Concrete, WA Population: 712

Yesterday I waved goodbye to the Emerald City once again and made my way back to Orcas Island to start my new job. On my way to the Anacortes Ferry, I made a slight detour East on Highway 20 to the small town of Concrete, WA. I won’t lie to you, I had no idea this town existed until I saw it on a television show. I thought it looked like a charming place and I wanted to see it for myself. Concrete is a very lovely town, surrounded by the Skagit River and nestled in the Northern Cascades. As you pull into town, you’re greeted by a giant silo structure welcoming you. The town proper is just one small main strip with a few old buildings. The High School is built on an overpass so that you can essentially drive right through it. The highlight of the trip for me was the Lower Baker Dam and the lake it holds back, Lake Shannon. I stood on the overlook of the Dam for a good 30 minutes just listening to the water and a group of  Eagles that were swooping and diving below me. Then I drove up a very rough road to the lake above, passing by many roadside waterfalls on the way. I walked around the lake and was soon joined by a local woman and her two scraggly dogs. I was only there for a couple of hours, but it was a great little road trip in a beautiful place.

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Lower Baker Dam

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Lower Baker Dam

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Lake Shannon

Adventures in Unemployment

Three months ago I was sitting on a bench in Lincoln City, Oregon staring at the Pacific Ocean and thinking about my future. I had just said goodbye to my coworkers at Outdoor School and was thinking ahead to my plans for hiking the Appalachian Trail in the spring. The plan: go home, visit my family for the holidays, find a part time job, save a little money for food and supplies, and then go hike the A.T. in March with a friend from Colorado. You know what they say about “the best laid plans”? You do, and so do I. The friend that was to be my hiking partner on the AT bailed on the trip in December due to a gross lack of planning even though we’d been discussing this trip for nearly 7 months. If anyone wants to know why I have trust issues, this is why. Despite my frustration, I think I’ve dodged a bullet. You don’t want to be out in the backcountry with someone that can’t stick to a plan, that’s how you die. So, I stopped reading about bear attacks and water purifiers and starting reading my “Washington State Handbook for Unemployed Workers.”

I was (as much as a person can be) prepared for the physical and mental stress of hiking 2,200 miles, sleeping on the ground, cooking all my meals on an MSR stove, and pooping in the woods for 5 months, but I was not prepared for the soul-sucking task of trying to get approved for unemployment benefits. If you ever want to test your patience and will, try calling unemployment every day for two months and being told by a robot that: “the call volume is too high, please try again later.” I can deal with hours of terrible hold music, but I can’t deal with being told by a bunch of ones and zeros that I have to try again later, every single time I call. I think this was mostly a result of trying to call during the holidays (just don’t ever do this to yourself). Without any other options, I kept calling and in January I finally got a human on the phone to help me.

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Don’t worry you guys; this is not a sob story. This is a story with a happy ending. While I was dealing with all the unemployment nonsense, I was also applying for jobs left and right. And guess what? I actually got too many job offers.

As of March 4th, I will officially stop being an unemployed worker and will be returning to Orcas Island to hang out with kids at Camp Orkila. I am so excited to board that Ferry in Anacortes and go back to paradise.

And the best part of this tale? In June I will be going to Maine to work as a Wilderness Trip Leader where I will get to, wait for it….get paid to hike sections of the Appalachian trail with kids, including Mount Katahdin, the final peak and finish line for Northbound thru-hikers of the A.T.

Pretty cool right? I think so. It’s been a tough couple of months, but soon I will be back to doing what I love and my adventures in unemployment will be a distant memory.

I leave you with this:

 

 

Oregonized

Five years ago I went to the Oregon coast and I fell in love with it. This Fall I had the opportunity to live there while working at Outdoor School; a daily view of the Pacific Ocean just outside my window. I spent my weekends camping in Lincoln City, exploring Portland, and took a weekend trip with a friend to visit Crater Lake. My time in Oregon was short, but sweet.

My home: Westwind

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My favorite spot in Portland: The Field

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Portland

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Crater Lake

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Mt. Thielsen near Crater Lake

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Wonderland

While camping with some friends in Sequim, WA last 4th of July, I met an amazing 13 year old named Bailey. Bailey was bursting at the seams with excitement about the beauty she saw all around her in the world. We stood on the bluffs overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and she said to me: “Do you know what I call this place? I call it Wonderland!”There is no better way to describe the Pacific Northwest, it is truly a wonderland of unparalleled beauty. The San Juan Islands are no exception and I once again find myself marveling at how I came to live in such a beautiful place. I have been spending my days paddling throughout the islands, camping under the stars, watching ferries go by and tides come in and out, walking through dense forests, mingling with locals, singing over campfires, and loving every minute of this island life.

Washington State Ferry and Mt. Baker from Blind Island

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The sunset from Blind Island

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View of Mt. Baker from the top of Mt. Constitution, Orcas IslandIMG_3228

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Sucia Island from Mt. ConstitutionIMG_3244

Buck Bay shellfish farm, Orcas Island   IMG_3257

Doe Bay, Orcas Island

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Greetings From the San Juans

It’s been an extremely eventful first week in the San Juan Islands. I arrived at Orcas Island, got acquainted with the property, and met the rest of the trip staff team. Together, we journeyed via sailboat to some of the nearby islands. We learned the basics of sailing, how to read currents and tide charts, how to tie knots and hang tarps. We also learned what happens when seven strong willed and outspoken leaders get stuck rowing for hours on end in a small boat against the currents and shifting winds. Despite the hardships, it was an incredible trip. On our third day, we hiked out to the Turn Point lighthouse on Stuart Island and had the privilege of witnessing two pods of orcas swim by, some no more than 50 feet from where we were standing. For many of us, this was the first time ever seeing these amazing animals and it was an incredible thing to experience our first week out. We are back on Orcas now and planning our first trips of the season which will head out on Wednesday. More to come soon.

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The Heart of the World

Colorado is truly the Wild West. It is an astonishingly immense and majestic state and I am so glad I have been able to call it my home this winter and spring. Although I have spent most of my time here in the Fraser Valley, I have had the opportunity to travel around a large portion of the state and see the wide range of beauty in the peaks and plains, mountain ranges and deserts of this incredibly diverse place.

Some places I’ve gone and some things I’ve seen:

Snow Mountain Ranch

Granby, CO

This place has been my home for the last four months and will be until I leave in mid May. As the seasons begin to change, I am watching the landscape transform from a winter wonderland to a beautiful spring in the mountains. More and more is appearing from underneath the snow everyday. This place has so much natural beauty and I will sorely miss these trees and mountains when I leave.

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Kremling, CO

Kremling is just a short drive away from my home and has been a thoroughfare to many other places on my many adventures. On my way through to visit Steamboat Springs a few weeks ago, we saw a giant bald eagle resting on a fence post. We stopped to observe him for a bit and eventually watched him take flight.

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Mount Whitely,

Oustide of Kemling, CO

I have renamed this peak Baby Matterhorn, because it always reminds me of a tiny version of the Swiss monstrosity.

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Arapaho National Forest, CO

Veiw of mountains in the Arapaho National Forest on the way to Vail, CO.

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Glenwood Canyon,

Glenwood Springs, CO

This was at a rest stop halfway through one of the prettiest stretches of highway I have ever driven on. For 12.5 miles, you drive through towering canyon walls alongside the Colorado River.

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Hanging Lake

Glenwood Springs, CO

Just a short drive from the Glenwood Canyon rest stop is the trail for Hanging Lake. This hike was only a mile up into the mountains, but with the snow and ice it was a difficult climb and an even more difficult journey down. It was well worth the trek though; Hanging Lake is an untouched oasis of natural beauty.

Not a joke.

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View of Glenwood Canyon from the top of the trail

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3/4 mark. One of the few non icy spots on the whole trail.

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The lake water was so pristine and such a beautiful color.

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The Falls

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This chipmunk was quite friendly and had found some leftover bread to stuff into his cheeks.

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The Stellers Jays were also quite friendly.

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A small cave we found along the trail.

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Not sure what this was built for, but I liked it.

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Telluride, Co

Telluride is a gorgeous little ski town 12,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains. We didn’t spend too much time here, but it was a nice visit and I would love to go back sometime.

View of the San Juan Mountains and Downtown Telluride

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Dinosaur Hill

Fruita, CO

This is the dig site of an Apatosaurus discovered in 1900. Spend an afternoon here and you can easily imagine dinosaurs making their home in this place.

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The Colorado National Monument

Fruita, CO

This is by far my favorite place in Colorado. None of the pictures can do justice to the grand nature of this place. People, buildings, cars, and even the entire city of Grand Junction are dwarfed by the magnitude of this ancient place. The monument is 20,500 acres of massive canyons cut deep into granite and sandstone rock formations. The landscape is comprised of beautiful red dirt and rocks, gnarled juniper trees and a wide array of wildlife including: ravens, canyon wrens, coyotes and bighorn sheep. John Otto first explored the monument in the early 20th century. Before he explored the park, settlers in the Grand Junction area believed the canyons to be inaccessible to humans. He began building trails and is responsible for getting the monument made into a National Park, and in 1911 became the parks’ first ranger. He was the first person to climb independence monument and eventually married his sweetheart at the bottom of it. This guy and I are definitely kindred spirits and I am so grateful for the love and work he put into this beautiful place.

“I found these canyons, and they felt like the heart of the world to me.”

Entrance to the Monument.

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Independence Monument, Monument Canyon

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Alternate views of Monument Canyon

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Window Rock with a view of Grand Junction in the background

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Juniper Trees

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Raven, Redlands View

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Balanced Rock

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Mountain Blue Bird

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A few of the many beautiful plants we saw.

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The closer I get to the end of my contract, the more I look back on these adventures and think about how much I will truly miss Colorado. I already have so many fond memories of my time here in this beautiful place with all the incredible people I have met. If you haven’t spent much time in Colorado, I highly recommend you make time to visit.

Passing Ships

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, only a signal shown, and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Life is all about making decisions. We never stop making decisions until the day the curtain closes for good. Some require little thought, while others are life changing. Choosing to uproot my life was a relatively easy decision for me despite the obvious drawbacks. I feel a sort of freedom I haven’t felt in years, I am free to go anywhere the wind blows; nothing and no one tie me down. Yet, the life I have chosen for myself isn’t always an easy one. Sometimes it’s a lonely one.

I have always been what you’d call a “people person.” Despite all their flaws, I just love the shit out of people. People are wonderful. I love marveling at the total coincidence of our crossing paths. Most of them lead such different lives as me, come from so many different places, speak different languages, have vastly different pasts and futures, and yet here we doing the same thing, in the same place, at the same time. Getting to learn about their lives and hear their stories, a small part of me falls in love with every new person I meet. I love the role, small or large that they play in my life and the role I get to play in theirs. Working jobs like this, you meet so many people and you see them everyday. I see the same people at every meal, when I’m working, in my free time, and on my days off. In this place, these people are much more than my coworkers and friends, the have become my family. They become a constant; the backdrop of my life. And then suddenly, they’re just gone. One at a time, they move on to the next grand adventure of their lives. Their time in my life is profound, yet brief. I have talked to so many people that do the same kind of work I do and most have experienced this intense kind of friendship and loss. Some choose to embrace the fleeting nature of it all, to open themselves up to every possible relationship and experience. Others choose to close themselves off and shut things out because they know what’s coming; they have done this many times before.


Sometimes I feel like it would be easier if I lived my life like this second group of individuals, but if you know me at all, you know I couldn’t if I tried. I choose to be open and experience the good with the bad. I choose to embrace each impermanent situation in my ever-changing life.  It won’t always be easy, but I stick by my decision to live my life on the go despite the pangs of loss I’ll feel each time my ship passes another on the ocean of life.