Monday, June 27, 2011

I'm hanging out

at a pizza place right now, using their free wi-fi.

I'm in Medora, ND, just outside of theodore roosevelt np. I'm leaving tomorrow for Montana's Glacier np.
My arrival into the park was some what of a mess... I showed up around 7:30pm mountain time and found that the park's campground was full. As it was Saturday, that wasn't a surprise. The entrance lady told me of another camp ground near by. After that we spoke about things I could do while here. She told me of the petrified forest they have out here, the third largest reservation of them in the country. I was super interested so she handed me a map and explained to me how to get there. Cars started pulling up behind me so I just pulled out and fallowed the map. It took me thirty minutes north on a dirt road. Then to a parking lot followed by a short walk to a fence with a small hole to go through so that the cattle out there don't escape. At my car I packed up all the things I was going to use for the next three days. I then proceeded towards the fence, squeezed through and kept going. As I thought this was a short walk I decided my Birkenstock sandals would suffice. Too bad it wasn't until a rough half mile later that I realized I wasn't headed towards a campsite with showers at all. Nope, towards a trail to the Petrified Forest... and my stuff was HEAVEY. Man... my shoulders were burning bad. It was hard to keep balance as I was carrying things on my back and with both of my hands.. wearing open heal and toed sandals. I wont lie, I had socks on too but... they mostly just made my feet slip around.
I turned back and took note of the slowly setting sun. I kept telling myself, lesson learned Natalie. Lesson learned. I finally got back to my car and started laughing. How ridiculous. So I called Evgeny to tell him about it. Mistake number 3... or 4. Yeah, I missed a turn or two and yeah I got completely lost in cougar/bison/mountain lion/rattle snake/cattle country. Wooh. I ended up finding a number next to an oil rig and calling it. Some man named Randel or something talked me back into the right direction.
I got to a campsite near the entrance of the park, it was 10 pm by then and luckily they were still open. Too bad they were full though, so after some talking and whatnot they decided to let me stay at an unofficial site near the porter potties. Boo. But WOOH a place to sleep!! And sleep I did. Finally the sky was clear and I saw the stars. I missed the milky way- it has almost been a year since I saw it last.

Sunday morning I got up and went to the park- got myself a site and re-set up camp. The campsite for T.R.N.P. is 5 miles into the park. The drive is gorgeous of course. There's this scenic loop that circles the park, it's to die for man. I took it later that night and got to see bison, wild horses and some cool deer guys. The wildlife comes out at dusk. I'm missing it now, as I'm typing this stuff up- but that's okay because today was epic.
Last night was great too- I went to this place called "boots and bar" or something for a chicken sandwich. As it's been more than a week that I've had meat, I was craving it pretty bad. It was the first meal I've bought out here which makes me happy. I plan on buying one meal a week at the moooost.
While at the bar I saw another girl sitting by herself, somewhere around my age. After we glanced at each other about 10 times I decided to talk to her. She was traveling by herself as well, from Portland, Oregon. She is without a car though so she's been using grey hound, craigslist rides and hitch hiking. Tough cookie, she's only 19. Her name is Mecha and she's got long red hair and wears cowboy boots with real spurs. Bad A.
She is in Medora because she knows a guy who's working at Boots. She met him at Sasquatch, a music festival. Her traveling mate ditched her so her route that would have taken her up and down the east coast ends here. She went to Montana, Washington I think, and California.
She and I left tha bar together and went to the guy's place that she's staying with- Sam, who works at Boots. There were friendly people there- as it's a communal living area with a house and trailers. Everyone who works in this town is a summer employee who lives here temporarily. All the boots employees live together.
So we were hanging out with the boots crew, then went back to my camp site to burn the first fire I've made out here and eat some yummy marshmallows. I then dropped her back off. Now we're facebook friends hahaha.
She told me lots about Portland, and I've only heard good things before then, so I'm definitely making it a point to see that city for an extended period of time at some point. It sounds great.

Today was the best, for sure. I woke up and made a plan for all the hikes I wanted to go to. Before heading out I gave my itinerary to the camp host who thanked me for having common sense and using it. She later told me I was very prepared and conscious, which makes me happy since that's all I'm trying to do out here.
I went to three or four places. Jone's Creek, Wind Canyons, Biocamp Outlook... I got some great shots. Saw some more wild horses, this time suuuper up close :) Good pictures of them too.
I'm dirty and hungry though, and the temperature is dropping so I need to get going. Gunna drive to Glacier tomorrow, as I said. It's grizzly and black bear country out there. I talked to some people who literally just came from there yesterday and were there for 6 days. They told me about how active the bears are right now so I plan on buying bear mase and not hiking along. I'll go to the overlooks and touristy spots, but unless I make some friends, hiking will have to wait. Which... I better make friends b/c the hiking there is supposed to be AMAZING. Ahh can't wait.
I've enjoyed Theodore Roosevelt park but I'm ready to get going.
I'll be on the road alllll dayyy tomorrow so hit me up ad we can chat.

Peace and love.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where to start...

Well, how about with the beginning?

Ben and Emily stopped in for a visit during their road trip up the east coast and helped Evgeny and I move everything out of my apartment- and thank god because if they hadn't, Ev and I would have been at it for hours past midnight. Saturday we all went into the city and met up with all my GREAT friends. Had a wonderful night of dancing and talking and laughing with them. I'm so glad I got to see them all, they're so wonderful- I miss them already.

On Sunday I got off to a late stop since my TomTom needed some updating- something I kept putting off until it really did inconvenience me. Oh well...

The drive to Ohio was beautiful. The winding roads through the mountains in Pennsylvania were much more gorgeous than I expected. I went through a couple of flash thunderstorms- you know, the ones you can see coming up the road as the road is dry in front of you and soaked only yards away. Those were fun. I listened to "Dirt Radio" for a while through the static- It was the only station my antenna would pick up: a talk radio channel dedicated to people talking about all things soil, top soil mud, plants, gardening and fertilizer. I actually learned a few things... and heard the best radio advertisement ever. Something about a hick voice vowging for a soil company made me want to never buy from a different company again. hahaaaa.

I arrived in Ohio right as the sun went down... A persistent raccoon kept me spooked for I hadn't head that animal noise in years. They sound like rabid dogs about to attack. That brat really wanted my soup. It was drizzling and I didn't have a mallet to get the pegs in the ground, so my first night was a little rough.
The rangers were nice though, one reminded me of my friend Sean, so I left feeling happy and ready. Stopped at a Walmart to pick up more bug candles, reusable bags and A MALLET (amongst other things).

Fully prepared I arrived at the Indiana Dunes state park around dusk. Set up camp and made my pasta dinner before sunset. It was full of RV's with children and old birds- But the next day I made friends with my elder neighbors who told me where the beach was. I biked over and hiked up a 20 foot dune- THAT was hard. Got to the top and had myself a nice moment. Went back down and enjoyed the beach- my first fresh water beach experience. There were beautiful little rocks that I took a collection of with me. I interacted with the life guards and some families, then went back for lunch. Headed out into town for internet. The elder lady, Sheila, that I made friends with had invited me to come to their camp fire later after sunset, but while I was out a biig ol storm started to brew so I didn't rush back. On my way back to camp I saw a dad and little girl walking in the park- during a severe thunderstorm. I asked them if they were okay and apparently they had gone on a cute lil hike together earlier that day but got turned around and ended up walking for miiiiles on trails they didn't understand. They came out on the opposite end of the beach and had to treck all the way back to the park. Got caught in the rain more than once and were a 15 minute walk away from their car. I cleared my front seat and gave them a lift. The little girl was such a tough cookie, I told her good job for getting through it. She was about 8.

Sheila gave me a slice of pizza in the morning before I left for Wisconsin. The drive there was pretty boring but I arrived before dark. Set up camp and while I was getting my dinner ready, I met a guy named Kyle. Probably 22. He was with a forest restoration group a few sites over. After dinner I met up with him and another member of his group, a girl I don't remember the name of. Their group asks its members to try to quit smoking so they were puffing on an electronic cigarette, looking at pebbles on the ground. They invited me to their site late for guitar and harmonica playing-maybe even some cards. I left happy and went on a trail ride, then hiked a bit to the top of a hill where I stumbled upon a huuuge awesome rock formation I'd seen on the park's pamphlet. I took a few shots and walked around it then headed back as it was getting dark.
On my way to camp I met a girl named Chrissy who was walking her mother's dogs. We were kindred spirits for sure. Talked about everything... The world, the environment, world politics and the love of nature. She lives out of her car with her doberman- grey hound mix in Arkensaw. I never head good things about that state but she swore it was her home of homes because of its beauty. She is a kayaker and told me if I'm ever in the state to shoot her an email and we'd go floating down the rivers together. I can't wait until that day. She's amazing.
I went to the Wis-Corp's camp site after making some tea and watched them play rummie, a card game I learned last summer from Becky while we were in Yosemite-but the rules I forgot. I talked to them about their goal- which was to chain saw down a bunch of the pines in the area to let the naturally growing oaks thrive again. Apparently Roosevelt, though he was an amazingggg man, created jobs during the great depression by having people grow pines in WI and other states not native to the trees, so now the naturally bussy landscapes are being taken over by fast growing and spreading pines. They were doing hard work 8 hours a day. Despite all the rain, despite all the ticks. Go them!

I left for Eggerts Landing early, finally before 11AM. It was a boring 6 hours until I got off 94 and joined up on the scenic high way of the area. OMG can I just tell you that the rolling green hills of North Dakota are GREAT!?! Ahh the livestock scattered around in groups, the rocks peaking out of the hill sides, the grass swaying in the wind- and the beautiful wind mills... I got to see so many, and up pretty close too. I am a FAN of wind energy, those mills are honestly a huge plus to the landscape. I can't wait til they are common sights to see one day. I got to the address the internet told me was Eggert's landing and found myself on the wrong side of "Baldhill Dam". I asked an epic older lady biker which direction I should head and went for it. Using a very non specific map and some SHOTTY directions given to me by a slow talking, anti social camp host, I made it to my site.
As I put changed my shoes I struck up conversation with a family sitting on the grass in front of the swimming area where their young kids were playing. One of the toddlers walked up to me as I approached the moms and handed me a Coors Light!! No kidding! I said, "this is the most welcoming child I've ever met! May I?" So I sat with them and their awwwwesome all white Great Pyrenees- a breed I haven't seen in person since I had once of my own as a kid. Oliver was my first dog... a masterful companion. Gosh, that was suuuch a blessing, just metting that dog and drinking that crappy beer.
I set up camp and enjoyed some spagettio's as the sun set on the lake right next to my site.
The next day I got allllll prepared for an epic day hike. Totally ready, I hiked out and found myself at the end of the trail in less than 30 minutes. Bummer. So I went to another, this one was slightly flooded with tall grass around... I didn't mind since my boots are water proof- wah wah!
I came back, slightly bummed to not be completely exhausted. I sat down in my tent and put my boots and socks right outside it. A few minutes later I looked at the socks and saw dozens of ticks!!! AHHHHH I panicked a little, as my brother has limes disease and I have a new found fear of retrieving it myself. After some clever thinking I irritated the ticks from my boots and socks, thinking all the while they were the only ones- that my sweat on the socks attracted the ticks. Ohhhh how I was wrong. Of course, I got the ticks on my hike, and of course they were all over me, and of course that means they were also all over my tent. Good god did I have a hard time getting myself calm after trying to get all those ticks away.
Later I went for a drive to get away from the noise of 4 pre teen boys who'd recently arrived with their mother who did not rear them at all. They had terrible language and manners and were seriously annoying me.
I'm so glad I went for that drive though because I've never been so awed by fields, birds and the sky before. I parked my car on the side of the road (not in any way of traffic), got on top of it and gazed as the sun moved down the sky. Thank you dad, for giving me your binoculars. They were wonderful and I'm so glad I have them.

I left a little late and am not about 2 hours away from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. While at this rest stop a truck driver came in, obviously frustrated and obviously needing to speak to someone. He and I talked about his marriage, which is rocky. It's sad when one person knows that being right has no purpose and the other can only focus on how right they are. I believe in marriage, and their marriage. I told him this and that the truth needs no defending. When we defend the truth, we are simply defending our ego. He gave me his number- I might text him the title of the book I believe his wife should read. "A new earth" by Eckart Tolle. Or "The power of now" by the same man.

I'm truly enjoying this trip. I am comfortable by myself. With my taser (thanks page) on my hip, hidden under my shirt, I feel safe. Being alone has never bothered me, though I worried this trip might challenge that truth. It hasn't, and I'm glad.

I can't wait for Evgeny to arrive, I just passed the exit for Billings, so I'll be coming back this way in a week or so to pick him up. He will love it. The drives, the parks, the sunsets and rises. We'll get to see Yellowstone and the Tetons together. I'm glad most Americans have cell phones these days, since I usually have some kind of signal to call him and everyone else with.

I welcome ANY reader to give me a call and chat me up. I am meeting new people and talking to them- but the value of conversation is greater when both people know each other. So hit me up. We can talk about anything.

With love and affection.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Okay world,

I am leaving in t-minus 6 days.

Yep, Sunday morning, June 19th, I will be driving to Cuyahoga Valley National park in Cleveland, Ohio.
It's a 7-hour drive, which I know won’t bother me a bit. I plan on staying just one night and moving on to the next place-Chain O'Lakes State Park in Spring Grove, Illinois.
I have more steps than two planned out, but I'll keep it simple now and update as I go since the destinations may change
(depending on recommendations I hear, hours I feel like driving the next day, or some other factor).

It's been a long time coming... and I know that it could have been a shorter amount of time, had I simply set the date for myself and made sure to have had everything ready to go in time for it. That's life though; we disappoint ourselves at times. But when we surprise ourselves, we are able to somehow forget all the times we failed in our minds before. I know that once my car is packed with all of the essentials, I wont feel a bit of self-frustration or regret. The path in front of me will be clear; I'll just need to walk on it.

My path is clear now too, though, which comforts and surprises me. Last summer, I felt compelled to separate myself from the world I've known and go to one that was simple and without obligation, ties or responsibility. Meeting people in the Valley who had been living like that for years was a completely new experience that enchanted my mind. I still believe what I was convinced of then- that nothing is stopping you from doing anything. Nothing. No circumstance, law, rule, or responsibility can hold you back, because those things are only thoughts. Thoughts we believe in and live by. That doesn't make them wrong, but not being wrong doesn't make something a truth. Truth is that you create your own existence. You can chose to love or loath whatever comes at you... You can chose to react- or not, and how to react to anything.

I also learned that I, like all people, are capable of almost anything. If you can do it, so can I. What makes one person more special or talented or fortunate than another? Effort. Continuous, conscious, and active effort towards goals that are geared towards those things. If you try hard enough for long enough, you will, no, you HAVE to succeed (unless one has a physical limitation- but a lot of those can be overcome as well)!

So I wanted to go for it. I lied there in the Valley after a few days of quiet, calm contemplation over the thoughts that had been flying into my mind; I decided I'd go on a trip. I’d go for a while, who knows how long it would take! It could be years, months or just weeks long. I wouldn't care if I had enough money, I wasn't sure when I'd leave or how I would go where. I’d just make it happen. I just knew I'd go, and go mostly alone. Maybe have people meet me out, or meet up with people I knew living near where I was staying. And not just staying, camping- I'd camp, and I'd feel the earth beneath me each night for as long as I could. I'd live outside, like I always wanted to do as a child.

This last year has been such a gift. When I was in Yosemite, dreaming dreams I'd turn into reality, I felt that my life's direction was too vague to follow, and that my options had no influence. I hoped I would find a pull in a park, a city or state. I needed to believe that where I would live, go to school at, and what degree I'd work towards was true for me. Was right and true.

I came home, ready to leave it without more than a couple of glances. Finally, I lived in Philadelphia without trying to live in Philadelphia. Because I knew I was leaving and that my future in the city was uncertain, I lived without seeking. Before, coming to live in Pennsylvania was attached to very defined goals in my mind. I wanted a fresh start with friends, experiences, and fun that was like A, B, and C. I constantly looked for clues in life and read into and reexamined them so that I may have had better luck at living the life they were alluding to. But after coming home, I didn't care how which people were perceiving, or what I should be doing with myself when. I just was. I was being.

And guess what? Life came at me in the most natural way... Influence materialized and my goals focalized. My fresh start was not just in social life, but in all walks and levels of my life. The friends I've made, the experiences I've had, and the fun I've enjoyed has been unmatched in self-fulfillment than any other time in my life. I don't know who to thank or what, but I am thankful. I couldn't have seen my life playing out how it has this past year, because if I had, it probably wouldn't have happened. Thank you life, for surprising me.

I can't wait to drive and drive and drive. I can't wait to camp, sweat, freeze, be dirty, feel the burn, and breathe. The rocks, dirt, plants, animals, trees, mountains, canyons, and skies will be like nothing I've seen before... and I simply can't wait. Gladly too, I can't wait to come home. I have a studio apartment lined up to stay in this fall. I'll be renting it alone in Philly, only a few blocks away from Temple, where I'll attend their art school, Tyler. I'm transferring there and am so proud of myself for finally making it. Temple is the only college I've ever actually wanted to go to. For how many I've looked into, that means it really stands out as right for me, for whatever reason.

Having family here was reason number one for moving up in the first place, so of course, coming home to them will be wonderful. My big sister/best friend ever will have moved to South Carolina by then, so I'll be missing her as I do now- since she's away in Oklahoma for work this summer. Our bond is hardly even bent when it's stretched over states, though. So I know that will be okay.

The man I am so glad and fortunate to call my boyfriend will luckily still be living in Philadelphia come this fall. Though he graduated from Drexel with his master's degree just this weekend, he wont be moving away for a job, since he's creating one from where he is. I never saw myself with an entrepreneur, but now that I'm with one, I don't know how I could have pictured myself without a man of creative, growing ambition and self-reliance. I'm thrilled to see how our relationship will grow and change in the future.

Some of the friends I've made in my life stick with me for a long, long time. And some for forever... And I'm so lucky to have more than one or two people who I know are my life long friends... in fact I have many, and that's incredible. The men and women I am friends with here, and in a few other states, are hands down the best people ever. Living in Philadelphia has been full of truly kindred fun that I'm super excited to come back to.

So much for sweet and simple; but hey, there was some clearing up and explaining I thought my readers deserved to hear.
To all of those who love me, I love you too. SO, SO much.

Will be updating again soon!