One of the most frequent questions that people ask when they meet someone is “What do you do?” It usually follows exchanging of names, as if one’s occupation defines a person. I am also guilty of asking people this question though I try my best not to bring it up. I usually answer the question by saying I am a drifter or happily homeless. Once I tell people about my unconventional lifestyle and the places I have been they always ask me what is my favorite place. I have been on the road going on ten months now and I still don’t have an answer for my favorite place. Another popular question I am asked is “Don’t you get lonely?” and I really don’t. It turns out I am exceptional company for myself. But, I think the answer to both questions is my favorite thing about being a traveller is the people I meet. From the people I met camping at Rocky Mountain National Park, the Hitchhiker and Navajo, and the Redwoods people.
On shore once again I start heading south. Late in the day I leave Bellingham, driving late into the night before camping in Mt. Hood National Forrest. Once the morning sun woke me up I realized just how beautiful of a place that I camped in. A steep hill behind my tent, and down another steep hill in front of me was a babbling brook. I was surrounded green, my favorite color: large trees, ferns and other foliage, and moss was growing on everything. Originally I camped there just for a free place to sleep and planned on hitting the road as soon as I woke up. I didn’t realize I had picked such a perfect spot. So I brewed my french press coffee, strung up my hammock and took in the beauty that surrounded me as I enjoyed my coffee. After three months on a boat with five other people this was exactly what I needed. But having plans(which didn’t work out) to meet a friend in Northern California I couldn’t stay any longer. So I continue south.
I make it to California and find out my friends travels took him North to Oregon. I was invited but didn’t want to back track so I continued to Weed, CA where I got a room and relaxed for the night. The next day I filled up at the gas station and bought a newspaper for the headline. “Weed Just Exploded Into Flames” I couldn’t help myself and made a joke about the headline. No one appreciated it as much as I did, but the newspaper had to know while making the headline. After the Tuscaloosa Tornado there were plenty of jokes made. What better way to get over a natural disaster than a little bit of comic relief. Unappreciated I continued west from there to Arcata, CA. I took the scenic route through Six Rivers National Forest filled with steep winding mountain roads and beautiful scenery. While pulled off on the side of the road I witnessed 4 or 5 long-boarders speeding down the mountain road, too fast to snap a photo. Continuing on I stopped at what looked like a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. I walk in to get a snack and something to drink. Turns out this old convenience store was transformed into a bar/campground/disc golf establishment. I did want something to wet my whistle. After all it was my birthday so a mid-day drink was in-store. I meet the bartender, Jay, and take is recommendation for the finest local brew on tap. He had just started tending bar there. We get to talking while I enjoy my beer, I tell him my story and about working on a boat in Alaska. He told me that sounded like a great summer and that he loves salmon. I told him I would be right back and grab a fillet out of my car to give him. I had plenty and didn’t want it to spoil, plus I ate fish for every meal till it was gone. Hey expressed extraordinary gratitude for the Alaskan Salmon Fillet. Then he said my beer was on him. I actually witnessed him ring it up and pay for it out of his pocket. Most bartenders just give away drinks that are “on them” at the cost of the bar. He tells the other man who had something to do with the establishment that they are having Alaskan Salmon for dinner, thanks to me. He thanks me and offers me a free sandwich, It turned out to be a great stop. I tell Jay where I am heading and he informs me that the rest of the road to Arcata gets treacherous and narrows to one lane in places around blind corners, that sneak up on you. He warns me to take it slow.
It was a fun drive, taking narrow gravel roads with a sheer drop off on one side and a rock wall on the other. The traffic was light, though there were a few times when other vehicles or I had to back up and let the other pass. I came across the skeleton of a van covered with graffiti, embodying the free spirit of remote Northern California. My drive was filled with beautiful panoramic scenery, and very few places to pull off and stop. I had a reservation for a hostel in Arcata and wanted to make it there in time to enjoy the night of my birthday so few stopping points worked out for me. I check in around nightfall and head out to treat myself to a delicious dinner and drinks, where I enjoyed the company of some strangers at the bar. Having spent the extra money on a private room at the hostel I decide to call it an early night and just relax. Walking back to the hostel I apparently didn’t appear to be in a good mood, though I always am. From across the street one of the many young hippie backpackers yell. “Smile, get your butt-hole tickled.” I have to look to see who is yelling this and at whom. It turns out they were yelling at me, I smiled and laughed. His girlfriend then yells “How’d that tickle feel?” I just continued on my way to the hostel. On the way back to the hostel I meet a weed farmer taking a few days off of work in town before the upcoming clipping season. He offers me a few beers and we hang out celebrating my birthday drinking on the side of the street. He was also looking to hire a few clippers, of which I turned down the offer, after asking if it was a legal operation. It was not.
The next day I set out and start exploring the Redwood Forest. It was a Friday and the traffic was quite busy, fortunately it was only busy on the street with people driving through and stopping at the road side trees. Very few people actually parked and hiked the trails. It is very hard to capture the majestic massive trees in a photograph, they reach over 300 feet and up to 30 feet in diameter. Hiking into the redwoods and away from human noise it seems as though the forest starts to vibrate. I spent hours hiking around the giant forest. After a while a primal urge came over me and I decided to strip down and just run around naked for a while. I heard a couple people talking as they were rounding a corner on the trail, so I hid in the middle of three redwoods growing in a triangle. I didn’t want to get arrested for indecent exposure. Once they had gone passed I made it back to where I stashed my clothes and camera and thought it would be best to get dressed. I then continued my exploration of the Redwood Forest clothed. I later meet some cyclist that invite me to their campsite and hospitality after seeing a Georgia license plate and saying your far from home, with my response being “I am always at home.” Lake many of the invitations I have received on my travels, I never made it to their camp.
The day wearing on and I stop at ranger station and pick up a map of free campsites in Klamath National Forest. They inform me of a really nice campsite with a warm river and it is the only place without a burn-ban. A campfire always adds a certain level of comfort to camping and is much preferred to not being able to have one. So I decide to go before anyone else lays claim to the campsite, there was only three in a popular place. I arrive and meet a nice couple with a homemade camper in the back of their pick up truck. We talk for a while and get to know each other. They also gave me a much needed sponge to clean my dishes, while I was just using my fingers. Then they get ready to take off. I am setting up camp at this point and they walk back over this time with some Red Curry sauce and a quart carton of organic creamy tomato soup. I politely told them that I had plenty of food and was in no need of it. They just asked if I would eat it and I said of course but I don’t need it. They gave it to me and I graciously accepted, it is that much less food to spend money on. I am all about saving money. They then gave me their contact info and said if I pass through San Luis Obispo I am welcome to stay with them. I am always touched when a stranger offers me any type of hospitality.
They leave and I decide it is time to bathe in the shallow river. Unfortunately at this time more people show up to swim. I get in the water and make my way around the bend for privacy and to avoid scaring anyone off. I wash off my stink and swim around for a while, getting the rest of the Northern California Nudist out of me. Followed by some nude sun bathing on a sandy beach. Once again fully dressed it is time to finish setting up camp and cooking dinner. At this point one of the most colorful characters I have met pulls into the neighboring campsite and after a while his dog wanders over to my camp and he soon follows to collect his dog. Camping it is pretty common practice for any neighbors to introduce themselves. It gives both parties a bit of comfort to know their camping neighbor is mostly normal and unlikely to murder you in your sleep. At this point I am starting to build my fire for dinner. I had planned on having rice with my newly acquired red curry sauce and like every other meal a salmon fillet, sometimes halibut. Having plenty of food I offer him half my dinner, and in turn he offered half his bottle of wine. His dog ate our scraps. We spend the night swapping stories of our adventures.
He was an artist from the Hippie Generation. He told me he has a studio and ranch in Oregon and he was on his way back from visiting his sick father somewhere in California. One story he told me was from when he was a kid during the “Vietnam Revolution” in California. He was just a boy at the time I want to say 13 years old. He told me of two brothers from his school who were both missing fingers because they enjoyed playing with explosives. The hippie was out one night during riots in the streets at the time. The two brothers pull up in a car and handed him a Molotov Cocktail telling him to throw it at something. At first he refused. Then a police car pulls off down the street with four cops jumping out and chases after an African American man. The four police had billy clubs in hand, taking off around a corner. At this point the young hippie is holding the Molotov Cocktail. The Bomb Brothers light the Molotov Cocktail in his hand and he has no choice but to throw it. He decided to throw it at the cop car. The cops then came rushing back around the corner and started chasing him down as he jumped on his bike and was pedaling furiously to get away. He said that one of the cops almost had him in arms reach.
This hippie also had other interesting characteristics. The subject of paranormal activity came up, I don’t recall how the subject came up. He informed me that he sees UFO’s. Up until this point he seemed pretty normal. I have no doubt that there are intelligent life forms out there in space, whether or not they have visited our planet I have no opinion. This conversation had piqued my curiosity. I have never met anyone who has “seen” UFO’s. I start asking him questions regarding his extra terrestrial encounters. They consist of him seeing UFO’s flying, a ball of light that is stationary in the sky appearing and vanishing. I instinctively ask him if he uses hallucinogenics, he admits that he does. I follow-up by asking if he was on them while seeing the UFO’s, he tells me he has seen them while using them and while he is sober. So I then asked if others have seen them with him and he says yes. I start to think maybe he isn’t crazy. He then tells me that he can sense when they are going to appear. It seems to me he is one of the “chosen people” that UFO’s appear to. I ask if he can sense any coming tonight. He tells me that he doesn’t have the feeling he gets and that it would be hard to see them since we were under tree cover and there was little open sky. I am disappointed by his pessimism of seeing one. I would love to see one. We also talk hypothetically if we did meet an alien and what would happen. We both agree that given the chance to if an alien wanted to take us off this planet that we would have to go with them for the sake of the adventure. He isn’t the first person to believe in aliens and he won’t be the last. It did make for a great campfire story, I am not sure that it is anything more than a story.
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