The van climbs through the warm night, away from the sun-baked, Central Valley leaving behind the traffic, the strip malls, and the masses. My addiction to the act of leaving is being fulfilled yet again. “I travel not to go anywhere,” Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “but to go.” Yes indeed.
A mere twenty minutes of preparation for the trip prior to leaving ensured that many things were forgotten; the result: an even deeper feeling of freedom and escape. We enter the mountains under the cover of darkness. Conversation is our company and the slangisms, no matter how overused, keep us amused in a way only close friends can understand.
Fast-forward to the next morning after a night spent sleeping under the stars with a river symphony playing in our ears. We hike along the river, getting ourselves ever deeper into nature’s belly, while getting further away from our familiar reality. As our view narrows, contained by the canyon walls, our perspective narrows and our thoughts simplify, yet our minds soar. We reach our unplanned destination, chosen for its idyllic impression, and commence casting fly’s and nymphs. The conversation is less frequent, and, at the same time, somehow different. We settle into a cycle: fish, swim, play with the dog, and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Swimming in the river’s rapids brings childhood sensations. The stifling heat of the land contrasted by the intense cold of the river invigorates. Catching fish is somehow unimportant, particularly since they are to be released anyway; the activity is merely a means to an end --- an excuse to stand along the river and absorb its wonders. Our thoughts drift, reflecting on the past and the future, while not thinking about much in the present. The escape is complete.
The time away ends as I knew it would. The van takes us back, the world opening before us as we drop down from the majestic mountains. The dog sleeps soundly after so much swimming and fetching. During the drive home I somehow feel as if I have figured a few things out. I brace for reentry into daily life and know that the challenge is to carry with me from my short journey the sensations, thoughts, desires, motivations…the feelings of aliveness… the invigorating calmness…of travel and the outdoors, until the next escape.