The following is a brief, somewhat poetic account of my travel through the American Southwest between 1 April and 1 June of the year 2013. Although I don’t mention any names, there were a tremendous number of individuals and families that conspired to support me on this journey. To all of them, I give my sincerest gratitude.
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On a sunny mid-morning in the East Bay, I depart. I find my way to California 1, and wrap the coast along Big Sur. Southern California is humming as I pass through Santa Barbara and into Santa Monica. A few dolphins and I catch some waves in the warm water near Sunset Boulevard.
Entering the desert to the east, I was greeted by Yucca brevifolia en masse. They dance and sway in the gust, but remain rooted. They create a silent forest, bearing witness to what came before and awaiting what is to come. After recalibrating my route in Palm Springs, I decide I need to return to the Pacific. I land Oceanside, witnessing death, but also the birth of a friendship.
Resuming east, I experience the primal fear of being alone in the wild, at night, in cat country.
In Yuma I entertain some vehicular difficulties. From the hopelessness of the southern Arizona desert, I enter an oasis of kindness and hospitality in Scottsdale.
Sedona provides more primal experience, where I almost paint the red rock with my own blood, and where I am serenaded by a pack of rambunctious coyotes. Back down through Arizona, in the shadow of the Dragoons, a bond is strengthened.
Approaching Santa Fe from the south, I understand why it is considered the oldest occupied city in North America. Here, hospitality and community give rise to greater clarity and new friendships.
Entering Colorado from the south allows for the transition from the high desert to the Rocky Mountains. At ten thousand feet I camp in bear country, overlooking a snow-covered vista and one of the first railroad tracks to bridge the Continental Divide.
Into Durango and through to the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, I see marked on the mountain the history of the Anasazi.
Over three mountain passes and along the Gunnison River, I meet a friend at the office of a master. Diving back into the Rockies, I emerge in Fort Collins. In addition to first-class beer and a happening music scene, I receive quarter, insight, a rekindled respect for The Force, and more than one synchronous meeting.
In Spring, the streets of Boulder are filled with tulips and beautiful women. Downloading precious acumen and befriending a Shih Tzu, I am again honored by Coloradan hospitality.
A surprise return to the East coast unites the clan and brings the relationship between the inner and outer landscape into focus.
Resuming the tour in Colorado, I stay again with a sage, a friend, and a cherub.
Eventually entering Utah, I follow the Colorado River, through the Arches and into the Canyons of Moab. Across southern Utah I come before Capitol Reef, enjoy the waters of the Fremont that breathe life into that quiet valley, and then find myself among the orange-fired architecture of Bryce’s backyard. Finally, in Zion, a true paradise, in the heights of the sandstone and the waters of the north fork of the Virgin River I prepare myself to descend.
Passing unscathed through Sin City, I enter the Valley of Death. A tremendous descent into a blazing heat and vast desolation, I do not tarry. After an even more vigorous climb, I finally approach the eastern Sierra. The green relief of the pine and landscape on the jagged and untamed Sierra, as it rises proudly to be reflected in the lakes on its eastern edge re-establishes that which I had felt all along: there was always a reason the keep moving West.
On the edge of the country that was so close to John Muir’s heart, I am finding that which was buried in mine.