It was an enchanting day and the child woke up feeling quite energized. The nights chill still hung around in the trees and bushes. The child stretched to the sky and sighed. What new things will I encounter today, the child thought.
She picked a few flowers and a ripe apple from her favorite tree, and set off on her walk through the woods. She had made a special request to sit with the wise old owl. She had so many questions, but one, in particular, was of dire importance. She bit into the crisp, tart apple and added a bit of a hurry to her stride.
The sun had peeked above the mountains and the clouds hung tight to the tops. The mountains were ablaze with a patchwork of colors. Bright yellows, crimson reds, intense oranges, all scattered throughout the green of the forever trees. Forever trees never loose their color or shed their coat of leaves. The birds and insects began to buzz about with the warming of the day.
The child passed the otter’s den and saw she was busily collecting moss and twigs to insulate her home for the winter. She waved and they exchanged a smile, then set off towards the wise old owl’s treehouse.
The day wore on, the sun climbed high in the sky, creating shafts of brilliant light that filtered through the canopy of trees. The child was beginning to tire when suddenly a black and white burro appeared.
“You look like you’ve been walking forever”, noted the burro.
“Yes, since the sun came up”, answered the child.
“Where might those little legs be taking you” asked the burro?
“I have an audience with the wise old owl. I have many questions I want to ask him. He is the oldest and wisest of all the forest creatures”, the child told the burro with delight in her eyes as she spoke.
“I don’t have anything too pressing to do today. Would you like a ride to his treehouse”, offered the burro?
“That would be so kind of you”, and the child slipped onto the burro’s back and off they went.
The child began to tell the burro all the wonderful things she’s learned from her animal friends. She told him of her sorrows and delights and all the things she’s discovered since she came to live at the edge of the forest. How she was special and deeply loved. The burro plodded along slow and quiet, listening with great interest.
After some time, walking quietly, the forest opened up and a huge tree stood in the middle. The most magnificent tree you could imagine. The shafts of light illuminated the tree as if on display. Half way up the tree was a wooden door that led into the enormous trunk. This was the home of the wise old owl.
The child graciously thanked the burro and hugged him tightly. She then began to climb the enormous tree. This posed no problem to the child, she had always climbed trees to get away from her worries, and she was good at it. She climbed and climbed until she stood at the old wooden door. She gently knocked on the door and it slowly opened and the owl flew out without a sound and landed on the branch where the child sat.
“Good day child”, spoke the owl in a gentle but powerful voice.
“Good day Mr Owl”, the child said politely. “I have come to ask you so many questions”, stated the child. “Otter told me that you would be able to answer them all”, squealed the child.
The owl moved closer and put his huge feathered wing around the child and told her to ask away. The child began to speak, each question more involved than the last. The owl was taken back by the curiosity of the child. “And now, for the most important question”, stated the child.
“Well my my young one, where do all these queries come from”, asked the owl?
“I dream the most wonderful dreams”, answered the child.
The child went on to explain that she had noticed that when the days grow shorter, and the trees come into their best colorful show, the tall mountains are always covered in clouds. Why?
The owl summoned the hawk and told him to take the child to the tall mountains so she could see for herself. Needing to know, the child climbed onto the hawks back and he began to ride the thermal currents, round and round, until they reached the clouds on the mountain. The hawk found one of the big ram sheep that live on the mountain and deposited the child at his feet.
The ram stood taller than the child but had a kind demeanor and soft brown eyes. His white coat was thick and curly and his horns were curled tight around the sides of his head. He looked frightening and yet so cuddly, the child jumped up and gave him a huge hug.
“What brings you so high into the mountains my child?” asked the ram.
The child began to tell the ram all about the owl and her questions. She told him that she was told to go to the top of the mountains with the hawk to find the answer to the one question she needed the answer to. She explained how she noticed the clouds were always draped around the peaks when the trees turned colors and the days grew short. The ram sat back and listened intently as the child told him of all the things she had learned, telling him story after story.
When she finally finished, the ram told her to climb onto his back and he would take her to see. She climbed on and held tight to his giant horns and he began to climb, and climb, and climb. The child showed no fear, even though she was terrified, she wanted to be brave. As they came closer to the clouds she could see hundreds of mountain sheep huddled together around a huge lake.
The ram helped her down and took her over to the herd. She noticed that several of the sheep would grab the clouds as they drifted past. Then the rest of the herd would hold it until the cloud relented and dropped all the water they held. The water was collected in the lake at the top of the mountain. The child couldn’t believe her eyes as she watched this carefully orchestrated task.
The ram looked at the child and said, “now you see with your own eyes.”
“But why?” asked the child.
The ram began to tell the child about hunters and cars and dangers that lurked for the herd if they descended from the safety of the mountain tops. They needed to figure a way to get water so they asked the great spirit for help. He told her that one night the great spirit appeared to the herd and told them of the plan. From that day forward, mother’s never mourned the loss of their ewes and ewes were no longer left without the love of their mother. The child felt the sadness that the ram explained.
“This was a great plan,” exclaimed the child in a joyous voice. “Mothers are important,” said the child, “and being without one is hard and lonely.”
She tried to hide her tears but the old ram felt the sorrow and curled around the child and she fell into a deep sleep. When she awoke, she was lying back in her hammock at the edge of the forest. She threw her legs off the edge and sat still, gazing at the clouds clinging to the mountain tops and smiled.
The coolest thing about being on the road, often times, is the people that you meet. Our van draws a lot of attention and inquiries. If we wanted to be stealth…we’ve failed.
Most often the people asking are in the process of, or have already built out their own van. Some are dreamers, some envy our life, some think it’s cool. Some come around the corner in a parking lot, beaming smile, and ask for a tour. This story is about a happenstance meeting, as described above. A prearranged, karmic meeting, of a gal with a beaming smile, in a parking lot, took the tour and asked for our help. She offered us refuge on a 365 acre plot of timbered terrain, bought 30+ years ago by her husband.
It was early July 2021, COVID was mostly under control, although still a threat. We agreed to take her up on her offer and set out for Bandon and Coquille, Oregon. We talked about what we thought we might find and how much time we would dedicate. Someone shared their knowledge with us, it’s time to give some of that back.
When we pulled up to the house, written in purple paint was ‘Welcome C&J’. We have decided that if a local asks us to have dinner or stay on their property, we would take them up on the offer, if for no other reason than to see how the locals live. Be open to the hospitality offered. This was a little above what we had anticipated.
Jennifer was home and greeted us like long lost family. We sat down and chatted until her husband came back from The Homestead. The Mountain Homestead, this was what they called the 365 acres of a permaculture, unadulterated timberland that they own. It’s now protected by a conservation easement. Chip arrived and here stood an old hippie-type that showed his joy in his laugh and smile. We all sat down for dinner and talked for hours then retired.
The next morning was van day! We all went over what it was they wanted our help with. Chip and I ran all over the small town to try to find a few parts we needed. Small towns don’t offer much for van building or 12 volt conversions. We managed to pick up some of the items we needed but had to turn to Amazon for the rest. We managed to run the wires out of the circuit board and up to where the main power control would be (for lights and fans, etc.) and ground the electrical system. As usual, it took almost all the day to accomplish just those simple tasks.
We had two days till the parts would arrive so we opted to move up to the Homestead to wait out the weekend. We all made plans and headed out for the Homestead in Coquille, a 30 minute drive.Chip proudly drove us up to the property and we parked the van at our weekend retreat.
My imagination was running wild as we drove on towards this little piece of heaven. I couldn’t begin to wonder how Chip felt thirty years ago when he chose to purchase this land for conservation sake, never to be clear cut. A small piece of nature he could call home and share with like minded people. His plan of a permaculture society was real, his dream, his passion. Not many people can have a dream and see it to fruition.
Upon arriving to the turn off, the thick forest quickly closed in, a small creek flowed beside the road, birds sang, and the air was fresh and heavy with the sent of earth. The road was a single lane dirt road that in the beginning was just a deer trail into the property. Chip told us of how the realtor, he and his wife, all trudged threw the forest, crossing the creek and emerged into this wonderful clearing, now the main hub of the Homestead. How he worked hard to pay it off and create a community, build buildings, create a garden and bring fresh spring water to the main compound clearing. How his idea came to light and for a long while lived happily off his hard work and the land. You could feel the passion and see the joy this all brought him as his eyes sparkled and he became animated.
The first thing that we saw as we rounded the bend into the opening, was a terraced opening surrounded by 75’ pine, spruce and fir trees. Several rustic structures hugging the hillside, surrounded by fruit trees, herbs and a huge garden area, including a hoop house type greenhouse. The sound of silence. The birds chirping wildly. I felt a resounding sense of the Mother.
All the wood and materials sourced from the land. There is a full saw mill on the property where they made the wood planks. Tin and plywood made up most of the roofs. They have a root cellar, garden room, tool room and workshop under the main structure. Wood stoves provide heat in the rooms. They have composting toilets, and pump spring water to the property for drinking. There’s a full array of solar panels providing enough electricity to run a washer and dryer. An amazing feat of ingenuity, and a lot of planning. They lived on the land for 27 years until an allergy and illness, caused by a sensitivity to mold spores, caused them to relocate.
We walked around the property with Chip as he tenderly told the story of each building, the memories, the triumphs and heart aches. We picked and ate fresh blueberries, cherries, and huckleberries. We parked the van in a field of camomile and made this lovely piece of heaven our home.
One bright morning, the brightest morning in some time, the Child woke up from a night of playful dreams. She wiped her eyes and sat up stretching into the brilliant sunlight.
What a wonderful day, thought the child.
She looked around the forest at the edge of the sea and something colorful caught her eye.
She stood up from her hammock and wandered over to a branch.
Before her was a most curious thing… not quite animal and not quite bug.
It was bright green with orange spots that looked like eyes on its one side and long hairs and two beady black orbs on the other.
“Hello and good morning,” announced the Child with a huge toothy smile.
The strange thing stopped its chewing on its leaf and half its body rose up to look the Child in the eye.
As it rose up the Child could see that this creature had hundreds of little legs with little suckers on each.
“Hello young Child, are you here to eat me?” quizzed the creature.
The Child looked in horror at this beautiful creature of the forest and assured him she wasn’t planning to eat him.
“Why no… I am mostly curious,” assured the Child.
“Why curious? I am not doing anything to harm you. I am just getting ready for my change,” replied the creature.
“Change?” The Child looked inquisitively at the creature, still standing upright.
The Child carefully scooped up the creature and ran to the wise Owl.
“Look what I found, eating a leaf on my tree,” and the Child opened her hand.
The creature again stood up, looking the Owl in the eye, and asked again, “are you going to eat me?”
The wise Owl looked at this small creature, all covered in long hair and hundreds of legs.
“If I ate you, you would not go through the change and become a beautiful being.”
The Child was bewildered by what the Owl said to this small creature.
The Owl told the Child to watch over this small creature and be sure it is safe.
The Child slowly closed her hand and ran back to her favorite tree and gently placed this strange creature on a low branch by her hammock.
“I will protect you and you will be my friend,” promised the Child. “Do you have a name?”
“I am a Caterpillar,” informed the creature.
“I am this color and design to stop birds and other animals from eating me.”
The Child looked sadly at the Caterpillar and wondered how it would be to live in a world where you were so different no one would want to come near you. Again, the Child gave her word that she would keep him safe.
Days turned into weeks and the Caterpillar continued to spend his days in the Child’s favorite tree, eating all the delicious green leaves it could.
One morning, the Child woke up from the most wonderful dream, and found the Caterpillar moving very slow.
“Are you okay,” she asked her new friend?
“I feel strange,” said the Caterpillar.
“Are you sick? Should I go get Otter, she can heal anyone!” The Child was deeply concerned about her friend, so she ran as fast as she could to the river where Otter lived. She frantically explained to Otter that her new friend called Caterpillar was sick.
Otter took the Child by the hand and they went back to her favorite tree together.
He was wiggling and wiggling.
When they arrived, the Caterpillar was hanging by the branch the Child had left him on.
“What should I do?” cried the Child to Otter.
Otter took the Child by the hand and told her that this is what Caterpillars do… just watch.
The two watched for hours as their friend spun and spun, covering himself in silky thread until he was gone.
The Child began to cry, but Otter wiped her tears and told her that he is now in a cocoon and her duty to her friend was not over, she still had to keep him safe.
The days turned warmer and warmer, and everyday the Child would wake up to the sun, thank the day for coming, and looked in on her friend. It had been weeks since he had spun himself into a cocoon. His cocoon had gone from bright white to a hard brown color. She wondered if she had done something wrong but continued to do as Otter and Owl told her, and never let the cocoon out of her sight.
One day, while swinging in her hammock, she noticed a crack in the cocoon. She ran through the woods again to the river to find Otter.
The two ran back to the tree. All the animals of the sea, forest, and sky had gathered around the Child’s tree.
Otter took the Child’s hand and whispered to her to watch, this is the change he spoke to you about.
Slowly the crack grew bigger and bigger until a wrinkled, winged creature, emerged.
The animals and the Child all watched for hours as this creature began to grow wings.
The Child stood in amazement as she watched her friend come out of his cocoon and turn into a beautiful winged creature.
The creature then released itself and floated silently on its new wings over to the Child.
She put her hand in the air and her friend landed on her finger.
“Hello my dear friend,” said the Caterpillar.
The Child looked at this delicate, beautiful creature. On its wings were the same orange eyes she had seen on the Caterpillar, it had only 6 long skinny legs, instead of the hundreds he once had. It’s body was much more slender and its black eyes still remained.
“You are my friend!” screeched the Child in excitement. “How did you perform such magic?”
“I am now Butterfly,” spoke the newly emerged insect. “This is what I was born to do.”
The Child ran to her secret hollow in the tree and pulled out the paint bucket, brush and jar of smells the old lady in the cave gave her.
“As a re-birthday present, I will paint you your favorite flower and it can smell as sweet as you’d like,” offered the Child.
She ran around the forest painting flowers all around her favorite tree for her new friend.
They played games of hide and seek and spent hours in the sun resting together.
After a few days the Butterfly began to slow down and didn’t want to play anymore. He said he felt strange again. The Child asked if he was going to change again?
“I am afraid so,” answered the Butterfly. “This change is life’s own journey.”
The Child didn’t understand.
Soon Otter and the wise old Owl appeared.
“My friend is sick and is going to change again,” cried the Child, and big tears ran down her face. “He said he’s on life’s journey.”
Otter and the Owl sat next to the Child as she watched her friend fall asleep on one of the beautiful flowers she had given him for his re-birthday. He didn’t move for a long time as the three comforted him. His journey had ended.
The Child cried for days and Otter sat with her.
“We all will die, and our life’s journey will end much like your friend,” said Otter trying to explain life to the Child. “We must live our lives as good souls and take care of our land and love each other for as long as we can.”
The Child looked at Otter with her big innocent eyes full of tears. Otter wiped away her tears and the two went to sleep in her hammock.
We’ve made it to Oregon (June 2021). We’ve been back on the road full time for two weeks. We’ve meandered across Idaho’s western side, checking out the sights we never had the time to experience. We had just come back to Salt Lake City to do some business, get our COVID shots and see some friends and family.
I am really torn between wanting to go back to Salt Lake. I really miss the physical presence of my friends and family. During COVID, it was hard to be distant, but the thought that, what if I caused a friends death or illness, always lurked in the back of my mind. Leaving Salt Lake a year ago, that first month or two, ripped my heart out, not being able to have a party, to give everyone a hug and even go to a communal campfire. Let’s just face it I love to be held and to hold, to share stories of the road and a beer.
Sorry for the ramble…
I don’t know if there is a right way or a wrong way to “become a vagabond” a “wanderer”, part of the allure is living off the clock. I know I’ve said it before, but not having a set schedule is more conducive to my mental state. The lack of deadline stresses, fear of letting someone down, rush, rush, rush… now we pick a direction and head that way.
We have maps and Apps, books and sometimes cell phone service, these all act as guides, but we now have the time to explore that dirt road to “somewhere?”… stop and take a nap when we are tired. If we see a hot spring or lake on the map, we may make that our destination for the day, which may turn into two, three or even a week…or it may be a bust.
What drives us to pick a place and stay? I was asked this question by more than one of our followers. Trash, weather, bugs, sound, people, cost, and access to water are all deciding factors. Of course we have to be able to access it with our van and trailer as well. We are 11’ tall, 8’ wide and 35’ long (but we bend in the middle). At times we seek out the most remote area we can find and have to get out our mountain bikes to check out the road and clearances, as well as someplace to turn around. It sucks backing up a 1/4 mile with a trailer. Good news though, Chris is learning how to back up a trailer!
We look for silence that is deafening, bird song, the sound of water, open space, tall, LIVE, trees in the mountains, shade in the desert, access to water, and a sense of safety and security.
What drives us out of a spot…even after picking the perfect spot…bugs, gun shots, people, noise, weather and other factors beyond our control. These things often come up after a night or are noticeable within hours.
We both crave silence. Normal nature sounds are welcome. You can hear yourself think. We perform our daily duties like a well oiled machine and most things are done without the need to speak. On the other hand, we have meaningful dialogue when off grid.
I will often get immersed into the nature that surrounds us. It is a means of creativity, an inspiration to dream. The life of a wanderer is never lost… perhaps temporarily delayed or caught trying to find the next shiny object.
It’s raining and we are confined to the van for a bit. The thunder and raindrops make us feel like we are playing tent. It makes us feel alive! The rain on the roof of the van, the smell of wet earth, the crackle of a campfire…the birds all vying for the loudest call, and being able to identify the bird by its call. The desert and spring time flowers. The landscape so beautiful I wrestle with the words to describe its grandeur. The sound of the winds. Each of these seeps into your soul until a city becomes a strange land of traffic and sounds, rushing people, such that you wish to do your business and move along.
Our world has changed in so many ways. Our lives are slower and more meaningful. Our demons hide from the joy of living! Living like pioneers on the way to the next new land or adventure.
Life on the road is no cake walk. Compromise, silence and space, solitude and good old Mother Nature. A tough re-entry into the world of civilization and then back to our happy place.
Leaving the back roads and beaches of Mexico was… in itself…hard. It was in essence the hot and humid weather and the need for COVID-19 shots, that drove us back to Utah. We have been officially off the “road/van life” for a month now. We have been doing service projects for friends and family and van fixes …including one very inconvenient tow, all month. May 2021, has been Service Month… literally.
We have helped with a remodeling project.
We helped recondition and sell a speed/ski boat.
Assisted a great, close friend to buy a new car. Helped our sister and brother-in-law get a good deal on two great eBikes and of course, we both got our vaccinations for COVID-19.
The spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the US. People are being vaccinated. We spent more money than our normal monthly budget for unexpected van repairs, spent a few nights in long stay hotels, and had to give up the van twice for two different repairs, one, after a minor mishap with the trailer.
My body has decomposed in this month, it’s shed thick calluses off my feet, lost at least half of its once healthy glow, my sinuses blazing with rivers of snot from seasonal allergies, lungs full of said rivers. My mind has shut down as things around me change, and I’ve all but shaved my head.
The routine has changed from outdoor living in peace and solitude, a primordial existence with Mother Nature, to City life. Now, four hard walls with a shingled roof, flush toilets and showers on demand with plenty of hot water, shelter us.
We ran to Kara’s house, loaded up the Hyside raft we sold, the IK we sold, the oar frame on the new roof rails, everything else suspended from the ceiling of the trailer. All the toys in one heavy ass trailer. It sucked the gas mileage from North Salt Lake, UT to Twin Falls, ID to under 9mpg… keeping it at an avg. of 68 mph. SUCK…
I drove the whole way with gusty tail winds, strong head winds and strong sideways burst…nuts! The Memorial Day holiday traffic is evident, from seeing 3 crashes south bound in Utah, to plenty of slow traffic driving north. We listened to an ebook talking about how US drivers fall asleep or just plain old don’t pay attention because our straight roads are hypnotic.
Nothing in the outdoor recreation world has changed since COVID-19. The prices of the recreational equipment, led by the demand and short supply, is up by thousands over retail value. That’s what has lead us to the west side of Idaho, a place we’ve yet to experience. Once we offload the extra weight we will head back to the Northern mountains of Idaho to decompress… as has become our norm… 3 days of mostly silence between talks of destinations and a sorta plan… at least a direction. Time is of no urgency unless a set destination is planned.
We spent the first night at a Harvest Host golf course right on the Snake River and a beautiful river gorge.
The silence is welcome. All 3 of us, Gandaulf included, need to hear nothing but the wind, river, birds, crickets, our own breath and heart beat. Until the controlling and aggressive “city personalities”…calm down and a synchronicity of calmness and kindness resumes… this is how the re-entry, repositioning, has been. Sometimes you just need a little space. Doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. I can fight it or move through it, it’s always a choice, and 15-30 minutes of uncomfortability in a day… doesn’t ruin the whole day.