6:45a ~ Morning Pages ~ Black Canyon, AZ
It was the tale of two families. I went from the affluence of Los Angeles to the poverty of Phoenix. Swing high, swing low.
In Los Angeles, I had a nice bedroom with a private shower. There were four pillows on the bed and soft sheets. They had well-stocked pantries and freezers with everything imaginable. I was treated to a gourmet dinner in a swanky restaurant.
In Phoenix, I slept in my car in the driveway. I could hardly stand to use the restroom as it was so filthy, and the house reeked of urine. I was offered the finest meals they could afford – an indian taco one night, two eggo waffles with peanut butter for breakfast, and the second evening, thirteen people shared two rotisserie chickens and two tubs of potato salad.
I know my family showed me the best hospitality they could afford. I wanted to be grateful and to love them. I did both.
At the same time, I was grateful that this existence represented only my early childhood years. I was grateful that Mom and Dad found a way out of the poverty of Phoenix and Carnegie. I was grateful that I am living the brighter future I had always dreamed of.
I feel sad for my Uncle David, who shoulders the burden of this family. I feel that I should have a more active relationship with him. He needs love and support. I’m glad I decided to spend time now with Grandma Troendle. She has been diagnosed with Leukemia, and they have chosen not to treat.
Justice hurt herself jumping into the car again. I don’t understand it. I have been careful with her little legs so as not to overdo it. She has had no problem getting in and out of the front seats. But last night she yelped and hollered for a good minute. I guess I really need to pamper her and assist her more. Hard to imagine her little springs used to clear the back of the sofa. I hope she can walk and trot properly today.
I plan to take the easy, relatively flat hike into Agua Fria to see some pueblo ruins. There is a longer, more difficult hike in Rogers Canyon that I want to take tomorrow. I will hike Agua Fria today, explore around, if Justice is feeling up to it, then drive and camp near Rogers Canyon for an early start tomorrow.
The heat index in this part of the country makes planning outings a challenge. They either need to be dog-friendly, or I need to complete them before the temperature rises.
Already I feel anxious to get started. Temperatures will be approaching 80 degrees by noon. The Agua Fria hike can be done in as little as 1.5 hours, but I can also extend it with exploration, as there are a number of ruins scattered about the area. The Bureau of Land Management only tells you about one of them in order to minimize vandalism and looting, trying to protect the others from being destroyed.
6a Morning Pages ~ Phoenix, AZ
I will try to get in all three pages today, but I don’t feel as though my schedule is my own. I am visiting family, my mom’s side, and I will be seeing them at their convenience. I think that this is right, as I am only here for a few hours today. I will not spend another night. The family is just how I remember them. Dirt poor, but proud and loving. God, how do I love these people?
My hike yesterday was fantastic! Gorgeous, dry desert terrain with faint pinks and violets and turquoise sands. Two deserts are encompassed by Joshua Tree National Park – the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, each with their own distinct species of plants and animals.
I saw a coyote on my first day, trotting across the street! I fumbled with my camera phone but managed a decent shot of him.
I saw a couple of jack rabbits, lots of tiny lizards and raven, and a couple of other types of birds.
One side of the park was teaming with the Joshua Tree, other other side with the jumping cactus. I forget now the exact name of it, and I don’t want to stop to look it up.
The hike led me through desert sands, weaving over rolling hills that looked like dunes, steep dunes and hard as rock. I scrambled over boulders, and various species of cacti lined the path.
Eventually I hiked into a canyon in which a thick of palms resided, hidden. They called it Lost Palms Oasis. There was no water.
I slept the night before in a wide open space between a criss-crossing network of back country roads. There were at least a half dozen each of RVs and other vehicles dotting the landscape. The sun rose in pretty hues and colored the mountains purple. I am so grateful to have found this place!
I woke up at 3a, pretty wide awake. I slipped on my glasses to see the starry sky. I had my moon roof open and was sleeping with my head just below it. This weekend was the Night Sky Festival. There was a new moon and few city lights to compete.
The view took my breath away. I could see into the sky for miles and miles. Fat, bright orbs and tiny pin points and dazzling dust filled the darkness above. I have never seen such splendor. And prominent and glorious floated Orion.
I have been mesmerized by Orion ever since I was a child, and never before has the hunter appeared more majestic. So clear was his form, I could even see the nebula under his belt. I wanted to take a picture, but my camera phone could not capture it. I stared and stared, wishing the sight to be emblazoned in my memory.
I hope to get a Facebook post out today. The hard choice is always which photos to include. I was able to get so many beautiful shots. I feel like putting down my pages and working on that now, before the house is bustling and the coffee is flowing. Maybe I just will.
6a Morning Pages ~ Joshua Tree, CA
I have a mouse in my car. I suspected so yesterday. As I was loading up, I noticed the little turds, and I saw a couple of items that had the little chew holes. I remembered waking up the night outside of Sacramento, when I was overnighting next to the fishing crew, and hearing a noise that I swore came from inside the car. At the time I dismissed it. What could be in the car?
But sure enough, I saw his little face last night. I was researching hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, sitting with my back propped up against the trunk door. To my right, I hear the sound of rustling. I became still and quiet and looked in the direction of the noise. Next thing I know, his tiny little head is there, looking at me.
His face was white, ears big, and totally cute. I had been grossed out by the thought of a mouse in the car. Now I am wondering if I can make it a second travel pet!
Almost… I am concerned about having something ruined by his chewing. (I actually don’t know if it is a boy. lol) I also do not want him using my vehicle as a litter box. I have to live in this car for the next three months.
I looked up mouse symbolism. Key words are cleanliness, observation, timely action, and proliferation of new ideas. That last one is the one that resonated with me.
I am in need of a proliferation of new ideas. I instantly thought of my dream of becoming a writer and needing new ideas. I thought of Walt Before Mickey and how he never gave up on his dream of producing quality animation. Through two failed businesses, being evicted with only the clothes on his back, eating out of the trash to survive, he never gave up.
He made friends with a little mouse and became the most celebrated animator in history. And his mouse became famous too.
So I am trying to discern the purpose for this visit from mouse. My instinct (that is another key word) tells me it has to do with my writing. That I can pursue my dream like Walt pursued his. That success may not be promised, but that does not mean it cannot be had.
The sun is coming up in Joshua Tree. It is beautiful here – a different kind of beauty than the mountains I just came from. Massive rock formations, desert hues, and the stars! Oh my, the stars!
I woke about 3a and decided to put on my glasses. I had the moon roof open, and I was treated to the most incredible view of the constellation of Orion I have ever beheld. I could see tiny detail, including the fragments of the nebula under his belt. It was mesmerizing.
Orion was a hunter in mythology, and he is somehow associated with Osiris. The Egyptians credit Isis and Osiris with the creation of all humans. So, I hear *creative energy* yet again, another confirmation.
I will stop at two pages today, as I have a lot of ground to cover before it gets too hot. I am hiking into a hidden canyon to delight in a secluded oasis, touted as the best hike in the park. Seven-ish miles, and I can’t wait!! 🙂
6:30a Morning Pages ~ West Hills, CA
I am with Alison and Mark, enjoying a little rest and relaxation in California, just outside of Los Angeles. They have been wonderful. They allowed me to set my tent up in the backyard, so it could start drying out. That was the one thing that had been weighing so heavily on my mind. I was concerned for the tent itself. I was concerned for my car and the rest of my belongings as it continued to slowly leak out the puddle of water I had rolled up into it.
They helped me get it set up and protected under the back deck, just in case it rained – which it never does here, but did while I was here. lol They allowed me to wash my dirty clothes, so I have a fresh start today. They put me up in a bedroom of my own with a wonderful bed, cozy sheets and pillows, and a private bathroom. They fed me well and offered me anything and everything from their pantry. Mark made omelets in the morning, and they took me to their favorite Italian restaurant in the evening. I had the most amazing Beef Wellington. Oh. My. Stars. I am certainly refreshed and ready to carry on.
Where do I go from here? I should stop in to see my family in Phoenix, especially my uncle David. But after this visit with Ali and Mark, I really feel like I need some time alone. I could go directly to the Grand Canyon, which is my more likely choice.
Ali had a wonderful blog idea – Justice’s Journey. I think it is a delightful concept. I would not want to do it now, while I am on the road, but I could certainly produce a children’s book sometime in the future. Both Ali and Mark think I should be blogging, and they are right. I should be. It’s just so hard to keep up with all of the logistics of this trip.
I really should be blogging. I tried to set up a new blog before I left Washington, but I could not figure out all of the parts and pieces. I could not even get the About Me page to display on the menu. If I had some technical help… Perhaps I could reach out to someone.
For now, I have abbreviated versions as posts on my Instagram and Facebook pages. I actually like the character limits. It forces me to think about what is most important, keep focus, and cut out all that is not essential. Like my story yesterday about the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls. There was so much I could have included, intended to include, but I had limits, so I had to choose and stick to the point. I had to be disciplined in my writing, and it worked. I really like the way the post came out.
I want to go to school, and I think I will. It is a yearning that never goes away. It pains me that I never finished high school, never pursued a higher education. I never got to wear that cap and gown and walk that walk across the stage. I tear up every time I watch someone else do it.
I think I am meant to learn. Perhaps I could even go for a Masters degree. I know I have it in me. And I know it would give me confidence in my writing skills. I have many books in me. I want to get them out of me and down on paper. I want to be the writer I know I can be.
I will spend a few more minutes with Ali and Mark this morning before they head out to a gun show. I am invited, but I really just want to get back on the road. Take my time, clean and re-organize my car. First, I would love a cup of coffee. I also need to walk Justice and refill my water supply. I have not been diligent with keeping my water bottles full. That could be dangerous as I head into the southwest.
I thought I had gained some time on my mileage, but I calculated the remaining trip yesterday, and I still need to be putting in about 125 miles per day to cover enough ground to get me to Myrtle Beach by Thanksgiving. My finances are holding up well. I need to catch up my expense log before I go. I saw a gray deer in the park on Friday morning, and a fawn in my dream.
7:30a Morning Pages ~ Fish Camp, south of Yosemite
I didn’t make it very far with the morning pages yesterday! And somehow I am okay with that. One thing this trip is teaching me is that it is impossible to do everything perfect, as there is so very much that I am not in control over.
Once I got parked last night, reset the car for sleeping, and ate dinner, I was thoroughly exhausted. By 8p I was snug in my sleeping bag and drifting away. I slept until 6a this morning – solid.
It rained all night long, and hard at times.
Back to the hike yesterday…
I thought I was headed up to the Lower Falls, but then I came across signage for the Upper Falls and beyond. Top of the Falls was rated as very strenuous, with a 1000′ climb over the last two miles and about sixty switch backs along the way. This was exactly what I felt had been missing so far from my trip – the physical exertion and challenge.
It was about 9:15a, later than I wanted to get started, but it was a cool day, so I had no worries about Justice being in the car – other than missing me and being out of her kennel (in which the wet tent still sits). So what if I took beyond 11a? I was geared up for the inclement weather, and I had no other real plans for the day.
Excited, I decided to go for it.
It was a beautiful, crisp morning, and the views over the first mile and a half were stunning already. Every corner I rounded seemed to be all the more beautiful. Yosemite, you do not disappoint! Onward and upward.
There was a brief decline in the path, which I was grateful for at the time (down on the way out means up on the way back!) About 1.5 miles in was a spectacular view of the falls. Tyler was going to love this! I framed in a couple of nice shots for us and continued the climb.
It really started to hit me about mile two. My legs were burning, weak, and trembling. I should have had more to eat over the last few days. I have been existing on fruit, vegetables, nuts and cheese. Concentrated calories and densely nutritious, but not a lot of actual food. My dinner had been celery and almond butter. My breakfast had been dried apricots and brazil nuts. I had not taken a snack in my hydropack. I continued on.
Another half-ish mile in I was really hurting. (I was not running my Runkeeper, as I was worried I may not have enough battery life for it and my pictures.) I was breathing so heavily that I was getting light headed. I had to slow my pace.
I thought of bicycling – just down shift. Take smaller, more frequent steps. Just keep going. My body wanted to retreat, but my mind wanted to make it to the top. I repeated the mantra I learned on the Mt. Rainier trip – slow and methodical, slow and methodical.
By mile three I was stopping frequently to catch my breath. I was being passed from time to time by other hikers, and that really bothered me. I told myself it did not matter. Lack of food, lack of sleep, but no lack of heart. It didn’t matter how slow I went. It didn’t matter how long it took. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and stop to rest as often as necessary.
When I would stop, my legs would tremble remarkably and a wave of dizziness would wash over me. I started to need to sit down during my breaks. This is something I had wanted to avoid. Sitting down meant having to stand back up. I told myself no “Tadasana” on the cliffside this time, as I feared I might pass out or simply sway over the side.
On and on I climbed. The tough thing about not having Runkeeper on was that I had no idea how far I had come, and no idea how far I had left to go, other than to look at the top of the granite slab and judge myself against it. It felt impossibly hard.
How can I be this poor of a hiker?? After all of my experience, I expected more from myself. At one point I stumbled forward and caught myself on a fallen sequoia. Sister! Give me strength!! I placed my hands on her and tried to draw some kind of psychic energy (I now realize the irony – fallen tree! lol). I remembered Yoga with Adriene. She says, “Notice how the body wants to get tired, but see how we can support it with the energetic body.” C’mon energetic body! Support me!! It actually did give me a slight boost as I continued climbing. Thank you, Adriene.
I reached a marker. The trail to the right would take me to the Falls overlook. Yay! Only .2 miles left to go! I was almost there! As I scrambled over the rocks (think scrambled eggs ;)), I saw a dirt path lined with boulders leading the way to the edge of the cliff. I started high-fiving the boulders. I could hear them cheering me on. I heard the theme to Rocky soar up from my soul. I started singing it. Da-da-dahhh. Da-da-dahhhh! I made it!
I literally wept – quietly and personally. The wind blew cool the tears on my cheeks. I ventured to the edge.
Where are the falls?
I saw another hiker coming up to my left. I asked again, out loud this time. “Where are the falls?”
She replied, “You have to take these winding rocks down to the overlook.”
Ahh, damn! What goes down must come up, and I was so exhausted.
But I was also getting chilled, and I needed to keep moving, one way or the other.
Well, I did not come this far only to stop “three feet from gold”.
I followed the rocky staircase, winding down another quarter mile. Then I saw it.
The railing disappeared, and the trail went on, now just a little ledge along the side of the cliff face. Wha??? Oh hell no. How can that be?
I was already shaking noticeably, both from the climb and from my extreme fear of heights. I gripped the end of the railing and peered around the corner. There was, in fact, another rail, but this one was merely bolted to the side of the rock. How could they do that?? It looks so dangerous. My hands were cold from gripping the metal.
I retreated to solid ground and put my gloves on. I don’t have to do this. I made it to the top. I did it. There is no shame in stopping now.
But what if I could go on? What if I could summon the courage to do it? I sat pondering as other hikers crested the mountain from behind me. I took a deep breath and moved down the winding staircase again.
A man in his 20s sat where I sat just minutes ago. I saw the same look on his face as had been on mine. His girlfriend stood on the platform below.
“Are you going to go?” I asked him.
“No. I’m good,” he says.
“Is it worth it?” I asked.
“They say it’s quite impressive,” he replies, “but I’m good.”
We sit there together for a moment. I’m good too. I have nothing to prove. I may be a warrior, but here is where the wise comes in. I am tired, shaky and light-headed. The wise move would be to be satisfied with what I have already accomplished today. I AM the Wise Warrior. I retreated to solid ground again.
I rested and took in the amazing view from the top of the world. Deep, refreshing breaths of the cool, clean mountain air. I could almost taste the falls in it. I felt good and whole, but I kept seeing the image of the disappearing railing with the ledge leading on. Would I be seeing this image for the rest of my life? Would I one day come to regret not crossing over? What if I could?
I decided it was worth another look. I climbed back down the quarter mile of winding rock staircase and met another solo female. She was stuck in the same position. We exchanged complaint about the lack of safety railing and our fear of heights.
“I wish I had the courage,” I said. “I never feel my fear of heights until I get up there. Then I become paralyzed by it and start shaking violently.”
She concurred. “It’s good to know your limits,” she said, smiling.
We retreated together, wise warriors.
[2019: I stopped my journaling here, but I did not stop seeing the image of the disappearing rail and the ledge leading on. I knew I had to try again. I knew that image would be mocking me for the rest of my life if I didn’t. I knew I had come here to test my limits, to see what I was made of. I knew I had the courage somewhere inside of me. I just had to figure out how to reach it. Below is the rest of the story, excerpted from my book.]
Somehow, that unventured territory is all that matters now. Once again, I make my way down the spiral stone staircase. I meet a pair of female hikers making their way back up from the overlook. “I wish I had the guts to go,” I say. I try not to sound defeated.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” the woman on the tail assures me. “I am deathly afraid of heights, and I did okay. Just lean into the wall, and don’t look down.” They push past me and back up to solid ground.
I am now alone with my fear, and it swells within me and stares me down like the Leviathan. It is time for my final answer. Do I stay or do I go? This is my last chance.
I summon every ounce of courage I have in me, and then I dig deeper. I grip the rail. It is cold in my hands, and my shaking instantly intensifies. I grip harder and dig deeper. I lean into the rock face, and I do not look down. I inch my way forward, legs trembling and heart racing. I feel like I am holding on for dear life, and I pray I don’t pass out from the fear. Or from the fact that I am no longer breathing. I grip. I inch. I conquer.
Once across, I realize it is not nearly as dangerous as I had imagined. I almost laugh at myself. My fear had made it seem insurmountable. But here I stand victorious, feeling like a warrior indeed. The view is ironically better from above, but what I see most clearly from this vantage point is the part of me that can conquer anything.
7:30a Morning Pages ~ Yosemite National Park
I decided to make my way…
7:30p I felt that I needed to get into the park right away, so I stopped my writing and headed in. I am glad that I did. I had read the forecast calling for a 50% chance of rain by 11a, increasing as the afternoon wore on, and 100% chance for rain tomorrow. If I really wanted to make a go of Yosemite, I would need to begin my journey around 8a, shortly after sunrise.
I was overnighting a bit east of Sacramento, and the GPS said it would take about 3.5 hours to get here. I decided to rise at 3:30a – thirty minutes to reset the car and take care of Justice, one hour for morning pages, departing at 5a.
Well, I was anxious. I woke up at 2:45a and decided to get going.
Because I am unfamiliar with the park and its roads, I almost turned back when the radio channel said the Tioga Pass was closed due to winter weather conditions. Then there were detours and confusing signs. I thought the trip was going to be a bust, but then I found the trail to Yosemite Falls. That was on Tyler’s list. I could score one waterfall hike for him after all!
[2019: Not recorded in my journal was my visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, something I had always dreamed of doing. I did share the experience with my friends on Facebook, and I wrote about it in my book GO: Sacred Solo Travel for Women. Both of these writings are included for you below.]
I have always had a thing for bridges. (And therefore I *love* the art of Jami Rose Lord.) A bridge can be a symbol of life changes, crossing a path into new or strange territory. The Golden Gate Bridge is a symbol of American ingenuity. It was said the San Francisco Bay could never be spanned by a suspension bridge surrounded by some of the harshest winds and climate conditions Mother Nature can unleash. And yet, here she is.
“At last the mighty task is done; resplendent in the western sun, the bridge looms mountain high; its titan piers grip ocean floor, its great steal arms link shore with shore, it’s towers pierce the sky.” –An excerpt from the poem The Mighty Task Is Done, written by Joseph P. Strauss, the visionary and chief engineer for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The next day, I continue south to San Francisco. My serenity is overtaken by excitement, as this is a place from my bucket list. I have always dreamed of visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. I have a fascination with bridges, and this visit seems particularly apropos. A bridge can be a symbol of life changes, crossing a path into new or strange territory.
I use BestParking.com to find free parking at Fort Point, a seacoast fortification under the southern end of the bridge. The view is spectacular, and I snap the epic selfie with the sweeping iconic structure behind and above me. It is a tower as much as a bridge from this perspective. I walk along the bay, watching pelicans fly and turtles swim. I twirl slowly with my arms out wide. I sit in the sun and listen to the lapping water and bask in the glory of a dream come true. She is every bit as majestic as I had imagined.
The Golden Gate Bridge is also a symbol of American ingenuity. It was said the San Francisco Bay could never be spanned by a suspension bridge surrounded by some of the harshest winds and climate conditions Mother Nature can unleash. And yet, here she is.
As am I, crossing into new and strange territory by myself. Mile after mile puts my past further and further behind me. I feel like I am coming into myself for the very first time. This work is about me and my soul, and I feel my deep Self coming near, feeling grateful that her voice is finally being heard; her little heart is finally being held and nurtured. I know a mighty task still lies ahead, but I feel hopeful that the little girl deep inside will take my hand and we will forge a new alliance. We will make this journey together, and I will listen carefully to all she has to offer. I will no longer rely on intelligent logic and reason alone. I will learn to value input from my heart and from my gut, as well. I will no longer seek perfection in every action, but instead endeavor to be fully present in every moment.