Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the true tale
of an epic pilgrimage for the Earth
across North America

by people of all colors and faiths.

  - A creative non-fiction book in online evolution - ◊
© - 2007 by Steven McFadden

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire,
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“Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other.”

-  M. C. Richards

Day 199  - Sunday,  January 7, 1996 - Our walk is powered by vast quantities of government-surplus oatmeal in the morning, and peanut butter and jelly in the afternoons. In that sense, today is no different.

We finished our morning oatmeal, packed up peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, then set off to complete our supplementary prayer loop to Spirit Mountain by caravanning to Laughlin, Nevada, where we would put our boots and sneakers on the earth once more.


Spirit Mountain Wilderness, Nevada.

We drove beyond Laughlin to where we had stopped walking on Friday, and we parked our vehicles off the highway before walking the remaining miles up onto the shoulder of Spirit Mountain.

Doongees - kept everyone happy, here with an assist from Ned. (Photo by Regula Vellacott).

We arrived at the head of the trail that leads to the summit, a place marked by petroglyphs letting all comers know that this is a sacred site. We sat near the petroglyphs to wait for the Mojave people who had said they would accompany us.

We are experiencing another magnificent, dreamily warm day. Our spirits are high. As we waited, Doongees got cuter than usual, and started playing with everyone. She entertained the whole lot of us with smiles, and twists, and gleeful poses while we sat watching in the warming Sun.

Spirit Mountain is part one of the larger wilderness areas in the U.S.A, a wilderness that includes the rugged, mountainous country between there and Lake Mohave.

Spirit Mountain itself is an imposing monolith of white granite that is sacred for native peoples of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. They regard Spirit Mountain as the center of creation.


Spirit Mountain Summit - White Granite.

After an hour of waiting with no Mojave people in sight, and the trail head beckoning, we set off alone, walking into Grapevine Canyon, singing a sacred song while Ned sounded a drum.

Soon, deep in the canyon, we found that a woman had fallen about 20 feet from a boulder into a crevasse. She had injured her back severely, and was in pain and shock. Her name is Sierra Weaver.

We immediately dispatched a runner out of the canyon to alert the Laughlin and Clark County rescue crews. They responded promptly, coming to the scene with a stretcher. While we waited for the EMTs, Sam Dunkley held Sierra, talked with her, and comforted her. The rest of us sat in supportive prayer.


After we helped the EMTs carry Sierra out of the canyon on a litter, and helped load her securely into the ambulance, we began to chat with the rescue crew. One of the men mentioned that their rescue unit is busy 24 hours a day, every day, because of the casinos. He told us that people get drunk and fall off bar stools, or they get drunk and walk out in front of cars, or they get drunk walk outdoors and fall in the river. It's one thing after another, he said.

We mounted up in our vehicles. The ambulance took Sierra to the hospital for tests. We walkers released our plan to climb to the summit of Spirit Mountain, and instead headed off to the Ground Zero encampment at Ward Valley to share a pasta dinner.

Ground Zero Encampment - at Ward Valley, California. The Sunbow walker gather by the fire. (Author photo).


When we arrived the Ward Valley vigil was being maintained by a group of volunteers as a focus of non-violent citizen resistance to the plan to poison this area with nuclear waste.

We learned that, just as our Sunbow walk was getting underway last June at Summer Solstice, the local native nations were forming an alliance involving the Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi, Colorado River, Quechan, and Cocopah tribes, united to protect Ward Valley.

To the indigenous mind the problem is plain. Everything is connected. Really. You cannot dump poison in the desert without realizing that the desert, ultimately, is connected to every other ecosystem. Even if you think you don't need the desert for anything—so you might as well trash it—you are going to find out eventually that you do need it. You need it to survive. Hopefully, people will come to this basic realization, and act out of respect before it is too late.

Desert Tortoise - Ward Valley is critical habitat for this threatened species.

Our visit to Ground Zero brought on stories, laughter, singing, and dancing. Someone put an audio tape on a boom box, and off we walkers went, dancing a stomp dance in the big surplus army tent, to the sound of the band, Kashtin.

Ground Zero needed a lift, and so we are glad we've been able to help boost morale a little with our group enthusiasm. They likely have a long, hard struggle ahead of them, and they know it.


When we finished our pasta, our prayers, our conversation, and our dances, we piled back into our vehicles and drove two hours south to base camp on the ballfield at the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation. We got back just before midnight, and crawled into our tents. Tomorrow is the day we walk into California.


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 200 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire Copyright © 2006-2008 by Steven McFadden