Exerpts from a Travel Journal
I did it again. Yep. I just couldn’t take the thought of sitting around at home on break, and so threw some travel plans together one day and left the next with naught but my backpack and travel journal.
And tent. And sleeping bag. And fins/mask/snorkle. But that’s all excusable excess.
So where did I go here in the midst of a Colorado winter? Somewhere warm, of course!
“Confession: it has been almost five months since my last notable expedition. If that isn’t sinful, what is?”
“I left Fort Collins on the 31st… with naught but my backpack, some outdoor gear, and faithful Doom Nugget, my most esteemed and glamorous Japanese-made chariot. We went south by the most immediate route possible, chasing promises of warmer temperatures all the way into New Mexico.”
“South, south, and south some more. I was somewhere mid-New Mexico when the sun made its exit for the day. The two-lane highway was largely deserted, both by other cars and by any sign of human settlement. Orion rose directly over the road, his belt bracketed by its yellow lines. Chasing the lonely glow of my headlights and watching that grand universe roll over the horizon, I got the eerie and unshakable sensation that I was the sole, solitary living thing on a vast and barren planet.”
“Civilization reappeared near Roswell… I drove on, and by the time I made it to my lonely desert hotel I was almost too tired to unload the bare essentials.”
“I abandonded my motel room early and drove to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The desert in that area is beautiful, with massive prickly pears and yucca studding rugged red-brown bluffs. I pulled over on the winding road up to the cavern entrance and found myself in near perfect solitude, and thus in silence.”
“And the caverns themselves? Words cannot describe. Carlsbad extends over 1000 feet below the desert, and even the paved, well-lit pathways and the outdated cafeteria wedged into a deep corner cannot mask its alien glory.”
“I slept that night in a Super 8 in Las Cruces after a drive that dipped down from New Mexico to Texas and back, and set off the next morning for sunny San Diego. I began shedding layers somewhere in Arizona. Oh sweet mother heat.”
“Hostel in the Gaslamp Quarter, with its entrance wedged incongrueously between two classy restaurants, neatly bisecting their classy year-round outdoor patios with a constant stream of young, dirty and often drunken travlers. I’m sure they loved us.”
“First day: the Wild Animal Park, which suffered with the recent fires in the area.”
“As the day wound down I found myself sitting on the edge of an Echidna’s small enclosure, trailing my fingers in his dirt and watching as he trundled back and forth on some unfathomable business, little more than a debatably motile ball of spikes. Geek that I am, I began thinking anatomy. I know the basics of human flesh- muscle and bone, artery and nerve- but what of something as alien as a monotreme? Are our shared evolutionary histories close enough to keep the basic structures similar, recognizable but for emphasis or specific attachment? Or do they have something totally different going on beneath their flesh? Is there an echinda rectus femoris, a monotreme ulna? Or did I spend all semester busting myself over words and definitions that apply only to my own pitiful form?”
“I am on a plane. Below me, clouds, and further, the Pacific. Hello again, my love.”
“Guess where I’m bound? Maui! I cannot begin to express my excitement; my joy. I suspect, when I finally touch my tired feet to the soil of an actual tropical island, so long after leaving Seychelles, I will cry. Emotion is only natural when facing one’s ghosts and the tropics have haunted me since half and again my lifetime ago.”
“The rain came to San Diego last night after a pair of nigh balmy days, just in time to soak me as I lugged my baggage into the airport. Good timing- behind me San Diego drowns; ahead, Hawai’i beckons with sunshine and heat.”
“I was right: the moment I got in my little white rental car (dubbed “Stella”) and put the stress of the airport behind me -the moment, that is, that I really got the chance to look around- I couldn’t help but shed a tear or two. I’m the sort that doesn’t feel the slightest urge to cry at tragedies and sad movies, but will break down over PBS nature specials, so this is not at all unusual.”
“I drove directly to Haleakala National Park, whereupon the friendly gate ranger took one look at my Colorado driver’s license and cut off his high altitude warning speech literally mid-sentence with an ‘Oh… you’ll be right at home.’ That night I camped on the volcano’s slopes, above her nigh-constant skirt of clouds. Before setting up my camp, however, I went to pay my respects to the barren, windy, and altogether alien summit.”
“Camping was wonderful. I fell asleep to the roar of the wind in the eucalyptus and woke to birdsong and the Hawai’ian sunrise.”
“Yesterday, I drove to Hana. You’d think driving anywhre on an island this small would be quick and easy. In reguards to the Hana Highway, you’d be dead wrong. It gives new meaning to ‘narrow and winding’ with a max speed limit of 15 mph and uncountable one-lane bridges where you have to let oncoming traffic through before charging in yourself, hoping no inattentive driver enters the bridge without noticing you and whacks you head-on.”
“Either I’m the worst driver in the history of the Hana Highway, or people here honk to say thank you. Just a thought.”
“Last full day on Maui. I snorkled this morning on an unnamed beach around mile marker 14 on the road to Lahaina. Fifteen to twenty feet from shore the reef begins, and while I could tell it had suffered the kind of damage all reefs so close to human habitation must suffer, it was still amazing. Arm-length Parrotfish in brilliant warpaint, cowfish ranging in size from the length of my thumb to the length of my thigh speckled with bright white spots, a pipefish which easily outsized my head, torso, and thigh combined that I stalked through the reef for a good ten minutes before it lost me on a shallow bit and even a white-tipped reef shark, asleep and hiding in a small coral cave that took a bit of diving to get to.”
“The phrase the Pacific Whale Foundation’s crew used was ‘whale soup’… I tucked myself into the fore/port corner of the railing and held on like a limpet as we jacknifed over swells which neatly carved my guts from my abdominal cavity. So much for the much-romanced motion of the ocean.”
“First we met up with what appeared to be an ‘escourt pod’- mama, calf, and unrelated male. The real show started when we left the party of three and fumbled our way into the midst of a ‘competition pod’- one female and a bunch of males (three in this case) trying their damndest to impress her. I don’t know about the whale, but I was certainly impressed.”
“When I die, I want to come back as a whale. It looks fun, and I’d get to hang out in Hawai’i.”
“There is something breathtaking, something truly awesome about wild whales. Their power, their size, their infinite grace which seems such a contrast to said power and size. They act, for me, as a kind of undisputable reminder that we humans are NOT the sole inheritors of Earth; that there are entire worlds within worlds which are not concerned with us in the slightest.”
“I half suspected actually using ‘Aloha!’ was something done strictly to please tourists. No longer. Between the cashier in the very much local market I visited the first day (I was the only face she didn’t obviously know by heart), to the local guys yelling some variation of a suggestive ‘Aloha baby!’ out the windows of their dirt-covered trucks, the local language is definently still a part of the culture, for natives and more recent residents alike.”
“Ah, there. With a roar and a bump we have put Maui at our backs. It is difficult not to lapse into melancholia. Leaving is a part of living, I suppose, but I think I’d like to come back some day. I think I’d even like to live here.”
“At least I’m not going back alone.”
States visited in ten days or so:
Quite the trip. Per usual, more pictures can be seen by clicking through the gallery the above pictures all link to.