Montana Wolf

Friday, December 27, 2013

Yip, Yap, Squawk: The Journey North

It snowed the day before we departed Prescott, granting Teak, Hobo and I a taste of high desert winter wonderland. We were on our way to Washington State. My friend Jeffrey had offered me a cabin on the Skagit River in order to write for the winter. To complete the sequel to Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey. There was no set itinerary. Travel and stops were weather dependent, given it was the second week of December. Packing was not without sadness. I didn't know if I would return or not. That's the nature of seasonal temp jobs with the Forest Service. How permanent was goodbye? But then, that's always the unspoken question, isn't it? -- no matter the circumstances. In every hello there is an inherent goodbye.

Hobo, Teak and I walked in remote Alamo State Park our first night, a place I'd wanted to visit for several years. The reservoir was dramatically low; a reality that repeated on every stop heading north. A coyote barked and came up a draw near-by. Teak gave chase as I swooped up Hobo and tossed him into the trailer. Camera in hand, I discovered that it wasn't one coyote, it was a pack, split into three hunting groups that finally came together. The message was all too clear. With howls, yips, yaps and barks the songdogs proclaimed: I was in for a ride!

We made it to Parker the next day. Camped along the Colorado River and reconnected with Phyllis at a floating bar. Spontaneity is the germ of RV life, and Phyllis and I always manage to cross paths in a precious weave of friendship. It was the perfect segue to JoshuaTree National Park.

I'd been through Joshua Tree years ago, but had never spent the night ... to feel the moonlight drench her rock-strewn body; to rise early and hike magical miles with Joshua trees and granite spirits. We stayed. And stayed. A combination of Joshua's grandeur and, not clear to me at the time, the impending route. For departure meant a turn north. The reality of exchanging SW for NW ... to meet landscapes and beings all too ready to show up and give me a kick.  

The volcanic spaciousness of Owens valley played me to perfection as I moved from calderas like Mono Lake to a hot spring soak in the shadow of Mt. Whitney, tallest mountain in the lower-48. The mind-bending scenes didn't let up, including a boondock next to a river that had long ago carved her way underground.
When I realized the route would take me through Gardnerville, NV I surprised my old friend Marie, owner of JT's Basque eatery. Picon, anyone? Later that day we meant Jeanne and her husband John at their foothills home outside of Sacramento, as we evolved our connection from friends on Facebook to in-the-flesh laughter. AND, I joined forces in a trailer search with Jeanne. Slam dunk. Yes. I want one, too. A couple of feet longer than La Perla, arctic package and a pull-out bumper to stow my kayak and bike. Think the company would sponsor me? 

We were thirteen days into the journey. Darkness maxed as winter solstice fell. We were parked alone, along the Sacramento River at Sim's bridge. This bridge was the first CCC job to be completed in the 1930's. A work of art, the bridge summoned the spirits of the men who fastened every bolt and lifted every beam. In honor of the season, I usually light a large bonfire to welcome back the sun; read Jack London's To Build a Fire with friends. This evening on the road called for a simple ritual, as I lit a Our Lady of Guadalupe candle and placed it outside on a boulder. Then I walked slowly along the peace-full river bank. My eye caught movement on the opposite shore. I crept closer, as I realized I was witness to three river otters. Wrapped in awe, I sat for a half hour watching them move from shore to water; their eyes on me in a communal exchange. I rose with the sun the next morning, drum in hand, to discover a mysterious offering next to the candle. What the ... ??? I laughed out loud. Scat on the altar! 


The universe had my attention. I walked further into the forest to discover a moss and leaf laden staircase. There I was, one day out from my arrival in Washington, between a stunning bridge and a staircase fork, both created by the CCC, connected by a rushing freight train that carried containers through the darkness of night. Gotta love how the universe works.

Did I stand at the proverbial fork in the road?

OR a bridge, as I continued my journey north?

I was set to do some serious pondering, when I remembered a recent meeting with a rambunctious pinon jay. He wouldn't leave me alone as he flew at my head. He finally landed on a branch a few feet away and cast me this quizzical expression, as if to say, "Forks? Bridges? Who cares! It's a hell of a ride."

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