漢娜解釋道：「『陽城』是一個高地沙漠，海拔五千一百二十九英呎。但是在你一路走向『星球市』之際，它就絕不是個沙漠了──它真的是個讓人熱得汗流浹背的東西。我步行的第一天，擺脫掉了這個高漠；接下來兩天的徒步在一個混合區，那裡依然有一些矮松及杜松，但溫度更高而且遮蔭處更少。那些由河川支流所造成的峽谷，變得更陡峭而且更崎嶇；但是在支流的尾端，仍然有油沃的綠洲。在最後的兩天，已不再看到高樹景致，只有仙人掌、多刺的梨和各式的其他仙人掌、響尾蛇以及「多毛毒蜘蛛」（俗稱「舞蹈蜘蛛」，狼蜘蛛屬，乃產於義大利南部的毐蜘蛛）。有一晚我步行至深夜，並且看到一個令人吃驚的景象，生長在路旁的砂礫中 ── 一個潔白的磨菇，那是一種沙漠磨菇。真令人驚訝！」
Editor's note: Louisa is our ESL teacher at Developing Virtue Schools and Dharma Realm Buddhist University.
When Hannah Peterson decided to start walking over a year ago she was living in the tiny high desert town of Young, Arizona. The closest bus stop was 80 miles away.
“I started walking because my conscience wouldn’t let me go in a car,” explained the 23 year-old woman. “As long as my conscience makes it impossible for me to get in a car I’ll keep walking, biking and using public transportation.”
I was astounded. I had never met a conscientious objector to private vehicles before. As an alternative fuel activist, I knew the rap about devastation caused by the petroleum industry. But a completely carfree existence in rural California - a state colonized by the automobile industry – requires major lifestyle modifications. She wouldn’t even accept a ride in my spiffy silver biodiesel car! I knew I had something to learn from this woman.
While working on a fire crew for the forest service, Hannah became increasingly frustrated with the impact of vehicles on the environment and her life. “It was driving me crazy,” she said. “I’d be in these beautiful places and just looking out the (truck) window…they were always driving so fast. That’s not how I want to live.”
Diligently the young woman planned her walk along miles of a winding sparse creek bed through cedars, pinon trees, and ranchland to the bus stop in Globe. Her friends were very concerned and profusely offered rides but Hannah was prepared. She consulted with long-time residents and examined forest service maps of the Cherry Creek area.
“I was scared at first,” she admitted. “So I tried to plan as best I knew.”
When the fire crew was laid off at the end of the summer, Hannah set off with all her possessions and two gallons of water on her back. She did her walking in the cool hours, slept in a shady spot during the hot hours, and usually found a water hole every ten miles. There she purified drinking water with iodine and refilled her water containers. The weather was “super hot – in the upper 90’s”.
She explained: “Young is high desert, it’s elevation is 5129 feet. By the time you get to Globe however it is by no means high desert, it’s the real ‘hot sweaty thing’. I spent the first day of my walk ‘dropping out’ of the high desert. For the next two days of hiking it was a mixture. There was still some pinon and juniper but is was hotter and had less cover. The tributary canons became steeper and more rugged, but there were still nice lush oases in the canon bottoms. The last two days there were no longer trees in the landscape, just saguaro and prickly pear and an assortment of other cactus, rattlesnakes and tarantulas. I walked late into the night one night and saw an amazing sight growing on the side of the road out of the gravel, a pure white mushroom, a desert mushroom, amazing.”
Hannah was expecting the hike to be less than 60 miles because the gravel road from Young to Globe is only 42 miles. She learned that the twisty river bed route is much longer - a good 80 miles, so she was putting in over twelve miles a day.
“I was pushing it. I was in a hurry to see my boyfriend Chris,” she added blushingly.
Since that first six-day walk to the bus stop, Hannah has taken several walks with all her possessions on her back, including a 120-mile walking trip into downtown Santa Barbara with her partner, Chris Kinney.
“It really changes your perspective,” she said. “Now 15 miles is a day hike.”
Hannah and Chris met me for lunch in the small city of Ukiah. To reach Ukiah they had traveled three miles down a mountain road to the bus stop, and then had ridden the cozy mini-bus 25 miles over the mountains. As we perused the elegant organic menu, the absurdity of low-carbohydrate diets was suddenly revealed to me. People who walk don’t need low-carb diets.
I thought of all those people eating dainty little salads and driving away in their calorie-burning cars. Then I realized I was one of those dainty salad-eaters, and wondered if I could handle life without a vehicle.
“One of the things about walking is that it becomes a lifestyle change,” said Hannah. “It makes some things impossible. You have to get used to not going places – you have to be super content where you are. Sometimes on a Saturday night you want to go out but you stay home close to your fire like you did all week.”
“Probably the best thing about choosing to walk is that it’s so fun getting to know the road. Now I know the road well, and see little things change. I get to appreciate where I’m at.”
With her modest clothing, long brown hair, and wire-rimmed glasses, Hannah appears to be the quintessential college student. However she exudes an uncommon glow of vibrant health, and speaks with the focused clarity of a person whose mind is not cluttered with excess obligations.
“One day recently I was thinking about canoeing in the Boundary Waters in Northern Montana,’ she recalled wistfully. “But there was no way I could get there. Then I realized that the whole time I hadn’t been noticing the fields I was walking through.”
Her comment opened a little door in my brain, as I realized how much time every week I spend in a vehicle, stressfully destination-bound, with my mind oblivious of my surroundings.
Hannah’s summation of her philosophy has stayed in my ears: “Walking requires a totally different pace of life. It takes time and space and puts it in the measurement of a human footstep.”
My husband and I are proud owners of two biodiesel cars. The beloved 1989 VW Jetta has passed into the irreparable zone, and since my discussion with Hannah Peterson, we have decided not to replace it. Living ten miles from town without a personal vehicle always available, requires a lot of long tactful negotiations, long bike rides on hills, long waits at a lonely bus stop, and long peaceful walks, but we’re going to give it a try.