I didn’t quite have a plan in mind. I had a map and a free week and an itch that needed scratching. A few places in mind, all of them far away.
My trunk was full of camping gear my dogs lounged across the back seat. The windows were rolled down and I felt the taste of freedom and timelessness on the wind that kissed my face and tossed my hair about, tangling it into unending knots. I didn’t pack a hairbrush; I also didn’t care.
Sequoia National Forest was the first star on my map and so we drove, the radio stations changing in static white noise every time I crossed a county line. The more miles we covered the more the roads started to attain the unkempt appearance of abandon. That’s what happens on roads shared by towns and counties and provinces—no one can agree to whom they belong so they sit, unmaintained and touched only by the tread of weary travelers passing in the night.
And we entered the park on that first night and journeyed down a one-way road so narrow my tires were slipping on the damp asphalt, threatening to disappear us all into the deep ravines of forested valley canyons. Set up camp beneath the dampening sky, the tent already drooping with a fine sheen of mist that clung heavily to the nylon canvas. Made a fire and brewed some coffee, the viscous grit in the stainless mug sat like silted sand upon the bottom of a creek. I fed the dogs and let them wander, fell asleep to the sounds of white water crashing in the distance—a sound no app or noise machine can ever come close to replicating.
I woke up before the early light of the sun had had its chance to warm the valley floor; the air was white with mist and bitter with cold, visibility was absent and silence was stark. Perfection.
I took the dogs and headed up the trail that backed up to the tent. We crossed a trembling bridge that towered over a river whose violent current was broken only by vast boulders of geologic wonder. And we climbed and I listened for the footsteps of bears as my thirsty lungs struggled to acclimate to the thin air. I stopped with the dogs, sniffed with them when they lifted their noses to the sky, kept moving only when their footsteps resumed their soft padding on the dampened earth. Red salamanders long as serpents crossed our narrow path and prehistoric millipedes tread slowly, their tiny legs noiselessly striking against soft ground. The vibrant hues of dripping foliage surrounded us in a bright display of vitality, green canvased across the landscape of the forest.
This place was pure magic. Trees tell stories of ancient times, all the wonders they have seen engraved in rings that wind about in ceaseless patterns of continuity from within their forms. The monstrous mountains carry the heavy weight of primordial knowledge, secrets that the minds of man will never know. And yet, here I stood. Here, amongst the primitive history of this world, the carved out valleys, formed from the path of water flowing through their depths. And all the while new life was being formed around me. Moss was growing even as my feet sunk into its soft embrace. The vast power of life was coursing through this land in sublimity, reaching up through the rubber tread of my boots and mingling with my blood.
The call of the untamed demanded to be answered and so we laid down to rest amongst the heads of wildflowers rising proudly from the earth. The dogs were panting and my weak lungs were gasping with each strike of frigid air that travelled through my chest. And yet, despite the limitations of my own anatomy, I have never felt more alive. I breathed in deeply of air filtered by the presence of myriad trees that danced around me. My skin soaked up the warm glow of a gentle, white-hot sun.
With wild abandon, I stripped off the layers that separated me from the touch of the earth and lay upon the rocky soil, embracing fully the electrical currents that move throughout the ground. I raked my fingers through the mud and kissed the blossoms and I am so madly in love with this world. No man and no woman and no other being has the power to tear me away from my affair with creation. We are in love. Imperfect me has discovered perfection and I can never return to the being I once was for expectations are exceeded here.
Go outside. Fall in love with the world. She will not betray you.