After incessantly brainstorming the possibilities, the day came where I finally scribbled out an itinerary, organized it down to the second, and booked it. At the time, I knew that I wanted to do a trip that was solo, on foot, with no home contact, incorporating half nature, half city, and hanging with my Dad.
8/13/16 – I meticulously packed the entire night until sunrise, literally zipping my bags immediately before calling for a Lyft to the Detroit airport. I minimally discussed these plans before departure out of fear of other people’s fear. During the trip, the only phone conversations I engaged in were text alerts of airplane departures and arrivals to my sister, the only person given my location and itinerary.
Upon arrival to the Seattle Airport, I’m happy to discover there’s a train inside the airport that goes right into the city. I hop on the train, then Lyft the remainder of the way to my cute, quaint wooden AirBNB Tiny House, a charming little oddball on a residential street rented out by a couple residing in the normal house next door. I chose only AirBNBs connected to the owner because it placed at least passive monitoring eyes on me during my wanderings. I’d pre-purchased an evening ticket to Bonnie and Clyde the Musical, a quirky local production sure to be fire, but ended up sleeping through it from jet-lag. When I finally awoke, I Lyft to a dive spot down the street where I ordered a beer and breakfast cuz can’t nobody tell me nothing. After returning, I finally settle into my abode, shower, and sleep long and hard in a plush white bed in the triangle upper room under the stars and trees through the sunroof.
8/14/16 – I wake up to the sun on my face, trees swaying, birds chirping, feeling like India.Arie was sitting on the edge of my bed in a sari playing Little Things on her painted guitar. After climbing from bed, I ensure all the are blinds are closed before enjoying a cup of nude coffee and ruffling through maps. I turn on some old Erykah, literally dance like no one’s watching, and Lyft to Pike’s Place for a full day of Seattle wander. There, I watch the fishermen toss huge fish across the crowd singing boating jingles as they wrap and sell fish. I contribute a wad of my gum to the Gum Wall, got coffee from the Original Starbucks, checked out the Space Needle, rode a Ferris wheel by the water, ate an authentic crepe made by a French woman, made a stop at the creepily interesting Ye Old Curiosity Shop, took a beautiful touristy ferry boat ride with a dry-humored tour guide. A good ol’ Seattle day.
8/15/16 – I check out of the Tiny House, which entailed a knock next door and a quick chat. I then took a long trek starting with riding a Seattle city bus, then walked for a bit too long alongside a busy bay, before taking a Lyft to a charter bus whose pick-up location was at some remote cross street over the river and through the woods and whatnot. I rode that three-hour bus ride to Bellingham, WA where I was dropped off at a strip mall of sorts. Then I wait in a local ice cream shop for the man I’ve been emailing thus far, a White man named Bob saved in my phone as Farm Man. He seemed surprised, and then impressed that I was Black. He was very pleasant, and I felt immediately comfortable with him despite constructed fears. I placed my bags in his truck and got in.
We went to the Bellingham Buddhist Temple where we met the other woman who was to join us; a grey-haired, short and stout, seasoned, married Filipina badass who perfectly juxtaposed my Detroit novice self. The three of us went to a camping shop for last minute items as well as our food supply consisting of mostly freeze-dried meals. Following a group debate over whether or not I needed sunscreen, I settle on a sun hat to appease them while still holding firm that I was born with sunscreen, thank you very much [I’ve later learned that this sun isn’t the sun it used to be since the humans have been humanning, and now I wear it]. The three of us went for a great authentic Korean dinner, hitting it off effortlessly and staying too long. We arrive at his farm, a huge plot gorgeous green land. On it, skyscraper-tall trees, goats, a chicken coop, a garden, an apple orchard, cave-like berry bushes, roaming feral cats, a few barns, a yurt, and a small house. While he slept in his home, she and I slept in his yurt down the short dirt road. It was a wooden circular structure with a circle sunroof, full bathroom with manual sawdust turnstile toilet, an altar, small kitchen, and a wood stove.
8/16/16 – The three of us made breakfast as a little green frog watched us from the end of the counter before commencing a full day of preparation on the farm. We divided out what each person was to carry. We each carried our own weight in addition to a portion of the group weight such as group food or camping supplies. We laid out every single item that was set to go in our packs, as “every ounce counts”, to avoid dragging even the smallest item up the mountain that is not going to be put to use. We split and condensed our packs on and off all day over open conversation, story sharing and good humor. I hang out in my hammock for awhile, stalk tiny frogs that I spot and try to identify one berry from another, eating none of them unlike my new Caucasoid counterpart. Deer slowly creep along in the trees close by as I remind myself they are only deer. Together we made a light lunch, and a large dinner, cooked and cleaned by us all collectively.
At dusk, we drive to a neighboring farm for a Sweat Lodge Ceremony, a Native American ritual that I have had the privilege of doing twice before in Navajo Nation with native people. A pitch-black, womb-like dome is formed out of thick sticks and heavy blanketing. A small hole is shoveled into the ground in the center where red hot Grandfather rocks are placed into fresh from the fire. The leader keeps a water bowl, flinging water onto the rocks off of cedar leaves creating a steamy natural sauna. It may be entered and exited clockwise only. Myself, my Filipina Badass, my Farm Man, a White woman, and three White men, two of which were elderly, all strip completely nude under the stars, and crawl clockwise into the structure for the ceremony. There are four rounds, each with a different purpose and expression. We sing, shout, meditate, express, drip loads of sweat, and let go. What a ride. I remember wishing we had a native person to lead it and wondered if we were all appropriating, but quickly realized that wasn’t the time to dwell on the politics of it all. We crawl out clockwise and bask in the crisp night air under the moonlight, ignoring each other’s nudity as we regroup and get dressed. Afterwards, we return to the farm, bathe, and break off for sleep.
8/17/16 - We wake up at what my Mama would say was the buttcrack of dawn. We dress, have a light dry breakfast, don our packs, and get in the truck. We drive up the mountain as far as we can up to the trailhead. Street signs disappear until concrete turns to gravel, finally reaching nothing but dirt road and greenery. Once we reach as far as is drivable, we abandon the truck and commence the backpack. A short while after entering the woods, Farm Man clinks the clacker. I should know the real name, but I do not. Twill thus be a clacker. We hike in silence gradually uphill until Farm Man clinks the clacker again to break the silence. We speak, enjoy a momentous rest, regroup and continue forward at the next sound of the clacker.
Everyone is to stay in ear and eye shot of the person in front of and behind them. Once we were comfortably hours in, Farm Man, maxin’ and relaxin’, did not. Behind me, after suddenly hearing Filipina Badass break silence with a single yell, I look back and see her holding tight to the edge about to roll down the mountain. I break my own silence with a string of obscenities. Sorry Buddha. It was a very steep decline where one would surely tumble uncontrollably until they hit the bottom or a stump big enough to stop them. Whilst unbuckling my pack, I beeline to her, wiggle from it and let it fall to the ground. I crouched, bracing my weight on one leg while grabbing tight to her arm. I unsnapped her pack with my other hand, flung it behind me, and pulled her up with all my strength. We both once over each other, ensuring the other is alright. Together, we run frantically and quite unsilently to our oblivious leader, who stayed close by us for the remainder of our backpack.
We continued on hiking for hours, stopping at beautiful ceremonial sites such as special caves, formations, and waterfalls. We all read and recite one long sutra during all of the ceremonial site stops. It is recited in pieces, finally to be completed at the very end of the trip at the last ceremonial site. At about dusk, we reached the place where we would sleep, our Plan B, which was a few miles short of our destination. Since she and I were falling apart, we stopped short to set up camp in a wet, buggy, Far Far Away-esque swamp. We settled in more than satisfied with our accommodations, simply grateful to be off of our feet. As I head to the stream to utilize my newest skill, fetching water and syphoning it through the filter, Farm Man sets up the small propane tank burner, and Philipina Badass sets up the dining space and preps for meditation. After the water boils, we pour it into our bags of freeze dried dinners; theirs, Fusilli pasta with Italian sausage, tomato sauce and roasted vegetables and mine, Thai Coconut Curry with veggies and Jasmine rice. A 2nd pot is boiled as we eat in order to wash dishes and prepare a freeze dried brownie dessert. It wasn’t bad, but we weren’t picky. Afterwards, we string up our food high in the trees so the bears don’t get to it (just Brown bears which are really just the giant squirrel of the woods).
We head off to bed and it is pitch black. I can’t see my hand in front of my face, and there are more stars than I ever knew were in the sky. Donned with our headlamps, they pitch their individual tents under the trees as I string up my hammock, tarp, string lights, and much-needed bug net right beside them. I finally climb into my cocoon. Listening to the awe-inspiring swampy night sounds, I’ll admit I had the most Generation Z ruminations. Trying to decide who was Fiona, Shrek and Donkey between us, I thought, “This sounds so real that it sounds exactly like the iPhone”. Tisk tisk. I sway left to right like a lil baby being rocked by Mama Earth as I fall asleep.
8/18/16 – We awake at the buttcrack, meditate, and continue our journey uphill toward our actual campgrounds. We arrive a few hours later to a three-walled wooden one-room cabin with a dirt floor. We set up the altar and arrange our meditation mats. After a lunch of jerky, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, and granola, we do a medicine walk where we are lead to an individual area chosen by the leader, Farm Man, and left in our solitude, later to be retrieved one-by-one by the leader once again. The leader left me at the mercy of an astonishing steep rocky waterfall in a bit of a meadow freckled with skinny tall trees. I carefully tiptoed my way across the rocks of the slow-flowing waterfall, stringing my hammock to the widest trees on either side. Attentively and precisely, I climbed inside with freefall below me, taking in the splendor of swaying freely in the grandest corner of the woods mid-waterfall. When I am retrieved, we regroup, meditate, prepare dinner together and turn in to sleep.
8/19/16 – Buttcrack. Meditate. Breakfast. Pack up. Then at the sound of the clacker, we commence downhill the way we came. This time, we must make it all the way back to the beginning. We meditate, eat, rest at the rivers, recite the remainder of our monumental sutra, and have a pleasant full day of hiking from dawn to dusk. At the trail’s end as we sight the truck, you’d think a giant spotlight from the heavens illuminated it as the sweet angels falsetto in our ears. We head down the dirt road, to gravel, to concrete, until we wobble our gummy legs into a local mountain pizza place. We reminisce and eat as much as we can. Once we return to the farm, Filipina Badass’ husband picks her up and Farm Man goes to his house. I sleep on my own in the yurt. Though I was not fearful, I do feel as though this was probably the most vulnerable moment of my travels. I remember thinking, “Mission accomplished girl. This is ‘bout solo as solo gets.” I relish in my powerfulness and powerlessness, and sleep peacefully.
8/20/16 – Buttcrack. Farm Man has already cooked and we have breakfast together. He gives me some books of his and we chat about commonalities of our pasts. We leave the farm and go to a tiny mountain grocery store. I grab a couple days worth of groceries before he drives me across the mountain to a cute rustic wooden cabin Tiny House on the kindest White family’s property with a large beautiful house, long rows of gardens, a barn, a river, tall flowers, horses, bright turkeys, a chicken coop, porch swings, trampolines, apple trees, all that jazz. I take the world’s longest shower and sleep like an absolute fetus.
8/21/16 – I awake to plush gingham sheets in a triangle upper room under the sun and trees through the sunroof. The mini fridge was fully pre-stocked with every breakfast food one would want. The Mom of the main house came by in the evening to restock what I had eaten for breakfast and invite me over for dinner. I enjoyed a nice quaint fireplace dinner with her and her family over open conversation, then returned to catch up on my Podcasts until I fell asleep.
8/22/16 – The Mom came by after breakfast to give me a tour of her land. She showed me all of the animals, pointing them all out by name. We walked down to the river with her many huge hairy dogs. The trees are marked with ribbons to prevent getting lost. She tells me her story and I share some of mine. Upon our return, she informs me that they will all be out for a few hours and I have free reign to her TV and fridge until they return for dinner. I helped myself to a can of Coke and see if all the Zen has made me like Basketball Wives any less. It did not. I indulge until the trampoline starts calling my name. After I have the absolute time of my life jumping too high to the most tranquil scenery, I climb off to find a stampede of turkeys coming smooth for the kid. Now I don’t want no problems ‘round these parts so I about face and claw my way back onto the trampoline for my life. I patiently wait for them to return home to rescue me, which thankfully wasn’t very long. We all laugh about it over dinner, and I return to my digs.
8/23/16 – The Mom hands me a big brown paper bag and tells me to pick apples off of her trees before I leave. I gleefully do so, proudly singing Apple Tree by old Erykah. She drives me back to the local ice cream shop to be picked up by my Daddy. We get way too much take-out, then Netflix and chill. I wholeheartedly terrify him recounting my most recent deep-woods Zen excursion as he tries to figure out whose mans is this and where I came from. During the next few days, I drag him out of the house to go to the museum, the farmer’s market, the lake, a local fair, the movies, poke around cool shops, get local deep dish pizza, and just wander. He teaches me the ropes of the casino, tries to explain Basketball, and we venerate the savagery of El Chapo for escaping from prison not only twice, but through a tunnel on a motorcycle. Talk about chess moves. We hang and rock out like old homies.
8/25/16 – Daddy drives me to the airport and I fly home fed in all the ways. I Lyft to my place and soak my barkin’ dogs. Back to my regularly scheduled programming.