Where to begin? Should I start in the Sequoias--my time wandering through the largest trees in the world? Or stumbling into what felt like an unofficial rainbow gathering in Mendocino? Or Yellowstone, where I spent a week amongst the bears and elk--getting snowed-on and walking though basins where the earth's crumbling crust gave way to pools of scalding-hot water?
I spent a week amongst the bears and elk -- getting snowed-on and walking though basins where the earth’s crumbling crust gave way to pools of scalding-hot water
Alas, I'll start with the present. At the time of writing, I find myself in Madison, Wisconsin. My preoccupation as of late is no longer my next backpacking trip through some US national park.
In less than a month, I'll be boarding a plane one-way to the Middle East, and I don't plan to come back to the US for over a year (closer to two).
Indeed, my current preoccupation is selling my car, getting back to NY, and finding some clever way to fit my folding bicycle into a checked bag that'll go under the bike-fee radar for the German airline on my flight to Israel.
My last major stop was Yellowstone, and my what an adventure that was! For the record, if you visit Yellowstone in September, all the backpacking permit fees are waved. And there's at least 3 campsites that are entirely accessible by bicycle. But, even if you just visit Yellowstone by car, it's quite an experience. There's fewer awe-inspiring vistas than other national parks, but looking across a low-lying basin with huge plumes of water vapor rising from patches of pools stretching out to the horizon offers a unique sort of inspiration in it's own wright.
I spent a week in Yellowstone (it's a big park!) before continuing south in Wyoming to the Grand Tetons--which are an awe-inspiring vista. I didn't have time to backpack the Tetons (and, after a week of backpacking without paying any fees, Teton's $20 permit fees weren't very welcoming), so I continued my journey East through Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa (ick), and Wisconsin to here.
In Mendocino...we encountered a dozen travelers. As I tried to get a grip on my newfound rainbow family, I realized that a group of them were playing Marauder by Jessie Stewart, and I was in love.
But before Yellowstone, I found myself in California for many, many months. The San Francisco bay area, indeed, is still my favorite place in the world. I finally left the East Bay for a brief visit to a friend in Sacramento, then went North to Mendocino to visit my cousin.
It was my first time in Mendocino proper, and--though I'd been in California for months--I realized that I hadn't yet dipped my feet into the Pacific Ocean! I parked on the West-most part of town, but I didn't even make it past the bathroom before a friendly homebum invited me to smoke by the headlands. As he took me through the trails leading down to the ocean, we encountered a dozen travelers. Suddenly, I felt like I was home! As I tried to get a grip on my newfound rainbow family, I realized that a group of them were playing Marauder by Jessie Stewart, and I was in love. Later that night, as these trimming hobos were smoking and passing around fine IPAs (the harvest workers of Mendocino's crop appear to be paid quite well), they were also deep frying on a Coleman stove in the jungle. I couldn't believe it!
And when I went to my cousin's property deep in the Mendocino woods, I stumbled on a work party. Dozens of volunteers had come to apply a final layer of cob to their new, huge wood-fired kiln.