Alaska Part 1: From the 405 to the 45’N

I have too many friends and they live in too many places. The initial week of the drive north has proven to be quite the whirlwind of catching people as I momentarily pass through their lives.

Friends in San Luis Obispo now have mini versions of themselves. Neighborhood get togethers in Elk Grove are just as I remembered them 5 years ago. Meandering around Portland with old Hermosa cronies reminisces of middle school days. Jumping in the Willamette river with a former Moose Lake coworker to beat the heat. Spending the best quality time with family in Bend. Finally catching old Montana friends and beers back in Missoula.

There was a day spent in Bend, OR flushing the transmission fluid in hopes of correcting a problem with the van shuddering when feathering the throttle. The mechanic didn’t find any problems with the transmission which is promising, but it didn’t entirely assuage my anxiety as the issue still seems to be occurring.

It’s been a little bit of an adjustment moving from one place to the next especially while holding down work, driving, and visiting people; but seeing my favorite people has been all worth it. It is looking to get much easier this next week as I appear in places where I know fewer people

. The wildfires have been particularly bad this year and the smoke might continue to frustrate my efforts to photograph and enjoy the scenery. Things will certainly be interesting heading into British Colombia.

If you haven’t found this already, I’m currently tracking the voyage at

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Back East is always “Back” East

Ok, time for me to play catch up on the last year.

It wasn’t until the 3rd sequential Beiber barrage that the boxed merlot began to batter the brainstem enough to dull my senses a bit. We were blasting through the fourth state line in the previous 15 hours, and the only antidote for Gia’s drowsiness was the same pop music her middle-school pupils indulged in? Time for another swig.

This wasn’t the first cross-country foray, but it was surely the most rapid. Around 6 that morning we had boarded G’s olive-green bullet of a Subaru Outback and rushed through artisanal coffee drenched Denver suburban commuters eventually coming out eastern Colorado to the great plains.

Kansas. It’s bigger than you’d imagine.

Columbia, Missouri is home to Logboat brewing and a hefty imperial red ale.

First brewery of the trip

Day 2, and we pushed through the flat until the rolling hills of Pennsylvanian Appalachia greeted us with emerald applause. The beer-radar was pinging a brewery on the Delaware

ShawneeCraft Brewing

water-gap and given my wonderfully inherited near-sighted vision, I was deemed not to drive at night, meaning there was no problem in purchasing a full taster flight of brews as I passed the keys back to Gia.

3 harrowing hours later and through the metropolis of the tri-state area, we landed on the edge of the Atlantic ocean.

I spent my first 4th of July on the eastern seaboard and the ode du Americana hung for days after as we made it up to Vermont.

Vermont means “green mountain” in New English













We properly sampled the green mountain state’s finest breweries and after Gia was all checked in to her graduate program, I hit the road from Ticonderoga; home of the No. 2 pencil.

It was a slow day of hitching but I met a few interesting people along the way including this conversation:

“Hey man, so why’d you decide to give me a ride?”

“Well, you’re not exactly a big guy, so I figured I could take you if need be.”

“haha, yea, but that’s why I’m a runner!”

“Well, I have something under my seat that I can guarantee will run faster than you.”

I love rural America, and after a 7 mile walk, I ended the day at Sacandaga camping area with a Crusher from the Alchemist brewery as a nightcap.

The next morning I started very early, the fact that there had been a kidnapping of a teenage girl earlier that week with the suspect still at large didn’t help my chances. I made it to Amsterdam by midday and had already set my mind that I was going to take the bus. I only had the next week and a half to spend with friends and there was no point in using all that time just fishing for rides. Amsterdam to Albany to New York City where I crashed with one of my good friends from back in the dorm days at Cal Poly. The next morning before heading out via bus to Pittsburgh I was even briefly reunited with the chef from my days managing the ranch in big sky country.

12 hours later I arrived at my destination and proceeded to do my best at painting it red with another friend, Leisha, from my Montana times. The next few days were spent getting acquainted with the first Trump town experience outside of the Boulder bubble; I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Something I’ve missed about living in working class America is it’s ability to humble my liberal tendencies.

From West PA it was the Greyhound to Cincinnati. The Greyhound bus mentality is summed up perfectly in the first lines of this song:

Cincinnati was the first time in decades that I’ve dealt with true humidity; humidity that just sucks the life of of anyone caught in it. I had walked a good 10K from my friend’s place to downtown and decided to take a breather in the shade of a plaza to cool off a bit. I must have watched 200 teenagers search for pokemon before I was able to lift my ass from that bench, search for the library on my phone, and get to the A/C ASAP.

A note about anyone visiting cities, Libraries are a great way to get into the heart of the area. A few days earlier when visiting Leisha, we took a good half hour or more just looking into the newspaper archives of Acme, Pennsylvania. If you’ve never looked at your own local branch’s archive, I’d highly recommend it.

I love checking out old PSAs

My final day in Cinci was spent appreciating some of its beer (of which there is plentiful and high quality) before making my way back to Boulder.

Church converted to a brewery, that’s what I like to see.

Here’s a quick slideshow of all the other bits and pieces that happened in the past year.

I hope to be a bit more entertaining in the coming month with posts on my trip up to the Alaskan north!

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The Rewind

Here’s a little ditty about how I relived the last 4 years of life prior to my time in Colorado back in January and February of this year.


There are some places I will never be able to do without, and one of those is Montana. In January I went to visit some old stomping grounds.

This was the first major outing I’d made with the van and noticed a few differences in the way it handles in comparison to the Santa Fe. It’s a sail. In shorter profile cars you’d probably notice the 55+ mph crosswinds of Wyoming, but in this thing you notice your knuckles wringing-out the steering wheel. I passed a cop in the middle of my hours-long fight versus the gale and he tailed me for a few miles, probably checking my plate for amber alerts.

I stayed with Kris and Ray in Billings for a few nights and did a bit of hiking in the Absarokas before getting a sickness that lingered throughout my entire trip.


From Billings it was on to Bozeman where I saw some good friends and spectated some skijoring.

Onward west and a few hours in Butte to pick up my friend Leisha before the last leg to Philipsburg. Butte is one of those cities I’ve always enjoyed simply for the rough edges. Even on a sunny day it’s not exactly a bright place, and damned if it ever will be.

The drive into Pburg felt as it always had, precarious from the fresh fallen snow, and as if I were returning home. We kicked it in town for a few days as my ear became infected and my peepers simultaneously contracted a case of conjunctivitis. All the same, we were able to hitch a ride from the new maintenance director on the snowmobiles to the trailhead of Senate and a few miles later were up at the cabin. Luckily I didn’t have to shovel out the chimney this year but we were out of luck in the axe department. Burning log rounds only heat up the place a little bit, but it was much better than a snow cave.

We managed a few tests of the snowpack that afternoon and I was surprised at how right-side-up it lay. Not a facet to be seen. We were looking good on the avalanche report.

The following sunrise we were up early with gear ready and avy-beacons in check. The slog up to the ridgeline was tough going as Leisha didn’t have skins for her skis and ski boots have a much smaller surface area than those for snowboarding. + 1 for snowboarders. The slog to the top was a pretty big energy sap and after a quick lunch we made smaller laps around the bowl area.

A video of the fun time hiking in waist deep powder.

Click the link below to check out a bit of the gps watch metrics for the day.

We were able to make it back into town for Wednesday night bar fun. Gwensday they call it, as Gwen was the bartender and for $10 you were sure to leave the bar walking in a line as straight as a sinusoidal wave and another Lincoln still in your pocket. That’s the Whitefront Bar I remember.


Back in the burg with the PVS crew.

After dropping off Leisha at a god-forsaken hour at the Butte airport I drove to the top of the continental divide and parked off the road to catch a few winks before heading on the long journey back. I was trying to make good time in order to beat a winter storm coming through Wyoming and made it 3/4 down the state until the 65+ mph gusts forced me to camp out at an unnamed rest stop. At least I had a few beers with me this time around.

Poor video of the van setup.

I awoke much before sunrise and hopped off the I-25 at the US 26 junction and headed east for a bit through Fort Laramie, turning south at Torrington. I wouldn’t have mentioned these places had it not been the eerie creepiness I’d felt while driving through the ghost-like towns in the early morning hours. I say ghost like because while nobody has completely abandoned these parts, it feels like they want to be. You can drive through at 5am with the stereo blaring CCR, cabin warm from the heater, with no real danger existing and come to a red light and the thought will just hit you, “this place doesn’t want me”.

I rested up for a few days in Boulder before taking the flight south. Ruben had been my roommate for a short time when I lived in Chile and was one of the great friends I had left down there; now it was time to return for his wedding 4 years later. It had been almost exactly 4 years prior that I had left that country hitching out of the Atacama into Bolivia, and the moment I heard some of that undeniable Chilean slang in the Atlanta airport, my brain made a switch and I was back in Spanish mode. So well had my mind made the transition, that it took the Chilean sitting next to me a few entire sentences before I told him that I wasn’t from his country.

Upon arrival in Santiago I immediately took the 7 hour bus to Concepción and reunited with Michael and Jorge. The following morning I promptly took another 7 hour bus to Valdivia to where I’d warmly embrace Ruben and he would treat me to my first food in an entire day, a sopaipilla straight from the street vendor.

I stayed with Ruben and his friends for the next week or so slugging beers late into the night and remembering Chile the way I had discovered it, by walking aimlessly through the streets for hours at a time.


A lot can happen in 4 years.

The wedding was beautiful. Very similar to the US style but the drinking waited until much later and the drinking was, expectedly, much harder; almost to the point where I won a dance competition. The next morning I remembered there was a reason the slang in that country has so many words for “hangover”.

After bidding chau to Valdivia and Ruben, I hopped on the bus again back to Concepción. With Michael and Jorge we had a planned trip to the headwaters of the Archibueno river. , unfortunately not everything always goes to plan. It took a good bit of public transport magic to near the trailhead and we had to camp at a pay-site because it had taken so long. The following day my companions weren’t super keen on the hike itself and after I stupidly forgot any form of identification, we were back on our way to Conce. Luckily a customs fair and a bit of hitchhiking made the trip a bit more tasty and exciting.

Riding in the back of another pickup.


Asado cueca.


Tasting beer with a very special ficus plant.

The next days I spent meeting with old friends and remembering the city. One night I went to a reunion with one of my former co-workers in the English program and the most magnificent “small world” experience transpired. I went around meeting the guests and shook the hand of Boris. Boris, I thought, I’ve heard that name before. As the night transpired I learned that Boris was a musician. Curious… I had once known of a musician named Boris who played the Chilean Tuesdays at my favorite bar, El Averno, from many years back.

“Hey Boris, did you ever play at El Averno?”

“Yea, I’m not sure what’s up with that place now though.”

“About 4 years ago on Christmas day, do you remember picking up a gringo hitchhiker on the ruta de Itata?”

“…yea… wait a second…”

“Dude, that was me!”

And it was in this way that I re-acquainted with the first person to give me a ride on the pinnacle of my South American experience 4 years ago.

Eventually it was time to leave Conce and head back to the capital for my flight home. I spent the night with Rocio and her splendid family familia; all of whom were just as hospitable as they had been to me when I couchsurfed with them years ago. There really is something to be said when a family accepts you with open arms and open hearts… unfortunately, I can’t put it into words.

And with that, the rewind finally caught up with the present. I was back in Colorado and it was time to begin work again.


Back with the Conce crew.

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“And so I said, ‘Hey! Look at that crazy guy on the bike!’ Then I saw your struggling cadence and thought ‘This guy isn’t doing too well’”. -Randy, a bit paraphrased.

Lately I’ve been having a bit of a tough time stomaching rent. It’s not that I’ve been sweating the payments, it’s that I’m baffled at the ridiculousness of paying 700 dollars a month for a place to shit, shower, and shave. I don’t even do the last two that often! So since July I’ve been cruising Craigslist in search of a van to live in… Grandma just fainted and Mom just rolled her eyes.

A few weeks ago my roommate Gia and I took a little road trip over Independence Pass into Aspen to check out one of these homes on wheels. I ended up putting down some hard earned cash and signed the bill of sale that day. It’s here that I decided to make a bit of an adventure out of the process. Rather than have Gia drive back the Santa Fe and me the van, I thought it would be interesting to bike back to Aspen.

Consult route for location references.

Years ago my uncle John gave me a Bruce Gordon touring bike (look them up, they’re legendary). My second outing I broke my arm after failing to clip out, let’s call it an Artie Johnson to use my dad’s lingo. Anyhow, I’d been meaning to take it out on a real touring adventure but never found time to commit. No time like the present, even if it is the last week in October.

The original path I had planned took me over the formidable Independence pass but after considering the weather and heeding the words of cyclist extraordinaire, Jordan, I opted for the bike path that followed the I-70. It would offer much less precipitation, and much more bike path.

I set out Tuesday morning running a bit late on the bus up to Nederland. “Well I wasn’t expecting this” said the bus driver as the bus’s extra large wipers smeared wet flakes of snow on the windshield. It was a premonition for what would come. My first few miles were wet and soggy, making me wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into. In comparison to hitchhiking where you can hide from the weather at a gas station or some other shelter and still travel a respectable distance in a day, the mileage you travel bike touring corresponds directly to the amount of time your ass is in the saddle. Sitting out for an hour might leave you 15 fewer miles from your goal, this left me with a more “suck-it-up-and-ride-through-it” mentality.

Wide load.

Wide load.

After a good up and down battle on the Peak-to-Peak highway that decimated my menisci, I arrived at Idaho Springs just as a cold rain began to fall. It soon turned to sleet as I made my way on frontage roads to Downieville and my hands froze to the handlebars. I finally had to hop off and stick my hands in my armpits while jumping around to save them. A few girls pulled over and offered me a ride to the Conoco because I “looked so incredibly cold”. They gave me the uplifting news that the gas station was only 2 miles up the road and I jumped back on my iron horse, mostly in excitement to find some warmth, but also to get out of the area because someone was getting a bit over zealous with their 12 gage target practice and I wasn’t sure where the gun range was in relation to my location.

I purchased the only coffee shop drink I know, a large hot chocolate, at Starbucks while my hands thawed and customers looked at me like some crazy. Before I left I carried out a pack of hand warmers, in case of emergency.

By this time the snow had started coming down in full force and it was only because the asphalt was still barely above freezing that kept the surface rideable. I found a private frisbee golf course and based my decision to camp there merely because it was in such opposition to all the frisbee golf culture I had ever known. What lame people would create a private course for FRISBEE GOLF? I set up camp out of the main path on a nice flat tee-off platform. I fell asleep for a few hours before awaking again around 10. My support team (Gia) let me know that the temps would reach the teens that night and a few hours later I became familiar again with winter camping. How enjoyable it was to not allow my legs to fully stretch out because the blanket I brought was too short to fill the length of my bag. Somehow I managed to sleep through the wind and passing semis on the interstate below. God bless ear plugs.

Down in the 'teens.

Down in the ‘teens.

Winter camping = no bugs!

Winter camping = no bugs!

The cold morning made camp cleanup take twice as long but that ended up being the least of the day’s troubles. The winds blowing across Georgetown lake almost knocked me down a few times before I made it up to Silver Plume and the roads turned to ice thanks to the storm the day before. About an hour and a half of mixed walking/riding on ice ended up in a situation that was even worse.

Old railroad bridge near Georgetown.

Old railroad bridge near Georgetown.

No bueno.

No bueno.

The bike path approaching the Eisenhower tunnel began with just a few inches of innocent powder, easily rideable and admittedly fun to cruise without a sound while snow clumps flew off the tires. But this wasn’t for long. The powder turned to crust and heavy slabs that stuck to my spokes and got caught up in the brakes. It was so deep at some points I could leave my 75 pound Brucey to stand upright without needing any tree to support it. At a few hours already on the trail, I was committed and couldn’t turn around. I’d trudge for 50 meters, let go of the handlebars, and yell some sort of four letter combination to an empty forest while the blue sky mocked above. By the end of the path, I had travelled 5 miles in 4 hours, and Loveland pass still loomed before me as the sun crested the ridge line.

No ride like snow ride.

No ride like snow ride.


My squeaking knees could barely get over the top tube and my clips were crusted-over with ice to the point they had no prayer of locking in. A black car rolled by and I managed to raise a hand to simulate a happy, friendly gesture. I must have failed. Out of my periphery I noticed the vehicle reverse to match my blazing uphill speed of 4 mph.

“You’re not thinking of heading up the pass are you?”, I hobbled to a stop.

“Are there any places open I can warm up in? Otherwise, yes, I’m hoping to pull off one of the switchbacks for the night.”

“The resorts open tomorrow.” a slight pause, “Why don’t you load your bike into the back of our car and spend the night at our place. We’ve got a warm bed and a hot shower.”

I thought for a second. It’s not my style to cut corners on a trip even to the extent of the impossible to fathom miserabilities. But at that moment, with knees killing me, frozen feet, and the lowest morale, this sounded like an absolute godsend. And I was curious as hell to meet these people who would pick up some long-haired kid off the side of the highway.

Much happier to be off the road.

Much happier to be off the road.

Back at Roberta and Randy’s place in Silverthorn I got to meet this beautiful couple a bit more. Bike tourers themselves, R&R were always on the lookout for fellow cyclists when they were on the road. “When I saw you I said ‘Hey look at that crazy guy!’ Then realized you might be needing some help”, Randy told me. Well, I truly can’t imagine I’d have finished this ride if the two of them hadn’t pulled over. It’s amazing what good company, a warm bowl of chili, and some soft sheets to curl up in, can do to help a weary traveller on his way.

I awoke the next morning feeling 100 times better and ready to hit the road. We had done a bit of research the night before and concluded that the pass over to Vail was probably not going to look good on the bike path, and if it was anything like I had endured the day before I was in no hurry to tramp through snow again.

In any case, I figured I would ride to Frisco to ask the local bike shop what their interpretation of the conditions would be. And boy was I glad I did so. The path along the Dillion reservoir was gorgeous and I managed to catch a spectacular red-tail hawk launch right in front of me as I rode along the path. It was the beginning of a good day.

Dillon reservoir.

Dillon reservoir.

To no surprise, the local reviews of the path said that it had iced-over and I rode to the entrance to the I-70 to do what I do best, hitchhike. 45 minutes later Brucey was in the bed and I was in the cab of a F-350 talking about the amazing ability of the human body to recover from it’s ailments. Periodically I’d peek out the window to glance at the bike trail. Sure enough, there were many sections with nothing but snow, and I was glad to not be chasing freshies sans snowboard.

I was dropped off in Minturn and thus began the day’s descent from 8000ft to 6000ft. It’s astonishing how much more ground can be covered when a bike tire is in its natural element of asphalt, not ice. I cruised to Glenwood Springs and made it to the brewery before happy-hour was over.

Heading west from Eagle.

Heading west from Eagle.

Closed path for a bit.

Closed path for a bit.

Trail-mix for dinner.

Trail-mix for dinner.

Glenwood canyon.

Glenwood canyon.

I began conversation with Bill, a Vietnam war vet who was also an avid cyclist in his day, riding to and from New York and Chicago many times. We talked for hours over a few imperial pints and double pours of Jameson. He was genuinely excited to help me on my trip to Aspen and even offered me a place to stay for the night. I politely declined, as I wanted to at least use some of the camping equipment I had been lugging over 100 miles. I found a grassy field next to the municipal airport that night and the air was a balmy 50 as I curled into my bag. The wind was stirring a bit so I expected it to rain, and it eventually started a light shower around midnight. I put up my rain fly and went back to sleep.

I found it curious to be awoken by my own sweat, as it was pretty cold outside so why would I be… OH NO. I bolted upright and turned on my headlamp. Even with my vision being on the verge of legal blindness I could see a puddle forming around my sleeping mat and felt the icy dampness that had soaked my sleeping bag. In my Jameson haze, I had failed to pull my floor tarp from underneath my rain fly, causing a pool to form under myself. It was 6AM and I had nothing left to do but pack my soggy belongings and try to find a place to warm up before setting off on the final 45-mile leg to Aspen. Thanks to the incredibly poor circulation in my fingers, I could only work for about 5 minutes before I’d have to stick my hands in my armpits to get the blood flowing again.

I chatted with the convenience store attendant while I warmed and learned the directions out of Glenwood Springs. “I’m definitely not jealous of you!” she called as I mounted Brucey and set off. Aside for a few brief rain showers, the slog up to Aspen wasn’t particularly bad. I was dead tired from the poor sleep of the night before and yawned through my first 20 miles. It’s worth noting how incredible the bike trails are in Colorado (when they aren’t snowed over). Between Glenwood Springs and Aspen is a path that used to be the old rail line following a river almost all the way to the mountains. It’s wide, has many bathroom stops along the route, and has very low traffic, (probably due to the season, but still worth a mention). It’s infinitely nicer to travel on these bikeways and never have to worry about speeding vehicles as it allows one to view a bit of the scenery and utilize the senses without being distracted.

Nothing but stream and sky.

Nothing but stream and sky.

As the miles whittled away, and the elevation increased I became increasingly excited as the journey was nearing its end. I rolled through the canyon and into Aspen to where the van was parked. Vince, the seller, had a pot of tea ready on the stove as I walked through the door. I recounted a few of the more memorable events as we re-scribed the bill of sale and then went out to go over a few final aspects of the van; it has so many features I’ll be learning the inns-and-outs for months to come. A few minutes later he wished me luck and hurried back to his home, hiding tears. Vehicle purchases are much more fulfilling when you know the previous owner cared so dearly for the intricately assembled mass of plastics, rubber, and steel. Don’t worry Vince, she’s got a good bit of adventure left in her.

As I relaxed by the fire of Bonfire Brewing in Eagle that night with an Imperial wet hop IPA, I settled in with the fact of how much more nomadic my life would become. I’ve still mentally committed myself to Boulder for the next few years to learn all I can in the web development industry before exploring new places, but rest assured (especially you Gram), I’ve still got a few Aces in the hole to keep life a little interesting.

Mission accomplished.

Mission accomplished.

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Get back to Big Sky Country

Let’s talk about Boulder for a second.

The first time I had been to Boulder was when my dad, brother, and I came out in the spring of 2006 for me to check out the campus. It’s not so much the place that has changed, but myself. During my first foray I remember being very concerned about how I would deal with the cold winters. Now, having spent the last few years in Montana and Concepción, there hasn’t passed a day where I’ve had to run without my knees exposed. In many ways, it’s obvious that the Treasure State had spoiled me. Where it used to be that I could simply strap on my pack and go running, hiking, and backcountry snowboarding in a wilderness that was within walking distance of my front door, I now bump shoulders with dozens of others on a run around Mount Sanitas. Am I being a little cry-baby stick-in-the-mud? You bet your ass, but this was one of the biggest shocks I had to immediately come to grips with. I believe (hope) I’m getting better but I’m still that opinionated Negative Nancy that I’m having a hard time overcoming.

Trying to describe the life I had out in MT is sometimes difficult as, for many people, Colorado is their first real experience in the Rockies and I am, admittedly, a bit callous to the fantastic scenery and wilderness that surrounds. But for every person that says “Isn’t Colorado just the best!?”, I have to hold myself back from saying “Oh yea? Well you should try Montana. That’s where the wild things roam”.

It’s with this semi-sour mentality that I found myself leaving Colorado for a bit and heading up to the north in late August. Amy, a friend of mine that I met through Couchsurfing, spent a bit of her life in the small town of Sandpoint, Idaho and convinced me to take out the Santa Fe for another trip on the tarmac. After the necessary stop at Kris and Ray’s where a day-hike into the Absarokas was aborted due to the darkening skies. We headed west to my old stomping grounds of Philipsburg.

Absarokas through the smoke.

Absarokas through the smoke.

We spent a few hours at the ranch but I had a hard time dealing with all the emotions and left for Missoula to tailgate and hit up the town. Of course I had a beer at the brewery.

From Missoula we took Hwy 12 out of Lolo and camped at a hotspring. The smoke had been horrendous ever since we left Billings, but we were hit with some decent rains that cleared up the moonless night sky.

Bob Wier hotsprings.

Bob Wier hotsprings.

Misty mountain hop.

Misty mountain hop.

Another contemptible bit of driving the day after landed us at a friend’s of Amy’s on the Washington/Idaho/ Canada Border. A great man by the name of Hank showed us spectacular canoeing, four-wheelin’ and border-hopping that anyone would be jealous of.

Pewee falls. Hank and Amy.

Pewee falls. Hank and Amy.

Apple picking in northern Washington.

Apple picking in northern Washington.

US - Canada border. Not similar to US - Mexico border.

US – Canada border. Not similar to US – Mexico border.

From Newport, Washington we made our way back, camping in BLM land and National Forest in northwest Montana and visiting the Goldbug hot springs near Salmon, ID.

Cold waters of the Pack River

Lake Ponderay, ID.

Lake Ponderay, ID.

Daybreak on the Twin Peaks of the south Bitterroot Range.

Daybreak on the Twin Peaks of the south Bitterroot Range.

Goldbug hotsprings.

Goldbug hotsprings.

From the out roads of Challis we picked up the good soul, Kevin. From what it seemed, he had hit the hard times of a car accident and quite certainly the wrong (only) end of an amphetamine dependence. We dropped him off in Idaho Falls and continued south to Utah on Memorial day.

What a welcome it was to politely ask some road warriors to turn off their generator at 10:30 to the response of “but we have a baby…”. Let me rant a bit: here you are on Memorial day in the middle of a national forest with a million other people camping around you and you have the nerve to think that your precious bundle of joy needs that 50 watt generator to live? Suck it up and wrap some blankets around that thing. It might reach into the 50’s MAYBE inside your goddamn “American Dream” of a camper at 35 feet and 5 tons of steel. You have no right to be “camping” in my point of view. Read (if you can) a documentary about the Donner party for shit’s sake.

Drowning out the generator with a Terminal Gravity IPA.

Drowning out the generator with a Terminal Gravity IPA.

No matter. The generator was still on by 7 the next morning and we were out of there by 7:30.

Long hours of driving the next day and squeaking away from a speeding ticket then we were back in Boulder.

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Catching up

Let’s see if I can’t get everyone caught up to speed.

August 2014 – I spend my last nights in Philipsburg, Montana. Fly back to Hermosa Beach and drive out to Boulder, Colorado. In my excitement (or insomnia that tends to strike before every momentous occasion) I sleep for 3 hours that night and depart L.A. at 3am, missing all traffic but forcing me to take a rest in the back of my car around 6am en route to Las Vegas. I make it to Parachute, CO that night following the same route I had taken a few years earlier when I had delivered a VW Cabrio from L.A. to (state abbreviation) LA. It had been 8 years since I had taken my first road trip in the same Hyundai Santa Fe (lovingly nicknamed the “SantaFe-go”) with good friends right out of high school in 2006.

The day after Parachute I somehow charmed my way into convincing the coolest cats in Boulder into allow me to rent a room in their apartment.

First stop in Colorado, the beer isle.

First stop in Colorado, the beer isle.

September – I begin a 10 week intensive program that will give me the tools to make web applications and transform me into a “web developer”. To be completely honest, when I signed up for this course I didn’t really even know what web development was, but after dealing with databases and the like at Project Vote Smart I knew that all this computer code and junk was where I wanted to be. It didn’t hurt that the job market is much kinder to those with experience in this industry, apparently a masters in “hitchhiking and vagabonding” doesn’t appear on too many job descriptions.

October – Eat, drink, sleep, and dream in code. No joke. My Halloween was spent connecting a non-relational database to the front-end of my application using Node.js… and a beer. I should take the time here to explain the difference between a website and a web application for those not in the know. When one visits a “website” they are usually viewing something on the www that’s comprised of static content. Think of a Wikipedia article, a story from the New York Times, or this blog post. A web application, on the other hand, is something that the user interacts with. In this category we find eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and many of the other services one usually must sign-in to. A website is “static” meaning the content usually does not change (you can comment on this blog post but for the most part you can’t interact with what I’ve written). A web application might have you posting a product, setting up a profile, or some other meaningful interconnection. This might require a database with a bit more vitality than that which serves a static website. This dealing with the “frontend” and “backend” of the web browser and server relationship makes web development as a “full stack developer” a bit more complicated and intricate than the “You’ve got mail!“ internet of 1995 (yes my History degree crops up here and there).

November – Finished my final project (a web application that would hypothetically connect up and coming craft breweries with the equipment they needed) and set out on the job market for the second time that year. As someone who has held a job no longer than a year point-five having graduated 4 years ago, this isn’t a new scenario.

How I spent my Halloween.

How I spent my Halloween.

December – Travel up to MT to pick up a few things from aunt Kris and uncle Ray then snowboard around a bit at Big Sky. A few former colleagues at PVS were able to borrow the Winnebago from the mayor of Philipsburg (yup, that’s called small town livin’) so we parked it in the lot and used it as HQ as we lived as ski-bums for a few days. The propane heater cut out about mid on our first night and gave me a good re-initiation to the Montana cold. The snow may have been sub-par, as it was across the entire Rockies this year, but at least it was no Sierra Nevada dirt patch (California, lo siento). A 15 hour trip through West Yellowstone, Pocatello, Little America, Rock Springs, and Laramie brought me back to my new home of Boulder. I landed a job at the end of the year. In a few words, the best way I can describe Human Design is a design and development agency that is contracted to create web-sites and applications.

Moon-set over Lone Peak.

Moon-set over Lone Peak.

Inside the camper.

Inside the camper.

Weber stovetop.

Weber stovetop.

Nothing starts a grill better than ether.

Nothing starts a grill better than ether.

January – Started on a real production website, and it went live. Was given a hash name. This was my first real delve back into the 9 to 5 since March of the year prior and it ended up being more than 8 hours a day on the norm. The difference here is that I loved every bit  of it and was mentally engaged from then moment I got to the office. The coolest thing about launching a website is when I can tell a friend “hey, go to ‘something’.com and check out the navigation bar on the top. See how it all fits onto the screen no matter what device you’re viewing it from? Yea, that took me x number of days to get that working”. Work at Human Design let me showcase my newfound skills front and center on pretty high profile site. The fact we were pulling some pretty late nights didn’t phase me at all.

February – Work, hashing, work. Really nothing to note about this month other than the fact Boulder recorded temperatures literally 110 degrees warmer than my last February in Montana. Jacqueline and Zach also came to town but I don’t think they agreed with my feelings on the weather front.

March – Work was consumed by bug fixes with Racing Extinction and at the end of the month HD simply ran out of tasks for me to do. Once again I found myself in a similar position I had been in a year before, jobless, but at least not homeless.

April – As I am prone to do and now with some free time, I went on a hut trip with my roommate, Gia, into the Elk Range outside of Aspen. As the lone snowboarder on the trip, I couldn’t simply shuffle my skiis up the mountain and had to trudge, like I always had, in my Bogs mucking boots to the hut. On the outside of my pack I loaded my snowboard boots, snowshoes, and snowboard… along with a few bags of salad that I didn’t want to get smashed between the 2 25ouncers of child, a six-pack, and a liter of whiskey I had inside. Altogether, the 45-50 lbs of crap I was lugging up was better suited for a much more hardy experience than I was expecting. The hut was no hut, but a full blown cabin stocked with firewood, cooking utensils, two stoves, and a covered walkway to the outhouse. The views… just take a look at the pictures. I had a pretty good time hiking around the area checking out the abandoned mine road. The better part of my self-preservation instinct (yes it exists), told me not to cross a part of the road that had been clearly avalanche hewn. I spent a good part of the afternoon hucking air on the kicker that was set up just above the hut. Riding out the next morning proved to be difficult. As a snowboarder, the board must be either on a heel or toe edge lest one be dug into the snow, causing a serious case of problems. With a still considerably heavy pack up on me (even after finishing the chaladas, beers, and 1/2 the whiskey), I was riding down and the momentum of my strapped companion caused me to catch a toe edge and pitch me forward straight onto my chest. I was down for a good minute after getting the wind knocked out of me and gingerly scooted down the rest of the way. It wasn’t until that afternoon that breathing and certain torso movments has me wincing in pain. For the next three weeks I’d thought I broke a rib.

Can you tell which one I am?

Can you tell which one I am?

But there was no time to rest as I had the Hash House Harrier Phoenix Red Dress Run to partake in the next weekend. For those not in the know, a red dress run is a hashing event that comemorates the gusto of a daring hasher Needless to say, the party in Phoenix was one I will only half forget. Noteible memories are all the Boulder hashers (with their altitude advantage) absolutely running the rest of the participants to the back of the pack. Even though my chest was in probably the worst state it’s ever been, I couldn’t resist running.

Fun stuff.

Fun stuff.

The next week Mom and Dad visited and Colorado finally got some snow. In fact, picking them up from the airport was a bit of a nervewracking experience as the skies opened up. While they were here, there was much brewery visiting and food tasting to be had. Once my parents were gone, I was finally able to start looking for work again in full force and amazingly, it seemed to fall in my lap. When I was let go at Human Design, my roommates and I had been hosting a couchsurfer, Amy. She told me of a friend that had just happened to move to Boulder and worked in the web development industry. I was able to meet up with Nick and start working for him before the end of April. I’m still amazed at the luck and rapidity in which I was able to find new work.

May – Not much to say about this month other than the fact that my parents are now tuition free and can travel the world without fretting the specter of college fees. Oh, and congrats on Jacq being the most successful post-college Peha to date.


June –  Started this month with the Trans Catalina Trail. I can say that it’s kind of a breakthrough with my perception of the island. To the date I had not explored much more than Avalon and a few other harbors along the same stretch of the island. In comparison to the hikes I’ve done in the Rockies, it ain’t much, but when one considers it to be just outside of the LA metropolis it’s not a bad showing. I did some ultralight packing and just had dried food, sleeping pad, bag, and booze for the two nights before I met the rest of the family in Two Harbors. There were times when it seemed a bit like Disneyland as I walked down a road just to have a jeep tour come up behind me, “And to your left folks you’ll see one of our Trans Catalina Island Hikers who frequent this migration route this time of year. Be sure to keep your appendages inside the vehicle, they are known to bite.” While such interactions may have detracted a bit from the wild feel of the hike, the leg between Little Harbor and Two Harbors was admittedly pretty damn scenic and going 0 to 2000 ft in any scenario is still a good workout. While my portion of the TCT hike had terminated at Two Harbors and I spent the next few days boozing it up with the family, I took a few scoutings around the fire-breaks of Two Harbors and it more than whetted my appetite to complete all 36 miles of the trail, I had only completed 26.

Catalina Island fox.

Catalina Island fox.

Entering the Bison cage.

Entering the Bison cage.


Typical camp setup.

Typical camp setup.

Still love that ocean.

Still love that ocean.


Little harbor.


Crepiscular rays.


Looking east.


Calf workout.

July – Every year, the Boulder Hash House Harriers have a campout out in the hills. In typical hasher fashion it’s also supplemented by about 3 kegs of beer. I and 3 others were in charge of scouting out a spot a few weeks before. We arrived pretty late on a Saturday and most of the prime sites were taken, forcing us to some of the more rougher roads. We came across a lake of a puddle and the conversation went something like this:

Passenger riding shotgun, “Do you think we should get out and check?”

Me, “Nah, I think we’ll be alright”

We charged into the puddle only to realize it was much deeper than expected. I opened my door only to close it immediately as water rushed in and the buddy sitting behind me jumped out the window. Three of us jumped out behind the car and one feathered the throttle as we pushed it out. That car has been stuck in more elements than I can count on one hand and the fact that it still runs is clearly a positive nod towards Hyundai’s engineering.

That car doesn't deserve such punishment.

That car doesn’t deserve such punishment.

A few weeks later at the campout I decided to arrive in the only appropriate manner I could, via hiking. While the campsite was only about 50 miles away from Boulder as the crow flies, it was a 3 1/2 hour drive due to the fact that the mountains were impassible by car. My strategy was to get a head start and hike over the pass and spend the night at an alpine lake the first day and walk/ hitchhike to the campground the next. I started very early Thursday morning to beat the thunderstorms on the pass, it was such a race that I hiked-ran the trail from 10k to 12.5k feet and 5 miles in 2 hours. I camped at Crater lake that night with a few other groups around while I tried to avoid them and enjoy my brew. The next morning was a quick 7 miles out and another short walk until I was able to pick up a few rides with my thumb to the highway that the campout was located near. In all it was a 27 mile walk and I gladly eased my aches with a few pints from the kegs that the hashers provided. It was a lovely weekend with the hashers filled with plenty of the usual craziness that accompanies that group.

Clouds atop the pass.

Clouds atop the pass.

Panorama from Pawnee Pass.

Panorama from Pawnee Pass.


The next week my buddy and former roommate from college, John, and his girlfriend visited. Between the beer tasting and other explorations we managed to fit in a bike ride. It’s nice to have friends that visit, it’s been a while since I’ve lived in a place where they can reach me.

The end of July I was hit with a call from Human Design to help them work on version 2 of the project and all told, logged about 110 hours in a 12 day stretch. As hard as some of the days can be (I worked from 9 to 2am on launch day), it’s amazing what can be produced in such a short time frame.

I’ll soon update with the most recent road trip to Montana and Idaho.

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Chapter 2: Cumuloprecipitus

Law 1 of a 5-day camp: don’t leave HQ without a full bottle of whiskey.

Highest priority on this summer’s bucket list, a bear sighting, was accomplished before the soles hit the dirt. As Ben and I were riding out to the East Fork parking lot two black bears necessitated a brake slamming and feverish jostle to grab cameras. There was a reason Yogi and Boo-Boo were hanging around at just under 6000 feet, we’d find out why in the days to come.

At 46 degrees North, the sun lingers in the skies considerably longer throughout the summer, allowing us to leave Philipsburg at 6, reach the trailhead by 7, and have camp set up by 8:30. Night 1 was Carpp Lake; the same campsite I had been a few nights prior.

The goal for day 2 was to hike into Johnson Lake and meet up with Laura and Pelej. The rest of the week would be a slow backtrack to the parking lot from there. Climb the ridge, descend the ridge, clomp through the basin, curse the loitering snow mounds, regain elevation, stumble over scree fields, wish you had hiking boots, damn your running shoes, clear your nose, break the levee of your sinuses, try and stem the flood with every paper product in your possession, arrive at the lake. Just a 7 mile walk in the park.

Some dark cumulonimbus forced a scramble to get the tarp up and dry wood assembled for rapid oxidation. Big, fat orbs of dihydrogen oxide began to smack the ground and saturate terra firma. The sky had a leaky faucet and we were the ants that could only run about between showers. Our two compadres had forgotten their tent, forcing them to bivouac under the tarp that night.

Eyes opened to a pitch black stage with an intermittent, broken strobe light and horrible feedback booms reverberating in the surrounding yet invisible mountain half-stack amplifiers. The flashes lacerated unsuspecting pupils as the Anvil Clouds hammered at their instruments high in the troposphere. But the roving bards were soon gone, moving to the next ridges to tell their cacophonous stories. Mr. Hendrix would have been proud.

The morning was spent drying out from the previous night’s rumble and we split from Laura and Pelej to head to Edith lake. Dry hike, wet camp. We were greeted by the Anvil’s more taciturn cousins, The Sprinkles, they didn’t give us a show as maniacal as the night before but were pesky enough making fire creation much more tedious. This lake held much more opportunity from the pescatarian perspective and there was a group of Oncorhynchus mykiss enjoying a relatively protected inlet closed to the lake by an assortment of logs. Attempts with the spinner only yielded a crop of lake salad, the fly rod landed a decently gilled specimen. It received the coal treatment with a round of just-add-water mashed spuds.

Spigot on, spigot off, spigot on, spigot off. The shelter of nylon and polyester remained impermeable to the meteorological whims.

Now the hike into Tamarack lake. A previous pass provided looks at prodigious snowpack; a repeat that running shoes would not enjoy. Let the posthole commence. 1 good step, 2 good step, sink. 1 good step, sink. Sink. SINK. SINK. Tolerance threshold at the brink. The slog continues… but what’s this? A miracle! The campsite is frost free and blue skies! Quick, assemble the shelters! Raise the tarp! Start the fire before the next barrage of hail!

Another lean-to afternoon breathing enough campfire smoke equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. Aquatic life is even better here, compadre Ben wrangles two fine trucha for the fire. Fingertips are so burnt that I might consider a career change given the lack of fingerprints.

Final day, rocket out of there. Steady drenching rain. Don’t care. We’ve got car fever.

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Chapter 1: The Scouting

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I’m not against roughing-it, but I’m not going to make myself completely miserable if there’s no need.

Ben, a friend who I’ve gone many an excursion with in the Anaconda-Pintler wilderness, arrived back in town last Sunday and by the next morning we had formed a plan to hike Senate. We took into account the large mass of neon colors seen on the site and decided this would be the best choice as the cabin would provide us more enjoyable accommodation relative to the one-ply polyester and fiberglass used by nomads of today.

Using the cabin as our HQ, we started off for Ivanhoe lake. The beginning of the hike had us traversing a north-facing slope with snow covering more ground than there was bare, losing the trail for a good bit before re-gaining our bearings. The lake was a stark contrast to the conditions of a year before. The water level was at least 20 feel higher and half of if still had a sheet of ice. A few casts with a spinner yielded nothing but popsicles. We trudged through the slush back to the cabin, stoked the fire, and began drying our shoes for the next day’s hike.

Tuesday morning met us with a fresh 5 inches of snow. What else to expect from a Montana summer above 7500 feet? Most of the morning was spend lazily completing crossword puzzles from a September 2004 Montana Post newspaper before summoning enough stupidity to climb Senate mountain in running shoes. By the time we had completed a third of the hike my feet had become completely soaked. Tackling the remaining 200 vertical feet off trail was merely a game of trial and error to see if your next step would place you on 6 inches of nice hard packed ice crust or plunge your leg through 3 feet of slush. A nice warm cabin at the end of the march was a very nice thought to keep in mind.

A Wednesday birthday necessitated our return to Philipsburg, but I was back out the following day to Kaiser lake. On Friday I wanted to scout-out a trail of which I had previously only known a very small portion. I stashed my heavy equipment in my tarp and only packed my day-sack with a few key items for an ultralight hike/run. About 4 miles in I was convinced this path was just a point A to point B, boring, vista-less route and turned around to run the same 4 hum-drum miles back.

For the solstice I did a quick one-night camp on Carpp lake. The cerulean skies and glass water provided some spectacular photo opportunities of Warren peak. A thunderstorm came through on the hike down and there were moments when I could only count a few seconds between the lightning and clap of thunder.

This week’s weather should prove to be a bit more hospitable and allow for some longer multi-night excursions.

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Forest Chronicles: Chapter 0

The first few weeks of being back in Montana were not necessarily according  to plan, but allowed for me to get my head back in the game.

I had been expecting to spend a few days in Pburg and then head out on a short camp to some familiar lakes. A buddy of mine was heading out of town to visit family. He had a dog, it needed to be watched, thus I became useful.

Days were mostly spent walking local trails, running to build cardio, and drinking to rebuild Montana-grade tolerance. Of course, to build that tolerance I must go to the bar, and once there I met this year’s summer interns. A fine crop of motivated kids indeed. It is a heavy and slightly astringent reality that these would have been the same group under my watch had shit not hit the fan like it had. To show young fries the spectacular wilderness of the Last Great Place was the most enjoyable part of my duties as a lodge manager.

5 years ago when I came out to Montana I was left awestruck. I was one of these kids I see now, kicking brass and ready to get out in there. The innocent stupidity of running around a place such as Glacier National park in jesus sneakers and hydrating with a flask of Jack was never forgotten. In many ways I still am just as stupid. Hell, I still hydrate with whiskey, but my respect for this place is something that has continually grown.

Chances are great that I’ll still be showing the 2014 crew some of my secret spots. It’s nice to know that even though I’ve been blackballed from my former residence, they can’t kick me out of it’s better half.

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It was a one armed man

“And I says ‘This here winter is going to be rough, by the end of it we’re going to see some people heading out of here’. Sure enough, I was right.”

It feels like the end of a feel-good 80’s movie:

Screen fades to black and synth music comes on] Karlie ended up in at a hula bar in Hawai’i [flash picture of cocktail wielding woman whirling flaming poi balls, fade to black] … Jaime finally finished his book on non-state actors in the international realm [man triumphantly holding up tome of a thesis heavy enough to break the back of a small animal/ multiple children, fade to black] … Clarice decided to patent her mixology for instant UTI relief to wild fanfare in the feminist community [flash to another cocktail wielding woman surrounded by other women sporting crew-cuts in a Portland bookstore, fade to black] … and as for me… well I’ve just been biding my time with the wilderness.

Too much has taken place since January, the most notable of which was being laid off and evicted within 5 days of each other.

The winter really kicked it into high gear once February started. The snowstorms became commonplace and turned the landscape into a skiier/snowboarder heaven. Unfortunately, I had surgery for deQuervain’s release on my hand and wasn’t allowed to do much physical activity.

The boss came late February after we had been pounded for weeks by snowstorms and Moose Lake Road had turned into one large snow drift. By the end of the week everyone was planning to enjoy a night of Mardi Gras festivities hosted by our Louisiana native and was itching to get off work. To make a long story much shorter and drama-less a car got stuck in a drift, the boss ordered us back, and we were essentially forced to spend the night on the ranch.

We faced temperatures of 10 below the following day, and driven by the desire for some fresh gumbo, the Michigander and myself decided that if the cars couldn’t make it, then it was time to hoof it. Act up or shut up. With the help of Stu and his snowmobile, the three of us hopscotched down the 11.6 miles of road. Two of us would ride on the machine while the third walked, then one person would come back for the straggler to advance a bit more down the stretch of iced and snow-drifted roadway. The worst was felt when riding the sled; 30 mph winds would whip exposed skin and it felt as if velcro straps were being plied from your face.

Two and a half hours later we were greeted by a rancher who helped us pull the downed truck out of a ditch and soon after we could see the plow burling through snowdrifts in our direction. We triumphantly strolled down the icy-road as Ms. Louisiana turned the corner, horn blaring and blue heeler turning cyclones in the back seat. Kurt Russell may have escaped from New York, but he had nothing on fortress Moose Lake Road.

A few weeks passed until another bomb was dropped upon us. The layoff of 4 senior staff and subsequent actions that removed most others. I refuse to embellish upon these events as they do not deserve any more fanfare… but I will give this:

Richard Kimball,
If you are reading this, for the sake of the organization that you founded and for the thousands of members who contribute monetarily, the interns who burn their retinas for 400 hours every summer, and the staff who pick up their lives to keep the gears oiled, step aside. Project Vote Smart will die with you. Please read the symptoms found in this article’s_syndrome and hurriedly prescribe yourself some self-medication.

I have since been living between the couches of Philipsburg, home of Aunt Kris and Uncle Ray in Billings, drove back to Hermosa Beach, and returned to Philipsburg. There was hope of gaining employment at Montana State University in Bozeman but unfortunately that proposition dried up.

There’s probably a question on many of your minds right now to which I can provide an answer: No, I am not about to hit the road again with an outstretched thumb, as tempting as the proposition might be.

I will, however, be living in the wilderness of Montana. It might be difficult for some to comprehend, but for those who have ever truly loved a place, it is those who will understand my action. And I don’t mean “I visited Fondon and I loved it!” or “Mellowstone National Park was spectacular!”, not in the slightest. The love I’m speaking of includes the roughed edges, grit, and pain along with the rainbows and cerulean sky. You need to give back to that place as much as you take from it.

Hopefully I’ll be better about updating with the forest chronicles.

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