adventure

Seeing Two Octopi at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Yesterday was epic! Kyle and I got our second chance to head over to Hanauma Bay in Oahu to go snorkeling. We had previously heard that there were octopuses in the water, but I was pretty skeptical about getting to see one, considering their camouflage abilities to hide in plain site and their speed and intelligence levels. Also we had visited before while Geoff was with us, and didn’t see any.

Octopus cyaneabig blue octopus, day octopus

By Brocken Inaglory – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7933738

But we got lucky! About 5 minutes into the first snorkeling sessions, I saw a little floating red sea creature hanging out at the edge of the reef, kind of circling a big reef rock. As soon as it saw me, it floated to the top of the big isolated rock, clung onto it, and began to descend into its vertical lair hidden in the rock. It hid and camouflaged with the surrounding cauliflower coral until I could only see a wary eye peering out from the small cave. About a minute later, the Cephalopod had completely disappeared into its den to hide.

We continued to snorkel through the Bay and went out much further than the previous session; going beyond the buoys with the advice of the people working at the preserves advice to stay in sight.

About 15 minutes later, I spotted another day Octopus! Very similar to the first; but it seemed to be a bit more curious and tolerant of Kyle and myself; we had a really hard time looking away! In similar fashion to the first little guy we say (about 2 feet in size including tentacles) he eventually clung to a rock, crept into a very small vertical hole and hid itself from our vision. While it hid, it changed colors and grew horns, changing into an extra replica of the surrounding reef structures.

Kyle and I continued to explore the bay, but there was a definite sense of accomplishment and wonder; we had seen one of the coolest and most intelligent marine animals that exists (in my opinion). It was a similar feeling to seeing grizzlies foraging on the mountainside in Yellowstone park.

We continued to roam the edges of the reefs and explore underwater caves and cool coral structures and species that were thriving in the Bay’s protected environment. I would go back again in a heartbeat! Highly recommend if you ever visit Oahu, definitely a major highlight of the last two weeks in Hawaii.

Enjoy Raw Footage from Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

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Getting into Rock Climbing in 2022

I’ve always loved the mountains. I also can’t get enough of a good view. There is something so majestic and regal about being on a snowy peak with weather happening all around, or on some giant mountain watching the clouds and the winds move. I grew up skiing in Lake Tahoe and fell in love with the cold and snow through those childhood memories of being at the summit of squaw in a blizzard and waking up at 6 to get to the ski area at about 7:30. I have very vivid memories of racing my littlest sister down the mountain.

Climbing seems to be the other half of all of those downhill sports. It is very difficult. Bouldering is especially challenging for me because it forces me to maintain core tension and that requires being thinner. Luckily, I practice lots of yoga so losing weight isn’t a huge deal, but it also forces a fairly strict diet to maintain a high ratio of strength to weight.

Sugar Loaf

Check out this fun video I made of a climb that Ronnie invited me to out in Sugar Loaf along 50 towards South Lake Tahoe.

This winter I have some goals. The first is to lose a bunch of weight. I don’t weigh myself on a scale, so its definitely more of a certain level feeling good. Climbing is obviously much easier when you weigh less.

I am also looking to get into avalanche training and awareness in the high mountains. That means spending some time up in Alaska or Canada. I’d also really like to get that first time of ice climbing in. Being an avid skier, I also will want to learn some back country skiing techniques, but for now I am content to try to be as safe as possible in the level of difficulty that I am in. Tahoe is obviously going to be a great place to learn things this winter; the snowfall is epic right now. I can’t wait to get back into woods that look like the picture to the right.

I took the photo that’s below at the Quarry Trail in Auburn a couple of weeks ago.

Learning Technique at Pipeworks

This year I have been thrilled to start climbing almost daily, a few friends got me going and I’ve been enjoying all the different kinds of climbing on rock. I am loving every second of sports climbing and have led some pretty fun routes, even a 5.10! Its a very difficult sport but about a year in I am starting to feel my fingers develop more strength and my arms are getting used to holding my weight when I am upside down. Bouldering has gotten to be kind of a passion of mine.

The gym I go to is in Sacramento, so normally I just go after work. It makes for a nice way to destress after doing a lot of manual labor. Climbing has totally changed up my workout routines and yoga as well. Ashtanga becomes a lot more useful when climbing because you can create the body tension necessary to do dynamic moves.

There are a few super important muscles used for climbing, mostly in the forearms, but also in the shoulders, core, legs and hips. The digitorum profundus is specifically very useful to strengthen for the grip strength necessary for climbing. That’s why hang boards are so popular, this one muscle group can get extremely strong!

It’s also crazy how important footwork becomes for higher levels of climbing. So I’ve been putting together strength workouts to get back into the best shape that I can to climb some big mountains.

This past year, I did some fun stuff. I got out to Shasta, Cody, Yellowstone, Hiked up Mount Whitney, spend 3 days in Yosemite in the Buena Vista Crest, and got up to Tahoe a lot to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from hiking this year, there are most definitely some good ones in there!

The American River

Mount Whitney

Yellowstone

Emerald Pools

Yosemite

Same photo zoomed out

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Elliot's Backpacking Trip through Yellowstone National Park

10 Days and 9 Nights Journeying through Yellowstone National Park’s Back Country

Elliot’s Yellowstone Adventure Overview

When I first arrived in Cody, Wyoming I was hoping that I would be able to spend about a week in Yellowstone National Park backpacking through the wilderness. I did some research before on bear safety and precautions and had spent a good amount of time and money gearing up and preparing.

The idea was to start learning how to cope with snow while camping. Also to have my longest backpacking adventure yet. Though I didn’t get the mild snowy weather I was hoping for, I did get quite a challenging adventure logistically and mentally.

Every night was very different, ranging from anxiety about bear activity, to lack of sleep due to Elk and Moose trumpeting, to sleeping soundly in Yellowstone’s very fun and beautiful campgrounds of which the Madison area was my favorite.

Another big goal was to see lots of wildlife while staying safe. Yellowstone has the highest concentration of mammals in the lower 48 United States (Alaska has more) and I am a large animal enthusiast. It turned out to be a great time and I really started to get the hang of being out there about 5 days into the adventure.

The second day in Cody, I made a friend named Josh, who I met at Sunlight Sports on the Main Street Sheridan Avenue. Josh is becoming a really good climber and we got another chance to climb after this and also went bouldering with some local dudes that were super talented on the local bouldering routes up on Cedar Mountain. We went sports climbing a day later and I asked him if he could give me a ride to the park for some gas money. He agreed, so I found a small storage unit and put all of the climbing gear and things that I didn’t think that I would need backing into it. Tuesday morning I headed into the park with Josh as my driver.

I later sent a 5.10c on lead and am super psyched on it even though I topped out like a beached whale cause my arms had literally no strength left in them at the top.

Part 1 – Acclimatizing to Living in Nature

Day 1 – Into the park and the Yellowstone Lake Backwoods

can you see the grizzly bear’s shoulder hump in the photo?

Josh dropped me off at about 9am at the East Entrance to Yellowstone State Park. I paid the $20 for personal entry to the park and started walking. The first day was spent mostly hoofing it alongside the road. Yellowstone isn’t exactly the most pedestrian friendly place in the world and focuses far more on road maintenance than keeping up its trails. However, this setup does allow for easy and effectively managed wildlife viewing, so I definitely have mixed feelings about it. I saw my first Grizzly bear about 3 hours into the first day, at about 11:30am whilst walking along the road. A photographer up ahead of me had a massive camera and we chatted for about 30 minutes about the bear’s activity. The photographer was full of useful information and had followed the bear the previous season, as well as earlier in the week. It was a very interesting beginning to a very long day.

Sylvan River Sulfur Spring

After 15 miles or so of hiking it along the road and having people waving at me from both directions, I left the road from the East Entrance. At about 3:30 (plenty of daylight to get to the lake, or so I thought…) I followed the Sylvan River down into the back country where I enjoyed the nature far more than the vehicles (many of them were RVs). I found this fascinating sulfur spring pouring into the river and decided to pump my water far upstream from it, where the water was much clearer. I wasn’t and still am not sure if my filter would be effective against such a smelly and toxic looking thermophile deposit, but it seemed to do fine with the trace amounts that must have been in the river. I continued down stream, leaving the river at points because the back country travel was so difficult. I was bush-whacking over large and stacked pine trees and began to see lots of animal sign, scat and tracks. I knew to make noise and avoid being smelled and I had all of my bear equipment at the ready, but I still became very fearful of animal activity and interest in me as the day progressed. I really felt that an animal might get curious and approach me. But the sun was going down the horizon and it was getting super cold. I setup my pack and bear canister far away from my site and waited to cook until the following day to stay hidden from the bear’s incredible sense of smell. Additionally, the sulfur deposits leeching into the river would protect against something smelling me or my pack. I settled down into the hardest night of sleep while in the park, worried that a bear might smell and/or interested in my campsite.

Sunrise of Day 2

I had a hard time sleeping that night, but my dreams were incredible. It probably took me 1-3 hours to get to sleep each night and this was for sure the longest it took me whilst in the park. My first dream was about a bear attacking me, jumping on my back while I was in my tent. Surprisingly, this put me at ease, allowing me to find some peace with where I was and the situation. I let go. The night passed and I awoke to a hard frost, but no signs of animal activity near me. I had made the mistake of leaving all of my sweaty clothing out (away from my tent) and it had all frozen over. Next time I would keep my wet clothes in my tent to avoid that situation happening again. I waited for the sun to rise above the ridge-line of the valley that I had slept in and warmed up with my gloves and some backpacker’s pantry oatmeal for breakfast as well as the Instant Coffee I bought from Pour Choice in Auburn, CA for this exact adventure.

Day 2 – Getting to Yellowstone Lake and Hitching my First Ride

The morning of the first was by far the hardest hiking I had to do. Two miles took me two hours and it took 5 to get to the lake. I attempted to follow the Sylvan river, but it was extremely slow going due to the downed trees, most likely from the flooding earlier in the season. Luckily my trekking poles came in very handy to effectively help me to cross over many of the larger stacked trees, but I still had to find my way through the maze. Sometimes I had to literally go backwards a bunch and find a new path forward. It took all morning and just a bit of the afternoon to reach the lake, which I had planned on staying at the first night.

My first view of the lake was spectacular, both in feeling and beauty. My stress levels diminished quite rapidly as I soaked my worn out feet in the lake, which were being gradually destroyed by my new Arc’teryx Acrux mountaineering boots that were not yet broken in. And I realized I had forgotten my favorite shoes, my Choco’s sandals, in my temporary storage unit back in Cody. I swam a bit in the icy cold water and then continued barefoot up to the road, where there was signage and all kinds of warning about bear activity in the area. I knew I was pretty lucky not to have encountered any wildlife other than squirrels and birds so far so I decided to recuperate and plan the next part of my trip outside of the lake area that I had originally planned to stay in for the duration of my backpacking trip to Yellowstone.

I hiked up to Sedge Bay and Steamboat Point picnic areas and met a really friendly Canadian couple who were traveling through the park with their car (like a normal person would). I asked for a ride and they graciously offered to bring me north, to Canyon Junction where they were staying at the expensive and beautiful Canyon Lodge.

We traveled for a few hours and roamed around the park, seeing Bison, checking out geysers, and learning about the conservation efforts of the park. I pretty much just went along with whatever they wanted to do, happy to not be alone in back country any longer. All the time we spent seeing the sights, I was wondering where I would stay the following night. At this point I learned that its really not allowed to just stay in the back country (even though I had previously signed up for a back country permit) and that you were supposed to stay in specific campgrounds throughout the park. But due to the off-season closures, I had a terribly hard time finding rangers to give me advice or any sort of guideance.

Once we arrived at Canyon Village, I talked to the very nice, however uninformative receptionist at the hotel, who explained that only one campground was really still open (actually there were two) and that it was on the Western end of the park, the Madison campgrounds. I was wary of staying in the back country for another night and didn’t have any idea of how I could get there, especially at the late hour that it was, around 6 o’clock. When I’m backpacking I definitely prefer to have my tent setup before dark. And Canyon Village had campgrounds, although they were closed for the season, even though the weather was still very agreeable. I got a hot plate for dinner, rice and chicken and veggies and then followed the Canyon Village road to the closed campground area.

I decided to stay just off the campgrounds in the forest around some trees that looked very healthy. I slept really well that night, but the dreams were still extremely vivid. And I could hear wolves and coyotes howling that night, which made for some interesting thoughts. Overall one of my good nights overall, getting to have a hot meal and feeling safe my camping area.

Day 3 – The Wild Greeble Lake

I woke up on the third day to the cold. The mornings were definitely a big temperature difference from the nights, so I would layer up in the mornings and then take off clothes as I started to sweat, doing my best to avoid moisture buildup in any of the layers.

I had studied a back country path out to the Cascade and Greeble Lake area so I got on the road early to find the trail. I got to the trailhead and began towards the lake, an easy hike for about 3 miles. Once I got there, the views were magnificent; this was the type of camping and backpacking that I had been looking for in the park. I passed a back country campground that allowed for fires and started to get super psyched to spend the night out there. I met three hikers along the trail and we chatted a bit about bear safety, they seemed to be very interested in my larger backpack so I was happy to chat and tell them about what I was doing out there.

I found an open site on Greeble Lake (some were closed due to wildlife activity) and setup my tent. It was only about 4pm so I went for a swim in the icy lake and got a fire going, cooked some dinner (actually my least favorite meal, New England corn chowder) and dried off some of my clothes, still wet from the first night’s hard frost.

Greeble Lake Fog

Pretty much as soon as the Sun went down, I heard loud trumpeting right next to my tent. And then swimming. The elk were for sure going out into the lake to swim and several of them were calling for mates. It was actually quite symphonic, they were beautifully calling out in the night and the moon was pretty full so I’m sure those elk were having the time of their lives out in the lake. Partially through the night, I heard a more distinctly large and deep animal trumpeting sound, that was more chaotic and louder. I’m pretty sure this was a moose, cause it came back to an area near my tent and started making tons of noise. I didn’t sleep so well that night, but it was so fantastic that I didn’t mind the next day. The dreams I had that night were the most vivid of the whole trip.

Day 4 – Arriving in Norris and Madison

The next day I awoke to no animal movement except for the little mallards on the lake. I woke up a bit later to get the sleep I knew I needed and to let the Sun warm up the fog from the lake. I pumped water, ate some breakfast and got on my way.

I passed Wolf and Ice Lake fairly early in the day and got out to Norris, where my trail disappeared into a giant meadow, with no landmarks in sight. I was completely lost for about an hour and heading into the direction I knew the road would be in. I trudged through the thick sedge grass in the meadow and followed power lines out to the road at Norris and the main road. Once I was on the road I decided to check out the Geyser basin. It did not disappoint, Norris has the most dynamic thermal activity in the park and is constantly changing. I spent about an hour exploring there, ate a little, then began to walk down the road to the Madison Campground.

At this point my feet were pretty destroyed, it was the first time I had worn my boots and I didn’t have a send pair of shoes to trade out. I was moving too slowly to get to Madison before nightfall so I decided to throw up my thumb and try to get my second ride of the trip. Probably 200 cars passed me before a truck stopped pretty far ahead, it looked like the guy who stopped was reorganizing his trunk space. I confirmed that he was going to give me a ride and a feeling of relief washed over me.

The next 15 miles took about 20 minutes rather than a whole day. Nate and his family of four, two younger boys, were my miracle that day, giving me lots of snacks and food to continue on with my back country adventure. They had previously traveled around Shoshone Lake and I figured that would be a good place to spend a night or two.

I got into the campground, tired and hungry and went to the local store to buy as much food as I could eat that night, including bacon, instant noodles, and BBQ style kettle chips.

I was getting my fire setup to cook the bacon when my Irish neighbors came over with some Bourbon whiskey to share!

These two gentlemen were from Ireland doing the continental divide trail on bike and were also looking to take a day and rest (I had covered quite a lot of distance in the past 3 days and needed to rest my feet from the heavy boots). We became friends quickly and began to tell of our lives back home, Tommy was a poet and Dermot, well I’m not too sure about Dermot’s story but he had traveled a lot and continued to love living in Ireland. We decided that the following day we would go fishing and take it easy at the campground, as it was one of the few places with accessible food. The rest of the park seemed to be completely shut-down for the season.

Day 5 – Fishing in Madison

I slept like a little baby that night, the bourbon kept me plenty warm and I was very happy to have a couple of friends to share time with. Tommy and I woke up late and went out to the river to fly fish and we spent the day exploring different flies and trying to entice the fish to our reel to no avail. Tommy had previously gotten his fishing license and I was happy to learn all about the conservation efforts for the local species of cutthroat trout. In fact, if you catch a bass in Yellowstone you are required to kill it. They are very intelligent about how they want to preserve native species in the park, I recommend checking out the rules simply because they are so interesting.

We came back to camp and had a couple of beers together and cooked some more bacon, I was definitely trying to eat as much fat as I could over those two days in Madison. And again I went to sleep a happy camper.

Part 2: Mental Acclimatization

Day 6 – Faerie Falls

The next day I woke up and packed up all my things, ready to try taping up my toes to keep them from forming more blisters from my boots. It worked out okay, but the first part of that day was still extremely difficult. The pain in my feet just didn’t seem to alleviate for any reason, no matter how I changed my walking technique. Eventually I found that stepping with my heels first was the only way to keep my toes from exploding with pain. I would use this type of walking technique for the rest of the trip, which definitely slowed down my pace.

The Madison River area turned out to be one of my absolute favorite places in the park. It was beautiful, everyone was friendly, and the fishing was really good. I could see myself going back during the summer months to stay for a couple of week and just follow the river and fish.

I got to following the Firehole River in the morning, which drains south from the Madison Junction. There was a beautiful waterfall feature as well as massive cascades, so I spent some time just following the water and ate a solid lunch sandwich from the Madison Campground area.

I got back onto the trail from the fountain flat drive where I saw herds of buffalo roaming around the Western side of the park. They seem to love the thermal features, even when it is hot out. Whilst on the trail, I saw a buffalo that was really close, but seemed to pay no mind to me. I knew these were the most dangerous animals in the park so I kept as much distances as I could between myself and these absolute units of pure muscle.

Bison that is too close for Comfort

Further down the Faerie Falls trail, which was spectacular, a group of about 4 bison herded together and were about 130 yards away from me. One of the bison stared me down from the side of his eye, looking at me like I was a wolf or some other predator. It stomped its hooves at me and began to paw the ground towards me. I hunched my shoulders and looked away to show that I wasn’t a threat and simply. continued along the trail. Another bison stepped in between myself and the aggro male, probably a female calming her mate, and I simply walk away into the distance.

I walked a fair distance to the Faerie Falls waterfall, which is so beautiful, and met German couple who were celebrating their halfway point through medical school. Their English was very good and we got along great until I split from the trail to head to my campsite for that night. I slept in the forest that night, entranced by the beauty I had been able to enjoy that day.

Slow motion capture of low water flow of Faerie Falls

Day 7 – The end of the Faerie Trails and Old Faithful

I woke up to the sounds of baby birds and squirrels in the trees. Packed up camp and got ready for the next leg of my adventure. I was just starting to run low on food and gas so I knew that I would have to get to a store soon. I left the forest campground and headed back into the plains, where there were lots of tourists exploring the thermal features just north of Old Faithful.

I enjoyed walking along the decks by all kinds of amazingly unique natural wonders heading down to the national monument that I had visited once before with my friends from college. I got into the visitor area and talked with the rangers about where the southward back country campsites were and got a fishing permit and fly fishing rod to go out and have some fun in the rivers and lakes. I was running out of butane so I also grabbed some gas and bought a few food items, but they didn’t have any of the freeze dried meals that I knew I would need in the back country. I also had my first cheeseburger of the trip, which was just ok. I get spoiled by the incredibly good food in California.

I continued out of the highly trafficked area to get back into the back country and took the Howard Eaton trail down to the first back country campsite along the Firehole River, which had lots of thermal activity. I decided against a fire that night and setup my camp site as the sun dropped below the horizon. I was ready to get back into the sticks and see some more wildlife and nature and beautiful unique thermal features that Yellowstone is known for.

Castle Geyser

Day 8 – Shoshone Lake 1

I woke up a little late as I usually like to when its really cold out and packed up all of my things and made breakfast, which was usually instant coffee and a backpacker meal. I realized I only had one breakfast left and I cursed myself for not getting more food at Old Faithful. I had been too focused on getting fishing going for myself and idealizing about catching and eating a fish while I was out. I got going onto the trail heading south to Shoshone lake and figured I would just go as far as I could.

Shoshone Lake Sunset

My feet were finally feeling a lot better; I had bought moleskins, Neosporin, and blister medic kits at Old Faithful so I was completely ready to start experimenting with the optimal way to keep my feet from re-blistering. I walked along the Shoshone Lake trail for a long time until reaching the area that forks north. I surveyed several campground that didn’t allow for a fire, which greatly disappointed me because I was hoping to catch and cook a lake trout!

I continued on for about 15 miles that day which I was very happy with due to the state of my feet. I got to the northern campsites of the lake at dusk and setup my tent and 0 degree sleeping bag and that night I slept great. I was used to the trumpeting elk and got through the whole night without waking up too much. There were lots of sounds throughout the night, but I think I just got really used to them.

Day 9 – Shoshone Lake 2

I woke up happy and ready to start fishing, I had setup my pole the night before was stoked to get to lake fishing. However, in Old Faithful I purchased a fly fishing rod which is definitely used to running water and not the still water of a lake. I fished for about 2 hours, took a desperately needed bath and pumped water to get ready for another day of walking, all day long.

Shoshone Lake, Yellowstone National Park

I got about a half a mile further along the trail when I discovered a couple of park rangers that were assessing the back country campsites along Shoshone Lake. I stopped to talk to get as much information about the area as I could and was told that Lewis Lake Campground was still open and that there was a store down there. I was stoked! I needed to get more food and it would be so nice to be around other people again; I thought maybe Tommy and Dermot would still be there, as they had planned for two nights camping in Lewis Lake…maybe they would stay for a third?

I headed down the Delacy Creek Trail by the river and made excellent time heading down to Lewis Lake. I had started the day late due to fishing and bathing so I hadn’t met the rangers until about noon. I got to the DogsHead Trailhead and went east until the road, where I walked down to Lewis Lake Campground.

I got to the ranger station and they had several reserved, but unused, campgrounds. I guess there are some reserved for hikers and bikers there, but she sent me to a regular campground that can house up to 6 people. But there was no store! And no way of getting more food for that matter. I was pissed! Both at myself for listening to the rangers and at the campground for not having at least granola or chocolate bars to sell. It just seemed so silly to me to have a remote campground that didn’t sell food.

I was down to two back country meals, Mushroom Stroganoff (which is delicious, highly recommend) and Green Curry. Sleep that night came easily, but with the stress of knowing that the time had come to leave the park. I had exhausted my resources and my mental energy and I was ready to head back out to Cody. And I knew that getting out of the park, I would need as much luck as I could get.

Day 10 – Lewis Campground and Exiting Yellowstone Park

In the morning I woke up rather early, I was planning on fishing again to see if I couldn’t catch something awesome to keep me fed for another day. I packed up my stuff and headed to the restroom where I met a guy named John, who was traveling through the area with a supped up Jeep. We chatted for a minute (I let him use the bathroom first because I was in no rush) and I learned that he was from Sacramento! I told him about my situation, how I had arrived at the campground to find no store and no way of buying more food and he took me back to his camp site and fed me!

John and his wife (whose name I do not remember) was literally one of the nicest people I have ever met. They made me hash browns, eggs, and bacon and we enjoyed stories about their own backpacking trips through Desolation Wilderness, an area just outside of Lake Tahoe that I also love to spend time in. They also got me some backpacker meals and snacks to take with me, for which I will always be grateful. What an amazing twist of events from the night before! I asked John if he wouldn’t mind giving me a drive to West Thumb and he happily took me to the gas station there, which was only open for gas.

I went to the ranger station in West thumb to see about additional campsites, but they were all at the southern end of Yellowstone Lake, pretty far into the back country. However I still reserved a campsite for that night, just in case I couldn’t find a ride out of the park to Cody, I might as well have a decent place to sleep that wasn’t off the trail.

I got out of West Thumb after checking out the geysers, which in my opinion weren’t even close to as interested as the Norris Geyser Basin or the area north of Old Faithful and managed to hitch a ride to fishing bridge with a Mexican dude that lives in San Francisco. He was super nice and gave me a Blue Moon on the road, and we chatted about how great the wilderness was.

I continued down the road from fishing bridge and kept my thumb up, hoping that someone heading to Cody, WY wouldn’t mind picking me up. About 20 minutes later, Allen (same name as my dad, different spelling though) who is a Scottish man living in New Zealand and Perth, Australia picked me up. We drove about 10 minutes just talking when we saw a commotion on the side of the road.

There were two bears up on the side of a mountain foraging for food with a huge crowd of people watching them and taking pictures of their every move. The bears seemed not to care at all and rangers were watching the people very closely to make sure they didn’t do anything stupid.

I had a good chat with two of the rangers about the bears and how they manage them and apparently there is a little less than one bear attack a year, which in my opinion is really good. I guess there were 3 bison attacks earlier this year from people getting too close. Anyways, Allen and I got some great photos of the bears and then continued on our way back to Cody, where we had a couple of drinks. Then Allan took me to the end of the South Fork Road where the water ice forms that I came to Cody to watch and we marveled at the beautiful, but barren mountains. I really hope I get to see some of those infamous south fork pillars form this year, but I won’t see them on this trip due to the unusually hot October weather. Allan will always have my gratitude for taking me about 100 miles out of the park, he was a really fun and nice guy to hang out with for a day.

In Conlusion

This concludes my journey through Yellowstone. Huge shouts out to the people that helped me to get from place to place, I definitely would have suffered a lot more without them! John, Allan, Tommy, Dermot, Crissy, Terri, Isabelle, and Alex, and of course Josh, I really really appreciate your kindness and it will not go forgotten.

The Gear Reviews

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A Little Trip to Big Sky Country

Congratulations to the newly weds Aislinn and Roy Brown!

I was in Big Sky country, aka Montana a few weeks ago to celebrate one of my best friend’s wedding. Aislinn is from Alaska, I’m not exactly sure where, but she talked a lot about Juneau so for the sake of this article, we’re just gonna say she’s from Alaska. We went to Gonzaga together and then L’institute Catholique in Paris where we both studied French for 9 months.

The Adventure Crew in France

The whole group of Gonzaga students in Paris got pretty close and went through a lot of very interesting adventures as we traveled through Europe together (there were 13 of us). This included some trips through the rest of Europe, both organized by the school and by ourselves so we got some good chances to travel and see the world. We also became friends with a lot of foreigners, mostly British folk because of the lack of language barrier.

College ended after another year back in good ol’ Spokane, Washington and Aislinn went to law school after. But she visited me in Boston with Nathalie and Molly and Brian and I got a chance to visit her and meet Roy in DC during her second year. Molly and Brian were part of the Gonzaga in Paris group and Natalie stayed at the same foyer as Aislinn and Molly. I think Natalie was doing an internship at the time, but I kinda forget.

Into the Treasure State

A bunch of us from the Paris group headed up to the wedding in Montana, including Anna and Kelly/Kelly’s fiancé Greg. Molly and Nathalie met me at the Missoula airport and we all hitched a ride with Kelly down over to Helena, where we had an AirBnb.

This is one of the few weddings I’ve ever been to (I think maybe 5 so far?) and I was pretty stoked to spend some quality time with my best friends from college. Before I knew it, the wedding ceremony was over and we were on a bus out into the middle of nowhere for the reception, where I got my hair cut (I’d been growing it for 5 years) and spilled wine on my shirt within 5 minutes of getting my first glass (I hadn’t even taken a sip yet!).

The wedding reception was super fun, but I get tired really early nowadays so I was basically passed out at midnight and on the bus back to the AirBnb. Fell asleep around 2, on the floor (I like to sleep on the floor for my back).

I haven’t been able to travel like this in quite a while, so I’m very grateful to be able to see a new places and fly on a couple of planes. There’s nothing quite like spending time staring out at the clouds and the land from an airplane, or seeing a new landscape that you’ve never seen before from a car. Montana was beautiful and the name ‘Big Sky” is definitely appropriate for the area that we stayed in about an hour north of Yellowstone.

Nothing to do for a Little Time

I got a little break from having to do anything. It was much needed for my yoga instruction, probably even healthier for my yoga practice and then probably was most essential for my landscaping work. Not having to dig any holes for a week was really nice. I got to recharge my batteries and get ready for more work! And everyone needs a little break from reality sometimes 🙂

I got a chance to see some wildlife during the trip, including some red-tailed hawks, a golden eagle, and some deer (so far) like 3 bison and a moose and her daughter. The flowing River outside of the Rainbow Ranch in Big Sky was breathtaking and getting a great view of it from the room is definitely a first! No bears or anything ridiculous either, which was nice.

Good Food and Good Company

We did a decent amount of hiking and got to eat a lot of midwestern comfort food, on Monday the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill and a pretty fancy last night at Horn and Cantle. Wednesday I spent the day flying back into town. Got to hang out with Nathalie until I left and got back around 9 o’clock. I think we left the hotel at 8:30am.

So it’s definitely not easy to travel to Montana, its quite a good distance away, but the nature and less populated spaces made it really easygoing and picturesque.

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The Wanderer, Part 31

The Wanderer, Part 31

The Wanderer, Part 31

This story is part of a series, this is the thirty-first part.

You can read the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 30

Tas almost never dreamt anymore. Occasionally he would have a dream in the early morning, but they were nothing supernatural. His arm occasionally, but the wyrm remained dormant and he hadn’t experienced any fading into shadow or dreamwalking. He was beginning to grow much tougher in the winter cold, always pushing against the wind and the falling snow. He was strong now, and Tas knew that Ice made him much stronger. The wolf was like his eyes in the snow, they worked in unison now.

Yao was finally tiring from the hard work on moving through the snow each day. Tas could tell that he was busy planning their next move. Though he had no idea what it was.

On the way out of the door, Tas wacked Yao in the head with the end of his stick, causing a big yelp from the old man and a reflexive grab of Tas’ collar. Yao pulled him in tight and laughed, though Tas could see that the old man was weary. “You’re tired, Yao. I’ve never seen you so physically deflated.”

“Yes, I am tired. The time has almost come for us to leave these mountains and to move on. You have gotten strong in the past months and your hunting is now better than mine.” Yao glared at Ice. “The wolf makes you inhumanely good at finding prey.”

Now Yao turned to Tas more seriously, as though he’d been waiting to ask something that was now finally coming up. “Have you dreamt lately? Has the wyrm wriggled free in your dreams?”

“No, Yao, nothing. I haven’t dreamt in months!” It was weird, now that Yao mentioned it, he couldn’t remember the last dream he had. “And the wyrm has been completely meaningless for me. I’m not sure if it is even still a part of me.”

“Oh, it most certainly is Tas. I am worried, the absence of action is the same as drastic action in cases of shadow magic. You may be sitting on a time bomb… with a demonic nightmare just waiting around for one night when you slip too deeply into your sleep. It’s just like Melkar to wait as long as he needs to in order to surprise me.”

“Then we will just have to be ready for him.” Tas said eagerly, scratching Ice behind his ear while he said it.

“Yes, Tas, we will. You have gotten stronger, but it may be time to return to the monastery. Fei could help you to learn how to use the dreamwalking now, instead of simply avoiding it.” Yao’s eyes sparkled with possibility. But Tas was enjoying his time in the snow and he loved the thrill of the hunt. He would have to pack lots of jerky with him to go; he didn’t think he could return to the old ways of only small amounts of rice each day. His body had grown quite a bit and he was no longer a child. He was now a young man, as Yaina liked to remind him.

They set out into the day with the scolding morning winds, ripping through Tas’ furs as if they were napkins. Yao’s face immediately sank to the snow and they trudged off together, separate from the main pack of hunters, but moving in the same direction. Ice led, as always; Tas bridged the wolf and Yao and made sure that everyone was in the proper position in case of a stampede or of a herd moving though the area. Tas trudged slowly using his spear Ice began to take off in search for a scent while Tas and Yao looked for tracks. Ice always found something first these days.

This was the coldest day Tas had experienced. They all had to keep moving to stay warm; even Ice was grimacing against the wind. Yao lagged a little, but he looked the least affected by the conditions.

After a few more minutes, Ice picked up a trail and they moved through the icy desert until they stumbled onto a small cave. Ice stopped at the mouth of the small rock formation and sniffed before they arrived. He looked excited, but also very wary. As Tas approached the rocks, he could see that the opening was large enough for a bigger animal.

As Yao arrived last, unusual for the old man, but Tas knew that the cold was taking its toll on the old man. They would have to leave this place soon, as Yao had said.

Yao scoffed as he reached the mouth of the cave, and began to peer down expressionlessly. Tas couldn’t seem to make out what the old man was thinking, even though he knew Yao better than he knew himself at this point. Or at least close.

“There is something dark down there.” Yao said slowly.

“What do you mean?” Tas said slowly. His mind instantly rushed to Grethatch, Melkar and the nether-magic that they had encountered at the monastery. “Is it from the nether?”

“Yes.” Yao said instantly. “I can taste the shadow in the air.” It smelt like rot and dampness to Tas, but he didn’t know better. The only nether beings he had encountered were once human; except for the wyrm, which hadn’t so much as moved since his last nightmare.

As Tas thought about the wyrm, it began to squirm in his arm. He was terrified; it was obviously responding to whatever was down below.

Suddenly a sound echoed through the cave; a raspy and chilling breath that made Tas’ heart shudder. His eyes began to go dark, though they were still open and a loud ringing sound took over his hearing. He looked at Yao, who seemed to be yelling, but was making no sound. Another breath and now Tas was shaking uncontrollably. He could feel Yao’s hand on his face, but Tas had to focus completely on breathing, because he was grasping for air. Then Tas felt Ice lay next to him and with a sigh that broke through the shaking, passed out.

 

 

 

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wanderer_first-dream

The Wanderer, Part 13

This story can be read alone, or as the 13th story of the wanderer series.

Please see the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

or the latest story here: The Wanderer, Part 12

The sky was very dark and hazy, at first Tas was just walking along a lonely road, but he could recognize it. He continued to stare at the ground, mesmerized, he felt like he had been here a thousand times. He could see the tracks and the signs along the way and he knew them all, but he couldn’t remember where. The journey seemed to last forever, but he finally arrived at the entrance gate to his parents village.

Tas was so excited, but was careful to keep his breathing steady and pushed his thoughts back and exhaled, dropping back in.

Now he was with his mother in the kitchen, waiting for his father to finish cooking a fresh chicken. Come to think of it, he was famished, so he was happy to eat a bit of chicken with his parents in their small house. An eternity felt like a breath and Tas soon found himself at the hearth, sitting against his father’s chair, alone again in the dark night, the only light was flickering from the dying fire. He looked up at the stars as the ceiling dissolved; he felt himself falling and startled awake.

Tas woke up with a grin, his dream was a clear vision of his family and he could see all that they had been doing for the day. He sat for a moment, enjoying his own success. The night before, he had aligned himself with Jupiter, and because of the full moon, he was able to use the full extent of Jupiter’s power to see his family. Paj taught him this trick, though it could only be done on the full moon and only when Jupiter was high in the sky. Tas felt very satisfied as he woke to dress for the day, not to mention his peace of mind at being able to see his mother and father happily moving homes because of the success of the harvest in the past few months.

Paj and Tas made incredible progress in their nightly sessions, sometimes talking and reading and practicing certain meditations far into the morning. Tas had completely memorized the movement of the planets and their visible satellites in the sky with the telescope. They had bowls and cups of metal to make sounds to induce meditation and Tas had deepened his ability to perceive the his world. The moon’s cycles were becoming more and more familiar to Tas, but the moon’s powers were ever elusive and Paj was slow to teach him anything truly significant. Last week was the first exception, Paj told Tas that the full moon granted a sight while sleeping. Combined with Jupiter’s ability to travel outside of the body, it made for a powerful combination for dreamwalking, as he called it. Tas spent the night facing the direction of Jupiter in the Northwest and Paj hesitantly used the alloy synced with Jupiter’s frequencies. And he had succeeded.

Tas tested it by passively meditating into sleep, as Paj had instructed, then found himself awake in the dream. He continued to smile as he washed, groomed, and dressed himself, preparing for his morning meditations. He joined the sea of monks again, as he did every morning and after the morning’s invocation, went down to the forest to meet Shu and continue. Each day was a little different, the powerful meditations seemed to come in waves. Some days were torturous, but made him feel so great afterwards, some where easy, but made the rest of the day difficult. He had grown frustrated in the first weeks, but now he had stopped caring. Tas just tried not to think about it and it seemed to be working out so far.

He was keen to continue exploring his mind in the energy of the circle of monks. He had come to realize that there was something special about the trees, or perhaps the ground that allowed them to meditate for so long. He asked Shu a few days ago and he only responded that there was indeed something special about it, but he didn’t know what.

Shu had begun to meditate with Tas, teaching him techniques to still his breathing and slow his heart. Tas could feel so much, Shu said constantly, “you must become more sensitive. Only when you become more sensitive, more detached and able to feel your senses will you be free of their grasp. Then you will be free to feel as the true you wishes.”

Tas knew there was more than this from Yao, but he was sure that Shu was also correct in his teaching. Tas was starting to feel a nothingness, a sensation of pure bliss in his meditation, but he could only caught small glimpses of it. It was similar to how he felt with Yao, but less potent. He often remembered the night where he was starving and forced to wait and felt a sea of immeasurable pleasure and himself floating inside of its immensely overwhelming nothingness.

He spent a couple of hours in pure silence, scanning his thoughts and letting go of the night before; after he went to lunch and enjoyed his time alone. He asked for two extra servings, much to the dismay of the cook, but he needed the food. His stomach was rumbling for the past few days and he had already ignored it for too long. The meditations and lessons were exhausting.

After he finished his third bowl of rice soup, he took a few breaths and began to walk upstairs to the tower.

As he walked through the heavy, wooden door, Tas could tell that things were arranged differently than usual. Immediately he asked himself what the old man could be up to, until his shoulder was grabbed forcefully and he was turned to face Paj; the old man’s eyes were lined with fatigue.

“Last night, you prepared to travel with Jupiter, didn’t you?” Paj asked impatiently, his eyes never leaving Tas’. He already knew.

“Yes, I went to see my family.” Tas turned his eyes down to the floor.

“it was…” he sighed, returning to his mother’s laugh and his father’s confident grin.

“powerful and..” he looked up again to see Paj’s eyes reflecting his own.

“reassuring.” he said the last work slowly, letting it sink in so he could hear it himself. His family was healthy and happy.

Paj smiled suddenly, Tas could tell that he was not happy when he walked into the room. “Good, I am glad that your family is safe. Have you experienced any side effects?”

“I don’t think so…” Tas said slowly, trying to think back.

“Good. You would know.” Paj changed his manner and his brow darkened, a contrast to his white beard. “But there is something of a larger scale that is happening. The stars reflect a chaos surfacing in the West. Something is returning that is very, very old, and more powerful than you want to know.” Paj’s eyes glared and he slowed as he said them, obviously thinking back to another time. Tas was patient, but he already had so many questions.

“What is it?” Tas asked, hesitant to ask a question at all.

“Well, straight to the point aren’t we? Let’s find out.” Paj said, his gaze icy and cold, resigned, hardened. Tas felt his body begin to tremble in anticipation, he learnt of great sages who shared dreams in the manuals, but hadn’t even seen mention of techniques. Was he about to do this with Paj? He was sure that the ancient techniques were far advanced to his own elementary knowledge; at least for now.

Paj began to scuffled around, grabbing particular bowls and preparing tea for Tas with ginger, hibiscus, eucalyptus, and rosemary. “We will align with the moon again tonight, there is still small remaining power for sight. The tea will augment that power and…” he paused for long enough to look at Tas very seriously, one eyebrow rose as he finished, “will greatly enhance our sensitivity.”

Tas knew what this meant. The dream would be powerful; more powerful than anything he had ever experienced. But he was ready, his mind was empty and he was not scared.

“We will align our minds with Saturn’s rings, using the silver and iron alloyed bowls. Jupiter will also be in the sky, so we can share with Saturn’s energies and travel with Jupiter’s. and…” now he paused for a moment.

“we will smoke this.” He held up a small paper full of tobacco, some greenweed, and some other black substance that Tas didn’t know. But Tas was ready; he knew that this would be another step towards his ultimate goal and he wasn’t worried; Paj wouldn’t lead him astray.

He drank the tea, slowly, meditating as he did, saying nothing and letting Paj use the signing bowls. They both began to smoke the small rolled joint. Paj instructed Tas to inhale, but after the first one, he couldn’t stop coughing. Each time afterwords, he still coughed, but a bit less. Paj continued to play the bowls and Tas could feel himself fading into sleep; he could do nothing to stop it. Paj continued to play the bowls and create the vibrations, but was now sitting in his chair and Tas could tell that he was dozing off as well. Tas could feel himself leaving his body in the depths of the vibrations, the huge sea of vast nothingness was returning. Tas sat back on his mat in the room, faced towards Saturn and fell deeply into a sleeping meditation, where he couldn’t tell if he was awake, or asleep, until he finally succumbed to the dark of his mind.

 

 

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work from http://www.aboriginalworkshops.com/

The Wanderer, Part 7

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6

Tas rolled awake in the midst of a hard rainfall, his canopy was beginning to flood because he hadn’t angled the roof properly. He had been alone for longer than he could remember, though he knew it had only been a few days. He had eaten well the night before; he found a mango tree and caught a wild chicken in the jungle. The old man would have disapproved, but he didn’t care. The chicken had filled him up more than any meal ever had. He salted some of the cooked meat from the night before and began to eat.

After his breakfast, his mind turned immediately to his surroundings and seeing that the rain was worsening, set out into the jungle.

His shoes were soaked in minutes so he replaced them with large fan leaves that served as a sort of boat for his feet as he waded. Tas soon learned to stay up slightly in the trees to see any available fruit. It also turned out to be a bit faster than walking on the mud. He spent an hour wading towards the south, he wished to see deeper into the depths of the wild. He could go home tomorrow.

Tas hadn’t seen a tiger since the day Vesu died. He still felt the fear in his body, a shaking that woke him in the night sometimes. He continued on his path for a bit longer, wading through mud until he fell over a tree root and was covered in filthy mud from the forest floor.

He groaned with displeasure as the mud slipped from his skin, his face was completely covered. He used one last clean spot from his shirt to clean around his eyes after using his fingers to remove most of the muck. Then he grabbed his water and washed his face. It was getting low, his original supply for a week had dwindled down to just a few days. He would have to find a waterhole, or some coconuts soon, which he had scarcely found in this thick jungle.

As Tas finished wiping his eyes, he became aware of a man standing directly in front of him. This man had hole in his ears and they were filled with wooden carvings, his face was tattooed with dark symbols of colored birds and some creatures that Tas had never seen, but seemed ferocious enough. He seemed to loom over him as he approached menacingly. The man seemed to move with pure muscle and in a short step took out his bow to aim it at Tas. He laced it with a long arrow and pulled it back, ready to split Tas’ head open.

But Tas stared back at this man, hard determination seemed to sizzle on his skin, a fire began to burn in his belly. Had he come this far to let this man end him here?

He rose and walked over to the man with his head bowed and moved the arrow away from its original target. The man whistled and four others moved from the shadows. The rain was still pouring, splashing all around and sometimes bouncing right up to splash Tas right in the eyes.

The men moved towards him and he kept still. He simply looked up for a second, put his hand on his heart, and said, “friend” with the same hard determination that he had met the gaze of the first man. These others were even taller, stronger, and more tattooed and ornamented in strange ways. One had holes in his cheeks, another had the skin of his hands missing and tattoos over the visible veins in his legs. He looked up to see the warrior’s face, a scar laid over one eye that was still functional. The scar continued down to his lip, forming a mean and permanent grimace.

They grabbed Tas by the shoulders and bound him, taking him through the jungle, further in the east. He struggled to free himself at one point, but the grim-looking man hit him in the back of the head, just soft enough not to knock him out. He remembered the sage in the desert and thought back to their last moments together. The old man did not seem so crazy now, compared to this madness. Tas knew of the eastern tribes, men who ate men, sometimes women and children. Some smoked all variety of herbs and plants, others spent days in silence, similar to his own master. He wondered where these men were taking him.

When they stopped at some coconut trees to refill their water supplies and take a short break, Tas waited patiently for the permanently frowning man to leave him. He couldn’t help but stare at the scar and wonder what it was from. After a bit, the man went into the jungle, probably to relieve himself. Tas immediately got up to talk to the first man who seemed to be in charge. Tas saw the dark tattoos around his eyes as he walked closer, until the man saw Tas approach and gave a quick whistle. Immediately, Tas was thrown to the ground and restrained. He looked up at the man and was immediately forced back down to the floor and bound. As he rose from the much he could just make out the tatoos of the grim man, felt his harsh laugh pierce through him as he swiped with his spear in a motion Tas couldn’t see, but all he felt was pain.

Tas fell to his knees, the air was knocked out of him so he could barely breathe. He looked up one last time at the man with the ornamented ears. The man smiled for the first time, a wicked smile of razor sharp teeth, red and bloody stained teeth, and two gold noserings. It was truly terrifying and Tas couldn’t help but show his fear. The man moved closer to Tas’ ear and whispered, “no friends here.” And then he bit off a chunk of Tas’ ear. He howled with laughter as Tas howled his pain; Tas was shaking and began to struggle ferociously against his captors. A moment later, the grim man approached Tas and smiled with rotten teeth that were as sharp as knives and now fresh with blood. He took the end of his spear again, this time swinging wickedly and knocked Tas to the floor and down into the depths of the dark.

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Jungle_Wanderer Part6

The Wanderer, Part 6

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5

Tas woke up in his small bed, laying flat on his stomach. His back ached from the day before, he had slightly tweaked it when throwing a box aside. He was full from the night before, having eaten two dinners to make up for the long work week. Today was sunday, his day off.

The sun was high in the sky before he got out of bed and he took his time to wash and dress. Not that it was much of an event to begin with considering he wore one cloth during the day.

He set out into a hot day, broken by mists and gusts of wind from the ocean. He went to the center of town, by the fountain and wells and bath houses to meet Annu and a couple of other coworkers from the port. They would spent the day outside of the city, pulled by a cart that Annu had arranged earlier in the week.

He arrived to see them already departing. Tas realized suddenly that they would not stop for him and ran to catch up, sprinting on the cobbled roads. He jumped from a risen rock onto the side of the wooden supports and found footing. He climbed up and swung his leg over the side, tumbling onto Dill, who then shoved and rolled him into the center of the cart.

Tas rose immediately, sensing no injury and shook the dust off his body then rearranged his hard and sat. They all laughed together as he did this, first Annu howled, then the rest followed.

“We thought you had forgotten us!” Annu exclaimed in between waves of ravenous shaking laughter. Tas couldn’t help but keep a grin for the next fifteen minutes while they reveled in the morning’s events. They left the city walls and forgot the city behind them as the moved south, into the jungle.

It grew warmer and warmer as they went deeper and deeper into the semi-dark, canopy of trees. The cart became rather rickety after a bit and so Tas left the cart to walk. A few minutes later, the cart-wheel snapped and they were forced to continue on foot, taking their food and supplies with them.

Annu seemed to be extremely frustrated by the breaking of the cart, but he kept to himself and helped to portion out the goods so they could take what they needed. “They journey home will take 3 extra days,” he said as Tas collected his portion. After they had distributed evenly amongst the six of them, they ate.

Annu pulled out a surprise of beer and some other rather harsh liquid. It was after mid-day and Tas had often seen the older men drinking at night. They called it boozing. Normally, he didn’t waste his money, but today he would drink with Annu. They clinked glasses and then took huge gulps, exhausted from the long haul from the city.

“You see my friend?” Annu asked, impassioned. “This is where you can truly find god.” He hugged and tree and then soon found himself covered in ants. Tas and the other howled with laughter as Annu’s cries of passion became cries of torture. He found his way to a large puddle by the base of a tree and then ants left him with countless red spots and bites. Tas truly felt bad, but let a last chuckle escape his lips before helping his friend.

“Careful,” Patel said sharply, looking straight at Tas. Don’t let yourself be overcome by the jungle. He looked off seriously as he finished, “I’ve lost a few friends out here… and I have a bad feeling about this.” He looked behind and all around, then moved his gaze up, into the trees.

Annu, finally recovering, said swiftly, “you think we are being tracked?”

“Yah,” Patel said. “My gut tells me yes.” But right now, there’s nothing we can do. He pointed towards the thick of the jungle, “we have to head towards the temple. There will be a clearing, and the ruins we seek there. Though, we will have to travel into the night. Which is not advised.” He looked harshly into the thick of the trees, his machete readied.

For the next three hours, they cut and hacked their way through the thick jungle brush, stopping every hour for a minute for water. Tas felt as though he had sweat every inch of his energy onto the forest floor, but kept finding more and more energy. He thought back to his days in the desert and found that this was not so hard in comparison. It made him smile to think of the old man and his teachings.

Every day, the lessons seemed to make more sense, but he could not say why. Everything else seemed to be more shallow and difficult at the same time without him. Though he was still angry about his last antic. Tas’ head still hadn’t fully recovered, though he felt that eventually it would.

They came to a clearing at last, but before entering the ruined temples, Patel stopped them. Ahead, through the last of the brush, Tas could see two white tigers, huge, roaming outside of one of the ruined structures. And when the second tiger moved away from the entrance, they could see three cubs, all very small. The mother seemed to have a roaming range, but Patel turned them around.

They were lucky to have seen the tigers before going any further. The entire crew started to move further north, towards the road, until suddenly Nilesh cried from behind to run. Out of the corner of his eye, before he could start sprinting, Tas saw a flash of white leaping towards them, far away but moving so fast. He turned and ran, as fast as he could. He saw Patel in front slashing through the jungle, and trudged through the thick mud and endless brush after him. Eventually, Annu caught up to them, and so did Nilesh, though Nilesh wouldn’t speak. Having called the alarm he had been last.

That meant Corle and Vesu were lost, or injured. But the other didn’t want to return and search for them, for fear of the tigers hunting them. Annu looked very sad for the rest of the day as this had been his idea. Tas tried to cheer him up, explaining that no one could have foreseen tigers in the future, but Annu would not hear it.

They spent the night further north towards the main road, paranoid and with little sleep. Tas could see Annu in torment and began to realize that Corle and Vesu had been his friends.

Tas supposed that he felt sad, but he also felt very lucky. He had survived a beast that would no doubt kill him at a moments notice. So strong, so powerful, pouncing towards them faster than he could look. He dreamed of its prowess and felt drawn to them in a way that he couldn’t explain.

In the morning they set out to leave, but Tas did not want to. He felt that he liked the wildness of the jungle, the loud noises and the endless brush. Annu looked at him like he was crazy. How would he eat? Tas replied that he did not know, but that he was sure he could find a way. Annu scoffed at him and left without a backwards glance.

Tas couldn’t help but feel a bit sad at his friend. He would not stay forever. He was tasked with returning to the old man, but he felt as though he should stay for a small time, to learn the wild ways of this place. He could hear the voice in his head, let go. And that night, he slept like a child after his meditation that was both louder and more peaceful than any he had ever experienced. But his stomach grumbled as he moved to sleep and he knew that in the morning he would find his food in the wild  and so he grinned, unseen in the dark and noisy night.

 

 

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