Homeward Unbound — Chapter 2: Crater Lake, Camping, Death Valley, and a Near Death Experience

Valley of Fire State Park— Clark County, NV

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Crater Lake

We were about 50 minutes away from Crater Lake. The Northern Rim was completely snowed in so we had to take the long detour, but we had to cut the trip short and leave.

We had no service and were probably 2 hours away from anything resembling civilization.

Alicia’s resting heart rate jumped to 168 bpm, and her blood oxygen levels were in the mid-’50s. To give you some context, a normal resting heart rate for an average human is 60–100 bpm, and her blood oxygen levels were at acceptable levels for someone that’s embarking on their last nap.

I used every ounce of self-restraint to remain calm even though my stomach started to twist like a kaleidoscope. I have been meditating and exercising religiously because I no longer have a choice. I have to be someone she can depend on and the daily sabbath to put my body in discomfort has been useful for times like this.

We eventually got back to the main road and started heading to Klamath Falls, which was the final destination for the day. I researched altitude sickness, and told Alicia, that this may have added to the stress she felt today.

Although we are seeing some of America’s most breathtaking natural sites, this healing trip is not without challenges.

Looking for a place to stay is an everyday ordeal. Going into buildings (grocery stores, gas stations, etc.) can turn Alicia’s condition into crisis mode. It’s been a learning experience for me in how poorly maintained many of the buildings in America are.

Oftentimes when we are sick and don’t feel well, we are told to eat better, exercise more, and cultivate a healthier mindset. While all these things are super important, we seldom ask if our homes are also healthy.

We seldom question our office spaces or the places we buy food. The air we breathe is just as important as the nutrients that go into our vessels. It’s made me look at our world, my personal health, and the well-being of others differently.

All in all, Alicia’s health has been improving steadily. Getting rid of biotoxins is a marathon, and every good day is a blessing, and bad days are challenges that we learn from.

Camping

Texas Springs Campground — Death Valley, CA

I didn’t grow up camping. It’s not something my immigrant family did and this holds for many families that came here about 30–40 years ago. My parents did what they could.

Growing up, the adventures that I can faintly recall are weekend trips to Reno, where we’d go to Circus Circus and at night, the folks would gamble at the Silver Legacy.

I don’t wish I would have camped when I was younger, because wishing for anything in the past is a false promise that creates a separation between you, the present moment, and the future.

However, I am so happy that I am learning the beauty of the outdoors. The pitching of a tent, making a fire, cooking outside with a Coleman grill, and stargazing to sleep are things that I will share with my family in the future.

It’s something I want to do with my father.

When you travel in the manner in which we are traveling, which means, with no real direction, you find yourself astonished and surprised. Not just by where you go, but also by who you’ll meet.

Our first evening at Death Valley was one to be remembered. Alicia was getting ready for bed, but the night was young so I stepped outside and walked away from the campsite into a nearby open field. It was pitch black, quiet and the stars danced in the night sky as they kissed the valley without touch.

I couldn’t conjure up thoughts or words to describe what my eyes have been blessed to see.

Near-Death Experience at Death Valley

Mesquite Sand Dunes — Death Valley, CA

I went on a solo hike that a neighboring camper told me about. Alicia remained behind to rest.

I got to the peak of the mountain in 45 minutes. I ran up the steep ravine like a man lost, that’s finally finding his way home. The views were gorgeous. Death Valley encircled me like a mountainous halo.

When I started to descend, I took a different path probably not the one I should have taken because what happened next nearly took my life. I took a shortcut and decided to crawl a steep mountain on all fours.

This was a mistake. I was inches away from my life-ending.

Death kissed me in Death Valley of all places. The irony was surreal. My heartbeat was like the bicentennial.

I needed to free my hand so I chucked my water bottle to have more leverage in my left hand. Every sturdy rock I touched slipped as I was holding on for dear life.

The drop from the mountain was about 20 feet and then below that was a dry canal that was probably an additional 30 feet.

I felt an innocence come over me. I was scared and alone and not a human insight.

I pleaded to the universe, “Please, not yet.

I was in an awkward position because I had my back against the steep mountain and was looking down at the deep canal. Eventually, I found my balance and was able to seek moderate safety.

When I got back down, I saw Alicia nestled in her hammock reading Amy Polar’s biography. I immediately embraced her and told her, “You will get better” and “Everything is going to be okay.” I then looked at the mountain that nearly took my life and cried with gratitude.

I didn’t tell Alicia about what just happened until later that day. I needed the time to process it all.

The mountain taught me something beautiful.

For one, don’t be an idiot (and listen to my wife more often). Second, it reiterated the things I know to be true. Life is so very precious and living each day like it’s the last is not only necessary, it’s the truth.

Lessons From Nature

Valley of Fire State Park — Clark County, NV

As I look at the stars, sun, and the varied terrains of this earth, I am astonished by its beauty and this astonishment has become my prayer. It has released me, although for the day, from all sorrows that plague me. It’s as if the fire and futile problems of today have been blanketed by a shower from the heavens.

Nature is so beyond comprehension that our real problems wither away because we are part of that very bewilderment.

Our woes and joys are brittle leaves during autumn’s sleep, only to return in the spring and thus the cycle remains. Nature’s law carries governance that speaks to the transient in us all.

The river flows not looking back but forward. The meaning of time is irrelevant when the sun shines and the moon darkens at its precise hour.

We till the soil of our life in seasons for this is the only need for time. To know what once was will be no more, much like the sorrows we hold on to dearly.

They are subject to reality only if we make it so.

To heal is to know that we are part of a bigger design. That our souls remain in the heavens and in the hearts of those we touched, that our whispers will speak through mountains and make memories. The essence of our spirits will morph into a remembered fragrance captured by those we love, so they too know that we’ve never left.

It was as always as it was meant to be.

Right here.

If you want to follow more of my journey, check out the articles below!

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