Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow Day Adventure

Graham, Jake, & I went up Wednesday afternoon to play in the snow and enjoy the winter season. The weather at the house was quite odd yesterday, as it went from rain to snow, back to rain again, then more snow, then just blustery, on and on in period of about 5 hours. By noon, the snow had fallen so hard and steadily that it stuck, but only for a few minutes. We left Springfield after quite a bit of procrastination (I had planned on going up with my brother Lee but he was unable to come along at the last minute) and headed east of town, toward the Cascades and the Santiam Pass.

Soon after getting on the road, the snow returned again, this time with a vengeance. The fact that it wasn't sticking made me feel more confident, as I knew I would be driving about 60 miles in order to reach the area where I wanted to go. Usually, the snow level is far above the elevation of Eugene/Springfield, but yesterday was an exception as it crept down to about 500 feet.

We made great time up to McKenzie Bridge, about 50 miles upriver from my house. The snow was now stuck to the Douglas Firs that lined the highway and the road was becoming more slick. Here's a video to show the snow as it appeared there:

After stopping for Jo-jos at the gas station in McKenzie Bridge, the dogs were getting pretty antsy. They always seem to know when it's the type of trip that's for them, like yesterday was, versus the types of trips where we are really trying to log the miles and get somewhere. The road continued to get more and more sketchy as we went up toward the Santiam Pass, and I knew at some point I was going to have to chain up. Tire chains aren't the easiest things to put on your tires, if nothing else then for the fact that you are going to have to get dirty and/or wet to attach them to your tires. It is a fact of life though in mountainous areas- to have a safe trip (and at times to avoid a traffic ticket) you must use them.

We went to our usual SnoPark this time, reasons why being time and road conditions. I determined that yes, the snow would be deeper at a higher elevation, but it wasn't worth me spending an extra hour driving the VERY snowy road to access the summit of the pass. We pulled into Ikenick SnoPark at two o'clock and I was quick to put on my snowshoes. It was snowing a lot when I arrived, and the parking lot already had about 10 inches of snow in it. Walking around without gaiters and snowshoes would have been foolish, to say the least:

The dogs quickly found their bathroom spots and we got out of the parking lot, exploring around nearby in the trees for things to crawl around, over, and through. The snow was deep for me, up to my mid-thigh, and the dogs would have been swimming if the water in these woods wasn't frozen. I took too many photos to illustrate this point, but here are a few of my favorites:

Graham & Jake blazing the trail

Graham being Graham

Jake exploring the snowy woods

The dogs and I ran about for nearly an hour, taking a break to remove my soft-shell but otherwise zigzagging all over the hillside exploring. It was a truly enjoyable experience, and I would love to go again soon. Hopefully next time Claire will join me :)
It's the little things in life that make me happy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Something new to view

Hello all!

I'm changing up the game this week so hope you are up for something new!  I'm a pretty big fan of writing my blog as it provides an effective way to share a story with many people in a way that doesn't require a large time commitment on their behalf.  To that end, I also enjoy reading them.  Today I'll point out a few of my favorites and the reason I love them:
This blog covers the Pacific Crest Trail hike by two men from Florida, Randy Fitch and Jason Jorge.  As of Monday, October 11, the two were finished hiking all 2,663 miles of the trail from southern California to Vancouver, BC.  The trip, like many before and many to come, likely tested the will power, fortitude, and patience of the men, but no doubt provided them with something I have only experienced to date in small and utter elation at the chance to see mother nature in a very intimate way.  Someday...someday.

The next blog, Divide by 1, showcases another outdoor-enthusiast doing something similar to Randy and Jason, but with a twist.  Gracie Sorbello, along with a friend, UNI-CYCLED the Continental Divide from the northern Rockies to Antelope Wells, New Mexico in 2009.  Gracies' perseverance (and thrill of doing the unthinkable) was a true inspiration to me.  I am very happy to say that I know Gracie from having worked with her here in Eugene earlier this year.  She's since gone on to work at McMurdo Station in Antrarctica.  That's right, Antarctica.  This girl knows how to live.

This blog, Gear Junkie, has a multitude of reports written that showcase a TON of different outdoor activities.  They range from snowkiting to cyclocross to marathon running.  These reports are usually first-hand encounters by folks who have tried the given activity, with varying degrees of success. 

The Outdoorzy Blog provides a great resource for outdoor recreation news, events, and more.  There are quite a few entries on this blog that caught my eye, including an article about a bear that was killed in Denali National Park over Memorial Day of this year, just months after the decision to allow handguns in National Parks was approved.

Those are just a handful of blogs that I have found in the last year.  Keep exploring and if you find any you enjoy post them here as a comment.  I always love to read new and interesting stories.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ikenick SnoPark Adventure

Claire & I took the doggers yesterday to play in the snow on the Santiam Pass. We drove about 70 miles before we came to the first SnoPark, an ODOT parking lot that is plowed so people like us can park off the road and play safely away from the traffic. We really like Ikenick as it's the closest SnoPark to our house and it's never very busy. When we arrived it was about 30 degrees and the snow was just starting to come down.

We got dressed and tromped around for about an hour and a half, enjoying the first heavy snowfall in the Cascades of the year. We loved checking out the dogs' athleticism as they cruised around the trees and over big snow piles. They were definitely having a great time playing in the cold stuff.

I'll let the video describe the rest of the trip...

If you like this video and this blog entry (or ANY of my others!) I encourage you to leave a comment letting me know. Thanks, Andy.

Have you enjoyed the outdoors today?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gold Lake snow backpacking trip

This week my brother Lee and I went to the Cascades to do some cold-weather camping.  It had been a LOT of years since I'd pitched a tent on the snow and I wanted to remind myself what it felt like.

Lee and I met around 11:00 a.m. on Monday morning and loaded up both our packs and the dogs.  We made good time to Oakridge and had a quick bite to eat before heading into the woods.  The area where we went was very near Gold Lake, just west of Willamette Pass ski area.  The parking lot we parked in is an ODOT SnoPark, meaning that certain times of the year a permit is required to park.  Being that we were so early in the season (permits aren't required until Nov. 15th) we were happy to avoid the fee and assembled our gear for the hike.

 We didn't have any real agenda, save that I was interested in seeing Maiden Peak, about 8 miles away from the car.  I let Lee know the rough itinerary and we headed across the highway and onto a seasonally-closed Forest Service Road.  As we hiked the sun came out and let the blue sky provide a beautiful contrast to the snow-laden trees.  I was very impressed at the serenity that was afforded to us almost immediately into our journey, as there were no other tracks in the snow indicating that we were the first folks on the road for at least a day or two.  We watched the dogs run back and forth (and back and forth again), playing in the snow they love so much.

After about two miles on the road, we came to a trailhead that led to the PCT, then on to Maiden Peak to our East.  We opted to take this route knowing that there were no lakes on this segment of trail that we would pass.  A note about my dogs; despite all common sense, they absolutely LOVE playing in the water, even in November, even when it's snowing, even when they are sleeping in a tent with me.  Knowing this, it was silly for us to continue on to Gold Lake where the dogs would inevitably go swimming.

We huffed up the trail (it was moderately steep) for an hour or so and then took a break, shedding layers and snacking on granola bars.  Lee and I decided to make a camp sooner than later, as we knew by this time (nearly 3 p.m.) we wouldn't make Maiden Peak on this excursion.  We donned our packs once more and hiked a short half-hour to our campsite, a wonderfully level tree-free area just about 100' off of the trail.

We decided although the sun was still shining that putting up the tent first would be a good idea.  This was fortuitous for sure as soon after erecting the tent it began to spit ice pellets.  They were very small and not long in falling so we continued to stay out of the tent, hours of daylight left before we wanted to head inside.  Lee had a strong urge to build a fire (and I did not) so he began to scout for firewood among the snowy branches.  The amount of snow on the ground was minimal, maybe two to four inches, so there were many canopies that had protected their undergrowth from the wet weather.  Lee quickly found several dry twigs, but it was apparent that I would be a big jerk if I didn't help him find debris.  We spent about half an hour looking, looking, looking for firewood to burn and finally amassed a small cache to get us started.  Although I was initially against the fire in the first place, I long ago learned that a good fire is the centerpiece for a decent camp, and that things just seem nicer when a soft glowing flame is warming your fingers and toes.

We had the fire going after one match, be it a VERY large match, and we quickly smelled of smoke and began to warm up.  After stopping our body temperatures quickly dropped so it was nice to have another heat source to keep us warm.  Lee put a can of soup on the coals to warm up and I cooked some ground beef and combined it with a container of leftover rice from home.  Soon enough, we had dinner and a couple beers, as well, provided by yours truly as a special treat.

We ended up going to the tent around 7:30 or so due to the darkness and the timidity of the fire.  We were sharing a four-person tent with the dogs, but they both insisted on sleeping ON our sleeping bags instead of next to us.  This made for a headache as neither of us could roll over or move our legs due to 65 pounds of yellow lab laying on us.  I slept poorly, on account of both being smashed and the cold air that crept into the tent when the wind blew.


Morning came eventually and I was the first one up.  My toes had been cold all night, but even with my thick wool socks (thank you in-laws) putting my feet in my frozen boots when I woke proved to be too much for me to cope with.  I couldn't feel my toes after about half an hour so I decided to revive our fire to help warm me up.  I worked for an hour or so on gathering more wood, then finally warmed back up once the flames were going.  Lee awoke and joined me, his boots frozen so solid that he couldn't lace them up, nor fit his feet in until thawing them near the flames.  I guess that it was about 25 degrees when we awoke, and it wasn't getting any warming as the morning wore on.

Lee and I then decided it was time to head back to civilization so we packed the tent, gear, and extinguished the fire.  We made good time heading back to the FS road that we came in on, and the snow was nearly constant.  It was wonderful to see the car at the parking lot and warm up our bodies again.  All in all, I had a wonderful time with Lee and was really glad he was able to join me on this trip.  Having done snow camping before I knew we'd have a few challenges, but we managed them well and neither of us got frostbite.  Next time, more warm clothes will be a necessity.

Monday, October 25, 2010

French Pete Trail Backpacking Trip

Well, well, well.  Another week, another trip to tell you about.  I am afraid this dog won't run much longer but let's keep it going while we can!

Graham, Jake, and I took another trip last Wednesday to the Three Sisters Wilderness.  We spent quite a bit of the morning procrastinating around the house but finally got my backpack and other gear loaded around lunchtime.  We headed out of Springfield to the east toward Cougar Reservoir.  After a quick stop at the McKenzie Ranger District's office we were off to check out the French Pete Trail (#3311) along the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, a beautiful 60 mile segment between McKenzie Bridge and Blue River to the north and Oakridge to the south.  I'd been on the Aufderheide many times before but had always buzzed right by the French Pete trailhead.  I knew from years past that there was a bridge somewhere along the trail (which goes over French Pete Creek) that had been washed out and so that usually deterred me from stopping to hike.  It being the very end of the dry weather from the summer, however, made me confident that whatever was left of the creek wouldn't be too menacing to ford.
Aufderheide Scenic Byway

After arriving at the TH, I was delighted to see not a single other car in the parking lot.  I let the dogs out of the car off leash (rare that I do this at the TH) and they seemed to know that we were in for a great hike and camping trip.  They ran around like lunatics for the five minutes or so it took me to ready my gear.  Once the pack was donned, we were off to explore new sights!

French Pete Creek
Oregon's State Flower

One of two log crossings

Vine Maple leaf

The trail is only open to hikers (horses are strongly discouraged) and being that it's a wilderness area, bikes are a no-no also.  The trail was heavily used from the car until about the second mile of hiking, then it became a nice mushroom-lined path that paralleled the creek below us.  Graham and Jake loved taking any opportunity to run to the water and take a quick swim.  We made good time hiking and by about 4:30 in the afternoon we were at would become our campsite.  The river was about 150 feet from the trail which was perfect, all the wonderful sounds from the flowing water were in the background and the dogs were happy to stay close to me and out of the water (so we could all be dry when bedtime came).  It's been a while since I've camping in such a beautiful spot.  Judge for yourself:
Our campsite

I put up the tent while the dogs chased each other and I arranged my bedding.  I knew that it was much too early to start dinner so we hiked another 1/2 hour down the trail to explore.  I got a few great shots here due to the lighting and was happy I spent the extra time walking, especially without my heavy backpack!

After returning from our outing I started dinner, some leftover tuna casserole from home and a spinach salad.  After I had my fill it was time to feed the dogs...and boy were they ready!  Something about being in the woods makes all three of us particularly hungry I have found.  With the three of us happily stuffed I debated about what to do next.  It was about 6:00 and light was fading quickly in the western sky.  I opted for the tent and we piled in.  I was very happy the dogs were dry- though the tent is HUGE they insist on sleeping on top of me and I really don't like wet dogs on my stuff.

Last of the day's light
I played a bit of solitaire (never did win) while the dogs figured out their sleeping arrangements.  After a while I became bored and decided early or not it was time to sleep.  We were all three out quickly, enjoying the kind of tired that comes easily when tromping through the wilderness.  I slept pretty well but woke up about 9:00 for the requisite bathroom break.  I noticed when my head returned to the pillow that the moon was rising, casting the last of the maple leaf shadows on the tent near my head.

I woke around 5:00 or so, and noticed that the shadows were now at the other end of the tent as they followed the setting moon.  A few hours later I awoke, ready to start the day.  Graham and Jake got fed first this time, and I wasn't very hungry so I just had some fruit.  We broke camp quickly and by 8:30 we were back on the trial, heading to the car.

I ended up hiking about 10 miles total over the trip and loved nearly every minute of it.  There were two log bridges that I had to cross, both of which made me nervous about falling in the creek below.  The trial was nice in most spots, but at times became surprisingly steep and thin.  There were more mushrooms on this trip than on any I've ever been on, averaging about one every 4 or 5 feet I would wager.  Also the fall leaves here were at their peak and I took full advantage of my new camera to shoot the colors.  The dogs and I returned to town and unpacked the gear (they watched, I unpacked), content knowing that even a short trip to the woods is better than no trip at all...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Little Cowhorn Mountain Lunch

Claire, Scott, Emily & I went for a hike a week or so ago and I wanted to share our trip.  We went to a trail that leads to Little Cowhorn Mountain, in the Willamette National Forest.  The rain was relentless, but we didn't mind too much.
After we started on the trail we noticed that there were a lot of mushrooms out.  We saw many varieties including our favorite, Chanterelles which make for wonderful eating.  These are NOT Chanterelles in the photo, but it's the best shot I got that day of any mushrooms.
 The woods looked nice, as they usually do when it's raining out...misty, quiet, and isolating.
  The trail was short, only about 1.5 miles in length total.  The elevation is about 4,000' so usually you get a wonderful view at the top...that day it was simply too cloudy.
  The lookout cabin at the top of the peak provided a great spot to shed our rain gear and have lunch.  The dogs stayed outside while we ate, played a game of cribbage and relaxed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oakridge Mountain Bike Trip

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Hello friends!

Yesterday, October 14th, was a special day for me and my mountain biking hobby.  A friend of mine, Arthur, who is a VERY skilled cyclist took me on a trip to Oakridge to do some mountain biking.  I've gone in the past to places like Goodman Creek and the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail (MRT), but I'd never rolled over the dirt in Oakridge until this trip.  Billed as the "Mountain Bike Capital of the Northwest", I knew that Oakridge had a lot of trails to explore via two wheels but I had no idea at the quality of the riding until yesterday.

Arthur and I decided to take advantage of a great service when we got to town.  A company there by the name of Oregon Adventures provides guided trips but also has a shuttle service that prevents the masochistic need to ride up the gravel road to begin each route.  I had previously won a gift certificate for Oregon Adventures so it was obviously the route I wanted to use to get to the top of the mountain!  The owner of the business, Randy, was one of the first enthusiasts to really get the Oakridge trail system going for mountain bikers and his enthusiasm for riding was obvious when I met him earlier this year at a conference.  I felt while getting in the van to start our drive to the trail that there was more than one reason he was responsible for my mountain biking adventure that I was about to have.

The route that Arthur and I rode was the Alpine Trail, a 15 mile route that is the crown jewel of Oakridge-area mountain biking.  This trail is fast, varied, and incredibly scenic to boot so I knew from the webpage that I would be in for a real treat.   What I didn't know, though, was how much I would enjoy the ride with Arthur.  I expected to have fun, but he was the perfect person to take me down this trail the first time, always bombing down a steep path in front of me providing ample motivation to follow.  At other times he'd be calling out "switch" or "heads up" just in time for me to change gears or navigate a hairy turn.  Arthur's patience was also incredibly forgiving, as I lost my chain multiple times and often had to walk up the steepest parts of the trail due to poor planning or lack of gumption.

The trail description from the previous paragraph's link can tell you all about the Alpine Trail's attributes but I got so much more out of the trip that I didn't expect.  I was very nervous when we started due to the trail being a brief 1/4 mile uphill right off the bat.   I remember thinking about how I should have prepared better by riding more before today's trip.  Next, as we flew through the Jedi section of the ride I remember thinking, all I want to do when we get to the bottom of this ride is give Randy a huge hug (I think the adrenaline was doing funny things to my brain)!  I was stoked at the wonderful views afforded from the trail and also at the fact that 90% of the trail was downhill...I was in mountain biking heaven for those two hours.

After finishing the Alpine Trail, we still had a four mile ride back to town where our car was parked, so we hopped on the pavement for a bit and connected to our next trail.  The last section was very different from the Alpine Trail but still enjoyable.  The terrain went from steep, conifer-lined dirt to a mostly flat and rocky, river-view path with lots of maple leaves on the ground.  The difference was dramatic and provided yet another reason I love Oregon- diversity in nature.  Arthur navigated our way back to Oakridge and we headed back down the mountain to Springfield, enjoying a well-earned beer and bite to eat at one of our local breweries.  Perfect end to a perfect day?  I'll say!

Check out our trip route and detailed summary here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Goodman Creek Mountain biking

Hi folks!  It's been a while since I've posted but I've been busier at work (boo) and have also been busily reading the house for winter (yay!).  In the meantime, Graham, Jake, and I went to a wonderful place called Goodman Creek a few times last week to explore the single-track mountain biking trail there.  Here's the website for the trail.
The very green forest
The Goodman Creek Trail is in the Willamette National Forest just about 25 miles from my front door.  I loaded up the dogs and we quickly got out of the valley, which was filling with low clouds and fog.  The trail itself is only about four miles in length, so I make a loop of the area that connects a parallel road with the trail.  I almost always ride up the steep gravel for about three miles, then race down the single-track awesomeness for four miles.  Not a bad deal considering  the best part of my mountain bike rides is the downhill!
Graham checking out the tall grass
 On our way up the gravel road, the dogs had a lot of energy and played rambunctiously as I huffed along, dragging my body up the path.  I was tired after about two miles and the dogs still were running at a good clip, always ready to run faster if I would only speed up.  I was jealous to put it nicely.

Once at the top of the road where the trail met back up, we took a quick break and the dogs got a drink from my water supply.  We all panted and huffed for a few minutes before diving off into the woods to ride and run the trail back downhill.  This is always my favorite part of the trail because I know that most of the work is done.  At this point it's switchbacks, some rocks and roots to jump over, a few uphills, and then I'm done.
Great section of the trail with leaves on the ground.
 After about two miles or so we passed Goodman Creek itself and took a break.  The dogs played in the water as I took off my very sweaty pack and relaxed for a few minutes.  At this point, the dogs were starting to become more tired than I was.  Finally!  We had a quick photo shoot and then back on the bike to finish the trail.

Graham (left) and Jake (right) panting away.
 We had a great day here and I expect that it was the last time we'll mountain bike Goodman Creek in 2010.  The rains have started this week and the trail is simply too muddy now to run safely or ethically as it tears up the path to ride on it when it's wet.  Good memories were made on this trip and I'm sure that Graham and Jake have no idea how spoiled they are.  Shouldn't we all be so lucky?
Tired and sweaty at the finish!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Benternship Q & A

I've had many folks ask me about my Benternship that I completed in July and they pretty much all want to know the same things.  So I've created this Q & A to help explain a little better what went down in Central Oregon and what exactly I learned from it.  Here we go:

Q: What the heck is a Benternship?
A: Well, that one's easy.  I am not a creative person so I didn't have to stretch too far when thinking of what to call my internship in Bend.  I guess my strengths lie somewhere else than in creative naming.

Q: So who was your internship with?
A: The company I worked for was Wanderlust Tours, an excellent outfit committed to sharing Central Oregon's best cultural and natural history through the activities that outdoor enthusiasts enjoy, such as canoeing, hiking, caving, and snowshoeing.  Wanderlust Tours is a small business started 17 years ago by a husband and wife team that knew what Bend was missing in regard to outdoor recreation.

Q: Did you quit your job at the railroad?  Are you going to?
A: No, and yes.  I did take a leave of absence for the month of July that allowed me to live in Bend for a few weeks and also to travel to the Rockies for a week to go backpacking with some buddies.  At this point, all I know about the second question is yes, I will quit the RR at some point, but I don't have a date yet.  Stay tuned...

Q: Was this a paid internship?
A: No.  Does that matter?

Q: What did you do on your Benternship?
A: What didn't I do?!  Start here and read my friend.  It's well documented.

Q: Now that you've finished your Benternship, what steps will you take to further this momentum?
A: Primarily, research and waiting.  My gut tells me that I'm going to be moving sometime in 2011 to another state.  If that state ends up needing a niche filled like Wanderlust Tours did for Central Oregon, then that's my goal.  If not, then hopefully I can work for a similar outdoor company...that will be a real trick as Wanderlust does such a phenomenal job I can't imagine finding something similar elsewhere.  In the meantime, I will continue to look at other outdoor-related activities and see what I would like to include in my own business model.  Also, I'm looking at classes that will help me prepare for owning a small business.

Q: Your Benternship seemed amazing.  I would love to do some of the activities you did in Bend.  How do I find out more information about Wanderlust Tours?
A: You can visit Wanderlust Tours' website here.

I also have to say that the company blog is pretty sweet.  Click on this link to view the Wanderlust Tours' blog page.

Have a great day!

Climbing on Travel Oregon's Blog page

Hey folks I just ran across this list of climbing areas in Oregon that the state tourism board, Travel Oregon, has noted as great places to climb in Oregon.  Some of the areas are for bouldering, some are best for sport climbing, and still others are great mountaineering areas.  Check out the entry here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Trip Report: Obsidian Trail/Middle Sister Adventure

Trip Report from Sept. 20/21, 2010.  Bold print below corresponds to video time points.  Read along and when you get to a bold time point press play 'til you get to the time on the video.  This way you can "see" exactly what I'm describing in the TR.

Kohl & I got a chance to hike the beautiful Obisidian Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness of the Cascades last week.  We left town early afternoon on Monday and spent one night in the wilderness before coming home late Tuesday evening.  This trip was very last minute and we didn't know we'd be going until about 2 hours before our departure.  However, Kohl & I had both hiked this trail in 2008 with our partners and I felt comfortable with our plans.  I'm telling you this because it will make you say "oh, that's what happened" later...

We arrived at the Trailhead about 4 p.m. to find about three other cars in the parking lot (:01).  We knew we didn't have a lot of time to hike as it would be getting dark just before 8 p.m. or so.  We hit the trail and quickly ascended through the very wet (it was misting on us as we started our hike (:12) forest, noting many mushrooms and unique plants along the way.  After about 2 hours or so we exited the forest and encountered a fantastic sight; a lava flow (:21)!  This flow was only about 1/4 mile in width but we were happy to have a change of scenery and a chance to view the North Sister.  Unfortunately she was out of sight when we got around the corner but the change of pace was nice nonetheless (:29).

After finishing our stint on the lava flow we headed back into the woods.  At this point in the trip we were at a fork in the trail (:33).  Go left and we'd continue on toward our planned campsite, making a summit attempt the following morning very probable.  Go straight and we'd end up an hour or so later at Obsidian Falls, along Obsidian Creek, and not where we wanted to be.  So we went straight- oops!  We didn't know until the following morning that we were making this mistake, so we tromped off happily into the woods looking for a nice place to eat and set up camp.  We discovered more finds, like a pine cone that I at first believed to be a mushroom (:36).

We hiked for another hour or so, every few minutes getting a gorgeous peak of North Sister in the Alpen-glow (:40).  Shortly after it was getting dark enough that my camera wasn't working except for up-close shots.  We decided that we'd take another fork in the trail, this time to Obisidian Falls.  As soon as we got within ear-shot of the whitewater racing down the mountain next to us I started to realize that we'd indeed ended up on the wrong trail.  Up to this point, we felt that it was possible that we just didn't remember the trail that well.  Now we were realizing that we weren't where we wanted to be.  Bummer.  Anyhow, darkness and empty stomachs were the priority at this point, so we raced up the trail to a flat area where we could set up camp.  A few minutes later, we were pitching the tent and starting dinner (:48).  It was cold up here, about 40 degrees I would say and I donned gloves to keep my fingers warm.

After our meal we moved the bags down near the creek to give the bears something to eat other than us, played some rummy and then went to bed.  Sleep was difficult for Kohl I later learned but I was very tired and knocked out quickly.  Something about being in nature always lets me sleep well.  Our original plan was to wake around 5 a.m. to make a mountain summit attempt, but we both decided to hold off until after sunup due to our new found lost-ness.

We awoke around 8 or so and were VERY cold!  Problem was the sun was hitting the rain fly on the tent and melting the ice that had formed overnight.  While I was cold, I was less inclined to get wet so got up and out of the tent in a hurry, unlike Kohl who was already wet AND cold (:53).  Breakfast was oatmeal with fresh-filtered creek water to wash it down (1:02).  We made a decision at this point that I feel now was very wise, but at the time I was quite bummed about.  We knew that we were not where we thought we should be for a summit attempt, so we planned to hike around on the trail we were on until after lunch and then head back to the car, tails between our legs, not attempting to summit Middle Sister.

We broke camp and hiked down below the falls (1:12) to the original trail and headed south away from our Trailhead.  We were quickly greeted with a wonderful view of Middle Sister and lots of plant life that was turning a beautiful fire-red color (1:37).  We hiked about 40 minutes or so from our overnight camp and realized that we could scramble up a nearby ridge for much closer and personal views of the mountain, and possibly see North and South Sisters as well from a higher viewpoint.  We made a good assessment of the trail where we departed on and agreed where we'd head once we were off-trail (1:45).  We scrambled up the loose lava rock ridge and quickly found an amazing view of South Sister (1:57).

After soaking in the view to the south and refueling our bodies with granola bars we decided to go yet further up and to the north to see about views of North Sister.  We really pushed our bodies here and got a great workout to boot as we ascended another 1000' or so up the flanks of Middle Sister (2:09).  The views were astounding and the fact that we hiked above the cloud layer to the west was pretty neat as well (2:13).

After our final ridge was summited we decided to head back down for the trail, which we could see a LONG way down below us (2:32).  After about 45-60 minutes we rejoined the trail and headed back north toward the car.  We made quick work of the trial out of the Wilderness Area and enjoyed a tasty beer at the Trailhead just before 5 o'clock (2:53).  All said, some things went unexpectedly and we did well to communicate to one another when one of us wasn't comfortable doing something.  The trip was definitely a fun one and I was glad to be recreating with Kohl, a friend I hope to share many more backpacking trips with.

Update; new trip report coming soon!

Hey folks,

I'm just heading out the door today to do some more rock climbing with friends Scott & Luke at the Callahans.  Today's supposed to be a great day weather-wise.  I hope we climb a good set of routes also!  Stay tuned...

What are YOU doing this weekend?  Write a comment and let me know.  I'd love to hear about other adventures!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Callahans Climbing Trip Sept 13, 2010

Well,  I figure I've got to keep the momentum up on this blog or you guys are going to get bored.  So here's the latest outdoor adventure I've had:

Monday I had the pleasure of driving to the Callahans near Roseburg, about an hour-and-a-half south of Eugene.  Kohl and I were both up for a bit of sport climbing so we packed the Explorer up and loaded the doggers too.  Graham and Jake were very excited to get to go somewhere, anywhere, and jumped in the back with great enthusiasm.  We got on the road about 12:30 p.m. and hit the trailhead around 2:00 p.m. or so.

 We parked the car and huffed up a steep, graveled road for about 1/4 mile to our turn-out into the woods.  Normally this marks the beginning of a VERY steep, long approach to the climbing area but today we passed the turn-out and kept on the gravel for another hundred yards or so.  We were looking for a bouldering area just off the road that we'd not been to before.  We quickly found the rocks and dropped our rope bags, put on our climbing shoes and chalked up.  We had a guide book that told the difficulty of the routes here and we knew that most of them were out of our league.  There was one obvious route that we had to try, a V1 that we both knew we could do.  For those of you who don't boulder, a "V#" is a numbered system to grade the difficulty of a bouldering route.  For example, a V0 or a V1 is relatively easy and a V10 is incredibly difficult.  Thus, V1s are awesome.

Kohl went first as I set up the camera and played with the dogs.  The forest area we were in was mostly second growth timber with lots of downed branches and underbrush.  There wasn't much foliage on the ground except for poison oak.  In other words, not a pristine forest by any means but much nicer than the climbing gym in town.  The route was short and Kohl quickly progressed to the finish.  The shot of the shoe in the facebook photo album (#31) shows just how small the finish foothold was...pretty cool stuff.

I was up next and made Kohl play with the dogs this time around.  Without that distraction, hanging from the rock two feet off the ground made for a very difficult route as the dogs would come up and lick me, wanting to play and unaware of how annoying they were!  I too progressed through the route quickly and we were ready to move up to the climbing area.

Our packs returned to our shoulders, we went back to the climbing wall trail.  It was about 75 degrees and around 2:45 p.m.  The trail up to the climbing area is steep and there are lots of switchbacks but we made quick, sweaty work of it and soon were at our first problem.  The route was a 5.8 (similar to V scale but a comment to find out more about the ratings) off-width and I really was a wuss about climbing the darn thing.  I took more times than there were bolts but in the end, I salvaged my pride and finished it.  Photos to match here:

At the top of the route I discovered that the anchor system I expected to see (AND USE) didn't exist.  This was a bit of a bummer and it took me a few seconds to decide what to do.  After talking it over with Kohl, we decided that he would lead an adjacent route and clean my top anchor for me.  I was lowered back to earth and Kohl then led his route,  a 5.6 which he made VERY quick work of.  I should point out that anytime I'm climbing or belaying the doggers are on takes virtually no time for their grubby little paws to ruin a nice clean rope so it's never an option to let them run free while someone's in the air.  That said, their time on leash was short.

After cleaning the gear from his route and mine Kohl and I headed further east along the trail to the "fantasy island" area of the Callahans.  This monolith was one we'd never seen before so hiking the 1/2 mile to it was worth it, despite the time of day.  There was a split in the trail and we soon realized we'd gone the wrong way.  Normally I'd be happy to turn around and try the right way but you must understand that the trail we were on was VERY steep and I could tell that I wasn't very far from the top.  It seemed easier to keep going up and risk finding nothing than to backtrack down a very steep, slick trail.

At the top we found a nice view to the east of Roseburg, about 15 miles away.  Along a pillar of rock towering over us were three routes we'd never seen before.  Feeling adventurous I decided to lead the middle one, another 5.8.  This route was extremely exposed, meaning that on both sides of me (about 2 feet on the left and 10 feet on the right) there was a steep cliff as the pillar curved around on itself.  This meant that each time I looked to the left, I couldn't see rock, but a birds' eye-view of Roseburg, 1000' feet below in the valley.  To the right, countless trees filled the view of the side of the cliffs we'd hiked along before.  I didn't look around much until we were leaving.

I led my route like a champ, redeeming myself from a June trip here where I was the biggest weenie ever.  It's ebb and flow like that for me in rock climbing, one of the reasons I like it I guess.  Kohl then cleaned my route and we huffed back up the hill to a gravel road that would lead us back to the other end of the ridge.  We hiked just over 1/2 mile and dove back into the woods.  At this point, it was dusk and the woods were beginning to darken quickly as the sun faded to the west.  We could barely see the trail as we jetted down the steep ridge toward the car.  Graham and Jake seemed really tired at this point, which made me a very happy man.  About 30 minutes later we were out of the woods, both literally and figuratively speaking.  The dogs received dinner a la gravel road and made quick work of inhaling their grub.  We called in a to-go order of pizza in Roseburg and arrived to pick it up 20 minutes later.  Never has pizza tasted so good!

Thinking back on this trip there wasn't much I would change.  In fact, only two (though major) things stand out as an oversight and that was a light source and food.  We were fortunate to not sprain an ankle or worse coming down that steep trail in the dark.  Lesson learned; bring a headlamp no matter the time of day you think you'll be departing the Callahans.   Regarding food, I didn't bring a single thing to snack on while we were on the rock and Kohl's Luna bar saved me I'm sure.  Thanks for looking out for me, buddy.

Here's the full photo album for you:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Benternship sights & sounds Summary

Benternship July 12- DAY 13

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

Today I headed out of Bend. It was an exciting and worthwhile trip to Central Oregon and I certainly gained a lot of knowledge to sort through once I get home. I met with Dave this morning at the office and we had a de-briefing. I felt that there were lots of things that we both received from my working with his company over the past two weeks and I'm proud of that. I greatly look forward to using the momentum gained from this experience in the future to help start my own outdoor-oriented company.

After leaving Bend, I headed up the highway toward Portland. The next few hours (3 total) provided me with views of Oregon I didn't know existed! The drive was a highlight of the day for sure, and I took lots of videos to prove it.

Benternship July 11- DAY 12

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

Anyone notice how horrible I look? I was absolutely exhausted!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Benternship July 10- DAY 11

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

With Claire being in town I knew that I had to get her out on a trip with the company. I needed to show her that the caliber of trips that Wanderlust Tours provides was exactly the quality that I wanted in my own trips someday. Witnessing first-hand what the guides do so well here in Bend was something that I simply couldn't needed to be experienced.

Claire & I signed up for the moonlight canoe tour departing Saturday evening. We met up with Jack @ Fred Meyer and hopped in the van. Off to Sunriver for another pickup and then lake time! We headed up to the Cascade lakes that flank South Sister, Mount Bachelor, and Broken Top and pulled into the Hosmer Lake parking lot. After a brief introduction on paddling by Jack, we set out on the water just as the sun was setting. The looks we got from the fisherman (who were all coming OFF the lake at this time) was priceless. Looks of shock and curiosity were prevalent on their faces as we paddled past them, eager to see what the night sky would bring us. Keep in mind that Claire and I have never been on this lake before in our lives. The trust that we placed with Jack was considerable but I knew we were in great hands.

Jack quickly assessed our groups' paddling ability
(there were 6 guests including Claire & I) and took time to help out those who were still learning the tricks of canoeing. Claire & I watched in wonder as the last of the day's light faded from the evening sky. Suddenly between our boat and the next, not two feet from one another, you could see bats flying between the canoes on their way to swallow all those pesky mosquitoes that were flying around us. The bats were hard to see directly but if you stared at the water about 10 feet away from you suddenly a shadow would pass that was undeniably a bat...a very cool experience and one of my favorite parts of the moonlight canoe trips.

Jack took our group to a beaver lodge that was nestled along the bank of Hosmer Lake and explained how they were constructed and used by the beavers that lived in it. While listening to his oration it was easy to look around this marvelous piece of Oregon and feel quite content to be away from the lights and sounds of a city. The dark was really beginning to take hold and as the last of the twilight slipped from our view we noticed fish swimming about below our boat, no doubt scanning above for insects just as the bats were doing.

Unlike the other lakes I'd seen at this point during my Benternship, Hosmer lake surprised me in being quite marshy. As we reached a channel in the lake I noticed that we'd be paddling through a snaking portion of marsh, which when combined with the beaver lodge area comprises only about half of the total lake surface. We stayed close together and with the moonlight beginning to take over the night sky easily saw our way through the reeds to the opening of the channel.

Once the four boats were all through the bottleneck, Jack asked us to look up and analyze the sky. It was still a bit too early to see many stars, but what we could see amazed us still. Jack pointed out Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter and we were all astounded by the sight! It was one of the most memorable night skies I've ever witnessed, simply because I finally had someone to tell me exactly what I was looking at!

We continued our paddle to another point toward the northern end of the lake, all the while being sung to by shorebirds looking for food or mates. The call of one in particular, the Common Nighthawk, was especially fitting for a nighttime paddle as it's peculiar sounds come through the trees sounding quite foreign to one's ears.

As we reached a stopping point in the middle of the lake, Jack corralled our boats together and began passing out hot cocoa and baked almond bars for the guests. The treats were well received by the group as we had been working up an appetite paddling around the lake. After the snacks were passed out, Jack continued to speak to us about the constellations, including Cassiopeia, Scorpio, and Orion. The detail and passion in which Jack shares these tales is quite enjoyable to witness, and you can tell he has a strong background in theater as he weaves his tales for his audience.

Content with all we had witnessed for the evening, the group paddled back toward the south end of the lake under Jack's guidance, all the while in a lights-out caravan of canoes. Several of the boats saw a deer just off to the side of the shore munching in the marshy grass, no doubt. The stars were vivid and as we paddled back south the view of Scorpio became more and more clear to us. Arriving at the boat ramp, canoes were loaded, PFDs were shed and the gear was stowed for our return trip to civilization.

The moonlight canoe trip with Wanderlust Tours was definitely a highlight of my Benternship and quite possibly my time here in Oregon. I have been thinking about all of the amazing sights I've seen in Oregon and I would contend that seeing the stars from a pristine Cascade Mountain lake rivals many if not all of them. If you have a chance to tour with Wanderlust, do it! I promise you'll not be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Benternship July 9- DAY 10

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

10 p.m. Claire is here! Enjoyed (Jeff's) volcano tour with guests and learned a lot. Afternoon weather prevented us from getting on the water, lots of storm clouds and thunder.

The obsidian flows at Newberry Crater are very impressive to see. I've been around obisian rock before, but never in this quantity. This is truly something to check out if you ever get to Bend.

Benternship July 8- DAY 9

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

Worked canoe trip with Jeff this morning. Great trip, swimming, fun folks. Then lunch at warehouse cleaning out van. Worked at the office doing ACT! and email confirmations. Dinner at Jack's with roommate and Jeff...good stuff. Tomorrow touring Newberry Crater in the morning with Jeff, then canoe in the afternoon (CTR gets here in the evening).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Benternship July 6- DAY 7

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

1:00 a.m. No work on 7/4- too festive. Great time at Jeff, Aaron, and Jake's...spent day (July 5) 9:45-5:45 at office. Introduced Dave to color breakouts on Google Calendar- he took to it right away which made me a bit nervous...hope whatever he uses is to his best advantage...wanted to do kayak trip with Joe or Jeremy but didn't seem appropriate at the time. Helped Dave at Costco (and got to talk business)...5k and then dinner with Jack at Deschutes Brewery. Tomorrow work 9-12 then to Tamolich at 12:30-5:00 or so with Dave. Excited to see him guide for the first time...should be an eye-opener.

Overall things seem to be going well, the ball is definitely in my court as to find what's next...

Being the owner of the company, I expected Dave to really know his natural world. The way he conducted himself in the office as an introverted individual was something that I expected to carry on into the outdoors. However, Dave had a wonderful way of engaging his audience ("oh, baby!") and getting them as excited about the outdoors as he is. I was truly honored to be working next to him on this outing as it was a special place for me anyway. The tours that his company does are typically in Central Oregon on the east side of the Cascade crest. Today however, we were on the west slope in the thick and heavy presence of Douglas Fir trees, Oregon Grape and Vine Maples. The McKenzie River roared along adjacent to our trail and I was continually impressed by Dave's understanding of what I consider to be my own backyard. This same trail is the one that my old Boy Scout Troop 318 and I hiked in 2008, just weeks before CTR and I wed.

Benternship July 4- DAY 5

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

2:00 a.m.
Now 2:00 a.m.- Happy I-Day! No a.m. paddle so DB (Database) work 'til lunch...Skeleton Cave Tour at 1:00 (Awesome! 3600' long and 100' below the earth's surface) then quick dinner at Parilla (thanks Megan!) and starlight canoe tour with Jeremy and 10 guests. Too tired to write more.

Jeff was my guide for the afternoon cave tour and he shone the brightest in the cave (some kind of problem with that euphemism but I'm standing by it). The way he engaged his clients (four adults, two children) was really enjoyable to watch. I was impressed with his ability to answer any question that was asked while still managing to keep us all on an efficient and enjoyable tour.

Jeremy (starlight canoe tour guide) was a fantastic storyteller, having worked with youth in the outdoors for years before coming to WT this winter. The group we had were all adults, but no matter; Jeremy wowed us all with the scenery of the Cascade lakes and the enchanting stories he wove to explain the stars that we were seeing that night. I could very easily picture him giving a jaw-dropping presentation to younger folks out on a tour.

Benternship July 3- DAY 4

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

7:00 a.m. Slept ok. Up earlier and very sunny through rain fly. Rained on and off last night. Looking forward to abated dust.

10:45 p.m. Didn't abate much though...did grunt work for Dave- fixed POS (point of sale, not piece of...) machine through BofA merchant services. Four calls at :15 minutes each = one hour! Ran a 5k and went to get new book- Collapse by Jared Diamond. Sampled beer at Silver Moon (video to supplement this) with crappy baked fries with gorganzola cheese. No shower as Jack had offered. He was at a baseball game and never called (found out later that this was b/c he had text messaged me and I don't get texts- bummer!)...stinky tomorrow I guess. Paddle first thing at 8:15 then database with Megan. Sure wish CTR was here.

LOTS OF CUSSING IN THIS VIDEO. I apologize but I'm not G rated when I've had a few beers :)

PS- The Snake Bite Porter is what I'm referencing in the video. Here's the webpage with more info.

*And I totally misused the word "acquiesce" in my video...didn't know what it meant until I returned home to make this post!*

Benternship July 2- DAY 3

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

12:20 a.m.
This morning seems so long ago...Dave, James & Jack were all great to meet. Very kind and Jack was very knowledgeable and a good storyteller. Hung out in office for about four hours; left to go run a 5k on the Deschutes River (!), grocery shop, and set up tent. Dinner was sandwiches and chips/salsa. Back to WLT warehouse @ 7:15 for a starlight canoe tour at Sparks Lake (that's three new lakes in two days for those of you keeping track) with Jack. Four gals (two stayed in van because it was too cold/wet for them). All was great 'til we were back at the lot when one of them fell as I helped her out of the van...I literally feel sick about it. Off to bed now- no beer :(

Benternship July 1- DAY 2

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

8:00 a.m.
Sure miss CTR (Claire); last night was probably too cold for her though, it was 40 degrees at 7:45 this morning when I woke. Off to take some photos...the Dee Wright Observatory for breakfast with a view!

The Dee Wright Observatory is located on the historic McKenzie Pass Highway 242 in Lane/Deschutes County. This viewpoint is a favorite stop for me anytime I'm up that way, with incredible views of 7-10 cascade peaks most days. Here's a website from the USGS with more info.:

Benternship June 30- DAY 1

This series documents a very special opportunity I had recently. I was accepted as an intern at a company in Oregon that provides naturalist-based guided tours in many different activities that travelers enjoy. All of the entries are taken directly from my makeshift journal, my camera, and my iPod video camera. Items in bold are not original to the journal, they have been added for clarity or reading enjoyment. You can decide which.

9:00 p.m. It's now about nine or so at night and I just sat down in my camp chair at the edge of Scott Lake. I cannot see the Three Sisters from the shore where I am but it's no matter; I've seen plenty of beauty today as it is.
I stopped in McKenzie Bridge for the requisite Jo-Jos at Harbick's. I was good and only ordered three but the clerk gave me four anyway :) She must have known I would later need the energy.
Made my way onto Hwy. 242 around 4:00 or so and decided to skip Proxy Falls Trail- too busy. I did stop at the Linton Lake TH though and hiked it (about three miles round-trip), taking 100 photos or so along the way. Not a cloud in the sky today and not too much wind either. Beautiful trail though disappointed in the lake itself...too shrubby by the North shore meant no good photos ops. The water clarity rivaled that of Scott Lake though- pure! No snow at all on the trail (now I'm at Scott Lake where there is smoky water from evaporation and frogs are croaking).
Drove through Obsidian TH lot after that (around 7:00 I think) and saw one car...must be snowy up there. Less than five minutes later I arrived at Scott Lake. Decided to park at campsite and get iPod ready- running time. Ran along a VERY snowy trail to Benson Lake (another first lake for the day). Ran/post-holed/walked for about an hour (maybe another three miles).
As soon as I returned to the car at Scott Lake I stripped iPod, shirt, and shoes and went for a swim! The water was very pleasant so I waded out to the middle of the lake for a better view of the Sisters. Then for dinner salad and a 22 (Widmer Hefeweizen tonight- my favorite!). Off to bed soon. So excited for this Benternship!

About me

Here's the quick and dirty on me, "Have you enjoyed the outdoors today?". My name is Andy and I'm in my late-20's. I have a beautiful partner of 4+ years named Claire and we share a home in Oregon's scenic and mild Willamette Valley. We have two yellow labs, Graham (3 years) and Jake (2) and a cat (?), but I forget his name*.

I enjoy the outdoors nearly as much as I enjoy being married and that's something that's obvious once you get to know me. In talking with folks that I meet or know one of the primary things I tend to do is to find out their level of outdoor activity and make that a centerpiece for conversation. This isn't to say that I don't know lots of people who don't enjoy the outdoors as much as I do, but the simple fact that we live on Earth means that we are inherently tied to the natural world. As a general rule, the more people appreciate this fact, the easier it is for me to communicate with them.

The hobbies I engage in are relatively all the same, in that they involve two of life's great pleasures; beer and exercise. Here's my list in particular order:

Beer: camping, playing board games, cooking/baking, SNOB (Supporter of Native Oregon Beer)

Exercise: running (preferably trail), hiking, sport climbing (both indoors and outdoors), backcountry hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, photography (a stretch for being in the "exercise" category I know)

I understand that diversity is a very important part of our evolution and economy and therefore I am a supporter of just about any (legal) idea or belief that keeps people different or allows the underdog to succeed. Examples of this include the idea that Wal-Mart is not a business that I support if at all possible (simply because it is the largest retailer on the planet and they don't need any of my money) and that racial minorities are far and away more culturally important than many of us realize. The fact that when many of us were born there were 6,000 languages being used on this planet and now there are fewer than half of that remaining indicates to me that our loss of diversity is happening at an alarming rate. See this video for an excellent explanation of this problem by National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis:

This is really just a scattered run-down on how I view myself. My posts will be a much more accurate depiction of who I really am, as the content starts to paint a picture that reflects my own thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. Stay tuned for more!

*The cat is Claire's and I really don't care for him. He's mean to me and he pukes a lot. Enough said.

Welcome to my campsite

I have a lot of things around here, but I try to make sure that over time I only keep the bare necessities.  Carrying around all this stuff from one place to another is tiring, not to mention silly.  Let me introduce you to a few of my favorite things:

I have a Compass, which provides direction in life, let's me know where I am and where I want to go.  I have a nickname for this compass.  It's called faith.

I have a Book.  I know you can't read it, but I'm always happy to do that for you.  I am the only one on this earth who has read the entire thing, and there are parts of it that only make sense to me.  I can tell you about all of my family and my friends by reading it.  My book contains all of my greatest memories and teachings.

I have a Tent which provides me with shelter.  It warms me, and it protects my family and I from the environment when conditions get rough.  My tent is my home.

I also have a pair of Binoculars around here.  I don't use them a lot, but knowing that they're near provides me a great deal of support.  My binoculars are super-awesome as they help me see things that I wouldn't normally be able to see, like all binoculars do, but they also provide clarity and reassurance.  My view is not nearly as fuzzy once I use them, and they always seem to be at my disposal at all the right times.  I simply have to ask for them and whatever I'm looking at instantly becomes clearer.  My binoculars are known by an unusual name also.  I call them my mentor.

Another item in my camp is my Partner.  I rely on her tremendously for unconditional support, whether it be helping me set up the tent, read my compass, or find my binoculars.  I love to read parts of my book to her, and one day she will be able to repeat most of those pages back to me without much effort (we started writing a new book together July 27, 2008).  We share life's joys together; love, beauty, bonding.  Without my partner, all else would diminish in usefulness and my camp no doubt would suffer greatly at her loss.  My partner is my wife.

One question that I ask myself daily while in camp is do I have everything that I need?  I have food, water, and warmth no doubt, but what about the things that are intangible?  Have I forgotten something?  Does one of my items need to be worked on or repaired?  Have I lost track of something?

I know that there are many things in my camp that are superlative, but the things I've shown you here I feel are integral to my success in life.  This balance of ownership and letting go is a large part of who I am, and through this forum you'll no doubt learn more about me than you may have ever wanted to know.  As another camper you no doubt recognize many of the things I've told you are in my camp.  As you go about your daily life you will encounter many of the same items, and you may be surprised to find things that are altogether different than mine.  Let that diversity strengthen our bond with one another, not weaken it.  One question that I want you to think of when you are reading my blog and thinking about me or my travels is the following:

"What does your campsite look like?"