Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 48, December 1972
I returned to Meadow Valley on Friday and reported for animal care duty. Jodi told me again, "I'll be back the day after Christmas and I'll call Mrs. Wilkins if anything changes.”
The next morning, Jodi and Hanna drove off and I moved from my trailer to the house. It began to snow and continued for days. I spent most of my time sitting in front of the open stove, my feet on a stump, reading about the Donner Party from a book that Willy had lent me. The story told of a wagon train heading for California that crossed the Sierras too late in the season. The travelers were stranded in twelve-foot drifts of snow and when their food ran out, they survived on strips cut from a rawhide rug and human flesh.
I like a party but I figured that was going a bit too far. The fierce weather outside my cabin added to the drama. I was riveted to the book for hours each day, suffering along with those unfortunate pioneers.
Near the end of my gruesome read, I heard a car pull up. I opened the door and was surprised to find two vehicles filled with eight of my friends from Winters: Hal and Nancy, Russ and Rosie, (who were now an item), Albert and Russ's ex-wife, Kelly, and Randy and Pam. It was a grand surprise.
Hal was closest and first to speak, “Hey, man. Howdy?”
"What the heck are you guys doing here?”
Russ said, “We thought we’d come to visit and go skiing over in Johnsville tomorrow.”
“I was just reading about the Donner Party and needed an upper. Man, it’s good to see you all. Come on in by the fire.” We shared hugs and hellos.
I brought the kitchen chairs into the living room and added another log to the wood-stove. Russ handed out beers and Hal rolled a few joints. We goofed and gabbed about this and that, then drove to the Ten-Two restaurant for dinner.
I’d still been feeling crummy about dumping Jodi and the ghastly Donner Party book hadn’t helped my mood. My friends showing up when they did was just what the doctor ordered. I was starting to feel like the old Rich again. The next morning we drove to Johnsville, rented skis, and spent the afternoon on their modest hill. My friends departed the following day, leaving me rejuvenated.
Strange how living alone was less lonely than living like a stranger with my ex-lover. I enjoyed my seclusion, thinking a lot about the past year and how we put expectations on people—which can only create problems. Then there’s the fact that people change, sometimes for the worst—the reason why I'd never entertained marriage.
The rub with Jodi was that I knew she wasn't my ideal mate from the start. I was under the illusion that the gap between us could be bridged. Boy, was I mistaken!
One important lesson I had learned: You can love a lot of people—but you can’t always live with them!
During the second week of December, I fell ill with a bad case of stomach cramps and diarrhea. To make things worse, it was bitter cold and the pipes froze. Without running water, there was no flushable toilet so I had to scramble out into the snow to relieve myself. I'd lay in the house suffering, doing little more than feeding the fire. Once a day, I would pull it together to tend to the animals, which involved a hike to the stream to fetch water. For two days, I barely ate.
On the third day, my energy was spent but I needed to walk the eighth-of-a-mile to the stream. I bundled up, grabbed two buckets, and started out, but I couldn't even make it fifty feet. I collapsed in the snow and sat there until I could gather the strength and the will to make my way back into the cabin.
I didn’t know what to do. My hazy mind fretted about the animals but I was too weak to reach even the nearest neighbor. Late in the afternoon, Willy showed up and helped me out. Boy, was I glad to see him!
After two more days, I was feeling better and to top it off, the water began to flow in the house again.
On Christmas day, I was feeling strong and my heart was no longer heavy. I indulged in my Holiday present, a hit of acid that Willy had laid on me a few days before.
Looking around the cabin, there were still beer cans here and there from when my friends had visited. In fact, I'd made little effort during the past month and the entire house needed some serious attention. The day was spent cleaning up so that Jodi, an immaculate housekeeper, would feel comfortable when she arrived the next day. The LSD filled me with love and appreciation, which caused me to focus on making things perfect for Jodi’s return.
I dove into the housework with enthusiasm. There was plenty to keep me busy but I enjoyed working with precision, attacking every corner of the house. Druggy sounds in my head kept me company.
While cleaning, I thought about the past year and the sweet soul I had been involved with, feeling no remorse. I worked and tripped all through the day. I didn’t stop to eat until late afternoon when I had completed my clean-up. I cut a pear and an apple into slices and spread peanut butter over them. Next, I fed Charlie along with the other animals, opened a beer I had been saving, stoked the fire, and then, settled back to enjoy my supper.
There’s nothing like the feeling of satisfaction when a task is accomplished and you know you did a first-rate job. I imagined Jodi reaching for the doorknob, thinking it would take her a week to get her house back in order. I pictured with delight the surprised expression on her face when she found her home sparkling clean.
After eating, I asked Charlie if she wanted to go for a walk. Of course, I knew what her response would be. She bounced to her feet, tail wagging at full speed. I bundled up and we headed down the dirt road toward the creek. The cold mountain air was invigorating and the snow crunched under my boots. My senses were taking in the sights, smells, and the stillness of the forest. The acid was still affecting me but it had calmed to a perfect level.
The snow reminded me of the first time I visited Quincy. It was Thanksgiving Day a few years back and the weather forecast had predicted the first snowfall of the season. Sam had handed out LSD to Lil, Jason, and myself, loaded us in his van, and drove deep into the woods on a deserted logging road.
I was watching Jason make another futile attempt to start a fire with damp wood when I happened to glance upward. And there it was, a few hundred feet above, hurtling towards me at the speed of gravity—which proved to be extremely fast! It was a white blanket, as wide as the eye could see. I yelled, “HERE IT COMES!" and ducked just before getting pelted by soft flakes of icy snow. I had to laugh at the memory.
As I approached the wooden bridge that crossed Spanish Creek, I leaned on the railing, losing my thoughts in the water flowing between the two vivid white banks.
Dusk was approaching as I removed my gloves and then reached in my pocket for my harmonica. I unsnapped the blue case that housed my Blues Harp and pulled out a baggie with the harp inside. I had found that if I kept the instrument in a plastic bag, there was less chance that dust would block the reeds. My heart was full. I looked up at the sky through the pines and I belted out a lively rendition of Hog Fence.
When I finished playing my music, I continued to stare out at the gray, darkening sky, feeling an unusual clarity.
As tough as it had been, I had learned plenty this past year. I was thinking of the great human souls who had influenced humanity. People like Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and others. Even though I felt that much of religion was belief without substance, I recognized that a number of people had experiences beyond the dogma.
From reading Autobiography of a Yogi, I realized that there were unexplainable possibilities that most Western minds rejected. I knew that when I, or anyone else for that matter, offered genuine love, it usually sparked a similar emotion in the recipient. I had also come to the understanding that great souls somehow had a handle on this precious commodity. I speculated that when someone sent pure love in the direction of these advanced beings, they got a mega-dose in return. That could explain the experiences of the few sincere religious folks whom I had encountered.
After all I'd been through, I had come to the place where there was one thing I understood about love. And that was—I knew next to nothing about what love really was! With that insight, I looked up at the sky and said with sincere humility to no one in particular, “If there’s anyone out there who can teach me about love, please do it.”
On the twenty-sixth of December, I woke up late with a tired, fuzzy mind. I loaded my truck and said good-bye to Willy. I also asked him to check that Jodi returned later that afternoon and to please feed the animals if she didn't arrive.
Then, I drove down the canyon with Charlie beside me, leaving a significant chapter of my life behind.
To be continued...
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Trippin': Roads, Rails & Mountain Trails
In book 2 of his Hippie Adventurer Series, Rich takes us on another wild ride during the 1960s as he and his faithful canine companion, Charlie, hitchhike, hop freights, work in an Alaskan gold mining camp, and manage a Sacramento Valley cattle ranch.
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s were a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!
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If you haven’t read the first book in the Hippie Adventurer Series, the award-winning Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, you can find it on Amazon and Audible.
1A. Escape from Heavy Caverns