A Travellerspoint blog

Precarious Perches

Life is full of 'em

sidenote: This is still day one and I'm exploring up the cliff for a south-facing sunny camp. For you literature gestapo who don't like how I constantly change from past tense to present to every other tense, you can kiss my butt. Sometimes, I close my eyes and I'm there again, and sometimes it's a fond memory. It's not confusing because there's only one character in this story. I think it flows.

I'm up high now; out of the trees and climbing through unusual bushes. The new growth is red and it wraps around the surface of its dead gray brethren. Then it assimilates the dead into new branches with small leaves. I break the dead branches to get through and decide that it would be great firewood. I make a pile and round the corner of a large rock formation. It edges out and around the whole cliff. The walk narrows and I'm on the edge of a hundred foot cliff that has beautiful smooth rock running down to the road. The view is amazing. I see the river and the lush forest behind it leading up to the small mountains and cliffs facing the sun. I find a spot that looks perfect. I know this will be my camp. It's almost southfacing with a nice overhanging shallow cave. My second look is not so good. It may be too small and slanted down toward the edge. I start building a patio of sandstone from around and eventually I start pulling them off the wall. I build it flat, then I grab some huge sandstone megaliths and power lift them into place as a protective wall. They are just in case I slide at night.


I'm excited and feeling strong, which is good because I have to go down and climb up with all my equipment.

I build a fire and cook some things and have tea. I'm getting used to completing my protein with peanuts with everything I eat.

Oh, yeah there are some clouds left over from the previous day's rain. One begins to sleet on my camp:

I climb into the tent carefully and lay on the high side. I don't fall asleep too easily, but the spot is warm. The sun slowly heats up the rocks most of the day, and they are highly insulating, staying warm all night.

I wake up on the perch. Ok, this is more than a little scary. With the flaps all closed I can’t see a thing. All I know is that the whole world is tilting. The mattress feels like it’s falling off. The tent looks worse. I get a huge vertigo feeling, like I’m over the edge and teetering like you always see cars and buses in action movies. I imagine myself (the action hero!) unzipping the tent with amazing speed and dexterity and jumping out as it plummets down to the road a hundred feet (usually the road is on top in the action movies). As I carefully unzip the viewing flap, (or sometimes it’s just for airing things out; I’ve already gone six days without a shower) I look down to make sure that the big blocks of sandstone are still making a wall to catch me. Like in a movie, I slowly look up and my eyes brighten like stars. It was one of the best views of the trip; heightened by being right on the edge of the cliff as well as being the first thing I saw in the morning (perkier than espresso).


I climb out carefully and scoot around the tent grabbing food and masterfully not falling to my death. I decide that, despite the view, I should find a more level and less precarious perch. I’ve got some food and water and my machete tied to my leg. It attaches to my belt, but I didn’t like how it swung and moved, so I took another black band cord and secured it around my thigh. Now it moved with me and was secure (and totally bad ass).
I started walking in the direction I always do…straight up. I climbed up and over my camp easily even though it was hard. Through consciousness in the internal methods, I pay absolute attention to the rock and my self; my internal organs, muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone. This lets me shape myself to the rock and become a part of it. I slide up the rock more than I climb. I use leverage and a constant shifting of different muscles so that I never tire. I can lock joints and rely on the bone sometimes, as well as wedging and hanging relying on ligaments. Finally you can gently lock muscles in one position and bounce up or off of something, which relies on the elasticity of your tendons. In these ways my climb looks like a dance and at the top I feel like I’ve spent no energy. I even feel like I’ve gained energy from the full body movement opening me up to the flow of energy.

I think about the Olympic sport of rock climbing, which as far as I know, only involves an event where you speed climb on a fake wall. The competitors are all buff and many seem like bigheaded a-holes. They climb up in seconds and their bodies don't move as they only use the power of their arms and legs to go straight up. I think they should also have an event where time is the least important factor. It should be done on real rock, and competitors are judged based on the fluidity, ease, and beauty of the way they get to the top.


Just like in life, you climb one peak and you're high enough to see the next one. I keep climbing up this big fin of rock. My camp was on the very tip of a mountain range shaped like a W, or maybe more curvy like UU. That's bird's eye view. I'm climbing on the center fin. I quickly plunge myself into a huge forest of those bushes. Most are dead and very dry. I needed a flame thrower. I hacked through with my machete (hacked is a good word to describe it). I had forgotten myself and was a little pissed about all these bushes and prickers poking me. Niether my blade nor my mind was sharp.

I found what I believe is a Soaptree Yucca. I've seen a bunch of these dead. This one seems to be dying, but still strong. That is a good time to make a spear/walking stick. I decide that it will be Justin's Christmas present after I carve symbols and pictures on it (Don't worry. Justin doesn't check the blog). I start to chop into it and it's taking forever.

I need to take a break and sit down and sharpen the machete with the little stone that came with it. I've been shaping the stone to have a convex side, concave side, and a straight side. I sharpen the very tip as a steep chisel grind ( /l ) for shaving (the wood more than my face). I make the center very sharp with a concave grind, then a straight grind ( /\ ). And, the base is convex ground like an axe for beastly chopping. I constantly strop the blade after each use of the stone. I use my leather jacket pulled tightly because I lost my leather belt over a month ago. Each time I am lighter, gentler, and more careful. In the end, I smoothly run the stone along each side of the blade. Then, I gently dance the blade back and forth along the leather, sliding and flowing. Finally, while my eyes are very close to the blade's edge, I barely touch it with the stone in the oposite direction of the normal sharpening. I see exactly where the stone meets the tip of the edge. Running my fingers along the blade, I feel for any spots where the edge has loose flakes of metal bent over. It's perfect. I hold the blade in the sunlight and there is no glint on the edge. This means there is no thickness to the edge (that's sharp).

I stand up and feel my self sharpened by the blade. When you put that much work and care into something, it changes you too. I imagine it like this: The stone sharpens the blade (obvious). The blade sharpens the stone (obscure). Together they sharpen you (subtle).

It was very meditative and I was ready to use my skills. I don't know what I did because it was subconcious but my form was perfect on the next swing and I chopped through the last three inches in one swing.

I fix one thing and forget another. I foget my glove in that spot and have to come back, but the rest of the time I masterfully slice through the jungle.

There is a copse of trees down and to the right!


I've gotta get out of these thorny bushes. Before I head down from the very top of the fin I come to the Telephone pole on the top. I must be close to the Telephone trail! Underneath is a small thin piece of sheet metal that I decide to keep as a momento of finding the telephone pole. I wrap it around the top of Justin's present and climb down into the trees. It was hot and the shade was wonderful.

I can see a path!


Thank god, it was Telephone Trail. I decide to go up because I still want to find a southfacing alcove in the sun to make camp. I climb easily now, even though it was a very steep grade. Each switchback was really steep, but it was nothing compared to those damn bushes.

I hear an animal moving and I set down Justin's staff and pull out my throwing knife. It sounds like a deer; Something big. I aproach like a tiger, low and stealthy. The sound is above the path. I use a technique of looking down as I step down to make sure I avoid sticks and leaves. I look up while planted on one foot, scanning the underbrush next to the path. I continue up the path until it moves along the summit of the fin. I hear something behind me and over the other side of the fin. The sound comes to me through the heavy winds that blow my hair all over. There is no protection from the elements up here. I move stealthily off the path along some fallen logs. Now I hear it clearly and I swear it sounds like. . . a mountain goat (maahehehe).

If you are squeamish, don't read this part (you're probably too curious not to). We had just seen into the wild and he kills a moose, but doesn't cook the meat in time and it's ruined by maggots. I had decided that If I ever caught something that big by myself with no experience or permanent fire going, I would have to take a couple legs and let the rest rot. It's a total waste and I usually can't even waste a bit of free crappy american processed food. I figure that I wouldn't kill something big unless I had to, but it would be good to try stalking big game.

I am stalking the goat, with my knife at the ready. I am close, so I crawl and slither soundlessly up to the edge that overlooks the far side of the fin shaped mountain. I peek slowly over and through some bushes. I see no goat, but I hear it. It seems to be coming from. . . in the tree?

I look up a little at a tree that peaks just above my level. It has fallen against another and is creaking in the strong winds.



I can't believe how much it sounds like a goat baying (is that the right word?) The universe has distracted me from my prey just in case I decide to take out bambi. The deer has moved way down the path along the top. I know this because I finally find a good track in the sandy dirt along the top (There's lots of sand here from the decaying sandstone formation that makes up most of this ridge. I know the imprint is fresh because the bottom is cooler than the sandy dirt around the track. This means that the print uncovered dirt that hasn't been warmed by the Sun. I learned this trick not from a book, but from the depths of my complex mind.

I'm thinking often, now that I'm on a path; developing my life philosophy. I learn to remove layers and tie them around my waist or neck for Sun protection and to let my sweaty shirt dry (I only have so many). I tape a monologue that was running through my mind.

I sit and eat a wonderful orange in the traditional way of the ancients. It is a health and healing secret. The peel completes the taste by adding a little basic bitterness to balance the sour sweetness. I take a chomp out of the side, then I eat more with the peel up to the top heart end and down to the bottom heart that pulls out of the center of the orange. Finally, peel the rest and enjoy the sweet chaser. I used the bright orange peel leftovers for trail markers.

Check out the views from here. See the rock formations on the tops of the mountains across from me:




Here's the path and the warrior hunting on it:


I left Justin's present back where I found the path in order to stalk the animal. I will pick it up later. I continue, still holding the knife reverse tucked in my sleeve in case I find a park ranger.

I walk casually past rock formations. One has two eye socket holes in it. To make it less scary, someone placed large rocks in the sockets to make cute eyes instead of a skull.


Another spot you drop down into the shadows alongside a thin ridge rock formation on the right and a cliff on the left. The rock has three beautiful window arches smoothed through the thin fin by air, water, and ice. I stayed there and meditated on the view through and around this piece of earth's foundation; the solid rock that lasts ages. This blade pierced through the loose ground to touch the heavens and be turned to nothing; free, yet absolutely vulnerable; sand floating on the winds. I meditated on doing the same. You are not free until YOU...is destroyed. I would pierce through the problems I am buried in. I will touch heaven and enlightenment. My self is turned to nothing. Who am I, but everything? I float for miles on the winds of change.


I reach the peak:

The path seemed to end, but I am still happy. I look down the steep hill and see a chute opening between bushes and under the few oaks I've seen here. Multicolored leaves completely covered the ground everywhere. The bushes came together and covered two feet off the ground, but I just zipped my leather jacket and slid down on my back for forty feet. It was like a waterpark slide. The dry leaves were my water. The chute even made a couple turns. That was awesome! I popped out in front of a huge dead oak sprawled across my path. I climb over that one and another until I drop down from some sandstone right into my camp. I knew it was perfect this time. It was way bigger to fit the tent, flatter, and the cliff was less scary; perfect south facing. My second look as usual tells me that the flattest spot is still not flat enough.

I grab an awesome looking piece of one of those dead bushes. The connection to the bush had this curve with two ends that broke off to make a perfect little pick axe, or maddox. I start Plowing my field. Then I took all the loose dirt and pushed it from the high side to the low side with another stick tool. I chopped and pulled weeds and threw them to the side along with rocks. After a while, I realized that the loose dirt just was not going to stay. Once piled, it tended to crumble and fall down the hill. I grabbed the rocks and weeds I pulled, and started burying them in the dirt. This created a solid foundation of bricks and roots.

I thought about my metaphor for plowing the land and figured out that this must be one way that farming has been discovered over the ages. People make a camp level by pulling dirt from the high to the low level. They fortify the dirt by turning under the weeds. The next year they come back to their old camp and find it lush with new growth and rare flowers. A campfire lit up over their heads and they knew that they could plant the seeds of foraged food by plowing and turning under weeds to reinvigorate the soil.


It looks level pretty level, but I keep digging while glancing at the sun moving toward the western mountains. It's time to go get all my stuff from the first perch. I figured I had two hours of light.

Long story short, it took longer than I thought (as usual). I went straight down and cut a path to the cleared woods. I constantly looked back and found or set up markers. By the time I got back up to my tent and had all my camp packed and on my back, the Sun was down and it was twilight. I started rushing down the mountain towards my path that I made. I have always had a bad sense of direction, and every time I think This time I'll find my way. I've gotta with all these markers I'm making! I don't know why I thought I'd find the straight shot path I made in the dark. I'm just an idiot sometimes.

Anyways, I'm climbing down from the perch and I do another stupid thing. I see a different route and take it rather than finding the usual one. Bad idea in the dark. I come to a drop off and set down the water, bag of stuff, and air mattress saddlebag. There is a fallen tree leaned against the little cliff and I can see it isn't too high. Down I go, pressuring my hands against the trunk and stepping down branches. The branches break and I fall into a pile of leaves landing on my feet and then my butt. That hurt a little, but I got lucky. I set down the pack, got the stuff another way, then I was off. I walked up the cleared forest. It was completely dark and I soon got lost. It gets so steep. The 50 lb saddle bag felt heavy and tired my arm when I started over an hour ago. It was big and purple; made of plastic and metal. It was filled to the brim with heavy rubber as well as a heavy square box that contained the onboard motor for inflation. Now my shoulders burned even though I kept switching arms. I am exhausted and about ready to quite and sleep uncomfortably on the hill.

I call V because I realize that I left the flashlight with her. She picks up, but I lose the signal. I didn't sound distressed, so I know she won't worry (too much). I'm depressed though. I just sit there. This trip has certainly been harder than I expected. Life is tough sometimes.

I eat a big snack and pull myself up by my bootstraps. Think positive. Be happy; no matter where you are. Tough times are just challenges to overcome. The real world is made of the energy of love happiness (or lappiness) and you can do anything. Lots of people know these things. They might say it, but it doesn't work. It sounds lame; corny. It doesn't solve their problems. It's because in their heart they don't really believe it. They can't because it goes against the structure of their reality.

I just changed reality to suit my positive philosophy. If life seems terrible, bleak, or miserable sometimes how can someone be positive in the middle of it. Simple. Truly believe that terrible, bleak, and miserable things are just as good as puppies and Christmas. Stop valuing things. Everything has a soul. Even rocks. A shag rug is just as valuable as a person. You just have a stronger connection to the person. So, you can't truly see your tough times as wonderful challenges until you let go of quality. Forgot good and bad. Without bad there'd be no good and visa versa. Bad is not only the opposite of good, but it is the source of it. If good comes from bad and bad comes from good, then they are one and the same. Good white energy and bad black nothingness are illusions. Wake up! You are creating the bad right there in your mind. If you don't want it, get rid of it. I know I don't want it when I think about it. I think badly enough without having to try.

Sitting there I knew I needed to get rid of the bad right away, or I could be in trouble.

If you aren't ready to end it all, then you might as well love it all. It was so easy once I accepted what was happening. I was right there; not where I wished I was; walking in the sunlight; camping in my wonderful camp. I was there; lying looking at the stars. I was made of the happiness again.

Look out you bastard mountain. Here I come! I'm happy here, but I still have the strength to keep going. It's now 7:45 pm and I'm using my cell phone for a flashlight to occasionally light up a new spot and look around. It's not looking good. It's steep, slippery, and ugly. I'm carrying the 150 lbs. of crap over huge fallen logs, and crawling under branches that snag on the huge backpack on my back. I don't think I've mentioned that my sleeping bag is tied and secured with bungee cord and rope to the bottom of the back pack. I'm a beast.

I decide that I have probably passed the path I made directly to the camp. God only knows why I'm still trying to find that path in the dark. I should have quickly found Telephone Trail from the beginning, and that would have led me straight to the slip and slide and down to my camp. It would be the long and harder way, but it would have been a path.

I'm backtracking a little and heading sideways straight towards the hill that has the Fin that I'm camped on. I expected to be close to the bottom of the U shape where my camp is, but I look up and there is the telephone wire cutting through some starry smudge of the Milky Way. Fine, I'll just find Telephone Trail and climb all the way to the peak (easier said than done).

I quickly run into those red wrapped bushes that I now know are Manzanita. Oh my god, I'm loving this. I'm scrambling, pulling, breaking, chopping, and just shoving my way through these red devils; straight up the mountain. At least it isn't slick with leaves in this area. I'm going straight up under the telephone line. The path has got to wind its way underneath.

I found it! I walk up it a ways and it soon dies along with my morale. It looked like the path, but it was just a small dead end animal path. I went back to the bushes; straight up again. I found another dead end path, but this one didn't look promising, so I had low expectations. Now I'm in the jungle again, but this time it's under oak trees. That means tons of dry leaves; sweating; scrambling; slipping; bruised tailbone. I'm climbing over rocks and crawling along ledges that are slippery with leaves.

It's 8:30. I've been climbing for over two and a half hours. I scramble over a rock and a branch catches the saddlebag suitcase and twists it right out of my hand. It tumbles down about 15 feet. I collapse onto the earth and almost cry. I just rest my head there and think of nothing. . .

I begin breathing deeply in my belly. I do a push up and continue a few feet looking for a place to put down the stuff and retrieve the suitcase. This is it! The path. I know it. I recognize it. Get this crap off me! I'm taking a dinner break. Thank God. It's gonna be easier from here on. I'm gonna make it.

I lye on the path and look at the stars. Get the suitcase; make dinner; so tasty; take off all extra clothes; do some meditation; do some Kung Fu; improvise; Stances; tension exercises. I am energized. I am excited. Let's go! I follow the path (I love paths!) I happily carry my baggage (They say that I wear it well); up hills, down hills; winding through the wilderness of the night.

I hit a dead end. Oh no! I look up the hill. Is that the path. . .or maybe that. They both look so steep. . . It must have been another deer path. A mirage in the night. Which way; up and to the left, or up and to the right? Please God just give me a sign. As soon as I thought it, a huge shooting star flew down and directly into the left path, blazing my way. I think, Are you sure God? That other path looked a little better and more inviting. I imagined a deep powerful voice saying, "Take the path!"

"Ok, Ok. I'll take your path. Oh, it's a hard one; not too many bushes, but steep as hell and filled with a lake of leaves. I slide, fall, bruise my tailbone some more. I get to some steep rocks. I put the water and plastic bag down as well as the saddle bag behind a tree that starts above my head on top of the little ledge. I climb up and decide to leave the stuff there and search light with machete in hand. I'm fuming now partially from anger and partially just energy and steam. I start moving with gung fu (mastery). Each step is precise. Each stance is solid. My whole upper body flows and slices through the bushes. I'm clearing a huge path. I get up to a path, but it quickly dead ends. I see a way up higher. It is five paces from where I came from. I climb up to another path. This one dead ends too. I slide back down and look around. Somethings different. Oh, I came down a different way. There's my path.

I decide that God screwed me. Or maybe the devil sent that shooting star. I'm not an athiest anymore, (in case you think I'm a born again) but a Taoist. God represents the positive energy creator of the universe and the Devil represents the negative energy destroyer. They are just laws of Physics. I am very spiritual compared to myself four years ago (You should hop on the Jesus train!)

Vanessa: "I love Jesus!"

I decide to try the other path. I get down and get my stuff. I forget there isn't a foot hold on this one spot and fall down (on my tailbone!) into the sea of leaves and slide down to the spot where I saw the shooting star. I carry the stuff up to the right and slowly slide up about forty feet. I reach for the machete to do some slicing and. . . it . . .isn't . . . there.


No. No. No. Crap. Why? I set everything down and start looking. I'm running out of batteries on the phone. I could leave it; keep going. No! I won't leave a fallen comrade behind! I search and search. I decide that there's no way I'll find it in the dark; time to sleep. I sadly untie the sleeping bag and unroll it next to a little bush of soft fronds. The spot is steep, but not as steep as the area around it. It is now 10:30 and I've been climbing for almost five hours with a million pounds of equipment. I made myself sick. It was cold.

I lay against that bush looking at the stars imagining falling and sliding down the hill. I imagined all the places the machete could be. I think about all the mistakes; all the stupidity; all the strength. I truly can be one with my Chinese astrology animal; the Ox. I have all my extra clothes in the sleeping bag as insulation. I have my bare feet stuffed inside my extra leather jacket with all my socks in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I curl up and tuck myself deep into my little world. I feel myself slide off several times and have to adjust myself. I manage to turn over several times to keep my back from complaining. I hibernate in my cave. Surprisingly, I sleep pretty well. Good night cruel world. I love you so.

Posted by - Rain 08:45

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This is a very engrossing story, Joe. I couldn't stop reading, though it was very late. I especially liked the ending.

by Sheryl S

i just watched the newly added video by the underlined paragraph, and joe you brought me to tears. both of you are amazing and we are so proud of your journey and your spirits.

by georgi r

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