Waiting for 1974

Me as a young man
I don’t know exactly when this photo was taken, but it would have been within a few years of my hitchhiking trip in 1974. I think this shot was likely taken 1-3 years before that.

At the risk of dating myself–not that I’m in the least concerned about that mind you–way back… way, way back in 1974, I threw a backpack over my shoulder, stuck out my thumb, and with a friend of mine hitchhiked from California, through Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming up into Canada. As nature lovers we were in pursuit of doing some backpacking, and we did. We hiked around the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, then Glacier in Montana, followed by another hike in Banff, Canada. From there it was back to California, at least for me. I don’t remember where Kenny headed. I retreated to my parents’ home in Los Angeles as I’d contracted a mild case of pneumonia. Although my relationship with them was shaky at times back in those days–I don’t remember how things were when in this case I called seeking refuge–the refuge they could provide was welcomed, and sorely needed. Now as pneumonia goes it was a mild case. I don’t recall if I felt super-awful-miserable, so I probably didn’t, but I do recall sleeping for the better part of a week.

That part of 1974, the part where I was ill, was certainly the low point of the year whereas the hitchhiking and backpacking I’m sure was the high point. The Tetons are spectacular when driving by but even more so in the back country. It was the place I had my first sighting of a bear in the wild back country, and despite the fact that I have been on a great many wilderness trips over a great many years it remains to this day the only place where I’ve come across a bear away from popular campgrounds or garbage dumpsters.

Tetons in the morning
This is a view of the Grand Tetons in the morning from route 287 outside the park

Glacier is awesome–I remember the turquoise, glacier-silt laden waters of the lakes there, catching dolly varden, a species of trout, and picking über tiny but ultra sweet wild strawberries. I also remember finding some wild blueberries and facing down a brown bear that was attracted by the aromas as Kenny and I sat beneath the pines eating the berries in bowls with milk and sugar. I mean, like c’mon, what bear could resist that? I was able to keep him at bay by talking loudly to him telling him “No sir, you cannot have these blueberries! They are ours. We found ’em ourselves. Now scat!” This was a brown bear, not a grizzly, clearly wary of us, and somewhat used to people as it frequented this popular campground, the one we were visiting. You don’t discuss anything with grizzlies and if you did the conversation would be something more akin to “Why yes Mr. Grizzly, we picked these berries just for you. I’m going to leave them right here for you to eat while we scurry up the nearest tree. Hope you like them. Please don’t eat us!”

Besides our back country trip there I have two recollections of our time in Banff, other than my bout with pneumonia. We were staying in a campground prior to heading out into the wilds when a big Winnebego Class A rolled in. At the time I didn’t know a Class A from a Class C, and didn’t much care. To us, RVs were a pathetic excuse for camping, a sorry substitute for a sleeping bag a groundcloth, and sleeping under the stars. They should be outlawed! That’s what we thought back then. Who knows, I might still feel that way if my body didn’t develop the propensity toward making violent and painful objections to carrying a 50 pound backpack more than a few miles. I recall that this Winnebego rolled in, a power antenna rolled up from the roof, and the next morning the antenna rolled down, the RV drove away, and nobody ever came out of the darned thing! What do you think of that?

Thermal Streasm
Detail view of a thermal stream in Yellowstone

The other recollection of Banff is that of hooking up with a couple of girls. Can you say that again? “Girls”? There was a period of time, back then, where if you referred to a female of sexual maturity as a girl as opposed to a woman it was grounds for immediate castration. At least it was in Berkeley, the then headquarters not only of the sensible feminist but the radical, kill-all-men feminazi. Anyway, we met a couple individuals of the opposite sex and both couples did what couples often do, side by side, in the same small 2-man tent, at the same time. I recall some anger coming my way when something tickled my funny-bone and I began to laugh–my sense of humor seems to be present pretty much all the time, sometimes to the displeasure of others.

All that I’ve written so far is background color for this post which is really about finding a sense of rhythm and of ease. I have some faint recollection of some trepidation before and upon setting out on that adventure back in ’74: Where would we sleep? What would happen if we were stuck roadside and couldn’t get a ride? What if it poured cats and dogs for hours on end–would we get wet and cold and be utterly miserable? We were long-haired hippies traveling through the hostile territories of Wyoming and the like were cowboys and hunters reigned supreme and hippies were disliked by many and fare game–shades of Easy Rider. Would we get beat up? If there is one thing I was very good at it was worrying, and that hasn’t changed all that much.

What I soon found on our trip back in the 70s is that things would usually work out. We’d get a ride, eventually. We’d find someplace to sleep, workable if not ideal, and if we got wet and cold we’d get dry and warm again soon enough. The only cowboy with whom I recall interacting was a Texan passing through who gave us a ride and complained of it taking far too long for him to get out of Texas because of it’s size and proclaiming that the best part of tomatoes were the seeds inside. The things we remember…

What I’m saying is that while on this trip back in 1974 a sense of ease gradually replaced the concerns, at least to a good measure. We also developed routines: how to work as a team when rolling up the tent, in which order things were best done when setting up and breaking down camp, and we found the best place for each item in our backpacks which made packing them as quick and easy as possible.

Little Molas Lake at Sunset
Little Molas Lake at Sunset, Silverton, Colorado

Now, in my eighth month of my See-the-USA-in-an-RV trip, much as it was back in the 70s, some of the nervousness I had before and upon departure has been lost, replaced by a degree of comfort. In particular, driving Charlene, my 30′ Class C RV, was rather intimidating at first. I’ve become more comfortable with that. Finding a place to camp: while that’s still something one needs of necessity to be concerned with I’ve yet to find myself in a situation where I had no place to camp for the night.

I’m still searching for routines to do things and for a comfortable rhythm to this life on the road. I’m still looking for the best way and place in the RV to store things, the best way to plan my next move, and I’ve made virtually no progress on learning how to cook. There are many things about which I still feel unsettled. I think I need to do some thinking about all this, and some experimenting as well. As I did so many years ago when hitchhiking around I’m hoping to find a rhythm, a comfort zone, and that’s what I mean when I write I’m waiting for 1974.

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12 thoughts on “Waiting for 1974”

  1. I had no idea I shared lunch with a ‘hippie’ LOL. It does take a while to settle in and find some sort of routine living life on the road. 2 years ago I would be stressed if we didn’t have our campgrounds picked out well in advance and reserved. Now, I’m good at winging it even though I still know I have to make some reservations. Somehow it all works out 🙂

  2. Hey, can’t go wrong rockin’ a Peter Frampton look in 1974!! 😉 Meanwhile, your muscle memory will develop/return once you get back into Charlene and the “stuff” of your travels will fall into the places in which they belong. I hope you have been able to tack on more travel memories to those of 40 years’ past.

  3. Hey, I love your 1974 picture! I can just see you pulling back your hair and putting it into a ponytail, too. Very grovey. Your blog brings back all sorts of memories of the ’70’s. Around ’72, I set out on an adventure – flew to Europe with a round-trip ticket and about $150 in my pocket. I had destinations and people lined up to see, but was hitchhiking sometimes all alone, with just a few items, in jeans, t-shirt and hiking boots. I realized that it maybe wasn’t too safe to hitch alone, so would hook up with some guy who was also hitching. He would hide in the bushes, I would flag down a ride, and then ask if “my friend could come also.” The driver always had to say yes. So it was mutually beneficial for both the guy and me. Had all sorts of adventures going through France and England, some sort of precarious. But it was a blast. I didn’t worry too much, maybe out of naivety? Lost weight, but finally made it back to Hopkins, MN, and called my parents from a gas station and asked them to come and get me. Were they relieved.

    That’s my (shortened) story – Marge

  4. My envy knows no bounds, but I’ll live vicariously through the wonderful description of your 1974 adventure. I’ve come to realize that what some would consider indiscretions of youth were really blissfully ignorant periods of curiosity and innate trust. As we age we tend to trade in our sense of adventure for “wiser” and more practical things like mortgages, jobs, and blenders. Pity. I understand your close relationship with worry as he and I have been bedfellows for quite some time. Edging him aside has been a lifelong struggle. As well, I also yearn for the comfort and rhythm in life that you so honestly expressed. Your post has provided some of the enlightenment I need to move me closer to that state. For that I sincerely thank you.

  5. Au contraire…no reservations about no reservations is but a lofty unrealized state to which I aspire only in my wildest dreams. That worry dude still has quite the strong foothold in my life. Come to think of it, I DO believe I once wore a blender down to a nub back in the day of some pretty adventurous adult beverage experimentations. Once again you have provided enlightenment. Stop it.

  6. Loved your post 1974 and want to reply before it’s too late. It came to me as a bedtime story while I checked my I phone before going to sleep Loved the photo and knowing a little more about you. great photo of your long hair and cute miscievous smile. It brought me back as well to a period in my life which was very different from now. I had just become a mother for the first time the previous year and was living in France. Before moving to France I was also a hippy living in Berkeley, studying at Cal and silkscreening anti -war posters which we put up all over Berkeley at midnight. Some of your other comments also brought recollecttions – such as RV’s on campgrounds – We group of mountainclimbing friends would complain that they polluted “our” beautiful natural campsites-yet seekretly when the campfire was out and it grew very cold I would be envious that “they had a nice warm place to sleep and especially going out to pee in the middle of the night they don’t have to trip over tent ropes and be cold and scared. I never admitted to those thought out of fear to be judged as weak and spineless. The other strong recollection that came back to me when you mentioned feminazis was a meeting of these feminists at Willard Partk that I came across one day going home from one of my classes. I thought I’d hang out at the perifery and listen in on their conversation-I was sorry that I did it was so violently anti men that I went home depressed and sad. I was wondering where all that hate came from. I guess I’ve been sheltered and have always liked men a lot – always had a crush on some guy since second grade!!! And even later when I lived in Berkeley again, this time divorced and a single parent- I met a few men-among them a few schucks/good lovers/not so good lovers, none of them merited what I heard that sad day. When I shared my feelings about that depressing day with other women friends they were not shocked and called me naive! Anyway as you can see your blog helped me on a trip down memory lane in a deep way- enjoyed your photo of Russ on the memory road in his birthday suit! Handsome as ever! And yes, I’m part of the worry wort club too-aren’t we all?

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