8 Weeks of Rental Van Life

Savoring the Hike I Didn’t Do 10 Years Ago

We got a great deal on a rental cargo van and are now two weeks into driving around the spectacular landscapes of California.

Photo of Cinder Cone, a flat cone shaped volcano

I quit my job right before the trip, so for the first time in almost four years, I am on a significant break. My reasons for leaving were to try to take care of my health. I was facing an impending burnout and breakdown, and in my current financial situation, it made more sense to take some time to recover. And, go on an adventure!

Hi, I’m Rey, a nonbinary writer! Please subscribe for more stories and resources:

I’ve been reading the perfect book while taking some personal time off work, Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price. In their book, they talk about savoring experiences. This can be staying present in the current moment with all your senses, remembering good memories fondly, or looking forward to future plans with anticipation.

Traveling or otherwise being uncertain where I’m going to sleep brings an immediacy to my experience. Camping makes it a good time and even an interesting challenge to locate and explore the next dispersed camping area. I feel a sense of accomplishment and reward at the end of a long day hiking in a safe and beautiful spot.

I’ve always thought of burnout as working way too hard on the wrong things. Traveling outdoors is a great way for me to feel I am working on something worthwhile. I am creating those memories that I can look back on fondly.

Photo showing the steep path winding up the side of the cinder cone volcano

Today we arrived at Cinder Cone, a location I had hiked with a group 10 years ago. I remember reaching the base of the cinder cone volcano and opting not to climb the steep, winding path to the top. I lay down in the shadow of a pine tree as my new friends headed to the top. I started to see tiny flowering plants growing in the colorful sand, where I assumed life could not survive.

I rested, recovered, and gained a new respect for the plants of the desert. But I did not see the top of Cinder Cone.

Ten years later, I was back. I walked the path in the squishy black sand through the pine trees back to the base of the cone. It was even bigger than I remembered. The path looked like it went up at a 45 degree angle. I saw the pine tree with the inviting shadow on the soft sand. And I started to climb.

Selfie of Rey wearing a pink hat and gray t shirt, looking slightly out of breath and smiling, half way up the steep path

High elevations mean the air is thinner. I felt out of breath, heart racing, air whooshing through my lungs but not doing enough. I stopped many times on the ramp up to the top. I took some photos. I admired the increasingly large vista.

I was so surprised when I finally got to the top and could see over the edge. I assumed the top would be flat, in keeping with the uniform surface of the rest of the cone. But it sank into a huge crater!

Photo of the crater on the top of the cinder cone

I could see the lava beds and painted sand dunes, as well as Mt. Lassen in the distance. The view was magnificent!

A physical struggle, an awe inspiring view, and the surprise and delight of experiencing more than expected meant I was completely in the moment.

That’s why I go to the wilderness.

Selfie of Rey looking happy standing on top of the cinder cone volcano

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