Chinlé, Canyon de Chelley, & Clouds

Thanksgiving among The Diné

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A mix of oddly appropriate and also intrusive, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday driving through the Navajo country of Arizona.  It was expansive, dramatic, thought-provoking, sad, and inspiring.

On the one hand, the tribe still inhabits a vast amount of land throughout the Southwest, and it is in fact the largest of the tribal lands established in the US.  Therefore there are grandiose landscapes with nothing but scattered scrubs and distant mesas, not a house or creature to the eye for what seems hundreds of miles.  You are taken back to how the land was for The People before the pioneers “settled” here…….and then on the other hand, the harsh fact that it was swiftly and painfully taken away.

The melancholy nature of visiting the tribes is the harsh reality of what has been stripped from them.  There is no escaping it, nor really any value in dwelling on it.  It is the reality of today.  I find perhaps the best way to honor the history, the plants, the creatures, and most importantly the people and the land is to simply know it is there and preserves it the best we can.  To thank the Navajo and support them in keeping their traditions which so worship the beauty of this land alive.  Let us visit when we can, and tell others of the wonder that continues to exist here.

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The Dine are The People here, and this Thanksgiving I am but a humbled and thankful visitor.

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Amongst the Anglers of Alaska

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There is something in the air in Alaska.  Or perhaps more appropriately on the Kenai Peninsula, there is something in the water.  Having just returned from a week on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, I have gained an incredible education in what a love for one of nature’s creatures can do for an area. I sit now yearning for Kenai in the early morning, where I sat sipping my cup of coffee as I watched my uncle preparing his boat and tackle box.  Seagulls and eagles shimmied for their spots along the bank’s high grasses, as the other early-rising anglers head out with their nets and fishing poles, hopeful and anxious over what the river may hold for them today.  Each mind’s eye focused on one thing as the tide rises on Alaska’s Kenai River: The Alaskan King.

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The Plight of the Kings

For all of its beauty and small town charm, just one thing drives this towns popularity and notoriety every summer.  Nothing happens here that is not tied to the river and more importantly, what the river holds: salmon.  And not just any salmon (as I quickly learned), but a vast array of some the most delicious and highly regarded fish in the world.  Every year, thousands of people descend upon the Peninsula to witness the yearly runs of Dog Salmon, Reds, Silvers, and every other year, a run of Pinks, not to mention the bottom-feeding Halibut.  But there is one fish that is most prized, most anticipated, and most talked about on the banks of the Kenai, and that is the Alaskan King Salmon.  Aptly named, this king of fish has a reign far reaching beyond that of the river.  Anglers the world over flock to this little town 200 miles south of Anchorage every July in the hopes of reeling in royalty.

Why is this one fish so regarded?  What about this salmon could cause such an obsession with fisherman, such a lust for fish that the state has to control the amount of fish each person can catch?  For one, the King Salmon, or Chinook Salmon as its official name, is the largest of the Pacific variety and is native to the Pacific from California to Alaska.   It’s flesh is known to be the most delicious of all salmon, and has been celebrated throughout history for its nutritional qualities.  The first Chinook catch each season is celebrated by the Native American tribes of the Peninsula and the Pacific Northwest, as well as by the sportfishing industry and amateur anglers alike.  Its imagery is everywhere, so much so that the Kings are even the state fish of Alaska and of Oregon.  The King truly does rule this cold, beautiful country.

But with some much cultural and spiritual importance, it seems inevitable that these fish would be in danger.  And that is exactly what has happened.  Overfishing of the Alaska King has lead to devastating drops in populations throughout the Pacific.  Commercial fisherman and sportfishing alike has been to blame, but thankfully conservation groups have come to the rescue.  The King’s popularity has actually proven to be both a blessing and a curse, as its popularity led to its steep decline, it has also garnished enormous attention and uproar from those who spend their lives on the river’s banks and cannot picture a life in which the yearly king salmon run does not exist.

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A prime example of such a group in the Kenai Sportfishing Association, which holds both a love of these fish and also a respect for them.  The group has been an advocate for conservation efforts including habitat restoration and commercial fishing restrictions for more than 20 years, and now Alaska King salmon populations are recovering and even considered healthy by many.

As with any conservation effort, it takes time, energy, and awareness to save a species, but most importantly it takes a love and respect for nature and what she provides.  The fisherman of the Kenai have such a respect for their Kings.  Yes, they fish them.  But all the talk I heard while on the river and in the town was focused on how beautiful and special these creatures are.  There was love and admiration in the voices of the fisherman when they described the yearly runs of the salmon, and the stamina and courage it takes for these fish to return each year.  Every time the conversation turned to the King (as most conversations inevitably did), the tone was one of amazement and honor of what the fish accomplish and the beauty they embody.  Each fisherman I met revered the fish as if it was truly royalty, bowing down to the King’s strength and majesty.  The Kenai is the kingdom of the King, in which its image graces every home and business, and its name is spoken with honor and pride.  Such a population will not obliterate its ruler, and this is why I have confidence in the King’s return and security.

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All in all, Kenai left me feeling hopeful.  Such passion for an animal I have rarely seen these days outside of my vegan friends and animal rights groups.  It was encouraging to witness what a love for one of nature’s unique creatures can do in its preservation.  If such commitment can be put towards other fishing populations or endangered species, I have no doubt their populations can be restored as well.

Also, and perhaps surprisingly, I walked away humbled.  I entered as a vegan who did not want to partake in any fishing activities.  I was ready to judge and be upset by what I imagined as a hopeless disregard for the life of the fish by those who hunted them.  What I found was just the opposite.  I found people who love these fish, but more importantly respect them.  The anglers of Alaska are like the tribes of old, who worshiped the animals that their lives depended on and lived with the animals instead of against them.  I am proud of my uncle, Ron Rainey, as president of the Kenai Sportfishing Association, for he embodies this love of the King and passion for its conservation.  Turns out, you don’t have to be vegan to be an honorable animal lover.  And I am happy to have been proven wrong.

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The Energetic, Persistent, and Admirable People of El Salvador

The world is big, as we all know.  But oftentimes its true beauty can be found in the small.

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I have just returned from El Salvador, a small country in Central America with very little tourism, no amazing wonders of the world, essentialy a small blip in our American radar.  Rated as one of the most dangerous countries in the world right now due to gang violence, and with the recent scars of a violent and cruel civil war, this is a recuperating country far from the eyes of the world. However, I feel moved and changed, rejuvinated and excited after spending the last few weeks working with the Salvadorans.  Let me expand on why…

First, a brief description of what this country is facing. Deforestation in El Salvador has had serious environmental, social, and economic impacts, and is something that affects the daily lives of its peoples. Over 50 percent of El Salvador is not even suitable for food cultivation, and soil erosion makes reforestation efforts feel dismal.  This affects mostly the rural population, of which there are nearly 1 million Salvadorans living in poverty.  Also, with the end of the horrible civil war of the 1980-90s, a huge exodus of El Salvadorans fled and left those behind to scramble with the aftermath.  Poverty and economic instability have followed, as well as a social and moral impact lasting far beyond the war’s end in which a remembrance of the death and violence still reigns.  To compound this, gang violence has landed El Salvador on the list of countries to avoid per the USA’s travel advisory board, and the little tourism that did exist is all but snuffed out across the entire country.  But the amazing thing is that in spite of all of this, there remains an enormous amount of positivity and excitement about the country’s future.

Now, my visit revolved around three environmental groups coming together in an effort to promote organic fruit tree planting and practices as well as a focus on the reforestation of indigenous trees throughout the country.  For the next ten years, the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (of which I was helping out) will be joining forces with an organization working to uplift and connect El Salvadorans in the US with those back in their home country, SHARE, as well as an on-the-ground organization working directly in the field to work towards an organic, sustainabile future for El Salvador’s agriculture, CONFRAS.  The project will cumulate with 100,000 trees planted all over the country, and an educational program to improve the environment and nutrition of El Salvador. Cocao tree planting This first year included 10,000 tree plantings at schools and cooperatives primarily in rural parts of the country, where life is very much influenced by the environment in which these people live.  Despite the fact that 46% of the rural population is below the poverty line, doors here are open and hospitality abounds.   Coastal homes may not even have their land in 10 years if the current rate of sea level rise continues, but nonetheless we spent an entire day being served free beers and food at the beachside home and “bar” of a friend of one of the cooperatives presidents.  We watched the World Cup, talked in Spanglish, laughed, swam, and discussed the future for both this man’s family and for the country.

The Salvadoran people I spent time with did not feel or act in any manner as if they did not have the possibility of a great, meaningful life and future.  They know the chance to improve, change, and even reverse the situation of their country is in their own hands.  What they do every day with their food, water, and agricultural choices directly affects their country and their families, and they are immediately willing to change, learn, and grow for a sustainable future.

People can get caught up in how trendy being green is the in the States, and even annoyed at some for wearing or doing things because it is cool to be “green.”  But down in this little country, people really are doing what is best for the earth right now, in their own backyards, because their actions will directly and immediately affect them and their families’ futures.

We toured the nursery, or vivero, where the 100,000 fruit trees for this project are being grown, and found a multitude of experimental organic growing practices and permaculture ideas being tested for the benefit of the communities and its members.  The joy of all those working here and of those receiving the trees was incredible.  There were always people around and asking questions, eagerness in their demeanor, in their handshakes, and in their smiles upon leaving with a head full of knowledge and hands full of trees.

In the middle of virgin jungle, a sign in Spanish reading "We protect the flora and fauna"

In the middle of virgin jungle, a sign in Spanish reading “We protect the flora and fauna”

My final planting was with a group of community members, representatives of our non-profit groups, and the regional mayor’s office.  This was a reforestation effort consisting of the planting of the Ojushte tree (known in English as Breadnut), which was once a staple food for the Mayans.  We drove hours into the depths of virgin Central American forest, where the arborists for the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation guided the Salvadoran planters about best practices and gave a hand as these once sacred trees were reintroduced into the forest.  It is truly hard to put words to the experience, expect to say that it felt very, very profound.   Saying anything else would take away from the simple beauty of the experience.

 

In closing, I must say thank you to all of the people I met these last two weeks…

To the cooperatives of women who carry water from the creek to wash their clothes and after cook dinner for their three generations of children.

Cooperative women with daughter and husband

Cooperative woman with daughter and husband

To Don Ivel, president of his cooperative, whose pride in the organic crops his and the other 25 families are growing shown through in the smile that broke across his face each time we drove past the ears of corn on his coastal farm land.

Don Ivel's son with their goat

Don Ivel’s son with their goat

 

To Luis of SHARE, who acted as our translator of both the language and more importantly the culture.  His endearing and vigorous love for his parent’s home country ignited all of us to feel the same while we were there, and whose efforts will provide both a bright future for him and for this country.

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To Jorge of CONFRAS, for putting up with my mixed tenses of Spanish and bad jokes, all while manueving through hours of driving, truckloads of school kids, and communication issues with a huge smile on his face.

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And finally, to the children of the schools.  The energy of these kids is exactly why these projects continue to get done.  They will forever remember receiving and planting these trees, and this ensures their success long after we whom came to plant the trees with them are gone.

Sisters under a papaya tree

Sisters under a papaya tree

Gracias El Salvador, nos vemos pronto.

Reflections from the Road: Rediscovering the Southwest

It is easy as a traveler to forget where you are from, or more importantly to forget the beauty of your homeland. We become jaded to its loveliness in pursuit of what we perceive as the ever lovelier exotic landscapes. I admit I have the grass-is-always greener syndrome that affects many constant travelers. Therefore, I have taken a step back recently to truly look and appreciate my homeland, for it really is something magical.

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The Southwestern United States is a land of the imagination. Visions of a cowboy riding into the distance, purple orange skies throwing his outline into the horizon as he heads into the desert’s seemingly endless vastness. Tales of rowdy mining towns, where vigilantes and sheriffs sit side by side at the darkened local bar, heads hung over as they cheers each others’ whiskey glasses, a pistol on their hips and a toothpick in their mouths. Images of Native American elders draped in traditional blankets and intricate turquoise adornments, gathering the tribes’ youth around them to tell the tales of their ancestors through a cloud of smoke from burning sage and sweetgrass.

In truth, these images still live in today’s Southwest. There is still a rugged and undiscovered edge to the Southwestern region. There are still the cowboys, still the vigilantes and vagrants (indeed with a pistol in the bar, legal as it is here), and still the sacred traditions of the Tribes.

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And there is still the land. An increasingly important part of traveling is seeing places yet untouched by human civilization. Appreciating the way the Earth wants to be and how, hopefully, we can preserve her for the future. The Southwest is a pristine example of the importance of nature preserves. Luckily, although it is tragic the ancient Tribes were confined to such small spaces and deprived of their true nature and lands, the reservations of the Navajo and Hopi (to name just a few) have allowed for large expanses of the region to remain largely untouched.

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I recommend this roadtrip to anyone with that same sense of adventure that brought the first of us to this area. Although it is tinged in the sadness of greed and insensitivity, this area has evolved into a shared space between the conquerers and the native inhabitants, and we all now call this home.

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Take advantage of this while we can. Humans are still explorers and Americans are still manifest-destiny-ers. Drastic measures need to be taken to preserve what we have for our children. In the meantime, experience these amazing lands. I hope the above mementos through this region will inspire others to love this land as I do, as the cowboys do, as the Tribes do, and as the plants and animals do… and help keep it for the generations to come.

Memorias del Viejo San Juan

Puerto Rico may be an island, but it is a big and diverse island.  And San Juan is also a big and diverse city.  As I’ve expressed before, I travel slowly, so when I only have a few days in a place, I want to get to know its locals and corner stores, its bodegas and quirks.  Therefore, in San Juan I stuck only to the hood of Old San Juan, or San Juan Viejo.

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El Viejo reminded me of living in Quito in a way, or of my time Lima or Valparaiso, where the old Spanish colonial has morphed with the newer colored paint and modern bustle of latin american life.  However, San Juan is indeed unique and even somewhat confusing.  It took me awhile to get my bearings –to realize that to use Spanish or to use English is up to my discretion –to realize just how friendly puerto-riqueños are –to realize people are more than willing to talk about issues ranging from the USA-Puerto Rico territorial debate to the emerging prevalence of gay rights and activism on the island (yay!) — finally, to realize this place is not like any I’ve been before, and yet I feel very comfortable.

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My stay was along the waterfront cobblestone roads, which was a treat in itself.  Waking up from a mid-afternoon seista to the sound of waves crashing against the old Spanish fort out my window seemed to promise that the each evening would always be a lively one.

Indeed, never did they fail.   Just two minutes out the door on my first night, I came across a dance party that had quite literally taken to the the streets.   Encouragments of “Baile! Baile!” found me in the middle of a swarming body of dancing men, women, young, old, foreign and local, all swaying and clapping as the sun set just beyond us over the spanish-built wall into the Atlantic.

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The following days were a blur of delicious mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish typically made with fried green plantains mashed together in a pilón), stuffed avocados, concha and crab salads, and Don Q rum out of plastic cups;  afternoons climbing dizzying staircases and taking in massive vistas atop spanish fortresses; art galleries and shops stuffed with anything from cheesy tourist magnets to traditional island wares to original works by local artists.

My final day in El Viejo served as a perfect reflection of the confusing beauty of the neighborhood and of my experiences here.  Whilst eating helado de coco (coconut ice cream), I spent an aimless afternoon wandering throughout the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, Old San Juan’s coastal graveyard.  This idealic, slightly melancholy scene was punctuated by the sounds of children playing soccer, just feet from the stark white angles residing over their ancestors graves.

IMG_1058IMG_1050IMG_1032IMG_1033IMG_0928IMG_0837 I don’t have much more to say for San Juan, because it was such a brief and simply pleasant experience.  What sticks with me is the feeling of warmth and communication that buzzed the street of Old San Juan.  People ready to talk and share and question.  People ready to dance and eat and probably drink a little, too.

The last night walking home in the rain, looking toward the Spanish fort and listening to the fading sounds of yet another nightly dance party, I felt just as confused and yet comfortable as I had the first day arriving.  It was a nice feeling, really.  And one I encourage you all to pursue…..perhaps even here in El Viejo.

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Culebra Bonita

Ahhhhh, Culebra.  Just thinking about it right now, I feel more relaxed.

When I decided to spend time in Puerto Rico, I have to say I had some apprehension.  Whenever I think of the Caribbean islands, I have visions of huge cruise ships, tropical shirts barely covering protruding bellies, swarms of tourists loudly complaining there are no signs in English, and a general annoyance.  Hey, I’m an American, I shouldn’t be so judgmental.  But man, we can sure be annoying.

That being said, I set up an itinerary that gave me space from the tourist scenes.  I only had a little over a week, so I decided to split that into just two places, with the majority of my time being spent on the small island of Culebra.

For those who like rustic but funky accommodations, leisurely schedules, drinking before noon, and general casualness, I’d recommend this island.  It is not fancy.  It is not luxurious.  But it is beautiful, and friendly, and lively, and slightly odd, and did I mention beautiful?

My suggested Culebra lifestyle is as follows:

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Take the flight from the mainland.  Air Flamenco has flights from Isla Grande multiple times a day that run about USD $70/roundtrip.  It’s a bargain considering the fabulous view from the little eight seater plane that jets you over the sparkling Caribbean waters and lush palm beaches.

When you arrive in Culebra, walk down the road from the airport to the Carlos Jeep Rentals and get yourself a golf cart.  It’s super cheap (about USD $25/day) and is all you need to get around the island.  It is also SO MUCH DANG FUN!

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Next, head to your little home for the week.  I used my favorite way to find affordable local accommodations, the peer-to-peer rental website Airbnb.  Our house, named Casa SuMarco, was absolutely picturesque and cheaper than any hotel.  Plus, look at the view that welcomes you…

Okay, get settled, then get back in your golf cart….it is BEACH TIME!  Beaches not to be missed include Flamenco Beach, Tamarindo Beach, Zoni Beach, and Manques Beach.

Flamenco was my favorite, which I did not think it would be.  It is the most popular, although even on busy weekend days it is hardly full.  Flamenco tops my list not only because it is lively and spacious, but it has food kiosks featuring delicious stuffed mofongos (mashed and friend plantain balls), ensaladas de pulpo (octopus), and ensaldas de concha (conch).  And honestly, the best beach drinks I have ever had.  Four rum punches later, Flamenco and I were quite good friends.

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Zoni is an untouched sanctuary.  Don’t plan on swimming or snorkeling, as the tides are strong.  Simply walk along the beach and pick a spot to sit and enjoy the view.

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Tamarindo wins for its snorkeling opportunities.  There were only three other people there the whole day we snorkeled.  For USD $12 for a whole day of snorkeling equipment, you can see sea turtles and tropical fish in water the temperature of a soothing bath.  Seriously, heaven.

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Finish that last rum punch, throw on your sunglasses, and head back for a much “deserved” nap.  Bonus points if that nap includes a hammock…

Shower.  Back into the golf cart.  Dinner.  For me, nothing beats the Dinghy Dock for happy hour, salty expat converstaions, chill music, and delicious food.  There are definitley some other good options including Zako’s Tacos and Amy’s, but for the best vibe and most memoriable characters, Dinghy Dock has ’em all beat.

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Cruise around in that little golf cart a bit more, sit on your porch with a good book, and fall into a sound sleep amidst frogs and the occasional mesquito buzzing.

Wake up.  Repeat.  And repeat.  And repeat…….

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Two Cousins Meet in a Toyota Corolla…..

Sleeping in Reststops, Meeting Deformed Deers, and Couchsurfing a Carnival

Best story of my cousin (and first one I tell if I get the chance) involves my sister thinking he is the cutest of all the cousins (which is saying something as there are like 30 of us or something).  She lays on her back, holds him over her head, and tells him this fact.  His reaction?  He throws up directly into her mouth.

That story gets me every time.

So that and a handful of other childhood memories are pretty much all us two kids have of each other.  Therefore, when I got the news from my aunt that Patrick has just sold all his belongings, stuffed the rest in his Corolla, and set off up the California coast to “find himself”, I knew we needed to talk.

Let’s keep it brief.  June was a rough one for me.  My dad died, I quit my job, left my belongings in San Fran, and am just….floating in the pool all day, crying, and wondering what to do next.  All of sudden Patrick and I have this amazing conversation about his journey and equally about mine, and we realize, we need to be together for this.  Fast forward two weeks, and we are sitting in a Denny’s outside of Sacramento, downing cup after cup of cheap coffee, and chatting so fast and so excitedly it’s as if the world knew we needed this.

To follow is a photo (and caption) journey of our month being Bummin’ Cousins’ from California to Washington to rest stops to tree houses.  It was rad, it was weird, and it was very very needed.  For both of us.

Denny’s in Sacramento –> Apartment in San Francisco

Jived on too much bottomless coffee, we say fuck it and head to my apartment in SF that I’m currently subletting.  Two fuzzy days in the Mission later….

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ohhh how I miss my apartment on Clarion Alley

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the symphony playing at Dolores Park, because, why not???

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cousin telling a tale….something about lima beans and our grandfather….

San Francisco –> Mount Shasta

We need to camp.  Get us out of the city.  Unfortunately, we don’t dig paying 20 bucks for camping, so Shasta lasts for all of two days….

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Shasta –> Ashland, Oregon

Sometimes I forget how much of a hippie I have become, and my cousin is quickly becoming.  Then we hit Ashland, and find the mecca of clean, pretty, happy hippies.  It becomes clear immediately we just may belong here, and are both having a hard time leaving this place.  I mean, we both walked into the natural grocery store and separately met eyes with our potential future mates.  So…..yes, it was hard to leave.

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Ashland –> Eugene –> Huckleberry

In true roadtrippin/cheapo/hippie/awesome fashion, it is time to ‘Rest Stop It’.  Really, pretty comfortable, with clean bathrooms and a warm sleeping bag.  Oh, and a bottle of rum to drift off to sleep with.  From there, we end up camping in a free and remote drive-in campsite outside of Crater Lake called Huckleberry.  Beyond the greatness already mentioned, this is also where we meet Larry the Deer (aka our deer/dear friend Larry).  He’s one of God’s very special creatures…

IMG_0489 IMG_0498 IMG_0504Crater Lake –> Portland

We part ways with Larry after cracking some pretty great jokes at his expense, and severely hurting his feelings and already faltering self-confidence.  After leaving the poor dear in a state of depression, we enjoy the beauty of Crater Lake.  From there, it is time to surf some couches, and perfectly we have plans to meet up with a fun sounding mandolin player up in Portland.

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Heaven.  Our couchsurfer literally leaves his door open, welcomes a rotating door of international travelers, and compliments us by hosting us as his first domestic CSers.  Our whirlwind of Portland includes tree houses in the backyard, beers at a river hangout for two days, the city’s international beer festival, and learning dutch words in the presence of a handmade pirate carnival bar.  Feel free to read that sentence again….

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We somehow loose an immeasurable amount of time in Portland, and after swearing we will be back one day, head to the remote and serene San Juan Islands up at the top of the Washington/Canada border.  After splurging on a seafood dinner and a foggy ferry ride, we are welcomed by a beautiful hike-in campground to detox and reflect, and just be in nature…..

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IMG_0607 IMG_0614 San Juan Islands –> Seattle –> Home

I shall be flying out of Seattle.  We eat oysters, take a spin on the ferris wheel, and laugh about Larry some more (he has now become my cousin’s Spirit Guide, dubbed thusly in Portland)…

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IMG_0630 IMG_0636And from there I depart.  My cousin has decided to move to Portland, and ends up living with our Couchsurfing host and continue carnival life.  I have decided to return to Arizona to enjoy life there and plot slowly my next move.  And who knows?  Larry, my cousin, and carnival couchsurfing may be part of my life again sooner than we all know….

Life can be rough, but it sure does know what it’s doing.  One minute you can be crying in a pool in Arizona, the next telling a deer to get a life, followed by highfiving 10 new friends in a treehouse.

From there….?

So You Closed Me Out of My National Parks, Eh?

Antelope Canyon to the Rescue!

It’s midweek, and I am bored.  Well, pleasantly bored, but still bored.  I’m hanging with my puppies in a little cabin up in Prescott, AZ and have done my fill of walking around the neighborhood.  So I do my usual game of opening up Google Maps, looking for the green of public lands, and picking a new one for the day.  Then I realize, SHIT.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN = NO NATIONAL PARKS.

John Muir would be so pissed.

What am I to do?  Well, one of the benefits of living in the Southwest are the reservations.  They aren’t particuarly fair and happy places throughout history, but for all the bad, the Hopi, Apache, and Navajo Tribes have been able to maintain some beautiful landscapes for themselves and the rest of us to enjoy.  One such example is Antelope Canyon.  Andddd, as it is under the Navajo Tribe’s control, it is open during the government shutdown.

Decision made, I am in the car the following morning.  I have one day (as I need to get back to the cabin and feed those hungry pups).  So here’s how I do it, and do it alone.

Antelope Canyon, AZ

5 am: Out the door. From Prescott, or actually most major cities in Arizona, Antelope Canyon is anywhere from a 4-6 hour drive.  Again, because of the shutdown, the 89A North out of Flagstaff is closed, which shots me out an hour east by way of Tuba City; a remote, enlightening detour through the deep parts of the Navajo Reservation surprised me.  The Rez is pretty spread out and underdeveloped, to say the least.  I found it very, very beautiful.  Very quiet.  And very awakening.  I purposefully made multiple stops in small gas stations and general stores along the way, and found more cowboy hats than I had originally anticipated.

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11:45 am:  After the above mountain, I hit the final stretch towards Page, AZ, which is the closest town.  All of sudden, you’ll see a small sign that says “Antelope Canyon Info” (which you are to ignore, as this offers paid ‘tours,’ which is just a rip off, because the Navajo guides at the entrance of the canyon are all you need for a tour).  A mere minute later you will come across the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon turn-offs.  Coming from the East, Upper will be to your left and Lower to your right.

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12:00 pm:  I am not one for crowds, if you can tell.  Therefore, Lower Antelope is for me.  It has about 1/4 of the cars as the Upper Canyon and is supposedly a longer and more winding stroll through the bottom of the canyon.  I simply stand in line with an eclectic crew of chatty German and French tourists, pay the $26 dollar fee to the Navajo Nation and tour guide, then head down.  I hung back to the very last of my group of 10 or so, which allowed me to feel almost completely alone many times throughout our 90 minute tour.  And now I will shut my trap, and let the canyon speak for itself…

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1:40 pm:  I spend a few minutes chatting with the guide about his favorites spots in the canyon, and ask for some tips for next time I come back.  He also mentions he wishes less tours came through, but that his job would be less lucrative if that was the case.  Ah, the dilemma of money versus preserving nature.  Maybe he just wanted a bigger tip, which I end up giving him.  Hey, he let me take his picture, so it was worth it.

IMG_0367 IMG_03702:00 pm:  Quick drive out to Antelope Canyon Marina, because why not?  I hadn’t realized there was a body of water this far from Lake Powell.  I find the reason is that this is called a Marina, not a Lake, as that is because that all it is really is.  A bit of water and some boats in the middle of a vast desert landscape.  Water and a view, something I’ll always take.

IMG_03797:00 pm:  Dogs fed,  Lizzy showered,  day is done.  Now I can sit on my couch and relive Antelope Canyon, which is going to take awhile considering I took something hovering around one hundred pictures today……Oh, make that one hundred and two.  I added a few more of zee puppies.  I mean come onnnnn, wouldn’t youuuuu???

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California Coast: Roadtrip Number Two

This Time Solo

Highway 1, Big Sur, California

This summer has been the summer of roadtrips.  How this came to be is a bit non-sequential and unexpected, like most of my life “decisions”.

At the beginning of this year, I would be sitting at my desk at work in Startuplandia (SoMA San Francisco), and daydream about getting out on the road.  I’d stare at Google Maps and National Park websites and put together all different combinations of routes and stops.  There were a couple hinderances at that time though, stalling these thoughts as just a mid-workweek fantasy.  Such roadblocks (get it???) included that I worked full time and so do all of my friends, I sold my car before moving to the city, and I’d never done a true American roadtrip on my own.  Having camped a lot back in Arizona, enjoyed Thanksgiving jaunts to Big Sur, and hitched around South America with a friend, I felt I had some relevant experience to backup my daydreams.

Well, soon enough my opportunity came.  This has happened to me often, where thoughts that had crept in a few months prior become realities later.  This time, it started with my becoming restless in June and asking for some time off from my job.  Wish granted, I sublet my room and my apartment in San Francisco and came back to my family in Arizona.  After spending time with my dad and my family, I came to realize going back to San Francisco was not in the cards for me.  So………….

Here we are.  2013 has offered me three opportunities to jump on the road, my prior hinderances melting away.  I was now free of commitment, my dad has given me his little Tacoma truck, and I am feeling pumped to try new things and meet new people.  Below is the route and journey of Roadtrip Number Two (Roadtrip Number One was longer and will need a bigger post, so therefore will come later 🙂 )

The Route/The Plan:

Phoenix to San Francisco Route

Things to consider:

  • How long do you want to drive each day?  Some days, I don’t mind just driving all day, but other days I want the freedom to get out of the car and look around on a whim.
  • Where will you stay each night?  I chose my destinations because I had places to stay in each.  Two of the cities had friends there and one I found a couchsurfer willing to take me in for the night (you know how much I love couchsurfing!!)
  • Will you be making stops along the drive or just drive straight through?
  • What are the average temperatures?  If you are camping, hiking, galavanting, partying, or just walking around, you will need to know this.

Really, all that is required is mental flexibility and willingness to get out there.  Feel free to message me for more advice on how to do such a trip.  Going solo is a whole different idea than doing a group roadtrip.  There are lots of resources out there for those striking out on their own, especially if you want to be social and meet people.  You will find that the open road can bring quite a wonderful and unexpected world.

Below find the highlights of this Solo Summer Roadtrip Numero Dos.

Prescott, Arizona

Sunset Point Vista, Prescott, ArizonaMingus Mountain, Prescott, Arizona

Joshua Tree, California

Joshua Tree, California IMG_0708Joshua Tree, California

San Diego, California

San Diego, California, La Jolla Cove San Diego, California, La Jolla Cove

Roadside Highway 1

Highway 1, CaliforniaHighway 1, Elephant Seal Rest Stop, California

Highway 1, CaliforniaHighway 1, Big Sur, California

Morro Bay, California

Morro Bay, California

Monterrey, California

IMG_0797 IMG_0824Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CAFort Baker, San Francisco, CaliforniaDolores Park View, San Francisco, California America's Cup Pavilion, San Francisco, CA

14 Hour Drive Back to Arizona

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Sweets, Sweatpants, & Sand Dollars

Takeaways from a Week in Seaside, OR

Seaside, Oregon

“It’s time to get the heck out of dodge”

I look over at my mom one Sunday night, as we are sitting around reading and drinking wine.  And she is right.  We have been sitting in these same chairs for the last week, a case of wine bottles fills our recycle bin, and, not to mention, it is 115 degrees outside in summertime Arizona.

“Well, where?  And when?”

48 hours later we are on the plane.  My mother’s answers to the above questions now resloved as we head to a small town on the coast of Oregon.  Seaside won out for

Seaside, Oregon, Bloody Marys

6am Flight Blood Marys (a necessity)

two simple reasons:  it is somewhere cool and it is somewhere we know absolutely no one.  What ensued was a very pleasant week of lounging beachside in Seaside.  Below find a few takeaways from a last minute summer getaway to coastal Oregon.

Enjoying the drive:  Starting inland in Portland and heading out to the coast is an awesome way to go.  Summertime means lots of roadside sales by the local farmers.  It alsoooo means lots of the wild growing fruit.  We snatched up blueberries, honeysticks, and raspberries right off the vine.

Roadside Sale, Blueberries, Oregon

Early rising:  Seaside is beautiful, in a very melancholy way.  That does not translate as particularly depressing, but more as peaceful and meditative.  The colors of the town are all muted and pale, with light greens, blues, grays and tans dominating the vistas.  Early morning walks become a daily ritual, and I had times that I walked two hours down the beach and come across maybe one person….maybe.  It was wonderful.

Seaside, Oregon

Seaside, Oregon

 Beachcombing:  I’ve never seen so many sand dollars!  One morning run I collected 10 in about 20 minutes, and that is nothing.  It is funny how quickly you get used to seeing these sea skeletons.  I’m not one for travel souvenirs, but I still have one small one I brought home with me.

Beach Combing, Crab Claw, Seaside, OregonSand dollars, Seaside, Oregon

Sweatshirts, sweatshirts, and more sweatshirts:  Two reasons:  A)  It gets chilly and B) Everyone has one!  It is actually quite hilarious, realizing I can wear what I slept in the last two nights out to lunch and dinner, and fit in quite well.  I mean, I usually do this, but I’m the minority.  I even buy one that says Seaside on the front with a little green sand dollar underneath.  Cheesy, but awesome.  I have a feeling I will wear this in Arizona…

Avoiding/loving the kitsch factor:  “Downtown” Seaside, or the center of the boardwalk, is, well…..touristy?  It’s a little annoying if you are anything like me, but if you stay towards the end of the boardwalk you will be able to take a 20 minute stroll down to this area.  Do this when you are in the mood for good ole americana summer.  The kitsch factor is high which also can make it fun; we enjoyed salt water taffy, carousel rides, and of course, lots of little kiddies.  Again, stay farther from this to get the freedom and beauty of Seaside, but do cruise down here for a little giggle and sugar rush.

Seaside, Oregon Seaside, Oregon

Day trip it up:  There are numerous wonderful day trips all around Seaside.  We hit Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, and another little unnamed beach all within 30-45 minutes of where we were staying.

Ecola State Beach, OregonEcola State Beach, Oregon Ecola State Beach, Oregon

 So have fun!  Seaside is a great getaway.  It’s entertaining to people watch, but also is so beautiful on its own.  It is still a mostly undiscovered gem of the Pacific Northwest coastline and unlike any west coast beach I have seen.  I have a feeling I will be back……