Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reaching for Freedom

May 6, 2016

The time I've been awaiting since last getting off the trail in 2014 is finally here! It was a rough time through all those months on the trail, and I thought that I had sworn off hiking forever. But once I returned to the "real world," I quickly missed the richness of life that I was immersed in daily along the trail. And so, here I am again on the Pacific Crest Trail, yearning to visit places that I haven't seen and eagerly delving into the lessons that are already starting to unfold.

Millie, Bob Riess's "princess," visited me often in my room.
When I left Moab, I was afraid at the thought of hiking solo. But once I signed the trail register at the southern terminus of the trail at the Mexican border, near Campo, and began to walk, I knew that everything would be okay.

At the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, near the Mexican border.
Trail angel Bob Riess brought me and a new friend from the Netherlands to the trailhead. He had picked me up from the airport a few nights before, and I stayed at his home for 2 nights. I enjoyed a private room with a balcony, view of Tijuana, and frequent visits from his "princess," Millie. Eighteen years ago, Bob became the first trail angel in San Diego. He had been on a hike around the Yosemite/Tahoe area with his son and met some PCT hikers along the way. Later he read some of their trail journals and found that it was fairly unanimous that their worst experience on the trail had been in San Diego - many were stranded in bus stations and on the street with nowhere to stay. So he decided to take in these hikers. He taught for most of these years and would take hikers to the border early in the morning before school, and up until the point of retiring, he never was late for work.

Posing with Bob Riess.
A woman from the Netherlands peeking through the fence at Mexico.
Bob stayed until we signed the trail register, and then we were off for an adventure that would last for months - though it felt like a dream that would lead us back home in a week. But over time, through all the joys and hardships shared with new friends, the trail would become home. I walked up and down the fence at the border and took photos, being interrogated by border patrol a couple minutes later because of all the footprints I left. And then, as a raven saw me off, I walked on in the rain through the most spectacular show of desert wildflowers I've seen by far. The sun peeked through the clouds and a rainbow spanned the sky, a promise from God that everything will be absolutely glorious in the months ahead. And then it rained some more... and hailed. I met many friends throughout the day as I made the unwise decision to walk a few more miles than I should have on my first day - 20 miles to Lake Morena. I remembered once again the pains of the trail, though I would get accustomed as time went on.

But now I have so much joy again and more appreciation for the hike than ever before. I'm a bird released from the cage! I am tasting some freedom once again!

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Between visiting my dad and attending his celebration of life, the rest of the spring in Moab has been rich and full each and every day. Friends have been supportive and taking care of me and life has continued on with its daily lessons and beauty. Here are a few pictures of that time...

Phil, in a way that is only characteristically Phil, welcomes me back home from my first Midwestern visit with Dad. He riles up the whole neighborhood in the process. I wonder what they all think of Pete's household.

Dinga, Queequeg, and Harvard (hiding in the back) join me and Connie to Indian Creek and Canyonlands.

Meeting up with Mary Moonflower again, one month after she was born.

Connie sneaks out the window to surprise Pete who's on the phone outside.

The day before returning to the Midwest for the celebration of life, Arne takes me and Connie on Westwater.
At one point these two river guides both fell out of the raft, but we made it through the rapids!

We made it to the Cisco boat ramp!
Pete and Dinga see me off at Canyonlands Field Airport.
Sean, Russell, and Falcor. During my lunch break Sean pulled up to the library and offered these two a ride northbound.
Bear and I spend time together during one of several visits with Dory.
Dumpster New York Cheesecake!

Phil removes his van decorations and puts them on our watchdog. A soda can is left for me to make a new stove.
Madeline of Ontario and I dine at Sabaku Sushi.
At the beginning of the last week of April, I met Madeline up-canyon, staying at one of the caves I once lived in. She has been travelling for a year and had been hitching around the Southwest for a few months after giving her car away to a man on the Rez in Arizona. She hiked and camped for much of the winter in below-zero temperatures and has fasted often. She's put aside worldly desires and material things and is seeking God first above everything else. She spent two nights at Pete's and they played guitar and sang for us while we sipped on chicory tea. The last night she visited was after my very last day of work. She, Phil, and I stayed up late talking about the spiritual life. This communion of kindred spirits and observing Madeline's example has been a huge inspiration for me that will carry me into the next phase of my life.

On April 29, I worked my last day at the women's shelter. The reason being, I am guided once again to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I will walk with God, listening for his inspiration through each and every moment so that I will be where everyone needs me to be and get closer to be a constantly loving presence in this world. The shelter was where I needed to be, but now I'm being pushed on to other things.

After that beautiful night with friends, Phil, Connie, and Madeline saw me off after another cup of chicory tea. I would return to Moab in a few days, but I would be bringing someone along with me. I met Freebird in Mountainair, New Mexico, picked him up from the Grand Enchantment Trail, and we went on some adventures on our way back to Moab.

Snow in Mountainair, New Mexico on May 1. The Jeep I rented to pick up Freebird sits outside the motel room.
Quarai Ruins, part of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

The Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid, NM.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, Santa Fe, NM.

Pinkerton Hot Springs, CO.

Driving through the San Juans in southern Colorado, up and over 11,000 feet passes.

Visiting Daniel, his mom, and Garfield in Fruita, CO!
It's been quite a wonderful spring in Moab and through all of the travels. All the preparations for my next leg of the journey - all the lessons that I needed to continue on - have occurred. Now I hope to grow in awareness that I'm always in God's hands, as I walk and continue to learn. Freebird helped me with final preparations and then he and other friends saw me off. Phil drove me to the airport and watched from a bench as the plane rose up and away over the desert as he and Moab disappeared from sight. There's been a lot of California dreamin' all winter, and soon I will be in San Diego!