August 21, 2022

I had the grand experience this week of going on a camping trip.  I went to Saddlebag Lake, but I must firsts say, an early part of my trip was marred with misfortune.  We took a wrong turn and got lost in many ways attributable to faulty directions from a dear friend.  I must also blame Google Maps, as I was befuddled when reading its directions.  And at times, due to remote distance, we could not get a signal to reach Google at all.

In the end, we tacked another two hours onto our trip.  We also ended up taking the nerve-wracking Sonora Pass.  My traveling companion and I got rather irritable.  We bounced our frustration off of each other.  Gratefully, I was reminded of a podcast I heard yesterday.  It was one of my favorite podcasts – Sisters In Law.  The “sisters,” four remarkable female attorneys, discuss the weekly national legal news items.  I love having the law explained to me – especially by such brilliant women.   And because they are women, they start their conversions off with light “womanly” things such as recipes, or children.  Once they discussed good Wordle strategies and yesterday they brought up the topic of how to avoid travel frustration when things don’t go as planned.  One woman recounted getting stranded overnight in an airport with no food and only straight-backed chairs.  How does one keep up their spirits in those situations?  How does one keep from clobbering one’s traveling companions?

The podcast came just in time.  It helped calm me down(ish).  Fortunately, we also found a friendly couple who gave us good directions out of this dilemma.  And when we told them our story they exclaimed, “Yes, you ARE lost!”  Then the man said, “But enjoy your trip anyway.  The scenery and weather are beautiful.  And there are no fires as there were a couple weeks ago!”  We tried to heed his advice.

We made it to camp about 2 pm and there was still plenty of light in the day.  We caught up with our third traveling partner who had already arrived and was setting up camp.  We were worried mostly about her – worrying about us, with no way to reach each other by phone.  We hoped she didn’t backtrack looking for us.  We found her happy at serene and without a care in the world.  She smiled when she saw us, “Did you take your time and go kayaking along the way?”

Saddlebag Lake

We are on the edge of the campground, and overlooking the lake.  This is high desert with rocks and scraggly green pines.  It has been well over a decade since I visited such a remote and similar location. 

Many years ago, I followed two friends who had a “Vision Quest” business.  They took customers to a remote location in the Inyo National Forest.  The quest involved various form of extreme isolation in the wilderness.  People would pay to be brought to the wilderness and instructed to where they could then venture out alone.  They could only bring a tarp with them and the most basics of essentials.  No food, for they would fast.  I didn’t go on a vision quest myself, but I helped at the base camp.  I also brought water to the questers and left it in a specific location (where they could not see me).  If they needed anything, they could also leave me a note the same location, but we never saw one another.

At the end of three days, the questers gathered in the evening around a fire.  There they shared  the revelations that occurred during their vision quest.  For most it was a positive experience, but not with everyone.  One woman in fact said that she was bored out of her mind, and the time moved tortuously slow.  To entertain herself, he began creating art out of wood and rocks.  One of the women who ran the business told me privately, “you’re not going to get the full benefit of the vision quest if you do something like create art.” 

I will never know whether what she said was true.  As I have no intention of attempting a vision question myself.

Published by susancasslangmailcom

Susan Casslan is a writer and a nurse. Her writing touches on spirituality and issues pertaining to social justice. Casslan lived for a decade in the San Francisco Inner Mission District, and she was greatly inspired by the Latinx culture of that neighborhood. The Inner Mission emerges in her books Conversations with Richard Purcell: The Adventures and Reflections of a Renegade San Francisco Priest and That Which Wavers with the Night, as well as in her chapbook 24th Street and Other Poems. Additionally, Casslan’s nonfiction articles have appeared in El Tecolote, an Inner Mission newspaper.

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