Tuesday, May 7, 2013

BQ1 – Bear's Quest

The miles seem to click off as I round the corners on Hwy 202. Today is the 5th day of my Cycle commute and the ride seems to be easier with my new touring bike. I lay into the peddles over the small rising hill, only having to click down one sprocket. At the end of the day, I will have put in 230 miles this week (48-52 miles per day). Gaining ever closer to the end goal of 1000 miles over the Month of May. It is the Cycle Commute Month, sponsored by Group Health and Cascade Bicycle Club. Last year I made 750 miles.

But there is another reason that I am doing this. I many ways, this is a 30 day Challenge to myself that goes hand-in-hand with “Bear's Quest” for a Sober life. In the last year I have noted that alcohol has began to consume many parts of my life. Using it as a way to channel the way I felt from a sense of loss that had always been there. I would crawl into the bottle, leaving what I thought my were my troubles behind. Over the long road, they only have gotten worse. Loosing connections with people, failing relationships and overall decline of my standards of living.

The reality call was a DUI, that canceled my Alaska Trip/Job. An action that I truly regret placing myself in and those that I may have injured and affected in life. Now bounded to not drive for 90 days or more, I have chosen to focus on a human-powered lifestyle and rebirth of my spirit. I owe a debt to society for my choices and I am grateful that this wake-up call has occurred. In the end, I wear a amulet of Thunderbird carrying Whale to his new ocean as a daily reminder of promises made. So peddle I go...

From the dawn of the sun across the valley floor, to the jeweled lights of stars on my commute back. Each mile seems to make the soul settle more into the journey ahead. Yet one days light is not the last, there are many more to come, yet each to cherish.  In this case I will focus my time on Bear's Quest for recovery via cycling.. Seems to best way to change my stars, by being inspired by landscape, movement and reflection...

– Ridgewalker

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

AKV 1 - Call to Alaska

For the last few years, since leaving New Zealand I have lived in among the Rain Forest and Sounds of the Pacific Northwest. Done my best to make a life of it, worked the ski slopes, the waters as an instructor and outfitted many who headed off on distant adventures. I tried to lay down my wanderlust and find me a lass to settle down with. I worked the Tree Farm of my professors, and even made peace with my mother. But all along, something didn't seem right, something missing. Driving me more and more towards a crazy edge. Locked in the civilized world of fear and responsibility, I paced back and forth like a rat, tending my field and working the familure trails.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated -- so:
"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges --
"Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and wating for you. Go!"

The haunting words of Kippling that I once read over the kitchen at Camp Parsons Lodge. The words that had always sat deeply seeded within. Driving me through years of staff, following me along the Cascade Crest, and then to distant shores of the South Island. Here as I tried to make what all others seem to strive for work... The words spoke again, reminding me what I had seen before...

I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by 'em;
I remember seeing faces, hearing voices, through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy -- for I threw a stone to try 'em.
"Something lost behind the Ranges" was the only word they spoke.

As time drew on, I became more and more distant. Unfullfilled by what the grounds from the Cascades to the Puget Sound had to bring me. Somehow I knew where this voice was leading me. Summers spent along Coastal fiordlands and Yukon tundra. A vitality that one cannot purely explain with words or picture, but can only be gained by sitting before it and breathing it in. So with a snap decision, I decide to make my way north, proded on by the weight of a heavy heart.

But at last the country altered -- White Man's country past disputing --
Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind --
There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting.
Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.

Now that transition begins, as days come closer and closer. Snow still grips the Port that the next 6 months will be my home. I plan to bike, paddle and scramble the lands that surround. Gather myself for the coming journey and the cycle ride back down. But deep within, as I say my goodbyes, and will be back again, somehow I know that I will only then be passing by. For this life I have lived has not bore any fruit that I have not turned cold and the trail calls my back again. And the road as I have learned keeps going without end.

I do not know where my feet lead me, or when my travels will end this time. But I know that my life is best lived simple and in motion driven my by own energy within. I know that when I come to rest once again, I will find myself older and hopefully wiser, maybe even at peace within... For now Alaska calls, a place that has always lured me time and again...

Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget -- (barring samples)? No, not I!
Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn't understand it. You go up and occupy.

-- Words from The Explorer by Rudyard Kippling (as written above Meany Lodge, Camp Parsons)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Responce To A Friend's Email

What forces are at the core of a mountain addiction?

It starts with that first time that you reach the base of their slopes... Gazing up it seems an impossible distance to climb, reaching into the clouds that guard the heavens you once reached out for as a boy. Then you begin your ascent working and cranking through the lower growths, crossing creeks and stream. Each muscle feeling it's strain as it is stretched and worked into new form, like metal against Gimil's hammer. Soon you are tuned and your pace quickens.

Flow of the Mountain world works from lower mixed forest to hemlock stands and clearing to the gnarled alpine scrub, clinging on against the torrent of passing winds and rain. Bare rock stands witness before the lacing snows like fingers grasp you up ever climbing chutes. Hiking becomes a full body battle with the spirits that lay there. Whips of the heavens speed past as you ever climb higher. Snow become rock and boot and hand meld to them like they were always meant to climb higher... 

Soon the bottom disappears into a great void of exposure for the first time. Looking back, you feel a surging within the heart. You question not how you will descend, only that forward is where some seed inside is commanding you onward to go. Scrambling over rock and tarn, you make the exposed rock ridgeline. There like following a razors edge, an abyss descending on both sides, the staircase of granite boulders only gives you one option. Ascendance!

Soon, you reach the head wall of the great cloud bank. Winds kick up at this boundary edge, and your jacket is flapping about your arms and chest. yet in minutes you charge above it, with clouds moving so quickly, blue begins to pierce though and make up the whole of the great horizons... 

Clinging on to Black Twisted rock of, you gaze out to see towers rising from this great sea. Below as the sun begins to set, you know are the great huddled masses, moving from one place to the next, working circles again and again until they cannot see out of the trench they have etched. Yet you are among the great towers reaching up pointed towards the heavens. Catching that last fading light which few see, the electric rose of the Alpenglow with snowbanners trailing. Silence but the of the soul reached within, only the high whistle of the wind around your jacket hood.

And there on the horizon, another lures you in, with untold beauty of form and route. You wonder deep inside what this view looks like from her slopes. And there she has you, like an ice cold siren... And you know that there is nothing to stop this now, while a low voice echos solemn words

Something hidden.  Go and find it.  Go and look behind the Ranges--
Something lost behind the Ranges.  Lost and waiting for you.  Go!

-- Ridgewalker

Sunday, August 26, 2012

PNW 2 - Glacier Peak Wild - High Pass Traverse

Short Info

Hikers - Ladybird & Ridgewalker
6 days, 63 miles (1/2 RTM Route of Glacier Peak)
2 Wilderness, 2 National Forests
(Glacier Peak Wild, Henry M. Jackson Wild)
(Mt Baker-Snoqualmie NF, Wenatchee NF)

Full Trip Narrative
Wilderness is a beautiful thing... It is like that secret lover that sits in the back of your thoughts always luring you in.... Once tempted by this siren, hearing her sweet melody played out along the high ridgelines, you feel compelled to follow lost trails deeper into her realm... 

What began as a 3 day trip up into the Glacier Peak Wild then to return to Kayak the Sound, turned into an epic 6 day, cross-country/overgrown route. With initial hopes of completing the RTM (Round-the-Mountain) Path of this wild Volcano at 110 miles. We kept on track, with only cut up legs, dislocated knee and a scaled foot keeping us from completing our charge. Even at the moment of decision to exit the route, the siren's call was hard to resist... For now this rest of this route still remains in the column of "unfinished business".

Through the range, the mountaineering skills, route-finding skills, river-fording skills and first aid skills all came into play. I would call this section of Glacier Peak Wild, "The land of Forgotten Trails". What really amounted to Mountaineering boot-paths accessing Traverses and High Routes, leading our eyes up towards rock and ice routes. Each day picking through lines off possible discovery for future trips when we had rope, crampons and axe. Wandering the large U shaped glacial valley of Napeequa, where very few souls descend it's steep slopes to enjoy lush meadows. 

Our only encounters with others in this place was a party of 3 mountaineers, who walked around us, eyeing our UL packs in bewilderment, searching for our Axe and Traction for the coming glacier crossing. Plugging us for info (beta) on the route we had traveled, and rattling off a healthy list of High Routes that surrounded us. In essence, schooling us about the land before we were crossing... For Ladybird and I, this was exactly what we were looking for out of this trip. A taste of a corner of this Remote North Cascades Wilderness...

Day 1 - N Fork Sauk to Mackinaw Shelter (8 mi)

Leaving our car from N Fork Trailhead at around 4pm, I found my thru-hiker legs right were I left them, on the trail. Powering through ancient groves of Cedar and Hemlock, rounding valley floor bends through miles at a good solid 3 mph pace. Fading light of day, bring darkness to the moss covered floor we arrived at Mackinaw shelter to make first camp. An old shell of a building there is a haunted sense to this forest that brought thoughts of other travelers who had past this way towards the coming highcountry meadows. Feeling good of our 2.5 hr progress up the valley, it was here that the RTM Route began to be seriously discussed as a possible choice for this week of travel. Miles were added up, routes choosen and rationing of our 3-4 days of food for a 6-7 day journey began.

Day 2 - Mackinaw Shelter to Thunder Cr Camp/White River Route (15 mi)

Morning found us refreshed and ready to stomp... After coffee, we were soon ascending the switchbacks out of the N Fork Sauk towards the Pacific Crest Trail Jct on the Alpine Mdws above us. With each switchback the variety of Alpine flora began to define themselves. From the early whites of Pearly-Everlasting, to deep reds of Indian Paintbrush, to finally the vibrant indigo of high alpine Lupine. At the Jct of the PCT at White Pass (a place both of us had visited on our thru-hikes), the decision to go clockwise on the Crest or challenge ourselves with the hardest section first came to question. For our part, the Crest Trail was know territory, so we decided to make for the "unknown route first"... 

Wandering through glorious miles of Alpine Meadow below the view of Glacier, Ten Peak Ridge and Indian Head we came to the trail jct at White Pass. It was decided, that rather then continuing to head down to Indian Pass and the horse-trail there we would take a look into the White River Valley and see what the trail there had to offer. We believed it worth the extra 6 miles shaved off our journey to be worth a little brush... We looked so happy at that junction, completely oblivious to the hard fought reality of our chosen course. As a warning, within 100 feet we lost the trail... Should have realize this and returned... But instead, route-finding skills in play we found what amounted to a series of game paths from meadow to water down the side of this slope till the first ford of the White.

Form here, I could detail each hard fought mile... But needless to say, it can be explained with the need to keep going forward regardless of the fact that we could not find the trail through slide alder tunnels, twisted log blow-downs, repeated river fords, leg-ripping thickets, and bewildering disorienting fire scars... Recently, I picked up a Rating Guide to Brushwacking. This route would rate somewhere between a BA3 (chainsaw) and BA4 (agent orange) level... If only we had atleast brought the BA1 (machete), that might have kept the moment of the full round the mountain...

By the end of the day, we came to Thunder Cr Camp. Ladybird, had made a slight dislocation of the knee, that would grow in the days to come and I had a brused calf from falling from a log. Our legs had been cut to shreds, and blood trailed from each like they had been attacked with a cheese grader. Later I would add a scaled right foot to the list of injuries as the pot of boiling tea water feel from my hand. But, both in high Spirits at the adventure we had found, with views abounding we decided to press on with the RTM.

Day 3 Thunder Cr Camp - Napeequa River Camp (15 mi)

Morning arose and roused us out of camp, with 3 miles left of the White River Route, we pushed our way though thickets again. But soon, we meet the Boulder Pass Trail Jct. Here the trail revived itself back into a High Hunt Horse Route, with easy traversing grade to ascend without need to thrash ourselves. At the jct, the fabled PCT Detour Signs pointed the route directly into the tree... Ladybird and I hypothesis that it we ran at the tree, like a page from Harry Potter we would emerge at the Jct of the PCT at Miner's Creek... Ahhh! If that were only the case. 

Ascention of Boulder Pass was a relief, and soon we gained views out towards Davis Peak, Saul Mtn and Cirque of Three Towers above us. Alpine Meadows graced themselves again, going through the White-Red-Purple alternations of elevation gained. New towards the top were the Positilla (Western Anemone), what I called the Tina Turner Plant with it's mop-top seedlings. There were a few places where the peaks that lay before me seemed familure, realizing that after years of studying Vol 2 of the Cascade Alpine Guide (by Fred Beckey), I had seen these mtns cast in B&W with route-lines erupting from there base. Yet the grand view was yet to come.

From the crest of Boulder Pass, the full view of the tight glacier valley of Napeequa lay before us. It is hard to completely describe this place. A drop of 3000' below, a long meadow with a meandering glacial-fed river, complete with braided channels and till sandbars emerged. All attempts at capturing this scene with photo failed to give the sense of depth that was before us. Across the valley Napeequa Wall glistened with the days light, hints of mica and schist capturing and refracting back gave a dazzling sense. North the valley wove up towards hanging glaciers and ice-caped peaks. It was a PNW Shangarla...

With swirling switchbacks descending from the pass, near overlapping to a prominent meadow, we felt confident about our path of descent. Yet arriving at a Horse camp below the pass, the injuries of the day before began to weave there pain. Ladybird's knee showed bruising and my foot began to swell in my boot. Loosing the trail to brush soon after the horse camp, we descended towards the Napeequa on undulating veggie clogged trail-tread. We made the valley floor, a little destroyed, but pushed on through the meadows and slide alders to set up for our next days ascent of High Pass. Yet the miles made up this valley were all in awe, with passing of two towering cascades from hanging glacial valleys above.

Day 4 - Napeequa River Camp - Buck Cr/Chiwawa R. Camp (15 mi)

A chill kept us bundled up that night. Winds out of the high glacial cirques blew down the valley, bringing a touch of frost to our sleep. Morning was late as we waited for the sun to arc over the high vaulted walls. Realizing that our journey was a day behind our projected destination, our primary focus was to make it over High Pass to Buck Cr Pass. Our route info was scattered, from passing info I remembered from hikers years before and brief lines from Beckey's commentary of this region. We left camp, with only a hit of a route before us...

With in minutes we were again off trail and pushing through a sea of slide alders... Knowing UP was our direction, we decided to follow the tunnels created by water paths through the brush. With many climbing moves as the path steepened, and heavy use of veggie belays, we pushed up 1500' vertical feet in 2 hrs.. Hard fought, but well worth it, we emerged a little higher then we expected and had to weave our way down to the snow-fields below. 

Once out the valley ascending to High Pass was before us. Towers lined the side, each holding rivers of ice. The feel of remoteness abounded, and we hopped from snow-field to rock ribbons. Direct lines of ascent keep us climbing, with the marmot's whistle greeting us at each turn. Funneling us up through rock bands and cascading waters we found the final bench of High Pass. Here Rock and Ice was all that abounded, having left the realm of green far below. Bundling against cold and wind, sat pondering which of the three "doors" through the rocky crown was our pass. Having convinced ourselves it was the one to the right, we began ascent only to see a trio of climbers emerge to the left... 

Changing course we traversed three snow-fields and meet up with this band of Mountaineers. Jovially they greeted us atop High Pass. Each equipped with Ice Axe, Crampons and Helmet, they rounded us and eyed our packs for what we had for the coming descent. One named, "Big Steve", began to as I said before school us on the myriad of High Routes. His excitement was infectious, and we caught the bug. Soon maps were out, and fingers pointing, weaving through the peaks, and glaciers that lay before us. We would have spent all day there plugging him for more tales of high routes, but the rest of his party getting cold decided to push on, leaving him trailing to catch up. 

Looking forward we saw our "crux move" of the trip. A 60 degree slope of snow, with a 500' run-out far below leading to the ice-choked Triad Lk 1000' below. The party before had left a step-kicked path across the 100' ft exposure. But without Ice-axe or microspikes, the crossing was unnerving. Remaining focused placing one-sure-step after another, the crossing was made. At one moment I had slipped, but a sure pole placement kept me from the rock-bounding doom that would follow below. A vitality is felt in such moments, making the crux movement across alpine paths. Watching Ladybird follow with the confidence of a NOLS Instructor, I knew I was in good company. We took in the crossing, then made our way through the rest of the pass down to the meadows at Buck Creek.

Taking in all that had happened the last 4 days, we struggled with the decision to pack-out, leaving the RTM Route behind. In reality, we had passed through what we sought to see, and all that lay before us was know trail from year before. But still the allure of those wild trails can even sometimes make you forget the pain you are in... In the end, we decided to make our way down Buck Cr and the coming hitch and hike up and over back to N Fork Sauk TH. 

We pushed far that night to stage ourselves for the upcoming transit. Figuring a two day hitch, we rested 1.5 miles from Trinity TH at the end of Chiwawa Rd. Sleep came quickly that evening, tired and spent...

Day 5 - Buck Cr/Chiwawa R. Camp to Sloan/Cadet Cr Camp (14 mi)

Morning brought luke-warm coffee due to the failing Iso-Pro canister. Note to self... bring two, or just plan for seven days in the first place... We pounded out the last 1.5 miles and watch our 1st possible hitch drive out of the parking lot. It would be 2.5 hrs of road walking and 5 miles walked down the Chiwawa Rd before we finally found a driver heading our way. The first hitch was Yoko and her lab Maya. Having just completed the Spider Mdws - Lyman Lks Traverse, this hiker gave us our longest ride. Covering the distance over Stevens Pass to Skykomish and the end of paved road up the Beckler River. Being a fellow hiker, the ride was a constant trade of hikes and alpine routes, giving each "best of" lists and choice backcountry meals... 

She dropped us off on a little dusty road, headed towards the N Fork Skykomish River. We had decided on this route, as to make the full hitch around would leave us in the realm of the suburbs, were every thru-hikers know is the "Black Hole of Hitches". So we again needed to with hobbling legs make our way across yet another Wilderness, this time the Henry M. Jackson. To our surprise, it was not but 4 mins before we were in the back of a pick-up truck of loggers, speeding up towards Beckler Pass. Peaks sailed past us as we talked about all that had happened, enjoying the lure to return to explore the peaks passed. 

At Beckler Pass, it was like a relay hand off of Hitches, from one to another. This time a local with two Greyhounds named Harley and Echo. Watching there excitement as we neared our destination, charged us and as we two desired to get back into those highcountry Meadows.
The drop off was quick and we again were on trail. 

Following Quartz Creek trail up towards Curry Gap, we passed through an old growth valley of tall cedars and glowing moss. Creeks fell in cascades into emerald pools just trailside. Fern grottoes graced the path, and soon a meadow below the ice capped Kyes Mtn emerged. This was the back-side of the Monte Cristo Peaks, heart of the Henry M. Jackson Wild, and gateway to Bald Eagle and Cady Meadows. There was a special sense to that place as we rose towards the Gap. 

At the final meadow a lone tree of many arms held the junction signs, below N Fork Sauk TH and the end of journey. We lagged our pace and slowly enjoyed the towers of Cadet Pk and Sloan Mtn before us. A beautiful deep forest evening... 

Sauntering down the trail soon we left the wilderness unexpectedly, following a miners road turned loggers access. The evidence of past clearcuts were apparent and a shock to the system. At Sloan Creek we made camp, in a grove of ancient Cedars, but the echos of the saw still reverberated from the moving waters. A fire cooked our food and warmed us, seeming to bring a close to our circuit. 

Day 6 - Sloan/Cadet Cr Camp to N Fork Sauk TH (3 mi)

The rest of this road walk was spent recapping our journey. Already plans were being made for the next trip into the Cascades. While we did not complete the RTM Route of Glacier Peak, the spell of High Places has sparked a fire deep in our hearts. For when a journey comes to an en for a wilderness traveler, they know that they will return soon, for there very nature feels revitalized by the presence of these high places... 

For they are truly our home....

"When I look to these mountains, 
my eyes draw up to heaven, 
where the earth and the sky meet. 
My life it leads, is in between, 
with a spirit that guides me forward.
Humble eyes I look on to their beauty, 
Gifted as it seems with their presence,
Knowing the wisdom they hold..." 

-- Yamabushi Prayer

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

PS 1 - Solo Kayaking

Puget Sound -- Vashon Is Circumnavigation (53 miles)

A rhythm builds with each stroke... The blade enters the deep waters surface with ease, slicing the surface, just slightly tilted like a cupped hand of a swimmer. Catching the momentum of the passing water, it glides from the bow of my reach, to a beam of my midship. My body following with the flow of water almost braced against it in one spot, I face it till finally a release and a long gliding pause. The other blade comes down on the port side, and the pattern is repeated. There is a tempo to 4 knots. I seems to maintain it through a beat of an internal clock, with a 2 knot tide shutting me past the repeating points. This is one of the motions of a kayak passage. It fondly reminds me of the rhythm of hiking 3 miles per hour over the contours of the Pacific Mountain Ranges. It reminds me of that internal beat one hears on a long trip.

Lately, I have been taking to solo paddling... This has come after paddling with co-workers, instructors, peers and friends. Somehow there is a peace and gratification to the solo paddle, one which grows with each trip. I came into paddling with one main long goal, to return to Alaska. But through it recently, after facing judgement and competition from my working peers, personalities and expectation of the normal crew, there is a peace to just going it alone. One is faced with the elements as they stand, which one's own mind seem to be alone on the water with itself to tend with. This has became my mediation, this has become a refuge. 

Each trip so far has been a surge of choice, Maury, Vashon and now my plans for Bainbridge Island. With nine totaling the challenge, it seems less about completing a list, but what each teaches me as I progress. The first was an out right challenge. Having only paddled 3-7 miles, the 20+ mile circumnav took me to another point. With a capsize in mid channel, and a confident re-entry, it paved the way to push on. The calm of Quatermaster Bay and the haul over the Portage back to the Sound, nothing could seem more natural... This was exactly what I needed to be doing.

Recently, at the end of two days with the crew, I took to the unfinished business of the main part of Vashon Island. Leaving Wingehaven Marine Camp, I headed south waving to my friends and determined to make the rounds about this island. Two points, keeping Three Tree to my port, I found myself at the same Portage that I had found myself a week before... Entering Quartermaster Bay, I made the rounds, with Jellyfish appearing with each stroke. Facing an opposing tide, and a little bit of the wind, the trek through Dockton faced a different character. But as I passed Pinner Point, I knew that I was out to round a new corner, with Gig Harbor in View. 

There is nothing more sobering then 3 foot high confused waves... Unlike 5 foot rollers with a regular period, it is more akind to riding a mechanical bull while having a few in you. In your mind, you keep saying to yourself... High Brace, loose hipflicks, low brace, paddle... This sequence keeps occurring in rapid succession, due to the successive sea walls. I think to my peers, that questioned my abilities, pushing me out and as I slowly rounded the point, I knew quite well, that experience is the best teacher... This was just good plain FUN!

At Dalco, I rounded and began to shuttle up the likes of Colvos Passage. Starting with 3 foot rollers, I gained the momentum I needed. After that is was a clear shot to Lisabeula Camp. Passing point, cape and coves, Raven, Eagle and Heron followed me. I saw Porpose and Seal along the way, making Bear's Passage a welcome one. Somehow, there alone in the channel, I was in the company of friends with these spirits. A inner charge seemed to grow in me, and a contentment that I have not felt since returning from New Zealand. This was my new way of Travels...

At Lisabeula, I pulled upon shore, a quiet camp, I watched as the sun lit up the sky in a brillance of sunset, and Mt Anderson rose from behind Olalla Bay, reminding me of distant Ice Caves once visited on her slopes. Heron entered my camp that night, as well as the curious Raven.. These were the friends a solo kayaker keeps... Watching there activities, I began to see a new perspective, that of life at Tide Line...

I awoke early the next day, desiring to find out what the Waters had to teach me.. Colvos Passage passed to quickly for my taste, and soon I was on the Sound making for Alki. My eyes lead north towards Bainbridge, but it was truely the distant Whidbey and the Archipelligo that traverses this wild coast that lured me. As I rounded there at Alki, I knew after 4 days I had found my home, there on the sea... Echos of Stan raced through my mind, and flashes of that passage north incited my mind. Here was my new trail, and I knew I had to prepare for what lay ahead... 

Somehow, all that has happened in the last year didn't seem to matter much, just that quiet rhythm of the paddle blade, and the long gaze north towards the horizon... Deep inside, my soul knows these adventures will be solo... But it does not matter much, as it seemed that I had returned home...

-- Ridgewalker

Sunday, September 12, 2010

BC 2 -- Road to Transition

BC 2 -- Road to Transition

The drive took me about 5 ½ hrs, weaving my way up along the Columbia River and then on to the Okanogan River. With each turn, new rock formations came out along the rivers edge. Exposed as it would seem by the relentless sawing action of these rivers. The Columbia makes it's turn as it flows around the edge of the Grand Ronde flood basalts. This great mass covers most of central Washington and makes it's mark. As the road weaves along the deep canyon formed by a crack in this rock shield, there is flood basalts on one side, and the core of a mirco-continent (aka. terrane) on the other. Here the sharp contrast of twisted and tortured rocks that have been slammed against the continent show through. Large dikes, pink and orange rock, layers that seem to fold on top of themselves, all with in the vantage of a passing truck bound for the north. Again and again, I stop to collect rocks and photos. Reminding myself that I will take the time to go and read through the Geologic Maps of this area and gain some insight into what I find just beyond the pavement.

I arrive in Omak, a place that spells of the American West with every painted sign and frontage building. Somehow the Wells Fargo Bank seems to be as I would have expected when it was a stage line to the Cariboo Gold Fields in the North. In the park besides the bank is a farmers market, where the local orchards and Indian farmers of the Colville Reservation show what is in harvest. There is nothing quiet like fresh veggies to stir fry and create with the accent of sesame or olive oil. I pick up a few peppers, onions, bok choy and carrots, knowing that soon I will have a garden to pick from full of every type of pepper and cucumber that one could dream of. This is one advantage of a farmer that has a passion for eating well. In the end, if you can cook, you will eat well too...

Back on the road and heading north, I make it to the Border. It is a curious thing, the closer you get to the 49th Parallel, the more desolate the towns seem. Here away from the hearts of Urban America, it seems that somehow we give up at times. Yet as I cross over into Canada, Oosyoos bounds with life as verdant as if I was in Wenatchee. This is Canada's warm vacation spot. If you think of the Snow Birds of Washington, this is where the Canadian version come to flock. Vineyards, lakeside condos, orchards and golf courses. In someways not what I typically look forward to when I vacation, but the lakes good veggies, local butchers and European bakeries. For one with a love of food there is much to be had here. The first thing to catch my eye is an Indian restaurant, with most of the signs reading Dahwahl and Punjab. This fact that such a high South Asian population living in this valley can only mean one thing... Authentic Indian Food! Remembering places other travelers have told me about, I began to understand the differences compared with the burger stand of Oroville, USA.

The CBC Radio speaks to me with that curious accent, something that I have never been able to quiet put my finger on. It is the classic rounded vowels that seem to give a warm tone to the announcers voice. A piece about the Haida Gwaii Culinary Co-Op, gives tales of pickers of chantrelles and shituki mushrooms on this rain-swept island. Pickers heading out to their favored spots, secret only to the knowledge passed down from generations of Haida Indians, who use this Hunter/Gatherer culture still as a way of life in the face of modernity. The local buyer talks of how they have been able to reach a fair price for their workers, and as all seasoned merchants, entices the listener with the sounds of recipes to saute, bake and craft a meal out of each of the varieties the find on their island. To me hearing stories like this from parts of the province brings me into the present of where I am. Somehow a new view from one held just a few hours earlier.

The rain begins to pour down as I round one out of Oliver. Working my way into the slow lane to allow the hectic busy people get home, I spot a hitch-hiker on the side of the road. Seeing the storm that is yet to come down the way through the valley, I pull off to get him out of the squall. It takes him a minute to realize that I pulled over and with a run, he jumps in to the car...

“Where you headed?”
“As far as you can take me...”
“Well I am off to Kelowna, will that take you closer?”
“I would have been good with anywhere out of this rain, but I am off to Kamloops to find something new. And so Kelowna will be great!”

I turn the heater on and offer him a towel, fighting to keep the windows from fogging up. Idol chat of the weather opens him up to tell me of a recent fight with his woman. Seeing that there was no resolution he decided to hitch back to his old home up North. I say little, but allow him to talk. He brings up that God always taught him never to let things get too bad before you make something new for yourself. Without close or bag, he decided to take to the road and see what he might be able to find. I find that his conversation bridges much to the struggles that he had been going through but a good sense of optimism is part of his tone.

We all have those moments, when things hit the breaking point. Whether we like it or not they are part of being human. Conflict seems to always stem from misunderstandings that plague our inability to really share what we feel. They also come from not accepting the world for what it is and fighting it on every front. It seemed as though he had come onto a little of both. Yet these were things that he knew, and seemed determined not to take him down. Talking of the need for Faith to guide him, he talked as we passed Pentictin and moved up along the shore road of Okanogan Lake. I thought to my own pass, when the load of the world came upon me so heavy, that to move on anywhere down the road seemed the best option to keep from exploding. I mentioned that each life has suffering, and to not accept that was a false view point. He agreed and soon talked about how he would change things with his woman.

Some how by the time we reached the Hostel at Kelowna, I thought he was in better spirits then when we had left Oliver. He hopped out and waved goodbye and soon was inside the Hostel's Lobby. Later that evening, a reading in my meditation devotional brought it home. It spoke about reverence and the power of potential. That it was the moment of choice when an ocean of ink sits on a brush. The paper below is still clean as when the page had been first turned. It was at that moment that we still the hand and take a moment to breath, reflect and clear one's thoughts. From there reverence springs, after which the brush begins to make forms with the drop and movement of the hand. But in that moment of transition, taking in the place that we are before beginning is a source of power and insight. So as I pulled into the driveway in Kelowna, I realized I had arrived for the next few weeks to a welcome experience.

Monday, September 6, 2010

WA Harvest 1 - Wenatchee Valley Dreams

There has always been this blurred memory qrunning through my mind that somehow fits now. When I was in high school, there was a deep sense within to roam. Setting out with tires along the highway, the groves in the pavement setting a beat pulling one forward. It was with those trips that I remember one of the first memories of the Wenatchee Valley. It was evening, and I was weaving myself down out of Blewett Pass. As I passed Ingalls Creek, I began to pass orchard after orchard. Trees extending up the hillside carpeting the valley in atheir foliage everending. As the sunset was setting the hillside aglow, I watched as silent figures walked with bag and ladder in hand, moving along the road back to home. Pilling into cars and following us on our journey east. Somehow, I always thought to myself what it must be to work among these trees all day, enclosed by their boughs and harvesting the fruits of a summers labor. It was my young romantic dream to travel and learn more of these people.

A French Canadian woman gave me the first taste of this life a few years ago. Myself, I remember that first orchard with love. Somehow my dreams and description of the pickets life always flow back to those days. An old Hungarian, riding his tractor from picker to picker. Talking politics, economics, and most important food. Wine seemed always to be on hand. And at the end of the day, we all came together and talked of our travels and where our next great leap would be. After this lt week, I have come to find this was indeed a special place and time. Yet the act of picking is indeed the same, with much of the same pleasures.

To reach up into the tree and a take hold of a pear is to make a connection with production and source. I feel part of the flow of food rather then just a rote consumer. To know where your food comes from, and to give it the care needed, is a special act of meditation. While picking all day the trees and rows blur. Bins fall unto bins, and soon, you just become one with the act. Like those silent wary figures that I seen years before, each evening comes with a sort of worn feel, yet it is different then those given from city work. To feel a sense of physical connection to what gives you your livelihood, there is a gratification in the fatigue of the arms and back. For these hands grasped... For these arm reached... For these legs supported... And these eyes did gaze over countless rows. It is enough to gain just a slice of the larger picture with each day... This is part of why I love picking fruit.

This year I have taken on another into the fields. Teaching her how to pick, carry her bag, set her ladder and work around the tree. She seems to have taken to it like I did my first time. At the end of the day craving once more to pick the fruit and be among the trees leafy arms. I believe that once a person gains knowledge, they must begin to give it away. Knowledge is someone not to be kept close and secret, but like good experiences shared with one another. Here was my opportunity to give back the gift that Line had given me two years ago. One of the secret joys of a Vagabond. To take the work and to become part of it, in that moment...

At the end of the day, the Bartlett Pears completed, we drive the long lines of orchards. looking at the pears and apples as the run by, calling them out and noting their ripeness, d'Anjous, Galas, Golden Delicious, Pink Ladys.... bins lining the rows, and finding the orchard owners. at each stop, we ask about his crop and when he thinks the next harvest will come. Each is like a proud father, nurturing their harvest, and speaking with pride of the size and color of his crop. In the end we wait, till later in the week when the rains and the sun will play their magic and bring the sugars to full richness in each pome... Then we will pick again... But for now, to enjoy a river afternoon of Wenatchee Valley Fall...

-- Ridgewalker