#2. Miners Gulch Campgrounds: A Guide for Fathers Reconnecting With Their Teenage Sons
Location: Ashley National Forest
Facilities: Picnic tables, fire pits, a patch of grass for that forgotten game of catch.
Permit Fee: $30-$45. But really, what's the price you pay for not doing it?
Activities: Fishing, archery, hiking, pushing dirt around with a stick in silence.
Campground Description and Directions
Heading north on Highway 191, turn onto a dirt road (Forest Road 134) at mile marker 56, which will lead directly to the campground. Warning: It's easy to miss if you're not paying attention, or if you are distracted by someone else in the car listening to his industrial hard rock or whatever the hell it's called instead of just enjoying the sounds of nature for God's sake.
The campground is divided up into five campsites, each distant enough from the next that, should you and your son have a real breakthrough together, no one else will hear you cry. You are allowed to collect your own wood and tinder, giving you the chance to show your son how to build a fire, just as every father has done throughout the history of civilization. And when you fail, there are also Duraflame logs and newspaper available at the ranger station.
"Can you at least fucking pretend to have a good time for one picture?"
Anglers can expect to catch rainbow and brown trout in Rock Creek, hikers can enjoy winding trails through ponderosa pine and quaking aspen forests, and if someone was willing to get up before noon for once in his goddamn life, there's also a spectacular viewing point just north of camp for sunrises. It's guaranteed to steal the breath of anyone who's lucky enough to see it, or at the very least, provide enough glare to the screen of a Nintendo Game Gear or whatever to make it temporarily unusable.
And, for first-time stepfathers, the ranger carries a full first-aid kit for treating bruises, lacerations and BB puncture wounds. Also, there is a direct line in the ranger station to local authorities if for some reason your car disappears.
#1. Backbone Trail: A Psilocybin Adventure Guide
Distance: 0.4 miles round trip.
Starting Elevation: 2,331 feet.
Highest Point: When you pry open that dead tree and find another universe inside.
Difficulty rating: Gentle to deeply problematical.
Trail Type: Crunchy. Like it makes that "crch, crch, crch" noise.
Trail Description and Directions
Even though the Backbone Trail stretches across the Santa Monica Mountains for over 60 miles, your personal exploration will reach far beyond any metric humanity has arrogantly attached to the movement of objects and beings. Your adventure cannot be calculated in inches, yards or miles because you have achieved motion beyond advancing toward or receding from a fixed point. Though if you had to saddle your journey with the units of a deficient measurement system, it would probably be about 80 feet from the car. This hike will take you six to eight hours. Good luck.
As you explore, keep an eye on the juniper trees to the left of the parking lot. They act as a boundary between the good, living side of the wilderness and the side lost to festering decay. There was a dead squirrel on the other side of those trees last June, and even after Kevin the ranger removed the carcass with a shovel, the space remains ominous. Everybody says so.
His soul has cursed this land. From the trash can to the picnic table.
As you step from the parking lot to the dirt of the trail head, take a minute to greet the path that will, quite literally, lead you into the future. Allow it to sense you. Follow it as far as it wants you to go while letting the wind breathe you in, the sun examine you with its critical eye. These elements are not angry, just curious, curious how you fit into the greater narrative of the Earth. Gradually, you will come across a knotted stump that is shaped like an elephant fetus.
You're probably going to want to sit on the ground here and just think about some things.
It's a lot to take in all at once, but there is learning hidden everywhere, the thesis of nature written in the latticework of branches overhead and knitted in the veins of each fallen leaf. The language is foreign, but you instinctually know it. It says that life is all made up of the same pieces, and those pieces will continue to make up life over and over again. In fact, you will quickly realize you've been here before, long before you were even born. You have been and will be in this exact spot sitting on the ground infinity times over infinity lives.
At this point, there's a good chance you will accidentally break time.
"I can hear it screaming. It's in pain and I am living backwards."
Maybe head back toward the parking lot. Try to stay calm. Along the way you will likely see trees, plants and rocks you remember, but it will be impossible to tell whether you remember them from the past or from the future because your accident has changed everything. Don't worry, if you want to throw up now, that's OK. Back at the start of the trail there is a public restroom. The toilets do not flush, but there is a mirror over the sinks. You can spend the rest of your journey having epiphanies that are specific to your own reflection in an outhouse mirror. The trail, after all, isn't just out there in the wild, it's also inside you. Maybe. Who really knows what the hell is going on.
For more from Soren, check out The Most Appropriately Endangered Species on the Planet and Kidnapped by Drug Lords: My 3rd Worst Vacation in Mexico.