Summaries of Days 15-18 – Nature, the Sculptor

The longer I remain out here, the more I feel as one with Nature.

Route Updates

Day 15: Hoh Rainforest, a beach cove near the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens
Day 16: Mt. St. Helens, Portland
Day 17: Portland, Mt. Hood National Forest
Day 18: Mt. Hood, Crater Lake National Park, Redwood National Park

The Travel Trailer Solution – or Potential Solution

A couple nights ago, I spent the night at a Motel 6 in Portland. I used that respite to do research on the various types of mobile homes. I had heard of so many terms in the past – trailers, RVs, campers, etc. that I really didn’t know one from the other.

After doing the research, I concluded that a travel trailer would be the best option for me. In descending order, I also considered a fifth wheel, a Class C motorhome, and a Class B motorhome. But a straight up travel trailer seems the best match.

Crater Lake

The biggest problem is finding a place to park it. In my last blog, I mentioned the possibility of living on haunt grounds in exchange for a security service. But even if my friend was willing to go along with that option, there’s no reason to believe that such an option would be immediately available to me.

It would also seem that there are no year-round RV parks in Wisconsin on account of winter weather and freezing pipes. If I chose to live in a trailer park, I’d have to go somewhere warmer.

The other option is to buy my own land and park the trailer on it. Apart from the additional expense (and burden of owning real estate), I’d be committing to a permanent location again. Plus I’d have to figure out electricity and water (any lot I want probably won’t already have it). And then there’s the fact that some municipalities won’t let you live in an RV year-round.

Finally, a travel trailer would run me about $20k. That’s roughly what I thought it would cost. But that’s a lot of money to part with before I have a job. $20k could represent more than 3 years of rent of a small apartment. And coughing up $20k would almost necessarily mean delaying the Europe trip.

I’m not saying that I won’t go the travel trailer route. I’m just thinking that I might wait until I can arrange for an optimal parking solution. Until then, I might rent a small apartment as a stop-gap measure. But if I do get an apartment – even if only temporarily – it is important to me that I retain this connection to this lifestyle. I need to figure out how exactly to accomplish that.

Pacific Northwest

The more time I spend in this region of the country, the more I love it. I love how heavily-wooded western Washington and Oregon are. I like the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and to Jasper National Park, and that both Washington and Oregon have legalized marijuana. The proximity to the Pacific Ocean seems to make the summers cooler, and I suspect if I study climate data on this region, I’d discover that their winters are warmer for the same reason. Accordingly, Washington might have year-round RV parks.

The only downside appears to be the higher cost of living. But if Wisconsin doesn’t work out for me in terms of finding stable work – I might very well return to western Washington.

Slowed Pace

I’ve managed to pass the last few days without banking too many miles. The dense woods have given me plenty of great campsites to shield myself from the sun during the day. So now we’re roughly on par for two thousand miles per week.

Unfortunately, as we move further south and into the desert, my efforts to slow down the pace of this trip will have been in vain. Our very next stop is the Black Rock Desert. Tomorrow’s forecast there will be in the triple digits, so we’ll be moving pretty quickly to Lake Tahoe. And I don’t think we’re going to have much cause to slow down again for the entire second half of this trip, which begins after Lake Tahoe.

One with Nature

I will apologize in advance for this next section, as it may get preachy or nauseatingly poetic at times.

Nature

Mt. Hood National Forest

Remy and I stayed at Mt. Hood National Forest last night. The forest itself wasn’t overly-impressive (compared with anywhere else we have been), yet it was still a memorable evening. We were there – on a tiny access road – almost a full 24 hours. In all that time, only one vehicle ever drove by us. It was the most secluded and isolated spot we have found so far.

I got stoned and really immersed myself in our surroundings. The result was a collection of random thoughts which I now present to you in no particular order.

  • While walking in the forest, Remy seemed to get spooked by something she saw in the woods. She ran back behind me and cowered. I could not see what spooked her, so I continued walking into the woods, extremely paranoid that something was going to jump out of nowhere and eat me (I was already high at this point). Visions of that killer bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail filled me with dread. Of course, nothing ever attacked us. But throughout the evening, and even this morning, Remy continued to behave as though she was chasing this unseen phantom throughout the woods. Who knows? Maybe it was haunted.
  • Remy is turning into quite the hunter. She’s not very good at it, but she is constantly fixated on chasing chipmunks or whatever other small rodents she comes across.
  • TarzanI had some Christopher McCandless moments. In our seclusion, I took off my shirt and sandals and began scrambling around the forest like I owned the place. I climbed on trees, walked on logs, and basically ran around like some savage idiot. It was nothing I haven’t done before in other forests, but I feel it’s important to have moments like these as often as possible during this trip.
  • I’ve mentioned before that I feel my skin becoming tougher and more like leather. To be clear – I’m not comparing myself to Tarzan or any other famous outdoorsman. My skin is still very soft from a lifetime of hardly ever putting in a day’s honest labor. I don’t have tough skin – I just have tougher skin than I used to have – that’s all I’m saying. It was a pretty low bar to clear.
  • But in addition to tougher skin, I noticed that other things are changing – namely my posture and my gait. When I was romping around in the forest, I felt like Jack London’s White Fang, learning my footing in the wild as a newborn pup.
  • Nature can sculpt a man if man stops trying to sculpt Nature. She will turn you into a stronger being if you allow her.
  • (If you’ve never seen the television series Penny Dreadful, I highly recommend it. It’s excellent television.) But you know what I find to be the least plausible thing about Penny Dreadful? It’s not the vampires or werewolves. It’s the notion that Sir Malcolm Murray is this great explorer of Africa, yet he willingly returns to an enormous, empty, and sterile mansion in London. Once Nature has dug her claws into a man, I no longer believe that she will so readily yield and give him up to such a largesse.
  • It seems like insects are leaving me alone, and I’m not sure why. It’s true that I have bug spray (a lot of it) and I’ve been using it. But frankly, bug spray has never been terribly effective for me before. And I don’t always remember to use it while I’m out here. Also, I don’t use bug spray on Remy at all, yet she also seems to not be getting accosted by bugs, either. So I tend to rule out the bug spray as a deterrent. I’m not sure if I’m just numb to the insects, or if we’ve been out here in nature for so long that we’ve been rendered inert elements.
  • I felt like the forest was beckoning to me last night. Even this morning, I did not want to leave. I felt so at peace and at home. I had this insatiable urge to snuggle up within the woods and become nestled in Nature’s bosom. At one point, I sat down on the forest floor next to a baby evergreen tree. I hugged the tree because it seemed like it wanted to be hugged.
  • Looking around the woods, I marveled at the miracle and savage competitiveness of life. I thought about the thousands of seeds that fell each year in the little patch of forest I was occupying, and how most of them would just die and break down into the earth. The few plants that do survive face harsh conditions and competition, which makes them strong and sturdy. A few lucky plants dominate and conquer the forest and grow into the tallest trees that define the forest itself.
  • One such old tree caught my attention, as its trunk and bark were so deep that they looked like sculpted stone.
  • I really began to appreciate the fact that even dead and fallen trees are still full of life. They are home to mosses and lichens, small animals, and insects. I uncovered huge insect nests in the rotting bark of a fallen tree. I felt bad for ruining their home. Remy kept stealing (and I want to emphasize the word STEALING) the bark right out of my hands. Little shit. She just ripped it out of my hands like it didn’t belong to me.
  • I’ve always had a high tolerance for pain, but that tolerance seems to have increased even further. I am constantly being stabbed, poked, and prodded by errant branches and rocks. My arms and especially my legs are covered in scrapes, cuts, and blood stains. It doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I rather think they look good. I figure it’s Nature’s way of exacting rent from me for living within her. And my blood is a price I’m more than happy to pay to her.
  • Most days, I wake up happy, energized, and excited. Some days, I feel dread about the uncertainty of my future. I haven’t paid close enough attention to my mood to say for certain, but I believe that my good days are the ones where I wake up in a forest or park. My crappier days are the ones where I wake up in a hotel room or a highway rest stop. I’ll pay closer attention in the future to see if that correlation is accurate.

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