May 15, 2012
First Time West
The Syncro idled roughly in the arrival area of Portland International Airport late Monday night. Glancing in the rear view mirror, I watched the lone police officer maker her rounds, motioning to stagnent drivers to continue their laps. I was already on my third and had little interest in making it a forth.
“Brrootherrr!!!” a deep voice echoed.
Sticking my head out of the window with hopes of spotting the origins of the thunder, I spotted a red headed man wearing a leather jacket running out of a revolving door. If the local Oregonians weren’t thrown off guard by the mohawk, the boogie board dragging behind him put them over the edge.
“Uncle TTT!” I screamed back in an equally obnoxious but unthreatening tone. Pulling the emergency break. I opened the door and ran over to meet my college roommate, Tucker.
A few months after my 18th birthday, I told an admittance officer from a small college in Maine that I would love to attend their college having never stept foot in the state. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. That fall, I made the 3000 mile trip across the country excited to see a new place and meet new people. I had never seen a lacrosse stick, heard Dispatch or watched a Red Sox game. I thought about leaving my school for a more wordly place often but my connection with Maine and a handful of close friends kept me there. I’m very glad that I did stick it out, because without that isolation and boredom, I probably never would have taken up photography or started this blog.
Despite having a relatively well traveld student body, few of my peers had ever been west of a handful of posh ski resorts in Colorado. Most people talk positively about their homes, but my experiences in New England compounded my appreciation for the west coast and the Pacific Northwest in specific. After six years of constant sales pitch resembling the late Billy Mays, Tucker finally bought a ticket west and headed west for a 10 day safari.
Flying into Portland and then out of San Francisco 10 days later, we planned to head down the coast. Call it a best of trip. It sounds easy enough, but the task of showing some one very close to you a place you love so well is a surprising daunting task. I rushed to show him places that I thought were interesting. We headed east of the Cascades, spent a few days in portland and then meandered our way down the Oregon Coast to Northern California.
Wet campfire wood.
Tucker enjoying the signature Northwest rainwater by way of this barrel. My guess is that it was in the mid 40s.
The green room.
Spring in Portland.
Things I took for granted, like Multnomah Falls or the size of the fur trees that ubiquitously dot the country side stunned Tucker. I once heard that, “In the east, man is god, but in the west, nature is god.” Now I’m not a religious person, but this mantra speaks to me as I’m sure it does to a lot of people that have experienced both Coasts. By the time I bid farewell to Tucker, I could tell that he was starting to agree.
Here are some more links,
First Time West (Facebook).
September 15, 2011
Nate Walks America
“I meet all sorts of folks from all over the world,” the road worker explained, replacing his burned-out cigarette with a horseshoe of Copenhagen. “Hell, two days ago, I met this kid that’s walking across America.”
“No shit?” I said leaning out of my rolled down window somewhere along US-50 in Nevada.
“Yup. He started out east in February, Delaware I think. Real nice kid, think he’s For-rest Gu-mp or something. He walked through here two days ago and I gave him a Gatorade… Things are going fast today, the road should be cleared up in ten minutes,” he said walking back towards the next car.
Thirty miles or so after the roadwork, Dan and I spotted Nate walking along US-50. Pulling onto the shoulder, we ran over to talk to him.
“Hey man, we hear that you’re walking across America!” I said, striking up a conversation that lasted an hour covering topics from leaving our jobs to our roots in Maine (Nate grew up 20 minutes from where Dan and I went to school).
Nate left a comfortable job, a girlfriend and a “big TV” in late February after a year of debate. “I just had to do it. It got in my head and it wouldn’t leave so I left…” from Delaware with a backpack, a one man tent, a few changes of clothes and enough food and water for two days trip. Sleeping in campgrounds in the east and in parks and BLM land in the west, Nate marches 25 miles a day across the country. Once in every state, Nate takes a day off, sleeps in a hotel and catches up on emails. To document his trip, Nate maintains a website appropriately named Natewalksamerica.com, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. He has been at it for seven months.
“In Missouri, I ditched the backpack and ordered this stroller from Walmart. I had it delivered to a store 100 miles a head. Total life saver, Immediately, my daily mileage went up from 15 to 25.” He’s also gone through three pairs of shoes and now uses solid rubber innertubes on his Schwinn stroller to avoid flats. Street Knowledge.
“Are you ready to finish?” Dan asked.
“No, I love it out here. I don’t want to stop.”
“You could always walk around the world,” I suggested half joking.
“I have thought about that,” he said grinning and scratching his head as if in deep thought.
Offering Nate a cold beer from my cooler he responded, “No, I have made that mistake to many times. I am permanently dehydrated and have lost a shitload of weight, one beer would do me in.”
I took his word for it, imagining the dozens of yahoos, like myself, that have offered him a beer as a token of their support. Saying our goodbyes and exchanging contact info, Dan and I jumped in the Syncro and hit the road. In the rear view mirror, I watched Nate take a swig of water and started walking looking off into the rugged Nevada landscape. Some people have it figured out, I thought to myself, shifting from first to second.
Here are some more links,
Nate Walks Across America (Picasa),
Nate Walks Across America (.com),
Nate Walks Across America (Facebook).
December 1, 2010
Dark at 4
Flights to and from Portland Jetport (PWM) never leave on time and always run late. Thick fog often blankets the bay, limiting hourly traffic at the one-horse airport. In the cold months (September to April), Nor’Easters sporadically slam into the coast adding another layer of flight delays. At first, these delays pissed me off like a scratched DVD from Netflix. After hours spent meandering through the magazine shops in airports , I realized that these systematic delays contributed to the remote appeal of Maine.
Without fail, fog and rain delayed my flight to Portland from LaGuardia the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Excited to have nothing better to do than read emails and articles on my phone, I waited at the gate. On the flight, I sat at the window, face pressed against the safety glass watching the lights pass miles bellow. Flying out over the Connecticut sound and up 95 through Mass and New Hampshire, the pilot signaled the initial approach some 25 minutes into the flight.
Walking through the airport with its familiar windows and posters, I bypassed the baggage claim and stepped into the cold November air. I didn’t see a single cab.
For the next three days, I wondered the familiar country with my college roommate and frequent accomplice, Tucker.
The Old Port, Portland.
A Portland land mark.
Darkness descended early with shadows stretching eastward at 2:30. By 4, the last glimmers of light bounced around the clouds before sinking down for a sixteen hour night.
Red, yellow and green.
I like this hanging light.
The last leaves of fall.
Enjoying the warm light afforded by a mere eight hours separating sunrise and sunset, I shot often. Protecting my cold fingers in the wool pocket of my Mackinaw jacket, my memories of living in Maine for four years quickly came back. However as a visitor, my perspective changed slightly, making me thankful to smell the cold sea air and see the dark night sky far from the shinning lights of twenty million people.
Here are some more links,
June 8, 2010
Blowing the red Old Country canoe off course, the wind skipped across Great Pond. Paddling towards a distant point on the wooded shore, I dug deep, as if avoiding a violent waterfall in some rain forest jungle. Slowly and with much effort, the canoe’s bow ticked back on course. As my shoulders burned, I reevaluated my course and headed towards the protection of the saw-like shoreline. Protected from the wind by tree covered points, I made my way towards a dock and my waiting friends.
“What took you so long?” Dan asked as I got to the dock.
“The wind, Dude. Do you see those white caps?” I responded as I caught my breath. “It feels like you’re paddling upstream.”
Quickly we packed the remaining sleeping bags, food and fishing poles into the canoe and pushed off the dock. With the help of two more paddlers and a stiff tailwind, we made it back to Oak Island in a third of the time.
Stashing the canoe between two trees, we set up camp in proper Huck Finn fashion, and headed out to explore the island. With a few hours of sun remaining in the early summer evening, we set off across the island in search for fishing holes, traces of other campers and the highest point on the island.
In the distance, loons called as the first mosquitoes of the season buzzed around, settling on exposed skin.
A goose feather blowing away.
Spencer searching for the source of a distant loon call.
Pack out all trash. Extinguish all fires. Cut only dead trees. Bury human waste 100 feet from water.
Crawling around the shoreline, we hopped from rock to rock avoiding the tepid water. Dropping towards the hills to the west, the sun cast an orange hue on the trees and rocks. Consecrating the first days of summer, I rolled up my jeans to below the knee and liberated my feet, going barefoot on the rocks and pine needles.
Isolated by a half mile of water on each side and claimed by a thin pillar of smoke from a lone campfire, the island was ours. As if aware of the potential pranks and horseplay offered by a half dozen twenty year olds, the occasional boat gave the island a wide birth.
Walking to our camp and the promise of freshly cooked sausages, I murmured out loud, “This is the perfect place for a fort.”
Here are some more links,
Oak Island (Picasa),
Great Pond (ART).