Washington State to the Golden Gate

There are tree spirits watching over you,” a psychic from India, Bhavana, recently revealed to me, as she told me that meeting me has helped to rekindle her reading abilities. I met Bhavana at the Green Festival. After spending a day and a half indoors and away from the sunshine, I’d decided to take Giuseppe, whom I’d met inside, up on his offer for tea, served fresh from his Free Tea Party short bus parked just outside the San Francisco Concourse, home to this year’s Green Festival.

Giuseppe gave me a simple seat above the sidewalk as I arrived to the tea bus, and after a couple of sips into his chamomile delight, Bhavana suddenly appeared and took a seat across from me. As had been the case with what had seemed to be the majority of “new” people I’d met and talked to at the Green Festival, Bhavana seemed familiar to me– despite the fact that I’d never met her before the tea bus. We easily struck up a conversation that extended on and on as we must have spent at least an hour seated across from one another.

I’m not sure exactly who or what has been watching over me– if anyone/anything– but given the wealth of outstanding daily experiences I’ve encountered over the course of the two months I’ve spent walking from Washington State to San Francisco, a story of guidance, protection, and love from above is easy to believe.

I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday, November 22, 2009– two months after leaving Vancouver, Washington– having hiked some 750 miles from point VW to point GG.

Every day of the way I’ve met and talked to extraordinary people. (People that I may have considered “ordinary” at some other time in life are all extraordinary now.) I often feel that compared to where I was in life six years ago, a month’s worth of quality-of-life richness from then is topped with a single day’s adventure journey now.

People have been showing their brightest and best sides, fully restoring my once-questioned hope and faith in the good-nature potential of humanity. In the nine weeks between my Day 1 departure and my crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge, I’ve spent only a week in my tent. I’ve otherwise been given shelter, and usually food, by countless kindhearted souls who are willing to help me make this pilgrimage an all-sides success. Also, without ever once asking, more people than I can keep track of have stuffed cash contributions into my pockets to help see that all of my various needs are taken care of. They know this is by no means a fundraising walk, and even after only talking to me for a minute or two, they still wish to somehow take part in helping me out. I resisted the cash at first, but having found that many people I’m meeting honestly want to feel like they’re contributing to the effort, and knowing what it’s like to contribute to such “causes” myself, I’ve decided to allow it. Consequently, having tallied my small budget after arriving here to San Francisco, I’ve found that even after purchasing plenty of food, signs, reflective gear, and other necessary equipment along the way, I haven’t lost a dollar of my budget over the course of the entire nine weeks– I’m pretty much exactly at a break-even status with my Day 1 budget. I’m still prepared to bankrupt myself (if need be) to see this walk through– but what a blessing to find that food, shelter, and other assistance has helped propel me forward– despite not having set up any such link from the website.

The extraordinary people I’m meeting and places I’m seeing are experiences I couldn’t imagine having missed out on. As is the case when we make any challenging new change in life– be it committing to getting in better shape, moving on from a destructive atmosphere, or working toward a new personal goal– when we walk the path it doesn’t take long before we just have to take a quick glimpse back and quickly feel an enormous rush of gratitude to ourselves for listening to that golden voice of intuition within, answering the calling, and moving forward.

Life on the road is full of surprises– sometimes a new adventure around every turn, it seems. Many of these surprises sneak up on you like the unexpected smell of the most delicious pie in a nearby oven. Getting soaked in a sudden rainstorm isn’t one of the highlights– but I’ve been learning to laugh through the pain of the hard times as well, as I learn to understand their role in the greater scheme.

The hard times offer not only lessons and opportunities for growth, but they bring a much greater sense of general optimism and gratitude after you make it through them. For example, I remember a stinky night’s stay indoors a few towns back. I knew I wasn’t enthusiastic enough about the place I where I was invited to stay. So, I simply stepped outside into the cold, dark night for a few minutes, remembered the colder nights crammed into the little bivy tent, and felt so much more appreciative when I returned to the warm, cozy hosting home for the evening. And what a great night’s sleep came of it!

Though I always try to line up my nightly accommodations in advance, most often via the Couchsurfing website, I frequently am unable to succeed in finding a host when entering a more sparsely populated area. Consequently, there have been many days where I’ve hit the road on a paved path through many sticks, and been absolutely unaware of where exactly I’ll be spending the night. Such a scenario was a bit intimidating to me at first. But, with a determined, see-it-through attitude, I’ve made it through some initially “questionable” scenarios, and have learned to simply approach such days with optimism, trusting that “something will work out…” even if that means that I’m finding a hidden patch of ground amidst the vineyards for the night (my latest “almost-scenario,” the day I reached Cloverdale). There are fun stories to report from many such days so far (Junction City, Rice Hill, Myrtle Creek, Oregon I-5 Exit 82 rest area, Crescent City, Stafford, Redway/Garberville, Laytonville, Willits, and Cloverdale…), most of which are stories I have yet to catch up on…

It will take a few days before I really start making serious progress south of the Bay Area. Though the body is eager to hit the road, intuition tells me to stay calm: give the feet a bit more rest first. I trusted intuition’s advice when it directed me to rest my injured left foot the month before the walk began, and despite the body’s urgings at the time to continue to push forward with training, listening to the golden voice within paid off super well. That voice is again telling me to take it easy and rest up for a few days. Despite leisure walking here on the east side of the Bay, where I’m currently resting, it’s been nearly a week since I last made progress on my actual route south, and my body (feet) feels sooo much better with this rest. After a few more days, it will be time to hit the road again.

I look forward to the road ahead. I’m carrying a lighter load in the backpack, traveling for now without the camping gear, which I’ve left with a fabulous friend (Erin) back in Santa Rosa. I’ll make it all the way to about Santa Cruz before I have to reload the gear for the continued hike south, to LA.

While the realm of that which I don’t know is still much greater than that which I do know, I’ll soon be pushing forward again on this pilgrimage– welcoming the companionship and assistance of the sun, the wind, the water, the trees, and the countless extraordinary souls I’ve been encountering along the way. I don’t know what all to expect as I proceed south toward LA, but I face the road ahead with optimism and enthusiasm– confident that whatever comes of this next chapter– inspiration will spread, and I too will learn and grow in the process.