I write this from the common area of a hostel in Cozumel, Mexico, an island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, lit by candles and surrounded by hammocks with a glass of milk to the immediate right of my hand.
I also am writing this from a hostel in Valladoid, Mexico. This is taking me a while as I feel the compulsive need to "catch up."
And I am writing this aboard a train from New York to Cold Spring. Another month after being in Valladolid. Life is a series of never written drafts.
And finally I am finishing this and the immediately proceeding post from a desk in Guanajuato, Mexico another month later.
The last several months have been busy. Good things I take notes.
My backpacking trip to the Channel Islands did not turn out as planned. More correctly, it didn't turn out. I at 3 AM with the plan to drive from the Bay Area to Ventura to catch a boat to the Channel Islands. Four hours into the drive I called to check the status of the ferry only to find that it was canceled. I pulled into a rest stop trying to make a clear plan for the rest of the week.
Death Valley I thought. I had passed through it with Ashley a couple weeks prior but hadn't had a chance to appreciate it. I mere six hour drive and way out of the way. I decided without much critical thought or investigation.
I arrive to the valley after passing through Troma, a city which may have a different name that I am instead confusing with the 80s B-movie horror movie producer. The wind is intense. With forethought I would have thought to check weather conditions but I pressed on, naive and on a driving binge.
Three miles along a washboard road that threatens to shake every bolt, weld, and filling out of my car and body I arrive to my favorite road in the continental US. A straight direct strip miles long leading into the double rain shadowed expanse of Death Valley.
But it is still windy. And there is a sandstorm.
I decide to stop at a service point for a postcard, only to be buffeted across every single exposed square centimeter by thousands of particles of sand. Opening the door to my car is a struggle. When I do sit down I find my floor replaced by a generous sandbox. Unsure of my next actions I continue driving occasionally stopping when the visibility drops to several meters.
It's late in the afternoon so I head up to Lone Pine listening amateur radio repeaters comforted by the voices of men of advanced age discussing the weather. I probably ate food. I fell asleep in the bed in my car waiting the night away without a plan for tomorrow.
My memory becomes blurry on my logic but I decide to go to Yosemite. Unfortunately the best route from Lone Pine was closed so an hour becomes another six hour drive. The thought saddens me. Importantly, there was a good sandwich I ate around this time with a bread that had a county fair ribbon next to it. I suspect there were not very many entrants.
I decide to make a stop at a historically significant point signed along the highway: Manzanar, an internment camp for American citizens of Japanese ancestry in World War II, which I only learn after walking through the doors. Without hyperbole, it is compelling; I get lost walking the grounds for hours.
After much searching for places to dispersed camp I decided to just drive. I find a point (Walker Pass?) along the PCT and post up for the night. I climb to the top of a nearby hill overlooking the desert and watch the sun obscure behind a nearby peak.
All is right with the world.
I listen to a nearby radio repeater (connected to WINLINK) through my handheld radio as a man working in Hong Kong talks to another man in Australia who is eventually replaced by someone in Santa Cruz, California. The night has the quality of theremin music. Yosemite tomorrow.
Blasting through winding canyons I find myself in Bakersfield. And I get lost without a working phone or detailed enough map I drive for a period of time. I'd planned on the extravagance of Denny's but after finding one decided against it and had a single soft taco from Taco Bell for breakfast.
And I leave. Podcasts (The Brookings Cafeteria primarily) play through a single speaker. I eat lunch sitting on an ant hill at a rest stop and debate the appropriate length of a new phone charger for 15 agonizing minutes.
I drive. I doubt I remembered the drive then and I certainly do not recall it writing it now. Through the power of the internet I find some entrances to forest roads in the town of Fish Camp. My final destination.
I pull into the largest nearby town and call the pizza company half a parking lot away and order a meat, meat, meat, meat calzone. I sit in my car until it is done.
Calzone in box I am ready for adventure.
I immediately find my well-planned route was not a good idea. A bumpy 20% snow covered grade would lead to an interesting story but also probably a new car.
I drive some more and find another forest road mostly for all-terrain vehicle fun. I convert the car and eat my calzone while reading Conquest: Cortes, Montezuma, and the Fall of Old Mexico until the wee hours of the morning.
Yosemite represents a hallowed ground. I've been reticent to visit it because I will only have one first time. It was nice. Over the past couple days I had seen too many landscape and the number of people was just too much for me.
I bought a hiking map (scaled to 1:100,000 instead of the typical 1:24,000 which would come to bite me later).
With a week long backpacking trip planned and already on my second to last day I retreated to the less traveled western side of the park and filled out a Wilderness Permit before venturing off. I started late in the day, 1 PM. My plan was to make it to the footbridge outlined on the trail, setup camp and then see how high up I could get to the trail to El Capitan, expecting snow to be a problem.
A mile in I see no one. At first I think I've made great pace when I see a stream ahead and start looking for the footbridge. Upon closer inspection I realize I haven't made it nearly as far as I hoped and this is a small creek marked on the map.
Fifteen minutes pass as I look for the best place to ford the stream. It is waist height in some places, quick, and cold. As I am alone my better judgment tells me to head back. But my judgment fades and I strip to my underwear, regret my lack of sandals and unbuckle my waist and chest belt. And somehow I am across with only one perilous stumble.
A short while later there is another crossing but it's less troublesome. After the significant part of the hike I hit snow. I trudge on eventually making my way to the crest of a hill. The path ends in snow fields with no discernible direction and unfortunately my map is not good enough for me to feel comfortable moving forward.
I setup and the night sets in. I skip dinner and eat dried mango and chocolate. I immediately recall why I told myself I would replace my foam mattress pad last time I used it. I read The Alchemist per far too many suggestions. It's fine. I don't sleep and experience the night as a series of hallucinatory vignettes featuring my watch hands.
At some point I embraced the hubris of youth and took a selfie.
And I head back to the city. I get another meat, meat, meat, meat calzone. I am a little over a week away before I head for Mexico.
And an incredibly great week passes. This is the last time I’ll see Ashley for a while. I buy tickets from a guy outside the Athletics Stadium during opening week and get great seats.
I explore the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Golden Gate Park, I go to Bean Night (where one eats beans) with Ashley at one of her friend’s house near Petaluma for a musical jamboree, and have a crab dinner in Pismo Beach.
It was great send off.