Drifting and striding, in Hollywood and elsewhere, with Geoff Nicholson - author of The Lost Art of Walking, and Walking in Ruins withcholson, author of Toff Nidrifting and stomping withcholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking, considers the narrower and wider shores of obsessive pedestrianism.
Showing posts with label Skyline Ranch Road. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skyline Ranch Road. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Well, the desert is getting a little cooler and so the Loved One and I went off  for a not especially adventurous weekend in Yucca Valley.  I had no great walking project in mind, but I had simple plan to drive along Skyline Ranch Road (not the worst name for a road) until I found a likely looking place to pull over and park, and then we’d walk for a while.

And that’s exactly what we did.  On the maps Skyline Ranch Road looks pretty much like a real road - and it is at first, but on the ground it rapidly turns into a dirt road, then a dirt road with deep gouges, and then it becomes no road at all.  I liked that very much obviously.

It was late Friday afternoon, the sun was going down, the sky was full of interesting patterns, though with nothing resembling a “sunset” and it was one of those walks, the best sort really, that didn’t have to be some intense cosmic experience: it was just a walk.

We did however come across this very appealing rock formation, which I’m sure is well known to locals, with a tree growing in its midst, with holes and gaps running through it so that the wind howled and moaned.  If you were the kind of kind of person who worshipped landforms you could do much worse than worship this one.

Yucca Valley still has one of my favorite used bookstores, the Sagebrush Press Bookstore, a place ever more crammed with stock, some of it decidedly pricey, some of it not, and I can never go in there without buying a book or three.  This time, among others, I bought a copy of Peter Jenkins’ A Walk Across America published in 1979, a book that I’ve been aware of for years, but have never really settled down with and read.  That night in the motel in Yucca Valley I could do exactly that.

In fact the title is a bit of a misnomer.  The books tell the story of Jenkins’ walk from Alfred, a town in New York State, to New Orleans, an impressive feat for sure (1,273 miles according to Google maps) but not “across” America in the ordinary sense of the word.  Jenkins wrote a second book, with his wife Barbara, titled The Walk West (1981) which covered the journey from New Orleans to Florence, Oregon: which is rather more of a crossing it seems to me. Arthur to Florence – it has a certain understated majesty to it, no?

Reading Jenkins today, he seems in some ways, to be ahead of his time, fretting about what is being done to America by corporate interests, but at the same time he’s part of that long tradition of writers who go off in search of America and themselves, and find them both pretty much wherever they look.

One of the fascinations of the book as far as I’m concerned is that Jenkins' journey took place at very much the same time that I was making my first trans-America trip, from Toronto, Canada (long story) to Santa Barbara, California, and although I was hitchhiking I inevitably did plenty of walking.  Like Jenkins, I experienced much warmth and much generosity from the people I met, such as the boys above, and only the smallest amount of occasional terror, also from the boys above.  This was pretty much the end of the hippie era, but hippie ideals and down home all-American values are by no means entirely at odds.

         In his book, Jenkins does from time to time have a tendency to drift into a kind of all-purpose Zen/National Geographic spiritual wisdom : “My main purpose was to be where I was,” for example, but heck, it was the times.  

          This is what Peter Jenkins looks like these days: