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Published: June 24th 2015
Inside the Cave, Natural Bridges
Experienced traveler that I am, I forgot to charge my camera battery before I left the house. I managed two photos before it died :(
By now, I consider myself a seasoned veteran of embarking on solo journeys of unknown destination and duration; yet, I still find myself subject to a certain degree of nervousness during the days preceding my departure. My experience tells me that I will encounter beauty, wonder, and enjoyment beyond imagination; that even the instances of extreme challenge or questionable security will make some of the best memories and opportunities for growth. Even still, there’s always a time when the immensity of the unknown that lies ahead quickens my pulse and ties my stomach into knots. I ask myself, “What are you getting into?”
Taking a closer look at it, I think that the root of the apprehension lies rather in the question, What am I leaving behind? For the most part, what I’m leaving behind are the labels I’ve been wearing for the past year, and all the expectations that come with them. For the next two months, I won’t be defined as a teacher, a student, a runner, or any other number of the roles we play. I’m not trying to say that all life is an act, or that we should limit
The Stanislaus River is normally rushing at this time of year, but only a tiny trickle leads out of the cave.
ourselves to the confines of the script, I’m merely saying that personalities are multi-faceted things and it’s all too easy to get caught up living in just a small portion of what makes you you.
Well, at least that’s true in my life. I can get stuck in the routine. Being free to just be becomes somewhat of a foreign concept and facing it contributes to the general sense of unease of leaving on a trip. Where my experience as a traveler comes in handy is that these feelings of disquiet don’t last too long.
Today, I set out in a melancholic mood. I had spent hours creating the prefect playlist for my trip, but for some reason, I don’t immediately put it on. Instead, The Cave by Mumford and Sons plays on the radio. The song is essentially about self discovery, and I really like it, but it does nothing to improve my mood. I become even more pensive.
It takes an hour before I can feel a sense of peace easing into me. An hour later and I’m totally into it.
There’s a huge smile on my face as I’m speeding along the hills, dips, and curves of CA- 4E. It’s a road that more closely resembles a roller coaster track than a highway. I’m cracking myself up trying to say Copperopolis five times fast and wondering how the residents of the small town manage to get it out without a chuckle.
Another hour later and I’m at my first destination: Natural Bridges, Vallecito. After a short hike down a hot, dusty trail choked by poison oak, I get to a large cave carved out by the Stanislaus River. The icy cold water was a complete shock to the system after the hike in 95 degree weather. I enter the dark, dripping limestone tunnels and swim to the other end, where a group of teenagers drinking what appeared to be mouthwash quickly spoil the serenity. I leave the cave and walk down the river, trying to find a place beyond the reach of their echoing guffaws. I sprawl out in the sun and take a nap.
I suppose that now is a good a time as any to fill you in on my summer “plan” – Drive.
Moonrise over Alpine Lake
First Night Camp. Elevation 7,306 feet.
And sleep outside. Other than that, I have only the most basic idea of things I’d like to do and people I’d like to see along the way. The only thing that I really know for sure is that I don’t want to use any technology to plot my course. I have a Rand McNally by my side (which I quickly realized isn’t the greatest or safest choice for making quick decisions) and a lot of word of mouth scrawled on scraps of paper.
For the moment, I’m heading Northeast.
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