Around in circles

Around in circles

“Precip-” is the prefix of the day I decide, with 37-degrees of cold and precipitation precipitating the macabre musings of deaths at Yellowstone. My concern at the moment being my goosebumps, and how mighty fine the water in those hot springs look. Turns out that they are as acidic as battery acid; and as warm and inviting as they look, and as they certainly have on these cold, so very cold, rainy days, one best not. If that doesn’t rev your danger engine, America’s first national park also happens to be the world’s largest super volcano. And home to lots of grizzlies. Thirty of whose saliva was found on the remainder of a hiker this past August, the barkeep at the empty Raven told me. Not to mention the bison goreings and tales of waterfall missteps.

Read More

On the cusp of Yellowstone

But a bit south, right by the long, looping entrance, you see, you’ll find what feels like 500,000 of those people on the last night of September. Among a cacophony of construction and wobbly bodies stumbling and $26 elk lasagna and remnants of old wooden store fronts and an impressive arsenal of glowing bud light signs, you’ll meet some of those 4,000,000 visitors the park sees every year. Ah. I have arrived. But there’s something lonely about the bottom of my pint glass, and I can’t seem shake it. Finding the only space in town I can, I curl up, a dread pillow on top of a tiny camping pillow and drifting off I think: more adventures tomorrow.

Read More

On the Wild West, going eastward

I count more fires and Harley Davidson shops, each respectively, than I do law enforcement officers on the long trek from Hood River to Missoula. Barren landscapes and a Budweiser plant send me on my way through the top of Idaho, the hills beginning to punch through the earth as I pass through Wallace. Proclaimed by Mayor Ron Garitone in 2004 to be the Center of the Universe, it has a population of 781 and steadily declining.

Read More

Moonwalking

Moonwalking

Counting my blessings for a) the temperature rising; b) the stash snacks in my bag (always with the snacks); and c) a considerable lack of bears lurking in this landscape, I crane my head back and for the first time look directly up and shudder: I can count every star, and every constellation I didn’t realize I knew. The notion of being so tiny, and so quite alone, magnifies as I mull the obvious: yeah man, that Big Dipper is really fucking Big.

Read More

Chasing craters

A curdling scream wakes me. My ears dial into the dark and a mental catalog of macabre begins to spin: someone is being gummed on by a bear; one of these hunters here in Cougar, WA discharged a gun into their foot; maybe a murder in cold blood, etc., etc. A scream again, and then a third time. At this I woke up enough to confidently identify the offender: a rooster. I pull my sleeping bag up to my forehead, hoping he’ll quit being so dutiful and give me just 10 more minutes of slumber.

Read More

Mount St. Helens, and never enough berry cobbler

Mount St. Helens, and never enough berry cobbler

Mount St. Helen blew it’s top 35 years ago and the immediate landscape suggests itself a desert. Devastated tree stumps across the blast zone look a cross between permanent drift wood and fossilization. The entire landscape shifted, lakes and people and houses still lie beneath. The plume of ash shot 10 miles into the air and circled the globe in a week’s time; for those in the immediate vicinity, that catastrophe was totally silent. Can you imagine? The massive slide of rock muffled all sound waves, instead, refracting them up into the stratosphere. The waves came back down and spread to the likes of Washington, Idaho and Montana. Science is a funny thing like that sometimes.

Read More

Pea Soup in Paradise

Pea Soup in Paradise

The specter of a cowboy materializes through the fog, first the hood of his low riding brown ford pickup, then the brim and bucket of his hat. With the light diffusing behind him he’s faceless, and rolling by me he’s vanished as quickly as he appeared. The fog rolls low, so low, that visibility is a wishful thing and it certainly adds an air of mystery to the most dangerous volcano in the Cascade range.

Read More

Ruby Beach, Olympia, Ahoy

Heading south from the licorice fern and club moss of the Hoh Rainforest, the whitecaps ferociously roll something wicked off the Washington coast. The rain heckles and leaves Ruby Beach in peace for the moment – only another car or two turn in before quickly pulling back onto Highway 101. A sign ahead with a painted arrow reads ‘Big Cedar,’ so when the curious and the obvious get the best of me, I cut the wheel left. True to its word, it’s the tallest, thickest, most gnarled tree I’ve ever encountered. A wonderful feeling of novelty over something so delightfully simple.

Read More

Out into the forest

Out into the forest

A coffee, a beer, a tinkling banjo all ease the twilight in. The couple in the camp 34 across from me, both hair having greyed, look as if they’ve been posted up at their fire since I left to walk 18 miles this morning – save, perhaps, to grab another skein of yarn or a paperback.

And this is why I’ve come here.

To my three o'clock nests a trailer that looks like an eggshell. There’s something Hopper-esque about the whole business of watching this lone man, bowed head bathed in an orange glow, suck and gnaw on an animal bone. I see him now unfurling his map.

Read More

Outbound

I groggily throw open the window and am shocked to see desert. At 27,000 feet and 2,700 miles from home, Nevada looks lovely this morning. In my mind I trace Nazca Lines, looking to the hills for shapes as one searches for faces in the clouds and crowds. 

Read More

Married at 24 with two children

Her crumbling constellation of embers falls onto the brown shag rug with every pensive nicotine drag. Fifteen dollars and one condemnation later, the haphazard prophet plucks the lines on my open palm like the body of a resounding Gibson: but, you will always travel.

Finally, a concession.

[spring, 2009]