In Search Of…: A Sunset

While I’m still in California, I’m trying to be careful about how and where I proceed. The wildfires are doing a number on Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and I’m trying to be respectful of the efforts being put in to stop them. I’m here on essentially a vacation and there are life-threatening situations happening around me. Not to put a damper on the proceedings, but I felt like it was worth noting.

So, that being said, Sacramento was a bit of a home base for me for a few days. After my experiences on the coast, I was eager to get back to it, but first, Lake Tahoe.

There were a handful of reasons I wanted to visit Lake Tahoe. It was one of the places I had multiple people telling me was a must-see before I left. Nearby Squaw Valley is also the start of the Western States 100 Ultramarathon, the pinnacle of ultra-endurance racing. At one point it was high on my list of things I’d like to participate in. I’d like to get back to that point.

The trip up to Tahoe felt much longer than the two hours it took to get up there. But once I was there, I didn’t know what to expect. I could see glimpses of the lake, but couldn’t get a good feel for it until I made it to the park entrance and walked out to the shore.

Tahoe Shore

It was by far the most beautiful place I’ve been so far. I stayed a lot longer than I thought I would because I wanted to explore as much as I could. But I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

I stayed another day in Sacramento and then made my way toward the coast once again. The destination this time: Big Sur. I’ve heard so much about how beautiful Big Sur was and wanted to see it for myself. And, technically, I drove right through it.

My phone GPS lost signal and didn’t make it clear as to where I was supposed to turn off at. So I drove past a little inn and some shops, and then I was back in the woods. Big Sur gone. I have tried to avoid quick turnarounds and such, trying to take care of my car. So I drove on. I figured I would have other opportunities to see some amazing sights on the coastal drive.

I headed south and drove for miles along the ocean, trying to find a perfect spot. I wanted to watch the sunset from the coast and finally found it, about a half-hour before the sun finally set.

Ocean Grass

I sat on the edge of a cliff, watching the sunset with only the sound of the crashing waves below me. I almost feel guilty getting to have all these experiences over and over in such short succession. It’s not generally supposed to be this way. I’m very lucky. I’ll close with some additional photos.

Tahoe Splash

Ocean Shore

Tahoe Me

In Search Of…: An Old Friend

Well, I made it. Sort of. Made it to the coast at least.

I was in Vancouver, Washington Sunday morning, sat in a coffee shop, planning my next moves. And the longer I sat there, the less I wanted to stay where I was. Which is a bit ironic.

I first got the itch for the west coast in college, when I visited Corvallis, Oregon. So, specifically, the Pacific Northwest. I love rainstorms, I love the mountains and trees, it’s perfect.

I know that I’ve grown and changed a lot over the last ten years, but I didn’t expect it to be this drastic in terms of things that I enjoyed. But it makes sense when I can pull myself back from it. When I visited the PNW last, I was a kid. I hadn’t been through any of my mental health issues (though it had started). And I loved to be miserable.

It sounds counterintuitive, but I was only happy when I was unhappy because misery was what I was comfortable in. I didn’t want to change, because change was scary. Fast forward ten years, and I’m just different.

I don’t want constant rainy days. I need the sun because it truly does help pull me out of those bad moods. The scenery, while gorgeous, became repetitive and by the time I got to California, I was over it.

But first, I had to get through Oregon. I drove straight through Portland. My experience in Seattle shook me, and honestly, I wasn’t ready for another big city. I made a stop in Salem for lunch, then headed west, through Corvallis and ended up in a town called Newport. It’s situated on the Pacific Ocean and was my first time seeing that ocean in person.

Oregon Coast Beach

I parked, made my way down to the sand and started for the water. I never had a plan, indicated by the fact that I still had my boots on, I just walked. As I got to the high tide line, I started taking my boots off. Again, no plan, just doing what felt right. I rolled my jeans up and walked straight into the tide. And I broke down.

I don’t know if it was just the symbolism of being on the opposite coast, experiencing something up close for the first time, or the fact that the ocean made my water-signed heart so happy, but it was a moment.

I’ve never associated with the ocean much. We went once when I was a kid, in Jacksonville, Florida. It was really overcast, I was afraid of basically all ocean life, and there was just nothing remarkable about it. It should be noted that it was the middle of winter when I went.

Oregon Coast Coral

But this experience made me question a lot. Why am I on this journey? What happens at the end of it? Do I just go back to living my normal, ho-hum existence, or do I find my next adventure? And how do I start making these experiences happen more regularly?

I’ve never doubted the trip. I’ve never been nervous. I’ve never been in awe of the trip or myself. All of this is because I’ve known from the beginning that this is where I’m supposed to be and when I’m supposed to be doing it.

Before this trip, the only thing that worried me was that I might get to the end of this and then there was just….nothing. Now, it doesn’t worry me because I believe I’ll know what my next adventure is at the end of it.

I headed down the 101 toward Redwoods National Park, and the drive further sank in my looming fit of depression. And the last, unanswered question came to me. What if I get to the end and there isn’t some enlightened sense of purpose? That there is just…nothing.

But I’ve found on this trip that when I interact with people, it pulls me out of the funk. And it’s really starting to sink in how much I value human connection. It’s hard for me to find people that I resonate with, but when I find those people, I need to maintain those connections and keep them healthy and strong.

I spent that night alone, at a blocked off rest stop. There were a ton of other people parked there, already tucked away for the night, and no WiFi signal to speak of.

When I woke up, I headed to Redwoods. And it was beautiful and amazing, though with the film of unease draped over it. I was blown away by the size of the trees. You truly can’t understand it completely until you see it in person. It was remarkable.

I didn’t stay long, though. I wanted to get to Sacramento at a reasonable time, and I was starting to feel that dis-ease permeating every bit of my body. The drive didn’t help a lot, but I feel myself pulling out of it a bit.

Generally, I am feeling a bit of apathy toward the trip. I’m not sure if it’s just a phase or a permanent feeling, but I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. My sleep and body have held up much better than I thought they would, but with all the new experiences and exciting places, I thought I’d be happier. Hoping sometime in the sun will fix a lot of this. Lucky for me, I’m in the perfect place for it.

In Search Of…: The PNW?

I’ve made it to the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver, Washington more specifically.

I left Boise on Friday and headed for Seattle. And once I got through all the smoke (?) in Oregon, Washington proved to be the most beautiful state I’ve ever been to. There was some sort of mountain range, lush forest or hop farm every step of the way. The farms almost reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Italian hillsides where they grow grapes for wine.

After making my way through the state, I came upon my first stop: Snoqualmie Falls in Snoqualmie, WA. After a fitful sleep, I woke up Saturday morning ready to check out the falls, the first waterfall I’ve seen in person to my recollection.

Snoqualmie is a small town about 45 minutes outside Seattle, and it’s gorgeous. One of my favorite stops on the trip so far. The falls were easily accessible and covered in fog. But it didn’t hurt the aesthetic at all.

Washington Falls

After the falls, I had plans of visiting the Washington Park Arboretum, the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Space Needle. I didn’t get as far as I had intended.

The Arboretum was beautiful, but the experience was marred by the people of the city. I’ve tried to make a concerted effort to keep my head up, headphones out, and engage in some way with as many people as possible. In Boise, it was the easiest thing in the world. Everyone seemed to be friendly and at least nod their heads at you as you walked past. Not in Seattle.

I found the active avoidance in human contact unnerving actually. Even in Chicago, people were plenty polite. And I should acknowledge, not everyone was so isolating. There were a few people that I had small moments with, but in Boise, I literally got into full-blown conversations with random people. Even in Snoqualmie, there was a bit of interaction. I might be overvaluing these moments, but it was enough to sour me on Seattle.

I tried my best to shake off the isolating feeling by heading down to the sculpture park, but by the time I got there, I was in a full-blown bad mood. The experience in the park, combined with getting into another hectic, construction-laden downtown setting was enough to run me off.

I got out of the city as fast as possible and haven’t thought twice. I know the whole point of the trip was to experience as many places as possible, do things I’ve never done, and generally just enjoy. But that’s the thing. My gut usually will clue me in pretty early if I let it. But it was also about potentially moving, and if I’m not going to enjoy a city in the short term, I definitely won’t enjoy it long term.

I’m starting to feel that sense of isolation and loneliness though. It could just be because of this experience (I am feeling better in Vancouver), or it could be because of my time on the road. I’ll see how the next few days go, but there are a lot of potential factors to this mental hurdle.

The big cities seem to be my undoing, though. They seem so cramped and chaotic. And I may not know exactly what I’m looking for, or what I’ll find. But I know I want freedom and open spaces. The big cities typically don’t provide either. As noted before, it’s so cramped, and because the cost of living is generally higher, you’re working just to pay the bills. It’s no way to live. Not for me anyway.

In Search Of…: Gut Feelings

So last time I updated, I was in Salt Lake City, fresh off a trip through Arches National Park. And while I’d love to have loved SLC, I just didn’t. I tried going out to Antelope Island State Park, an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. And while it was vast, and beautiful in its own right, it was empty, barren. And that’s how I was feeling as I was leaving.

I had intended to head back into the city for dinner and make plans from there. But at the last minute, changed course and headed for Boise, Idaho. I will say, that is one of the things I’ve loved the most thus far. At any given moment, I can, and have, change my mind and do something out of order.

Boise Landscape

So, around one o’clock, I headed for Boise and left SLC in my rearview mirror. I can’t necessarily point to what felt off in Salt Lake. Maybe it was the permeation of the Ladder Day Saints throughout the city that made things feel weird. Perhaps it just was an off day for me personally. But it didn’t resonate with me in the slightest. And that’s what this whole trip has been about. Finding those places that resonate with me and that I find to be interesting. Salt Lake City was neither of those things.

As the sun was starting to set, I was nearing Boise. I wanted to get there before dark so that I could actually see the city on the way in and get my bearings for what was around me. And it didn’t disappoint.

Boise Tree

People who know me, or have read some of my other writings, may know one of the stories that have followed me for a while is a story I was told while working for a running shoe store. It was there that I met Todd, an Iron Man athlete, and one of my favorite people to work with. He was from Indiana but recounted a story about his time spent living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

He was in search of something, but unsure of what. And when he traveled to Steamboat, which sits in a valley, he recalled cresting the road to head down into the valley and immediately knew he was someplace special. That was Boise for me.

Boise Fall

Similarly, as the sun was at its most red and warm, setting on the horizon, I crested the road into Boise and felt that special feeling. Does this mean I want to move here and live forever? Not necessarily. But I can acknowledge that it is a unique place for me and someplace I have, will and could enjoy being. I still have a lot of miles ahead of me, and a lot of things to consider.

Boise has been great. I tried a Pho restaurant the first night that was ridiculously good, I walked through the parks yesterday, and now I’m sitting in a really cool coffee shop, planning where to go next. I was going to go north, but the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate for me. So now, I’m looking at Seattle, Portland, or someplace in between. Let me know what you think!


In Search Of…: Arches National Park

An update from the road!

I started yesterday morning in Moab, Utah, about 3 miles outside of Arches National Park. Moab is perfectly situated near the park, so I was able to get in early and beat some of the crowd. Prior to starting this journey, I had discovered a deal the National Parks Service had on its website. A year-long pass that will give you access to any National Park for a one-time cost of $80. Basically, if you’re going to visit more than two National Park’s in a year, it’s worth it to get the pass.

The pass gave me not only a much less expensive experience, but I was also able to essentially skip the line into the park. The entrances to the parks have several gates to pay at, and one to the side for pass holders. At Rocky Mountain National Park, it was just a swipe station with no attendant.

Arches Walkway

Once I was inside the park, I started the steep climb toward the main part of the park. And honestly, it was hard to focus on the road ahead of me. Even the beginning of my journey was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had never been to the southwest, so it was a totally new experience.

I got farther into the park and couldn’t stop turning and staring at everything around me. I was in awe. In all of the planning of this trip, I knew I wanted to visit a lot of National Parks. I couldn’t anticipate how beautiful these places would be. I feel like I’ve said this many times over already, but pictures truly don’t do them justice.

After a few short stops in between, I made my way to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint. The trail was long and steep, which lead to a few nice conversations with fellow park goers. Most of us (myself included) were struggling up the path, which turned into discussions about what brought us there and where we were from. It was nice to have a group to share in the misery of climbing, and the beautiful views at the top.

Arches Arch

After, I was headed for the arches deeper in the park. I hiked the half-mile to the Broken Arch, and this was the part of my day that I resonated with the most. The arch was beautiful, but it was also here where I found a new bit of confidence, and a new mantra.

All through this journey, I’ve noticed a pattern of negative self-talk. If something goes wrong, I’m blaming myself. And while it’s not terrible or overt, it is toxic.

I’m learning to accept every part of me. Continuously beating myself up because I took a wrong turn or didn’t plan something right only leads to the negativity I’ve been trying so desperately to get away from. I’ve spent a lot of time cutting away the negativity in the forms of other people and experiences, but haven’t spent the same time removing it from myself. 

The more aware I become of these things, the more work I can put into correcting those negative patterns and grow. And important to that growth is understanding that if I do fail, it’s ok. Which is where my mantra came from.

“In all things, I did my best.”

I don’t think I’m the first person to have that thought, but it was the phrase that came to me while having this moment in the arch.

Following this moment, I was ready to exit the park. I had originally passed up The Windows on my way in but decided to make one last stop on my way out. It was clear that it’s proximity to the entrance, combined with it being later in the day, made this a popular part of the park. It was also the place with the highest congestion of arches.

Arches Selfie

A lot of visitors, including a school field trip, made for a lot of people to work around. And it was clear how impressive this part of the park was. Everyone was head in the clouds, in awe of how these magnificent bits of architecture could be naturally made. It was a very humbling experience.

After the Arches, I drove myself to Salt Lake City, roughly four hours away. Going to spend a couple days here, so I’m looking forward to slowing it down for a bit.