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Solo Living Adventures

Dutch’s Revenge
November 11, 2020
Turning Point on Usal Beach
December 13, 2020
I once lived for a year on a very remote knoll in the coastal hills between Highway 101 and Fort Bragg on the Northern California Coast. It was an old cattle ranch that had been subdivided into unfenced, 40 acre parcels but the cattle had not yet been informed about the new, non-beef-raising owners. In my quest to own land and live off-grid, I had impetuously purchased one of those 40 acre parcels, There was a gravel road to my land but no roads or improvements of any kind on it. By modern standards, this was a pretty remote spot.

Home and sanctuary was an old, tired, 14' travel trailer that I had fearfully towed over the lumps and pasture, by the grace of God, down the steep, western-sloped terrain and onto a relatively flat spot. I set it up there and built a small redwood porch just outside the door. I had no electricity, no running water, no gas, no on-grid utilities of any kind. I showered buck naked outside in the sunshine or in the rain, using solar-heated water from a primitive clear plastic bag that was painted black on one side, and shooed away the unabashed does with their shamelessly-curious, round, brown eyes.

For water I’d drive to a natural spring a half-mile away to fill, with my trusty siphon hose, old, glass, five-gallon water jugs that I had rescued from some going-out-of-business second-hand store. Today they’d call that recycling. I called it, and the old, dilapidated, crock-style water cooler I'd scrounged, a blessing.

I heated the place in the winter by way of a precious, antique, kerosene lantern placed on a settee table. The chimney style, round-wick lamp put out a surprising amount of heat. It would hold five hours or so worth of fuel and when it ran out I would dash outside to refill it regardless of the cold and the wind-driven, fierce, horizontal rain. Often, by the time I had it refilled and lighted, it seemed that I had lost all the precious heat that it had previously stored in my simple, yet oh-so cozy, home.

That sweet, forty-acre parcel was adorned with lots of buckeyes, madrones, white and black oaks and tanoak trees. The madrones were unusual in appearance and made the best firewood . Their trunks would self-peel a thin layer of bark that revealed a silky smooth, flesh-colored skin underneath. The unique buckeyes had pretty pink blossoms in the spring and, when bare-leaved in the fall, showed their prickly, bulbous, seed pods. But my favorites were the bay laurels. The locals called them pepperwood trees. Their wood was exceptionally grained and I had a pair of revolver grips made from one. They were stately, beautiful and their leaves, when dried, I would crush in a bowl as my personal-recipe potpourri to imbue a spicy, pleasant aroma in my room. Folks said the tree only grew on a short section of the California-Oregon coast and in the Holy Land but I never confirmed that.

Mine was a lonely existence out there. My only companions were the Herefords that grazed the land and the ever-present blacktail deer. When the solitude became too poignant, I talked to the cattle and hugged trees. This was the special place where I first heard the distinct whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of bird wings overhead as the crows or hawks flew by. I think of this time in my life when I watch “Dances With Wolves” and see Lt. Dunbar eke out his existence at Fort Sedgwick with his friend, Two-Socks.

When it was clear I could see the Pacific 20 miles away and when it wasn't, my solitary knoll was one of an irregular chain of islands, paddling to stay above the fogbank.

The nearest town was forty-five minutes and the nearest neighbor a couple of miles. When the coastal storms blew in after raging, unfettered, across thousands of miles of open Pacific, and until I had been there for a month and grown accustomed to their false bravado and empty threats, I would grip the bulkheads for dear life, convinced the bucking trailer was about to blow over and roll down the hill. My inclinations after such ravaging torrents was to re-check the chocks set about the trailer wheels and re-tighten the leveling jacks.

Once I became acquainted with the bully, I would run outside at his blustery arrival, whooping and hollering and shout at the intruding torrent, "Is that the best you can do??!!! Come on show me some real wind. Your daddy must’a been a muffin fan!" And I would ride it, brazenly tossing my hands into the air for a better score like Pecos Bill.

A man does crazy things for entertainment when alone. Ah, adventures! The "stuff" of life; indeed the essential divider between a life and merely an existence.

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