March 27-29 ~ Ishi Wilderness

Rest – 3 days 

The plan for this part of the trip was to spend a couple days/nights out in nature with an old friend, Danielle. Thursday morning, she and her boyfriend Scott and I went into town to climb a giant tree first. Apparently, there’s this huge park in the middle of town; it’s so beautiful, you almost forget you’re in a city. I love climbing things, so I was super excited. But I forgot that sometimes I’m like a cat when it comes to climbing things. After climbing a few branches, my height sensors kicked in and there was no way I was going up any more. We hung out in the tree for a bit before heading to the Co-Op for food and then picking up Scott’s friend Charley. On to the wilderness!
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The Ishi Wilderness was named for the last native man to have lived there. It is a beautiful place with trees, butterflies, and a flowing river. We drove up a very bumpy dirt road to get to the campsite for the evening. We explored a little and found a trough for the cattle that live there (left behind and tearing up the mountain), watched the sunset, watched Scott make a fire with his bow drill, and had some really great conversations about fate, life, societal norms, food, meditation, and nature over dinner. Eventually, we all went off and found a spot to lay out under the stars; it was a beautiful night. Next day we had to turn around to get Scott’s wallet he’d left at a spot we had stopped at the day before. At first we were disappointed because it meant we couldn’t go to a further spot we had wanted to go to, but we decided to make the best of it. Chose a trail and hiked through some beautiful sights, stopping in a meadow before finding a path down to the river where we all jumped in to the freezing cold water and then laid out in the sun for a bit and had a snack. It turned out to be a wonderful day! Back at camp, Scott and Danielle showed me some cool plants; we used soaproot to wash our hands, and dug up some Blue Dick flowers to eat the roots (tasted kind of like a radish, so good). I mentioned the Vipassana retreat I’ll be going to in May, and it turned out that Charley had just done one in January. He warned me that it is extremely challenging (three of the five guys that started with him left before it was over), but brings a fresh, calming and liberating outlook on life. When we all jumped in the river the first time, he was the one to suggest it, he came up calm, not sputtering, and he even swam around a bit peacefully before getting out; the rest of us came up gasping for air reaching immediately for the shore. I’m both reassured and intimidated by his comments and demeanor.

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That night it was Danielle and my turn to try out the bow drill. We both tried it on our own, then we tried together, but eventually it took us plus Scott to get it going. Starting a fire with a bow drill is definitely not easy, especially from scratch. Scott attended and then worked for a wilderness survival course, and he explained all the parts of the process: gathering the right wood for the different parts, shaping everything correctly, finding replacements when stuff wears out, and of course, how to use them to create a fire. While each of us became frustrated at some point, it was extremely rewarding to cook and eat our dinner over a fire we built from not a match or lighter.

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The next day we were all exhausted as we rode out past the river and trees and rocks. Back at the house, I got my bike all tuned up for the next day’s ride, counted my mosquito bites (at least 16), shared our experiences and pictures with Danielle’s mom, Debbie, went through the packages I had gotten, and went out for dinner with Danielle and Scott. We talked about more cool things to do in Chico and I was a little disappointed I didn’t have more time to spend there. I also missed out on meeting up with a couple of people due to timing, but such is life. I will definitely be back to Chico one day.

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