The Los Padres Box Of Chocolates

Tiger lily Santa Barbara hikes Los PadresHumboldt lily growing in Los Padres National Forest.

“Sometimes I feel so uninspired
Sometimes I feel like giving up
Sometimes I feel so very tired
Sometimes I feel like I’ve had enough”

Steve Winwood, Traffic – “(Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired

I often go for aimless hikes. I wander. I need not a notable destination, my only goal to leave the city and immerse myself in nature.

Many times, if not most, I don’t even know where I’m driving to go hike when I leave the homestead until I end up there. This has been, more than usual, my modus operandi of late.

There has been a sharp decline in my activity on this blog for some months now. I suddenly lost interest, inspiration waned and I had had enough, but there is more to it than that alone.

The blog started as a creative work that complimented my existing proclivity toward outdoor recreation in the wild and my love of writing and learning. I could venture out, take a few snapshots and then write about my experiences. The blog added another element of fun to what I already had been doing my entire life.

But my digital offspring mutated like Gregor in The Metamorphosis into this hideous beast that became a burden to keep. The blog turned into something of a cyber despot dictating what I should and should not do.

No longer did I feel I could merely go out just to get out. While I never felt as though I was in competition with other bloggers, I did increasingly feel that in each outing into the woods I had to achieve some notable ends, had to bag the big story and return with a humdinger of a feature. This led to a necessity for more planning than I have ever had any interest in spending time doing. No longer could I just wander without intention or goal. I had to generate content.

swallowtail butterfly lily Santa Barbara Santa Ynez Mountains hiking Los Padres

“My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.'”

Forest Gump

The longer I set aside concerns about chasing waterfalls and caves and long trails and catching interesting material upon which to build a meaningful blog post, however, the more I hiked in relatively average areas with seemingly nothing remarkable about them.

Yet, at the same time, I was increasingly surprised to find during nearly every aimless wander through the supposed ordinary, how I stumbled upon something that made it all well worth my time and energy. It was not ordinary at all. The line from Forest Gump would always replay through my head. I just never knew what treasure I would find next.

A few days ago I was hiking with my dog up a heavily visited canyon, a place I habitually ignore because of its popularity, despite its natural splendor. I had managed to carry my dog over a dry waterfall before coming to a couple more, which I could not get him over.

Frustrated, I turned back early.

Though I enjoyed the hike, it had seemed that in being cut short it had no point. I had not reached a destination. It was the lingering taint of the dictatorial blog burdening my mind.

Then on my way down the creek I took a wrong turn, just a few feet the wrong way into the bushes, really. Turning back I found the path I had intended to follow a few steps later and a lily came into view, which I had not seen on my way up the creek. I stopped to take a gander and a tiger swallowtail butterfly fluttered down onto the bloom.

I had been waiting years to capture a snapshot of a swallowtail on a lily, two of the most striking small varieties of life in the forest. And here was my opportunity. Had I been able to hoist my dog over the waterfalls a short time earlier I would not have stumbled upon this chance.

“I don’t believe in coincidences, only chains of event which grow longer and ever more fragile until either bad luck or plain old human mean-heartedness breaks them.”

Sandy Dearborn in Stephen King’s, From a Buick 8

Of course, such an event can always be looked at as though every little choice made throughout my entire life had brought me to this specific place at this specific time just as this butterfly floated out of the sky to sip the flower’s nectar, after having completed its own long unknown chain of events in its own life.

Anyhow, whatever the case may be, I got the photo. And it made the hike worth every bit of my time and energy. I never set out searching for this chance. I just went wandering with no particular aim and it happened, because in Los Padres National Forest you just never know what you’re gonna get.

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13 Responses to The Los Padres Box Of Chocolates

  1. stephen says:

    Keep up the good work JE! Great photos!

  2. Jane Sweet Sheppard says:

    I enjoy your wanderings regardless of where you go or what you find. Many times you make me think and ponder. Other times my curiosity is peaked and I go off on internet searches to satisfy the itch. Since I can’t get out and about much, I cherish your blog. You are very much appreciated for the many types of adventures, big and small.

  3. Suzanne says:

    Nature always provides the unexpected. . .sometimes what we expect to see isn’t what we expected. Thanks for the photos. . .they inspire the aimless ramble.

  4. Frank says:

    Just finding a blooming Humboldt Lilly is remarkable this year. All the stalks growing in Rattlesnake Canyon withered before producing a bloom, probably in response to the drought.

  5. 100peaks says:

    I totally understand how you feel. I am at that point with my blog. I now (gasp) actually go out hiking without letting the world know. Either that or a share a single shot of my experience on Instagram, but that’s it. I only take the time to edit photos and compose a story when I feel like it, and when I feel I have something to day.

    Keep it up. Quality wins over quantity every day. I’ll wait patiently for your next post, even if it’s in 6 months. I am not going anywhere.

  6. Steve Genest says:

    I like your aimless strategy…just lower expectations and head out, unburdened by digital chains. And look what you turned up! If you hadn’t taken the pressure off yourself, you might have missed it.

  7. Lila Henry says:

    Wandering is the best! You love nature and she loves you.

  8. Allan S. Morton says:

    Jack: I enjoy you photos and your writing. Please keep it up when you are so moved.

  9. David carlson says:

    I have learned so much from your blog and I grew up in the San roque area and the mountains were in my back yard and was my playground. Thanks for your time.

  10. There’s a lot of truth in what you say there and I wish I’d take more notice of it but I seem totally unable to hike aimlessly – I seem to have to have an objective or a target in everything I do. That makes it all quite stressful sometimes when, of course, it should be the opposite!

  11. Like you I am a wanderer and the treasures I stumble upon are endless. Nice little piece, thanks for taking the time to put it up!

    i’m singing like a parrot now i’m stinging like a bee
    the magic of this realm goes as far as you can see
    take it now or leave it, it all is up to you
    live your greatest dreams or fall into the blues….

  12. Pat Cramer says:

    A lovely gift for all of us!

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