Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Inspirations Part 2 - Everett Ruess

"As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think. I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrand life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading to the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities. Do you blame me then for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me? It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself. It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty....
From your scant description, I know that I could not bear the routine and humdrum of the life that you are forced to lead. I don't think I could ever settle down. I have known too much of the depths of life already, and I would prefer anything to an anticlimax."
- Everett Ruess

Considering that I have been static for the past four weeks I thought it was a nice time for another post about a person that has inspired me greatly.
Unfortuntely, this guy is presumed to be dead. This is starting to form a pattern, but don't worry, I have no intention of dying haha. Though as I said, he is presumed to be dead, because nobody really knows what happened to Everett Ruess. There are tons of rumors and possibilities on offer, but by now I think it's safe to assume he's dead. And that is because his story takes place in the 30's... 

Everett started wandering by himself in 1930, at the age of 16. His journeys took him through a large part of the American South-West, sticking to the deserts he loved so well: the High Sierras, Utah, the Grand Canyon, and a lot of other different places.
He traveled in different ways, sometimes being on foot for a while, but he is best known for the two burros he used for most of his travels: one as a pack animal, the other to ride.
In 1934 however, Ruess mysteriously disappeared in Davis Gulch, near the Escalante river in Utah, and has not been found since, though there have been occassions where people thought to have found his remains.
Speculations ran wild after news of his disappearance. Some thought he got killed by robbers, or maybe a mountain cat, or maybe even by Indians. Others thought he drowned in a river, or that he fell to his death while climbing one of the many cliffs in Utah. Some others even suggested that he got taken in by an Indian tribe in one of the reserves, where he supposedly married a young girl and all the Natives were in on a plot to hide him from the world so that they might live in peace.
And though there have been many search parties, nobody ever got any closer to the truth.

I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all, the lone trail is best…I’ll never stop wandering. And when the time comes to die, I’ll find the wildest, loneliest, most desolate spot there is.
- Everett Ruess

While traveling he would spend his time composing poetry, making paintings, and cutting linoleum prints, which he would often sell for food so he could keep going.
Everett was gifted with the ability to see beauty in such a way that, in his own words, it was almost painful and too much to bear. He struggled with portraying his feelings through his art, but a clear idea of how he felt can be found by reading his many letters to friends and family, many of which have been saved and used in several books about him. I personally own a copy of 'Everett Ruess: A vagabond for beauty', which is a collection of all the letters the auther could find.
In these letters Ruess would describe his lifestyle, his surroundings and the way he felt about them: he was in love with the desert.
(I could quote the largest part of his letters because they are so well-written, but unfortunately I don't have the book with me and the internet doesn't come up with much other than the quotes above and below! But it's definitely a recommended read for all those who are interested in Everett's story.)
He loathed the big cities and stayed out of them as much as he could, though he has tried to reintegrate into 'civilised life' several times, attending school but dropping out after a few months, and all the while he tried to meet as many people as possible to improve his art.

"I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly. Why muck and conceal one's true longings and loves, when by speaking of them one might find someone to understand them, and by acting on them one might discover oneself?"
- Everett Ruess

During his travels he was well-known by a lot of people. 
People at outposts referred to him as that 'weird painter kid', travelling by himself with two burros for company. A lot of the Natives in the reserves knew him as well, because he would sometimes run into them or even visit them. He even knew some famous artists who's names I can't quite remember (I never had a big interest in art). Whenever Everett wanted to meet someone, he just walked up to their door and rang the bell. His ways may have been blunt but they did work a lot of times. He always kept true to his family motto: "Eternity is made of todays. Glorify the hour."
Though he spent most of his travels by himself, he was a very social person and he talked to pretty much anybody he came across, but never found a person with the same interests to join him.
The following bit Everett called 'The Lone Trail'.

"Three or four years ago I came to the conclusion that for me, at least, the lone trail was the best, and the years that have followed strenghtened my belief.
It is not that I am unable to enjoy companionship or unable to adapt myself to other people. But I dislike to bring into play the agressiveness of spirit which is necessary with an assertive companion, and I have found it easier and more adventurous to face situations alone. There is a splendid freedom in solitude, and after all, it is for solitude that I go to the mountains and deserts, not for companionship. In solitude I can bare my soul to the mountains unabashed. I can work or think, act or recline at my whim, and nothing stands between me and the Wild.
Then, on occasion, I am grateful for what unusual and fine personality I may encounter by chance, but I have learned not to look too avidly for them. I delve into myself, into abstractions and ideas, trying to arrange the other things harmoniously, but after that, taking them as they come."

Everett could make friends well enough, but never found a true companion.
He was however one of the first people to be allowed to witness a Hopi ritual, and he was friendly and sang songs with the Navajo and other Native tribes. He felt a close bond with the Native way of life, preferring to live in and with Nature, instead of simply keep taking from it.
As such he preferred the Natives over the white traders in the area. Though he was eager enough to help out an expedition uncovering some Anasazi ruins, where the team members often feared for his life as he climbed dangerous cliffs to paint an amazing view.
In this period of time a large part of the ruins and other places of the area were largely unknown and uncovered, and Everett would take off on his own for weeks or months, often finding these old places where he would sometimes spend the night.

Such were the views Everett was treated to, and I hope to see these places myself soon.

An Anasazi ruin at Mesa Verde

The inside of a Kiva

And in this way he wandered for four years, before becoming lost forever. But let it be said that he did not die in an anti-climax!
His story has inspired a lot of people, and I think we can all learn something from people like Christopher McCandless and Everett Ruess. Most people seemingly wait to follow their dreams, 'untill the time is right'. But "...while I am alive, I intend to live." 

"Say that I starved, that I was lost and weary 
That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun 
footsore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases, 
lonely and wet and cold, but that I kept my dream!"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Getting out of the Rockies and into B.C.

So last time I was still in Lake Louise and hoping to make it to Kelowna the following day.
That's not entirely what happened, but traveling by hitchhiking means that your plans mean nothing and you have to adapt to how situations evolve. Simply put, you might not make it, you might make it, or you might overshoot your target by far! In this case, I didn't make it.
Unfortunately I have forsaken the duty of writing in my journal and the blog for a little while already, and I forgot pretty much all the names of people giving me rides considering most of them were short.

When I set back out onto the road I had to wait for nearly an hour before I got my first ride.
Somebody else did pull over before, but they were heading to Jasper up north, while I was trying to go further west and then south. The people who picked me up were an American couple on a holiday trip.
During the ride through the mountains we saw really long trains going up the mountain to our right and going into a tunnel. The American couple pulled over to take pictures of the train (which are truely long in these parts, some of the ones I saw later on took several minutes to pass me!) driving into the tunnel. I was told that there is some sort of spiral tunnel inside the mountain, made specifically to stop the trains from derailing and crashing. Previously they just rode down the mountains but in doing so they gained too much speed and crashes were very common.
Now though there was a solution cut out on the inside of the mountain, like long rounding mining tunnels. Amazing!

They drove me a little bit further but had to turn off somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and so they dropped me off at the side of the highway. I stood for half an hour or so in the valley before I got my next ride.
Inside the car were a man and a woman, he from Calgary, she from Germany. They had met eachother on that very same day through, and they planned on doing some hiking in the Glacier National Park. I wanted to get to Revelstoke, from where I needed to turn sout h to Kelowna. Glacier lay before Revelstoke, and so I was offered the choice: they could either drop me off in Golden, or they could take me along into Glacier National Park, where I would be in the middle of nowhere with Golden 75 kilometers behind me and Revelstoke 75 kilometers ahead of me.
I figured the chances of me getting a ride from Golden all the way to Revelstoke were slim, so I decided to join them untill we got to the National Park. We had a very pleasant conversation along the way, and when we found a good parking spot for them to hike from we said goodbye. They walked off to climb a mountain and I stepped back on the road to stick out my thumb again.

The next ride I got took me just a little bit farther, but on this road there was nowhere else to go but to Revelstoke, and I decided to take every ride I could get, no matter how far they went.
The closer I made it toward Revelstoke, the higher the chance I would get there. The man who gave me a ride turned out to be a park ranger. His job consisted solely of attracting bears for studies, both black bears and Grizzlies. The car smelled really bad, and he told me the reason of the smell as we drove off: the back of the truck was filled with rotting meat, as smelly as possible to attract more bears. Great, I caught a ride in a snacktruck for bears! Thankfully the roads are pretty safe and I suppose the bears stay away from them. I got dropped off at another parking spot at the side of the road with a few shacks I could use for shelter should it start to rain. Clouds were forming overhead and they were looking pretty grim.

I managed to evade the rain though, as my next ride pulled out of the parking spot maybe 5 minutes after I set up there. Inside was a woman somewhere in her forties, and she drove me out to Revelstoke. We had a nice conversation on the way there, talking about books. She showed me around downtown for a bit and bought me a tea, and afterwards helped me to find a motel for the night. This motel was recommended to me by the German woman from Couchsurfing, who had stayed there a few days earlier because it was a really cheap place: just 50 dollars or so.
There was a slight mix-up with the room assignments it turned out later in the evening as another family tried to get into my room. Apparently there are multiple keys for rooms, and I was given the wrong one. They headed back to the front office and got a different room from the clerk, so all was well in the end. I got out when it was dark in search of a wifi spot and found one at the restaurant tied to the motel and the gas station (they were all part of eachother).

The next morning I decided to have a slow start and so I sat down outside of the restaurant after getting something to eat at the gas station, and started reading a book.
After maybe ten minutes a man walked up to me who must have been in his forties somewhere as well, and started talking to me. He asked me if I was a hitchhiker, and after I said yes he said he was hitchhiking around B.C as well. He could show me a got spot to get a ride he said.
Now, I have read stories of people being lured off to be robbed this way, but he looked friendly enough and at any rate, I have the means to defend myself if need be. More importantly, I set out hitchhiking because I wanted to learn to trust people more again, and as such I joined him for a walk across town. We crossed a bridge over a river that ran along the town and found ourselves on the edge of it when we reached the other side. This was a good spot for hitchhiking indeed.

We stood there for quite a while however. At first he seemed pleasant enough but he talked a little bit too much for my liking, and after a while he started to become more and more racist.
Thankfully that's when he announced he was going back to town to get something to drink. He asked me to come along but I said I would try to get a ride for a little bit longer.
So he walked back, and I was left alone by the side of the road, and within 5 minutes another car pulled over with a young man inside, around my own age I guess.
He took me farther down the road and dropped me off outside of another town which I can't recall the name off. The road stretched on and disappeared from view a bit further down the road as it bended around a mountain. The other road, the one I actually needed to follow, was closed off for construction and as such I had to make a detour around another town further up ahead.

It took me about half an hour or so before I got another ride from another young men, somewhere in his late twenties. He was very friendly, and he told me about his work planting trees and maintaining the woods of the area. He wanted to become a forest firefighter, and that's why he did the job he was doing now: to better understand the woods and gain some needed experience.
The job he wanted to do sounded extremely risky. In his description it would be required of him to be dropped off at the top of a hill or mountain to fight the fire from there, sort of like a paratrooper.
Ofcourse, on top of a mountain there is no where else to go as the fire creeps up on your position, and the chance of being burned to a crisp are pretty high haha. In essence, they were the 'firefighting special forces'.
He wanted to drop me off at another town, from where I could get on the road toward Kelowna, but as he turned we saw two other hitchhikers standing by the side of the road, so I asked him to let me out a bit farther down the road. I didn't want to get out in front of the other two and perhaps 'steal' a ride they might have been waiting on for hours. My driver understood and ended up driving me quite a bit out of town to make sure I was in a good spot. I thanked him for his troubles and he swung his car around to drive back and resume his own path.

From here it took maybe another half hour before getting a ride. It was a slow day getting rides!
As my new ride pulled over and I ran up I saw the other two hitchhikers I had seen earlier sitting in the back, and after I had gotten in we had a nice conversation while the driver kept pretty quiet in front. One of the hitchhikers was of an Asian descent, while the other was Native-American, with long hear, a throat-beard and feathers in his cap. He was a very charismatic guy, talking like a philosopher. I got along well with both of them. All of us got dropped off at the same spot, some very small village that happened to have a small market going on at the moment, and so we looked around there for a bit before moving on.
When we did, the other two decided to split up as their destination wasn't the same. The Asian fellow (unfortunately I forgot his name because I've known him for only half an hour or so) wanted to go to a different town ahead of us, while me and the Native guy who had introduced himself as Iji-Tada (not sure of the spelling at all haha), "Little Wisdom", wanted to get to Kelowna, and it's really hard to get a ride as a group of three!

So the two of us walked further down the road and stuck our thumbs out.
Fortunately it didn't take long to get a ride which took us down to the next big town which I can't recall the name off. We were well within the city limits however, and it took us a bit of a walk uphill to get to a suitable hitching spot. We stopped at a store to get something to eat and I bought my fellow hitchhiker an iced drink. As we sat down we started talking about nature, philosophy and I ended up talking about Walden by Thoreau, which he had heard of but never read.
So I dug into my backpack and fished out my copy and let him read a few passages, which he seemed to like very much.
As we prepared to leave we met another traveler walking past. Iji-Tada had a habit of calling out to pretty much everybody, especially people who seemed to be traveling like us, or those who were Native as well. "Brother!" he would call out, and he'd run over to them for a chat. A little bit earlier we chatted to an elderly Native woman who asked him if he needed some money, and she dug out all her small change and poured them into his hands. He had a high regard for the elderly like most Natives seem to do, and he was very respectful and thankful. Quite the social fellow haha!

When we got back on the road we managed to get another ride, this time from an older woman somewhere in her sixties or thereabouts, who drove us to another small town just a bit north of Kelowna. She told us there were cherry orchards here as well and since both of us were looking for a job, we wrote down the adress and the phone number of one of the orchards.
Both of us had somebody to meet in Kelowna though. Iji-Tada had to meet up with his uncle, and earlier on the day I had phoned to an acquaintance of Leigh that had answered to her plea on Facebook to find me some possible places to stay for a few days during my travels.
So we got out on the road once more, and after just a few minutes we managed to get our last ride of the day who took us the rest of the way to Kelowna and dropped us off at a university.
We both called our contacts and waited. Iji-Tada's uncle got there sooner and so we said goodbye and wished eachother good luck with the rest of our adventures. I remained seated at the bus-stop and started reading from my book again, untill I was asked if the seat next to me was available by a girl with a French accent. It was, and so she sat down next to me and I started a conversation.
She had been in B.C for a few months and was now waiting on the bus to the airport, to head back to Quebec and her family.
Soon after my contact, Tim, showed up with his wife Luzia (I'm afraid I don't quite know how to spell the name!), and considering the airport was just down the road Tim offered to drive her there.
She seemed a bit reluctant at first, not used to getting rides from strangers, but accepted the ride.
When we had brought her to her destination and saving her some time, we now drove to Tim's house where I could stay for a few days as I looked for a job.

There house was beautiful and the air-conditioning felt great after a long day out in the sun.
The next few days I spent exploring downtown Kelowna, and Tim and Luzia showed me a local winery, a really fance place with it's own clocktower.

The entrance to the winery

The tower

This area is sometimes used as an outdoor theatre

The view from right next to the tower

Inside the winery

I had a few very pleasant days this way, and eventually I found a job picking fruit.
When I called I got told I could go there the next day, and I could camp out on the farm. 
The same day I found a job I requested a SIN (Social Insurance Number) card at Service Canada, and was able to use Tim's adress for this. No adress, no card, and you need to have one though you can use the number straight away.
The next day I got a bus to the farm as far as I could, but ended up climbing the hill up which took me nearly an hour with my heavy backpack. As a Dutchman I am not used to anything more than a bump in the road so this walk was quite hellish haha. I've been to the French Pyrenees and the Belgian Ardennes though, but that has been quite a while ago and I'm not accustomed to walking up a slope anymore! 

I settled at the farm after meeting the raspberry farmer called Dan, who is a very nice man who looks after his workers really well. He came back from town after picking up another person who wanted to work, and she was walking to the area where we could pitch our tent.
She was from France, and after we had set up our tents we walked down the other side of the big hill we are on to get some food from one of the stores there. When we got back the other people camping at the farm had returned from downtown. They were all from Quebec.
The next day another two girls from Quebec arrived. I was surrounded by French-speaking people, but furtonately they tried their best to speak English when I was around even though they occasionally fall back (understandably) to their native tongue.
In the next few days three people of the existing camping party left, a guy and two girls, leaving me with one other guy and three girls. They are all really nice and at this point the amount of English spoken increased dramatically haha.
I spent the past week working in the morning and relaxing or walking to town in the afternoon with my new friends at the farm, and that's what I will continue to do for the coming week.

Unfortunately two of the girls on this picture (the two in the centre, Catherine and Chai) have continued on. We are now with the three of us, Anne-Sophie on the right and Olivier, not on the photo.