November 14, 2012

Closed for the Season

The campground looked empty from the road.   Rolling past the welcome sign, I cranked down my dirty window and stuck my head out,  scanning for a dollar sign.  $15 per night.  I let off the clutch and continued on the dirt road.  Avoiding the chilly breeze,  I rolled up the window.

“Might as well be free,” I chuckled to myself.  The afternoon sun was dropping quickly and the north side of the adjacent hills was already clocked in shade.  Driving around the perimeter of the campground,  I looked for familiar sights.

 Sixteen years before,  my family rented an RV and explored the eastern Sierra for a month in early fall.  Although somewhat hazy,  the trip stands out as a highlight of my childhood.  Motivated by a sense of restlessness brought about by lack of surf and nostalgia,  I cut out from the coast the week before and headed up 395 towards the Tioga Pass area.

Basing my plans on a few calls with my parents,  I bounced around the Tioga Pass area for a week in late October.  During the week,  I headed over towards Yosemite, and as as the crowds picked up, I retreated back towards the Mono Lake area.  In passing and without cause, some of the sights touched on memories from my first trip.

Boarded up for the winter.

Those dots in the middle of the wall are two groups of climbers bivvying for the night.

Home is where you park it!  I also run a site called Vanlife.

Sunset at 9000 feet.

Looking back through Tioga Pass.

Chains required.

Half Dome, in Yosemite Valley.

I wonder if they will keep the sign in the spring?

Aspen groves.

Custom Camper on a 1967 Dodge PowerWagon.  This baby has 600k miles on it, and has run over a cow.

These mountains are now covered in snow.

Wish you were here.

Looking east towards through Tioga Pass.

Traveling alone affords you the time and flexibility to linger in some areas and pass through others.  The Tioga Pass region is one I advise lingering in,  especially in the off season.  My weeks spent there 16 years ago and last month are highlights of different eras of my life.  Somethings don’t change.

Here are some more links,

Out Of Reception (Tumblr),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).

November 29, 2011

Rain Shadow

When people talk about the Northwest,  they most often refer to to a 100 mile section from the coast to the Cascades. The Cascade Mountains run from northern California to southern British Columbia, separating the area into two distinct sections.  The western part has the cultural centers, coastal climate, and the majority of the population. The eastern part falls in the rain shadow and takes up most of the real estate and houses most of the Republicans.  West of the Cascades, people drive hybrids with bike racks. East of the mountains  people drive lifted pickup trucks with gun racks.   Growing up I spent time between the two areas and have both pickup and hybrid in me.

Months in the desert and the California sun had made me soft, or so my family claimed, and  after two weeks of constant fog and rain, I had to get out.  Leaving Washougal,  I drove east on highway 14,  a two lane scenic route through the Columbia River Gorge.  Each mile east of Stevenson equates to one and half less inches of annual precipitation.  I kept driving.  Like clockwork, the clouds  opened up around Underwood.  I drove farther.  At Lyle the clouds were gone,  exposing sun.  Sunglasses.

A break in the clouds.

An aspen grove.

Running from the rain.

Tim on a hike.


Some times a little change in weather is all you need, or sometimes it just whets the appetite.  A little is rarely enough.

Here are some more links,

Running up the hill (Picasa),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).

November 10, 2011


After a few hundred miles,  things started looking familiar.  Road names and exit ramps sporadically conjured memories from yesteryear.  Beers in the woods at parent-less McMansions in high school.  Dark thirty to departures heading up to Mt. Hood in the back of a friend’s family van.  Tween soccer games at a roadside field.  The closer the Syncro marched towards Portland,  the more the memories flowed.  “Portland International Airport, 20 miles.”  No stopping them now.

As I drove north on I-5 through Northern California and Southern Oregon,  the trees changed color by the mile.  No more dodging fall by zipping up and down the California Coast.  Leaves littered the sides of the roads and rain beat down in proper northwest fashion.  At 4:30, the sun set over the hills.  “Fuck daylight savings,”  I mumbled, adjusting the windshield wiper speed.  Five hours later, I pulled off highway 14 at a familiar gas station t0 fill up.  Dressed in shorts, a sweater and barefoot, the 38 degree, rainy night caught me off guard.

Needles and leaves.

A morning hike in the woods.

An afternoon in Portland.

Tim on Prindle Mountain.

For miles.

Harvesting beats from the garden.

Seal Rock.

For the first time in five years,  I was back in the Columbia River Gorge during the height of fall.  Visiting the northwest once or twice  a year, in the summer and around the holidays, limited my view of the place I where grew up.  Just like a new haircut making a familiar person look different,  a change of season makes an old place look new.  Try it sometime.

Here are some more links,

Fall (Picasa),

A Restless Transplant (Facebook).

September 22, 2011

Indian Summer

As the sun sank, we made our way towards the train tracks bordering the Washington side of the Columbia River.  The smell of fermenting blackberries brought back memories of my childhood spent running around, face painted and brandishing a wrist rocket, blasting gravel and anything that moved.  Negotiating a vine the diameter of a ping-pong ball, I felt a familiar tug on my shorts and the sharp scrape of a blackberry thorn on my thigh.

“God damn it!” I moaned, grabbing the thorn and flicking it like a popcorn kernel.  “How do you get through this shit?”

“With this plank,” Tim said, flipping a 12-foot plank on top of the blackberry bushes and walking across on it.  Following Tim’s lead, I quickly made it through the bramble and onto the tracks.

Despite the shortening days,  temperatures in 80′s made the steel tracks and black railroad ties feel like late July as we headed west a half mile towards a longtime favorite swimming hole.  Scrambling up the trail, we disregarded a no trespassing sign, emerging onto a basalt outcropping into the Columbia river.

Summer feet.


Summer light.

A hydration bladder,  of sorts…


“Man it’s getting darker earlier,” Tim said crouching on a rock and dripping water from a jump.

“Indian Summer is in full effect,” I grinned, pulling my T-shirt over my head and sliding on my flip flops.  “Let’s go eat.”  We were there for only twenty minutes, but that’s what makes a summer swim a summer swim, even in mid September.

Here are some more links:

For daily updates, check out Out of Reception,

Swimming (Picasa).