I’m on the road to Burning Man, and according to tradition I’m sharing my intentions to amplify them. This year I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m taking an art installation! The project, Varanasi Sage, has consumed much of my waking life over the past few months, and I’ve gladly given that time. It has been a true challenge and learning experience, but it has also given my life more meaning and purpose. Plus, it helped me finish my first booklet! It’s already been a rewarding experience to create this art, and I’m looking forward to showing it off! I’ll also be giving away a limited number of my booklets as part of the installation.
Without further ado, my Burning Intentions:
Put my art into the hands of hearts who will love it
Face challenges with grace and ease, trusting my experiences
Connect with other artists in a meaningful way
Deepen into a gratitude practice
If you’re on the playa this year, I’m teaching my workshop Meditation & Writing MWF 10-11am at my camp Namaste & Chill located at 6:15 & D. I would love to see you there!
It’s time for Burning Man! The past two years, I’ve shared my intentions for the experience because writing intentions and having a witness strengthens their power. This post makes the third. Thank you for being my witness.
This year, I’m taking a new project — a meditation and lounge space I’ve been dreaming of for several years and fundraising for with many collaborators. May the Lounge be a sacred space of healing and connection; may it bring all who enter deeper into wholeness and unity.
I’m teaching my workshop, “Meditation and Writing,” three times this year: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3-4 pm at Stellar Dusty Moon 5:30 & H (in the Lounge!). May the workshop serve us in the unique way that we need for our paths; may it provide us with insight, peace, and grounding.
My favorite part of Burning Man is the art — may I meet the artists and have profound experiences with the art.
May the workshops I attend guide me in my journey and connect me with others. May I see the heart of the earth in everyone I meet!
It’s late and I’m watching the newly-waxing moon set in the west. I’m driving through the mountains, en route to Black Rock City for Burning Man. This will be my third time participating in the art and music festival. Last year, I set intentions that mainly focused on my interactions with other people. And although they were extremely elevated, I saw and felt my intentions manifest in some of my experiences.
I’ve been humbled and challenged this past year — especially recently — and my intentions reflect my need for deep nourishment and reflection.
To share our intentions is to empower them. Please read mine below:
I intend to reestablish my relationship with my creativity; to fully engage with the art installations at the festival and allow myself to be inspired and motivated by them. I need to reset my relationship with my creativity in order to create for creation’s sake without the desire to be seen, popular or make money. This will afford me the freedom I need in my artistic pursuits. I must reconnect with my truth that God’s gift to me is my creativity and my gift back to God is using it.
I intend to be open to receiving the keys I need to enhance my productivity and fulfillment.
I intend to continue the process of letting go of the pain and hurt I hold onto by releasing the people and events from my heart that continue to cause me suffering.
This year, I would like to feel and witness the expansive love that is my true essence, so that I will know who I am.
The edge of a summer storm passed overhead breaking the monotony of blue sky. Patches of clouds cast temporary shade as they moved, releasing a misting drizzle, which fell upon us like a celestial blessing. Birds sang the glory of the day.
Stephanie and I relaxed in the large pool. She rested her head against the cement lip and closed her eyes; I faced away to look beyond the deck and view the Sierraville Valley.
People populated reclining chairs, others floated and bobbed in the pool. Stephanie and I were the only ones wearing bathing suits.
Stephanie hadn’t spoken much since we left the silent dome and the hot pool it contained, but it didn’t bother me. I remembered my first time in the dome and the reverent silence that settled into my heart and mind as I slipped into a profoundly easy meditation facilitated by the heat of the tub, the arhythmic sound of water dripping into the two cold plunges, and the stained glass window — a woman resembling at once the Virgin Mary and Venus de Milo, pouring light into the waters through her outstretched hands.
I looked to Stephanie; her face, perfectly serene, took on an ancient quality as if her soul had known this place years ago.
Her visage made me want to rest my head against the cement lip, too, so I turned around. Just as I did, I saw a woman, floating on foam noodles — one under her shoulders, the other under her knees — as if she were in a chair. The woman’s eyes were closed, and like Stephanie, she hadn’t a care in the world. She could not see that her legs, spread in blissful comfort, moved towards the edge of the pool putting her naked groin on a direct trajectory for Stephanie’s face.
I poked Stephanie. She opened her eyes slowly until she realized a woman’s crotch was heading for her.
With only a few giggles, Stephanie moved out of the way, and broke her silence: “want to check out the meadow pool you were telling me about?”
We got our towels and walked onto the path. Pine trees filtered the sunlight into complex patterns on the ground.
“I love it here,” Stephanie said.
“Natural beauty and healing waters. What’s not to love?”
“Well,” she emphasized, “there is only so much hoochie coochie in my face that I can take.”
I laughed and then saw two porcelain tubs, just off the trail, nestled in the grass. They each had their own stream of hot water flowing into them from the ground. “Look at these, Steff! Here’s your solution!”
“We have to get in them,” she exclaimed. “How is this real?”
“Real magic,” I said.
We sat for a while, breathing in the novelty of relaxing in a bathtub on a mountainside, but we wanted to sit together and talk, so we continued our quest for the meadow pool.
“I’m glad we sat in the secret tubs. The secret-not-secret tubs. They’re just right off the path, but they’re easy to miss,” I said.
“Everyone walks by, but not everyone sees,” Stephanie said. “I prefer that kind privacy, like the dome because nobody talks.”
“I was here one night and people were talking in there. I didn’t like that because it affected the depth of my meditation.”
Our feet crunched the path, adding a layer to the birds’ song.
“The big pool was a little extreme for me. I’ve never really been around that much nudity.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“It was too much at once — naked people almost running into me with their parts. It happened twice. Once was a hoochie coochie and the other was titties.”
“Every time you close your eyes they come for ya, huh?” I joked.
“Seemed like it.”
We passed the white, Victorian Lodge built in 1870. Red poppies brightened the hillside.
“That hot pool, though,” Stephanie said. “It’s hard to explain what I felt. It was like pure energy. I felt a pulse — like a vibration.”
“Because it’s so hot and the bottom is sand, I close my eyes and lose the feeling of having a body. It’s like my body becomes the water. Must be the closest thing to being in the womb.”
“It did feel like that! And that’s exactly how I felt when we were looking at the grass earlier. I had an out-of-body experience — a supreme oneness, like I was the wind.”
“Wow. Transcendental,” I looked to my left over the wide valley and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range. “You’re so zen you don’t even need the dome.”
“A lady was crying in there.”
“I didn’t notice.”
“She was standing in one of the cold tubs with her face to the wall when we went in.”
“Oh, did she have her hand on the wall?”
“Yes. The dome felt like a place to…”
“Open and release?”
“That’s how I felt. Completely safe. It was powerful. Every detail. The tiles, the wood, the stained glass. So natural and peaceful and somehow familiar.”
“I felt a release, too,” I said. “Before we walked in there I was angry about what was going on with work. I was thinking about it a lot.”
“I could tell you were trying not to, but you really were lost in thought.”
“But after going in the hot water and spending time in the dome, I feel like I released everything. Now I’m just kinda…dancing on the inside. Like I’m free.”
“Freedom is dancing on the inside. That could be your new motto,” she said as she looked at the trees who grew above us like guardians. “I like all the moss that’s growing.”
“I love mossy trees. And all the tall, lush grass,” I paused my step. “You know, earlier, when we were looking at the grass?”
“I was definitely lost in thought, thinking about that email. And you pointed to look out at the valley and the grass in the wind and there was a blue jay on a branch. That brought me back to the present moment and helped me let go.”
“That was it. ‘Come back. Come back,’ I was saying. I had that moment of oneness, but I knew how you were feeling, so I was like ‘hey, don’t forget to look around you and be here.’”
I breathed deeply, “next time I’m having a bad day I’m just going to come here.”
“Seriously. It’s so important to walk out. I feel the same in a lot of ways. You’re not alone.”
We approached the meadow pool and to our surprise, found we had the space to ourselves. A small tree grew behind boulders at the edge of the meadow. Purple irises bloomed in stately elegance. Flowers and leaves floated on the surface of the clear, blue water; we stepped in like queens. Our toes pressed into the soft, sandy floor.
“I think I’m in the most beautiful place in the world,” Stephanie whispered.
“We’re in Faerlyland,” I said. “You know you’ve fully arrived in Faeryland when you come to the meadow pool and there’s mint and flowers floating in its waters.”
“You described it like heaven when we were driving up here. And it really is.”
A wooden totem pole watched over the glistening water, speaking without words of the wildlife and civilization that lived in the valley before it was named Sierraville.
“I love this aspen tree right here and the way the leaves flutter in the wind,” I said. “It reminds me of a wind chime my grandma had in her backyard. It was made out of thin, round, pearlescent shells. She had a lot of wind chimes, but I loved that one the most when I was a kid.”
“I know what you’re saying. Your grandma-angel is here. The Great Spirit is here.”
I caressed the top of the water with my fingertips, creating swirling ripples. Birds sang from the trees in high tweets and whistles, forming the cadences and melodies of an unplanned symphony while clouds continued their slow and easy migration across the sky.
A severe drought — the worst in recorded history — has plagued California for years. Wildfires ravage the state, lakes receded to shocking levels, creeks and rivers ran dry. But this year, the rainstorms started early. One real storm blessed us in August, a few graced us in September, and this months we’ve had several large storms. I remember in 2013 we were ecstatic to have our first rain on Halloween — but that’s also when the rainy season ended.
At home, I am thankful even though the rain sends ants scurrying inside through every unsealed crack. The sweet, musty smell of wet earth makes up for it with each breath I take. I love turning to see my cat sit on our bench under our awning to watch the showers. Turning off the drip irrigation brought a smile to my face as do the seedlings propagated from flowers I planted in summer. Now I have an entire garden filled with baby plants. The world around me looks clean and vibrantly fresh.
Driving southwest, I am thankful for the rain even though I hate driving in the rain. At times, the downpour is heavy and my fastest wiper setting can’t clear the windshield; yet, I am grateful to slow down. As I pass vineyards and orchards, I praise grass between the rows, amazed to see green just south of Sacramento. I listen to drops beat a percussion on my windshield — I love them all, from the daintiest mist to the wildest splotches. The grey sky brightens my vision; clouds part and sunlight shines onto the earth in heavenly beams.
Just west of the San Luis Resevoir, I am grateful to see a soft dusting of green on brown hills — miraculous grass in a region that, lately, has been brown all year.
Stopping at a CVS in Carmel, I meet a transient man playing didgeridoo. We speak about his recent travels and experiences at Rainbow Gathering where he felt deep connections with strangers and realized the best of humanity is found when a society existed with a gifting economy and emphasized creation. Kneeling at his feet, I know I had so much more to be grateful for than I could ever count. I bring him food and shake his hand. I wish I could give him more, but I know he appreciated my gift by the way he smiles and waves goodbye.
As I drive into the hills of Carmel Valley to visit Linney at her mountain retreat, my heart grows at the site of last year’s Tassajara fire. Only a few months ago it looked post-apocalyptic, but now I see new life. This year, the Sobranas fire, which came within a mile of Linney’s retreat, burned for three months and decimated over 100,000 acres of the Los Padres National Forest. I am grateful for the rain, knowing it will act as a salve on the parched earth to bring healing and restore life to the land.
My thoughts turn to prayers of safety, which I send to those at Standing Rock protecting our healer, our medicine, our mother. As they honor our sacred earth, I pray our communities will gather in unity to defeat corporate greed that aims to destroy our precious home; I pray that understanding rain into the hearts and minds of the violent oppressors; I pray the water within all life glows with truth and righteousness to respect and defend that which gives us life.
As if drawn by a magnet, Linney and JC returned to Tahoe National Forest last week. Lucky enough to have some free time, I joined them one afternoon at the Jackson Meadows parking lot, roughly 20 minutes outside of Truckee. Linney and JC had brought all their dogs — four total, three of which belong to Linney. The dogs greeted me first with huge smiles and wagging tails.
JC stared at my car while we said hello. “Re-park your car and jump into Linney’s. Yours won’t make it to the lake; the road requires four wheel drive and clearance.”
“Re-park? But why?” I looked around at the vacant lot. “Do you think there’s suddenly going to be a rush of people?”
“You’re not even in a spot,” JC said sarcastically.
“How can you tell? There aren’t any lines.”
“You’re in the middle of the whole parking lot. Just — move to the side or something.”
I acquiesced and parked on the periphery in sight of the freeway; at least it gave me the idea that I was moving it for safety’s sake.
With all the gear and dogs, there would be no way to take just one car. Linney and I got into hers and JC led the way.
“Another adventure curated by our chaperone,” Linney beamed.
I have no way of knowing how long it took us to drive the rocky, uneven road. Linney and I were too busy catching up with our latest news and admiring Lacey Meadows to notice the time. Stretching the entire length of the valley below us, the meadow was only interrupted by a winding creek. The dirt road veered to the right and climbed the mounting, moving into a thick forest.
At last, we reached the campgrounds. We turned to the right and followed as the narrow road navigated between tall pines cloaked with lime-green moss. When we got to the end of the campgrounds, JC parked his car. We stepped out onto the ground, speckled with sunlight and made soft with pine needles. The dogs took off into the forest in wild bursts.
“This is beautiful,” Linney said as we walked towards the lake. “I feel like I’m in that book, The Hatchet.”
I listened to the small, frequent waves created by the wind. The gentle lapping at the shore soothed me. With the sunbeams glistening on the waves, they created bright sparkles of light. I felt effervescent, yet calm.
“Let’s go to the other side and get out of the wind,” JC said. “Last time I was here this was the side without wind. If we’re going to chill here for a bit we don’t want to be blown all over the place. It’s not relaxing.”
Once the dogs were collected, we got into the cars and turned around. Making our way back to the entrance, we continued along the road until we got to the restrooms. JC stopped his car and jumped out. He walked over to a large, brown box.
“What is he doing?” Linney asked.
“I could not tell you.”
“Remember I said I only had one shoe?” JC called out to us as he lifted a shoe from the box and laughed.
“Did he just take that shoe?” I asked Linney.
“I wonder if that’s his size. He said he was missing a shoe,” she said.
“This is very confusing.”
We ruminated over the shoe incident, searching for meaning, until we parked.
When we reconvened, JC explained: “I saw the shoe and laughed, thinking, ‘look some idiot left their shoe.’ And then I realized it’s mine!”
“That’s your shoe? Your actual shoe?” I asked.
“Yeah, I was here a few days ago — I wasn’t sure where I’d lost it. It’s the best hiking shoe. Light and breathable, but totally waterproof. It’s a $140 pair of shoes, so really, that’s a $70 find!”
“Well, no, that’s a $140 find because what are you gonna do with one shoe?” I asked.
Linney walked on a log into the lake.
“This isn’t creek-fed,” JC told me. “It’s a natural occurring glacial lake. Theres a more fun, scientific term: moraine, moraine dammed, something. This is an incredibly pristine lake.”
“It wins the Most Pristine Award,” Linney called with an air of elegance.
“It got a 96 on the Pristine Scale,” JC riffed. “Linney be careful. That mud is gnarly. If you step into it you’ll go up to your knees.”
Linney came back to the shore and we began to walk around the lake.
“Is that your fishing pole?” JC pointed to the ground. “Dude, somebody left a really nice fishing pole.”
“Mine now,” Linney said.
“Linney it’s your new fishing pole, I found it for you,” JC insisted sarcastically.
“Shouldn’t we leave it on the box like your shoe? What if they come back?” I asked.
“Nobody would come back for that,” JC said.
“Do you have a fishing pole, Linney?” I asked.
“I used to,” Linney said. “And then JC borrowed it forever.”
“No, no, I didn’t borrow it forever.”
I inspected the pole closely, “oh look, it even comes with bait!”
“Brand new,” JC said. “You can tell from the zip tie on there. Brand new zip tie.”
“There’s a question you always gotta ask, you know, when you find something,” I said. “Did you manifest this or are you stealing? I think a pole in the woods you’re manifesting it.”
“We don’t have to feel like we have to give back just because the shoe was there,” JC said. “The shoe — the shoe is its own independent thing.”
“With bait included,” Linney said. “Although, I feel like I should pass. I’ll leave it for someone further on the -sient side of glamsient.”
“Oh my God. The dogs are so stoked right now. I knew they’d love it here,” JC smiled.
The older dogs bounded through tall grasses in the meadow and the younger dogs plodded through the mud in the lake picking up their legs one at a time, stained with three or four inches of mud.
“I was telling JC I feel like I should be on some horseback ride through the countryside with them, fox hunting or something. They look like such fancy, weird little dogs,” Linney smiled at me.
“They need little top hats. Or you need a top hat if you’re going fox hunting,” I said.
“Oh this is super epic,” JC pointed to the sky. “Abalone-vagina clouds. When they get the ripple and the waves and the rainbow in them like that. I call them abalone-vagina.”
I admired the rainbow in the cloud. “That’s so cool! You could just call them abalone clouds.”
“Yeah,” Linney agreed. “You could totally just call them abalone clouds.”
“No because the ripple isn’t the same as the abalone. It’s the curviness, too. It’s the waviness –”
“Abalone have ripples,” I said.
“Accept the beauty of the yoni as a cloud, OK? Jesus Christ.”
“Sorry, I’m just a little sensitive with all this Trump –”
“Pussy grabbing,” Linney finished.
“Yeah, that has absolutely nothing to do with how I appreciate clouds and abalones and yonis all at once.”
We sat at a picnic table.
“Hey, look at this little bonsai tree,” JC motioned to a small pine.
Linney looked around, “there are so many little bonsai trees. I love them.” She stood up and walked to her car to get snacks.
“I have little baby trees growing in my garden and I’m not going to rip them out. I want little bonsai like these,” I said.
“No, take them out,” JC said. “They’ll take over your garden.”
“But they’re so cute.”
“You can transplant them into a pot. And make them a bonsai.”
“Just put them in a pot and then you gotta learn how to shape them. I mean, if you want to cheat you could dig one of these up — it’s horti-torture, you’re ruining it’s life. Taking a beautiful tree, but –”
“No, no, no. These stay here. In their home. I have ones I can use. I’m not going to ruin some wild tree’s life. Like, ‘Come back to my garden and be my Frankenstein.'” I said in an evil voice.
“‘Take you from your family and hold you hostage in a little, teeny, shitty clay pot,'” JC joked.
“This is a sad conversation to have on Indigenous People’s Day.”
“At least we’re celebrating Indigenous People’s Day at the beautiful, untouched, pristine lake,” JC said. “I would not, however, call this place Lake of the Woods. It’s a horrible name. I would call it the moist cove or something to do with –”
“Moist cove?” I asked. “No one likes that word.”
“I know you hate that word,” JC laughed. “Moist bay?”
“No, no moist is the word we want to get rid of.”
“Land of Special Water.”
“Land of Sacred Water — or Ancient Water.”
“Yeah, because there’s water here and it doesn’t come from a stream. There’s magically water here. Do you see how the grasses here are super green and perfect?”
“I honestly can’t believe this is a free campground. And it’s completely empty. We’re literally the only ones here.”
Linney laughed at her dogs as she walked back to us, “they’re amped. They’re having so much fun.”
“They should be,” I said. “Look at this place!”
“The wind through pine trees sounds like the waves of the ocean,” Linney said.
Taking a moment to listen, I closed my eyes and realized the truth of her observation.
After a few beers and some chips and salsa, we drove out of the campground as the sun was setting and made our way to Graegle where JC had rented a cabin.
In the morning, Linney and I left early; we wanted to stop in Truckee for coffee and breakfast.
Driving along Highway 89 in the early morning light through Sierraville felt like magic. Yellowing aspen with leaves fluttering in the wind heralded the season. Quaint, rustic farms with historic buildings from the gold rush era marked every bucolic turn. Many had wrap-around porches and weather panes. Dilapidated sheds, cows, sheep, and pine trees made homes in the valley that sprawled between mountains on all sides. We saw hawks and geese and drove along a creek that is so picturesque, I know I have to come back in a couple weeks.
Peaceful beauty, undisturbed by humans, is the magnetic force — I realized — that brought Linney and JC back for more.
Two of my favorite glamsients, Linney and JC, surprised me last week with a visit. Linney and I are not skilled planners — we tend to err on the side of spontaneity and leisure — but JC had an entire trip planned.
We started the day with a champagne brunch at my house and arrived at the South Yuba River Crossing around 1 pm. Just outside of Nevada City, I enjoyed this swimming area many times this summer for its easily accessible tranquility.
As we lounged by the river, JC kept an eye on the time: “Ladies, we can hang out by the river all day. We can get some wine and just chill, go back to Chelsea’s and have dinner there. Or we can go to this cute, little town called Downieville that looks like it was founded by Papa Smurf and the Sasquach.”
I said,”Let’s go. I haven’t taken the 49 past this point. And I’ve wanted to visit Downieville for a while.”
“We’ll catch sunset at an amazing lake — it’s perfect — and we can camp there. You’ll love it,” JC said.
“I’m in,” Linney said as she dragged herself off a sunny rock.
Pulling into Downieville, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Founded in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, old buildings with second-story wrap-around balconies and a historic sign pointing to the sheriff’s gallows sparked romantic notions of the Wild West in my mind.
We stopped into the historic St. Charles Place saloon for a drink; I noticed a mannequin in the window dressed as a gold rush-era prostitute with a ruffled, lacy corset dress and matching hat. And then I saw a doll resting on deer antlers — also dressed as a prostitute — and two more dolls in another window.
“Was this a brothel?” I asked the bartender, a large man with a long braided pony-tale.
“Oh yes, all the bars around here were like that back then. Not many women around,” he said.
“What goes on upstairs, stays upstairs” Linney said. “A place like this probably has more than a few crazy stories.”
“The upstairs was this floor. What we’re standing on used to be the second floor. This was a three story building at first. Then there was a flood in 1937 and they raised the whole town one story, so it wouldn’t be as devastating again.”
“If only the walls could talk!” Jenn said.
“I’m not sure I’d want to hear,” I told her discreetly. The romantic notions I felt had turned into the creeps.
Linney asked about food and the bartender told us it isn’t allowed in the bar and alcohol isn’t allowed in the restaurant next door, but we could take it all to the deck out back. He said we would love the deck. (In the hallway between the restaurant and the saloon, we saw a “trannequin,” as Linney called him, the only male prostitute we found.)
The back deck did not disappoint. With a view of the river, we relaxed and listened to the sound of water rushing over rocks. I loved the abalone shells they used for ashtrays.
When we finished lunch, Linney and I continued to luxuriate with our drinks. We felt no need to rush from the happy place, but JC had different plans: “We need to leave now, so we can get to the lake for sunset. It’s going to be mind blowing, I promise,” he looked at me, “you’ll find your dragon there at sunset.”
“Yes, your dragon is waiting, now hurry up.”
Outside of Downieville, Highway 49 carves along the river’s path below mountains, jagged cliffs and pine trees. Located at nearly 6,000 feet in the Tahoe National Forest, we arrived at Sardine Lake just as the sun began to set.
“I call that mountain the Devil’s Heart,” JC said. “It’s this hardness unlike anything around it. Like its rebelling and trying to be something else. See how the rocks on top of the mountain turn pink? This is the moment I’ve wanted this whole trip. To see the pink rocks and the pink clouds above the lake.”
Serene and still, we spoke in hushed voices to keep the lake’s perfect peace.
“When does my dragon come out?”
“Do you see the door to its cave?” JC asked. “It’s that smooth triangle reflecting a different color than the rest of the mountain. A rainbow door.”
I smiled, “oh yes, my dragon would have a rainbow door.”
“I can’t believe we’re here alone,” Linney said.
“Not even bothered by mosquitos,” I added.
“We came at the perfect time,” JC told us. “Come the weekend and this bar behind us turns into a hipster playground. Sunset magazine had this lake on the cover last month.”
“I can only imagine what next summer will be like,” I said.
“But we’re here now!” Linney said, “and fall is happening!”
Down the road we found a campsite at the Sardine Lake campground, which was virtually empty. We found the perfect spot — one that backed up to a meadow.
For dinner, JC made us soup and tamales.
“We have the best trip planner,” I said to LInney.
“He’s my glamsient mentor,” she said.
“And our chaperone.”
“All inclusive!” Linney laughed.
We ate our dinner and walked into the meadow to look at the universe and find constellations. The night sky was filled with stars, since the waning moon had not yet risen, and as luck would have it, Linney and I saw a shooting star.
For no reason that I can remember, I turned my headlamp on and pointed it into the dark meadow. “Look!” I said when I saw them, “eyes!” I kept the light on two glowing eyes about 50 feet away. They remained still, watching us.
“What is it?” Linney asked.
“Something big,” JC said. “Some big animal.”
We all stepped closer together.
“It just blinked!” Linney said.
“The eyes are so far apart,” I whispered.
“It’s either a bear or a Sasquach,” JC said.
“Sasquach retired in Downiville,” Linney said.
“Maybe it’s my dragon.” I turned my headlamp off, realizing I was shining it into the animal’s eyes.
“No, turn it back on,” JC said.
“But I feel bad. Would you like a light shining in your face?”
“We can’t see it if it moves,” JC said.
I turned the light back on and pointed it to where the eyes had been, but they were gone.
“Bears are a symbol of turning within because of their hibernation,” I said. “They encourage you to look within to see what is beneficial and what needs to change.”
Linney said, “seems like the fall equinox is a good time to have one cross your path.”
In the morning we awoke to a light sprinkling of rain. It was cold, but bundling up in a fleece and hat while drinking coffee made me feel cozy.
“There’s nothing quite like drinking coffee while camping,” I said.
Linney agreed: “wilderness coffee tastes better.”
We went to Sardine Lake for another view before I had to leave my friends and get home to prepare for Symbiosis Gathering.
“Thanks for organizing this trip, JC,” I said. “In less than 24, we saw a lot!”
“You’re welcome,” he replied. “I’m sorry to have rushed you, but I had an itinerary.”
“I’m glad you did! This trip has inspired me to take more day trips and maybe even try my hand at planning. There’s a lot to see in this area.”
“Good friends and good adventure,” Linney said. “Let’s do this again soon!”
“Seriously anytime,” I said. “Enjoy the rest of your trip!”
Keeping my vow, the day I left work, I headed straight to Pinnacles National Park. Luckily for me, a glamsient friend had the day off and agreed to join me. We started at the visitor center on the east entrance where I saw a sign announcing the arrival of a California Condor.”A new baby! How exciting,” I said to the ranger behind the counter.
“Yes, a girl. We are thrilled,” she said. “It’s from the only nest in the park!”
“Do you have any camping available for tonight?” I asked. Knowing that many California parks fill up months in advance during summer, I braced myself for her answer.
“Oh yes, there’s plenty.” She handed me a map of the campground. “Pick out an empty space, come back and let us know which one you want.”
We drove towards the back of the campground — it was virtually empty! With so much availability, we found exactly what we wanted: a site surrounded by trees and bushes to give us privacy and shade. High Peaks Trail via Bear Gulch Cave
For our first hike, we chose the High Peaks Trail by way of Bear Gulch Cave. My glamsient friend informed me this is the most popular trail in the park.
The first section guided us to Bear Gulch Cave, a rare talus cave thought to be formed in the ice age. The canopy of trees made this hike gentle and pleasant even in the middle of the afternoon. Created by large boulders that had fallen and wedged into narrow canyons, the cave was easy to navigate — sunlight made its way into the cave through open spaces to illuminate the path. We walked over bridges and up stairs created in the 1930s; part of the way, we had to crouch to pass underneath boulders.
“Wouldn’t want to be here during an earthquake,” my friend remarked. “The San Andreas fault is pretty close.”
For a popular destination at the park, the cave was by no means crowded; we saw only a few groups of people.
Leaving the cave, the trail led us to a small reservoir; that’s where the strenuous climb began to the High Peaks. Without the tree cover, under the blazing sun, every step moved me further uphill and every step told me that I am out of shape! I quickly realized this section of the trail would be much more enjoyable in cooler weather — either early morning in summer or a cooler time of year altogether!
(That being said, we saw many groups with children. They seemed fine. Hot, but fine.)
Ultimately, our effort paid off — the trail took us to an incredible peak revealing far reaching vistas of valleys, rock formations and mountain ranges to the east and west. The High Peaks trail showcases prehistoric rock formations; volcanic activity created these rocks 23 million years ago and erosion formed them into what we see today. It surprised me to learn seismic activity moved the solid, massive boulders over 195 miles northwest from the time of their creation.
At the crux, we walked up and over boulders that created a long ridge — in many places, the trail was carved by dynamite into footholds and steps. We stopped to catch our breath, but lost it when a Condor flew overhead! One of only 36 wild in the park, we knew we were in the right place at the right time.
Shortly after we made our descent, we saw a couple on the trail.
“Is the peak much farther?” The young man asked. He sat in shade created by chaparral, his face was red and dripping with sweat. “We are thinking of going back.”
“You’re so close,” I told him. “Keep going.”
“It’s worth it,” my friend said. “The views and everything — you don’t want to turn back.”
“And there’s a cave on the other side,” I said.
Halfway down, we found a spot to rest and wait for the full moon. Despite my aching feet and jelly knees, seeing the moon — large and pink — rise over the mountains at sunset was a glory to behold.
It was dark when we returned to camp for dinner. Eating that night, I noticed a sense of vitality within me. My blood pumped through my veins, fresh air emboldened my lungs and my muscles felt active and alive! Balconies Trail
The next morning, my fellow glamsient left early for work. Part of me wanted to head home, but I quickly recognized that desire as my old habit of rushing to the destination. The Balconies Cave enticed me and, remembering to slow down and savor the journey, I chose to stay in the park.
Driving to the trailhead I saw quail, turkeys, and a doe with her fawn. The parking lot was empty apart from my car, and only the sound of birds accompanied me onto the path.
Meandering through trees, the Balconies trail is mostly flat — a perfect companion to yesterday’s strenuous hike. Yellow swallowtail butterflies greeted me as if to say I had made the right choice. I breathed deeply, enjoying the time to myself.
When I came to the entrance of the talus cave, I saw a large, metal gate. “Flashlights Required,” a sign read. Having seen a similar warning at the trailhead I had my headlamp — and thank goodness for that! The cave was pitch black; only little white painted arrows marked the trail.
Cool and dark, the deep quietude of the cave penetrated my being. I was completely alone, and instead of steadily moving through to the other side, I sat and turned off my headlamp. Surrounded by rock, my small, vulnerable body felt soft and humble, but I was not afraid. I felt held and supported. I seemed to dissolve, as if I were part of the rock, the air, the empty space. In perfect stillness, I tuned to the deepest part of me — connected and endless.
When I was ready, I moved forward through the cave. As soon as the first rays of sun beckoned me out I wanted to go back into the dark, cool, quiet chamber. It had given me a thrill unlike any other.
Hiking the next section of the trail — a moderate stretch with views of rock formations jutting out of the earth like balconies — my mind returned to my experience in the cave. Wholly grounding, yet also uplifting, I longed to return to the cave and the feeling of oneness.