field report: grand city rapids

states, travel
Taken on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, circa 2005 during Allison and I's budding friendship.

Taken on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, circa 2005 during Allison and I’s budding friendship.

I am so excited to be heading to Wyoming and South Dakota with Alison Ginn, Recreation Manager for the Bureau of Land Management, to volunteer at an outdoor school kids camp, June 22nd-July 1st! There are sure to be lots of great photos and stories captured in this experience. For more on me and Allison check out In preparation for CA, Yosemite Fall 2013 Field Report: Fire on the mountain, and Familiar Rock.

 

river report: wildlife

oregon, outdoor, photo essay, states, sup touring

One of the best parts of paddle boarding is the great vantage point for snapping photos of wildlife.

graffiti

outdoor, states

I first heard of Cortez while poring over a World History, 5th Edition text book in Mrs. Dowell’s homeroom. The long list of previous student borrowers at the front of the volume explained the grafitti which filled the margins. Strewn across the bound paper, a complex network of geometric and comedic depictions, presumably of the borrowers immediate environment.

Although I made adding my own documentation a priority, I was not so distracted by this secondary task as to not notice the typical Anglo-saxson colonization themes in each paragraph: violence and securing of resources. Pictures of natives in elaborate ceremonial dress bowing and handing over gold to Caucasians in military garb reinforced my historical conclusions. I vaguely recall imagery implicating Cortez as a long lost God or leader thus locking in “divine leadership” as an addition to the “typical themes of the Anglo-saxson colonization”list.

Thirteen years later, while visiting El Paso as an Exploration Geologist on an ExxonMobil Amex fueled field trip, I’d forgotten all learned in Mrs. Dowells sixth grade class. I’d arranged to arrive early enough to visit the granite formations of Huaco Tanks on the outskirts of El Paso. Like so many before me, I was drawn to the long since weathered monolith. An igneous intrusion, the only rise on an expansive horizon for hundreds of miles in any direction. While my initial intent was to climb, to conqueror, I found that the simplicity of connecting with a culture 8,000 years my senior cultivated far greater satisfaction. It was here that I viewed my first petroglyph, red pigment carefully brushed atop the coarse canvas of rock, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent.

Archeologists believe that most of these markings were created by the Archaic Indians (6000 B.C.-400 A.D.) and the Mogollon (one of the 4 major SW tribal sects), Jordana branch (400 A.D. To 1400 A.D.). The simpler geometric patterns legacy of the former and the more complex such as masks (and Quetzalcoatl) left behind by the later. Increased intricacy in paintings is likely a result of a societal shifting to a mixed agricultural means of sustenance apposed to exclusively hunting and gathering.

My gaze locked over the ancient markings, my eyes tracing the outline of each curve. The hired guide told a story of a Mesoamerican deity who chose to live on the Earth among humans. According to Toltec teachings (predecessors to the Aztecs), he was the inventor of books and the calendar, the giver of maize, guardian of the morning sky, and even credited with creating present day humans. Tragically, after breaking a celibacy pledge he left the community by way of sea, promising to return in the year 1519. Coincidentally, this is the year Cortez made first contact with the Aztecs. We speculated as to weather the conquistador asserted his being the reincarnate Quetzalcoatl or the Aztecs presumed this as many christian/native legends and customs have been blurred since colonization began. Either way, literature describes the petroglyph as a “colonial helmet” which might suggest a connection.

When the discussion ceased, feeling there was much to contemplate, I retreated to a corner of the cave. Running my fingers over the enclosure surrounding me, I imagined a young artist looking at the same walls and seeing more than just rock. Conjuring a vision of a primitive brush and palate, I wondered what was in the artists heart when he poised to make his first stroke. Was it the same motivation which drove the graffiti in my history book? Did the artist combine adolescent monotony and depictions of immediate surroundings?

It is clear, individuals want to leave a mark, weather board in sixth grade history class, a power hungry spaniard, a philosophically complex civilized people,  or a thirty year old urban female nomad. Graffiti in all its forms is necessary and inevitable. Eight-thousand years from now, I wonder what future humans will gather from the drawings they find in the margins of fossilized text books…

Yosemite Fall 2013 Field Report: Fire on the mountain, rain in the clouds

commuting chronicles, photo essay, states

I’d been traveling for half a day by Amtrak, YARTS (Yosemite Area Rapid Transit Service), and foot from Sacramento, before I finally reached Yosemite via the West entrance at  13:00 hours on Tuesday, September 10th. By this time, although 80% contained, what was being called ‘The Rim Fire’ had burned over 250,000 acres making it the 3rd largest wildfire in Californian history. As a result, a closure on Tioga Pass (Hwy 120) from Crane Flat to White Wolf, prevented any through traffic from the Eastern Sierra’s to the Western Valleys. Like many others in the vicinity my journey to Yosemite Valley took numerous detours because of this closure. Allison and I, a college friend and federal lands employee, had started our 8.5 day tour in Sacramento, driven south to Kings Canyon, then Bakersfield, cut east, and then north to Bishop, Mammoth, and Tahoe, and finally, heading back into Sacramento via Truckee, completing a circle. Back at our arrival point, Allison departed to Wyoming by plane and I continued to the West entrance solo. To estimate how many individuals might have experienced similar detours, in summers passed, Yosemite visitor numbers have averaged 1 million for August and September combined. This estimate doesn’t even begin to account for employees who were evacuated, through traffic that doesn’t stop in the park, or the many dirt bag climbers who sneak into Yosemite annually because of the strictly enforced one-week-per-summer rule prohibiting lengthy stays.

Allison and I had a chance to visit with some individuals effected by The Rim Fire and associated closure of Tioga, folks who started out as strangers and quickly became friends through the shared experience of a Central California detour. We first encountered the rag-tag crew of 8-10 evacuees from Evergreen (a lodge just outside the west entrance Yosemite boundaries), in the Buttermilks, a crag near Bishop, CA. They had crammed into two cars when at a moments noticed they were directed to exit the park for an unknown and unpaid duration of time. Despite the hazard of unpredictable evacuations, the lodge still sounded like an interesting employment opportunity. Others I encountered in Tahoe had been preparing to hike the John Muir Trial and were anticipating what obstacles the inferno might have left behind, terrestrial and aerial. Finally, on the last stretch, now aboard Yosemite Area Rapid Transit Shuttle, my driver, who accessed the park daily through out the largest advancement of the fire, filled me in on ‘locals knowledge’. He explained how the inferno had ignited from an illegal camp fire a hunter lit in the back country. He also explained that he had been the only person to drive on Tiago pass since it’s closure to transport a government official and film crew. Apparently, the fire had spread up to the road as evidenced by severely charred and still smoldering debris blanketing the pavement and hillsides.

Surprisingly, the first signs of forest fire our road trip witnessed weren’t evident until a few miles from the East gate closure on Tioga pass at White Wolf. In Kings Canyon the rangers explained that, although less than 100 miles from Yosemite, air quality wasn’t noticeably effected by the Rim Fire due to wind direction and atmospheric signs of fire would be observable just north of the East gate. As these rangers estimated, baring the billowing smoke lining the horizon inside the East gate of the park, near Tuolumne Meadows, the first signs of air quality change were along scenic route 89, just shy of Tahoe.

Speculation and fact coalesced into a strong desire to see the park from inside the valley. Sitting on the bus, driving the final stretch of HWY 140, talk of what Yosemite looked like just before evacuations, the hype surrounding the closure, the haze that was building on the horizon as we drove due northwest, all danced like sugar plums in my head. I imagined the combination of low-lying valley geography, smoke settling from the fire, and world class glacially carved granite faces to be the makings of an amazing landscape photograph. I had two goals: 1. Obtain the most epic shot of the valley ever (accented by a shroud of smoke form The Rim Fire), 2. Secure a permit to hike half dome (18 miles round trip) to get additional shots. Half dome would be the ideal vantage point for photos because of the high perspective looking over White Wolf, the burn area. What I wasn’t thinking about, what I wasn’t considering, was the tent I had allowed Allison to take back to Wyoming. It hadn’t rained a significant amount in the Yosemite Valley vicinity for over 75 days (according to NOAA). I made a calculated decision that a tent wouldn’t be necessary.

13:00 hours:

Stepping out of the shuttle, even in the awe of the legendary Yosemite Valley, lethargy of ambient transit encouraged me to meet my basic needs before I could accomplish the two objectives I’d set for the trip. My basic needs at this time included finding a plot to set my bed roll (remember I’d been cocky enough to for-go the necessity of a tent), eating an instant bowl of rice and revealing myself in the lavatory.

Approaching the camping office at curry village a gentleman with slick Oakleys’ and sleeves stopped me, told me he had been riding the same bus as I into the park and inquired as to my campsite needs? ‘Perfect’ I thought to myself and followed him to the sight he’d been assigned on the furthest nether reaches of the shuttle line. On the walk to our site two things were increasingly obvious, signs of the fire were barely present in the valley, it really was condensed to the rim, and the bartender gone rouge I would be sharing a site with had never spent a night outside in his life. If the untarnished back pack and associated polished gear wasn’t indication of his novice, the story he recited was. He said he’d journeyed from a far off land called ‘San Diago’, sold nearly everything owned and hoped to start a back country adventure. The only reason he’d reserved a campsite, lucky for me, was at his mother’s bequest. She insisted he get his barrings before heading ‘Into the Wild’. I’d never been so grateful for a mothers over protection.

14:00 hours:

Upon arrival to site 52, I shoved my 80L Dana Designs pack in to the bear box, engaged the combination lock I’d purchased at CVS pharmacy the night before, and loaded my 30L Tatanka day pack with my Canon 60D, tripod, notebook, and instant rice bowl. Lastly, I bid my new plot mate, dude from San Diago, adu as he awkwardly attempted to pitch a none-free standing tent. I remember thinking the stakes were arranged in such a way that the fly wasn’t nearly taught enough to keep him dry if it rained, but it wasn’t going to rain right?

Aboard the free valley floor shuttle I reached my destination, Yosemite Village to poach some hot water for my rice bowl, in no time. On the way, I dropped in Ansel Adams gallery and received bata from the curator that Tunnel View would be the ideal location to capture the shot I coveted, El Cap in the foreground, Half Dome in the background, big wall shoulders cloaked in a sepia haze. The down side was no public passenger service ventured to this portion of the park, where all roads leading into Yosemite merged. I considered a bike rental but after $23 on the train ticket and $13 on the bus, $25 dollars for a bike was going to break the bank. Besides I still had to shell out for half the camp site and a back country permit for half dome. This is where shamelessness came in handy. I am glad inviting myself to sit with strangers when all tables are filled at any given eatery isn’t something I shy away from or I mightn’t have met the gorgeous Kiwi who offered to drive me to Tunnel View.

16:00 hours:

Atop Tunnel View, after a brief drive that would have taken me hours walking, I was standing before of the most exquisite shot. There, El Cap and Cathedral Rocks faced each other like guardians of a sacred, deeply cut U shaped valley, the gate way to the glorious Half Dome, who delicately peaked out from behind the haze in the distance. The Kiwi told me I was lucky for the visibility because the day before it wouldn’t have been clear enough to see Half Dome at this distance. Although I was taken captive by the dramatic fixtures before me, if not as a fascinated geologist and mediocre climber, than as a innocent bystander, my awe was short lived realizing how little time I had before the evening closure of the back country ranger station which issued permits to climb Half Dome.

16:30 hours:

I was at the permit issuing station in no time. After clarifying with the ranger what permits were available, I immediately new I would have to ‘pretend’ I was spending the night in the back country that evening because there were no longer single day use passes available, only over night access. I was relieved to be staying at site 52, off the grid. Permit in hand, I headed to the meadow adjacent to Yosemite Village where I had cased a great sun set shot of half dome. Victory appeared eminent on all objectives.

17:00 hours:

I was so stoked to have a permit to climb Half Dome for the following morning, I was literally filming a summary monolog of the days events, sunset shadows cast upon Half Dome, when the first crashes of thunder hit my ear drums. Looking back, premature celebration isn’t a favorable choice in the eyes of the wise. Perhaps my purchase of celebratory turkey jerky and kettle chips encouraged the Yosemite Gods to follow through on the 20% chance of rain forecast. It was at this time that I realized the darkness encompassing the skyline was actually a gray cloud, ready to burst any second. With in minutes serious amounts of water were being released from the sky.

At this time, like most who cannot accept there own glaring lapses in judgment, I refused to accept that my plans would have to change. I hurriedly headed back towards site 52 where I planned to scout the trail head to Half Dome. I wanted to be prepared for my 4:30 am departure in the darkness. I also wanted to brain “storm” solutions to my ‘no tent’ dilemma. Dude from ‘San Diago’ had some ideas. He insisted that his 3.5 x 2 x 6 triangle-slung-crookedly-across-the-lowest-ground was of two person regulation. He even offered to show me the paper work. It was such a generous offer for such a modest space, call me a skeptic but one had to question the motivation. I thanked him politely and told him I would consider it.

18:30 hours:

While riding the shuttle over to scope the stables for an inconspicuous awning that one might huddle below during a midnight down pour, my driver offered a last minute resort. She could sneak me into the employee dorms as a contingency. We agreed that if I could find no other alternative, we would rendezvous just after 22:00 hours at the shuttle stop next to site 52. She instructed me to tell no one of the plan and not to board any other buses. It all seemed so forbidden. As they tend to, my ethical transgressions were beginning to pile.

19:00 hours:

Finally, with no awnings found, options exacerbated, facing a night in the not-so-two-man tent with dude form ‘San Diago’ or sneaking into employee dorms where arrest wouldn’t be a unlikely outcome, as the last minutes of twilight were slipping over the horizon, I accepted my laps in judgment. Perhaps it was a bit of a gamble to enter the valley without a tent after all. With the clarity that typically accompanies acceptance, I had two realizations. 1. It was highly unlikely Half Dome would be climb-able in the morning. Rangers have been known to shut the cables down for far less then a combination of thunder, lightning, and a torrential down pour. 2. There was one last shuttle leaving the park and heading back to Merced, and it left in 1 hour. To get on the shuttle, I needed to find a pay phone (no cell service) to call my cousin in Turlock (20 minutes from Merced) for a ride and then be at the bus stop by 20:00 hours. Somehow, in the rain, with 40 lbs of gear, I was able to walk the mile to the one pay phone in the park that I knew of. The real miracle happened when I was able to beg .50 cents change to call my cousin.

I am overwhelmed by a sense of irony at nearly every twist during this 7 hour period in Yosemite. The nature in which I obtained possession of the wilderness permit was ethically questionable at best. The permits are limited as a measure to protect Natural Resources and I supposed I allowed my intimate knowledge of ‘Leave No Trace’ and other such protective wilderness practices to be the reasons I wouldn’t “leave an impact” and therefore “didn’t need to follow the rules”. The reality is: there were no day permits for Half Dome on September 11th, ranger sanctioned or not, the climb got shut down for weather related reasons. The decision was made for me by the Yosemite Gods. Ethics aside, admission of a self jinx over early celebration is also in order.

In regards to not bringing a shelter, the irony is palpable. I could be annoyed that it rained on the one night I chose to stay over in Yosemite after 2.5 months of drought- but, how angry can I be? At some point we must afford inconvenience for a greater cause. If watering a fire that effects 250,000 acres of pristine wilderness isn’t a greater cause, I don’t know what is. In retrospect, the real epic would have happened if my cousin didn’t answer her phone. Would I have chosen a not-so-two-person-tent or sneaking into the dorms? I really can’t say. I am content with having met one goal, knowing there will be future opportunity to meet the second goal and conceding that epics don’t happen when things go according to the plan. I much prefer the fertile ground of reckless abandon to the sterile bedding of futile preparation.

Familiar rock

states

Familiar rock

Preface: I had some inspiration to write this next piece while still in the Buttermilks but didn’t finish writing it until I saw a comment posted in the Iron Man picture (a famous boulder problem) from one of my earlier posts. The comment was from Daniel Davis, an old college friend, close to me like a brother, someone I went to Bishop with my first two spring breaks at university, someone who taught me how to climb. Being the hermit and bad friend one can become after a divorce, I haven’t spoken to Dan in ages and reading his comment, knowing he was out there reading my present interpretation of a old familiar place encouraged me to complete the following words.

I woke in the night, tossing and turning, my attention held captive by my unconscious. I had a terrible dream that Allison (my current road trip companion and long time friend) and I were free soloing in doors and she fell from  20 or 30 feet. I was horrified and worst of all I had to down climb without loosing my footing to get to her, to see if she was alright. I woke to a dark night and felt the adrenaline that accompanies not knowing if your thoughts are reality.

I felt the dehydration of tears that had fallen earlier. In re-visiting Bishop, the birth place of my mediocre (at best) climbing career and less than par relationship with my longtime best friend and ex-husband I hadn’t anticipated experiencing any difficulty. As usual, this was an enormous oversight, a gross underestimation of the consequences and associated emotions of the ending of an era.  Driving up the long road to  dispersed camping among creamy, well-rounded ancient boulders, the Buttermilks tore at my heart strings. With each mile my emotions rose and soon I couldn’t tell if I was experiencing nostalgia, excitement for a road trip, or guilt for a marriage dissolved.

After we set up the tent (no fly so we’d be able see the stars through the inner wall mesh), put on suitable clothes and started looking to poach a fire and it’s typical company, I realized how sore I was from my loss and the tears began to well. Pools of fire water pushed themselves past the damns labeled “social constructs” and I experienced a kind of solace one can only enjoy during a good cry. Allison was kind enough to sit with me on a rock and listen while I cleansed my palate of all the traumas, of the marriage and every relationship sense. By the end of this spell I felt more ready to accept the after math of ten years since first visiting Bishop and all that had gone on in between, though, as a scientist, my heart still struggled for a context. Why and what was it all for?

Pulling myself together, tears expelled, we found the company we sought, but no fire. We had a chat to some bright eyed and bushy tailed teen-aged climbers.  Regaling us with stories that could have been our own ten years ago, we listened while they excitedly told of their plans to take a semester off to climb, build climbing walls in their garages, eat beans and rice every night for supper, ect. The younger one complained from all the sediment the older one somehow included in the evenings’ stew, spatting bits here and there. Allison and I laughed great belly laughs. The younger one told us of his dream to hike the Appalachian trail and then keep going to New Orleans where he wanted to volunteer and work. Listening to his goals and passion for life sparked a fire in me. I was comforted by the passing of a figurative torch, to the new generation of dirt bag climbers.

Falling back asleep after my night mear, half dreaming and half grasping for reality, I had a vision which granted the context my heart desired. Here surrounded by the Sierras I thought of their source, deep below the surface where I laid. A magma chamber, like a naive idealistic college student, is not yet hardened. Possibilities and potential fluid like molten rock. Variables like temperature, pressure, and composition influencing the final form the chambers rock will have. Fast forward to present day. What remains of that impressionable chamber are massive mountains on the skyline and glacial erratics purged from below the surface and strewn across the landscape . Bits, like memories of my climbing youth, peaking out of the soil here and there, distributed like landmines. And every time I happen upon one, I don’t know if I will stop and admire the crystals or trip because I didn’t see it coming. And the history in between, how fluid enveloped in the earth came to be solid, exposed, and weathered…  The roll of endothermic cooling, uplift, glaciation, and exfoliation. Process after process this granite has endured to inhabit this present place, well rounded shards in the valley below and grand standing jagged scars in the distance. I saw the cyclisity of igneous rocks as a parallel for my story, my history and felt the comfort of an inorganic friend who understood. The time between college and now is part of my history, and it will reveal it self now and then, memories, familiar rock, but the story isn’t over either. The boulders surrounding my slumber were still being shaped even if they weren’t molten any more, even if we couldn’t cognitively observe it on a human time scale, the cycle continued. My ex-husband once said I was the only person he knew who could possibly love granite as much as he…

There, back awake when many aren’t, listless loneliness is usually the first emotion I feel. But it was different this time, with my new igneous outlook. I had admitted to Allison how hurt and confused I was about how I had gotten to this place in my life. I had accepted her consoling and moved on with my evening. What a break through. It may not seem profound, but for someone who spends 90% of their free time alone, lives alone, travels alone, and recreates largely alone, accepting someones invitation to witness your vulnerable break down is no small feet. Then, to enjoy the rest of the evening without wallowing, one small step for man, one giant leap for Krystal. I considered her presence a luxury and reconsidered my position on loneliness.

Being out of a draining, deteriorating, and done marriage has left me free to discover the company of all that surrounds me. With the stars, the distant and sporadic calls of an owl, the well-rounded ancient igneous shadows cradling our tent, the rhythmic exhalations of my best friend lying next to me my attention was no longer held captive by dreams or the past. When I realized all the company I kept in this moment, a calming gratitude settled in my heart. If an era was ending, a new one was beginning. We all had a history, and for tonight, all our stories intersected. Everything wasn’t going to be perfect in this post divorce purgatory were I found myself, I may trip on nostalgia and guilt every now and then, but I certainly wasn’t alone. It mightn’t be what I had in mind, but I was grateful and finally understood what it was all for. I’m sure the mountains long for the comfort of the warm earthen chamber from where they came, from time to time too.

Caught up, Mono, Devils Postpile, and Tahoe

states

 

In the last several days we have driven from Mammoth (Ansel Adams Wilderness and Devils Postpile) to Mono Lake, through the East side of Yosemite till the gate closure, and through Tahoe where we stayed last night, among great company! I am putting a piece together about the fire in Yosemite and thus saving those photos for future posts including those of the 1992 forest fire through the Ansel Adams wilderness. Stay tuned.

Cut off

commuting chronicles, states

IMG_7952

I know this is a totally inappropriate question, and no one will want to answer, but see if you can relate: Have you ever been at a bar for many hours, not realize how intoxicated you were, and had the bar tender tell you, “your cut off”? Or maybe as a child you ate to much candy and your mom and dad took it away saying “your cut off”. If you know this experience, that is how I feel about having hair.

When it is time to make a major change in my life- I often need something physical to kick start and sustain whatever ideal I am attempting to incorporate. Most recently that act of change was cutting off all my hair. I just couldn’t handle it anymore- I needed to be cut off.

Believe me, I know how crazy this sounds. And I am told daily by someone in my immediate vicinity.  I am not so self consumed that I can’t put myself in the position of family, co-workers or friends, dudes I have been dating, and strangers when they ask “why?”. Most family is supportive, though, they might not understand. Those relationships largely take place over the phone so I really can’t know exactly how they feel until I see them in person. Co-workers are intrigued. Recently, one of my peers at work from a mid-western state had to take photos of me to send home because he was afraid words wouldn’t accurately due the ‘do justice. Friends have been understanding. Jenny, my paddle boarding mate, did the shaving for me. One morning a few weeks ago we were supposed to go on a float. Something she had said the night before at dinner about cutting off my hair stuck. I’d already been thinking about it, ever since Australia and secretly considering it since the last time I’d cut it off in college. Jenny had shaved her head several times in the past and understood my reasons. By morning I new what I had to do. I called her up, asked her if she would do me the favor and one hour later it was by-by hair.

Sometimes perfect strangers at work or just yesterday at a thrift store in Mammoth randoms will take the liberty of commenting on the shortness of my hair… This is always the most awkward. It reminds me that if this small number of people are making comments on my hair, what are the rest of population thinking and not commenting? Often I am pretty sure people think I am a lesbian. Allison, my current road trip companion and long time best friend from college, thinks its hysterical when people mistake “us” or “me” for lesbians biased on my hair cut because of our are track record as man-eaters (Disclaimer: slight exaggeration).

As for the dudes… I haven’t seen several of the men I go out on occasional dates with since the hair transformation. I honestly look forward to seeing their reactions. The guys I have known for a long time and seen post cut (friendship or romantic- let’s be honest, what is the difference when you are single?) have the most telling responses. Some love it and don’t skip a beat. Others almost cry bereaving the long thick curls. Rejection is never a preferred out come, but whatever the experience is I try to stand outside myself and find the humor. Besides, feeling rejection is only one perspective. I prefer to imagine my not having hair as a round of “cuts”, like my dating life is a reality dating show (it kind of is, it just isn’t filmed, but it is my reality) and at the end of each episode someone is voted off the island. Or, like Krystal Collins High School is having tryouts for my basketball team and if chicks having shaved heads is no big deal for you (amongst other traits), then you have a shot at varsity, then maybe team captain, and if your really lucky, all-state. Newer dudes that I have only met post hair cut don’t have a frame of reference for what I used to look like. It has been easier filtering through their responses. Note: I have better acceptance stats when I meet them at coffee shops than at bars… interesting.

After all, it was hard to justify the inordinate amount of time required to make my manic mane presentable. Ultimately, this was the decider. I didn’t like having the option of spending time blow drying, primping, straightening, and then the inevitable tag along vanities: make-up, clothes, ect. At heart, I am a pretty extreme minimalist and utilitarian but the temptation to fiddle with my hair always got the better of me. Like when I wasn’t feeling good about myself. I could always choose to present myself really well, fix my hair up, put on make-up and clothes. A sort of way to sweep how I was really feeling under the rug. Now that I don’t have this option, I feel more ready to deal with my feelings as they come and have a more honest presentation of myself to the world- less options for cove. Like Popeye said, “I am what I am”.

Being a bicycle commuter only adds elements of practicality to my no-hair campaign. Not having hair has been such a gift in this aspect of my life. Set aside the hassle of trying to find a haircut that looks presentable at work after your commute to work, I save so much time in my getting-ready-for-the-day routine. I am an aspiring writer and photographer and have now banked at least an hour to my editing time as a result of the cut.

On the road trip I’v just been on with Allison, having ready access to showers is expensive (for a dirt bag) and usually not possible when dispersed camping on public lands (the whole point of dispersed camping is that there is no public lands service commitment to maintain sites, toilets, or showers, that is why it is free). When Allison had to pay a woping $7 dollars in Devils Post Pile National Monument for a shower last night, I just jumped in a glacial lake with some bio-degradable soap and 60 seconds later was good to go. Also, I am not above taking an “Italian shower” (Doug Collins original phrase), which consists of washing ones unmentionables and ones dirty garments (Kenny and Tommy would say, “Last chance undies”) in a bathroom sink, a single lockable restroom is always preferable in these instances. Obviously these choices aren’t completely dictated by the amount of hair you have and how difficult it is to maintain, it would be possible to bath in a lake if you had a full hear of hair. The point is that presentation maintenance feels so much easier with the new cut. It is difficult to imagine going back to managing greasy hair after all this ease on the road.

I must confess, with this seemingly endless list of positives for the cut, there are still life events I must attend where having a shaved head isn’t preferable. Case and point: my cousins up coming wedding. Cindy Machintosh is one of my most cherished family members and though I look forward to her wedding for many reasons (seeing family, the cabaret show in San Francisco, ect.) I am also very self-conscious about defying convention so publicly in a very conventional setting. I am still debating how casually I can dress with out being disrespectful. Luckily, I think I will be able to hide behind my camera for most of the event…

Sabrina Lake and Whitmore Tubs near Mammoth

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Disclaimer: Inappropriate content for those younger than 16.

We spent yesterday afternoon recapturing a photo shoot I originally did 4 years ago with Brian and a much crappier camera at Sabrina Lake. I have been using some of these photos for Patagonia@Bend posts and was stoked to replace them with higher quality resolution shots. Sabrina was every bit as gorgeous as I remembered her and Ally did a great job modeling Patagonia gear.

In the early evening we began a wild goose chase which eventually brought us, this morning at noon, to Whitmore hot springs outside Mammoth. Because of the cryptic description on every piece of literature and recited by each person we asked, by the time we found the hot springs we were looking for, it was late, and pitch black. Our adrenaline was mounting as we rounded “”dog leg” (Allison’s description) corners in road and took this right and this left down “unimproved routes” (which was a total violation of the rental policy. Finally, after hours of searching, right when we reached our destination, Allison immediately turned the car around. There through the dark, was what Allison referred to as a “Rape Kitchen” otherwise known as a “Kiddie Raper Van”. Allison’s definition of “Rape Kitchen”, in case the intention isn’t clear, “a vehicle or situation in which all the ingredients for molestation are present”.  Her word combinations never cease to amaze. I suppose in all my excitement I had forgotten that the last time I was in hot springs in Bishop I was in a group of 12 people and had some protection in numbers. Allison was probably right to turn our car around, however, this never would have occurred to me if I had pulled up on my own. I guess I engage in more high risk behavior than I realized.

In the morning, late morning, when it was already 80 degrees outside, when we returned, we reconciled that if there was a dangerous situation at least we would see it coming because it wasn’t dark out, this was a good point. There was a giant school bus with several bikes strapped to the top and upon talking to the inhabitants we were informed numerous people in this area were now driving back from Burning Man… This might explain the “Rape Kitchen” as well. In any event we soaked in the hot springs in mid day learning about “feminine sensate” from a very naked man named David: mission accomplished.

 

Gear Review: Vista Explorer Tripod

gear review, states

Tripod

 

 

The Vista Explorer Tripod preformed spectacularly today and all the earlier days of my California road trip adventure. So far I have packed it with me on a hike in Kings Canyon, shot video of narrative commentary, and  gathered footage of mystery climbers styling boulder problems near Bishop in the Buttermilks.

Features which make usage more convenient are the quick release plate and light weight construction. I have found it easiest to leave the tripod plate on the bottom of the camera at all times so I can be ready to snap the camera into place whenever necessary. The plate is totally reliable and very sturdy that way I don’t have to be concerned about any accidental mis-haps.  Because of light weight construction I am ready to take the tripod anywhere with me. I was concerned how easily I might incorporate this new accessory into my normal shooting routine but have found implementation a total breeze and been excited about the new range of shots I am prepared for.

In addition, the Vista Explorer Tripod has a huge range of adjustable dimensions so I never feel like my shots are limited. Virtually any  angle I want to capture is accessible with the 360 degree pan, 2 way tilt, 3-way fluid head, and other maneuverable settings. Lastly, the rubber adjustable feet insure the structure will be stable on any surface.

Some of the shots I am anxious to capture with these new options are height dependent images, recording interviews or commentary in any environment, static long exposure pictures of stars, and getting crisper landscape shots!

Ingredients for inspiration

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One: Wake in the night and find Andromada guarding your down manger

Two: Rise at the feet of great stones

Three: Find new friends in the places you both like to go, without the aid of aesthetics

Four: Climb higher, awaken a laying spirit, pass the torch

Five: Express your gratitude to everyone around you

 

Night night girls!

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Free and Discount Tips: “Dispersed” of free camping on federal lands is a great way to take accommodation to zero on your budget, and buying groceries instead of eating at restaurants saves tons of cash. Although, we forgot to bring fuel for our stove….

We began our adventure when Allison picked me up in a Chevey Equinox and we headed south. The first stop: In and Out Burger. The second: Grocery Outlet (Otherwise known as: Gross Out) for $30 worth of groceries and then another $10 for some gluten free already cooked rice bowls at another long forgotten store on the outskirts of the canyons.

As Allison likes to say (and I tend to agree) arriving after dark to a new location is always exciting because the landscape will be a gorgeous surprise in the morning! After Ally coughed up the $80 for the annual National Park Pass (in America you can even buy your National Parks in bulk!) because she knew her Oregonian dirt-bag tag along was going to do no such thing, we headed to find some dispersed camping (dispersed camping is code for free accommodations) on National Forest Land which skirted the park. Although free is a good price, you get what you pay for. Initially we planned to sleep under the stars but were stopped short after finding several spiders nests below the pine needle duff that blanketed the ground. In addition we heard several sounds and saw at least one set of eyes that we were certain belonged to “large mammals” (Allison’s literal description), more on this in the morning. All these signs pointed to tent, we compromised and left the fly off so we could still embrace the illusion of cowboy camping.

One hour later through broken sleep, I wasn’t sure if I felt pings in my nerve endings from bug bites or drops of rain. As I came to I realized it was time to put on the fly, I was grateful the tent was already set up. We enjoyed a midnight Nyqil packet for good measure (one capsil each) and the pitter patter of rain combine with Allisons’ reading aloud from ‘Born to Run’ lulled me in my slumbers for the remainder of the night.

Just after sunrise (about 2-2.5 hours), when I emerged from the tent, I was surprised to find the most obvious though looked over explanation for the suspect “large mammal”. Several cows had set up shop on the perimeter of our camp and were happily chewing grass. Good thing we hadn’t been scared…

Beggars can’t be choosers: Bend to Sacramento via Amtrak

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Free and Discount Tips: Try to catch a ride via craiglist or friends to Chemult to save $25 shuttle fee, Dawson Lodge offers free internet and tea and inexpensive hot case dinner at the next door grocery, bring your own tea bags because hot water will be available on the train and most establishments along the way, if you don’t have a printer or a smart phone you can show your itinerary to board from your lap top, use an AAA membership for a discounted train ticket, total ticket cost Bend-Sacramento return with no shuttle form Chemult: $110. Also, anytime you sleep on your transport it saves you paying a nights accommodation.

Yesterday morning my adventure to California via Amtrak started with a free ride to Chemult! Lucky me my good friend Heather was on her way to San Francisco and dropped me at the Dawson Inn, a quaint local accommodation frequented by mushroom pickers, snowmobilers, and stop overs to or from Crater Lake.  Positioned a few 100 feet in front of the station it is a great location to hang tight especially if you are carrying a few bags. As my dad always says: Beggars can’t be choosers and since I had begged this ride I was subject to the mercy of someone else’s schedule. Now, for some, this might have been incredibly inconvenient, for me, I called Dawson’s in advance and asked the owner Colleen if I could hangout for 8 hours in their lobby and wait for my train. Surprisingly they happily offered me refuge including access to all the tea (or coffee) I could stomach and FREE INTERNET. If you have ever been a dirt bag traveler (these adjectives describe me to a T), than you know how highly coveted free internet is. I took the opportunity to re-structure my blog and research an alternative game plan for the California adventure in light of the Yosemite wild fires.

An hour before my train was set to depart I mosied over to the grocery, which Colleen also owned. I was persuaded to purchase a tamale from the hot case by an infectiously enthusiastic woman behind the counter. This tamale evoked mixed emotions. Though I was ecstatic there was a gluten free hot case item to indulge in, the excitement was tempered with a fear of the “hot case shits”. Maybe you have hear of these before? When you eat food from a hot case and then the worst happens on the other end… As per usual, through the overcast of my fears, a down pour never came to pass and I was left with the satisfaction that only comes with a $5 greasy gluten free meal.

When the clock read a half hour till train departure I headed for the platform. Here I met a lonely fate, not a sole in site. The station was so deserted my only company lay in the faint changing colors of the twilight sky. My only redemption, wondering if I had the right day and time for the departure, came when the shuttle (bringing patrons from Bend) finally arrived at 10 minutes till rendezvous. With each minute an additional person would arrive until we were a party of five. After all, the train ended up being about a half hour late.

The online directions for demonstrating reservations to conductors offer a print itinerary option or showing the paper work via your smart phone. Well, as a dirt bag, I don’t have easy access to a printer and I have a very stupid (not smart) phone so those options were out. I decided to take my chances, down load the PDF on to my “lap phone” (I started calling my laptop-netbook my “lap phone” when for a recent two year stent, because I didn’t own a phone,  I made all calls on it from skype- clever I know), and prove that I had the smartest phone of all! The conductor took the proof of purchase with no drama, fewww.

On a side note: When I purchased my train ticket over the phone I told the operator I had a AAA card to get a $15 discount. When she asked for the numbers on my card I googled “what an AAA card looks like” and recited the numbers off an example card to the operator. Ethical- not sure. Practical, absolutely.

The train was incredibly comfortable. I popped a nytqil and passed out for the 10 hour ride. As the Aussie’s say, EASY AS. Just remember  to bring your sleeping bag so you can get really comfy.

Gearing up

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I am so stoked to start my adventure south! It is always motivating to lay out all my gear and go through the checklist of what pieces I will need for each aspect of the trip. Everything from a gri-gri (auto-locking belay device for climbing) to ear plugs, probably my “must have” or “can’t live without” ultimate necessity. Disclaimer: The final pack list won’t be established until 30 seconds before I walk out the door.

I also insist on bringing some Gluten Free reserves. Am I the only celiac who feels it imperative to bring my own dietar-ily restricted food with me everywhere I go? Of all the pressures and stresses I imagined having as a grown up, not being able to eat wheat never made the list.

Notice the black bag strapped to the side of my Tatanka Day Pack. This is the new Tri-pod which just arrived this afternoon from Amazon. I am elated the package made it to my door before I left and to test it out! The specs are looking pretty good, Ill be giving a full report after the first usage. I have to thank a special The Enlightened Photographer and founder Joe Forbish for all his input on what pod to purchase. Thanks.

The most romantic item stuffed in my pack will be a family pack of condoms. KIDDING. It is the blue book dead center of the photo… a star gazing guide. Although Allison (my best friend from college and my partner on the upcoming Cali adventure) and I have resolved to be heatero-sexual life mates, who can resist the charms of someone explaining how to find the North Star off the Big Dipper… no one, that is who.

T-minus 36 hours until blast off.

In preparation for CA

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Talking to my associate in Wyoming, Allison Ginn, and getting pumped for our upcoming Cali trip…. I couldn’t help but take the dive into baldness. Some of my friends and family might know I shaved my head ages ago in college and loved it. Low maintenance, utilitarian, ect.

My only concern is Cindy, my cousins wedding in a few weeks (this is also part of the Cali trip). What can a girl with a shaved head wear to a wedding? Suggestions? Do’s, Don’t? Thoughts, feelings, concerns?  Does anyone have any ideas? NO DRESSES.

Up Coming Field Report: Yosemite September 2013

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These two first met in 2004 on an annual Mississippi State University field expedition to San Salvador in the Bahamas. When Krystal’s luggage never arrived Allison generously offered her a pain of “last chance undies” for the duration of the trip. They have been best friends ever since.

Allison: Originally a Georgia Peach and now a Recreation Manager for the Gillette and Buffalo, Wyoming BLM region, the ‘A’ in Allison stands for adventure! Her extra curricular activities include aspiring steel drum player and thespian, scoring very high on verbal testing and running triathlons!
Krystal: Back in the Pacific Northwest after a long stint of international travel, Krystal uses visual media and writing as a means of self expression as she approaches 30 and year 5 of her quarter life crisis. Her extra curricular activities include paddle boarding, bike commuting, avoiding working as a professional and cereal dating. That’s right, she loves Gluten Free cereal.
Allison and Krystal reunite for a post-college-10-year-anniversary-since-first-meeting-adventure… Stay tuned to see what they come up with…