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SnowVenture: First Time In the Snow

Many blessings to all of you beautiful people,

I wish that your week has been filled with loving moments and beauty throughout all the challenges and experiences you’ve had to face, to which you’ve come out victorious.

This past week has been full of new experiences for me. I got to take part in my first actual Thanksgiving. We spent 5 days prior fixing up the house and the surrounding farm to tip top shape. It was a family effort and many people came over every day to lend a hand. We trucked off trailers full of garbage and gave the house a floor to ceiling cleaning. We then had to devise a seating plan that could fit at least 30 something people. Each of us took turns playing around with seat ideas. My suggestion turned the table into a huge phallus which did help to bring chuckles and lighten the mood, but it was incapable of seating everyone. It took a bit of deliberating, but my friends Emily and Elina finally cracked the puzzle.

When the big Thanksgiving day came, it was an amazing feast with lots of good souls. Having not grown up around my extended family (my mum is one of 10 kids, so my family gets pretty extended..) I really enjoyed being a part of this big family gathering and I was made to feel as one of the clan. The highlight for me that day was a conversation I had with Josh.

“What are you doing over the next couple days?”

“Nothing really planned.”

“Sweet dude, we’ll go snowboarding then.”

This was sweet music to my ears. Josh and I have gone on several adventures together, mainly kayaking, but this one would be special for me. You see, growing up on a Caribbean island, I have never seen snow. I was unable to assume what it feels like or anything, because I’ve never had an experience that I could use as a base reference, unless you count Snow-Cones in the bus terminal in Bridgetown, Barbados (For those of you that don’t know, a snow-cone is shaved ice that is squirted with different flavoured syrups, really refreshing on a hot day).

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My buddy Josh.

What excited me more was that I’d finally get to try my spirit sport. Some people believe in spirit guides, they typically take the form of an animal and guide us to our soul’s desires for this lifetime. I know that one of mine is a hummingbird, every single time I hear the brrr of their wings, my heart melts and I’m overcome by serenity. The thought of snowboarding has always taken up a similar space in my heart, and now I would get to put it to the test.

As I write this, my muscles and bones are still slightly throbbing. My gluteus maximus has a purple heart shaped bruise on it, which acts as a reminder of my adventure every time I sit down. I tried snowboarding for the first time this weekend, and the adrenaline rush and euphoria I experienced I believe has destined me to return to the snow this season.
Do you believe in spirit guides? They typically take the form of an animal and are believed to guide us to our soul’s desires for this lifetime. I know that one of mine is a hummingbird, every single time I hear the brrr of their wings, my heart melts and I’m overcome by serenity. I’ve never really heard anyone ever mention it, but I’ve always had an incline that snowboarding would be my spirit sport. This was odd for me to put my finger on as I had never experienced snow prior to this weekend.

I had no idea what the characteristics of the snow were. No idea how it really looks besides white, no idea how it feels.
Regrettably, I didn’t get to write my name in the snow with urine, but that is merely motivation for me to return.

We left early in the morning so that by mid-afternoon we could be all set up at the lodge.

As we drove, on the flat lands the sky was clear enough that I could see the snow-capped mountains in the distance, and I could feel my heart beating louder. The further we went the more I could feel the air becoming crisper. The cold air kissing my cheeks and nostrils invigorated me.My mind kept fantasizing about snowboarding so much that I didn’t realize the moment that we had driven past the snow belt. I noticed more white in my peripheral vision and this made my head turn. The ground was no longer brown with green blotches of grass. Mother Nature now blanketed herself in fluffy white snow and the trees draped themselves with tassels of fine silk. The scenery was straight out of a Christmas movie, and finally I was starring in it. I immediately wanted to get out of the car to let all my senses experience it, but Josh didn’t want to stop as we were on the highway and he wanted to reach our destination asap. I thought a change of approach was in order so I said, “Let’s smoke a joint” and 20 seconds later we found a suitable pull-out to park in so the joint could be rolled. I pulled my shoes and socks off and jumped out of the car. Toes spread wide, eyes closed, I could feel the coldness emanating from the ground beneath me. I could sense too that it was very fluffy, unlike anything else I’ve ever felt before. Opened eyes and open hands I could now see that each snow flake landed and stuck to the other as they hit the ground. So rather than clumping up into a big mess it was instead balanced into a tetris like matrix.

Before too long, feeling in my feet were diminishing, so I retreated back to the car. Continuing our drive with smoke billowing out the windows, I contemplated the texture of the snow trying to figure out how it’s anatomy would allow me to float atop of it. It may sound like I was overthinking the snow a bit, but this felt like a religious pilgrimage to me. My snow bar mitzvah. A new element. A new world.

A few hours later we pulled into Squaw Valley and checked into the hotel. It was beginning to get cold as the sun set, so we ate and then explored the facilities of the hotel. I don’t experience commercial luxury too often, so it was a nice change. The dry hot air and steam saunas along with the jacuzzi were to my liking. I couldn’t wait to get to sleep so that I could wake up to the new day.

Remember those days as a child on Christmas morning waking up early over anxious for your parents to wake up so you could open your presents?

That’s what my excitement was like. Josh must’ve felt it too as he was up early and went to the gym to pass time until the lifts opened. As I neared the level of bursting at the seams, Josh and I decided to go rent my equipment so we could be one of the first people up the lifts. As I commonly experience a lot of places I go, I got the only and largest pair of boots and due to my height my board was about half a foot shorter than the recommended height to board length ratio. Didn’t matter to me though, I now had my apparatus for my grand experiment. I talked the guy into giving me a young adult ticket which was significantly cheaper, and we made our way to the lifts.

When it was our turn to board the gondola, we politely informed our cart mates that we intended to “burn on the way up”’ to which they replied “only if you pass that shit.” That was bogus words on their part as they were actually the ski-med emergency team so they had to decline when it came time to toke as they needed to be at optimum performance to carry out their job. “Have fun breaking your snow hymen but don’t go breaking your arms” was one of the skiers parting words to me. This was the start of the intermediate slope that was 2 miles long. We went up a second lift to reach the summit where the warm-up slope lay.

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Fresh Out on the Block.

Finally, we were on top of the mountain. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. Feet buckled to the board, I leaned my weight forward and started to slide down the hill. I so wanted to begin my experience I didn’t even listen to what my friend was telling me. I really didn’t think it mattered. I cut diagonally across the hill and tried to turn.

The wind rushed past me and for 5 seconds I really felt alive. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t know how to stop, which is what Josh was trying to explain. I pondered this as the front of my board dug into the snow and catapulted me over landing head first into a very disjointed looking somersault. Josh skidded to halt alongside of me cracking up with laughter.

“That’s one way to learn” he commented at my head on approach.

“At least you’re not scared to fall, and that’s a good thing.”

First fall out of the way, I was now more receptive to learning about what I should be doing. Josh explained how to ride on my heel edge, and also how to do the falling leaf, labelled the one critical move that is absolutely vital to snowboarding safely.

Honestly, I wasn’t taking in much of it, I just wanted to go. In the days leading up to here, I read and watched as much tips and techniques about snowboarding as I could find. Now I craved action instead of words. Seeing my stubbornness, Josh told me that he would go down the full 2.5 mile course and catch up to me to see how I was doing at figuring it out.

10 minutes later, I probably only advanced 200 meters down the slope, having fallen about 17 times hurting my ass, my wrists, my right knee and my pride. I could feel that my muscles were strong enough to perform all the moves, my mind just couldn’t figure out how to do it. And watching the little kids whizz by me only added to my frustration. I realised that I wasn’t feeling cold at all, in fact, quite the opposite. My chest had already soaked my under layers with sweat and my legs were sweating profusely. I had to near the point of exhaustion before I caught on that maybe I was wearing too many layers.

I took a couple minutes to breathe while sitting to the side of the slope. I calmed my mind down, then stood up. I was sliding and I wasn’t falling. I was doing it, really snowboarding or so I thought.But now I was nearing an out of bounds sign, the slope had a sharp corner that I clearly wasn’t following. I activated my renditioned stopping mechanisms and planted my butt firmly into the ground. The softness of the snow welcomed me. I giggled, turned myself into the right direction and stood up.

“Uh Oh…” I thought as I flew down the hill.

“This feels like ice underneath me,” I thought as I began to speed-wobble.

“This is probably going to hurt” I thought as I felt my balance fade…

“WHAM!”

I instinctively put my arms up to protect me. My right forearm hit the ground and I could feel my shoulder pop out of place briefly before snapping back into place.

I screamed out in a mix of pleasure and pain, I could see that I couldn’t handle much more falls like that.

What more, I was right by the tree line . As I tried to stand up again, I felt the snow beneath me giving way to reveal a small stream next to the tree line. I quickly lay myself flat to provide me with enough surface area to not sink. I did a snow based breast stroke to manoeuvre back to stable terrain.

Many minutes and falls later, I made it back to the start of the intermediate slope. I went back on the gondola to the top of the summit and went down the warm-up slope another two times before Josh caught up to me. My face was flushed, my chin was dripping, my ass felt like it was bleeding, I felt dizzy like I was about to pass out.

“Woah dude, looks like you’re wearing too many layers. Anyways, it’s time to go check out of the hotel room, so you better get on the lift heading down the mountain and I’ll meet you at the bottom.”

“No. I’ll go down the intermediate slope.”

“Hahahahaha! We only have 30 minutes, not 2 hours. Just take the lift down” Josh said as he began to skate away into the distance.

I was boiling mad now. Who the fuck tells me what to do? Who the fuck tells me I can’t do something?

My ego prevented me from seeing that Josh was only acting in my best interest. I grumbled and cursed under my breath as I made my way to the lifts heading downwards, the only person on the hill that needed the lift to make it to the bottom.

“Have a nice day” chimed one of the lift attendants. I scowled as I premeditated hitting him with my board. Once on the lift suspended in mid air alone, I began shouting and swearing at the sky as loud as I could. I shouted and shouted and shouted until my anger dissipated. Laughter then took the place of my shouting. By the time the gondola reached the bottom of the hill, I could feel my mind at peace, but my body was still on edge. I needed to take off some of these layers, so I hurried back to the room. I was shocked to see Josh already in the room, apparently arriving well over 10 minutes before me. I apologised to him for all the bad words and ill intentions I psychically threw his way on my lift ride down.

I find these days that even if I think ill of a person without their knowledge, I still feel obligated to apologise. This is to right my dharma so it doesn’t affect my karma. Thoughts are the foundational blocks of our reality, so any thoughts to do wrong to some else must be corrected so that it doesn’t come to pass. At least this is what I tell myself. Maybe it’s pointless, but who knows? It at least helps me to rest easier.

Apologies over, I took off the unnecessary layers, and my body instantly aligned with my mind, coming to a state of ease. We packed up our things, checked out of the room and made our way back up the slope.
That break was really welcomed. I was in an optimal headspace. Josh began speaking poetically of the snow. Referring to it as an infinite wave, he described how leaning more to the heel or toe edge allowed a small wave of snow to form on the board which levitated him across the terrain. I dug this new schema. I needed to give in to the flow, not the urge to go.

Back on top of the mountain, I told Josh that my body was more than capable of performing all of the manoeuvres, my mind just didn’t know what to tell my body. I asked him if he could ride behind me shouting pointers to me and guiding me in the right technique.

This is where I saw my friend’s expertise come into play. He is a perfectionist in the way he does things, and this characteristic was very in my favour. First he figured out the correct words to say to get me to do the correct move. It was as if I was a game character and he held the controls in his hand.

“Keep your weight in the centre! Bend that right leg! Bring your left foot forward!”

Like that arcade dancing game, every successful move I made was rewarded with “Well Done! Excellent! Perfect dude!”

The improvement was instantaneous. My ass to snow ratio decreased dramatically. With each move my body made, I was becoming more aware of what it needed to do in what situation. I could feel muscle memory forming already.

In less than 5 minutes I was back by the lift and staring at the entrance of the intermediate slope. “Not yet” I thought to myself.

Two warmup runs later and I made my announcement to Josh.

“Now?”

“Now” I nodded as I leaned my body forward to start building some momentum.

At the risk of sounding cheesy [but because you’re reading this you’re already in my headspace, so enjoy the show], the guitar solo from the ‘Eye of the Tigre’ was ringing loudly in my head.

Going down the first hill I was moving more rapidly than my previous average, but I had this. More speed and more speed,then I saw the corner quickly approaching, and I still had yet to learn how to turn so sharply. But no fear lives here. I brought my back foot (left, cause I’m goofy) next to my right and dug my heels into the snow.

“Qrrrssshhh” said the snow beneath me as I slowed significantly in the Falling Leaf pose. Because the corner angled towards the left and I was more comfortable on my heel edge, I leaned into the slope in regular stance. When it cut back to the right I did the Falling Leaf again, then sitting down to rest before the next slope.

“I’ll wait for you below this slope” Josh said as he rocketed down the hill ever so gracefully.

Seeing him go down, I noticed just how steep this particular slope was; damn.. To make it worse, I was on the edge where I felt I could only go down in regular stance, which I’m not as confident in, and I was sitting so close to the decline that I gained crazy speed the moment I stood up.
I made my way down this particular slope through a series of falling, summersaulting and butt planting.

When I caught up to Josh, we sat down and he discussed strategy with me for the next slope. You see, this hill was very long with a long flat after, so the discussed strategy was to Falling Leaf most of the way down, then straighten out to get enough speed to clear the flat.
As I began to go down it, Josh stayed behind me coaching me as before. His tone sounded more serious which disclosed some of his worry for me. I could hear my heart beating in my chest now. A third of way down the hill and all was going fine. The little voice in my head started to scream louder than Josh’s words.

“Fuck it! Just Go! Fuck it, Just Go!” it kept screaming.
Fuck it then. I angled my feet back into goofy positioned and instantly I took off.

Toe edge, heel edge and back again. I could feel the infinite wave under me and I was carving it. I could tell I was going really fast because my hair was blowing straight back which occurs at around 15 mph. I felt ultimately present at that moment.

At one point I caught a little speed wobble, but I inhaled and righted myself. I got to the bottom of this slope and shot down the straight. My adrenaline was pumping, my muscles were shaking and I was giggling like a child. I Falling Leafed myself to a halt, dove chest down on the snow and hugged it.

I could tell from Josh’s face that he was just as stoked as I over what just happened.

We finished off the rest of the run and went to eat some food. As the adrenaline began to wear off, I could feel the fatigue ebbing and pain throbbing throughout my body.

I was sore and unable to do another run for the day, but I was happy. On the drive home, I’d have spontaneous euphoria attacks over what I’d done.

Reflecting on the events of that day, I really want to encourage all those of you who are still reading to strive for what it is you want. And when the time comes that life presents your desire to you, be ready to dive in, and ride the infinite wave.

May we all continue to rise in Love together,

The Red Lion.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Today I want to share something that has been walking around my mind as I have journeyed. It deals with the Buddhist principle “Wherever You go, there You are.” I’ve noticed within myself and society that we believe that we can leave our problems behind. I used to think that going somewhere else I would have different experiences. While that is true that being in a new place opens you up to new experiences, you bring your mind with you wherever you go and how you think will shape and determine the experiences you choose to have. For example, if you spend all your time at home watching TV, no matter where you go in the world, you will more than likely end up on a couch somewhere watching TV too. Sure, you may see a few touristy attractions, but what about completely genuine interactions and adventure?

I had known for a long time that I wanted to travel, and many times I had envisioned myself going off the beaten track in countries to explore their jungles, waterfalls and hopefully have a few adventures that few tend to have. However, i was so far removed from my own island Barbados that the likelihood of me doing these things were very slim. Before departing for my world adventure, the only places I had traveled to by myself were Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. Yea, I saw some cool things in those countries, but they were only what the friends I stayed with showed me. I would stay in the bubble that my friends had set for themselves and never ventured outside to make my own fun.

I wasn’t even aware of my limited scope of perception until I started to hang out with foreign university students in Barbados. Befriending them, I had the privilege to witness Barbados through their fresh eyes, and it shocked me how much it differed from my own concept of Barbados. I used to love taking them to places familiar to me and seeing their eyes light up. But what I loved more, was when they’d tell me a story of some random bus they got on, went somewhere that I didn’t know and had an experience I’ve never had on my island.

What really ignited my wanderlust was one day for my friend’s birthday, a small group of us went to explore Cole’s Cave. Now, I had never even known that another cave apart from Harrison’s Cave existed, and I was so blown away. The most fresh water I have ever seen on my island I witnessed here. This was so apart from my stigma of my island, that I vowed then and there to see my country and life in general, with new eyes. This lead me to venture all over my island trying to learn her, and this became the catalyst for my first business, Good Times Tours. Really learning to appreciate my own island catapulted me into having some very interesting adventures as I’ve traveled.

The point I’m really trying to make is, wherever you go, there you are. What you carry in your mind affects how you interpret the world around you. If you carry a lot of fear in your noggin, chances are you will limit yourself from having new experiences for doubt of something going wrong. If you can learn to see the world from a place of love, what kind of adventures will you have for yourself?

Open minds and open hearts lead to an open world. You are as free as you think you are.

As always, may we continue to rise in love together,

Happy Thanksgiving,

Red Lion

Chased by Hyenas (Ethiopian Chronicles)

Many blessings beautiful people,
Today I’d like to tell you about an experience I had while in Ethiopia. Hope you enjoy it 🙂
So my friend Gil was volunteering on an Israeli farm in Butajira. Butajira (for those who don’t know) is a town in south-central Ethiopia with a pretty small population. My friend, being the curious adventure-seeking counterpart, became eager to explore the mountains he had noticed in this area. As fate would have it, it was on my trip back to Addis Ababa, that we crossed paths and he shared his curiosities with me. I listened to him attentively as he poured out his intentions to make the visit up the Butajira Mountains. I read the fascination on his flushed face, his persuasion was absolutely flawless, however, I actually didn’t need much convincing; there was something alluring about those mountains that captivated me when I first got here. And so, the decision was undisputed and we quickly made our preparations to leave later that day.
We arrived late, with the sun already setting, but I had realized earlier that the moon was going to be full and the conditions were faultlessly set for a beautiful moonlit hike. We gathered basic supplies – snacks, drinking water, compass and an extra pack of batteries for the flashlight – just what we thought was absolutely necessary for our short trek. Once we had secured all the needed items, we made our way to the base of the mountains. It was there that we encountered our first adventure, the inevitable predicament of language barriers. “We want to see Butijira tall lands,” I poorly translated in my very juvenile Amharic (the mother tongue of most Ethiopians) to one of the bajaj drivers. Now if you have never seen a bajaj, it’s basically a three-wheeled cabin cycle that looks like a minivan on scooter wheels and the engineering still baffles me. Despite my premature translation, we managed to get a ride reasonably far before the bajaj driver gave up due to the marshy terrain and we had to continue on foot.
As we donned our camping bags in the chilly night air, looking up at the mountain, the moon perched just over the mountain peak on a wispy cloud with an intoxicating ambiance that beckoned us to “come thither”. Up we walked in complete silence taking in all that was around us, the crispness of the air, the way the trees gently swayed in tune with each other. Glancing over at Gil I could see on his moonlit face a look of awe and wonder, what a night! Our steps and the crunching leaves underfoot were the only noise in our surrounding.
“OOOOOOuuuuuuuuuuuuuWoooooooooo” suddenly broke the serenity. “What was that odd noise?” I thought to myself.”Hyenas….” Gil chimed in as if we were sharing minds. The silence resumed, this time with a more ominous air to it. A note of seriousness took over. I was pondering whether we had enough combined knowledge to handle an encounter. Locking eyes with Gil, his stern look made his face completely unrecognisable to me, I never seen him like this before. The shock that my expression showed lightened the mood somewhat as Gil’s face slowly contorted to a contagiously sheepish grin. We shared a hearty laugh, shrugged our shoulders, and decided that we wouldn’t let paranoia poison our night. So on we continued on our waltz with the majestic mountain.
After some time, we entered into a small village with sparsely spaced huts. All huts but one were shrouded in darkness. One candlelight was all that illuminated the hut as the light danced around from a central point in an enchanting manner.
We were curious to meet some of the people on the mountain but the need to find a camp spot began to take priority in our minds.
In choosing camping ground, it is wise to select a spot that is reasonably flat, no rocks and not in in the direct onslaught of the wind. On the steep windy side of the mountain this was going to be a challenge, and the mountain was too wide to simply walk to the non windy part. We would have to find a place on camp on this side and we would have to find it soon.
The perspiration from our hike so far drenched our shirts and the wind was beginning to chill it. My goal was to set up camp before I started shivering, but the way my teeth ground together like stones trying to spark a fire, I could tell this outcome was unlikely.
In the distance we saw a string tall tree that was lent into the wind. To my grateful eyes, this would be the needed shield to protect us from the wind. On walking closer. I could see a lush layer of grass for us to nestle over. It looked as if this spot would provide comfortable conditions for a recuperative rest. On reaching the spot, my heart sank, the layer of grass concealed beneath it a cemetery of old volcanic stones that would provide little besides chiropractic malpractice. The spot was definitely not for our sleep.
I was getting cold and tired, I didn’t want to have to go further, uncertain of any ideal conditions in that direction. I told Gil that we should turn back around as I had seen a spot about a mile back past the huts that wasn’t ideal, but it would do for tonight. After some back and forth, he agreed and we made haste to walk the way we came to this fabled ‘spot’.
A few minutes past and I was sure we should see the spot soon, but bend after bend it didn’t come into view. Just as I was beginning to doubt myself, there she looked in the distance. This spot was better than we first gave it credit for. We were both freezing and I was shivering uncontrollably, so we did not waste time to set up camp. I threw my ground mat down, then I took my tent out of its bag and unrolled it.
Then, all the hair on my body stood on end.

“OOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUuuuuuuUUUWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
“OOOOOOOOUUuuuuuuUUWWWWUUUUOOOOUOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!”
Not one hyena this time, but two, and they were a lot closer than the howl we had heard earlier.
Now I don’t speak hyena very well, but I’ve watched enough Discovery Channel to know that they only communicate like that with each other when they are coordinating an attack.
“Hyenas don’t hunt humans do they?” I pondered out loud. Gil replied, “not typically, they are probably hunting some gazelle or someth…..”
“OOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUuuuuuuUUUWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
“OOOOOOOOUUuuuuuuUUWWWWUUUUOOOOUOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!”
My freezing face was alleviated by the blood that rushed it. They were much closer this time, and we were the deer or something.
Anyone that know me knows that I take my time doing pretty much everything, but in less than 20 seconds my tent and ground mat were neatly packed in my bag on my back. Gil’s actions reciprocated the same anxiousness as mine.
About to make our retreat, we paused to take one more look down the mountain.
“OOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUuuuuuuUUUWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
“OOOOOOOOUUuuuuuuUUWWWWUUUUOOOOUOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!”
There they went again. The noise this time included the snapping of twigs and rustling of bush as the hyenas separated the distance from us.
Up the little slope we scrambled to the trail we hiked before, this time in a full run towards the hits, praying that the one candle light in the hut was still lit and that we might find haven there.
We quickly reached the huts but to our dismay the candle was extinguished.
This did little to deter us though. We started to frantically make noise until the candle was lit and a few heads cautiously peered out of the hut.
“Hyenas are chasing us!” we shouted. The blank shadowed expressions in their faces informed us that they did not speak English.
“Jibs Alé! Jibs Alé!” I cried. (Hyenas exist!)
Still they looked puzzled.
Gil then mimicked the hyena noise and ran towards me while I screamed and ran away.
This pantomime brought a few laughs and the galvanise gate bellowed as it creaked open. Thanking everyone, we kissed their knuckles while bowed as we entered their yard.
Danger now removed, a wave of exhaustion rose up and throughout my body. It was bed time. I tried to set up my tent but the family that saved us wouldn’t allow it. They ushered us behind their hut to a larger hut that was perfectly circular. The place had almost a temple air to it. Bingo, it was. It was this family’s personal temple that they held their ceremonies in, and they were letting us sleep in it. The gesture touched me. The kindness of the Ethiopian people knew no bounds in my mind. After giving them the thumbs up, our hosts left us and we unrolled our sleeping bags, and we slept.

Let Us continue to rise in Love together,

Red Lion.

California Road Trip (part 2)

Stopping in Tahoe to eat gave us a chance to recognise just how tired we were after our 6 mile hike in Blackwood Canyon. This drive would be trying. I was currently in no shape to drive. I always expend a lot of energy when in nature because I get a all childlike, intoxicated by the wanderlust, and this time was no different. Matt too was quite beat but he insisted that the double shot espresso he was drinking would allow him to drive some of the way. I told him that is he could drive for an hour while I slept, I’d be alert enough to finish the journey. Matt said that’s no problem, if I could sleep through the loud bass banging set he was going to play in order to stay awake… I was asleep before we even hit the highway.

When I came to, I looked over to see Matt still bobbing his head to the rhythm, fatigue strong in his face. I announced my revival and we agreed to switch at the next service stop. We followed the signs another 15 minutes until we reached the service station. Instead of pulling in, Matt drove around to the back of it and pulled into a dark road. I was a little unsure why he did this initially, until he pulled a small blue container from his glove box and extracted a bright green flower with fiery red hairs. The car filled with a smell reminiscent of patchouli oil and cinnamon. “Girl Scout Cookies” he called her as he packed a bowl. We got out the car as he took a huge rip, blowing out a massive cloud of smoke. I held out my hands awaiting my turn when it occurred to me that it was my turn to drive. Womp womp.

Now in the driver’s seat, it was my turn to select the playlist. I was feeling more mellow than electronic, but still wanted the bass line. I decided to put on some Reggae Dub. I got the basic directions from Matt though he insisted he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep on the drive.

He slept like a baby until i reached the end of my directions and needed the rest of the route. He directed me onto Highway 1. After about 10 miles, my nose began to pick up the faint smell of salt blowing through the cars air vents. I could tell we were near. A couple corners later and I saw the culprit. As if welcoming us, a wave crashed into the cliff edge rocketing a white mist skywards. As the ocean spray subsided, I could see the vast ocean shimmering in the moonlight. The road became windy as we hugged the cliffs of Big Sur. We had finally arrived, but we still had to find a place to camp. There were no towns near to us to ask anyone’s advice, so I figured we’d wing it. I’m not sure what prompted me to stop, but something told me that somewhere near this particular cliff we would find rest.

We got out the car and walked down a path that lead to the cliff edge. Looking over the edge hoping to see a sandy bank, my eyes met a rocky outcrop. Turning around, I could see that the path had several other paths that diverged from it, but ultimately let back to the road, so I wandered down one. Either side of the path was bramble bush. The only hospitable place here appeared to be on the path itself, which wasn’t so appealing. Walking back to the car, Matt past a tree then let out a “boom” into the night. I went to see what he discovered. The tree’s branches fell over the tree creating a perfect dome underneath it.

Drinking one with the lads
Drinking one with the lads

This would be our sanctuary for the night. The air was so warm that I opted to not use my tent and instead sleep in the hammock. Matt set up his tent minus the rain-fly. We cracked open some beers and snacked on some Girl Scout Cookies. A curious little field mouse bobbed and weaved around us interested in what we were up to. I told him we were cool and he should come over to say hi. He instantly listened and came towards me. The immediate reaction to my words startled me so much that I squirmed and giggled when he ran up my hand. This scared him and he scattered. I apologised for my behaviour and asked if we could still be friends. I poured some beer into my bottle cap for him and said if he forgave me please drink some as a sign. He came and drank not one, but 4 capfuls with us. We then settled down to sleep and dozed off listening to the purr of the ocean and squealing seals.

The view from our camp.
The view from our camp.

In the morning I awoke with the rising sun, two little birds, perched on my hammock, singing sweet songs, a melody pure and true.. Jolly good stuff. As I rustled they fluttered to the branch above and continued serenading me. Like the day before, my eyes were treated to the kaleidoscope of colours the sky makes as the earth turns to reveal the sun again (if you haven’t read part one yet, check that out here, when you’re finished reading 😉). I got out of the hammock, stretched and walked out to the cliff edge. Out on the edge, the wind howled as my hair danced in it. It’s moments like these that I really become aware of my hair and how long it has grown. The light pull on my scalp from each of my 49 branches was euphoric. I went through a few yoga poses, holding the upward facing dog pose especially long, smiling while deeply breathing in the ocean air. I sat and watched the ocean below. Birds were swimming in the ocean in pairs. Sea gulls floated on the tides. A lone otter swam by on his back, a happy little fellow.

Big Sur Swell

Matt walked out to the cliff and we nodded in recognition. He ventured down the cliff to the rocks below, taking in the scenery. I too eventually wandered down there. We sat in amazement at the view in our own corners. After some time we headed back to our camp so we could begin to pack up. Back at camp, Matt noticed that the bottle cap the mouse drank had words in it. He picked it up and read it aloud, “Drinking is Believing.”

We gathered our belongings and headed for the car. I got in to the driver’s seat as I wanted to enjoy the windy road. Wow, what an awesome drive. Matt gave me some information about the highway we were on. It is Highway 1 and stretches most of California. This part of the highway in the Big Sur area was opened in the 1930’s and is considered by many to be an engineering masterpiece. As we drove, we crossed a bridge. Looking over the bridge, I saw a group of Dolphins frolicking in the water. We stopped for a longer look. I inspected the cliff and if I could have found a way to climb down I would be in the video below.

HikingWe continued on driving until we began to see redwoods which surprised me. I didn’t realise they were also found so far south. We pulled into the Pfeiffer Big Sur State park. We spoke to an extremely knowledgeable park ranger who advised that we’d find the better trails here. We parked and took a look at the park map on the notice board. We tried to memorise the trial that we intended to do and set off. In the first mile we had to cross a river in order to reach the trail that lead up the mountain. We couldn’t find the set way to cross the river so Matt and I chose our own paths across. Matt found a part of the river that had fallen concrete slabs in it and stepped across. I hop scotched across a few rocks. Despite a few minor slips on the mossy rocks, I made it across without getting my feet wet. We found the path that wound its way up the mountain in the midst of the forest. The trees towered above us as magical wands pointing to the heavens. The undergrowth comprised of a few varieties of plants. I recognised species of bay leaf and of a herb known as dill weed. I got lost in imagination thinking how awesome it must have been for natives to just take a walk through here and pick their tea, food and medicine. This is something I envision for myself in the future, I have a strong desire to make common practice for myself the art of foraging. I firmly believe that we as a species need to remember that we are earthlings first, and we need to work with nature.

And don't you forget it
And don’t you forget it

After a few miles of winding up the mountain, we finally made it to the top. Up there we found a small building which seemed to house a radio antennae inside or something. Someone had graffitied a beautiful design on it which left me feeling optimistic.

We hung around for a while discussing how peaceful and mind-silencing it is to be in places of nature like this. It allows one to relax and recognise that most of the problems we cling to are unnecessary.

We headed back down the mountain. We joked about how fun it would be to have a race down the slope. Two days of hiking and the resulting lack of energy however prevented us from enacting this idea. When we returned to the river, I suggested that we climb down to it and go away from the trail. This was so that we could use the river to take a wash, which we hadn’t done for a couple days now and were smelling pretty ripe consequentially. The river felt absolutely revitalising. I got lost in the moment and spent a while splashing in the water.

Refreshed, we made our way back to the car and set out in search of a view for our sunset. The park ranger advised that we go to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park where we would find a waterfall and a spectacular look out to the ocean. We drove there, and the view was amazing.
Afterwards, we drove further south looking for new real estate to make our camp. The cliffs became steeper and closer to the road, to inhospitable for us to take rest. After a few hours of searching, we saw an official camp ground and decided to at least take a look. I had no intention of paying to camp, but as soon as I saw families huddled around a warm crackling fire, I was sold. We found a site, paid and set up shop. Matt was skilled with setting up the fire and in a few short moments had our fire roaring. Like a moth, I became entranced by the flame and drew near to it. We ate dinner by the fire, and soon after I headed to bed while Matt stayed up to watch the fire and do some writing of his own.

The next day we agreed that we would keep hiking to a minimum as we were feeling the last two days in our body. We continued South, stopping to see some elephant seals, or “blubber fish”, as my mountain family affectionately call them. We made it to Santa Barbara just after lunchtime. This is where Matt calls home so he showed me a few of his favourite surf spots and in the evening we went to hang out with a few of his friends. We also played some disc golf and hiked up another mountain.

Be sure to check out the FB page at http://www.facebook.com/ABigPicture and the Instagram @a_biggerpicture for some video clips of my time in Santa Barbara.
Thank you for experiencing my journey with me,

May me continue to rise in love together,

Red Lion.

California Road Trip (part 1 of 2)

Hey Everyone,

And welcome to my very first digital sharing of my journey. Before I get underway, I would like to say thank you. So much love and blessings. I launched this blog officially on Wednesday, and in less than a day people in over 14 countries have taken a peak. I’m greatly humbled and honoured. Thank you again.

Now let’s begin this adventure. So I’m currently in California helping my friend’s parents out on their farm which is tucked away beautifully on a mountain top. I had a couple of days to spare as a majority of work has been completed, so I decided to call my friend Matt who I met in Barbados while he was an exchange student at UWI. We both had some free time, but we were 480 miles from kicking it. We decided to take advantage of this distance and agreed upon a road trip. Over a day and a half he made his way up North to the little town I was in. It was great to see him again, I always find it amazing how friendships don’t weaken over time. We resumed our banter as if we’d seen each other only yesterday. As with usual, we had no idea where we wanted to go. Me, an impulsive non planner, was not bothered by this and anywhere was good enough. Matt, a seasoned planner, wanted to formulate at least a basic guideline so that we could see a lot and he could still be home in time for work.

The difference in decision-making styles would make for an interesting trip, I thought to myself. Checking Google, Matt said that we could drive to and spend a few days at either Lake Tahoe or Big Surr. Each was a little over 250 miles away from our starting point.

Hmm.. Tough decision to make. Lake Tahoe sits at 6,225 feet above sea level, encircled by the Sierra Mountain range while Big Surr, is on the coast, with majestic Redwood forests on one side, and beautiful coastline with beaches, waterfalls and amazing marine life on the other. I mulled it over for a second and made my decision. “Let’s just do both” I said. Matt looked at me with an unimpressed expression on his face. I went on, “Yea b, if we leave now we could drive up to Tahoe tonight, camp and then explore the mountain range for the whole day, drive and camp in Big Surr the same night, then have 2 days to see there. Plus, if we split the driving, it’s only around 2 hours each we’ll be driving a trip.” Matt’s face changed to a smile. This could actually work. I packed my things, said goodbye to my family on the mountain farm, got in the car, Matt started to play an epic electronic set through his car radio, and we departed.

Matt drove the first 2.5 hours before fatigue caught up to him. We pulled over, and he asked me if I had much experience driving on the right hand side of the road. Well, I have driven a bunch in America and a little in Canada. I left out the part where the only driving I’ve done in these countries were off road, where which side you were on mattered not (haha if you’re reading this Bro). He pulled over at the gas station, we switched, I drove out and onto the big four lane highway. “Booom!” 😉 Driving on the right hand side was easy..

What I realised while driving, was that coming from a small island, I underestimated how tiring it was to drive for more than 5 minutes in a straight line. We a droves solid 2 hours before I succumbed to the fatigue. Matt drove the last few miles of the journey.

We arrived in Tahoe City around 11pm. Now we just needed to find a place to stay. We checked google maps and found a campsite close by. On following the GPS directions, we were surprised to see a condominium complex where the camp should’ve been. We searched the only other 2 campsites in Tahoe, but we were met with the same results when we went to them. A somber feeling filled us. The land that the campsites used to be on were much too lucrative to house passing through travellers.

“What should we do now?”

“I guess we just have to check Human Google.”

“What’s that?”

“A conversation. Let’s find a store that’s still open.”

We found a 711 and pulled up. A woman that I reckon was in her sixties was walking out of the store, carrying a bag of garbage. As soon as I saw her long flowing hair and seed of life necklace I knew we had found our informational gateway to an incredible night camping. She looked elated to see us and told us about a hidden beach on the lake close to the first campsite we visited. She guaranteed us that police seldom check that beach for campers so we would have a peaceful event free night.

Guided by her words, we made our way to the beach, the moon was nearly full and high in the sky. We could see how beautiful the area was. We set up our tents and settled down for an peaceful night’s sleep.

Our renegade camp on the beach.
Our renegade camp on the beach.

In the morning, the sun crept up over the mountain, slowly crossed the lake and then intensely flooded my tent with light. Groggily, I peered out of my tent and was greeted by a palette of colours from the sky, with a beautiful silhouette of the mountain range that encircled the humongous lake. After spending some time taking it all in, Matt woke up, we packed our gear and headed to town to get some breakfast. Matt suggested we check Google to see what the best hike in the area was, but I insisted we instead use Human Google. I was enamoured with the concept of engaging in conversations with real people and learning about an area from their perspective. This technique is what has allowed me to have many unique experiences around the world, but I am typically hesitant to use it in westernised countries. Once gain though, it did not fail us. We were advised of a few spots but the overall recommendation was to go to Blackwood Canyon and hike the mountain there.

As we made our way up the mountain, we passed many trees that only had an intensely bright green moss growing only on one side, which appeared to be facing North. We reached the trail head, got out the car, and was about to begin the hike when Matt paused and said that we were missing a step. “What could that be?” I thought to myself, we already had water and something to eat for lunch. He reached into his pocket, took out two small tabs and gave me one. This couldn’t be what I think it is, right? But it was. Acid. Grooooooovy ….. We touched them together like they were beers then placed them under our tongues. All set and ready.

Up the hill we began.
Up the hill we began.

We began our ascent up in the mountain, the air was fresh, the wind a little chilly. The area was wooded and it was beautiful to observe how the fallen leaves bobbed in the wind, carving a majestic path around the trees. The rustling noise this made lulled me into a meditative state as we climbed the hill.

My mind wandered to thoughts of how the culture of westernisation has spread. I found it in places all over the world that I didn’t expect would be impacted by it. On the flip side, I also noted how the culture of easternisation has also begun to spread across the Western Hemisphere as more and more people begin to search for their routes and a deeper understanding of life.

On the Ridge
On the Ridge

By now we had ascended to the top of the ridge. The boulders that composed the cliff edge appeared to have been shaped by the wind. The rocks had many different shades and swirls in its many curves and grooves. We could partially see the lake from there, we’d have a much better view once we made it to the peak. We continued our walk along the edge and headed back into the tree line. The moss on these trees made such interesting shapes and patterns that mesmerised us. The effects of the tab were evident. It was amazing to consciously notice the three dimensional aspect of the tree as its angle and appeared changed ever so slightly with every step that I took. There were a few fallen trees that lay over 120 feet long. You know I had to take a run on that. The trees were slightly adjoined to each other so it made for a fun obstacle course.

The Enchanting Moss
The Enchanting Moss

The trees began to thin out as we approached the end of the tree line again. The peak was now ahead of us. The wind was blowing so strong that it was audible. We had to lean into it as we scrambled over the rocks. I kept my gaze towards the ground in front of me right until I reached the top.

View from Blackwood Canyon of Lake Tahoe
View from Blackwood Canyon of Lake Tahoe

Then I looked up, and there it was, Lake Tahoe. It is a 191 square mile body of water. Seeing it from this height blew my mind. See, I was born in Barbados, which is only 166 square mile, so to see a body of water surrounded by land big that is bigger than my island is pretty indescribable. I experienced a similar sensation when I saw lake Turkana in Kenya (2,472 square miles), but I did not get to see it from on top of a mountain like this. This was absolutely breathtaking. Matt and I spent several minutes in complete silence just absorbing the view. From up here the trees looked like blades of grass swaying gently in the wind, and the lake an ultramarine blue mirror reflecting the wispy clouds above them.

image
Enjoying the View

image image image image

As the wind was a bit chilly on the peak, we walked down the slope that was sheltered from the wind and found a spot to hang up the hammock and make some lunch. We shared joy about how awesome this was. There is a certain pride that comes with witnessing an idea blossom into an action, and sitting atop the mountain we were happy indeed. We then struck up a conversation about what we envisioned for ourselves in the future. One of the elements we shared in our vision was that we intended to have a plentitude of experiences. We both recognised this as one of the true riches in life. [this topic will be expanded upon in a later post]

Seeing that the sun was pointing towards the west, this meant we had around 90 minutes or so before night fall. We began to head back. We came along a trail alternate from the way we originally came, but it appeared to go in the same direction so we followed it. 20 minutes into the walk though it was evident that this did not lead to where we wanted to go. The sky was beginning to change to a shade of amber. Time was slipping.. We stopped and analysed our options:

A. We could walk back 20 minutes and try to find the other trail, or

B. Walk of trail and head in a direction where we would hope to intersect the correct trail.

What would you choose?

We choose B. We walked off path and headed through a grassy field that appeared to have once had a river flowing through it. We got to the forest line and began to walk up the hill. Every so many feet we would think we recognised something, but no joy. On we kept walking. The light was beginning to fade more now under the trees. This would be a time for concern, but my friend and I were largely unfazed, it’d all work out.

After what seemed a long time though, we walked around a big tree and there it was, the path. We walked fast now to utilise the remaining sunlight. Even though that night was set to be the full moon, it wasn’t in the sky yet so we couldn’t count on it for illumination.

Aura in the Sunset
Aura in the Sunset

We were now back on the ridge top in the open air. Matt looked over his shoulder and I could see that he was visibly cold. I myself, couldn’t feel my fingers and my toes were beginning to board the train to numbville as well. I was shivering by the time we made it to the tree line and our last descent back to the car.

Reaching the car, we warmed ourselves up, drove to town to get some food. Then we set out destined for Big Surr.

To be continued..

The Digital Journey Begins

In the last 16 months, I’ve encountered bears, mountain lions, snakes and hyenas. Climbed the 3rd tallest mountain in Africa. Slept out under the stars, bathed in rivers, lived outdoors. Experienced what it’s like to dance completely free. Kayaked past sea lions. Stood in the footsteps of wild elephants and lions. Walked for 10 days guided by a compass and no maps. Cried like a naked baby.. laughed like a fat, happy Buddha. Kissed the sky.

And now I invite you into this journey I’m on. Through stories, pictures and videos, see what I’ve been up to this past year, what I’m currently doing and different thoughts that have occurred through my travels. Be happied, saddened, excited, inspired, shocked with me as I share my viewpoint of The Bigger Picture.

Tune in this Friday to read about the road trip across California that I’m currently undergoing.
It’s AWESOME 😉
Stay up to date on the latest through:
Instagram @A_BiggerPicture
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ABigPicture

May we all rise in Love together,

Red Lion.

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