sleeping bag and tent before i push on today . I dont have any targets to hit , so i enjoy my oats for breakfast and watch the steam rising from my wet gear while my morning coffee brews . Things are slowly unfolding .
The path opens out to fields of small sunflowers . Bursts of yellow and smatterings of purple and red flowers welcome me onto my very own ‘Yellow brick road’ . I sing songs to keep the bears at bay and to warn the rattle snakes before i get near them . I sing Beatles songs to the morning , and feel a lightness returning after last nights soggyness .
By lunch time i come across 30-30 who is sat having lunch at the half-way post . Im standing directly in the middle of the PCT . It all seems so official and in a way final . I feel a strange resistance to taking a photo of this milestone . Its not a milestone that I was planning to celebrate .
The forest is still and calm . I walk through deep mossy groves of trees . The bright green moss growing only on the sunny side of the trees makes contrasting colours . Its a delight to see the subtle ways in which nature fashions her mantle .
Its a grand day , full of light and colour . Summer is in bloom , and butterflys , dragonflys and ladybirds brave the skys in the mid day heat .
The afternoon arrives , and i find myself stopping in a magical spot on a ridge . A wide open flat space ,where campfire stones stand , welcomes me to just sit . Just sit , and be .
I have nothing to do , no photos to take , no book to read , no blog to write . I breath deeply and promise myself this moment is really just for being . Birds in the trees sing out , drop from branches , free falling into green growth , rising later to their perchs . Sing out , sing out . White capped mountain sits beyond , this place is adventure , and i feel like a small but important part of it . I make a cup of rubus tea and savour the small things . Wildflowers ,clinging to rocks , rocks that seem older than time , time that seems to hang heavy , pregnant with potential .
As the long day falls away from me . As i breathe cooler air , and the birds settle to a murmer , i decide to make my dinner . I cook salami and mashed potatoes again . There are some things that i wont miss when i leave the trail , the chemical content of my meals has been in the red for quite some time .
I finish cooking , and whilst its standing i feel the urge to go back to the ridge .. and there she is . Her deep red coat is back lit by the setting sun . She gazes peacfully into my eyes and those two dark globes search out my intent . I feel as vulnerable as a child in her presence . Slowly , gracefully , one step at a time , she makes her way around the stones at the edge . I am drawn behind her like an echo of the earth . She comes to my camp , curious , inquisitive , searching .. Searching for a free feed !!! Buggar orff Bambi ! I have to shoe her away , my mash potatoes may be full of enough sodium to light matches with , but im still not keen on sharing them with this cheeky begger !
I cant sleep , i lie awake gazing at the stars and moon . Ive left off the tent cover , i want to breath in this pure place and waken inside its rythm .
Im reading my Kindle , a book called ‘Divne Beauty’ by John Donohue , and i roll over to see a rabbit a meter from the tent . Completely unaware of me . The mosquito netting is acting as a ‘hide’ . I love this feeling of anonymity in my relationship with nature , being free to observe in peace . I know inside that nature has resiprocated . Ive taken my time , become more present and this has brought me closer to just being .
I awake and the moon is illuminating me . I am awake . Immediacy is here . I release all resistance and dont try to get back to sleep. I simply am . Bathing in the moons mystery .
Tommorow is my last full day on the trail .
Im Walking out of Chester with Jubin , who also stayed at the church last night .Ive got a full breakfast inside my tummy and im happy to be ‘winding down’. These are the last couple of days on trail for me , so im taking it easy and saying my goodbyes as I go .
We hitch hike and in less than a minute we get a ride upto the trail . I go sign the trail register and Jubin takes off . There is a light rain on the track and i walk slowly and enjoy the views . The walk up through thick forest brings me up onto some rocky ridges and a little bit of snow . Im coming around a corner and suprise a deer who bolts down the path , only to stop in curiosity to look back at me a little later . The rain is gettinng heavier and i decide that i will have an early night .
I put up the tent in a sheltered spot and cook a quick meal , eating inside the cramped confines of my little tent . I fall asleep early and wake up only a few times as the wind and the rain blow across the top of the mountain . I look back at all the adventures ive had on this trail , all the things ive seen , places ive been . I find it hard to comprehend that ive done so much in such a short time . Memorys for life of life .
It seems that memory also has a beauty , creating a window into the mystery of nature . I see the deepest memorys for me have been born of connection . In the presence of wild animals , in the times that the landscape took away my breath , in the eyes of my trail mates who shared the awe . Memory is such a beautiful gift that we share as a people . It can transport us effortlessly to places of such celebration and purpose . Memory is not chasing me , but dancing with me , like the butterflys that dance upon this pathway . I think one of the most special aspects of memory is its magical ability to suprise . It comes always uncalled , and offers bright reflections of who we are and where we found a thread of bliss .
I know that these moments i have found will stay bright and sharp for many years to come .
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line.
Johnny Cash ‘I walk the line’
I know that I’m 6miles from my goal. I know also that ‘counting your chickens before they are hatched’ can lead to unforeseen calamity . So I’m staying firmly humble today .
I bid farewell to Drakesbad resort and cross a small stream , im a good ten minutes behind 30/30 , and am happy for the solitude of morning here in the vast towers of trees . I have only to trust the pathway today , to emerge at the end of line in a small town called Chester .
I know that i will find there food and a shower , but something in me senses something else waiting at the close of business today .
I catch up with 30/30 and we take a side track down to a sulphur spring called Boiling Lake . It lives up to its name . Its a lake that is boiling . A bit smelly too (like eggs) .
Im keen to push on , I find myself making distance from 30/30 and wanting to be alone when i hit 1000. I have planned to mark that moment on the trail with a photograph . The path is easy to walk , criss crossing various other smaller tracks that lead to evocative and magical places such as ‘Swan lake’ and ‘Feather river’ .
In no time I am stood with my camera and tripod , and I’m placing handfuls of giant pine cones down on the earth to spell out a grand and triumphant 1000 .
I take half an hour to sit down and enjoy the moment . My eye catches on a young fresh pine cone , that is ready to bud . I instinctively pick it up , and following my intuition , im digging a small hole with my poop trowel . I place the seed cone in the ground , i bless the abundance that has allowed me this privilege , i thank my family for believing in me , i thank my tribe for supporting me and i thank my friends both on and off the trail for their love power . I have been inspired , challenged , humbled and empowered in ways that I can never quantify . Most of all though, its been FUN . Really bleedin’ good fun!
I stop before i leave and water the seed .
Now , this is probably the best time to talk about this :
I want to ask a favour my readers , i want to ask a real favour , and before you worry , No,its not money !
Id like you to do something for me , something small . Id like you to put down the mobile, the laptop, the ipad or the mouse , and turn this off . I mean just click me away for a brief moment , I promise i will be back tomorrow , after all I’ve got at least ten more days of adventure to share . But honest , i would just like you to go out and walk for one mile . Just one . Please . Outside that door is the Great Adventure . The wonderful unknown . The land behind the looking glass. Id be paying you a disservice if I claimed ownership of that place .Its not my place , its ours .
While your walking id like you to think about the adventures you had as a child , climbing trees , falling in ponds , hurtling down hills in the snow ,treading in dog shit.. (Laughing as others trod in dog shit ) .As long as those thoughts and memories are wild and free and innocent , its all good . Just do the mile .
It doesn’t have to be right now , but it would help. To quote a Scottish Himalayan explorer called W.H.Murray
“… Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
“And now I understand something so frightening & wonderful-how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing through crossroads, sticking like lint to the familiar.”
~ Mary Oliver
Last nights sleep left me rejuvenated and quite confident i can cover the twenty miles to Drakesbad resort by dinner time . There is a hot pool there , and its free for PCTers to use if they buy a meal at the restaurant .
I break up camp so quick , it feels strange , almost functionary sometimes to leave these pockets of tranquility with such haste . But its practicle too . If i sit around looking at rainbow butterflies too much , then id never make any miles !
I walk and find a nice rythm . Im settled into the first part of the day , when once again the unanounced and unforseen crosses my path . Just at the edge of the river , startled by my approach, a beautiful fully grown female deer . She is startled ,and springs away , I keep her presence inside me as I continue on , it seems to nurture and bring a calm to the start of my day .
Im in and out of magical woodlands , where great ponderosa pines stand in uniform lines for as far as the eye can see . They create illusions like Esher drawings , and make labyrinths of light and contrast all around me .
Im dazzled by the watercolour splashes of flowers and reach out just to touch them .
Here she is , the deer of my pathway today.
As gentle as the day of your birth . She is both the spirit of Earth and the body of you.
The celts new her as Sabdh * and also by Flidais . Studying the story of Flidais tonight was mind altering . I can only say her innocence reminds me that I have a lot to learn.
I breathe with her ,so as not to startle her .
I see her eyes .
And , she completely ignores me .
I have a photo of her licking her nose , but that one is probably not-appropriate .
I thought she would bolt , but she never did . Im stood here on the path and im slowly ,ever so slowly , making my way towards her . I get within five meters and she looks up . Her dark bright eyes meet mine and we hold the gaze for a moment , until she is sure of my intentions . She returns to her grazing . Im stood now , just three meters from her and almost close enough to stretch out and touch her . She looks up again as i take my next set of photographs , and i realise that i not only have a moment to savour , but also a ‘kick bottom’ photograph .
I walk all the way around her and rejoin the path a little further on . Stopping briefly to shoot this photo as im walking away .
I feel like a life is a good thing right now . I walk down trail for a happy hour and ford a stream , whilst im sat on the other side drying my feet along bounces 30/30 . And we talk trail and share awe and wonder about the deer we have just passed .
A couple of hours pass , and we share the journey for a while , walking towards arrival at Drakesbad before six , so we can get a meal and a cold beer before the kitchen closes .
We arrive in plenty of time and sit outside the chalet restaurant drinking cold beer and talking about the next days hike into Chester . I tell 30/30 i finish my 1000 miles tommorow , and he smiles and pays for my supper .
* Sadhbh was enchanted to take the form of a doe for refusing the love of Fer Doirich (or Fear Doirche), the dark druid of the Men of Dea (here meaning the Tuatha Dé Danann). She held this form for three years, until a serving man of the Dark Druid took pity on her and told her that if she set foot in the dún (fort or castle) of the Fianna of Ireland, the druid would no longer have any power over her. She then travelled straight to Almhuin (Fionn’s house) and was found by Fionn while he was out hunting. Since Sadhbh was a human in animal form, she was not harmed by Fionn’s hounds Bran and Sceolan, as they too had been transformed from their original human shape. On their return to Almhuin, Sadhbh became a beautiful girl once more and soon she and Fionn were married. Fionn loved her so much that he gave up hunting and all other pleasures but her, and she quickly became pregnant.
Up with dawn this morning , i left the cover off the tent and just slept with the mosquito net over me . I still get a little claustrophobic when i cant see the sky . Last night was a perfect night of peace . As far as the eye could see there was stillness and harmony . So i wake with an inner lightness . I still have 10miles to cover of this waterless section , and i have less than a litre , so i make the most of the early morning cool and start my walk as the dawn chorus is just kicking off .
Im on the trail about an hour when i find a very small cache of water , just a couple of gallons ,but an extra litre is enough to see me over the last couple of furlongs . As im filling up the water bottle , a very happy skunk comes (literally) skipping along the road . I dont know if he is in a hurry to get somwhere , but there is a very deffinate bounce in his step . He is , as i am , a bit suprised to see me , looking back at him , and not quite knowing what to do by way of introduction . Mr Skunk , takes a step back and i notice his magnificent stripes . I notice they go all the way up his very proud and , dare i say , erect tail . ‘Ahhh !’i think to myself , ‘I seem to rememeber that Mr skunk is the owner of a rather unique and powerful means of self defense.Maybe i should show him all the outward courtesy and respect that he calls for .?’ I take two steps backwards and smile calmly and broadly . This seems to satisfy my new friend . He puts down his tail and slowly gives me the ‘once over’ . He , now satisfied, turns his attention to some trees and takes a little detour to his morning ramble. I ,satisfied he is on his merry way again , attempt a couple of unsuccessful attempts at a photograph . How i love this !
It puts a spring in my step . Im wondering as i walk if being ‘a bit of a stinker’ is sometimes the best method of defence on the path . Im not sure it suits everyone , but i know a few friends who swear by it .
I walk and find a nice rythm . Im settled into the first part of the day . I wander the rim pathway for a happy hour or two , im pushing for a little stop called Old Station where you can get a burger before 3pm . With this motivation I make good time , coming into the little settlement around noon . I sit on the back patio and sip cold beer , txt-ing my family the thrills of my owl encounter . They are happy that I am happy , and as the sun shines down on me , and my muscles unwind , i feel a little lightness make its way inward . This could clearly have been due to the 7%Hexaginal beer im been drunkendin but i am liking be to think it is not maybe ..
Im getting a hitch from one of the chefs at JJs Cafe . She drops me at the RV park where i can shower and charge my phone . Im not keen to pay the high camping price of 25$ for the night , so decide to walk a few miles into the woods to pitch up my tent .
Im so glad i did . Im so so glad .
The pathway is a nice easy gradient , and the trees and woods just perfect in this light . Im watching the pathway as i go when i hear a loud cracking of branches upahead to my left about twenty meters . There , right there , is the Bear . They are shy and elusive creatures and so i was aware that this meeting may be fleeting , and it is . The Bear has turned tail and is bomping off as far and fast as those little legs will go . I try for the camera , but its all too quick . I see just the russet flanks and the white bob-tail bouncing away , back to the sanctuary of the deeper forest. I stand a few seconds heart racing before i put the camera down . Im amazed at how quickly i file this as another ‘trail experience’ and start back on my way .
A mile or so later , I pull into yet another excellent campsite . A wild heavy flowing river gushes down boulders only meters from my tent .
As the last light of day passes through the trees i decide to honour my idea of marking my journey . I had promised myself if i ever got about half way along the PCT i would hug a tree and someday (“maybe not tommorow , but someday..”) i will attempt a southern bound hike from the Canadian border and meet the same tree , and honour the journey with another hug .
Its all a bit awkward at first , but after a little look to check no bears are watching (and giggeling) behind the bushes , i put my heart into the moment , and find relief pouring through me . A Druidic brother of mine comes into my heart, whispers ‘The mystery of Arthur !’ and is gone .
Ive been following Ursa major through my journey (or has it been following me ?) Its also known as the Big Dipper , the saucepan ,and traditionally in Britain is also known as The Great Bear . Some scholars have postulated that we have derived the name Arthur from the Latin Arcturus (the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear which is the latinisation of the Greek Αρκτοῦρος (Arktouros) and means “Guardian of the Bear”.Classical Latin Arcturus would also have become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh, and its brightness and position in the sky led people to regard it as the “guardian of the bear” and the “leader” of the other stars. (Wikipedia)
There is also a story of how Arthur lies under a great hill asleep , surrounded by his knights . One day again to awaken to come to the aid of Britania . The once and future King.
Me , the Owl and the Bear.
Tonight Im healed by the flowing of the waters . I awake in the middle of the night and feel the sound rushing so close to me that it surrounds me ,engulfs my senses and draws out the great heat of the day . I focus on the sound , I enter deeper into the river , returning to the source .
I woke up in Randys ‘man cave’ i certainly felt like a bear had partyed in my head this morning . Im swilling a couple of bottles of water and trying to hydrate before the dry section of my hike . Im aiming to do a 20plus miler today and need to get away early . Randy comes down the drive around seven , offers me a lift into town . I thank him warmly for his most heartfelt hospitality and tell him that i think it was the nicest streak ive ever eaten in my life . Which would not be an exageration .
Im on the trail and walking down trail towards a fish hachery . I suprise a raptor , and im not sure if it was a bald eagle or not . I stand still as it takes the sky and i feel a little disapointed that i missed getting a shot as it took flight . It was majestic , no less .
So i skirt the edge of the hatchery lake and am amazed and dazzled to see the other inhabitance residing here . The butterflys are lazily zizzzing about the wild flower walkway and offer me some company as i click ,click ,click .
Turkey Vulture .
Ducks . (Because they are cute )
And when i thought my camera maybe ovrrheating , and i appeared to be seriously straining my smile muscles out pops BOTH a juvenial and a parent Owl .
Then , as im sat down trying to up/down/edit/load all this , a small and friendly Californian robin comes and lands on a stone in the river to see me. I take this photo .
These moments as you can imagine are beyond my self , are when i cant see the woods for the trees , or more specificaly my self amongst the beauty of nature . Im so absorbed , i loose the sense of defined self . Suddenly i am the moment , the subject and the place .
The celts had a very specific name for this . ‘Fith Fath’ . The celts believed that sublimation with nature was a skill. It offered protection and of course a sense of joy. The celts found this ‘journeying’ occured with greater ease between certain birds such as Owls and Eagles aswell as four legged friends like cats dogs bears and deer. I muse on Ovate studys . I am sure the Owl got beyond my boundarys ,and for a moment ,i gazed through its eyes . Im still getting my head around that hour at the lake . It will stay with me for a long time to come im sure . Seeing a wild owl is an experience that i can only hope to repeat again and again , as their presence and focus is inspiring .
The parent could see that i was photographing the young egret , and so stayed very close to me to keep an eye out . Wise old owl .
It is hard to leave such amazing photographic experiences , but the trail is reminding me that i still have almost 15miles to cover before bed time .
As i walk along Hat creek ridge i am witnessing some of the best panoramic views ive ever come across .
The volcanic ridge im traversing is a thirty meter high cliff , that faces beautiul mountains on one side , whilst on the other is prarie fields of wild summer flowers . Colour is a riot .
Bugs and bees hum , knee length grass tinged with red borders the path , and not a single step i take without the company of birds .
I take small sips of water as i trudge on into late afternoon , the nights have got longer now , and the nicest time to walk is now , between 6pm-sundown .
I check my GPS . Ive covered 22long hot satisfying miles today . I pop out my tent like the seasoned pro- tent putter upper that i have evolved into . My timing is perfect . I catch a sunset of deep orange and pink against the snow capped mountains in the (fortunate) distance , just as the stars begin to pop out .
I look back at the wisdom of the owl , the majesty of the eagle and the absurdity of the pelican .
Today the lesson from the birds is “You don’t always need wings to fly.”