Thursday, October 31, 2013

L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike: Part II

Sea to Mountains, City to Wilderness

On Sunday morning, a quiet calm enveloped the Silver Lake area. The streets and stairways were empty, though I could feel the reverberation of the night before, as if the still morning was hungover. My legs ached going up and down more stairways. The day before I scaled close to 50 staircases and attained close to 40 'city' miles and although my muscles felt great I had a new type of soreness in the balls of my feet and my butt. The hills of Echo Park went straight up and harkened a tough day ahead of me. But, I tell you, the hidden stairways held a tranquility that soothed my body and spirit, as if I was staring out at some grand vista in some Southwestern canyon.

I reached Sunset Blvd and noticed crowds of spruced-up yupsters, bleary-eyed hipsters, and messy-haired artists, all enjoying their morning coffee or sweet cake at funky and hip diners. Homeless crept along the sidewalks with their shopping carts, and the elderly were out walking their dogs, most of them the small and annoying type, the ones that bark at everything. Suddenly, a pang welled up inside of me. I had to take a piss. I looked frantically for a place to go. I held it in with all my mustered might. Instantly, I realized I wasn't in the wilderness and I just couldn't go any where I wanted. I had to be sly about my public urination, as no gas stations, public restrooms, and cafes were now in the vicinity. I squirmed as I walked as I tried to move faster. Dribbles leaked out, then I saw a full hedge near a closed business. I wiggled my way over quickly and ducked behind the hedge and let it rip. The area reeked of piss and feces and I knew I had found a spot that others have used before. While streaming I thought: 'Have I ever urinated in the city while not under the cover of night or a curtain of drunkenness?'

The situation brought up a notion in my head. Are our needs in the city so convenient that we forget how to attain those needs in the city the natural way? For months on end I find my own water, my own bathroom, my own bed, granted I don't hunt for my own food. I scanned the neighborhood thinking about where I could possibly find any natural water source. None. Unless I considered the concrete L.A. River a source!

I got over this paradox, of sorts and hiked towards Echo Lake. I remember when I lived in L.A., and as far back as I could remember, Echo Lake was a murderous battleground, a violent and troubled area. Moving through the stairways and across major boulevards back up into Echo Park I could see the gentrification of these parts. I once felt unsafe to even drive through the area, however, now I felt completely comfortable walking through it. Art galleries, music clubs, hip restaurants, not-so dank dives, and upstart businesses straddled the major avenues. Houses looked clean and landscaped. Subaru's and VW's jutted out of driveways. Frankly, I saw more white people now residing here. Then, towards Interstate 5 and the L.A. River I entered 'The Hill' territory. Menacingly tagged onto walls and sidewalks, the gang of the area had communicated warning signs for any particular haphazard wayfarer, like a pile of fresh grizzly scat in Glacier National Park leaving its mark on its turf. I hiked quickly while still getting in as many staircases as I could.

From the top of Elysian Park I could see the broad humps of the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles Crest. I felt the pull of the mountains, just like I did when I was a young adult. Only now I didn't have any fear associated with my 'calling.'

More neighborhoods: Atwater Village, Angeles Heights, Glassell Park, Washington Park, Highland Park and Eagle Rock. In Glassell Park along Fletcher Dr. I encountered the friendliest neighborhood, though it may have been one of the poorest. Mexicans, Salvadoreans, and other Latinos played soccer in the ball fields, they hooted and hollered at one another, and raspado and helote carts wheeled around with a little 'ting ting.' I waved and smiled at many. I shimmied little dance steps as I hiked. In Highland Park, I trekked through a rough neighborhood. Big cholos posted up on porches, pit bulls barked ferociously, and roosters crowd. I walked quickly hardly getting any notice. I found myself blending into my environment as I do in the mountains or desert. Notorious for being a quiet hiker, I innocuously and inconspicuously hiked through the city blocks. I guess I am sort of a chameleon.

Hours lately, I found myself in Pasadena having tramped close to another 40m and 80 staircases. One of my best friends, someone who I have known the longest, other than family, Sobek, picked me up. We spent the evening together at our buddy Ben's house in Atwater Village. I was happy, drunk, and tired, yet when Ben put on the movie 'End of Watch' I could not help but think: "How in Hell did I just walk across L.A.?!"
The next late morning, 5,000ft and 10m later, I stood atop the flat summit of Mt. Wilson with an aerial antennae farm and an observatory overlooking the entire L.A. Basin. Mt. Wilson is another historic icon, in particular the former toll road leading to its crest. On the way up, I could feel the gasp of the city leaving its heaving breath down in the valleys below. The sky opened up all around me in a pearly blue inviting me upward to its thinner and cleaner air. Once from Mt. Wilson I used a series of canyons and shortcut trails to get to the Pacific Crest Trail some 20m away. I encountered heavily burned areas, the canyons, chaparral, and massive pines, walnuts and oaks ravaged by the inferno of the 2009 Station Fire. It saddened me to think while most of the city of L.A. has cleaned up its act its wildlands lay in devastation in which most of the Angelinos may never see an old growth forest there again. It is all related to each other: over-crowding, drought, lack of drinking water, fire, urban sprawl, dirty and clean air.

That night, I meditated looking up at the stars reflecting on my tramp through L.A., and not of my past. I felt an insane feeling of self-understanding, as if I embraced the feeling of loving L.A. as I would love myself. I also felt an insane 'sense of place' I have never felt before other than being immersed in the wilderness for an extended period of time. I pondered: Can a city instill a wilderness-type feeling or philosophy? I feel 'yes, it sure as hell can,' especially if you are thru-hiking it. There is a flow in this world that doesn't matter where you are at, and that flow is oblivious to its environment and humans, even unexplainable. By simply walking for an extended period of time I attain that flow on such a regular basis I look for it in anything, including the concrete megalopolis of Los Angeles.

Pre-dawn I hit the PCT practically running. I felt like I was released from some hold, some self-restraint. My stride opened up amid craggy stone summits lined with a thin forest of Douglas Fir, White Fir, and Coulter Pines. Manzanita made an appearance with its beautiful smooth and deep dark red bark, twisting and gnarled branches, and stiff, green leaves. Along the Kratka Ridge I could eye the true summit of the Angeles Crest, Mt. Baden Powell. Below me Angeles Forest Highway laid dormant with little usage from vehicular traffic. At Windy Gap, a chilly gust iced through my sweaty clothes. The cold mountain air refreshed my spirit. Finally, at the top of the 9,399ft Baden Powell I could fathom the overcast engulfing the Pacific Ocean coastline, the haze sheathing the valleys like a sheep's thick wool, and the basin mountain ranges poking above it all as if floating islands. I soaked it all in, tying everything together.

Night came on my last full day and along a ridge overlooking the Apple Valley in the High Desert I watched the streamline of vehicle lights meandering their way along yawning curves. I laid on a bed of pine needles and disheveled puzzle-pieced bark from a Jeffrey Pine and slept a well-deserved slumber. In the morning, I ran the 20m to Interstate 15. Another one of my best friends picked me up there, Hando.
Overall, my L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike amassed roughly 175m in about 5 full days. I went either up or down approximately 135 staircases. I adapted to what was in front of me, hiked efficiently, and gauged a sense of self from a city I once called home and the wilderness now affecting my self. I connected a route in the megalopolis of L.A. using alley ways, streets, boulevards, dirt roads, stairways, bike paths, sidewalks, lawns, bridges, and trails through wildlands, city, wilderness, beaches, neighborhoods, and parks. 

L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike: Part I

Sea to Mountains, City to Wilderness

Over the intercom the flight attendent vocalized the arrival of the flight to LAX. It was mid-afternoon, and from my nooked window I could see peerless rays of sunshine glistening in the horizon towards the Pacific Ocean. People stood up from their seats and crowded into the aisle. Most reached up to their hand bags stowed in the compartment above. I stood up and slung my Kumo over my back and waited patiently for the line of people to exit the plane. I looked around; things seemed so complicated yet I had all that I needed on my back in my backpack.

Through the terminal I happened to follow an attractive woman from the same flight who wore a MontBell Down Jacket. I followed her insouciant gait that had an L.A. swagger. I could see the contrast of what I was about to embark on already. I was already seeking for the connection between the city and wilderness. The hustle and bustle of the airport moved in agitation with people moving faster than they usually do. Most trundled in hurky-jerky steps towing their roll-on luggage that lumbered clumsily behind. I followed a path of least resistance within the terminal, weaving in and out of the awkward walkers. I eluded bottlenecks of travellers along the escalators and eventually I found myself in an outside world of concrete. I headed the direction opposite of which the incoming cars were coming from. I followed a sidewalk figuring I would have to walk along side of a narrow shoulder of oncoming traffic. But the sidewalk just winded its way around the curve of the massive runway and dumped me down unto a staircase landing on Lincoln Blvd, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1.

I hiked with an adrenaline rush I have never felt in thousands of miles of hiking. The roar of the city bellowed in a stentorian thunder. My heart pounded furiously through my chest. Cars, truck, motorcycles sped on by; buses coasted near curbside that left a pocket of wind to erupt in my face, and huge jumbo jets raced across the sky above the highway perpendicular to the flow of transporters only a few hundred feet above it all. The madness of the city presented itself to me as I now headed towards the city Santa Monica. I hiked tall with my shoulders wide and I felt myself breathing heavily, panting almost, from hiking with so much gusto.

I intended to make my way to Venice and the bike path along the beach, then through Santa Monica I would connect a series of staircases to Pacific Palisades, and hike my way up into the backbone of the Santa Monica Mountains and its wildlands for a stealth camp. And since it was mid to late afternoon I knew I had to make miles swiftly if I intended to camp by a reasonable hour. Lincoln Blvd., or PCH, was swarmed with the masses. Still feeling the rush of the city I mashed my way along the sidewalks, dodging throngs of pedestrians, bikes, and various obstacles such as newspaper stands and light posts. I moved efficiently and swiftly using street instincts to navigate such as jaywalking. I found side streets that were flooded with cars, not unlike the boulevards, but they moved more fluidly. Having been an auto parts driver in L.A. I knew that some of these side streets were other thoroughfares through the city that cut-off unnecessary mileage and 'rounded' my route rather than 'squared' my route. In some congested areas I actually out-hiked the slow moving vehicles.

In Venice, I found alley ways to move through. Ivies and other creeping vines, garlands, and a slew of exotic trees tunneled over the few allies I took. Some residents even took to painting murals on their garage doors. These alley ways were quite peaceful and attractive. Then a bike pedaler came towards me, seemingly out of place. Nearer and nearer, the cholo on a cruiser bike meandered in sweeping 'U's' as he passed me. He reminded me of a shark patrolling a feeding ground. He glanced at me through his 'loc's', as I did the same through my shades. We both flicked up our chin at each other and continued going in the direction we were headed. As I walked on, I increased my senses, especially my hearing, just in case something came up from behind me. One advantage I have over most people, especially from being in the woods for so long, is an heightened acuity in my senses.

A concern of mine in planning this hike was the state of certain neighborhoods I knew Snorkel had hiked through connecting the stairways. I gasped when she told me the non-threatening states of some of the neighborhoods because when I lived there almost a decade ago those exact neighborhoods were not so friendly. I asked Snorkel if she worried about what colors she wore, street taggings rather than murals, and gang presence on the stairways. It seemed L.A. had changed since the last time I resided there. So, I walked on realizing my behavior would matter most. I related that behavior as to walking in different territories: grizzly habitat, hot and dry weather, waterless stretches, night hiking and mountain lion threats. I began to read the city as I would read the mountains.

Along the Venice beach walk tourists, locals, and the seedy dwellers moved along in a current resembling a human river. Occasionally, I would hit some rapids and dudes would be yelling at each other, cursing and throwing down. Other times the water remained placid and serene as some of the street musicians would tantalize the ears with their entranced melodies. The sun shined brightly, and all walks of life were out and about. At the Santa Monica Pier, a mini-carnival of sorts jutting out into the sea, I climbed my first set of stairs. I went up and down between the beach walk and the park settled on top of the bluffs. Within these climbs I noticed the difference in culture and wealth, cleanliness and filth, as well as the fit and unfit.

Soon, I was scaling stairways interspersed through the swanky neighborhoods of Santa Monica. Some of the stairways were used as a workout and social spot where the plastic and chiseled would congregate. Down into Rustic Canyon I went and the sun seem to hide from me in a dimmed embarrassed state. Poison ivy cloaked the stairway, bamboo shoots sprouted up straightly, and the residents' yards juxtaposed the groomed landscape with the wild nature of some of the plants on the hillsides. The air was sea-misted and redolent of blossoms of a white flower I frequently saw.

Night enveloped the metropolis, and the tiny suburb of Pacific Palisades buzzed with activity. I hiked on to the Temescal Canyon trail head and night hiked up the ridge trail. From the ridge I could see the high school football came going on and the blue of the ocean turn to an abyss-black. Down the trail came about 20 Filipinos all carrying hand held flashlights. I let them pass me and continued up the ridge in the dark with the robust full moonlight guiding my way. On the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains I followed a fire road with a warm air blanketing my body. The city seemed so far away, the booming noise of the city now sounded like a quiet belch. I heard some popping noise and saw fireworks bursting from the Santa Monica Pier, many night owls hooted from the telephone wires above me, and the deep silence of the ocean protruded into my being as the deepest sound of all, as if the world was inhaling the miasmic air of the city.

I bedded down under a canopy used mainly by cyclists to escape the heat of the day. I looked down at the twinkling city lights rather than up at the fading stars in the night sky. I found this to be strange since my southwest Vagabond Loop held the glamour of beauty above me at night. My eyes slowly closed but not before noticing the difference in blackness and emptiness between the mountains and the ocean.  

I awoke before dawn and hiked in the cool, morning air. I followed the crest of Mulholland Dr. The road went from dirt to pavement and soon I was amid a cacophony of roaring cars zooming by me. At an overlook of the San Fernando Valley I read a kiosk explaining the corridors of wildlife through established neighborhoods. The kiosk explained the relationship and co-habitation of deer, people and their pets, birds, and coyotes. I pondered these wildlife corridors deeply since I seemed to be following a similar path through the city.

On to Highway 101 and the Hollywood Hills to meet my very good friend Zack. He picked me up at the Hollywood Bowl and we had about a 2 hour lunch together. I probably annoyed him with my excitement from the past day walking through the city. I was still pretty amped up.

After dropping me back off in the spot where my steps would connect, I proceeded up into the Hollywood Hills and found more stairways. The stairs connected old, swanky houses and streets with one another all within eyesight of the Hollywood sign. I flew through the area and soon enough I was in Los Feliz just under the Griffith Observatory. I plotted my route using maps from Snorkel's Google Map files that I printed out. I connected the stairways in the most efficient way possible by trying to find the most fluid and straightforward way though the neighborhoods. Eventually, I moved from street to street and into Franklin Heights. Since it was a Saturday, the neighborhoods were alive with action. Community Fall celebrations and Farmer's markets were underway, taco trucks lined boulevards. 
The hills in this area were surprisingly steep. In Silver Lake the streets and staircases went even steeper up. I hiked up and down stairways as if I was on a workout. In planning for this trip I worried about the condition my feet would be in after all the pounding on the concrete. Here I was, zeroing in on a 40m day, and I was practically running up the stairways. In Silver Lake I could envision the working class of the 1920s and 1930s taking these stairways down to the flatter and broader streets to catch trams and streetcars. The foundation of the proletariat, the working class matrix of the city, still held firm despite the fact the homes now settled on the hills were for the more wealthier. The stairways were trails bridging connections between communities. Secret gardens and canopies gave even a tiny moment to a citizen that Mother Nature was nearby. Walking up and down these old staircases symbolized a tie with the flow of the moving world. The concrete jungle seemed to be irrelevant as the clank of staired planks and the swish of brush and foliage took you away.

Dusk began to settle in on the end of my first full day in the city. I began to pick up the pace in order to meet my buddy Steve who was to pick me up. One of the last staircases I climbed I found a trio of hip-hop heads posting up with L.A. Dodger hats on.
"Whatdya got there? Mickey's or OE?"
"Shit, man, we got mineral water, " one of the dudes chuckled. I chuckled right back. Memories from my early 20s flooded back.
"Damn, y'all got some mota too! Livin' the good life, makin' me jealous," I casually told them. They all smiled, I am sure mostly because they realized I wasn't a Narc. At the top of the stairway I spilled out into a street and the air suddenly smelled of barbeque, a typical warm, sunny day smell in L.A. This was the right place, right now. I met Steve and he treated me out to the Golden Road Brewing Company near Atwater Village. We slugged away a few pale ales and felt the jumping vibe in the alehouse. My eyes almost jumped out of my head with all the excitement, as Steve and I spoke of the natural world, trails, and connections...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike: Intro

Sea to Mountains, City to Wilderness

I never suspected an urban thru-hike would be in my future, even as little as 3 weeks ago. I first heard of such an endeavor from 2 other thru-hikers, Snorkel and Bobcat. Snorkel embarked last April on a first ever recorded urban thru-hike of Los Angeles incorporating the Inman 300, series of historical stairways situated in the city to connect neighborhoods, pedestrians, and commuters with the pulse of the city. Then, in June, Bobcat tackled an urban thru-hike of San Francisco that incorporated historic stairways within the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and up into the Marin Highlands. A few weeks back, I met Snorkel in person at the ALDHA-West gathering where we chatted into the wee hours of the morning about speed hiking, record breaking attempts, and her urban hike of L.A.

Bobcat at Casa de Luna fresh off the PCT
To say I was intrigued is an understatement.  However, I could not fathom doing something of that nature. I marveled over her descriptions of how beautiful L.A. is, how special these secret stairways are, and how the culture of L.A. is blossoming . The L.A. Stair People are a hidden sub-culture of the city and I really dug how they loved a city that up until that point I had abhorred, and in fact, even snubbed and scoffed at as the place where I am from. They seem to explore the city with the same instincts as I do in the wilderness. Impressed by this I kept a spot in my head, an open space, where I could come back to the idea of an urban thru-hike.

Things seem to fall into place rather rapidly. After about 2 weeks of consecutive work I suddenly had about 2 1/2 weeks off. I was dying to hike somewhere but with the limited timeframe I had to find something of a moderate distance in an area with agreeable weather that would provide me with a challenge. I called up Snorkel telling her of my intentions. She responded back with enthusiasm for my ambitious endeavor. Within hours after our conversation she sent me maps of the Inman 300 and blasted out an email to some of the main characters involved in the stair community of L.A. I had less than a week to plan the route but I was determined to make it happen.

Right off the bat I received feedback and support from the stair community, however, after a 3 day hike in Utah, then piecing together a route, I had little contact with anybody. Scrutinizing a route together proved to be mind-boggling as the maps and the 100's of waypoints were extremely tough. Two days before the L.A. Basin Thru Hike I really did not know why I was doing this. I felt an extreme unknown factor creep up on me. I was more nervous for this than my 3,500m Vagabond Loop!

Again, I spoke with Snorkel who really eased my nerves. She spoke of 'rules' among the Inman 300 as to how they should be hiked. But it seemed the rules weren't followed by everybody. Just as in the thru-hiking world people followed the mantra of H.Y.O.H (Hike Your Own Hike). My biggest fear was where would I start at and sleep at the first night, especially since the environment I would be walking into seem to be so foreign to me even though I grew up in that city. Was I to sleep in some forest preserve in the Palos Verdes area (which I heard may have passwords to entry points to get into the preserves), would I find some park to sleep in or in some garden? Would I be surrounded by bums or scoffed at by the wealthy? I knew there would be a certain amount of stealthiness involved in this urban thru-hike but I couldn't really place it. I opened up to Snorkel a little bit, for as that week before my urban thru-hike I realized there were some personal issues I had to settle with in L.A.

One month prior, I left L.A. suddenly. I basically just ran away from the city. To me it represented a way once before in my life as to how I handled things. And at that time I was living in L.A. I feel my feelings of L.A. stopped when I escaped there 8 years ago. My 20's were a time of drunken debauchery and fear. I tussled between my gut that instinctively told me to go to the wilderness and my stifling fears that spoke to my insecurities. Combine my fleeing of LA. and my going through a tough relationship break-up, I truly needed a barometer to gauge where I stood at in my life. The 2 most influential things in my life have been the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Crest Trail. And I needed to connect both of them, as if bridging the gap in some inner turmoil at odds with my selfsame ego.

I figured the Hell with it, I am going anyways, if just for the pure pleasure of walking. I would figure things out as I went along using my gut and head to navigate through a megalopolis all the way up to the wilderness of the Basin of L.A.

On the plane ride over from Denver I wrote my goals down for my L.A. urban thru-hike:


Route Goals:
*My Own
*City to Wilderness

And during that flight, knowing that I would commence to follow my goals, I felt a serene sense of calm. I now knew where I would start: I would just walk straight out of the damn Los Angeles International Airport!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Professional Hobo

Immediately after pulling into the parking area at the ALDHA West Gathering in Nevada City, CA, I ran into WhyNot!. Soon Swami came over, the person who influenced me the most for this year's Vagabond Loop. Then, in utter excitement, Shroomer ambled over, his bright smile and positive vibes leading the way. I knew I was in the right place.

We swapped stories and adventures, the definite theme of the weekend. The best thing about these stories is that the particular story was a small piece of a big picture, a bigger adventure. I looked around and saw other hikers who spend half the year or longer living out of their tent and backpack. I was surrounded by other professional hobos.

Other than the 2 weeks with Lint, I walked alone around the remote Four Corners. I walked into towns or hitched rides with a burly beard, shredded clothes, bloody shins, and a filthy stench. Despite my appearance I made friends. The people were incredible. Yet with all the trail magic I had a hard time relating to the people. Most thought I was plain crazy or a bum. Most couldn't get what I was doing.
Here, I could relate with everybody. I run into Anish, fresh off her unsupported record breaking PCT speed hike. I tell her of the text messages Lint would send me while he was hiking with her. I also tell her how I wished I was there with them and how those texts pushed me harder, for that was the only time on the VL this summer I had a chance to gauge my performance, though a skewed view. I talk with this incredible woman and see that she is wired, driven, differently than the rest, and it is infectious.
I finally meet Tatu Jo, another endurance athlete who is a former PCT record holder. I stumble over my words. I want to be cool like everyone there.
I bump into Snorkel, an amazingly fast hiker as well, one that I've heard a lot good things about. The list goes on: Trauma and Pepper are there. The lengendary Bink makes an appearance and an amusing speech for Tatu Jo as he is awarded his Triple Crown plaque. Yogi, Speedstick, Jester, Worldwide, Lost...

(photo courtesy of Swami)

I am among my people.

The keynote speakers begin. I sit in humility and with an attentive open soul hearing Swami speaking of his 14 Long Walks encompassing some 14,000m in 18 months. His wisdom is peppered with a youthful exuberance that instills a fervent boil in my body that I could hardly contain my emotion. Anish whirls the crowd with tales of endurance and the deep utter drive of the paincave. I almost crawl out of my seat ready to go mashing miles after hearing Lost speak of her logistics and travels across the Brooks Range in Alaska. Ian Reeves speaks with a sincere compassion about his South America amble. A very inspiring and caring man.

(courtesy of Swami)
The Triple Crown ceremony awards another 24 or so achieved hikers. I stand in the back of the large log-lined room, amid the palpable positive energy, as about 40 or so Triple Crowners, new and old, line up for a photo op. I could not wipe the big smile off my face. I never in my life felt so happy for a group of people.
(courtesy of ALDHA West)

We swill away the night into the wee hours. The energy in the room I can never forget. The passion, adventures, the struggles, the blood, sweat and tears; the dreams accomplished by people who had the courage to follow their dreams. These people are the most richest people in the world.

Driving back through the barren landscape of the Great Basin, I firmly know that I know what I will be doing the rest of my life. And I am rich, rich with the marrow of life oozing from my bones. I have not a large bank account, nor do I have classy clothes or a fancy car. But I have adventures, freedom, a supreme quality in what I do.

I arrive in Glenwood Springs exhausted, spent from such an inspiring weekend. I look around me in wonder at the kaleidoscope of colors and I go for a trail run blissfully through the Colorado Fall palette: the reds of the gambel oak, the oranges and yellows of the quaking aspen, the fading green of the cottonwood, all contrasted with the unbelievable brightness of snow.

 I am thrust back to work the next morning in Aspen. I am told I am working at a high-powered political think tank conference. It is top secret. No paparazzi are around, just faces I have seen on television. These people, so I am told, make very important decisions in the world. Their pockets are fat, their jet huge, and their ego even bigger.
Riding in the back of the SUV is a pretty young publicist and along side of her is an older man, his bright blue eyes popping out of his sockets, relentlessly flirting with this pretty young publicist. He constantly name drops (which if I am to do it will only be in the world of thru-hiking). He speaks with excitement, a stutter. He suddenly looks at me with his blazing blue eyes through the rear view mirror. He adamantly states: "You do know who you are picking up? Right? You have [a recent presidential candidate] riding in your car."
"Yea, that's what I've been told," I rather glumly and nonchalantly reply back to him. The pretty young publicists smiles a nervous smile at the older man. She rolls her eyes too. They're playing a flirtatious game. And I couldn't help think that if any of the thru-hiker names listed above got in my SUV I would be geeked out of my head.
A well-known comedian [talk show host on an entertainment channel] climbs into the back seat with his buddy. I blur out their conversation envisioning Jester hopping in the back. I think: Jester is way funnier than this comedian.
An Aussie actor and his wife pop in the back. The very friendly people they are, they strike up a conversation. Eventually, I bring up Swami, to me the most famous Aussie. These interactions happen quite frequently over the weekend. The wealthy and powerful get in my SUV and all I can think about is working this winter in order to wander next summer. I do not think about the potential to have a ton of money or a pampered lifestyle. I am not shell-shocked by the celebrity status of these people. I think of moving with the seasons, flowing with Nature, sleeping in the dirt, in a forest, in the mountains, with other hobos.
According to Wikipedia, a hobo is a migratory worker...
Maybe we could add ...who thru-hikes with the seasons, living a simple and fulfilled life.
Or maybe a hobo is a thru-hiker who is migratory worker, living a simple and fulfilled life. Either way I am a rich man. The ALDHA West gathering really showed me that, as well as the politically high powered top secret think tank conference. That feeling in Nevada, while across the barren Great Basin, of knowing what I will be doing the rest of my life is firmly cemented in me.
Thank you to all the other thru-hikers in the world who follow their dreams no matter the sacrifice. Thank you for having the guts to realize your passions and live part of the year as a professional hobo.