Sunday, September 18, 2016

self love, self fear

Something I have said before: the opposite of love is not hate, but fear. If we truly fear something we will not be able to love it. When we live without fear we do not hesitate to connect with the people we are drawn to. Pure love dispels fear.

For a while now I've recognized this pattern in our interactions with the world around us, but more recently I've realized the same concept is true when applied to our internal lives. Self-fear and self-love are incompatible.

Fear of self, at least by one definition, is called autophobia.

We are often afraid of certain aspects of ourselves. Maybe it is a similarity to a negative role model, embarrassment over certain feelings, an undesired bodily trait, or a primal urge we wish we didn't have. Maybe it's an exceptional talent, a huge capacity for love, a strong sense of empathy, or passionate anger towards some injustice.

When we fear these parts of ourselves, being faced with them is uncomfortable so we self-distract in many different ways. We live in denial and project these traits onto other people. We isolate ourselves, or avoid isolation at all costs. We strive to fill our perceived emptiness in order to feel OK, with material gain, addictions, social status, or any number of other vices. We perceive life as a struggle, something inherently painful and confusing, and decide that this experience is what's normal. True fulfillment is a fantasy we don't expect to achieve. Many people develop mental illness and dysfunctional patterns.  These are coping mechanisms. Our fear is buried deep inside us and it feels like an inbuilt part of our personal topography, and the coping mechanisms come to feel natural too.

We don't know if other people are feeling the same way or if we are alone in our despair... because we are too afraid to talk about it in the first place. We hide our pain, our longing for connection, our hopelessness. These are taboo. Many of us don't know what we truly want or how to get it. We don't understand where we hurt or why. We feel trapped in what our lives have become, in what other people tell us should make us fulfilled, in the expectations others have of us.

But it doesn't always have to be that way. The root of all this is our autophobia. Fear is inhibiting love again, in this case self love; knowing, accepting, valuing, and caring for ourselves. It leads to a numbing internal blindness which skews all of our interactions.

What would happen if instead of fearing ourselves, we loved ourselves exactly how we are? If we smiled at our problems with the knowledge that everyone has them, and working through them is a normal part of life? If instead of fighting ourselves, we let whatever is inside come to light? If your answer to that question is that something terrible would happen -- notice that! That's the fear I'm talking about.

Here is what I think we can do: let's work towards not being afraid of any part of ourselves. Our unlimited potential for growth, our darkest thoughts, our most secret sexual urges, our out-of-control habits. Let's learn about ourselves and accept that we are who we are in this moment. It is what it is. If we live in constant hiding from our own reality, we are missing perhaps the most important part of being alive. We live with an illusion of who we are rather than a lucid understanding.

Let's allow this process to happen apart from any attempt to change ourselves. There's time for that later.

When we know and understand ourselves, we can start to untangle the ways we've been woven together. We recognize what is our true nature and what has been artificially adopted due to social pressure. We figure out which things in ourselves are necessary to part ways with, and which things we need to learn to embrace. Often, it's simply understanding ourselves which naturally leads to change. The change that happens is then in line with reality, it's organic and productive. When we try to change ourselves by forcing our external actions and the only motivation is to conform to society's expectations, it's never sustainable. Real change is more integral than that and even if it does require regimented action, it's motivated from within rather than by a desire to appear a certain way for others; and that gives us the energy that is required to follow through.

Getting to know ourselves is a great goal, but how can we do this practically? I have some thoughts on that but I'll save them for a future post.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Portland to Moab

Yesterday I arrived back in Moab to finish my 5-week journey. There are so damn many things I could write about right now! For this post I'll mostly narrate my travels and then maybe after that I'll have some more philosophical things to write about.

At the end of my last post I had arrived in my friend's basement room after a long day of hitching. I barely left that room for the next 4-5 days, and it was perfect. I rested my knee which I had injured on the hike and took it really easy. I guess I needed a few days alone indoors to settle down after my travels. Many thanks to my friend Krystle for her unwavering generosity in spite of the fact that I made her womancave basement smell like hikertrash, farts, and weed (OK maybe that list is a bit redundant).

Eventually, it was time for me to be on my way. I met up with my great aunt and we had a nice lunch together. She took me to my mom's house, where I spent the night, and met my newest cousin (2 years old) for the first time -- their family was visiting from California.

Hmm -- I'm noticing that I want the story to feel "complete" so I'm tempted to narrate every thing that happened, but for most readers it's probably not very interesting to read about me catching up with my friends and family, even though to me it was a great part of my trip. So I will focus on the hitchhiking parts. In summary, after seeing my mom & family, I went to Corvallis and Bend to visit some friends.

I didn't need to hitch on the way to Corvallis, I got a ride with family to Salem and then my friends picked me up there. I spent one night at my friends' house, who were again quite generous with food, drink, and entertainment. In the morning, one of their roommates kindly drove me the 15 miles to the junction of hwy 34 and I-5 so I could start hitching toward Bend from there.

My plan was to take hwy 34 & 20 straight to Bend. So I got to a good spot on the east side of I-5 and started putting out my thumb. Eventually the oldest-looking car I'd seen in an hour stopped for me, and I got in. When I told him I was trying to get to Bend, the driver informed me that it was completely closed due to a landslide, and I'd have to detour up through Salem. Bummer! That meant a more complicated route with more rides to hitch. But I was glad I found out as soon as I did. After a couple hundred yards he pulled over and let me out. I thanked him and started walking back to I-5.

Something interesting about Oregon is that it's the only state I've hitchhiked in where it is legal to walk along the side of the interstate and solicit a ride; normally I'm restricted to onramps or highway shoulders. I thought I'd try this new freedom and so I started walking down the onramp to get to the freeway. As I was walking past the merging lanes to get to a safe spot to wait, I held out my left thumb, and someone stopped for me. Well, that was easy! I walked up to his car, and as I was opening the door and noticing the strong weed odor pouring out, I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming through a radio -- "are you just hitching a ride?" At first I thought it was inside the car, but then I heard it again and looked around; a cop had pulled up behind us and was talking to me over the loudspeaker. I indicated that, yes, I was just hitching a ride (I wonder what else he thought we might be doing?), and he said "OK, good luck" and drove off.

Some people might have been sketched out by the weed-smelling car, but I could tell the driver was a harmless type of stoner who would have probably been less capable to drive while sober because he's always high. I wouldn't want to ride with a drunk driver but stoned drivers are more tolerable for me. So I got in. The guy was a grower from Eugene, making a delivery to a dispensary or something. He had buds sitting out on his dashboard and packed a pipe which we shared. When it was cached, he cleared out the ashes by turning the pipe upside down and knocking it on the gearshift (or whatever the equivalent in an automatic is called), and packed a different strain. He was from Eugene and I don't remember much of what we talked about. Conveniently, he was taking the same exit I needed to get on hwy 22.

My next ride came from a gal who was on her way to work. She drove me maybe 15 minutes east. She was very sweet, kind of quiet, but would laugh in this really adorable way at certain things. I felt like we could have been friends. She confided that she'd been off meth for 8 months, and because she'd been stuck for several months in a bad situation in California at one point in her life, she knew what it was like to need a ride somewhere. I felt so privileged to have had the opportunity to see her kind graciousness and her painful past at the same time. She was 100% real with me.

That's a beautiful thing about hitchhiking: because we both know our encounter is of a short duration and we will never see each other again, it creates a certain kind of safe space to talk about personal issues. Not everyone wants to go there, but sometimes people open up about their lives in ways that they probably wouldn't tell most of their friends. I don't mean to inflate my sense of self-importance, but sometimes I feel like when I hitchhike I am offering a spontaneous, unconventional form of therapy. I listen without judgment. I hold space for people to talk about what's hard. I share honestly from my own experience. Sometimes we just sit silently. And, always, I express my deep gratitude for their willingness to stop and give me a ride, which is easy to do because I feel it so strongly. When they offer to go above and beyond, by offering me a ride that's out of their way or giving me food or money, I make it clear that I absolutely don't expect anything like that but if they insist, I accept enthusiastically. I believe generosity is a form of therapy that benefits the giver, and it is much more rewarding to give to someone who is appreciative than to someone who feels guilty for receiving and turns down offers.

Of course, I am not a therapist and indeed it goes both ways. Many of the people who pick me up are in fact helping to heal my heart and it makes me feel warm. There are some very kind and generous folks out there.

My next ride was one of the more sketchy ones I've had. When he pulled up in his beater pickup truck, I tried to open the door but it was locked. He made a motion like "go ahead, just open the door." I tried again... definitely locked. Finally he leaned over and fumbled with pulling up the latch. I thought he seemed a bit drunk, and he likely was. I thought, "this is probably one of those times where it might be wise to make an excuse and turn down the ride." But I was a bit slow to decide. I ended up getting in. I'm still not sure if it was truly a bad idea to ride with him and I need to become more firm about turning down rides, or if my deepest instinct was actually that he was safe despite the feeling that he might have been drinking. The truck was loud, and the guy rambled and told stories the whole time I rode with him (mostly about previous DUIs), which was fortunately maybe only 15 minutes. I couldn't quite understand everything he said but fortunately he was the kind of guy who didn't really notice if I was reacting appropriately. The funny thing is, he actually drove very well, never swerved at all or did anything that felt unsafe. In his rambles he said a couple things that I thought were actually pretty insightful, about money and happiness. In the end I liked him.

The next time I got picked up was by a couple, which was a first for me. I kept hearing a chirping sound and was confused... were they listening to an audio recording of bird sounds? No, that would be weird. Then I realized the gal driving had a baby chick sitting on her shoulder. They'd picked it up in town when they went to the store. They were driving about 20 miles to Detroit, where they would drop me off and head to Breitenbush hot springs where they worked. But then they started playing my favorite Blackbird Raum album and we got to talking about that, and not long after that they decided to drive me all the way to Bend! It was 80 miles past their destination. We stopped at Breitenbush first to drop off the bird, then continued on to Bend, where they dropped me off right at my friends' place. So that was cool. They wanted to go to Bend anyway to check the dumpsters of some outdoor gear stores, which apparently will sometimes throw away decent gear if it's been returned and can't be sold. I liked these two, I felt they had a very respectful dynamic between them, which isn't always common. The guy was also pretty negative about certain things, and only had bad things to say about the place they were working. I kind of understand that mindset and it seemed like it stemmed from a desire for true equality and authenticity, but still, it would have been a little hard for me to be around him for an extended period of time.

So, I made it to Bend that day in pretty reasonable time, considering the detour I had to make. I stayed there 2 nights and enjoyed catching up with good friends. We went rock hounding and out to a concert. Though I don't see my friends as much as I'd like, one cool thing is seeing how their lives progress in intervals of several months at a time. One of the friends I visited is someone I had a huge crush on from hiking the PCT and it was kind of hard to go through the process of having those feelings reawakened and letting them go again. It's all just a learning process I guess.

The next morning, I started hitching at about 9:30 after my friend drove me to the highway. Bend had been my last planned stop. Now I was free to get to Moab however I could manage. My plan was to stay on hwy 20 all the way to Ontario and then take I-84 down the same way I'd come up. But... this didn't quite work out. I hitched until 1:00, and 3 people pulled over, but all of them were going a different way, turning off the highway in just a couple miles. I turned them all down in hopes of finding someone who was going farther along the 20. I got tired so I went off the road a ways to relax for about an hour. When I got back to the road, I decided to be more flexible if the next person wasn't going exactly my planned route. So at 2:15 I finally accepted a ride with a guy who was going to Prineville.

He had a pretty interesting story, he worked in a fire lookout tower for several months every year. He had just been up there alone for 21 days and was coming down to town for 2 nights. I picked his brain about that job, since I've considered doing it myself, and he said he could probably help me get a job in a tower near there if I emailed him in a few months. He took a slightly wrong turn which ended up being OK except we had to wait maybe 20 minutes for some road construction. We were pretty like-minded in our views on lifestyle and religion, and I enjoyed his somewhat eccentric enthusiasm. He dropped me off at the eastern edge of Prineville and went back into town; I hitched for another 2 or 3 hours with no luck. I could tell the vibe was much more rural and redneck-y. It seemed like most of the women who drove by were afraid even to look at me, and some of the men jeered or did weird things as they passed by. Eventually the sun got low and I started to think about where I could sleep. I looked at google maps and decided to walk about 3 miles to an area that looked possible. I walked past irrigation ditches, fields full of grasses and cows, farmhouses. Eventually I made it to my spot and made my bed on the ground without bothering to set up my tent -- it looked unlikely to rain, and the tent would have been more likely to attract attention from the highway which was still in view. The sunset was beautiful. It got sort of cold overnight but I was OK.

In the morning I walked 1 more mile to get to a lake where there was a big pullout spot, the best hitching option I could see on the map. I filled my water containers from the lake and started hitching. After about an hour with no luck, a vehicle pulled in and it was my same buddy from yesterday! He was heading up to the tower for another few weeks, which meant he could take me maybe 15 miles down the road. He went a few miles past his turnoff to get me to a spot with an adequate shoulder and dropped me off.

The first car that came down the highway was traveling pretty fast, and seemed unlikely to pull over, but I tried anyway and they slammed on their brakes to pick me up. As I would find out later, the only reason this guy encountered me at all is because he'd taken a wrong turn earlier in the morning and driven 25 miles west instead of east. When he realized his mistake, he turned around, and there I was. He wanted to get breakfast/lunch at a cafe in John Day and he bought me a burger too. He was an athletic 24 year old guy who was wise beyond his years. It turned out he was driving all the way to Las Vegas that day, and I ended up riding with him the whole way. We took the small highways as much as possible and I got to revisit a lot of the same route I took on a roadtrip earlier this year. We almost ran out of gas once. It was an awesome ride. 13 hours in a car with a stranger is not guaranteed to be a fun or comfortable experience, but we had a lot in common, found some good conversation topics, listened to a funny/interesting audiobook, and became friends. He was doing a project where he takes 1 photo of people he encounters on his journey and does a quick audio interview to go along with it, so that was fun. When I got out of the car I just started laughing because it was so warm... almost midnight and probably at least 75 degrees. It felt awesome.

I've been working on some of my hitchhiking skills, including knowing how to get dropped off at the best place to catch the next ride. So before we got there I located an onramp to I-15 N (the freeway I'd need to take to get to Utah) which had enough of a shoulder to hitch, and also had some deserted land nearby where I could spend the night. It worked out great. I easily found a safe place to camp, and in the morning I walked to the onramp.

It took almost 2 hours to get a ride. It feels like people in Vegas are a bit jaded and wary; I had a hard time even getting a wave from most people. I was actually expecting to be standing there for 4+ hours so I was quite pleased to have a ride that fast. It was a mom with 4 kids in a minivan. She had passed me once, and I remembered her being one of the few who smiled and waved back; she said she felt like the universe was telling her she had to come back and give me a ride, so she did. They were on their way to family reunion. She was only traveling about 15 minutes up the freeway before her exit, but I was very grateful because she took me to a Love's travel stop and from there I would have a much easier time. As she was dropping me off, she asked if I had money for food, and I replied that I had plenty of food but no money. She gave me $10! That was a first. What a rad lady. If I ever have kids, I want to have them with someone who picks up hitchhikers with our kids in the car. So many people default to fear and distrust, but fear is the opposite of love and I am always so encouraged when someone in a socially-perceived "vulnerable" position decides to love instead of fear me. Because I'm super harmless! At the same time, I do understand why women in general might be more hesitant to pick up a male hitchhiker and I totally don't blame them for that because I think it's not their fault that men have proven untrustworthy in their lives.

And what a relief to get this ride, because it was getting hot. I decided to try a strategy I had not tried before: sitting at the exit of the travel stop with my "MOAB" sign. I've always been standing before, and always at an onramp or a shoulder. But this was too good not to try it. I was ready to be patient and find someone going a good chunk of the distance I needed. There was a wonderful shady tree over my head, and it would provide good shade for several more hours. Hell, I could chill there all day if I had to. A guy in a van stopped, and he wasn't offering a ride but he had placed some food and $6 in a plastic bag which he gave me! I went in to the Subway and got a sandwich. Spirits were high and I felt confident.

Soon, a guy stopped and asked where I was going (maybe he missed my sign). He was going to Denver and would be driving within 30 miles of Moab. Score! I rode with him for several hours. We didn't quite have the same effortless conversation but it was still a pleasant and fast ride. He gave me ice water and a couple protein bars, and let me charge my phone. He'd been in California working for a month and was returning to his home in Illinois. Both of his sons called while we were driving and he had them on speaker phone, and that was really cute.

Now I was really in the home stretch. 30 miles to Moab. I waited 20-30 minutes and then I got picked up by a married couple. One is a mining engineer and the other has started a catering business. Interestingly, both times I got picked up by a couple, they were of mixed ethnicity and the woman was driving. Other than the Latino guy who picked me up in Washington, these were the only times a non-white person gave me a ride. I quite enjoyed these two as well and they are living in Moab pretty close to where I live.

They dropped me off a block from my home and I walked there with a big grin on my face. I fucking made it! Hitching all the way to OR/WA and back, 5 weeks of travel starting with $200! (I received another $200 during my trip as a loan repayment, so my budget was $80/week). I had believed it was possible but now I knew for sure. This was easily one of my favorite months of traveling I've ever done.

Something about hitchhiking is just perfect for me. I find it rewarding in the same way some people enjoy fishing: it's unpredictable, sometimes you have no luck and you feel like you're wasting your time and it's a bummer, you're getting sunburned and your arm is tired. But then a surprise happens when you least expect it and suddenly things are awesome again. I like the unpredictability, the chance to interact with a stranger in a mysteriously intimate way, and it's a hell of a lot easier than walking! I get to be a passenger and really soak in the scenery instead of staring at the road. The slight risk involved keeps it from getting too boring. I like the chance to engage in therapy like I was talking about before. I like how it puts me in a position where my role is simply to accept and appreciate whoever this person is... it's a good opportunity to learn something new and gain a different perspective. Humanity is just so complex and it really highlights how even the "bad people" have good qualities and vice versa.

And, it's just so interesting to do something that is not commonly done. It feels like a chance to get people to think. I am effectively saying to each person who drives by, "I could trust you. I would ride in your car. Will you help? You have a choice to pick me up or not." I think it makes some people uncomfortable to have that option and I hope it provokes introspection. Another thing is, it provides me with the experience of being an "undesirable citizen". Of course it probably says a lot about my level of privilege if putting myself in that position is something of a novelty or something I would pursue... and I'm still wrestling with those thoughts. Only a young, secure, white male would need to hitchhike to gain the experience of being automatically looked down upon for his demographic. And it still wasn't that severe. But it gives me an idea how hard it is when people are constantly looking at you like, "what are you doing here?" I see their fear, contempt, superiority, indifference. I understand a little bit better how it must feel to be a member of the homeless class of society. Even with relatively strong self esteem and mental health, it got to me sometimes. I felt angry and frustrated at the middle and upper class people for callously refusing to help a fellow human being standing by the side of the road in the hot sun, while they comfortably zoom wherever they're going in their empty car with an ice cream cone and a bored look on their face. But, it was a good lesson in maintaining my own balance even when faced with the rejection of hundreds of people. By the end I started to realize it was easier just to wave at them and let it go, instead of becoming bitter and cynical. And in the end staying positive actually helps me get a ride -- somehow I doubt the mom with 4 kids would have circled around to pick me up if we had not waved and smiled at each other the first time.

It feels good to be back in Moab. This is really a special place. I have some processing to do, decisions to make. I won't try to do that here and now. It's nice having my laptop again so I can write faster.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Chelan to Portland

Wow, what a day.

I wrote the previous post in the morning at my new friends' house. I said goodbye to two of them who were at home, then walked a few blocks to the cafe to say goodbye to the one who was working there. Then I walked to the highway heading west out of Chelan.

I waited about 20 minutes for my first ride. An older man picked me up, and he said he used to drive the Stehekin ferry for 5 years. He'd just gotten back from a trip to Alaska. Living in Costa Rica for 8 years was a highlight of his life. He never enjoyed staying put for too long so he traveled often.

He went a bit out of his way, west of Wenatchee, to put me on the right highway where I could hitch toward Seattle. I stood here for about an hour; it was hot, dry, and smoky from the fire near Leavenworth.

I got picked up, for the first time, by a mom with two kids in the back seat, 7 and 5. They saw me hitching when they stopped to have a picnic, and I was still standing there when they left, so they decided to give me a ride. They were great, I really liked her parenting style and the kids were pretty funny sometimes. She was involved in biochem research at UW. They had camped in Chelan. We stopped at Snoqualmie Pass for a bathroom break and I went and chatted with a few of the PCT hikers who were hanging out there.

I got off at hwy 18, where I thought I'd make a left turn and avoid going into downtown Seattle. I felt a bit tired. I went into the woods next to the shoulder for a while - instant invisibility. I relaxed there and probably ate some food, and looked at my route options for hitching from there.

Back at the highway, I held out my thumb and within 2 minutes someone pulled over. He was a construction worker, a Latino guy living in Kent, who has 4 kids. He told me a couple stories of times his car broke down and he needed rides from strangers. So he didn't understand why people would think hitching was somehow wrong. What was cool was that we fully accepted each other's choices though our lives were so different.

I asked to be dropped off in Covington, and this turned out to be a bad move on my part because hitchhiking was prohibited on the onramp (for good reason, as there was not enough room for it to be safe). I tried to get a ride next to the right-turn-lane leading to the onramp, in front of a gas station, for the better part of an hour with no luck. I put a ride-wanted ad on Craigslist -- $5 for a 20 minute ride to I-5. The few responses I got were too little, too late. I decided on a different plan: I'd walk about 2 miles to a different onramp, and since it was getting late, I'd camp in the nearby forest before hitching in the morning. I wasn't in an absolute rush to get to Portland.

I went into the convenience store to see if I could find some chips. I was looking to spend no more than $3.50 and also acquire a large bag of chips that I liked, but I did not find this combination so I left.

Now I needed to cross the busy intersection to start my walk to the next onramp. I'd watched this light cycle a couple dozen times already so I was familiar with the pattern. As I waited for the walk signal, I had one more round of oncoming cars, so I stuck out my thumb just for the hell of it. I was in an even worse location to get picked up than before. But then this guy who was waiting for the light called me over! He asked where I was going and eventually offered to take me there, even though he had only been planning to drive across the street to his home. He shoveled a pile of random junk from the passenger seat into the back seat. Basically, as soon as I stopped giving a fuck about getting a ride, I got a ride.

So off we went. He wanted to talk a lot about music, asked me what I listen to, and was then super excited about showing me an artist he likes. I was pretty sure I'd seen a Bible in that pile of stuff so I braced myself for some Christian emo-core or something equally offputting, but actually what he played wasn't bad at all. It reminded me of Dream Theater without vocals so I recommended that band to him. He wanted to learn to play 6 or 7 different instruments. I liked his exuberance about his musical life. Most people I meet are only casual consumers of music but for some of us it means everything.

I told him what kind of onramp I was looking for and he decided to take me to Federal Way. It was a good idea. The onramp was adequate and there were areas where I could stealth camp nearby if I didn't get a ride before dark. But before dropping me off he wanted to smoke some weed with me, so he drove a few blocks over to a park area and we had a couple hits. I got his email address. Then he took me to the onramp and I was on my own again.

Something about the sudden turn of events, from the defeated feeling of being at the bad onramp to suddenly being exactly where I needed to be on I-5, encountering this kind of silly and helpful guy, and being a bit stoned, put me in a more carefree mood for this hitch. I was laughing at the possibilities; it felt like something epic was about to happen. What if Rock Ocean and Kimchi showed up in Stanley the VW right then? How crazy would that be. That's how it was on the trail sometimes though. So why not again? The sun went down behind the buildings, and I surveyed my sleep spot options from where I stood.

[...honk honk!]
Hmm still just hitching, yep I hope someone pulls over soon.
[Honk, honk!]
Wait, what?

I turned around, and halfway down the onramp was a car that had stopped for me, trying to get my attention. Nice! I grabbed my pack and hobbled over there.

It was a gal in her early 20s who, I found out within a few minutes, had also attended Beloved festival earlier this month -- the 2nd person from there to pick me up! It was the first time she'd picked up a hitchhiker while driving alone but she could tell I was safe I guess. We talked about the festival, and what our lives were like, as she drove me to Olympia. She had to turn around and go home to get some sleep before work the next morning, so I looked up a good spot and she took the exit and pulled into a Chevron.

Immediately after getting out of the car, a guy parked nearby asked us if we had a lug wrench. He needed to tighten his wheels. So she found the wrench in the back of her car and he tightened all the lug bolts on his front wheels which were, indeed, extremely loose. As he was thanking her, she asked where he was going, and he said Hillsboro. Hmm... and I was going to Portland. She made faces at him like "you should give this guy a ride" and once he understood the situation he invited me to ride with him.

So I got dropped off there and after a quick stop at the convenience store I was cruising down I-5 again, all the way to Portland. This guy was 26 and had taken the Greyhound to Seattle where he bought the car. They'd done some work on the CV joints and forgotten to tighten the lug nuts, so when the ride got really rattly he pulled over at that Chevron. Tightening the lugs helped immensely. It was funny because I did the same thing in my car not too long ago, though I only made it a few blocks before having to stop. He was pretty stoked to have a car again, having been through a really rough year, losing some friends and being homeless for a while. I appreciated that he shared his story with me. It was his first time giving a hitchhiker a ride too, and his first time up to Seattle.

He dropped me off in downtown Portland near 405 and I looked up the bus route to my friend's house in Oregon City. Luck was still with me. I walked hastily to the bus stop and just caught the bus I needed to make my connection. It was a bit of a wait for the next bus, but it came early - or so I thought. It was actually an earlier bus running late, and soon received orders to skip a bunch of stops to catch up to its schedule. So I got to Oregon City faster than anticipated.

10 minutes of walking and one hill climb later, and I was at my friend's house, where a basement room was waiting for me. It was around midnight. I smiled in relief at having finished a successful hitch and finding a peaceful haven for the night.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chelan

After writing the last post, I was sitting in the coffee shop charging my phone. I had told the barista of my plans to camp out in town and she said she'd try to think of a good spot close in. After a while she came over and said she couldn't think of anything, but had talked to her roommate about it and it would be ok if I camped in their yard! So I waited until the cafe closed and went back to their house.

I spent 2 nights there, it was a good relaxing time and I rested my injured knee. Made some new friends. 3 of them are planning a PCT thru hike in the next few years, so I did show-and-tell with my gear and answered questions. Swam in Lake Chelan, played with a kitten, watched some shows. It's kind of a neat town, right on a big lake, just far enough east to be in the rain shadow of the cascades (semi arid climate) but still really close to some of the most beautiful sections of WA that I hiked through.

Soon I'm hitching southwest to Portland, kind of don't want to leave! But I'm also looking forward to the next chapters.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

completion

I spent 2 nights in the Portland area. I slept on my mom's couch the first night and when they left for the weekend the next day, I got to borrow her car, so I visited friends in town, eventually crashing in the back seat of her car in St. Johns so I could go to an early yoga class the next day, the one I used to work-study every Saturday. (My mom is one of the few subscribers to my blog. Hi Mom. Thanks for letting me use your car. I put in some gas before I returned it.)

Soon I needed to think about getting to Stevens Pass to finish my PCT hike. I knew the best way to get a ride there would be from the PCT Days event in Cascade Locks which was ending the next day. So I started looking for a way to get to Cascade Locks from Wilsonville which was not an easy task until I tried the Craigslist rideshare page. I paid $20 which was probably too much, but there was a guy going from Sherwood to Stevenson and he was a super kind and compassionate human. So I got there, after dark, didn't recognize any friends and I set up my bed and went to sleep.

Next morning, I had some breakfast and packed up. I'd made a sign reading "Stevens Pass" and I went to the event exit and sat down. I was there for less than a minute. The 2nd or 3rd car that drove by pulled over. It was a guy from Illinois who is thinking about doing the trail in a few years. He was flying out the following evening and had no plans until then, so he agreed to drive me 4 1/2 hours to my destination! So my hunch about finding a ride at PCT Days was right. We had some good conversations along the way, and he bought me some chips and then lunch at Stevens Pass. He was in the real estate business, had been an English teacher for 10 years and now is in the process of retiring from his real estate investment education gig. So I think (I hope) it was a mutually beneficial ride, as I shared some of my own experience and opinions about the trail.

Soon I hit the trail. It would be too hard to describe each day. In short, it was a beautiful section, difficult and grand. I had planned to hike the trail with a couple friends and they both had to cancel last minute, so I was kind of bummed about that because I didn't want to hike it alone. Fortunately I didn't have to - a hiker called Trooper joined me my first night out, and we camped together the rest of the way to Stehekin, often hiking together and chatting to pass the time. We averaged about 20 miles per day. She had a very positive attitude and helped keep me focused on the present moment rather than stewing away in my brain too much. In some ways we were similar, like our approach to lifestyle and ethical opinions, but I felt like our personalities were very different. In Myers-Briggs language I'd say she is very much an Extroverted and Sensing type while I am strongly on the the Introverted and Intuitive side. Most of my friends are Intuitives so it was interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of a Sensor.

We arrived in Stehekin yesterday, and it was fun to be in a town with a bunch of hikers again. Trooper was really enthusiastic about celebrating the completion of my thru hike (even though she was so close to finishing the whole thing herself, in 1 go!) and generously bought my broke ass 3 meals in Stehekin. One hiker was wearing a Moab Brewery shirt, and so I talked to him, and we had dinner with him and his wife who had recently retired and started some intensive traveling. They don't live in Moab but will be traveling through there in a month. It was very warm in Stehekin that night so cowboy camping was practically a necessity. The next day I met another hiker living in Moab so it was cool to make that connection. Trooper caught the 8:30 bus back to the trail, and I got lunch and raided the hiker box for some free food before taking the ferry down the 50-mile lake to Chelan. Stehekin can only be accessed by foot, ferry, or float plane. The ferry stopped randomly at the shore to pick up a trail crew worker, and it ended up being a friend I knew from the PCT in 2014! We got to catch up for a while.

Now I'm in Chelan, at a coffee shop charging my phone and writing this blog. I'm planning to find a stealth camping spot in town and then hitch out tomorrow morning. I'm not totally sure where I'm going next. I have loose plans to meet a couple friends for some more camping/outdoor adventures.

So, now I've officially hiked from Mexico to Canada. I have made a virtually continuous set of footprints connecting the borders. I'm glad to be done. It feels like I'm finally released from this 2 1/2 year journey. I'm looking forward to the future and remembering my past adventures fondly. Basically I can do whatever I want next.

Friday, August 19, 2016

back to portland (50th post!)

I waited about an hour for my ride out of Neskowin. And older guy picked me up (a theme for the day), dressed completely in camo, probably a hunter, smoking a cigarette, taking freely of places he'd lived and things he'd done.

He could only take me about 12 miles up the road, so he dropped me off and as I was crossing an intersection to get to my new hitching spot, I stuck out my thumb and the first vehicle pulled over for me. This guy was probably in his 70s, rather quiet, somewhat pessimistic, but still kind of sweet. He drove me to Tillamook, where I needed to switch highways to get back inland to Portland.

Another hour of waiting before I got picked up by a 60 year old guy who couldn't have been more different from the previous driver. This guy was seriously hyperactive which he blamed on the energy drink he'd had before picking me up. He was very opinionated about politics, an oil industry worker for decades, and also very excited about getting some weed. He was disappointed that I didn't have any but was then elated at the idea of stopping at a dispensary. Hillsboro was his final destination, but he decided to drive me to Wilsonville because he had nothing else to do.

We picked up a gram in Hillsboro and packed a bowl of it on the freeway. He started bragging about his life, his crazy college experience as a football star, his $800k house and $150k car in Anchorage, all his career accomplishments and accreditations. I listened politely and responded, "Wow! Great, sounds like you're really happy with your life!" which immediately caused him to falter and reveal what seemed to me like deep insecurity. He was so used to judging life by the standards of society that he lost track of what real happiness means. He referenced his wife several times, but he also had plans to find a "hot bar" that night and see if he could "get lucky". He made a number of sexist comments along the way. So, I got a ride directly from Tillamook to my mom's house, which was awesome, but I paid the price in the form of remaining very patient with someone who triggered a lot of frustration for me. He dropped me off and gave me a business card, and said I'd have a place to stay in Alaska if I was ever there. I'm not sure I'd want to stay in his house regardless of how much it cost.

Such different characters you meet. Yet they all have something in common, they all decided it was a good idea to give a stranger a ride, and I am always grateful for that.

Now I'm in Portland. Soon I am leaving to go hike my 108 mile PCT section.

A bit of a blog milestone: this is post number 50, after ~6 months of working on this blog. I'm pretty content with that :) I look forward to sharing more thoughts and stories.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

coast

From Newport, I got a ride with a guy several miles north to Beverly Beach where I wanted to camp for the night. He was from Mexico, had been in Newport for 15 years, had struggled with alcoholism and painkillers in the past but is now clean. Interestingly, being a bartender works well for him because he still gets to be around the "party scene" but isn't allowed to drink while working. He was extremely kind and open.

After getting dropped off I walked past the campground and onto the beach. I was a little nervous about finding a campsite, as the coastline was rather steep, but I explored the first area I saw that had potential and found a lovely (if somewhat sloped) campsite. Camping in coastal forests is ideal because there isn't much undergrowth and they shield you from the wind.

On the last day of the festival, someone gifted me with some MDMA and LSD. I decided to use these here at Beverly Beach to process some feelings about my step mom (Beverly) who passed away last December. It was my first time trying MDMA (other than a couple small doses before that I couldn't really feel) and it was quite an experience, especially combined with the acid. I've never taken a drug that imparted a certain concrete emotion in the way that MDMA gave me absolute warmth, empathy, and euphoria. It was interesting. I had some cathartic processing on that beach, walking in the warm wind, full moon glowing among passing clouds, laughing and crying and making sounds as I walked and ran. My sleeping place felt like the heart of the forest mother and I was like a forest fairy. The LSD kept me awake past 4AM but I didn't mind too much. I like an occasional dose of insanity to provide contrast to my sober life.

The next day I packed up, took a shower, visited a store, and started hitching again. After 36 minutes - which has been a very consistent amount of time here on the coast - I got picked up again, this time by a gal who had also been at Beloved fest. Her car smelled great and was decorated with lots of new agey kinds of details. Getting picked up by a female at all is rare, and wow she was beautiful and we had a good conversation. She was heading up to Washington to do some hiking as well. She offered to drive me to Portland and I almost wish I'd said yes!

Instead I rode to Neskowin, my last stop along the coast for this trip, a town I visited many times as a kid. Again I was uncertain about finding a camping spot but I walked far enough, got past the houses, and found a small forest area over the sand dune ridge. I camped without a tent this time and I slept amazingly well, falling asleep before 10 and waking up only once in the night before rising after 7.

This morning I splurged on breakfast at the Hawk Creek Cafe, and I'm about to travel to Portland, where I will stay for a few days before hitting that last PCT section.