Late morning, clear day. The sun is shining, the wind is whipping fast; I’m sitting in the bed of a moving truck on a little-trafficked backroad in Molalla, OR, thirty-and-some miles outside Portland. There’s a dog in my lap. A local couple had done me the favor of picking me up as I walked back into town from the campsite. This memory has a glowing haze around it; it’s burned into me because of the quiet reflection bought with that moment of silence.
Today was the final day of my Los Angeles-to-Redwoods-and-back road trip, a whirlwind that kept me busy and alert every waking moment of the past four days. As I pulled out of the RV Park, I already felt it setting in: The Dread. I missed this lifestyle already, and I was still getting to live it for one more day. This mourning created a mild panic that followed me into Cambria and insisted that I try to milk every last drop out of the final miles ahead.
I’d bemoaned passing so quickly through the Bay Area the prior day, and since I didn’t have to be in San Jose for my Winchester Mystery House tour until 2PM and the Bigfoot Discovery Museum wouldn’t close until 6PM, the thought struck me that I could spend the afternoon exploring my favorite literary generation in the very city it was born in: The Beat Movement in San Francisco.
I got settled for the night, and then it happened - just as I was about to fall asleep, I heard a vicious screeching sound followed by two hisses, all of which sounded like some kind of cat (or two) right outside my tent. Then it happened again. They were probably just domestic farm cats, but I’d read that this was bobcat territory and of course my imagination ran wild for the rest of the night. What was that? Why was it hissing at me? Where was it now? Did my brain dream it up?
I had a list of unfinished business to attend to with four days, one car, and one backpack at my disposal. I refuse to live over a year in California without having seen the mighty Redwoods. Driving from Los Angeles to Humboldt Redwoods State Park directly, without any detours, is something like ten hours and doesn’t sound particularly appealing for a marathon out-and-back drive in one weekend, but taking two days to get there and two days to get back? Stopping along the way to knock other things off the bucket list? Leaving space in between to wander off course and make new discoveries? A race against time, but it just might work.
When the fog and rain cleared, suddenly the entire landscape was glorious. The final stretch of the trail between my camp spot and Lost Lake followed along the pinnacle of a ridge that allowed me to see out over the whole mountain range on either side of me. I felt like I was on top of the world. I think about that sometimes now, when I’m staring at four walls - how strange it is to know that such places exist, all on their own, all the time, without you there to behold it. Just waiting with open arms.
Hour ten. I can’t take it anymore. I pull over to the first gas station I see to stretch my atrophying muscles and buy a late night “dinner” of a donut and some hot cheetos (I’m in survival mode). I jump up and down a couple times and say a small prayer to no-one - God was not present here. I’m on the drive home to LA from Vegas on the worst possible day to be on the drive to LA from Vegas; that’s right, it’s the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, and I’m a sucker.
Fresh off the boat portion of the jeep-boat-jeep from Monteverde, we were shuttled to La Fortuna where we scoured the local bus schedules for transportation out to the Tree Houses Hotel, about 30 minutes south. In true off-the-beaten-path fashion, our bus immediately broke down on the side of the road in the jungle in the middle of the night. After a long time of waiting for it to be repaired we finally de-bussed...and five minutes later it was fixed and on it’s way. We were now stranded. Typical.
I probably heard about Slab City the same way you did; either through the Chris McCandless story, or through reading Civil Disobedience and then Googling “is there anywhere in the world you can still live freely?” I’ve wanted to visit it for years, and since my <insert travel equivalent of biological clock here> has been ticking, I finally committed to making a day trip just to check it out. In the summer. In the punishing heat of Southern California. Sweet Jesus why do I hate myself.
Our tiny rental car shuttered along the narrow, rocky edge of mountains as we made our way east from Tamarindo to Monteverde. So far in Costa Rica we’d visited beach towns and waterfalls, and later we’d explore the volcano, tree houses, and hanging bridges of Arenal, but my favorite scenery would reveal itself here, in the area known for it’s Cloud Forests. Perched high above sea level, the towns of Monteverde and Santa Elena feel like a completely different world.