Category Archives: Travel

Desertification

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This isn’t a curated reporting from the impossibly perfect vacation. It’s just pictures from a road trip to the desert last week. It was fun. It was raw. We hung with family and talked politics. We bopped around gathering sagebrush bows and piled them on the dashboard, so when the sun beat down on the car, it bloomed with the scent of desert wind.

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Speaking of, is there anything more relaxing than the desert landscape? Placing yourself under the influence of the open sky and red-rock cliffs, you’re immediately at ease. You fall in line with the natural world and its beauties. You wander past sandstone monoliths thinking about the long history of the earth and how life came to be. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, yeah—Portland, Oregon to Moab, Utah, via a maze of roads riddled with wildfires and repaving projects. Every time I venture there, I leave wanting to plan my next visit. Next time we’ll bring bikes and ride out to Klondike Bluff. Next time we’ll winter camp. Next time we’ll drive backroads through Capitol Reef … Then, 15-17 hrs later I get home so burnt from driving I vow never to go back.

But, you know, it’s hard to stay away.

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Mark and his dad. Multiple generations of awesome dudes.

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On Saturday, we meandered red-rock labyrinths with my mom and sis.

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The Colorado River ran through all of it.

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I really wanted to swim in this dreamy desert locale, however I was warm but not hot and the water was very cold. But I waded! 

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In the canyon with the cottonwoods and cool waterfalls.

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Let the world make you feel small as often as possible.

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A very cute coffee situation in Moab. Piney and Rocket.

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Deep thoughts at sunrise. 

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The road home. Sagebrush on the wind.

Happy Anniversary

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Happy anniversary Lefty—it’s been one year since you died. It’s been a year since we buried you under the new maple tree, and then the winter came and buried you again in all that snow. Dang, though, how the flowers bloomed there in the spring. This summer was hot—you would’ve hated it. I would’ve had to finally get you that haircut everyone was always asking about. I never did touch your hair, though. It was too perfect the way it was. Au naturale was how you rolled.

Your brother Duke moved in 4 blocks away. You could’ve partied together daily! But your buddy Riley, he died in the spring. Both of you gone too soon.

I miss going skating with you. I miss using you as a footrest. I miss catching all the love beams you were always sending my way—always watching me, constantly keeping your eye on things, forever making sure I was safe and more importantly that I wasn’t gonna leave you behind. I’m not going anywhere, boy, I’m right here.

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Lefty at the river. 

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Lefty at the fire lookout. 

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Lefty at the skatepark. 

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Lefty at the desert lake.

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 Lefty and me forever. 

Canada Mega Post

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I’m a healthier, happier person after spending 5 days in interior B.C.—everyday another exploration in the forest, and everyday another constitutional swim in cold, clear water. Those lakes were so clear that my shadow spooked me more than once, way down where it was on the bottom of the lake. Overhead, the sky was very blue, except where it wasn’t because of billowing plumes of smoke. Wildfires are real, and they’re a way of life in Canada.

Up in Canada, where we basked and wandered, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at will. The only hurry was which recreational activity to do next. I’d pester Mark to rush so we could go outside. Because that’s just what you do up there.

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Piney did dog things like play with the Canadian dogs and splash-and-bite the Canadian lakes. In Nelson, he met Pillow, Bree and Kale—a husky, Great Pyrenees and Australian shepherd respectively. In Trout Lake, he ran off into town with Al’s Siberian Husky, Rider, and got a taste of that wild freedom afforded to the country pup. He liked what he tasted … too much. In Revelstoke, he ripped around a beatific farm with Qimmiq, a low-riding Aussie with a whistle-pig squeal. Although Piney will have many more adventures and live happily every after, he still just wishes we left him in Canada.

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Meanwhile, at Kootaney Lake. 

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All the hips in Nelson, B.C. 

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Had lovely hangs with my ol friend Mark Fawcett and his new pup Kale Chip on their private beach. Life is good in Nelson.

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My pal Al Clarke built this baby cabin with his 2 hands. I know him from 20 years ago, back when we were both traveling the world as itinerant snowboarders. He’s a legend and quintessential mountain man. How lucky that we get to hang together again all these years later!

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Typical Trout Lake views.

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Backyard secrets of the North country. 

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Stu’s fabulous farm, where I foraged a handful of black raspberries and plucked 3 delicious pea pods off their vine.

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Revelstoke National Park was stupid beautiful. There was a grizz wandering the area, but we didn’t see him. Only us up there with the wind and wildflowers. 

Summer Assessment

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Hi from the dog days of summer, which spin around with “drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” According to ancient tomes, they do anyway.

Sure, the Dog Star has risen and the solar eclipse approaches, but this was a regular old weekend, cosmically speaking. I didn’t do anything special, and that was special. Because you should be allowed to relax in the summer.

Garden wise, the very first tomatoes are ripe on the vine, but I had to throw out the brussel sprouts. They were full of aphids—I’ve been warring with bugs for weeks now. They are very small, but they won.

Puppy, wise, Piney swam for the first time. A momentous milestone in the development of a tiny canine brain. Importantly, he did not swim to fetch a ball or stick or save a drowning human. There was no goal to the wild paddling—just fun. He splashed around in circles and bit the water and I laughed with delight because … because what’s better than fun?

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Vacay Vibes

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This is what we’ve been waiting for. We were here all winter. The darkness and ice kept coming back. It was hard work. And now the sun and the heat and the motherfucking vacation days are here.

The trick to summer is finding the perfect balance of lazy days and crazy days. For 4th of July weekend, we split it half and half, which is a very nice and very exact interpretation of “balance.” Two days were spent sleeping in, skating, and watering the vegetable garden, with an emphasis on BBQs and cold beer. Two days were spent with our belongings on our back, walking up the side of an active volcano (google it—she’s supposed to blow sometime this century!).

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Here, you’ll find a lot of pictures of the hiking and tent camping we did. We put sunscreen on whatever we could and just walked and walked. The trail took us through a landscape that was equal parts Legend and The Sound Of Music. Wildflowers and secret babbling brooks shadowed by angular snowcapped peaks. A legendary landscape fit for fräuleins, fairies and unicorns.

With tired legs and campfire smoke in our clothes, we drove back into town on the afternoon of the Fourth. Just in time to do nothing. Just in time feel good. Just in time to relax in the backyard while the wind chime chimed. Just in time to ride lazy bikes to Jesse’s house and watch people skate a mini ramp and then ride lazily home to bed.

Fireworks? I care not.

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Crystal Crane Gang

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Welcome to another installment of “rainy Northwest weekend.” This time around, me and Katie and Danielle and Chelsea drove way out east to a magical mineral pool. With Portland’s frenzied state, I don’t typically like to call out my magical respites—’cause they’re a secret. But just this once, because I love you—the hot springs goes by the mystical name of Crystal Crane. If you have a spare 11 hours in which to do this drive roundtrip, then I salute you.

Anyway, here, out on the high desert with the mountains off in the distance, there was nothing to do but soak. And so we did. The pool was plenty big to swim around, and warm enough to turn your cheeks a sort of deep magenta after about 20 minutes. When an evening rainstorm blew through and pelted our skin with icy droplets, it felt good. Later, inside the cabin drinking wine from a can, I felt almost supernaturally relaxed. If only I could dip in a steamy mineral pool every night before bed.

The next morning, we got up early and, amidst the racket of golden-breasted birds, soaked again. The sun was rising, the steam was rising—it was a sweet, liminal moment at the beginning of summer.

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Sniffing sagebrush on the wind.

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Equal parts dogs and people. My kinda slumber party.

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Morning medicine.

48 Hours In New York

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I started this weekend by getting on an early flight to JFK. By noon (3 p.m. local time) I was riding through the hot city, all sticky like a glazed donut, on an A train express to the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn—where Matt and Mimi of Cape Cod wedding fame now live with their two dogs who both closely resemble stuffed baby seals.

We were back East for just over 48 hours. A quick trip to Get Out Of Town and help Matt celebrate his birthday. The goal was not tourism, but simply real life. As such, I did not see the Empire State Building or the Statue Of Liberty, just wandered around Brooklyn eating and drinking and skateboarding and soaking in all the general lawlessness and spontaneous joy of that great, old city on a summer weekend.

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Vegetable-arian food. From ramen to cornmeal french toast, I ate a lot of incendiary food while I was there. My favorite, I think, was the oyster mushroom banh mi from Toad Style. I’m always trying to eat those spicy, saucy sandwiches, but I’ve only ever seen them made with tofu, and I don’t really care about tofu—don’t hate it and don’t love it, but generally find it hard to digest. In other words, tofu doesn’t close the deal for me. Mushrooms though!

A shot and a beer. Nowhere else on the planet do I find myself ordering a shot and a beer when I walk into a bar. But in New York, that’s how they do it. Not only is it the cheapest way to consume alcohol in an expensive city, it’s a super easy way to get on a vacation tilt-awhirl. Weeeeeee!

Skatepark tourism. We did a wee skatepark tour through Brooklyn. There’s loads of new ones. I had fun at each one—if not skating, then people watching. From scene to style, New York is super different from Portland, almost the opposite, you could say. I dig watching and observing that stuff, from a sociological standpoint. Also, I dig fun. Coincidentally, that’s what skateboarding is.

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Dispatch From Camp

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The last time I spent the night outside, it was high on a mountain during a freak snowstorm. Mentally, I’m still recovering. So it felt good to pack up the ole backpack again the other day with all the windows open, the sun streaming in, the screen door screening the bugs of May, the birds birding around, the buds, budding. Everything’s just easier in the summer, isn’t it? Throw a few things on your back, walk down a trail until you come to a river. Spend the night there, relaxed.

By the way, did y’all notice the trend in canned wine, recently? How fortuitous for me, an appreciator of the grape and its juices, fermented or otherwise. Mostly fermented. Bottles, as you know, are heavy, unwieldy. You can fit them in your backpack, and I have, many times, but only at the expense of looking a little ridiculous. Those canned wines, though, they stash perfectly in a pocket meant for camp-stove fuel or some such. What did we ever, ever do without canned wine? Whiskey, I guess.

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I’m related to the best dadgam gift givers. Every time I swing through my parent’s house on holiday, I come away with a new fancy thing for being outdoors and adventuresome. The Big Agnes air mattress my dad gave me is one such item. It weighs next to nothing and takes around two wheezy minutes to inflate. Then all you have to do is throw it in your tent and have a lovely, comfortable night. I’m one of those featherweight sleepers. Typically, a night of camping would mean mostly lying there awake. With this mattress, you can get all cocooned up in the fetal position on your side and sleep like a lil baby, though. Sure, I still wake up sometimes, but only now and then. The other night I woke up because—I swear—the river had gotten incredibly loud. Do you think that happens, around 3 in the morning? Witching hour? The air thins out and the river rages? Maybe preambling a wild battle of the spirit world? I wouldn’t know. I never did leave the tent—just cozied back in, willed my brain into submission, and drifted off again until the sun woke up the birds and then they woke up me.

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P.S. Thanks to Dorian for the lovely pic above of me and Lunden wrangling the dogs.

 

Overnight On The Mountain

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Dark was the morning we loaded the car and drove south through Eugene, through Oakridge, and up the side of Warner Mountain until we reached the deep snow. Ten miles of freshly powdered road separated us from the Warner Mtn. Fire Lookout, a cozy cabin atop stilts atop a ridge with 360 views of the Cascade Range. We strapped into our split boards and swished off into oblivion.

Fast forward through 8 hours of rugged uphill ascent, and we were still on that trail. It was pitch dark. The storm raged. Mark was slurring his speech, suffering from severe exhaustion. In the light from my headlamp, the tracks of the people who’d skied out earlier that day were buried, wiped from existence by snow and wind. This blizzard of March 5th, it wasn’t half hearted—but brave and full of force.

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It’s a funny thing, memory. Already what happened is all jumbled up in my mind. I remember a moment when I realized something was wrong with Mark. It’s really hard to see someone who’s always very strong, always taking care of you, suddenly need help. It hit me over the head—it was time to stop, stop motivating, stop rallying. We had to go into survival mode, which meant digging some form of shelter and staying put. And—not kidding—calling 911. Yep, only 1.5 miles from our cozy cabin destination, we were immobilized by exhaustion, by darkness, and by the storm.

We shimmied into the area under a tree well, threw down a sleeping bag, sat down, and then put another sleeping bag over us. This is making it sound warmer than it was. We were soaked to the core from sweating and from the storm. We were very, very cold. Cold is an understatement. Drifting in and out of consciousness, we shivered violently from 8 pm until 4 a.m., when, thinking I was hallucinating, I saw the lights from the Search And Rescue snow cat.

What we did wrong. 

-We had too much stuff. Just because you’re going to a cabin, doesn’t mean you need to bring your 700 page book. If I did again, I’d go so much lighter, so much leaner.

-We brought a 4 month old puppy. Sure, he’s part Malamute. But he’s a freaking baby. We were prepared for him not making the whole trek—we just weren’t prepared for the extra strain pulling a 30+ pound pup in a sled would put on Mark.

-We didn’t eat. We had plenty of food, but not super accessible trail snacks to keep us super fueled up. We were prob burning thousands of calories, but we kept thinking, we gotta just GET THERE! Turns out, taking care of yourself is more important than anything.

-We didn’t turn back when we maybe thought we should. My new mantra—it’s okay to quit!

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What went wrong. 

-There was (way) more snow than expected. The park ranger had told us the trail would be packed by snowmobiles, but instead, we were skinning through feet of fresh. This was a game changer.

-The GPS made us look closer than we were to the destination. There was a tragic moment just before dark when we made a final push, thinking we were 2 miles away, and then saw a road sign that read, “Warner Mountain Lookout, 3.7 miles.” FLlksjdfla;jksdbuasdfja;sjkdgjl;dajsg!!!!!!!

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How we got so fucking lucky.

-Like a ghost, 1 bar of LTE service shivered in and out of my phone. Just enough to get some calls off to 911 and text my mom our location.

-The sheriff’s department was able to get a snow cat sent up from Roseberg. It was hours away. It took, literally, all night—but the cat was everything. It got us out of there in 25 minutes flat. All hail volunteer Search and Rescue crews, everywhere!

This Time Last Year

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This time last year, it was a lot more like spring, remember?

There was a barely warm breeze on the loose, causing me to browse the nursery for seeds for my future veggie garden (all the while caught up in a kind of frenzy dreaming about the fresh salsas and salads I’d make when the warm months returned).

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There was a quick trip to Astoria to shake off the cobwebs. Despite my my longstanding grudge against the Oregon coast (too crowded in the summer, too gloomy in the winter, altogether too many windsock shops), I really liked the city’s ancient crumbling victorians and colossal freighters anchored in the inlet. I liked the melancholy place names—like Cape Disappointment, where all the ships crashed, even the one carrying supplies to build a new lighthouse. It’s all exceptionally Northwest!

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There was also a life-affirming first-ever backcountry trip to a fire lookout in Central Oregon. I’ve almost never felt happier than I did on that first night spent rolled up inside a sleeping bag on a tiny bed atop a towering mountain. This is because I was incredibly warm and comfortable, I was tired from wallowing 4 miles uphill in the deep snow with a heavy pack (an act that I would call mountaineering, but I know if I did real mountaineers would pat my head and say, “Hush”), I was among several people that I liked very much, and I was there in the cozy dark surrounded by 360 degrees of windows that held nothing but stars.

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Anyhow, in keeping with the New Year Vibrations of early Feb, I support getting 100% back to basics, getting 100% serious about clearing out clutter both mental and physical. This year, though, I don’t have the energy for renewal. With the short days and darkness of weather—and with death all around—I feel like I’m only now coming out of a deep, dark hole. My current energy stores are reserved, it seems, for just keepin’ on.

So hey, winter of 2017, I apologize. I’ll do better next year.

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