Monday, June 3, 2013

Big Bear
We were really looking forward to seeing Big Bear (once again for Pascal). Very deceiving in fact. As we walked across Big Bear City, several persons were delighted to see our outfit, asked to make pictures … but not a single person offered us even as little as just a drink even though it was really hot. We feel no generosity from those we encounter.
They are in their world, they are enchanted to see someone doing something else, to see us donkeys with our packs … but it stops there. They take a picture and return to their pre-programmed lives. I don't live their lives so I do not know how I'd react, but if I did get into contact with a person I would probably have a gesture of generosity.
In Big Bear Lake we met a man on a shopping mall parking lot who spontaneously gave us 2 one gallon water bottles. He was smiling and obviously inspired by our journey.
Having found a Starbucks inside a shopping mall, where we could use the internet, we camped behind a bank on the edge of a trickling stream running at the back of the shopping mall. Obviously it was an area where bums had slept and trash was everywhere. But there was grass, we were out of sight of the mall and Pascal could easily check on us. The stream water seemed clear but we waited for Pascal to collect it in our pan before drinking.
Question: what does it take to pay attention to someone who outside of our universe is living another way? What does it take for us to get out of our bubble and enter into contact? What does it take to offer a young person on the street who obviously has not eaten all day to invite him or her to your house and offer them a shower, a meal, a place to sleep safely for one night?
This is probably one of the reasons for this trip. I tried several times to propose this to my family, but always got a refusal from my companion. Just like my grandmother had the tradition of setting the table with an extra plate … in case a stranger would knock at the door; I would like to live with an open door to a person in need. On this trip I keep meeting hikers that have little or nothing (question of weight) and offering them a cup of hot chocolate, a coffee, … sometimes a meal, makes life and the exchanges we have much more rewarding for both of us.
I love to invite my friends to stay at our country house for more than a day because in this way we get to spend “living time” together, and real exchanges come from taking a walk, sharing a meal, spending time listening to music, chatting around a fire … much more than the social thing of “having someone over for diner”. Too short, just time to exchange news, but the real stuff of life only comes when we let silences speak between us, when we have the time to let emotions, trust, … and “find the time” to say what matters.
If everyone would decide to invite a stranger home just 4 times a year, there would be a lot less of “lost” persons in our society. And what a lesson for our children ...
On the parking lot we met Quervo, a man that has lived these 20 last years with his 2 mules on the road. Interesting fellow of the age of Pascal who to evade the draft of the 60s went to live in south america and has since lived much of the time off the grid. Having lived “outside” the system he obviously becomes the target of the “authorities” who treat or should I say mistreat him as much as possible. He camped for example where we are and got 10 cop cars to harass him, charge him with concealed weapons for having a knife in a sheath and dealt with roughly with handcuffs and intimidations even though he had in appearance done “nothing”. Probably some “honest citizen” had seen him in the shopping mall lot talking to people with his mules, he often asks for donations as people take pictures of his picturesque life style, and denounced him to the local police. First of all Pascal & us “look” more integrated, but most of all if the local police had questioned Pascal or tried to search in our things as they did for Quervo, Pascal would have had the tone, the words, the attitude, the legal speech reflexes which would have immediately made the maverick policemen weary of legal retaliation. Police abuse is easy on non integrated persons, but becomes a real problem when the person knows the social codes to get back at them. Unfair? This is the price we pay for those who want to live outside the “grid” as would say Fabrice, Pascal's brother.
First drink in a stream!
By paying the price of social integration, you also get the “freedom” to live according to your own standards as long as you either respect or know how to manage infringement of the social codes. The cost is high, but it's the price of our society as determined by the “conservative” components of our social group. Here in America, there is a lot of freedom but just as much control by the watch dogs the society puts in place to “protect” the group. In Europe we have more stringent codes but with more consistency and the ability for the “rich”, the ones who know the rules, to get around most of them. Regulating a social group is a complex issue. I am convinced that in our electronic world, where change is immediate, permanent and pervasive, we need to review the fundamentals and re-think the whole systemic organization. Primarily to simplify things so people can understand and have the ability to “know” what the “right” behaviour and liberties are, but mostly to be able to enforce equally for all the needed rules & regulations. At the same time the balance of power needs to be re-thought, we are too often in a bipolar situation where when one fails the other takes liberties that are uncontrollable. A stool cannot stand on 2 legs, our systems need to have 3 legs to stand on so that should one fail, the other 2 are obliged to collaborate to restore equilibrium by helping the third … leg. This applies to all levels of activity, including our institutional organizations. Autocracy, our present governing systems, only can exist in bi-polar situations. Democracy is founded on the principles of an equality which can only be achieved by creating a level playing field, in other words a plane … geometric analogy which requires 3 resting points.
So we were left in our “ditch” and Pascal went out with Quervo to eat a huge salad and a huge pizza , which they shared with a bottle of wine, at the local italian style joint. They really are the pair the two of them, the outsider and the insider with fundamentally similar values. Quervo's mules are attached in front of the restaurant on the parking lot and Quervo regularly goes to speak to the persons who take pictures and want to pet the mules … that's how he made $15 during lunch which allowed him to buy groceries later that night. As Quervo would put it, if Walt Disney can charge for being “picturesque” why shouldn't I?
Well Pascal that afternoon did a lot of calling, organizing and communication stuff like the blog posting, but it does not look like we have a ride to Kennedy Meadows … as yet. The good news is that Stevie Love, friends of Nat's, are looking forward to having us pass by and they have 10 acres to feed us … It's a 100 miles away but we could be there in 10 days or less. It would be a good place to be picked up to be transferred to the Sierras. Really the grass here is scarce and bitter. I cannot wait to know the luscious grasses of the high country. We are getting thinner even if much stronger. Pascal did not put my Renegade Hoof Boots on today and I did 10+ miles on pavement for more than half without any problem. Unhappily the hours did not allow calls to France … next time since we are all eager to go and get out of this filthy gully.
So up at dawn, on the pavement by 6:30 with the sun barely coming over the hills and around the lake shore on pavements where the morning joggers with cups of coffee in their hands come across us. I am getting really good on wooden bridges even if I still do not like those iron plates in the sidewalks. 14 miles later, mile 285 on the PCT, we finally stop at a small creek at noon where we will camp tonight.
We walked with the mules behind us and did remarkable time as they stimulated us to walk fast. We even jumped downed trees that the mules had a hard time with and they don't have what we have on their backs! Quervo joined us at the lakeshore and we got to listen to the local Big Bear radio playing good music as we climbed the hill and then went down again to the river. Leaving Big Bear it's wonderfully wooded, but after reaching the top then we enter zones where forest fires have decimated the landscape. Huge dead trees everywhere and some of course fallen across our path, just to hamper us no doubt. We even crossed a long muddy section and I did not even hesitate … but that's not all! Pascal took us to the stream and put our drinking pan in the stream with water flowing into it. Jimmy got the idea and started to drink directly for the FIRST time from the stream. So of course I had to do better, I walked of my own volition directly into the stream and drank while my hoofs were in the water! Am I not the best donkey in the world?
Well after lunch Pascal & Quervo in his hammock had a nap while we munched on nice grass growing on the hillside. The mules are there but they are not really a bother even if I do keep an eye on them. One of them even stole all the oats Quervo was carrying, after all it was for the mules but his smart young one did not even share. Cannot expect much out of hybrid animals like mules.
Watercress growing in the stream for salad tonight for the humans, us we'll just have to do with the standard fare, and I believe Pascal is preparing tomorrow's schedule so I'll have to get a good night's sleep.
Off we went, and that at a good pace, so fast that Quervo wanted to know what was driving us. Well of course having his mules in our back helped a bit, but as we distanced him, it was more feeling rested, well fed and wanting to get our day's walk done so we could once again enjoy the day. The difference between Pascal & Quervo is that Pascal is “driven” by a number of things. One is that he wants to get to Oregon before winter, but more important he is seeking through this journey, this routine of living another dimension of himself. So there is a drive, a want, a seeking … that Quervo has abandoned along the route and for reasons known to himself chosen to let life lead him wherever it does. So making 10 miles or 5 or none is of no consequence to him.
Indeed he is enjoying the moment, but it seems without purpose. Do we need purpose in life? That is an interesting question. Why not just live it as it comes … here I'm playing the devil's advocate but the question deserves reflection.
Meanwhile at half day Quervo took the direction of lake Arrowhead on a dirt road while we kept to the PCT. In the end we did some 14 miles and arrived at the Deep creek where a bridge, a very modern looking thing crosses the stream while we went below and spent the rest of the day. A beautiful place with a large bathing pool and grass. We were tired and slept but after accepted to cross the stream to the sand bank where we found grass a plenty. I wonder what the weekenders will think to see their nice sandy beach with our poop … and the grass shorn to nothing. Apparently on the weekend there can be nearly a hundred persons here said the ranger we talked to who was picking up the trash. REALLY we ought to EDUCATE humans:
1/ pack OUT everything you bring unless you drink or eat it
2/ mainly women, remember that that toilet paper you wipe you tooshy with is going to stay here in this dry climate (and even in wet climates) for more than several years. So PACK IT OUT.
Pascal spent an hour picking up trash around and before leaving brought it out to the parking lot above where the rangers pick up the trash. By the way, I noticed that Pascal each morning when he wakes and must have his bowl movement always buries it deep, never uses paper, in fact he uses whatever is around, vegetation or dirt, then just like the north africans he washes his ass so he avoids irritations … ecologically sane.

Quervo for some reason ended up in the parking lot and had people giving him their lunch. Pascal talked with a nice family with a 5 year old daughter (I guess) named Lea and a baby. The woman seemed quite at ease in nature while the man, her new mate with whom she had the last one, was uneasy and quite uptight. Pascal learned he was without a job, unable to land a sales job in the medical industry in which he had serious references, so he is creating his own sales organization. Pascal encouraged him and told him that being an entrepreneur, you have to BELIEVE that it will happen, DO what is required EVERYDAY, and that in the end things DO work out. Despite bankers and the sharks around small businesses trying to skim the cream, YOU can make it if you persevere. It's a hard road … but Pascal did it for more than 10 years so he has the understanding of it.
By the way, I just walked through Pascal's camp as I rejoined Jimmy who went around the water's edge, and almost squished his rum bottle. There he is typing away my thoughts drinking rum and smoking his pipe … what a disaster! His pipe he had to re-glue with super glue as he broke it in his pocket.

Pascal lent Quervo his spare eye glasses, but before leaving he recuperated them. Quervo was upset thinking they were a “long term loan” … but Pascal knows that if he did not recuperate them then, he might never see them again. This is a reality check. For those who have nothing, a loan is a gift … which can be returned but with little consequences if not. For Pascal, having a spare pair is essential and must be preserved. It is linked to a notion of freedom to live your own life. So they parted this morning and who knows if they shall hook up again. Basically, Quervo is going to town to buy supplies with his monthly welfare or whatever indemnity revenue while Pascal is pursuing with us the PCT. Interesting how on many aspects they have the same values but fundamentally have a different DRIVE which makes their lives worthwhile.
We crossed PCT trail maintenance crews, apparently they are paid a miser but like the opportunity to be in the wilds and doing a useful job. Young men and women who after graduating for the most part take a summer to discover the backcountry of the PCT while working on the trail in a secure environment. Seem like really nice people, it would be nice to spend an evening with them. Unknowingly we settled half a mile from the hot spring where they were camping as it was identified by Pascal as a nice grassy place next to Deep Creek stream, but they were leaving for their 10 days work 4 days off respite. Another time. Of course we got hugs and pictures and admiration … as always.
By the way, I'm walking without my hoof boots 2 days in a row and now only one day every three days. I feel like my feet are hardening to the trail and though I still do not like the broken up rocks that hurt my 'frogs', they are hardening like Jimmy's and soon I hope to be free from this assisted walking thing.

Today, Pascal went to the hot springs leaving us attached on hobbles and came back like a lobster. He couldn't even wear a T-shirt so he waked back naked. He was scoured like I've not seen him for a long time, but red was the predominant colour, especially his ass. I guess he got caught up by the sun while laying in the hot springs. He found a crowd of young folks that were drinking beer, smoking dope and generally talking their mouths off in language that coming from young women about dicks and such seemed really superficial, incoherent and not conveying any real sense. Lost people that think they are living because they are getting drunk and high … what will that make as a society is anyone's guess.
Other older men, mostly naked seemed to enjoy talking in the shade, possibly their thing is more at the fall of night should young women show up. A few tender couples were camping and making good smelling food. Anyhow he left us for at least 4 hours, time to get truly tangled up. So when he came back and let us free we ate up a storm. I'm sure tomorrow he'll drive us hard again. Today, as an innovation, and listening to Guerda about the notion of a breakaway line in case of problem on the trail, he let Jimmy without a lead rope and my brother just followed us like a champ. Even crossed a bridge, jumped a log, and always just behind me. What a champ!

Well the crickets are out, the day is dwindling and Pascal I can tell is already tired (even if he does nothing!) so I'll just go quiet until we get to our next stop, a lake with a trailer park in a village called Cottonwood … hopefully we can post this on Monday.
In fact I sent Pascal to McDonald's at Cajon Pass and he's posted it! After a 20 mile day, not bad...
More later, this Cajon pass area is on the San Adreas Fault, a chaotic country landscape … and I have to sleep near the freeway!
PS. Still no one confirmed to take us up to the sierras! hopefully, Thursday when we arrive at Juniper Hills at the Love's house, a word will be there to tell us we have a ride ... 

1 comment:

  1. I see your last post (excellent and amusing - so descriptive!) was June 3. I am worried about you. Any luck with a helpful person to give you a lift? Wish I were closer and not so ranch-bound all the time, as you well know. My thoughts are with you and Jimmy and Daisy!