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STOIC POETRY | November desert night hike

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

November 23 2019

Dear Eric,

The very first principle I identified for The Good Life is something call The Path of Wildness. I happened upon this idea while living in Japan and exploring alone in the deep and empty mountainous wilderness of the Japan Southern Alps. Hiking far off-trail and without maps or compass I'd sometimes find myself confused about which way to go... It was then that I'd enlist my reason to assemble the facts of my circumstance: the appearance of the landscape, the position of the sun, the flow of water and maybe the sound of cascades suggesting dangerous waterfalls. I'd then sit for a bit and take in these facts to give them a good think...allowing myself five minutes or so to assess and decide my next move. Often, I could not make up my mind as there were too few quality facts to decide upon, or my fear of being alone in such a strange and remote place might be muddling my ability to think clearly. It was then that I'd employ my instinct to help me make up my mind...I'd listen to what my gut feeling was telling about the direction I should next go to make my way either deeper into the wild or to find my way back out. My gut wasn't always right, though it did serve as a useful tiebreaker when my reason was stymied or the facts simply could not support a better-informed decision. I use this principle often now in life whenever I cannot quite make up my mind. I assemble facts, allow some time to think them over, and then listen to my gut to help me decide finally what I must do if reason alone proves insufficient to the task.

This long night hike in the desert one-week back reminded me of those experiences in Japan which drew out from the principle I now call The Path of Wildness.

The Path of Wildness is easy to find The course of a stream Leaves blown in the wind A beast's track through the brush And the direction of our first inclination

Desert journal entry: November 15, 2019

Past years journal entries are rife with seeming hyperbole regarding the quality of desert night hiking during November. Last night’s solo adventure enlists no hyperbole in describing the experience as magical, sublime and even mystical. I left Siberia ghost town on foot well after sundown, wearing just my shorts, my lucky blue hiking shirt, and a light fleece sweater. The nearly full moon was playing peekaboo behind high cirrus cloud-cover, requiring the use of a flashlight for the first hour. I could navigate then by turning off the light and gauging my place by noting the black silhouette hulks of the dead volcanoes I’ve come to know here. Eventually, the moon came out from the clouds for good, and I put away the light to hike like a cat in the dark. When my eyes had fully acclimated to the moonlight, I could see clearly every rock and bush around me, along with all the landscape for two-hundred square miles. An utterly empty landscape of humanity - save me...and I was a poor representative. Eventually, I crossed over the Edge of Deep Water, I walked by very near the Black Volcano and by 1:00 AM I’d arrived at Campo #1 (all place names from my book). I was pooped. Yet, I was elated. By now, I was in shirtsleeves and the diminishing cold was starting to make me feel mortal once again - for the walk alone, without light, through trackless desert night, had been like an experience no human should know while still alive. That experience was what heaven should be like should such a place be real. Fortunately, it’s truly possible to have such experiences, which well deserve the name heaven, even if the name is only a dream. Such was my solitary night hike last night in the desert. Truly, November is heaven in the Mojave Desert.


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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