Sunday, May 19, 2013

Just remember WHO is the boss

Alright! It's been a while … and you ain’t heard yet!
So we head off, I'm still sore, and go into this grassland resembling the far west of our favourite westerns. ..
I must have seen oak trees that were born before the first white man set foot on this continent. Majestic, imposing, they have made clear of anything around and they look down at us wondering if we're worth it. Of course we're worth it, I'm a donkey after all!
Well this heard of horses came rushing at us as soon as we set out. Pascal was quite nervous trying to impose himself with his voice and shooing the horses away. I must say, last time he got half his hand torn off so he has reason to be worried. Until they stopped getting closer Jimmy & I weren’t sure what was going to happen. I almost stepped over Pascal while not paying attention. I must say he stumbled and fell and we were on another set of concerns. But eventually the horses ran away and we carried on, just a bit more nervous but walking a good pace.
Then we started up the mountain, hills I know, but you carry all that material up and you'll say they're mountains too. On the way we crossed a creek. I wasn't going to make a fuss of that one. Besides he walked right over it and as I was following I didn't realize it was a creek until I had half the body over it. Anyhow, this crazy creek, nice shade, kept crossing the path. Once ok, twice alright but the third time Pascal did not see the crossing right away and I was NOT going to let him pass that by me. Well he told me I had to, he showed the right set of escalation, voice, gesture, slap on the behind … so as I was not moving he got out his rope, made it so I could only face the stream, and each time I let go to see closer, he took up the slack, never pulling but no slack. All right, I knew I'd had it, so I crossed and Jimmy jumped. Then he had to pack all that useless rope. He was a bit flustered so I managed to cross the next 5 or was it 3? anyhow all without fuss and even stepping right into the stream water. Ya, I know, I'm too good to him.
But he kept going even though after 5 miles we found a real cozy spot with grass where hikers were still enjoying the morning. No he had set his mind on an end point and he was going to get there wether we liked it or not. Well, I accentuated my limping, really, I think my tendons in my legs are sore and it's ok if I warm them up for a while, but after that they just act up. I'm trying to tell him but he'll hear none of it. I was ok for about 7 miles, but after that I started slowing down and stumbled once in a while. He's wondering if I'm putting on an act, but really I am stumbling.
Well finally we did get to his dirty water spot and had to go back to the trail to find grass and a flat spot for the tent. Slowly hikers came in and though a few did go on, we finally built up a motley group of quite fascinating people. It's nice to see what “atmosphere” each hiker carries with him or her. I find the guys in no too macho mind sets and gals not girls at all while remaining women. Nice to share a large pot of noodles with indian vegetable curry as a spice. He'd made lots so each of the 5 there at eating time got a bowl. Then he made hot chocolate as the night came on and between the guitar, the talk, … the silence of the night, feelings had time to mature into a comradeship. As usual, they all went to bed early and finally we poor donkeys got a chance to sleep.
Next morning he served the coffee he'd made and kept hot in his thermos all night. Each as they woke up had his cup right out of his sleeping bag. They appreciated. Then, each one having packed up said goodbye and left. Pascal who had been gathering things, was getting us loaded as the last ones left. I showed him I was stumbling but he loaded us anyhow, it's true he unloaded me of more than half my load and put it on Jimmy. Off we went, again up the hill (which I prefer due to my leg) and mile after mile. Half way up the hill, I don't remember if it's Jimmy or a bush, but I managed to get my packsaddle askew and sliding over my side. It scared me and I just wanted to get away, but Pascal stopped me on this steep hillside and attached me to a bush. Then patiently he unharnessed me and re harnessed me, making sure the light panniers were of equal weight. I just waited facing the hill. For once, Jimmy did not try to pass by me as he likes to try when I stop. Here it was really too steep. Then he went on and on and on and on and … well you get the idea. On the 5th mile there is a downhill and after going down I just wanted to stop. I stopped in the shade and made it clear it was time to stop. He allowed a couple of minutes while he took a drink, but then, always in a hurry, he forced me to go on. We tried to repeat this 2 or 3 times but no way, he had to get to Mike Herrera's place where he knew there was water. It's true as we near 11am the heat is starting to make us thirsty.
Well, I slowed down the last 2 miles but we did finally make it. Once there and unloaded he put on our foot bracelets but did not tie us down. So we have this hill above the house to wander in, with bushes, secluded spaces and lots of grass. Pascal of course, instead of saying how useful we are in keeping lawns trim, just said we were good in case of fire hazard … not very class don't you think?
I must say, he did put water for us before taking a drink and saying hello to the “permanent” volunteers and the camp host Kushy. Some through hikers, stop here and in exchange of food and lodgings help get things done around the camp. I call it a camp since there is a main house, a sitting room garage and people in trailers and barns. Well usually, because since we've arrived we are only 7 or 8 around. The camp host and his “staff” serve breakfast & diner to hikers with the hope that they'll leave enough money to feed the next lot. Pascal leaves $10 a day just for toilets, water, stove use and a place to stay. But finally he gets also invited to eat what there is and he contributes by feeding people with his food as well. He made apparently crazy cookies, real mess ups, but the hikers loved them. Today after a good night's sleep he repaired Jimmy's panniers which were tearing on the inside this time, and then he started some bread. Apparently they're going to turn them into Calzone's with folded into them chorizo. A little onion soup to give flavour and that should become the evening meal.
Kushy & family, daughter, mother
Well, the host decided on another route, tacos with the chorizo … oily but good so the bread got cooked as such and if a little dense, it was all eaten without even giving us a piece?
What does it mean to be alone? To be silent with the universe, to be isolated from the bumps of the presence of others? What can you hear, feel, experience when you are alone? The vibrations of the universe become audible and you sense life in the wind on the flaps of your tent. Alone, is with yourself, so the world is here, now, present and intense. There is no complaining, no failing to see, since you are the only one that is here and now. How can you hide from something when you're alone? You can always see yourself coming, playing the game … or not … Alone with your consciousness, so what you live is what you are. Whether you like it or not, you are what you are … and have to live with it. But who am I after all? What have I become? What's going to make me like myself better? For I do love myself, after all only when you can love yourself can you start loving others. Otherwise you're in competition with the others always “better” than you. You enter the circle of endless discontent chasing after yourself.
People are like swarms of fish, you never can anticipate where they are going, but they go where survival leads them. And though we are each convinced of our total independence, we miraculously transform mass expression into liberty. So when I'm alone, like my indian friend once told me, there are two rooms to my house, in my teepee where I'm intimate, and outside where all my friends are. On this trip, I'm inside my teepee … and that is where the world is.

What do we mean when we say we are “WITH” …? With someone, with something, with … a friend, a lover … there are many ways to be with. With myself is again another dimension, like the 3rd dimension of space it opens many facets to the same crustal. The crustal that is actually a thing that obeys the rules of physics, thus an entity. Focus of: a thought, a concept, a feeling … , it is the Eureka of creating something out of being WITH. With my love we dream our lives. Each one in his own dream while being totally together That! Is making love.
With my creation I live the here and now.
I write as the sun goes down, here I am warm and alive … WITH my-self.

Kushy sits & discusses with through hikers
Ah! this morning my leg is feeling better. I still hobble and keep the weight off of it when standing, but I'm moving around and getting places. Maybe tomorrow I can walk almost normally. At this rate in 3 or 4 days I'll be walking and possibly take walks a couple of days before finally taking the trail again.
You can tell it is NOT AT ALL the way Pascal had imagined our first 400 miles … but he is just as dependent on us as we are on him … well almost. The events of the trail is what dictates what happens. So he gets up perky and after checking me out, he fills the days with visits to us, helping out in the kitchen, but not really taking on projects. He negotiated a price per day so that he did not have to feel obliged. Nor does he eat unless asked. For that he is autonomous. He baked cookies & bread but neither were to be glamorous about. It wasn't bad and got eaten, did not conform to the “standards” of either cookie or bread making. You just have to like whole grains consistent bread.
Trail angels ... solicit donations to help feed the hikers
Somehow, his birth date came up, I think he jumped when someone said it was the 10th, and then at the fall of day, all the people present came up the hill into our pasture, the one we are kind enough to share with him, and in a semicircle sang “happy birthday to you”. The cupcake, symbol of the cake with icing and all! Was topped by a present of a medicinal plant. 62 like 60 was feasted out of the heart like in the close family, much more touching than pre-programmed events. In his world, you must be getting old because now you can get a life long pass to the national forests for only $10. At least the “getting old” part is of interest. I say we got to make the young ones pay! After all, sometimes they come without our really 'wanting' them, then they eat the hell out of your refrigerator, and I'm not forgetting the motherhood requests that the little one be able to climb, dance, play chess, be kept during work … or play, paint, socialize, experience, … and go with the others … of course. As for our leisures as a couple, the children were always included ... So they can now pay for our incapacity to manage our own world! Aren't kids there for that … our grandparents were stupid enough to plant trees that only their 5th generation after would be able to harvest.
Preparing to leave, gathering the gear ...
He did do the laundry today, I wonder what it feels like to change your skin each day. And how can he make sure it fits? All these different pieces! Anyhow the day is hot with a very nice breeze and the grass is good. Oh, by the way a wonderful lady left us alfalfa and oats hay. The blond (I should say white …) head decided we were to eat the grass for now and covered it up! I sure hope it doesn't mould under there … I'd love to taste it. Well he did share his apple with us, I could eat several before I'd get a stomach ache. And this afternoon he even brought us a taste of Oats Hay. Dry stuff but what a taste. Of course he is keeping it to himself, we'll only get the left overs. You know, those Oats who lost their heads full of delicious grain in the shake out.
A flow of hikers come in and out of this place like water down a stream … in droplet of course! Some get wet and stick around, others spend an hour and are on the trail again. Driven by the phantasmagoria monster of “Thru Hikers”, that mythical grail. Amazing how those humans can just get focussed on something and then just put all they have into it. It sure gets things done, wether they were useful, beneficial or plain worth while, that here is not the issue. The issue is the ISSUE as one might say. Words are interesting … No?
Nature has sculptures ... we pass by
There he is again, eating his trail mix, you know the big fruits that float on top of a fresh bag and then for 3 days you have to “eat the rest”. Munching and trying to type my thoughts as I much on fresh grass on top of my hill. He keeps drinking coffee and munching while I'm doing all the creative stuff. Humans are really fumy. It makes me want to roll on my back. He took my hobble bracelet off this morning and freed us at dawn so we feel quite free to go about. Even Jimmy was going to visit down at the house but got brought back, just like when yesterday he tried to follow hikers out onto the road. That's the only other issue up a steep stair case made of agglomerated corn grinding wheels or cut grinding stones.
Well the guys left the gates open so Jimmy insisted that we take a short walk. I keep telling him that my leg is not good yet, he urged me on so I stumbled with him. Pascal who had been looking at a very strange film about a guy loosing immediate memory … finally came to get us and we walked back slowly to camp. Each day I can use my leg a little more, after 3 days I can now stand on it and though I'm still not walking, I can go about and choose my food. Pascal gave us corn husks this morning and that was REALLY good.
The days pass by and I can tell he is getting ancy to move on. If my leg is getting better, it's no where near a hiker's leg and he can look at all the maps he wants, it isn't going to work until he knows how many miles we can do without my hobbling again. I figure after 5 days I should be able to start walking normally again, but between that and being ready for the trail … I just don't know. Then the question is how much is good and at what point do I begin to degrade again? I guess we'll just have to feel our way though it. Then a guy went out to the Paradise Cafe and is going to bring back the hoof boots sent by a wonderful woman. Will they help? Can it really improve my footing? Will they fit first of all? I guess we'll try them on and see. Meanwhile here the life is comfortable and friendly, just not our cup of tea since our minds are more on the “trail”. Judy, the lady with the sore knee ligaments who really needs a couple of weeks of full rest is hobbling around and reconciling herself to the fact that she too is not on the trail. The contrasts between visions of the world are interesting since each brings with him on the trail his “life context” with the fears, the anxieties, the illusions and the dreams … a motley crew but each one living out his own spirit. We are only together by circumstance, no choice nor do we necessarily have much in common. The trail is the link, with it's physical demands and the rich context that each one can make of it. Hikers pass by focussed on “doing their miles”, others are just walking and enjoying without letting themselves distracted from the journey. We who are stopped for a while, wonder who is going to make it to the end and who will abandon along the way. The Mohave desert crossing will begin the selection process. I wonder if Pascal will choose (or have the opportunity) to have us skip that part and have us trailered to either 58 above Tehachapi or possibly to Walker Pass on 178 from after Lake Arrowhead somewhere before or at Cahon Pass on the 15. He looks at me and I can see the questions in his eyes. Will she be ok? Can she take the trip? How soon can we start? How will she handle the next 200 miles? Can we skip the Los Angeles forest and the Mohave desert … or should we just consider that it's part of the trip and just do it? What kind of meetings await us? Can we call the Equestrian network and get someone to transport us to the foothills of the Sierras? How will Daisy & Jimmy do in the high country far from any support system? … Questions pile up in the heat of the day but answers are dependent on one major unknown, how can I best recover and can this recovery be a permanent one? I've even read in his thoughts about the issue of what happens if I am not able to DO the PCT ??? but that seems extravagant at this time.
Look at my sparkling shoes, …. just sent them when he called and asked that I try them. A gesture of not only corporate generosity, but a basic human reaction worth noting as a gift. He had talked to his donkey specialist in France, Martine; she told him to give me Bute as long as I was hobbling, an indication of pain most likely she said … ignorant! I can TELL you it's pain … at least in my head. Anyhow, these 00 fit me quite well, might even be not too large, that I'll see in a day or two, once I get used to them. A member of the community, my hero Gary, went the 24 miles needed to get them! And since, with the combination of drug and shoes, I'm almost, at times walking normally. If at the end of the day it's still the same, then the boots will have changed the situation. Not healed but … having progressed. At this time Pascal is thinking we'll stay the week. A couple of days to confirm, a couple of days to start taking walks, then a day with a couple of miles and then if all ok go the next day. … again useless speculations on his part.
Look at my brand new shoes! Gina Landers ... THANKS
RENEGADE HOOF BOOTS from Landers Industries in AZ
00 size fits and after 75 Miles I can say work very well
Meanwhile Judith has gone feeling bad about leaving the “atmosphere” of the trail even if here it was not her type of context here at Mike's, she couldn't help being interested from the perspective of a social analyst. A local couple were taking a walk, saw US, the donkeys, whom they had met at the Warner Springs community centre, and came over to give us hugs. It was even the birthday of this guy and he told us he had gotten picked up by his surprising lady … while hiking the trail. Lovely lady with issues about herself … but a good heart. Even that she said that we were wonderful (wunderbar!) and she'd write to us.
and they fixed my limping by putting my foot
in the right position, ... GREAT!
Hikers keep coming in with issues about how they are performing , how they are in pain … and the need to keep moving … at different paces. Mother and daughter teams, college girl friends who have kept in touch, a Swiss, a German, New Zealanders and people from all over the US. Many seem to “have done” the Appalachian Trail on the east coast. For some it's almost a way of life, most though are going through a “life change” and “life transitions” with less than half seeming to know what they are going to do after. Some just quit jobs, others are in-between jobs or semi retired. For a very few, including my super master, the trail has or is becoming a stable way of life. Here at Mike Herrera's place, the permanent team is slowly getting the place to look like an organized ranch.
Water tank at Mike's, essential for hikers
After setting up an outside kitchen, they are now clearing the garage and the trash has been organized and closed up so it can't fly around. If only Mike had less stuff the place could possibly start to look like a home. It seems that Crash and Red will leave in a few days and Workhorse (Bary) is talking about leaving in a day or two. Nina will leave her dog who is suffering from the heat too much (and not allowed everywhere) with her son in LA then hike the trail until she goes to Peru for some sort of mystical experience. Kushy seems to be organizing himself to keep being the house host except in full summer when no hikers pass by and then he'll probably go to Kennedy Meadows where Tom manages a hiker stop as a “trail angel”. Meanwhile the hikers keep coming in and going out with their questions about life. After all, it's a trail, not an end.

Cactus blooms, they comme in Yellow, Orange, Red ...
We took a walk this morning and my legs felt good. This afternoon on the same walk it was a bit more difficult and I started hesitating again … I'm just not quite there yet. Pascal keeps thinking that if tomorrow I can walk 2 miles without hesitating he might leave Thursday. I'm not sure he understands the time the body takes to get better. He got on my nerves this evening when he put us up for the night and as he was fussing with Jimmy's hobble, I gave him a small, very small, kick in the arm. He got really mad, screamed at me and spanked me with his hand … I think he was really seriously mad. But I'm getting nervous to get on; Jimmy is tired of this place and so am I. The grass is all but gone and though we still have oat hay and alfalfa, which he only gives sparingly, it really is time we left. Ahead there is a 3 mile climb and then a 16 mile mostly downhill before the flats … I wonder how my legs will take that … even if cut up into 3 day or 4 day segments.
We eat Oat Hay & Alfalfa ... Thanks to Sherry Freeman
she came 5 miles on dirt road to see if we were ok
The hoof shoes seem to be making it easier for me, but the medication was what probably really changed my walking yesterday. He hesitates to give it to me since then he has no real vision on what is going on … I'm not really hurting, just not comfortable and I don't know how long I can walk without going into pain again. Tomorrow is another day … I hope you sympathise.
He postponed our departure as Kushy is having his mother & daughter visit and asked him to meet them. So instead of heading out this morning, he brushed us and we went for a 4+ mile hike on the road. Not bad, I managed to end the walk without much of a hesitation on my right leg. I'm still a bit hesitant when going down hill, but on the flats and uphill I'm ok. As usual we stopped at the turn around point where there is grass up to our bellies and Jimmy just loves it. He is a marvel to watch grabbing as much top ends where all the seeds are until his mouth is full then chomping down to cut the grass and then gobbling down the sweet grass. After an hour of feeding Jimmy was still chomping while I was quietly resting in the shade. I must say, that grass beats the dry stuff we've had all our lives. Pascal keeps telling me of future mountains where there'll be even sweeter grass to eat … I let him talk but can't really believe him.
Meanwhile the days are getting hotter and apparently tomorrow is the day. Up before dawn and a morning hike, then an end of the day hike to try to get to the next water. We'll see. Have you figured out who is the boss? The trail … of course!
It is nice to rise out of the valley at dawn, the sun hits the opposite hill and down below is Mike's place, a little oasis amongst the scrub brush. Over the pass and into a new world. Now it's the far valleys with the desert sands at the bottom. Around the bend and we are now on a downward path for the next … 8, 10 … ultimately 25 miles. Jimmy is bravely carrying 80% of the load and I am prancing behind Pascal, pushing him a little in the climbs as he tends to slow while I like to speed up. Might as well since we have to go up, get it over with. Like kids I like to move when time is at moving … and have little concern about measuring out my energy. Pascal however is insuring I slow down in the steeper parts so Jimmy has time to negotiate the footing. Sometimes the trail is like a staircase of rocks. None of them seem to slow us down even if Pascal gets a little concerned about steep climbs or descents. Hell, we are donkeys, not slugs on only two legs.
The memorable part of today's 8 miles is Pascal at the stop for lunch had to backtrack two miles to find my saddle pad, the wooly sheepskin, which had slid from under my packsaddle seeing as I'm carrying almost nothing. Meanwhile we filled our bellies with nice fresh grass growing in a dry stream-bed. Around 4 he packed us up again and we walked another 3 miles, stopped to get water and did another mile before stopping at a bend in the trail where there was a wonderful flat spot of sand. As soon as we were unpacked, we both rolled in the sand and put dust all over everything! It was good! But Pascal did not appreciate, why he never rolls in the sand like us, no wonder he smells so strong! Anyhow he put us up on the hill where there was only dry grass and a couple of those weed clumps that I've grown to like so much in this desert. Jimmy and I are starting to taste all kinds of different things. Interesting how many different plants have finally a good taste. Not all of them of course but we are quickly learning to taste things and then only eat what we like. Only met a couple of hikers today, Sam who is doing the PCT in sandles and seems quite a person and his friend, recovering from 2 weeks lay off to heal, and who is still quite focused on his body issues.
The important stuff is that I did 8 miles without limping and this morning we did another 7 without my even hesitating on my foot. Finally Pascal has stopped in a canyon and we are letting the heat pass before doing the last 6 miles to Paradise café … My legs willing of course. There we might get internet and possibly pause for a day … or half day. From there to the climb into Big Bear there is water every 10 miles or so, so we'll only need 1 day's water as we climb the San Yacinto mountains. Basically 60 miles of climbing and then 16 miles of downhill. A formidable task which should definitively let me know if my legs are going to be ok for the trip. I wonder why we can't take the Palm Springs tele-cabins to go down … but apparently Pascal has ruled that out. I can see him smiling as he is typing … is it about our future miseries? Or is it the humming bird that has come to a standstill in front of him as he is typing? Anyhow, it's hot now and the shade is skimpy for us, not like our leisure lover who is laying on our wool pads in the shade. As if we donkeys didn't like luxury!
A blue bird we had not seen yet
Ok I'll have him post this so you who are waiting for my wisdom can wash your heads with it. We've arrived at Paradise Valley Café after crossing quite a few valleys, ravines and trails on steep slopes needing repairs. I'm always amazed how far you can get on foot in one day. We did 13 miles and it seems the valley we left this morning is so far away, the country has changed so much … not at all like roads where you feel you've barely gone anywhere in 20 miles. I think it's the fact that we cross areas that are still characterized by their specific nature, road crews tend to choose least changing paths and destroy identity while building the roads. Every time we hit a north slope we would find grass again, luscious grass that Pascal would not let us even taste … most of the time. I have to proudly anounce that if I did slow down the last miles, I did NOT hobble. 13 miles is really a long way still for me, but possibly 10 could become a regular day's hike. My hoof boots are holding up and even if the rubber bands are dead, the basic boot is quite comfortable and I did not loose any today.
The welcome at the Paradise Valley Café was wonderful. They brought us water and we had a nice lawn to keep tidy. We made sure it was no longer going to be a fire hazard! Meanwhile he had a beer and a big, really big hamburger with hot peppers and fries. Each one his own, frankly I prefer the 5 different varieties of grass around here. Then the place closed down at 8pm and he crawled into his tent while leaving us out in the cold. This morning there was ice and it was freezing at dawn. To excuse himself he put us out in the field under a tree where the grass is almost reaching my belly. Delicious day of rest ahead even if he came around with his Blue Coat, the medication he puts on our cuts. Jimmy and I have had a couple of stress caused skin rashes, the Blue Coat does wonders drying it up and helping heal. We hate it, but when he did his thing, he smelled of that Dr Browner's soap, you know the one with the mint. He must have washed himself and his clothes in the sink that the owner gave him the key to. He's lost weight and that always makes him look older. But he's clean and that is no luxury, I tell you!
Then I guess, if he doesn't find an easier route, we'll just go over that hill and reach the Big Bear area in 10 days or so. I hope he has enough food. It's going to be cold up there but the days are warm, we are nearing the end of May now. He had a long talk with Nathalie, she really is a wonderful person. Their roads run different routes but they have a real contact as people. It is a treasure that needs to be protected from the hurts of life. Anyhow he now has no phone credit … until he can fill up via internet.
A word from my new friend Chery, which I share with you (go see her site!)

I invite you to visit my blog:  Source Reflections

A man and two donkeys walked through my gate
He has chosen a path home to himself
It takes him to far corners of the earth
Into the harsh elements of nature

Some might call his expedition insane
Failing to grasp the depth of his searching
I see his dedication as valor
I am inspired by his devotion  

He is a man on of mission of deep inner exploration
Each day a challenge to meet who he is
Alone with Mind and two donkey’s
To share his experiences with.

He has met the challenge of Ocean
Crossing in a sailboat from Panama to Tahiti
5000 miles of nothing but water and weather
Followed by months of living with the people of the islands.

Crossed Canada in a 400 lb. four-man canoe
Testing his strength and resolve
Nature again providing her challenges
Cold, snow, mud, wind, rough lake waters…all.

And now this journey of 15000 miles, LongEars2Chile,
Walking from Mexico to Oregon on the PCT
East on the Oregon Trail to the Continental Divide
South down the divide to Chile, SA.

Pascal, this fine French man who graced our table
Has claimed a new way of life,
Not merely an adventure.
A lifelong journey of self-discovery.

Meeting the challenges of each new day
With patience, gratitude and a smile
He slowly but surely
Is finding his way home.


"Where is YOUR Wild Feminine?"
The hero that did 25 miles to get my shoes! Bary 

And he plays the piano!
Kushty and Krash putting on a scene

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