Category Archives: General

Up-cycled pallet raised bed gardening

Make this:

* MAKE SURE TO USE PALLETS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN CHEMICALLY TREATED.

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1.  Attach pallets at corners with bailing wire or string/cord.

2.  Use burlap or other similar material stapled to the inside walls of your pallets to prevent soil from washing out through the slats.

883541_10100948029238659_841374339_o3.  Fill your new bed with at LEAST 12 inches of Wood to begin with.  This can be a combination of split rounds, bark, chips, sticks, and twigs.  This wood should be free of any chemical treatments.  This wood will absorb moisture and keep the bed moist longer in dryer periods of weather.  The decomposing wood will slowly add nutrients and also provide a more diverse environment for the microorganisms that help plants grow naturally.

4.  *optional step: add a thick layer of straw around sides to insulate soil and add additional diversity to growing medium.

Side view of pallet raised bed garden.  Note the layer of wood below the growing substrate.

Side view of pallet raised bed garden. Note the layer of wood below the growing substrate.

5.  Fill the rest of your ‘bed’ with a quality soil.  If you are going to add amendments, now is the time to mix them in.  I like to add a layer of straw on top of my soil to help retain moisture and provide good worm/spider habitat – I even like to collect worms after a rain storm and toss them into the raised beds!

6.  Bend PVC or metal piping over your bed and secure with screw-on pipe fittings.  This arc will allow you to cover your bed with insulating material for gardening during shoulder seasons.

7.  GROW FOOD!  The end.

*  Additionally you can add all sorts of fancy-schmancy additions such as chicken wire, bamboo, or trellis depending on the particular crops you are growing.  As an alternative to the hoops you can get two-layer, translucent greenhouse siding to lay flat across the top of your bed.  This works best if you have not added too much soil, leaving perhaps 6-8 inches from the top of the soil to the lip of the pallets.

Long ride in Topanga State Park

I often think about how ‘productive’ I am being when I have down-time from work.  After finishing up my freelance gig with The Tennis Channel, I am back to searching for the next work

First rain I've seen in Los Angeles in over two months.

First rain I’ve seen in Los Angeles in over two months.

opportunity.  Productivity shouldn’t only be measured in dollars.  I’m talking about physical training opportunities, running, hiking, biking, etc.  I should relish the time off from work that I have because it allows me to pursue the things I love and affords me the ability to push my body and stay in shape for the next ‘big adventure’.

With all this in mind, I managed to get out for a couple runs including a half marathon distance this past week.  My left ankle (previously sprained at Burning Man) didn’t appreciate this distance very much.  I don’t want to stop running but I think I will stick to less then 10 miles runs to keep the impact down and give my body time to heal itself.  I am trying to help it along with LOTS of hydration and using compression after strenuous activity to help recovery.  To keep the intensity up and reduce impact, I turned to biking this weekend with a nice long ride in Topanga State Park.

A trail sign in Topanga State Park, Santa Monica Mountains.

A trail sign in Topanga State Park, Santa Monica Mountains.

Since I have been in LA it seemed like I had to drive a significant distance to find good riding or trail running.  This Sunday was a great instance of discovery as I learned that access to Topanga State Park is only a 15 minute drive from my house.  I accessed the great trail system from the 405 highway at Mulholland drive.  Parking is at San Vincent Mountain Park near the Skirball Cultural Center.  From this location you can ride some serious distance on a mix of fire roads and single track.

From the Parker Mesa Overlook you can see Santa Monica and Venice quite clearly.

From the Parker Mesa Overlook you can see Santa Monica and Venice quite clearly.

 

 

I intended to do about 20 miles and ended up grinding out just over 30…on the single speed.  While my bike choice wasn’t great, the terrain offered amazing climbing opportunities.  I was able to do a loop instead of an out-and-back and managed just shy of 5,700 feet of climbing.  It’s funny how I feel like the mountains here don’t even begin to compare to Colorado – true but the climbing exists.  This ride offered views of the Pacific ocean with some blazing descents.

Map and elevation profile of a trail ride in Topanga State Park.

Map and elevation profile of a trail ride in Topanga State Park.

Adventures in the Sequoia National Forest

This weekend was a good one, full of well-documented adventure.  Oh how I love to get out of this terrible, oppressive sprawl.  It’s not so much the density of people, or even the urban-ness of an existence here.  Honestly, it’s the air, stagnant and thick with hot exhaust and particulate.  I’m certain that I’m shaving years off my life every time I take a deep breath of this city’s vapors.

Andrew navigates the craft.

Andrew navigates the craft.

We found ourselves packed like sardines into the black GTI.  It’s elegant German engineering lost beneath the provisions and equipment for four of us to enjoy a weekend of camping.  We sacrificed ergonomics and leg room (temporarily) for a taste of the natural world which exists somewhere outside this concrete labyrinth.  Speeding North, the early morning pinks and reds slowly began to illuminate the sky.  Every now and again I caught a glimpse of the PCT as it paralleled parts of our trek to the Southern Sierras.

Breakfast found us in an outdated beige and tan building serving Mexican inspired cuisine.  Juevos rancheros filled my belly and would give me some discomfort later.  Over cups of coffee my travel companions and I discussed the details of life.  We also discussed whether or not the painting of the waterfalls on the wall behind us had the ability to turn on, projecting tranquility on the patrons of this affordable dining establishment.  We never could find the switch.

The Desert

After eating up miles of asphalt through the desert and hugging the corners of a winding canyon, the People’s Car zipped us through the isolated town of Kennedy Meadows.  We blinked and it was gone, Tom’s disc gold course a blur on the side of the road.  Jeremy recorded high-definition, time-compressed video while Andrew piloted the black rocket ship through the pines.  Marcy and I grasped the ‘oh-shit’ handles and felt secure under the groceries and other assorted wares.

Choosing our campsite and erecting tents, we explored our new surroundings.  A curious place, this forest.  We found ourselves perched on the edge of a large meadow, three strands of barbed wire separating us from it’s golden openness.  Trees rose up giving luscious shade, shelter from the alpine sun and it’s radioactive ways.  We walked amongst these elements concluding that we were happy and eager to trek.

We began by eating, a great way to begin.  Setting off on foot, our objective was clear – a rocky outcropping rising up from the far edge of the meadow.  We chose it because it was a high point and we explorers are always drawn to these types of places.  You know what I mean.  A place high above everything that surrounds it.  A place aching with the freedom of unbridled views and brisk winds.  From this aerie perch we viewed the landscape as if it were a model, a perfectly represented miniature world stretching out below us and outward to the horizon.  We ate more food.  We scrambled across and gripped at the rock with our talons.

Jeremy navigates some rock terrain.

Jeremy navigates some rock terrain.

Upon returning to camp, we promptly assumed horizontal positions on the ground or in a hammock.  The shadows lengthened, the sun turned more golden.  The woods embraced our tired souls and comforted us with a quiet that only a living landscape can provide.

Waking abruptly, we got back into our transportation and drove on dirt roads, upwards to the Bald Mountain Fire Lookout.  A brisk walk saw us to the base of a steel tower rising upwards into the afternoon sky.  Our natural instinct as adventurers is to climb upwards, upwards, higher!  And right there, at the top of this metal geometric fortress was a man.  His duty: viewing this stunning landscape of granite.  He watches the heavens, carefully identifying Vulcan’s electrical outbursts, plotting the locations where they smash into the earth.  This wonderful BLM employee is named Tom.

Tom points to coordinates on his specialized apparatus.

Tom points to coordinates on his specialized apparatus.

A day fully enjoyed.  We retreat to the comfort of our dirt patch to kindle a fire and fill our stomachs.  All manner of fancy appetizers whet our pallets for some schlongs which Marcy tosses on the cast-iron grate above our flame.  Wine is uncorked.  Memories are shared.  In this tradition of eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of others, great bonds are forged between friends.  We take time to play with the camera at night, truly a fun group activity.  Later, as the last one awake, I bask in the warm glow of the coals, red and orange, pulsing radiant heat.

Day two greets us travelers with cold morning air.  Reluctantly our entourage breaks camp, eats cold yoghurt (Noosa, the best), and piles back into our vehicle.  We’re rolling further West through the forest, over a mountain pass, and into the Kern River Canyon.  The landscape is changing.  Gone is the dry, thin air that once desiccated our lips and noses.  Now, the shadow of large trees holds in the damp smell of the forest floor.  Lime green moss clings to the red, deeply-furrowed bark of old giants as we turn at a sign labeled ‘Trail of 100 Giants’.

That sense of insignificance we all feel in the presence of great things is washing over me from high above.  This colony of giants is both welcoming and unsettling.  Are these trees happy or vengeful?  Would they say to us, ‘thank you for preserving this grove’?  Or maybe, ‘fuck you Henry Ford’.  I’d like to think the former.  I just hope they don’t drop an un-needed branch on my head in an attempt to settle the score.

Marcy navigates the forest.

Marcy navigates the forest.

Our troop frolics and meanders through the ancient sentinels, heads cocked at an awkward angle to glimpse the highest reaches of the canopy.  Some of these trees are over two-hundred and seventy feet tall.  Strolling right up to them like they are old friends, we run our hands over their spongy bark and duck under their exposed roots or into their burned out centers.  This amusement park beats the hell out of anything made by the hands of men.  Individual cells organized themselves over millennia into these magnificent organisms.  How humans could commit such a crime as defiling this amazing planet that has nourished and provided for us is beyond my capacity of understanding.

The weekend is coming to an end and we must return to the coast.  We would love to remain in this mystical place, among rocks, sticks, and soil.  These places are not ours to keep.  Embracing the impermanence of ourselves we can embrace the impermanence of the world, the dynamic and chaotic collection of matter that makes up our reality.  Organizing and reorganizing, elements and thoughts blend together into a collective consciousness which vibrates and echoes out into the black void of the cosmos.

Photo Credit - Jeremy Rousch

Photo Credit – Jeremy Rousch

Jeremy’s photo really shows just how large these giants are.

…and some recent work…

Our friend Andrew turned 29 and we threw him a banana-themed party and put more then 3000 balloons in his backyard…it certainly made for some good photos!

Our friend Marcy sets 3000+ balloons free in the backyard at Nerdingham Pallace.

Our friend Marcy sets 3000+ balloons free in the backyard at Nerdingham Pallace.

It's beautiful when lighting, space, and props come together to produce an unforgettable experience.

It’s beautiful when lighting, space, and props come together to produce an unforgettable experience.

Becoming a freelancer

My latest endeavor, as the title of this post would suggest, is becoming or developing myself as a freelance photographer.  A little background before I get into the guts.

I first became interested in photography in high school and took both a basic photography (film) course as well as a black and white darkroom.  These two learning opportunities had a certain element of purity to them in that I was pursuing the art out of an interest in the medium.  I had not yet thought or considered trying to earn money.  I continued taking photos through high school and remember getting my first digital camera, a Sony cybershot, 3.2 megapixles with a 32 megabyte memory card, woohoo!

Fast forward to college.  I had graduated to a digital SLR, a Nikon D200.  This camera was amazing when it was released.  I immediately found an online stock photography website where I could upload images and start earning some income.  Shooting these general, stock images wasn’t very exciting but it did generate (a little) income.  It was fun to get creative, searching for subjects that weren’t widely represented in the database.  I had hoped by focusing on these subjects I might get better exposure and earn better income.  Now, with over 25 million photos in their database, my insignificant portfolio hardly even qualifies as a % of what they offer.  Either way, I still manage to get a check 1-2 times a year in the mail.  How much could I earn if I got my portfolio up to 2000+ images?

As I continued honing my abilities I had some great opportunities to work as a second photographer at weddings.  This led to me getting a gig as the sole photographer on a wedding, shooting, editing, and delivering a finished product by my own prowess.  This was a great experience and bolstered my confidence in attempting other gigs.  I eventually got an opportunity through a friend to do some product photography for a website he was creating.  This was my biggest professional job to date and I traveled to shoot on-location for a business on the coast of Maine.  Arranging and shooting food was a really fun project, especially eating what was left after the shoot!

This point in my professional photography experience was a pivotal moment.  I was no longer taking photos out of pleasure or love of creating beautiful images.  Instead I was looking for opportunities to earn money.  I had lost the love of the art form.  It was a sad day.  I eventually sold off my gear and decided to take a break, telling myself, ‘photography should be about more then just money.’

Jump to the present.  I am now in Los Angeles trying to get my life in order, searching for career paths that suit my personality, passions, and values.  While getting all of those facets to align is a challenge, I don’t think it’s impossible.  I’m finding myself coming back to photography.  I never really thought that a career in photography would simply fall into my lap – you have to put in a serious amount of effort and time to be able to make a living with this art form.  It is especially difficult to expect to make a living as a freelance photographer.

Some of the major barriers to entering the industry as I see it are, a saturated market, ‘everyone’ being a photographer (thanks to digital), networking/connection development, and typical career paths to the position of photographer.  Lets explore a few of these.

The saturated market – It is clear to me that a LOT of people in Los Angeles are talented photographers.  In fact, I think a lot of talented artists live here or have moved here in general.  This is partly due to the high demand for artists and creative types in the film/television industry.  It’s a double edged sword – high demand and lots of people offering the skill in demand.  It is clear that to have a shot in this saturated market, individuals need to stand out, we need to develop our ‘brand’.  What is my brand?  I’m working on this one.

Next, everyone is a photographer.  Literally, everyone has a camera with them all day, it’s called a smart phone.  I’m not saying that everyone who HAS a camera IS a photographer.  Digital has definitely made entering the industry much easy for some folks who previously wouldn’t have wanted to invest the money in developing REAL film to see the results of their ability.  I remember having to spend money not only on film but on materials to develop and print photos.  All of a sudden it’s nothing to fire off 1000 shutter clicks at an event, sort through them and come away with 20-30 decent final photos.  This is a beautiful thing, especially if you know a thing or two about composition,  giving you no excuses to stop shooting.  This is ultimately is a good thing for any photographer with even a basic understanding of the art.

Typical career paths to be a professional photographer are like most film industry paths out here.  You start at the bottom.  While it can be demoralizing to get coffee for people, clean up after others, and be reduced to a role of physical labour, perhaps it’s a good way to learn.  I would venture a guess that most talented and successful photographers have been there done that.  Starting at the bottom could give us an appreciation for the amount of work and time that goes into rising to the position of photographer.

And finally, networking/communication within the photography community.  This, as I see it, is the most important, especially when it comes to working as a freelancer.  Literally every job lead or actual job I have had so far is through friends and word-of-mouth.  It’s amazing how far chatting up the right people will go.  You literally have to be ‘working’ 24/7, offering/talking about your services to find these opportunities.  My experience so far is that one job will lead to the next.  This has lead me to the realization that being a freelancer is about correlating your work and life into one continuous social experience.  Going to a friend’s birthday?  Nope, your meeting potential clients. Having drinks with a few friends?  Nope, you’re looking for job openings.  I obviously don’t mean this in a literally sense – your friends might get sick of your presence if you are constantly soliciting them for work.  However, you do need to be persistent and constantly looking/seeking opportunity.  It’s a numbers game like dating.  Of course, not everyone is going to want a date but, the more people you communicate with the more potential partners you will find.

A shitty interview & the importance of positivity

What is the most disappointing interview you have ever experienced? Sitting outside the restaurant at 10:05, I glance at my watch for the third time.  I was already informed that the manager (who is supposed to be shaking my hand and subsequently interviewing me) is running late.  This is a good start.  When he does show I am informed that he was ‘in traffic’ for over an hour.  I’m not sure that I believe him.  It is LA and otherworldly traffic does exist here: the kind of traffic that makes you utter every four-letter word you know and also consider how so many of these people haven’t killed themselves in previous moments of vehicular stupidity.

When he does squeeze through the door and shake my hand, we make our way over to a round table with black vinyl-upholstered seats.  I’m immediately asked about my availability to which I reply, immediate and open, weekends, evenings, whatever you need.  “Good, good”, he says.  Then, less then 2 minutes into our interview he is glancing over the resumé I just handed him (he didn’t bring the other copy I had previously put on file).  With a puzzled look on his face, his eyes come up to meet mine and he asks, “so where is your serving experience?”

Let’s take a step back here.  I have been into this restaurant, a fairly reputable one on Ventura boulevard three times now.  I brought them a resumé previously, then checked in on the status of that resumé a month later.  I then followed up with an email to update my phone number which had changed.  I was then called by the manager who asked me to come in for an interview.

So I’m sitting here and it is apparent to me that he has not yet actually read my resumé.  I explain my experience as a Wildland Firefighter, doing chainsaw work while things are literally on fire all around me.  I explain my experience as an Interpretive Ranger, speaking to groups of as many as fifty people, delivering original presentations 30-45 minutes in length.  I even mention my experience back in high school working taking orders and cooking food at a country club.  It is at this point in the interview that he explains to me that he is looking for someone with 3-4 years serving experience.  Let me add that this restaurant doesn’t have any item that costs more then $50 (an overpriced steak).  This is not a formal experience, rather an overpriced typical LA eatery.  Sure, the food is good and it is well-reviewed, but it’s not some exclusive, black-tie ordeal.  Needless to say he said that maybe in a month they would be looking for hosts and he would be in touch.

I immediately had another interview, also for a serving position.  It was a similar experience, although I was under the impression that the person interviewing me had actually prepared for the event – she asked me questions, engaged me a bit.  Still the same disappointing results.

Here is my little rant.  I can be a server.  I know this.  Yes it is a high-stress job.  Yes, it takes experience to be GOOD at it.  I don’t want to devalue the ability of someone who does this job well.  But guess what – any decently intelligent person can fulfill this job.  Yes, there will be a learning curve.  Still, as someone who has worked in many high stress jobs, I know I am capable of this.  Rant over.

That evening I was feeling a little down, drinking beers, enjoying the hot tub at my friend’s condo, when I got an email asking if I was available and interested to work as a freelance photographer on a project for an advertising agency.  Finally I was getting the break I have been looking for.  In a whirlwind of forms, information exchanges, days in the field, and finally uploading work form the project, I am just about done with my first paid photography gig since getting to LA.

self

Sometimes, when we are the most demoralized, disappointed or discouraged, we are also on the verge of something wonderful.  It’s a perfect example of my situation.  I was really unhappy after having two very inconclusive and seemingly useless interviews but something great was just on the horizon.  I learned (again, as I have learned in the past) that you cannot give up hope that something positive will happen.  As someone who has experienced a shit-storm like most will never know, it is sometimes the only thing that can keep a person going – the hope for the positive.  It will always be there, even if we are not always experiencing it.

Where the hell have I been?

I am JACKED right now.  The caffein in this americano is helping me remember days spent in the café in the town of Lone Pine, California, biding my time while my shin splints healed.  The further the PCT recedes into my rearview, the more precious the memories become that I can still hold onto.  Just last night Banana Boat and I enjoyed some FaceTime, recounting our glory days while we struggle to find as much pleasure in regular life.

My last post was back in July?  Wow.  I had just gotten off the trail and found myself newly located in Hollywood…Hollywierd.  If ever there were a place more at odds with my personality, I’d like to experience it, just for a moment for some perspective.  Believe it or not I am enjoying my time here.  I am enjoying my time with my Father and his partner, both of whom I have only seen occasionally in the past 10+ years.  I have also had the chance to re-connect with an old middle school friend not to mention make a bunch of new friends.  Overall the social experience here has been quite pleasant.  I am glad to report that the more places I find myself living, even temporarily, it’s always possible to find cool, interesting, genuine people.

The boys, the Man about to burn behind us.

The boys, the Man about to burn behind us.

Speaking of interesting social experiences, I just returned from Burning Man.  The only thing you REALLY need to know about the experience is that it was life-changing and I will be going back.  Without writing and exhausting narrative of my 12 days in the desert vortex, I feel like it is my duty to correct some common misconceptions about this gathering.  First of all, this is not a concert or music festival.  Music is a major part of the event but it is only part of the experience.  Not EVERYONE is nude.  In fact, naked or partially naked people are definitely a minority at Burning Man, although you might not think so based on popular images of the event.  Either way, not everyone chooses to whip out their goodies.  Along the same train of thought, Burning Man is not some crazy sex-romp.  Sure, it could be a sexual experience if one was seeking that kind of adventure but again, you would be a minority.  It was for a couple of these main reasons that previously I never attended the event – mostly because a significant other didn’t want me going to this magical place.  Understandable (although ridiculous at the same time if you really KNOW me).

So what IS Burning Man?  Well, you can read about the guiding principles on the BM website if you want a definition.  The best way I can describe the event is PURE LOVE.  I have never previously been in a social environment that is so caring and accepting of ‘the individual’.  EVERYONE is welcomed into the Black Rock Desert and received with a warm hug and respect.  In this desolate wasteland you will embody your truest self and everyone will love you for your bravery and honesty.  Ok, enough about that – the take home message here is that if you have EVER had even the slightest interest in Burning Man, you should go.  I will post a link as soon as our time-lapse video is done being edited and online.

After 12 days of travel, music, very little sleep, and immersion into this new culture, I returned to Los Angeles.

Since my return I have been very actively seeking work.  I am slowly wondering why I choose

Some graphic design fun

Some graphic design fun

such an obscure major in college.  I have applied to MANY jobs, most of which have not even returned phone calls or sent confirmation emails, assuring me they have received my resumé.  This is a competitive job market.  All (most) PA work on films is usually unpaid unless you have previous experience…ok.  Serving/restaurant jobs all require 2-4 years serving experience…ok.  Basically catch 22 kind of stuff.  I do have my second interview since getting here tomorrow.  It is what it is.

For President 2016

For President 2016

I have started doing some freelance graphic design on the side, building my portfolio and learning as I go.  My online portfolio can be found here if you have any interest.

I am trying to stay positive by doing fun things (that don’t cost much money) during the weekend when friends have time off from work.  Most recently we went down to San Diego county and surfed at San Onofre State Beach (just

Foot - 0  Shell - 1

Foot – 0 Shell – 1

North of the old nuclear reactor).  That evening we camped at the State Park.  Great time with great friends.  My friend Jeremy put together a great little video shot and edited entirely on his iPhone 6.  You can find it here, San OnofreSurf Day.

Morning drinking is the best drinking

Morning drinking is the best drinking

Ok, I’m losing interest so instead of rambling I will end this post.  Thanks for following along, will try to make the updates a bit more regular.

The last month in review

My eyes struggle to focus on the computer screen. Today I am on recharge. Sleep schedules have changed like the phases of the moon and today I’m waning. A little more then a month ago I was waking to first light and falling asleep at dusk. This memory feels like ages ago. Things are a little less regular these days, work dictating my cycle of rest and consciousness.

The whole time I have been unemployed, my inner dialog keeps telling me, ‘when you are really ready to work, you’ll find a job easily’. That theory that we can manifest our desires isn’t proving quite as easy as the book made it seem. I never counted on things just falling into place without any work though. Life this past year has been somewhat challenging and I don’t expect that to just change. So here I am in LA trying to get something going. I have to say, things are looking positive.

I started writing freelance for an online blogging site for which the pay is terrible. I look at this job as more of a training opportunity to hone my writing skills. One of the biggest challenges is writing on topics which I have no knowledge of. This requires research to produce interesting copy. I have also been working with a family friend, preparing his house to go on the market. I did a bit of sanding, staining, cleaning, yard work, and landscaping. In the evenings I usually make the time to go for a run up the Maxwell fire road in Wilacre Park.

On the weekends I have been working in Santa Monica with some friends to prepare camp OKNOTOK for Burning Man which is just a few short weeks away. I helped Jeremy construct the frame for his outdoor workspace/shed. As a large team we disassembled the new tower, painted a lot, and moved camp supplies into storage. I still can’t believe that within a month I will be headed to the Black Rock desert in Northern Nevada, a journey I have wanted to experience for more then five years. Am I mentally and physically ready for this experience I signed up for? I look at burning man as a technicolor, multi-media art project with my brain as the canvas. Or is the desert the canvas?

And finally, the last three days have been a blur as I worked as a production assistant on the film, ‘The Broker’. This independent project was a great introduction into the industry, giving me insights I never previously had. Luckily, due to the small size of this production, PAing included lighting, grips, and photography. I learned a lot and worked with some great people. Although I didn’t get paid for my time, I certainly have a solid foundation with which to more forward with this type of work.

Hiking goes on hold for the season

Beads of sweat roll down the side of my beverage, collecting on the New Belgium coaster.  A slight breeze of artificial, cool air hits my left ankle while I sit on leather.  Needless to say, I am not on the PCT.  That corridor of continuous change.  The beautiful and wondrous sanctuary for travelers and those seeking adventure continues to exist in what feels like an alternate reality just to the North-West.  The contrast of Los Angeles, the smog and noise is a polar opposite.  My former company continue exercising an existence of simplicity and utility while this boiling ass-fault (get it…) sprawl is filled with hoards of designer clothed zombies, stumbling in all directions with shopping bags full of excess.

I left the trail for financial reasons.  I began hiking this season, not knowing if I would be able to afford to make the trip all the way to Canada.  Spoiler alert, I ran out of money before making it there.  I’m not upset, nor am I bitter towards those that are continuing on without me.  I am filled with inspiration and awe from my experience.  I only hiked about 800 miles of the 2600+ miles of trail that exists.  If you ever get on the trail, you will learn quickly what I have come to understand intimately; the experience is the journey.  Maybe you don’t have to hike the trail to make this assumption.

My journey ended in one of the most remarkable experiences of selflessness and kindness that I have experienced in my life.  Snooze (Megan) and I finished hiking at Vermillion Valley Resort, an oasis of civilization in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.  From VVR we hitched into the small resort town of Mono Hot Springs where we soaked and enjoyed a night of camping.  The next morning, beautiful cardboard sign in hand, we packed our bags and sat outside the Forest Service campground, thumbing for a ride.  Within an hour of sitting down, a white pickup slowed down and a kind traveler said that if we were still there when he finished eating lunch, he would gladly drive us to Fresno.  We smiled and told him we’d be there.

Within an hour the familiar truck came rolling back towards us and we quickly jumped to our feet to throw our bags in the bed.  Buck was a clean-dressed, friendly guy in his 50’s.  With almost questionable enthusiasm, he said he would be more then happy to drive us to Fresno (2+ hours East).  Upon jumping into the truck we all struck up conversation immediately and knew we were in good company.  Buck had been coming up to Mono Hot Springs since he was a young man to go fishing.  His wife had given him the ok to take a small vacation and relive some of his fishing glory days so he made the love drive up into the mountains.  Although the fishing was questionable, he had a pleasant visit.  Buck asked about the ins and outs of hiking on the JMT/PCT, told us about his adventures hitch hiking across the country as a teenager, and recalled fondly the kindness and open-hearted nature of those on the road.  He said he had such a positive experience traveling when he was younger, that he wanted to give back by helping us on our way.  We liked Buck a lot.

Eventually we rolled into the city of Fresno and arrived in front of a dilapidated building in what seemed to be a sketchy part of town.  This was the Greyhound bus station where we would catch a cheap and uncomfortable bus ride the rest of the way to Los Angeles.  Before we could offer Buck some gas money, he was practically forcing a folded bill into my hand.  We refused for a minute, making quite the scene which eventually compelled me to grab his offering.  We explained that we couldn’t take any money from him, he had already driven out of his way.  Could we give this back and give YOU some gas money we suggested.  Buck wouldn’t have it, saying that our company was payment enough and that we knew we were ‘good people’.  Pay it forward he said.  We tried to get his contact info but he was reluctant saying he didn’t want us to mail him any money back.  We stood there amazed at his generosity and after a brief hug and exchange of smiles, Buck was back on the road.  Opening my hand, I found $40, bus fare for Snooze and I to get to LA.  This is real trail magic folks.

After purchasing our tickets, we walked through a deserted hispanic part of town, searching for food.  The streets were empty and all the businesses closed, a very strange scene for a city.  Eventually we were able to get something to eat and returned to the bus station.  Our ride to LA was what you might expect for a bus – long and cramped.  The WIFI that the poster in the station glorified was next to useless and neither of the 120 volt outlets that were advertised worked consistently.

Getting into downtown at 11pm, we waited on torturous metal benches until my Dad whisked us away to Studio City.  Snooze and I spent the next few days catching up on much needed sleep, watching terrible day-time television, and indulging in restaurant food.  Gotta love ‘real life’.  We both longed for the trail, the simplicity of adhering to the schedule of the sun.  The monotony of walking for hours.  This strange and impermanent existence had become so normal to us, it was unsettling to change it.  But change it we must – Megan had to get back to Connecticut for her Sister’s High School graduation and I needed a job.  We parted ways at LAX, heads still full of fresh memories from our JMT adventure.


 

So that brings us to the present.  I’m here, living with my Dad in LA, looking for a job.  Oh how fun the real world is.  Find a job so I can pay my bills so my credit score isn’t totally fuct (too late).  Get a job so I can make my car payment and student loan payment.  But hopefully the job I find can be more then just a means to an income – hopefully it can be enjoyable.  Do you have a job for me?

Dirtbag World

I’ve been sitting in the small cafe now for about an hour.  The staff mill about behind the counter, refilling refrigerated coolers and food prep stations.  Chris is reading the LA Times which I have already thumbed through.  I read an article about the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization on states bordering Colorado as well as a few other paragraphs from different news stories.  A mudslide in Colorado, a psychotic killer in Southern California, a promise from the President to Veterens, etc., etc., and so forth, and so on.  I put the paper down and begin writing this blog article.  A few minutes later Choop walks in the door, high-fiving Chris.  The two just met yesterday, just as Chris and myself met this past week.  One minute we were total strangers, the next all sharing living and sleeping quarters in the tiny town of Lone Pine, California.  Is my world really the same world I was reading about only 20 minutes ago in the newspaper?

I glance up at the flat screen looming in my periphery, images of Katy, Jennifer, and other beautiful celebrities flash across the screen before and add for some terrible movie involving who-knows-what.  It’s all very distracting and it’s very common.  Have you ever taken note of how many flashing panels of moronic nonsense fill YOUR periphery?  In a society that is shocked by violent outbursts fueled by sexual frustration, is it so hard to see the media shoving violence and sex in your face every chance they get?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m terribly disturbed and saddened by the recent tragedy that took place in SoCal and I feel for those poor people who were affected.

But trail life is different.  I’ve hiked roughly 700 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail this season so far and I foresee myself making it to Yosemite Valley, maybe further before I have to return to ‘real life’.  But wait, the trail life IS my real life.  *Ring Ring* My cell phone screen comes to life and my Father is on the other end telling me that I need to figure out the registration on my car.  It expires in two months…ahhh, the REAL world is calling.

Back to the issue at hand.  I’ve been sleeping in the back yard of a friend I made less then a week ago, with two other friends I met in the woods.  The house we were welcomed into remains unlocked so we can come and go as we please, use the kitchen, take a shower, whatever we need.  This is my reality right now.  It’s this beautiful alternate-reality I have talked about previously.  It’s the community of like minded individuals who value relationships, travel, experience.  They remain undistracted by all the bullshit that’s flashed in front of our faces like a steak in front of hungry dogs.  We don’t bite or even lunge.  Our satisfaction is found in the aerie crags, the evening conversations over a beer, the afternoon dip in an icy mountain stream.  It’s true, our lives are touched by all that pervades society.  Divorce, suicide, loss, and sadness.  In the open-natured hearts of the characters I’ve meet we’ve discussed all of these issues.  A sort of therapy session exists out here that you don’t pay for in dollars but instead earn in sweat.  

Now I’m glancing up at a commercial for furniture – NO INTEREST, LOW MONTHLY PAYMENTS, BUY NOW!  It reminds me of the impermanence of our existence.  We accumulate stuff for the purpose of…what exactly, I’m not sure.  We can’t take it with us to the next life.  My experience is that the more crap you own, the less freedom you can easily find.  Less then a year ago I gave away my furniture, sold my beloved blender, packed all the rest of my life into my Subaru and submitted to the call to go West.  It was a good decision.

And with impermanence in mind, I realize that these friends, these dirtbag, homeless, traveling friends will continue their journeys.  We are here for only a short moment, the intersection of four people’s dreams and adventures converging at this special in time and place.  Maybe this is the only adventure we will share together or maybe our trajectories will cross again, it’s uncertain.  What is certain is the beauty of this existence – this adventure together.  It’s far from a ‘typical’ lifestyle, but from what I see flashing across the TV screen right now, I’m glad that we are experiencing something different.