Back Yard Adventures

Sometimes after I sip a cup of coffee or two, read some pages of a book, and write a few lines of my own, I get an urge to walk straight out my front door and into nature with an unknown trajectory. Yesterday morning, my first day off in a long while, I found myself reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walking.

Early on in the essay he discusses the origin of the word “saunterer” explaining that some believe the word derives from sans terre meaning “without land or home, which, therefore, in a good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere”. We should therefore walk “in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return”. And, of course we never do return; our home lies in the location of our present. A true saunterer, I believe, is the one who is comfortable with whatever the present circumstance may be, or, at least, is able to adjust to it.

It could have been these lines that launched me out my front door; I’m not sure. Whatever it was, I promised myself I would only be out there for an hour or two. It’s monsoon season. The past few days have been filled with lightning and rain. I planned to be back before the day’s storms got started. Last week I posted an article I had written about the Ashdown Wilderness starting with hiking the Rattle Snake Creek Trail. A co-worker dropped me off at that trailhead with the intent of picking me up in a few hours. My plan was to walk a little ways and then head back. With that plan in place I sauntered into the thicket.

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I do not wish to diverge too far from the adventure I just began telling you, but at the same time, I’d like to share what my week was like up until the moments leading up to my descent into the wilderness.

Thoreau explains: “Life Consists with wilderness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life.”

My life has very much been wild and relentless. The raw materials I have gathered is starting to pile up nicely. Last week I rented a car, which for me is no easy feat. In order to pick it up, I had to ride the evening carpool down to town; find a friend’s couch to sleep on for the night; get up the next morning at 6 a.m., walk the two miles to the car rental pick up the car (which can take quite a while since the enterprise here is so small); and then hurry up the mountain just in time to start work by 9 a.m.. I’m not complaining; I’m merely celebrating the fact that every task is an adventure.

After getting off work, I drove to San Diego to spend time with Annie. Liam, my old roommate from Brooklyn showed up in San Diego the next day and hung out. That first night, I slept in the San Marcos Walmart parking lot; a place that before college was my refuge for several months. We spent the whole three days I was there almost exclusively on the beach, specifically Torrey Pines; a place that has always captured my imagination and consoled my spirit.

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After reliving a night of my stint of homelessness, I stayed at a cheap hotel in Carlsbad, CA. When I finally got on my feet four years ago, this was the town I lived in. When I was in Downtown Carlsbad, I made a point to go and visit my favorite tree in the whole country. This tree’s root system used to spend countless hours supporting my wearing body and soul as I debated whether or not I could handle and should go to university. It was strange coming full circle; now graduated and working in a field I only dreamed was a possibility. What a whirlwind.

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I drove back to Cedar Breaks after a full day of swimming and sunning and started a six day work week, the last week of our flower festival. Lots of people. Lots of great smells and visual stimulation.

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The Alpine Pond Trail was filled with Larkspurs, Lupines, Columbines and so much more. This is mostly Larkspurs.

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There was also quite a bit of Death Camus on certain parts of the trail. This is quite properly named. It looks like an onion and has an onion-like bulb, but it is extremely poisonous. Some strands of this flower are poisonous just to the touch, this one, however, is only poisonous if it is ingested. Believe it or not people do mistake it for being edible. Three people ended up in the hospital nearby just three years ago from mistaking it for a wild onion.

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These blossoms come from the beautiful stalk of an Elk Weed. This plant lives for many years before sending up a stalk. Some stalks of these flowers can be well over six feet tall. This one wasn’t nearly that tall, it was more like three in a half feet. After an Elk Weed shoots up a stalk, it dies. Now, for some fun facts about the flowers. There is a flap underneath the pink or red (if it isn’t pink or red I’m sorry, I’m color blind). The pollinators of this plant have to stick their beak, nose, tongue, or what have you underneath the flap in order to get the nectar and pollinate the plant. The color on the top works as a landing strip signaling the pollinators underneath the flower.

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One of the last mornings of the flower festival I was assigned three hours of rove time. I headed out to Ramparts (a two mile hike along the rim of the amphitheater), where I was haunted by this shell of a tree. I remember thinking: “Sometimes on these hikes, I can’t help but feel that my imagination is being haunted by nature’s works; specifically it’s sculptures.”

The last day of work before my seemingly simple saunter (that I began to tell you about at the beginning of this blog before my digression), we had a day of consoling drizzle and gloom. The day just reminded me of so many moments in the past that I felt it was worth sharing with you.

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That is Brian Head Peak. I drove to the top (11,500 ft. in elevation); sat inside the little stone building built by the CCC in the 1930’s, huddled out of the wind and wrote: Oh, how I have missed the sad, cold, cloudy, rainy days! Finally one comes and greets me with a cozy warm joy. I can’t help but embrace it with pen, paper, and a book. There is a damp mist in the air and the clouds are a grey-blue in mourning for at least a million things, I am sure. I’m reminded of October days in Massachusetts, Shelburne Falls, sleeping in the van or in the studio recording tracks, contemplating life, past, and future. The smell of autumn leaves, driving through mountains ending up in New England towns full of fall festivities, history, and that crisp harvest air. I could sit here dreaming and thinking for hours; eating my way through books, carving out my own, thinking about songs, drinking to friendship, and laughing all the way to warmth. I make peace with the sadness of these days in the sky and air, remembering only gladness. Sweet nostalgic days pump through my veins, leaving a memory in every drop of rain.

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As you can see, leading up to this saunter, there was no rest; I have been quite alive. Two miles in, about the time I got to the first meadow, I could hear the thunder and see the lightning above, at the top of the Breaks and trailhead. I saw that more clouds were coming in, the storm above me was just beginning. It was too dangerous to go back and too dangerous to stay put in the meadow. My best bet was to continue downward until I walked the whole wilderness section until I came out to the road and then radio up to the park to get picked up.

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Before heading on my way out of the meadow, I made a new friend, a baby horny toad. Horny Toads are interesting, the first time I met up with one was when I was hiking the 20 mile round trip Blowhard Trail (another adventure I’ve been meaning to tell you about). Turns that as a defense mechanism these guys squirt blood out of their eyes. Creepy eh?

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Not long after, I made it down to the first waterfall and then, into the narrows of the Crystalline Mountain Streams.

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This shot is from the top of where the next part of this adventure begins.

I have an incredible amount of pictures and even video to show. These are the ones I felt were worth highlighting. There is also a picture slide show at the bottom that will show all the rest that I felt deserved to be seen and celebrated.

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Do you see the arch at the top in the middle? That’s Flanigan’s Arch.

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I have some panoramas I took with my phone that I figured would also be worth showing you.

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So here is a video I took while I was down there. I took about 15 videos in all but felt none of them were very good. If you do like it I can post more of them. Just let me know.

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6 thoughts on “Back Yard Adventures

  1. Aunt Annette says:

    Love your blogs, the pictures are great.

  2. Anna Aveline says:

    Hi Josh, It is a pleasure to read your thoughts, to learn about plants and horny toads, and to see where your journey as taken you. Congratulations. Anna Aveline (aka Chris’s mom)

    • Josh LaMore says:

      Hi Anna! It has been so long since I have last heard from you and Chris. I miss you both. I’m glad the recordings of these journeys has been of interest and pleasure to you. I’m always happy to share. Hope things are well and I hope our paths cross again sooner than later. I will never forget the bagel and coffee mornings in your kitchen.

  3. Mom says:

    It is so much fun to read your adventures and to see the amazing landscape in your photos. What a journey you have been on. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

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