the Wanderling

When I was around eleven or twelve years old or so I spent a couple of summers living lightly on the land like a forest monk on the east side of the High Sierras under the auspices of my Uncle.

At the time, I was traveling with my uncle, my two brothers, a cousin, a boy around my age somehow related to my Stepmother by the name of Richard, and a kid my stepmother picked-up the tab on we called Bub President Hudson. The kid was the son of some movie actress my dad or uncle knew that went on-and-on continuously all day and night telling us that his mom was a spy and that she went to school with Tarzan.[1]

During one of the summers my stepmother visited the main camp for a few days. She was a beautiful woman with her hair swept up in the late 1940s fashion, sporting open toed wedged heels and bright red nails. An unusual sight in any campground.

One afternoon she pointed out a lone tree standing all by itself on the side of the mountain across the valley above the tree line. I had noticed the same tree many times and in general conversation she stated she was going to climb up there one day and water it. Thinking the tree might be a thousand years old and wondering how it ever got water in the first place, the idea intrigued me.

She never did climb up to the tree, but after she left, the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. None of my brothers or others in the camp were interested nor up to it, so early one morning before sunrise I started out alone.

Just below the mountain I filled a five gallon jeep can with as much water as I could carry from the stream that fed the lakes, tied a rope on the can and dragged it up the mountain. By late mid-morning or so I reached the lonely tree tired and exhausted. My fatigue was soon forgotten as the view of the valley was fantastic. I understood why the tree located itself there. I dug a circular ditch around the base of the trunk, then slowly poured water into it. The water gurgled for a while, foamed brown a little, then sank into the soil.

Then, just as I was about to sit down it came to me the base of the tree was all mud. My intention was to sit and lean against the tree in the shade and take in the view. Instead the ground around the trunk was soggy and I laid a short distance away from the tree in the shade cast, looking toward the clear blue sky and the occasional wistful cloud floating by, the sky dotted here and there by the graceful glide of my unknown to me and one-day-to-come Totem Animal, the giant wingspan condor-like Turkey Vulture slipping effortlessly on the rising Sierra thermals.

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There I was miles from camp having hauled fifty pounds of water up the side of a mountain for the roots of a tree that was doing quite well by itself and had been for years, thank you very much, and I saved no water for myself nor had I thought of bringing food. My only thought when I left camp was giving water to the tree. When I brought the gift, after pouring it, I couldn't even lean against the tree or feel it's touch. True, I shared it's shade, but not it's touch. In the end I walked back down the mountain alone, hungry and thristy for not having done more. When I arrived back in camp late in the afternoon my brothers and the others were playing and swimming in the creek. Except for my Uncle no one had realized I was even gone.

That which is me that people recall will cease to exist in it's present form one day, returning to the broader mix for other things in the universe to use...maybe even as part of an offspring of that tree on the side of that mountain. That would be nice.


"My first ranch experience occurred when I was around eight to ten years old. During that two year plus period I actually lived on the ranch full time and went to school while living there --- the fourth or fifth grade, possibly both or parts thereof, maybe even some of the sixth. When the onslaught or the heat of the summer came on full force, for the most part, all us kids spent it camping out and living off the land in the High Sierras, which is most aptly described in Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a man I met on one of our excursions deep into the mountains."

A BOY AND HIS JEEP: Adventures In The Desert

It was one of the two summers, either the summer of 1949 or 1950, when I climbed the mountain to water the tree. It was also during one of those summers that I met Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a man of great Spiritual Attainment at his isolated High Sierra compound. At the time I was around 11 or 12 years old. Twenty years later found my uncle and I together once again on a road trip similar to the earlier ones of my youth. This road trip, sometime around 1970 or so, came about because my 65 year-old-plus father (i.e., my uncle's brother) had been caught in a fire while on the job. He ended up with a collapsed lung and a good portion of his skin burned and most of his hair gone. Because his outlook was grim, I contacted my uncle who lived in Santa Fe. He inturn came to see him. As it was, my dad held on, although never fully recovering, dying of complications from the fire two years later.

After learning my father's health was fair at the time of his visit, considering his age and what had happened to him --- as well as spending several days together talking over old times, my uncle decided to head back home. In that it had been many, many years since he had been on the west coast and since he was in the L.A. area he went to see his old friend, cowboy western author Louis L'Amour taking me with him. He also decided to return home the long way by going north along the eastern slopes of the High Sierras and try to make contact with another of his old friends, Franklin Merrell-Wolff as well --- and, like I write in a couple of places in my stuff on the internet (of which you can click through to using the links provided below) I went along. By accessing the second of the two links the following can be found:

"Prior to the trip, the last time I had seen my uncle was in Taos a couple of years before. Since that time the events I describe in Dark Luminosity had transpired and because of that he wanted to see what I called my High Mountain Zendo plus catch up, if possible, with an old friend he had introduced me to when I was a young boy, Frankling Merrell-Wolff --- as told in The Tree --- hence our trip to the High Sierras. I continued to tag along on his return trip home to Santa Fe."

There is sort of an implication by inference that, since I was traveling with my uncle I joined him during his visit to see Merrell-Wolff, --- meaning I would have crossed paths with Merrell-Wolff in 1970 as well. However, such was not the case. Even though I was traveling with my uncle I had opted out going to Merrell-Wolff's. Instead I requested he leave me off near Big Pine and from there I went to the White Mountains somewhat east of Merrell-Wolff's to seek solitude at the 10,000 foot level and meditate among the ancient bristlecone pines and at the base of the 48 century old Methuselah Tree just for the heck of it.

I knew about the bristlecone pines because during one of those 1949 or 1950 summers that we were camping in the High Sierras a Forest Ranger named Al Noren, who operated south of us in Inyo county came into our camp in Mono county --- on unofficial business --- looking for my uncle, having heard he had a strong reputation for being a rather successful biosearcher. Noren took us to a grove of the ancient trees growing around the 10,000 foot level in the White Mountains, telling us many trees were over 4000 years old. There he showed us a huge bristlecone he called or named the Patriarch Tree, which eventually turned out to be largest bristlecone pine known. The same strand of trees or a similar one nearby was eventually named the Methuselah Grove because of the ancient age of the bristlecone pines that make up the grove. We returned to camp and went back to swimming in the creek, collecting arrowheads, and living off the land for the rest of the summer. A couple of years later, in 1953, Noren contacted Edmund Schulman, a bigtime dendrochronologist at the University of Arizona and showed him the same stuff he showed my uncle. Schulman, who died in 1958, has gone on to be given credit as the one who discovered that bristlecone pines are the oldest trees in the world.


Their Life and Times Together



Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.












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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.


The boy we called Bub President Hudson was a very young boy, the youngest in our group. Where he came from none of us knew, he just showed up one day and started living with us. Like I say, my stepmother was always taking in strays. How he could have come up with such a story about his mom being a spy and going to school with Tarzan by just making it up out of whole cloth as well as having the last name Hudson, is beyond comprehension if it was not so --- especially if you take into consideration and compare what he said in relation to the background of an actress my uncle knew named Rochelle Hudson.

Hudson (1916-1972) was a starlet starting at age 13. She was also a longtime family friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs the author/creator of Tarzan The Ape Man. She and her mother lived close to the Burroughs estate and they eventually became close friends of the Burroughs family, with Rochelle often being given rides to school by Burroughs' son Jack and going on vacations with them.

During a good part of World War II Hudson lived in Hawaii with her second husband, a naval officer stationed there. Her film career had been interrupted before going to Hawaii starting with the years just prior to the war and into it's early years when she worked as a spy for the Naval Intelligence Service. She and her husband, as a civilian, were doing espionage work primarily in Mexico, but also Central and South America as well. Together they posed as a vacationing couple to detect if there was any Japanese of German fifth column activity in those areas.

Rochelle Hudson was not known to have had any children.



For more on Rochelle Hudson's Naval Intelligence work in Mexico and her interaction with a young Clement Meighan and the Wanderling's uncle see:



The ranch, actually the first of two, was located in the high desert of the Mojave, encompassing a whole section of land in size, that is, one square mile, with ten acres set aside in one corner for the ranch house, barn, and horse corrals. No sooner had my stepmother bought the ranch than my brothers and I, basically all city born and raised, moved in, doing all kinds of ranch stuff like ride horses, mend fences like ranch owners were always doing in movies, and shovel horse manure like has to be done in real life. We also did other really neat important things too like shoot guns and hop freight trains, especially the huge 4-8-8-2 cab forwards that stopped for water at a tower along the tracks near the ranch.

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Living on the ranch in the high desert of the Mojave in those days were heady times. With the war finally over almost everything was doing nothing but going upward. All kinds of things were happening, especially in the aircraft and automotive fields and happening in the desert besides. The ranch was located not far from Muroc Dry Lake the same place Edwards Air Force Base was located. So too, the ranch wasn't far from Mirage Dry Lake either. On the ground at Mirage were nothing but numberless hot rods and belly tank lakesters. My uncle would take us out there to watch some of the hopped-up Ford flatheads hitting 150 mph. In the air, flying right over the ranch, were B-36s and flying wings. Higher up they were testing the Bell X-1 and breaking the sound barrier.

For us, we went from a bunch of kids tooling around the ranch to chasing locomotives out across the raw desert land at 90 miles per hour all the while watching B-36s and flying wings and hearing and sometimes feeling the sonic booms from the X-1.






Clear across the ranch from the main entrance gate, the full length of the property at that end had a fence that ran from one side to the other, edgeding right up along the Southern Pacific Railroad's mainline. A short distance north up along the tracks from the far corner was a major watering stop and siding that the freight locomotives, both northbound and southbound, invariably stopped at to take on water or get out of the way of the streamliners. Not a whole lot of time passed between the time we arrived on the ranch and we started showing up along the siding and watering stop to watch the giant 4-8-8-2 steam locomotives called cab forwards take on water.

On one of those days my older brother and cousin climbed into an empty gondola car unobserved, and in a classic Sullivan brothers "Hey, fellas, wait for me!" moments, my little brother and I climbed in as well. The train started to move and right away it was going so fast there was nothing we could do but stay in the gondola. An hour or so later we were in the switch yards in Mojave. We had only just pulled into the switch yard than we were "discovered." After a bunch of hem-hawing back-and-forth between a bunch of low level railroad crew members afraid of being busted we were put on a southbound train, with me and my older brother riding up front in a cab forward, my younger brother and cousin in the caboose, all of us getting off at the water stop near the ranch.



"(My) father was fascinated with the Lost Dutchman Mine, primarily because he had spent a great deal of time as a gold prospector in his youth. Sometime prior to or during the Depression my father along with a man with the first name of 'King' and another man by the name of Walt Bickel, had gone to the gold fields of the Sierras to pan for gold, eventually setting up a full-fledged claim with sluice boxes and all."

THE WANDERLING AS FOUND IN: Franklin Merrell-Wolff

My mother died while I was a very young age. Most of my childhood following her death was spent living with people other than my father. I did, however, starting around age ten years or so spend time with him once in awhile on weekend trips and parts of a couple of summer vacations. Those trips usually circulated around fishing, camping and gold prospecting in his favorite haunts along the eastside of the Sierras and into the desert in and around Death Valley. To facilitate his trips, as long as I could remember he always owned four-wheel drive vehicles. On one of the trips he picked me up in a World War II army ambulance he fixed up like a camper. We were headed north up the 14 from Los Angeles toward the 395 and got as far as Red Rock Canyon when the front U-joint on the rear-drive drive shaft came loose allowing the it to drop to the highway and bending the shaft beyond use. Any other time it would not have been a problem because he could have driven just using the front wheels. However, on this trip, for highway driving, he had removed the front drive shaft. When he went to get it out of the back of the truck he discovered he somehow left it in Los Angeles. He decided to hitchhike back to L.A. and pick up the shaft, but, figuring traveling with a kid might present a hinderance, he left me for a few days at the rather rustic mining camp of a friend of his by the name of Walter Bickel.

Typically he would have stopped in Cantil, a small town just to the east of Red Rock Canyon where the truck broke down, to see a good friend of my stepmother's by the name of Pancho Barnes, the former owner and operator of the one time infamous Happy Bottom Riding Club. However, my dad and stepmother were going into, getting or just got a divorce and he did not want to explain it all to Barnes.

Bickel, who just happened to live in a place called Last Chance Canyon right next to Red Rock Canyon and my dad went way, way back. They were both born in the same year, 1905, and in the same month less that two weeks apart. They met in the goldfields very early on. My dad made it a habit to stop by and see Bickel on a regular basis during his forays into the desert, but, even though my dad and I did not travel all that much together, and I wasn't with him at the time, it was my second visit to the camp.

In an essay written by the past Curator of the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, California, the following is found:

"Last Chance Canyon was not the first experience Walt had with mining, but 'it was the first place I panned enough gold to think there might be more.' He prospected for gold and silver all over the upper Mojave Desert, from Jawbone Canyon to Owens Lake and into Nevada and Arizona. He originally saw the Last Chance Canyon area in 1927 while on the way to Nevada with a friend. It apparently made an impression because, in 1933, when he met a man in Mojave who had a mine in Last Chance Canyon, Walt and a friend had enough interest to go with him to see his mine." (source)

The 1927 friend was my father, not so sure about the 1933 friend. Bickel married in 1928 and my dad in 1931. Both started families shortly thereafter interfering with the close contact they had previously. The essay goes on to say:

"Walt placer-mined his claims, using a dry washer. Because a lot of the gold he collected is what he calls a 'fine flour gold,' and to make the most of his time and get the most out of his claims, he modified the current model of the miner's dry washer to retrieve up to 97 percent of the fine gold from the dirt."

My dad originally started prospecting using sluce boxes in the northern Sierras but moved to dry washers in the desert like Bickel in later years. The modified, more efficient, drywasher mentioned above that Bickel used to retrieve 97 percent of the fine gold was actually an inovation originally concocted by my father. Matter of fact, my older brother had one of the modified drywashers my dad built for years. Several years after the man who married my mother's sister committed suicide she tried to raise two kids and remain in her home. After years of struggle she eventually lost everything because of back taxes. A lien was put against her property and what was left behind was put up for auction. Unknown to any of us, over the years, my father had stored some of his things at her place, of which one was one of the drywashers he built. The drywasher ended up in a local antique shop where my brother ran across it and bought it. The first time I saw it I recognized it as being just like the one Bickel used.

After my discharge from the Military it was not unusual for me to visit what my Mentor called his High Mountain Zendo some distance north and into the mountains from Bickel's compound. Two or three times in the mid to late 60s either on the way to or returning from the Zendo, as described in The Letter, I stopped by Bickel's to pay my respects and update him on my dad who was in pretty bad shape, and eventually died within a few years after being caught in a fire while on the job. I was always invited to stay a night or so and on one or two occasions I did. During one of those one or two night stays I was introduced to a man by the name of Alex Apostolides who, at the time just happened to be doing archaeological surveys and field work under the aegis of UCLA. After talking Mayan Ruins for short period of time, in a small talk BS sort of way I dredged up the only other piece of information I thought might be of interest, mentioning I knew a man by the name of Carlos Castaneda who was a student in the department at UCLA at one time and had been, I was told, doing field work in Arizona and New Mexico. Surprisingly enough, Apostolides knew Castaneda. He told me Castaneda was now a graduate student working on his PhD and, although Apostolides was NOT totally familiar with the content of what Castaneda was writing, that he would soon have a book published --- the FIRST I heard of Castaneda being in the process of doing so since hearing about in a roundabout way of an uncompleted nonfiction manuscript Castaneda attempted to write he called "Dial Operator." I told him the last time I saw Castaneda was several years before in a Greyhound bus station in Nogales, Arizona. Of course that bus station encounter, unknown to me at the time and what continued to be so even up to the time I met Apostolides --- and seemingly unimportant to Apostolides as well --- turned out to be Castaneda's infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting where he claimed to have met the mainstay in all his books, Don Juan Matus.


In the above text I write that being left at Bickel's camp by my father was actually my second visit. The first visit came about because as a very young boy I had, again, as mentioned above, inadvertently stumbled across the suicide of a revered family member. Hours later I was found wandering out in the middle of the desert all alone, dehydrated, mind-numb, and basically out-of-it, by an old, onetime Borax 20 Mule Team mule-skinner. He inturn took me to Bickel's place.

The incredible coincidence to it all, and completely unrelated to me being taken to Bickel's encampment by the onetime mule-skinner, was the discovery by Bickel that his original prospecting partner back in the old days when he first started out was MY father. When I told Bickel my name I don't recall if I gave him both names or not, but in either case, it didn't seem to register one way or the other --- nor in my mind or his was there any reason it should have. But later in conversation, when he asked what I liked to eat and I told him I liked "howdy beans" his jaw fell nearly to the floor. Apparently my dad was known up and down the old mining camps for a concoction he used to cook up called howdy beans. How it was told to me was, while other miners went to work their claims, on a rotating basis, one miner would stay back and cook grub and clean the camp. When it was my dad's turn he invariably made howdy beans because so many miners requested it. The concept of howdy beans was such an inside story that nobody but someone associated with the early mining camps would have known anything about them. When I told him that before my mother died my dad used to make howdy beans whenever we went camping, Bickel put two-and-two together --- I was the son of his old partner. For the full story on that encounter click HERE.

FOLLOW UP NOTE: Now, while it is true I haven't been excessively over inundated by thousands and thousands of people interested in Apostolides and any relation he might have had with Castaneda one way or the other, for the number who have read and responded to the above they seem to fall into several distinct categories. First, those who never heard of Apostolides and not interested one way or the other, being tired of pretenders to the Don Juan throne. Second, those who never heard of him and would like to know more about him. Third, those who say even if he did know Castaneda he had no impact one way or the other. And last, those who have read about him and say he was so important they are convinced Castaneda modeled Don Juan around him.

Even though Apostolides himself told me he was NOT totally familiar with the content of what Castaneda was writing, some people, especially those from the last group, have expressed concern over my above comment that implies because he did not find the bus station encounter important at the level I feel he should have --- the bus station encounter being the major KEY to all of Castaneda's writings --- that Apostolides may have not actually been involved with Castaneda at the level he claimed or possibly at any level. Some who have expressed concern have referred me to the works of a friend of Apostolides, one Bill Gann. For those who may be so interested I have addressed the issue in Alex Apostolides.