Between Destinations

I used to have it figured out. When we took a vacation trip, I’d read all about where we were going, note all the points of interest ahead of time, map out the route, and determine what I would think and feel at key locations. Leaving nothing to chance, I would basically imagine it all and take the vacation in my mind before we left. That was before.

On our recently completed trip to the Eastern Sierra, we opened the door to randomness. Sure, we had things planned – places to stay, people to see, things to do. But it was the stuff that happened in between that I’m talking about here. Give you an example:

A key location – mapped, researched, and pre-imagined – was the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. It’s way up in the White Mountains, and home to the oldest living trees in the world. Sounds great, right? It is indeed, and I encourage you to go there. It was right where it was supposed to be on the map, and my research ahead of time helped me understand what I was looking at, but the pre-imagining was way off. You’ll have to see for yourself. It’s quite something walking among them. Maybe that’s what knocked me off the rails.

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They’ve seen it all before.

Rolling back down the mountain, on our way to our next planned location, I saw an historical marker along the highway. I veered off to check it out. I’m sure it sounds like nothing to you, but I never do this. There are hundreds of interesting things that weren’t in the plan that I’ve rolled right by over the years. I didn’t know what this was. Just a stone marker along a desert highway. We stepped out of the car, and were surrounded by the sound of birds. That’s when things changed forever and will no longer be as they were.

Doves, finches, flycatchers, pine siskins – they were all around us. We spent a little time there in the shade of cottonwoods and willows, watching the birds come and go. I never even got around to reading the historical marker, but Resident Expert did. This was the Tollhouse Spring, a much-need resting place for migrating birds and a water source for local birds here in the high desert. And it’s very likely that had we not pulled over I would have gone the rest of my life without ever having seen it or heard about it.

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Lesser Goldfinch on flowering sage with some antique barbed wire

On a different day we had plans to meet friends in Bishop for dinner, and we had a little extra time so we drove down 395 to Big Pine and looked around. We noticed some large radio telescopes out in the desert, and a little one-lane road heading in their direction. Radio telescopes are really big. We kept driving, but seemed not to be getting an closer to them. Eventually we did reach them though, and looked at them wondering what the hell they were doing there. After wondering inconclusively for a while, we left. On the way back to the highway we saw free-ranging cattle in the burned ruin of a railway station. Nice!

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Again, this is not how we normally operate. Standard procedure would be to notice the radio telescopes, and move on. Maybe if I’d read about them before hand I would have had them in the schedule.

There were a few other moments on the trip where we gave things a little more time before manually adjusting reality to meet our requirements. The trick will be keeping to this New Me on future travels. If you see me writing down a list of “things to do on the spur of the moment”, that’s not a good sign.

1 Comment

  1. AWESOME. I would love to visit that bird stop.

    Just today as I was teaching, I said to my students, “I LOVE that we can hear the birds in this room.” It is so cool to be reaching arms up to the sky in a stretch and hear birds chirping outside!

    Here’s to the new spontaneous you!

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