From the Road

/From the Road

Two days From the Road

Thursday, August 30
It is a bit after 11:00 pm. The camp ground is completely silent, save the crackle and occasional pop of our campfire. Elk Meadow, one of the more than forty California State Parks designated to protect what remains of the redwood trees, is the kind of place where I would gladly make home for a while.

Everyone has complied with the Quite after 10 rule, in fact, Colleen and I were likely the ones making the most ruckus, our Toyota Prius engine kicking on every twenty minutes to compensate for my DC/AC inverter and laptop. I admit to confusion when I say that I should be able to run my laptop for a few days if it were providing power via the drive train battery pack rather than the starter. Wishing Toyota would provide a manual switch and digital readout to allow me to make that choice. For as much as I enjoy the mileage, there are myriad things I would change about this car, that rant saved for another essay.

Colleen and I roasted corn over the fire, and in aluminum foil a sauté of potatoes, zucchini, onion, crushed black pepper and garlic. The result, all three times we have prepared this meal in the past five weeks, was splendid. Everything tastes good outside, everything is appreciated more. Even the simplest of meals, boiled carrots, snap peas, and rehydrated Shitake mushrooms over Raman noodles is a welcomed delight.

Friday, August 31
It has been difficult for us to take it all in. When one walks from a valley to a mountain top, the transition unfolds in the count of hours, not minutes as in a vehicle. Even then, we find that just a few hundred meters on a trail took us from the dark, cool shade of a massive coniferous forest with dense undergrowth to a barren saddle and bold stacks topped with countless flowering heads. At the pace of our own feet, we were often caught breathless, not for the pace at which we hiked nor the elevation gained, but for the rapid transition from one magical wonderland to the next.

But now we again move at high velocities, those same valley to mountain transitions unfolding in a matter of minutes, entire ecosystems lost to the rear view mirror in the matter of an hour. It’s overwhelming in a whole new way, for what we experience from the air conditioned, closed cab of our earth-bound spaceship is via a single sense, our vision. No aroma of recently fallen pine needles or fresh scat left by a passing bear. No sound of the wind high in trees nor stream underfoot. No more breaking of fallen branches by a deer down slope. No longer do we taste the ash of too many fires in Washington and Canada to the north.

Now, we hear only the tires on the road covered by audio books and music, the smell of unburnt diesel as trucks pass, and the taste of whatever we ate last, a return to food less invocative as that which we enjoyed on the trail.

By | 2018-11-23T22:42:58+00:00 August 31st, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on Two days From the Road

The Lost City of Z

In our travel down the coast of the Pacific Northwest, we are listening to an audio version of the book “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_City_of_Z). This engaging, compelling narrative simultaneously tells the stories of three adventurers: Englishman Fawcett, Brazilian banker Lloyd, and the American reporter and author Grann. The early twentieth century, English explorer Percy Fawcett repeatedly journeyed into the heart of the Amazon in an attempt to discover a rumored, ancient civilization now succumb to the relentless onslaught of what Fawcett described as the green hell.

Far be it from me to summarize the chapters of this book in any manner as to even come close to its effect on the reader, for it is, in a single word–riveting.

Grann captures the essence of the mindset and determination of that era of explorer. The Royal Geographic Society was then filled with men (and later women) of this caliber, people capable of enduring hardship in overland exploration that give the modern day outdoors enthusiast cause to shudder, if not turn away from the thought alone for the onset of nausea.

The journals of Fawcett and his small crew describe pressing through a jungle so thick that a full day’s effort, at times, saw the gain of just 100 yards. The were attacked by mosquitoes without remorse, vampire bats while they slept, bees that nested in the liquid of their pupils, and maggots that infested their open wounds, occasionally pushing through the surrounding skin, as though to come up for air before diving back in. Despite swollen limbs, muscles far too lean to carry the packs on their backs, and the dark brood of malaria, they continued. They built rafts which they pulled up-stream, wading in waters infested with piranha and candiru, the famous “dick fish” of the Amazon river (which I have since learned, is not at all capable nor even interested in swimming into the male reproductive organs (http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160104-does-the-candiru-fish-really-eat-human-penises)).

I have not cringed so many times in reading a book as I have in these several hours as we drove from Powell’s book seller in Portland to Redding California. I have not so many times been reminded of how much our relationship to the world outside of the land we occupy as cities has changed.

For centuries Europeans dominated the natural and discovered world through a system of brutal oppression and control. This was accompanied by a determination that anything and anyone outside of the geographic regions described by the Christian bible were automatically uncivilized, heathen, even inhuman. Grann recounts this paradigm in his retelling of some of the Spanish entries into the Amazon with not a handful of men, but hundreds in full metal uniform and thousands of natives forced to accompany as slaves.

We have in the twenty first century entered the age of data collection. Mountains that were once held as impassible, sacred, or simply unnecessary to conquer are now scaled as a matter of recreation. Treks across inhospitable terrains in temperatures that never climb above freezing required years of preparation, massive ships to safeguard rations, and a risk to all who were encumbered.

The same trek across the South Pole are now conducted by individuals with a faction the gear, in far less time. The Pacific Crest Trail is walked, Mexico to Canada, 2600 miles without ever checking a compass, a topographical map, or the stars overhead. Our digital devices can tell us exactly where we are, at any given second, and yet we have no clue as to where we reside.

Colleen and I journeyed forty miles over the source of four days and three nights in the Washington Cascades, carrying packs roughly half the weight of those shouldered by Fawcett and his men. We hiked on trails so well worn that without a map, without compass or GPS we could cross the entire Glacier Peak Wilderness and not lose our bearing. Yet in those four days we were reminded how it feels to carry one’s own weight, to have all that we needed, to “discover” land in which many have gone before us, but they remain preserved enough that we felt as though we could be the first to set foot on those boulders, mountain shoulders, and snow fields.

In Fawcett’s two decades of exploration he adapted, evolved, and improved. He traveled lighter with each entry into the midnight canopy, and learned from the wisdom of the natives. He was perhaps one of the first ethnobotanists, replacing the brutal English attempts at curing wounds with heated irons to using local plant leaves, roots, and applications that for thousands of years had allowed the South Americans to survive, even prosper.

As my own gear has become lighter over three decades of excursions into the wilderness (clearly, a very different wilderness than that of the Amazon), I have moved from 65 pound packs to roughly 20 on most occasions. Now, I am motivated to take this farther, to learn what plants are available along the trail of the Sonoran Southwest, the Colorado Rockies, and the Washington Cascades and Olympic Peninsula such that my pack is even lighter, and I am able to travel longer without resupply.

Yet in comparison to the journeys of Fawcett, Shackleton, and Livingston, I recognize that I will never push my body as they once did. No one does. We have, I am certain, lost that kind of adventure.

By | 2018-08-31T16:31:21+00:00 August 31st, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on The Lost City of Z

Where the world makes sense

Children
This place makes sense to me. It’s the way the world is suppose to be. This is a village without locked doors, without restricted areas, without rules other than those that in and of their intent describe their purpose.

“Do you know where your children are?” is almost always met with a matter of fact, “No.” And it doesn’t matter. They are either testing personal boundaries with the deer on the village green, learning to weave or throw a clay pot, or exploring the creekside trail despite the daily movement of black bear. As humans once embraced a much larger family than biological children and direct relations, here it is the village that raises the child.

In the first days parents are heard yelling the usual, “I told you to get down!” or “Don’t go too far!” but by the third or fourth day, the parents realize their children are safe and let go or altogether cut the reigns. This gives the children more freedom to explore, to make their own decisions, to make mistakes and recover. Children grow at Holden Village in a way that our always-on, always connected world does not afford.

Of a village
Most everything you do is known. As in a small town, this can be both welcomed and unwanted. Your actions directly affect at least one other, if not the entire village. Failure to complete your assigned tasks means that someone you know (and will see at the next meal) will have to carry your load. Complete your tasks and you will have served all who serve you in turn. Even if praise is not directly given, it is not difficult to enjoy the results of your labor. A repaired handrail catches someone’s fall. A stone reset in a pathway no longer poses a potential fall. There is a sense of belonging, to the village and the community too. It isn’t difficult to find your place, for there is always more work to do.

Spider Gap
At the top of Spider Gap, a high elevation saddle that leads from the Upper Lyman lake and Lyman glacier to a permanent snow field on the northwest to a glacier on the southeast. I enjoyed a rapid ascent from base to top, and a splendid view of the other side. While I was resting on an distant outcrop of rock, a couple in their early sixties had turned back from the descent and return to the saddle. When I came upon them they were resting, drinking, eating some snacks before the descent of Spider glacier to their campsite.

We had chatted briefly a half hour earlier. I reengaged, “Ah! I see you decided to head back.” Their daughter and son-in-law had continued down into the Upper Lyman basin.

“Yes, yes. This is only our second real backpacking trip, so we thought we’d better not push it too hard.”

“Wait. This is your second backpacking trip and you are climbing glaciers?”

They laughed, “Well. Our daughter got us out on 13 mile trip a few weeks ago as a warm-up. I guess it worked!”

I was impressed. Climbing snow is never easy. Foot over foot, punching foot holds with boot toes all the way up. It’s a relentless means to gain a higher elevation as there are no switch backs, no resting spots other than those you make by digging into the crust and stomping out a flat spot.

We chatted for a few minutes more before the subject of GPS tracking came up. Their daughter and son had on them a device that enabled remote tracking of their location, anywhere in the world. The father bragged that the unit he first bought for them enabled text messaging and continuous tracking, every point on the trail marked.

I quickly responded, “Are you ok with a relative stranger debating this subject?” They agreed, and I continued, “I would refuse to enter the wilderness with such a device. It destroys the entire reason to be out here.” The father laughed and said his son-in-law said the same thing. They compromised on a simpler device with a GPS marker but no text messaging, the unit they had on them now.

“It is my experience that it is not the children, but the parents who demand such things.”

“Yes, this is true. We just … we want to know they are ok.”

“Maybe they are … maybe they aren’t. But that’s the whole point. This is not an amusement park with safety built-in. This is the wilderness, intentionally wild and without constraints. I’d rather die out here than in a car wreck or a hospital bed. Wouldn’t you?

“Now that our daughter has gotten us into these places, yes, I am beginning to agree. Once you are out here, you don’t want to carry anything that connects you to the rest of the world.”

We continued to discuss the matter. I proposed that in our modern world the mobile phone itself is a kind of digital leash. Giving a phone to a child or teenager takes away from their sense of responsibility. It takes away from their capacity to make their own decisions and reduces maturation.

I concluded, “My first true sense of confidence was gained by backpacking solo in the Superstition Wilderness at age 17 or 18. I had completed a two day trip with my father and simply was not ready to come back out. My mother and father departed the pickup spot and I hiked back in for another two days and one night. That was my first time sleeping alone on the trail. It set in motion a lifetime of solo ventures in the wilderness, and an increase in my confidence that even today requires upkeep.”

We parted company and I glissaded back down the face of the snow field to a mid-way landing, each step a meter and a half or more. It felt as though I was flying—nearly an hour in ascent covered in just a few minutes return. While resting on the landing, a crack resounded above me. In a flurry of sound, stone fragments, and the dust of rapidly falling debris, the snow field to my left was littered with freshly fallen material. This was a reminder that nothing is stable in the high mountain passes, not even the mountains themselves. Bit by bit, stone by stone, they too are affected by the relentless pull of gravity until worn smooth and low. I continued my descent, even more rapid than before, arriving to the bowl where large boulders marked my exit to the open waterfalls, flowers, and trail back to valley below.

By | 2018-11-25T12:59:57+00:00 August 20th, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on Where the world makes sense

The senses of wilderness, a photo essay

Copper Basin, Washington Cascades, by Colleen Cooley

Field of Green, Washington Cascades, by Kai Staats Sound
In the wilderness, all sounds are welcomed. The wind provides clues to its direction and magnitude; thunder direct indication of an approaching storm. The breaking of branches notifies us of an approaching deer. The shrill call of a marmot—an alert of our own approach or that of a bear. Even the buzz of the mosquito and fly are warnings of their impending bite. All sounds are welcomed. Not a single one do we filter or hope that it will subside. Every night camped with the backdrop of a creek is a night spent in deep sleep.

Returned to the world of human creation, my senses are overwhelmed. Moving over concrete and pavement when my body aches for the sensation of the trail beneath my feet. No longer do I adjust my center of gravity for each footfall, a kind of walking dance with an earthen partner. Rather, I simply fall forward, step by step in an disengaged slumber. I am reminded how the world we occupy was forged in an effort to reduce the effort required to conduct even the most basic of tasks.

Berry, Washington Cascades by Kai Staats Taste
Soft, warm huckleberries suspended within reach of passing hikers. More than anyone could count let alone consume. Bright blue Oregon grapes at foot provide a bitter balance to the consistently sweet thimble berries whose textured red cap is readily transported from stalk to lips with but a pinch. Elderberries are prevalent but desire to be consumed as wine, not in raw form. Salmon berries. Raspberries. Clusters of bright orange fruit suspended from thin fingers of mountain ash.

Crystal clear, crisp streams continue the downward fall from cloud to snowfield and glacier to kettle pond and river. With and without filtration, these molecules have flavor, a reminder that water in and of itself can be enjoyed.

Raman noodles, rice, and rehydrated vegetables are cherished as though served by a world renowned chef in a top ranked restaurant. Even the simplest of flavors come to life when days are measured not by hours on a watch, but by miles on the trail and having reached once distant peaks.

Colleen and Kai, Washington Cascades by Kai Staats Physical
It is a mistake to say that “touch” is a sense, for it is not what we reach out and grab, rather what reaches out and grabs us that brings us into the physical world. When we remove the comfort of our climate controlled home and step out into the unsafe domain beyond, it is only the metabolic processes of our cellular respiration that keeps us from freezing, overheating, or succumbing to the temptation of a storm.

Strip off our clothes, remove our steel shanked boots, unfurl the locks of unkept hair and dip into the cool, silky water of glacial run-off, turquoise as seen from afar. In shallow, still pools it is warmed by the sun. The slick mud moves between toes with so little friction that one is likely to slide from bank to center of pond, having no choice but to fully immerse and swim back to shore, grabbing grasses and shrubs by their roots to rise up and place bare bottom back on land.

This is the physical engagement, the realization that we are nothing without our gear. We are just another naked animal enjoying the movement of ice over stone, melt over land, and sun over water.

Deer, Washington Cascades, by Colleen Cooley Sight
My eyes that find burden in seeing just a meter to my front after days peering at a computer screen once again find a more dynamic range of motion and visual depth. Colors well beyond the range of 16-bit overwhelm my senses and remind me that our experience of this world will never be matched by a digital facsimile.

Mists at dawn linger over dark forest cover. Whales mingle in shallow waters close to shore. Water falls from high nooks, cascading into perpetually turbulent pools. Eagles rest on bare branches back from tidal shores, patient for the next time the water recedes and food is exposed. Mountain ridge after ridge recede into the distance, each a shade of gray and purple combined. Growing flames of Cascade fires cover the valley floor with what could at first be mistaken for ladened clouds lying too low.

Our breath is caught in that place where emotion is held, pulling at a sense of longing, a blend of pain and joy expressed as tears. The complex dance of photons upon retina invokes memories carried from long before our childhood.

Smoke filled valley, Washington Cascades, by Kai Staats Smell
Pine needles both dry and moist carry a distinctive aroma immediately recognized as one marches up trail. From sun baked, earthen footpaths covered in crumbled remains of the pine’s lost luster to shaded, packed layers of fallen debris so thick as to invoke the sensation that the earth itself is a trampoline. And with a gust of wind chemical compounds are released, wafting up into the currents and eddies only to be inhaled as a memory of another times when I explored, rested, or made love beneath pine trees.

By | 2018-12-01T11:56:18+00:00 August 17th, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on The senses of wilderness, a photo essay

The return

How does one return from a place that feels right, to a world in which so little makes sense?

How does one move from the lichens and moss underfoot to the lifeless barrier of concrete?

How does one block, filter, and shut-out the city when the sounds of the wilderness are all wanting to be heard?

This transition, this return to the complex, human-crafted world is not easy when the one at the end of the lake and up, into the mountains is what feels natural and life giving.

By | 2018-08-28T11:54:25+00:00 August 17th, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on The return

Lemmon Aid

It had been twenty some years since I ventured to the top of Mt. Lemmon, just to the North of Tucson, Arizona. Not a difficult venture at all, but one that has been too far off my path of travel to make worth while. As I was at the Biosphere yesterday afternoon with my colleague Don Boonstra, and the thought of returning to the heat of Phoenix too much to bear, I drove up Catalina Canyon, just as the sun set, and turned into a campground whose name I now forget.

I didn’t have any cash, and as such could not complete the self-registration form for a site. Instead, I drove to the farthest end of the campground, the sites numbered over 60. There I found a parking lot at the trail head to a lake. It was empty other than an SUV which parked long enough for the drive and passenger to venture to the lake for a skinny dip (or so I presumed, given the laughter and breathless giggles as they returned … of course, there are other things they could have done, but they weren’t gone very long.)

I pulled in backward so as to orient my car to slope from head to foot, with me laying in the back. I left the windows part way down and enjoyed the cold, pine ladened night air. Only for the image of waking to a bear tugging on the bottom of my blanket (and toes) did I not leave the back of my Subaru Forester open.

I set the alarm for 5 am so as to leave the park without being asked to pay. I know, not a good standard, but it has been many years, more than a decade since I slept-n-ran at a National Forest campground. And given that my phone had died, the time slewed, and my 5 am alarm woke me at what I later realized was 3:30 am, I didn’t feel too bad. (Yes, it occurred to me that the sun should have been up, not a star in the sky, yet I didn’t put all the pieces together until later …)

I enjoyed four, maybe four and a half hours of sleep before driving the last half hour to the top of the mountain. I drove through Summitville, and explored a trail head on the far side. Back to a turn-out that looked over the Eastern side of Mt. Lemmon and the Oracle Control Road.

Wrapped in a blanket, the calming sound of pine trees moved by a constant breeze, I intentionally missed the sunrise by my eyes, but enjoyed its warm greeting on my face.

Despite the early rise, shuffle, and sleep spent in two beds, by 7:30 am I had slept better than I had in weeks. I woke to a breakfast of yogurt and a bagel, then went to use the National Park Service restroom. To my surprise, a bird was flitting from one side to the other while I was inside, just over my head. It was unable to get out while the door was shut. I opened the door, and it immediately departed.

Then something caught my eye. Its nest was made on the corner of the interior window sill. As an NPR story I had listened to the day before shared the results of researchers moving bird nests to see if they would be discovered again resulted in a positive pattern, I thought it would be best to move the nest just outside the door, less than a meter away.

However, upon carefully lowering the nest into the palm of my hand, I discovered four sleeping chicks, incredibly small, fuzzy, and not even disturbed by the motion. Only when I made too abrupt a move did they stir, lift their heads, and open their beaks. I photographed them, then returned the next to its original location.

I returned to my car to make a sign to hang on the wall, to ask patrons of this facility to NOT close the door so that the mother can come and go. Upon re-entering the restroom, the mother bird had returned to the nest. That’s good.

I attempted to make my way down the backside of Mt. Lemmon, on Old Mt. Lemmon Road. While I had done so easily in a low-clearance Subaru hatchback many years before, my Forester struggled to find angles of approach that did not expose its underbelly to sharp rocks and small boulders that now stood out in this clearly unmaintained road.

With a conference call looming, I had no choice but to turn around and head back up the seemingly one-way road, back onto the pavement, and home.

By | 2018-11-24T00:47:03+00:00 July 1st, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on Lemmon Aid

Dunes

White Sands dune by Kai Staats

Here I lay. My feet, ankles and shins were buried in the cool, moist gypsum, my head was covered in a light hood, the wind blown sand collecting down wind from my nose and eyes. I fell to sleep on the side of a sand dune.

It was one of those deep naps that rejuvenate in a way that feels more important than a full night’s rest. I woke to my water bottle half buried, additional particles of sand collecting as I watched. Roughly one millimeter per minute, it seemed. At this rate, six centimeters in an hour. My rudimentary calculation suggests that one meter of sand could shift in a day, but this seems too high. Even at one tenth that rate, the movement of these dunes is rapid in geological time frames.

A waitress at a restaurant in Alamogordo stated stated that in her twenty years of living here, the dunes have crossed roads that were not even in close proximity before. Blowing, shifting, burying and revealing again. I wonderer how long I would need lie there before like the road, I became something people once recalled but could no longer find.

Somewhere, over there (pointing with one hand outstretched, the other shading the eyes) … there was a Kai. They say he fell to sleep and, well, the dunes just went right over him. Guess he’s still in there, somewhere. I hear it’s cool inside a dune, so maybe he’s alright.

This is my third week in a row spent in and out of National Parks and Monuments of the American Southwest. I am feel privileged to have these opportunities: Chaco Canyon National Monument and Canyon Lands National Park with Colleen, now White Sands National Monument. Here I am shooting footage for a series of promotional and educational films for Mission Control Space Services, a Canadian company testing their software on two rovers in this park for three weeks.

Inside these parks is a sense of endless space, horizon to horizon vistas and room for all who enter. Yet, in reality, these parks are minute in comparison to the land once occupied by the Natives to these regions. I can’t help but feel a simultaneous desire to explore from end to end and an urge to shed tears, knowing there are ranches, oil rigs, mining operations, interstates, and cities nearby. I feel a sense of longing for something that is not entirely gone. Not yet.

In a dinner conversation with the software developers of Mission Control I raised a discussion about preservation of wilderness. I have opened this discussion a number of times in the past, often in mixed social settings knowing that some or all of the participants might not feel as I do about this subject.

The conversation was stimulating, each of us providing a different point of view. Kevin stated clearly that he was born, raised, and now lives in a city. “I go camping every summer. I hate it. Mosquitoes in my ears! Bugs! I just want to get back to Ontario.”

I responded, “I understand that if you didn’t grow up in the out-of-doors, if you were not given that sense of comfort at an early age, it might be difficult to make that connection.” I then countered my own statement by sharing how people who float the Colorado river sometimes find it impossible to go back again. There are a number of stories of individuals, some whom I have met, who quit their East coast job, sell their house, and move west simply because something inside of them was given a sense of home.

Kaizad responded that our detachment to the wilderness and overt displacement of the natural areas as lead to what very well may be irreversible collapse of parts of the ecosystem. I mentioned the loss of some 80% of honey bees in less than two decades.

Kevin retorted, “Who cares! We can build drones that will pollinate the flowers or just 3D print our food!” Everyone laughed, but me. “That is the very approach that got us in this mess to begin with, to believe that the entire world is our domain to control. We are an integral part of a system, not an outsider reaching in,” I suggested.

I thought I’d try a new approach and mentioned research that shows a strong connection between attention deficit disorders and lack of time outdoors. “In my recent backpacking trip with Colleen we spent three days in Canyon Lands. As the trails are well marked and frequently signed, it was easy to gage distances from junction to junction. I could not help but recognize the stark contrast between walking a half mile in a city and a half mile out there. In a city, very little would engage me. Very little would draw me in. Concrete. Bricks. Glass. The roar of traffic, sirens, traffic lights. None of it helps me to feel welcomed. I can’t wait to get inside and away from it all.

Yet on the trail, one could easily spend an entire day exploring that same distance, measured not in city blocks but in the aromas of creosote, mesquite, and sage, the tracks left by mice, hare, fox, coyote, and mountain lion. Juniper twist as they rise while pinion slump to the canyon floor. Several edible plants provide a snack for those who know, and pockets of water refill bottles if you carry a filter or make a still.

In response Ewan listed all the activities available to those who live in Toronto, in town or an hour outside. True, Toronto provides a plethora of activities, but I could not help but note that each he listed was something you did to the environment, a kind of traverse for speed or distance: running, skiing, ice skating, horse back riding. What I was speaking of was letting the environment do something to you.

Inside, I started to feel trapped. Not by this conversation, but by the reminder that the preservation of wilderness is a loosing battle. Developers have ultimate power in their deep pockets and promise of jobs and increased tax revenues for a town or city.

Clearly, our acting president sees the preservation of land, open space, and natural corridors as a resource lost, not a resource gained. And as Edward Abbey lived, we must fight in defense of the land because it cannot defend itself from the chainsaw, bulldozer, and selfish politician.

I read in a recent New Scientist that the year 2017 marked the first time in recorded history that more open land was gained than lost. Climate change has forced many farmers to abandon their land. Advances in yield has afforded higher profit from smaller farms. And some willingly designated their land as open space, donating or selling part or all to nature conservancies for future generations.

Maybe there is hope. Maybe we will learn from our mistakes. Not a lot of examples of humans doing so, but perhaps the land will in fact fight back, in its own, subtle way–no longer providing for us as we see fit.

By | 2018-03-15T15:48:15+00:00 March 15th, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on Dunes

What I Learned from the Road V

This week my film LIGO Detection took second place at the Raw Science Film Festival, in the category of Professional Documentaries. It was a truly enjoyable experience, a show well run.

After two days with my family friend and mentor Carl Berglund in Pasadena, the rains came and the road I had traveled from Santa Barbara to Pasadena was closed. People lost their lives to the fire, and then the mud slides that came with the rain. It seems so much is happening on such a frequent, large scale. Sometimes it feels as though we are living in the doomsday science fiction movies I watched at a teenager. Do zombies come next?

Tuesday night I arrived to a cool, wet Joshua Tree National Park. I slept in the passenger seat of my car, sharing a camping spot with a former stranger as we almost always do this time of year, This park is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in North America, the camping spots doubled-up November through March. But climbers are generous that way, sharing space, food, a campfire and stories.

For five days I enjoyed the frigid nights, cool mornings, and warm afternoons. The rapid change of temperature reminds one of how a desert is intended to feel, the heat of the day rapidly giving way to the chill of the night once the sun has set.

It was a time for climbing, running, writing, cooking, living out-of-doors, and spending time with new friends. It was a time of renewed focus and reduced anxiety, a time for living simply, or perhaps, simply living.

By | 2018-02-05T04:55:29+00:00 January 17th, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on What I Learned from the Road V

Counting Raindrops in Pasadena

Following years of drought, months of fires, and weeks of hope for rain, it finally came.

The fine black dust that covers the rooftops, the hand rails, the pool decking, and the leaves of the trees is finally washed clean. Every drop is welcomed, every cloud asked to linger unrestrained. In the high density living of this LA suburb, the rain has the same affect as it did in Tokyo ten years ago—the air cools, the aromas are enhanced, and the blankets are brought out from storage to provide warmth and comfort against the welcomed chill.

By | 2018-01-09T03:24:22+00:00 January 9th, 2018|From the Road|Comments Off on Counting Raindrops in Pasadena