Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[travel] My mom, on the kindness of strangers

tillyjane, a/k/a my mom, recently spent three weeks traveling around the West, much of at the Grand Canyon doing trail maintenance and habitat restoration as a volunteer. When she returned to Portland, she began writing up her days as a sort of irregular journal. The emails were so delightful that with her permission, I'm going to post them here as guest blogs — mediations on people, travel, nature and the American West.

This is her third installment, from an email dated September 22nd, shortly after her return.

The Kindness of Strangers

Theres me, huffing and puffing up the very steep switchbacks at the end of Navajo Loop toward the rim of Bryce Canyon. I was actually doing ok, my legs were fine, but my breath was certainly audible. A Chinese woman started tracking me. She stayed within a few yards ahead or behind. Her daughter was along, but still playing down among the hoodoos. She handed me a mint. She gave a couple of grins and thumbs up. She reached to top a little bit ahead of me and waited till I came out before she moved away from the rim. I approached her and thanked her in Chinese for watching me. She told me she was from Taiwan. Her English was no better than my Chinese, so we weren't able to say much to each other, but I was able to thank her and she was able to acknowledge me and the beauty of the place. I felt like I'd had a guardian angel.

On that same path, just before this nice taitai took me over I stepped up from the path slipped and slid just a little coming back down. A hand appeared before me, I grasped it and was helped back down to the path. Then I looked up and it was a Chinese man. I said "Sye sye nin", and he grinned and said "But I am Korean" His English was pretty good and we laughed about my mistake, and wished each other well.

"Lets go look at the stars!" said Matt, the seed gathering tumbleweed at our thank you picnic for the GC park staff. We walked away from the campfire toward the rim for the best viewing. I realized that I was walking in starlight only not more than a few yards from the rim of a mile deep hole in the ground. And feeling secure and cared for. We looked at the stars.

The Utah map showed a road 153 across the Tushan Mountains west of US 89, headed toward Beaver Utah and Nevada. I couldn't determine its condition from the map, but it looked more interesting than #20 which would have got me to Beaver easily. I stopped at the Forest Service ranger station to ask. The lady at the desk looked at my map with me and told me that was in a different forest, and they didn't monitor the roads over there. I thanked her and was prepared to leave. But the district ranger came out from his office and asked if he could help with something. I told him my question and he immediately instructed the receptionist to phone the district ranger's office in that other forest and find out for me. I went off to the restroom while she made the call. When I got back she was able to tell me that the road was gravel the first half, but well maintained and suitable for my little sedan if I went slowly. That I would come to a Y at the top and should take the right fork for the the best road back down to Beaver. She was pleased to have the good news, I was pleased to get the good news, and the road was sensational, topping out at over 10K feet with views to treasure in memory.

And to keep the kharma flowing there was Annie... I was driving up a small road in Nevada on the way out when I saw a woman of my years walking along with a water bottle in her hand. It was very hot and she was just plugging along. I stopped and asked if I could give her a ride. She accepted immediately, climbed aboard and asked me to take her to the jail. I started up and asked where the jail was. She said just to the next town about ten miles away. Her car was in the shop, had been promised for yesterday but wasn't ready. Meanwhile she had promised to visit her friend in jail. And you know, she said, when someone is in jail and you said you'd visit, you'd better visit! I took her to the jail. We chatted along the way, she's always lived in rural Nevada. I agreed not to tell her children she was hitchhiking if she wouldn't tell mine I had picked her up. As she got out I advised her that next time she stopped someone for a ride maybe she shouldn't start the converstaion with "please take me to the jail".

I enjoyed Annie.

There were others...the campers I met, the Sierra Club people, the service people...You go for the rocks, then you meet the people. Life is good.

tillyjane's previous installment, "Rocks of Ages", is here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]

Tags: family, guest, personal, travel

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