A Travellerspoint blog

Two Thousand Miles in 22 Days: Beginnings and Central Idaho

Morning Bliss, Road Trips, Chasing Spring, River Roads, and Fine Hiking

semi-overcast 60 °F

Do you know how good it feels to wake up to the sounds of birds chirping all around you? Do you know how luxurious it feels to be bathed in fresh air all night long after a year and a half of the dank air of a ship? Do you know how intoxicating the smell of fresh green grass is, laced with the earthy potpourri of the nearby river chuckling steadily over the rocks? Do you know how pleasant it is to open your eyes and look in any direction, and see charismatic trees standing about you, almost waiting for you to awaken to appreciate them? Do you know the pleasure I feel in preparing a leisurely breakfast, making coffee in my small percolator, unpeeling the hard boiled eggs, slicing the aromatic oranges, and undressing the lemon poppy seed muffin?

These questions epitomize my ideals of waking up in this world, and let me say that I have almost reached the apex of morning serenity. The only thing lacking is a sweet soulful lady to share it with, but nine out of ten is good enough for me.

I am in Idaho once again, a state that calls me back time and time again. As it is April, I’m chasing spring around the state from north to south. The trip so far has been going very well, so far, and I am embracing my freedom, my emancipation from the clock, and my newly reacquainted love affair of traveling across the US by van. Things are good around these parts.

After stocking up in Coeur d’Alene on food, gasoline, sunglasses, and meeting my landlady, I was ready to head out onto that open highway and get this trip underway. However, since it was near lunchtime, and I was a bit hungry, I decided to stop in at the Moon Time for a Lamb burger and a Mac and Jacks. I didn’t know when I would be back, and I couldn’t pass up the lamb burger. After polishing it off in under five minutes, a new record, usually I have it gone in three, I told my waitress, “As you can see, I could barely choke it down.” She laughed and complimented me on my vacuum like skills.

I paid, jumped in my van and headed down the road. I didn’t make it too far, before I started to get very sleepy. It was as if they put a knock out drug in my burger. I pulled off the highway onto a little roadside park I knew about and hopped on my mattress to catch a siesta. The trip was off to a great start!
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I should mention that I drive a GMC Safari van named Marvin. Marvin is a she, and a very good van. I have custom designed and built the back of her to where I can comfortably travel out of it. I have a feather mattress, storage for food, clothing, water, computer, banjo, grill, a wok, a frying pan, a cooler, a book box, toolbox, utensil box and a tent. Organization is the key, there is a place for everything and everything goes in its place.

After awhile, my sleepiness wore off, and I got up. It was a beautiful spring day, well into the upper sixties with the sun shining bright on the land. I pulled out my banjo and set down to have a go with it. My fingers were working well, and I was thumping my way through one of my favorite songs when a big old’ diesel truck rolled down and parked. A dude got out and walked over to me. He introduced himself and his friend (Tommy and Dal) and told me to keep playing.

I played, and we chatted, it turns out they had specifically stopped because they wanted to hear me play. They cracked beers, didn’t offer me any, and we talked of Idaho, fishing, hunting, antelope, the banjo, the mandolin, and northern pike. I liked them. Dal was a bit negative, and he was packing a gun. Tommy was pretty chill and a big fan of the banjo. When they left, we wished each other well, and he said I had made his day, just by playing the banjo. I smiled. The banjo has that affect on people.
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I rolled on. I set a book going on my mp3 player and settled into my seat. This was more like it! I watched the miles of pines, small meadows, weathered mountaintops, small towns, and ranches roll by. It was getting on toward evening, and I still didn’t know where I was going to be staying that night. Part of the fun of vanning is figuring out where to camp. It gets tricky in early spring, because some of the forest campgrounds are still closed for the season. So, even though there is a tent sign on my map, it does not necessarily mean it’s going to be open. I had already struck out twice, driving off into the forest, only to be denied by snow, mud, or gates. I eye balled my map, and decided I wasn’t far away from Hells Gate State Park, just outside of Lewiston. I had stayed there on a previous trip and remembered it was a nice place. I aimed the van that way passing down into the Clearwater River valley. I passed through towns like Kendrick and Jullieta before catching Hwy 12 west to Lewiston. I noted that it looked like the good people of Kendrick and Jullieta had put in a nice asphalt trail that looked like it would be fun to ride my long board on.

I pulled into the park just after sundown. In the gloam, I set about to make some food, that being my favorite food of chili, for dinner, and some hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. It was well past dark by the time I finished cooking, eating, and cleaning up. I settled in for the night, with my windows wide open listening to the river, feeling the fresh air roll over me, and I was out.

My morning routines have been returning. I like to wake up to the birds, as there is no better alarm clock. I figure if the birds are late, than that is reason enough for me to be “late” in getting up. If I am hungry, I’ll make breakfast, if I’m not, I’ll do some yoga. After that, I’ll read or get my slack line set up and work on my balance.
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Eventually, I packed up and headed back east to Kendrick. I wanted to go long boarding, and so, I did. I love long boarding in springtime. There is a feel of complete freedom to be gliding through the warm fresh scented air in the sunshine. Everyone about me was at work or on some mission, but I felt like I was playing hooky from school. I soaked in the springtime sensations, and smiled. It was a good trail that followed a rushing river. Fresh grass grew along side of it, and the trees were budding. It was warm in the sun, and pleasant on the board. I felt great.
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I moved on, not making particularly good time. I kept pulling over at many of the roadside dirt “pull offs” that frequent the river roads in Idaho. Pull offs are usually just a small section of gravel large enough to park a couple of cars. They are frequented by fishermen, drivers who want to catch a break, or myself, who likes to take their sweet ass time getting anywhere. Idaho’s roads mainly follow rivers, as they are the easiest places to build roads in this mountainous state. I love both rivers and roads, and so I was constantly following my urges to stop and admire the river, or to keep going and enjoying the twists and turns of the road. The roads I’ve followed through this state have ran along the St. Maries, an unknown branch of the Clearwater, the Clearwater, the Salmon, the South Fork of the Salmon (I think), the Rapid, the North Fork of the Payette, the Middle Fork of the Payette, the Payette, and the Snake Rivers. I’ve loved all of them. The spring melt is causing them to run high and fast. They are surging, and gushing, roaring their way over rapids, rocks and bedrock. It is impressive!
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Along the Salmon River are numerous anglers’ campgrounds and access areas. I pulled into one of these sites, found a beautiful site right along the banks of the river with seven big Red pines to keep me company.
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The next day I left in the morning and made my way down to Riggins, ID. I was on the lookout for either a ranger’s station or a outfitter’s store to get some information on hiking in the area. Instead, I spied the city park. It was covered and green grass and had nicely spaced maple trees growing there. I pulled over and executed a U-turn. My other plans would have to wait, it was time to get my slack line out, and have a morning session.
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After that, I found my outfitter’s store, it was one of those little bit of everything places that sold rafting trips, t-shirts, espresso, a little bit of camping gear, and ice cream. They didn’t have anything I was looking for, so I asked for a dirty chai to go. The barista looked at me quizzically. “What is that?” She asked. I told her it was a chai latte with a shot of espresso, and she said she had not heard of that before. I told here it was good, and she ought to try one. I paid and thanked her, and went on down to the ranger’s station for some hiking info.
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About my only option for hiking that was open was the Rapid River trail, and since it sounded good, I opted to go. I was not disappointed. I went on a 8 mile day hike following the banks of the beautiful river into the mountain canyon. The river was roaring, and the steep canyon walls had limestone cliffs that towered above me. I wondered if there were any caves in them and it looked like there were.
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Young spring flowers had begun to bloom all along the path, and I saw many different kinds of flutterbys out enjoying the spring warmth, and sweet smelling flowers.
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I had stopped to take a break, and had sat down on two logs that lay across the river. I was sitting midstream enjoying the gushing river and sipping some tea when I heard the beautiful song of a Dipper not far away. I watched it jump from a low stone into the river, diving deep to pluck out a worm. Then it hopped back on to a rock, fluttered to a small waterfall, and ate it.
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Why do Dipper’s keep showing up wherever I am? I am beginning to think it is more than mere coincidence. This isn’t the last time I was to see a Dipper on this trip. More on that later. I enjoyed the show, and after resting for awhile, I decided to make my way back to the van. I had decided where I wanted to camp that night, and I had some distance to go before I was going to get there. As I walked down the canyon, a terrific wind kicked up and began gusting through the canyon. With it, came some rain. I could not remember the last time I had seen rain, and I laughed at the novelty of it.

I ate a late lunch at the van, and changed out of my dirty clothes. I hopped in the van, and pointed it south heading for a campsite east of Banks. I was heading into hot springs country, and this particular campground had a beautiful hot spring pool right across the road from it. I don’t even have to say this, but the first thing I did upon parking in my spot was to grab my towel and march off to the spring for a good long soak. It was awesome.

Little did I realize just how good the hot springs were going to be the next day…

There’s more to come from this adventure!
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Thanks for reading.

Posted by Rhombus 20:27 Archived in USA Tagged rivers hiking roads camping spring photography idaho vans longboarding roadtrips Comments (0)

The Fortunes of a Vagabond

An Unforgettable Two Weeks In Mexico: Whales, Dolphins, Landscapes, Friends, and the Best 24 Hours of my Life

sunny 81 °F

I have just lived two weeks of my life I shall never forget. I apologize for the delay since my last entry, but life has been too full of late to take time to document it beyond photos and journal entries, and it is better to live then to be a slave to documentation.

That being said, I want to share with you some of my experiences of the last days that are burned into my soul. They include mega pods of dolphins, close encounters with whales, an amazing flock of birds at dawn, sleeping outside under starry skies and awakening to a beautiful sunrise. I‘ve enjoyed amazing hikes in a desert paradise through powerful landscapes. I’ve shared these experiences with some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and I look forward to many more.

I wonder why I am so blessed.

Whale Encounters

Picture a fiberglass panga full of crewmembers speeding into the protected waters of San Ignacio Bay. The bay is a major nursery for California Gray Whales, and our timing was good. The Gray whales were still here preparing for their long journey north, and we were seeing spouts all around us. The water was choppy, and the breeze was fresh off the pacific. We were bundled up in windbreakers, and looking out for a whale that wanted to come say hello. We found one, and as mom watched nearby, the calf swam right next to the boat and began to spin in slow circles allowing us to pet her on all sides. It was beautiful. We smiled all day.
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I had never seen a pod of pilot whales so close to the ship. Pilot whales look like a cross between a dolphin and a whale. It looks like a really big dolphin with a flat face, and acts like a very small whale. We watched a pod of them for several hours just after dawn. The cool thing about Pilot whales is they usually have a pod of bottlenose dolphins that hang around them as well. Nobody really knows why. I like to think that the dolphins and whales are in harmony somehow, and in truth, they appear to be.
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Towards the end of the two week photo trip we were on we were far north in the Midriff Islands of the Sea of Cortez. The water is a lot colder up here, and very deep. It is squid country, and Sperm Whale territory. We came on several sperm whales right as the sun was setting, and I watched them breathe surrounded by the golden light of sunset. Then having readied their lungs they would arc their backs and dive deep leaving us with a fluking tail to remember it by.
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On my last day of actual work, we came upon a small humpback whale that seemed to be teasing us. We would watch it for a while, and it would dive and breathe, as whales do. It was nice, but we had to move on. So as the captain was starting to pull away, the whale would start breeching right next to us, and we’d slow down, turn around and watch it some more. Of course, the whale would go back to diving and breathing again. This went on for a half hour before the powers that be decided to finally say farewell.

Dolphin Mega Pods
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I have seen many dolphin pods down here in Mexico, but there was one this week that offered behavior I had never seen before. For one thing, it was a huge pod with hundreds of members. They were very active, very acrobatic, and the air was filled with flying dolphins. It was awesome. The air was filled with a cacophony of their squeaks, cliques and whistles, and the sound large splashes from lots of mammals. We watched them for twenty minutes, sailing along side of the main pod. It offered many photographers their dream shots of dolphins. As for me, I mostly watched them, I sat on the fantail with my feet kicked up on the rail drinking ice water, and eating Italian bread, as the machine gun clicks of photographers shot pictures without thinking. Eventually, I got up and grabbed my camera. I thought it better to enjoy them first before freezing them electronically.
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Then it happened. It was as if somebody flipped a switch under the water. En masse, the dolphins turned around and swam as quickly as I’d ever seen dolphins swim in the other direction in an organized, purposeful action. They took off. There was no way to keep up with them, and it was in the wrong direction. In the distance, I saw a white line from their wake receding into the distance. Awesome.

Birds of a Feather
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I was taking in the sunrise when a flock of sea birds began to circle the ship flying low to the surface of the waves. It was so cool. As the sun rose, I was able to time a few pictures of the birds whipping around in golden glow of the sun and waters. What a gift! It was so very beautiful.
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We visited Isla Rasa on morning. Isla Rasa is one of the more unique islands in the Midriffs as it is home to a huge colony of terns and gulls, with a population of well over a half a million birds. It is amazing to see, hear, smell, and watch that amount of birds in one place. Though I had to work that day, I was able to get close to shore for ten minutes to appreciate that experience. The one thing I noticed was that the terns seem to fly in pairs. Despite the chaos of hundreds of identical birds in the air at any one time, they were able to stay close and follow one another to their destinations. I was hoping to see the mating flights of the terns that I saw last year, but it was not to be.

Landscapes
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In my time in Mexico, I have seen some of the best desert scenes of my life. In my last days here, I was able to walk through some of these masterpieces one last time, exploring some new areas, and appreciating some I have already seen. I took these walks with some good friends from the boat, and these shared experiences of paradise will be long remembered.
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San Juanico remains one of my favorite landscapes in Mexico. I remember last year when I first explored it, I kept thinking to myself that it really would be great to meet some beautiful senoritas down on the secluded beach. This year I am a year wiser and invited two along to come for the hike. We hiked high above the sea, and the rocky spires, points, and islands stretched out before us in the aquamarine blue of the sea. It was beautiful.
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There is an arroyo on the west side of Isla Partida that could be the most magical place I have ever visited. I like the word magic. When I use “magic”, I’m more referring to a combination of my feelings about a particular location, and the energy of the location itself. As I’ve written about before, there are places in this world that hold dear to me, and I can pick up on the strong currents of energy that emanate there. Now if you think I am a crackpot, hippie influenced nature man, I stand guilty as charged. However, before you judge, I think you should go on this hike.

I went on this scramble with one of my favorite compatriots in the world. The day was sizzling. The sun beat down mercilessly. We were sweating after the first steps. The hike began with some boulder climbing and scaling some small dry waterfalls. We found several lizards doing “push ups” on the hot rocks. I’m not sure what makes them work out so hard in the hot sun, but I think I heard the theme music to Rocky, on a tiny lizard Ipod.

The arroyo was beautiful. The canyon’s rock was very porous and hollow and there were many caves carved into the rock. Some of them were large enough for us to stand in, and we rested in the shade and gulped down water. We held quiet, and let the desert speak. It was silent, save for the hot breeze curling around the arroyo walls. However, deserts speak not so much in sound, as in vibration, and sitting under that rock, we were feeling its power. We shivered, we smiled, we laughed and said thank you.

We moved on, climbing higher and higher, we had no destination in mind, but were hiking for the joy of it. Eventually we realized we were nearing the top, and decided to go all the way up. The last one hundred yards was covered with small cantaloupe sized boulders and we walked over them and to the top of the ridge.

It was gorgeous. We caught our breath and took in the sweeping views of the green water far below, the rugged mountain ridges, and blue skies. Turkey vultures silently soared by, not 30 feet away, each time I saw one, it felt like a gift. We stood on top of rock statues, yet to be carved, and I yodeled. I’m always nervous about yodeling in front of other people, because sometimes my voice cracks badly and I sound like a howling teenager in English class. At other times, it comes out beautifully. Luck was with me, and it sounded good.
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A hummingbird zipped by. It poked around the sparse desert plants that were blooming this time of year and moved on. We smiled at our fortune, and smiled wider when the humming bird returned. The desert was buzzing with good energy. It rather felt what I would imagine Ray Kinsella’s “Field of Dreams” would feel like. The desert provided a spiritual calming, a feeling of happiness that you just can’t quite put to words. It was beautiful. The composition of the desert was perfect, as if some giant had been cultivating a perfect cactus garden high up on the mountain. We were fortunate, and we knew it.

Alas, that magical afternoon came to an end, and we made our way back down the arroyo. We were tired, and very thirsty. We were longing for ice water, and to jump into the ocean. We found both the ocean and the ice water very refreshing. We smiled again, thanked each other for the marvelous afternoon and I went off in search of my bunk.

Moonlight Sonata

I recently enjoyed perhaps the best twenty-four hours of my life (so far). It began on the lido deck, sipping drinks, watching the bright moon overhead light up the balmy ocean night. There were five of us chatting amiably, sharing stories, laughing and dreaming. I don’t know who had the idea, but a friend and I both had the day off the next day, so we decided to sleep out under the stars.

I had always wanted to do this, but for some reason, never had. Fool I am. However, it is better to do things late, then never, so I set about building us a bunk of bench cushions, wool blankets and pillows. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I went in for some clothes, another drink, and then we went up to settle in for the night. And what a night it was. We laughed, we giggled, we talked, we dreamed, and it felt like we were camping. Eventually, we fell asleep.

We woke up just as the sunrise cracked the horizon. The sun was a bright orange disk rising and getting brighter by the second. It completely lit up the rugged peaks of Isla Danzante and the Sierra de la Giganta in a crescendo of reds, oranges, and rich browns. Words fail to describe the beauty, and stirring feelings of grandeur in front of us. We held one another, and laughed. I laugh a lot. Laughter it seems, is my only answer to the question I keep asking myself, “How can you be so lucky?”

I’m still laughing.
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The day consisted of an easy stroll on the north shore of the Isle of the Dancer, a spot I’d never explored before as often the swells are too big to walk the shoreline. We picked up some of the ever-present litter on the beach, and swam in the cold clear water. It reminded me of Lake Superior, though salty.

After our hike, we decided to snorkel. The ship had picked up a giant circular air mattress with a pirate on it. It was dubbed the pirate raft, and we had taken it to shore. Well, we were going to use it as a swimming platform, but once we were on it, we realized how comfortable it was just to lay in the sun floating around in the small bay. It was great. Soon, our staff was buzzing by us on the zodiacs, and we bobbed in their wake.
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I think we made a lot of people smile that day. We must have floated around for about an hour when the expedition leader and the wellness specialist swam up and climbed aboard. They had plans for tipping us, but soon realized it was a great place to chill out and lay around in the sun. So, there I was, floating around on a raft with three beautiful women to keep me company. I laughed. If you would have told me the morning that I would be on a pirate raft with the EL, wellness specialist, and my favorite steward, I’d have told said you were probably dilusional. Then as a finishing touch, someone brought up a tray of iced limewater and cookies. I think it made a good picture.
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That evening, the sun set and the full moon rose within 20 minutes of one another. It was a good night to be outside sipping good wine, and taking in the aerial show. Both events were gorgeous, but the winner was the moonrise over Isla San Jose. The moon was gigantic, and bathed us in a gorgeous orange light as it rose into the sky.

To cap off our amazing day, we had dinner outside on the sun deck. The moon bathed us in white gold, and we ate like royalty, and felt like it too. We had fresh bread and butter, delicious rib eye steaks on Caesar salad, a touch of ice cream, and good wine throughout. We talked, we laughed, we dreamed, and “carped the de-em.”

Eventually all good things must transform into other good things, and we had to call it a day. The day was seized, throttled, hugged, embraced, and squeezed of all of its splendor, and we still couldn’t get all of it out.
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The next day, I packed and left the SeaBird, saying farewell to many of my good friends and crew. They will be missed, but other adventures are afoot. At this moment, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Coeur d’Alene Idaho with a full tank of gas, a weeks worth of food, and the open road sixty feet away. I have two thousand miles to travel and twenty days to do it.

I’m laughing.

Posted by Rhombus 11:15 Archived in Mexico Tagged islands hiking whales deserts friends dolphins photography philosophy grandeur Comments (2)

Baja's Blessings

Dolphin Jewels, Sea Birds, Desert Solitude, Ocean Gifts, The Contemplative Sailor

I have been noticing that at about seven a.m. my left eye starts to twitch. This is a certain sign of fatigue for me, and I have been running from deep fatigue for the last week. It is my turn to work nights, a twelve-hour marathon of delirium, dancing, clouded weariness and laughs. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m completely functioning and doing my job, but there are times when I find myself in depths of fog.
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However, my fatigue has its advantages. For one thing, I notice, appreciate and contemplate everything around me more poignantly. Many small morning moments become mesmerizing. For example, the reflection of the bow in the water this morning was a kaleidoscope of warping, twisting, oily reflections, and it is beautiful! I stare at it for uncounted minutes as I wait to call the weighing of the anchor.

I know my visit to this magical place is drawing to its end. I have a couple of weeks left on the Baja Peninsula. Inspired by this masterpiece of desert islands and ocean glory, I’ve forsaken sleep in search of scenic grandeur. My efforts have been well rewarded.

Dolphins in a Sea of Sapphire
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If a master jeweler were to craftily inset a perfect replica of tiny dolphins just underneath an irregular surface of a pure-blue polished sapphire, they would sell thousands of them. I would purchase several of these rings if they existed as they are in my mind.

For now, I will have to settle for my memories and pictures of the real thing.
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Earlier in the week, I was able to see dolphins bow ride on one of our Zodiacs. I was on the bow lying flat on my stomach on the front pontoon. The dolphins were three feet away from me, swimming effortlessly, and speeding much faster than our zodiac could go. Up close, I could see just how much power the dolphin’s tail fin has stored in it. A dolphin is a perfect example of a stream lined, efficient mammal, playing in its element. It was beautiful in every way. I made a mental note to check off another Baja experience on my list.
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Just after eight o’clock in the morning, I was thumping on my banjo in the crew lounge, enjoying a beer, and hoping for a whale show. I was given dolphins instead, and I ended my musical libation session and grabbed my camera. I headed up to the lido deck so I could watch the massive pod of common dolphins from an aerial perspective.
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It was one of the best dolphin shows I have seen, and the inspiration for my dolphin set sapphire. They were magnificent. The dolphins swam gracefully just below the surface of the blue water, and the distorted image of their bodies is locked into my memory.
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With a swing of the tail, the dolphin would take to the air, catching a breath, and showing off its power and grace.

Portraits of Frigate Birds and Pelican Dives
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While watching the dolphins from our highest deck, I was standing not more than 30 feet below a flock of magnificent frigate birds that were drafting just above the ship. It was very easy to compose several satisfying photos of these splendid birds.
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I also was finally able to photograph pelicans in a full diving fishing strike. Pelicans are amazing, and among my favorite birds. They would hover thirty feet above the surface, spot a fishy delicacy under the water and go for the strike. In a quick moment, the pelicans would flip upside down, stretch their bodies out into a very heavy narrow arrow and dive straight into the water at their prey. Their heavy beaks would break the surface punching deep with the bulk of their body and the fish had no chance. It was awesome.
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The Feel of a Good Desert

My hikes deep into the desert have been satisfying. I love the energy of the desert. I cannot explain what exactly what I am feeling, but there is something, clean and pure to a landscape that hasn’t been trampled by the progress of man. I love trekking through neighborhoods of the giant boulders, rocks, shrubs and cacti. The landscape is intoxicating. I tend to notice the harmonies of the landscape, and find myself feeling more than looking for the perfect spot to enjoy all that’s around me. There is a feel to such a spot that feels right.
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When I find the right place, I’ll sit down and look around all about me. I look deeply at the composition of the scene, I’m reassured that my positioning is correct. For whatever reason, I’m called to alluring landscapes, and if you were to look at where I’m sitting as if you were setting up a landscape photograph, you would probably place the human subject where I’m sitting.

I feel like this is hard to explain on paper. If you have any questions, come hiking with me some time, and I’ll show you what I mean.

Flying Fish and a Swarm of Mobula Rays

I finally saw flying fish. Flying fish, as you might imagine, are fish that take to the air and fly when threatened. It’s their special defensive technique, and a fun one at that. While cruising northwest on the west coast of the peninsula, we came into a couple of schools of them deep in the night. They were startled by our boat, and flew away right in front of us. These were just little guys, and couldn’t fly very far, but some flying fish can stay airborne for a long time.

While working one night on the lido deck, the chief mate and I looked over the side of the boat and saw a fast moving ball of large fish. At first, we couldn’t see what they were, but then they came to the surface in the light of our work lamps, and we saw that they were mobula rays! They looked like a bait ball, a swirling sphere of fish, except that they were large, perhaps two feet by two feet in an irregular diamond shape. It was awesome! We laughed and watched them bubble up to the surface, then dive deep and were joined by another ball of them. Then the giant mass of mobula rays surfaced and we estimated that there must have been fifty to one hundred rays streaking right beneath us. It remained AWESOME!

This was a unique moment, and one of the most interesting things I have seen on the ship. They disappeared as quickly as they came. It made me wonder about what else I wasn’t seeing in the night.

The Contemplating Sailor

This trip has been wonderful. I’ve marked off a few more things on my list of what I’ve always wanted to see. Beyond that, it has offered a lot of closure to many of aspects of my dreams and realities that I manifest. I know that last sentence is very deep, but it’s true.

Long ago, before I ever set foot on this ship, I had ideas and fantasies of what I pictured boat life would be like. Then when I started sailing the west coast and the reality of what I got myself into was established, I laughed at my naivety. Life rolled on. What I didn’t expect, was that some of those original daydreams are starting to come true.

It’s somewhat eerie. When I found myself living out my dreams, it caught me off guard for just a moment. Then I embraced it, and realized dreams can come true. They might not happen on your schedule, or when you pictured them happening, but they can happen. I’m not saying ALL of your dreams will come true, and extravagant dreams of defying physics probably aren’t going to happen. However, if you have modest dreams like I have, and if you have the courage to put them out there, it can happen.

I would encourage you to be patient, and don’t get too involved waiting for them. Like Mitch Hedberg said, “I’m tired of chasing my dreams, I’m just going to find out where they are going and hook up with them later.”

This has turned out to be good advice.

Cheers!

Posted by Rhombus 14:40 Archived in Mexico Tagged hiking mexico deserts oceans dolphins philosophy Comments (2)

Sublime Times in Mexico

Red Eye Flights, La Paz, Beaches, Kissing Whales, Punta Colorado In Pictures, and a Sunset

sunny 75 °F

I gave up my long johns for my adventure pants, and I’m back on the southern Baja Peninsula. My reasoning is that March is one damn fine month to be in Mexico, and a poor month to be anywhere in the northern United States. With that bit of logic, I agreed to work for four weeks on the good ship Sea Bird, my floating home of the last year and a half.

I took a red eye flight down to get here. When I agreed to fly the red eye, I didn’t know that it was going to stop at nearly every airport along the way. I flew from Spokane to Seattle. Then from Seattle to Sacramento to Guadalajara to Culiacan and finally to La Paz. I didn’t get any sleep at all on the plane, and by the time I landed in the bright sunshine of mid-morning in La Paz, I was a zombie. True, I was a smiling zombie, but a zombie all the same.

I took a cab from the airport down to the malecon along the waterfront of downtown La Paz and stumbled into the Crown Seven Hotel. The good people at the Crown 7 perked up when they heard I had arrived, as our agent in La Paz had told them of my “nightmarish flight.” They welcomed me, grabbed my bags, led me up to my room, practically tucked me into bed, and wished me a comfortable rest. It was sweet relief to plummet into a coma at 11 am in the morning with the soft breeze of the air conditioner lulling me away.

The advantage of taking this flight was that I had two days to spend in La Paz before traveling across the peninsula to San Carlos where I would join the ship.

La Paz
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I love La Paz. I should say I love the Malecon located in La Paz, as it is the only part of the city where I have spent my time. However, it is very charming. I woke up after a four-hour nap. I was still half out of it at first, but woke up enough to realize I was hungry. La Paz has several good restaurants, and I had plans on visiting two of my favorites while I was here. I decided on pizza. I stepped out into the cooling evening air, and walked two around the block to the restaurant. It was still too early for most diners, and I had the place to myself. I ordered a green pepper and onion pizza, and it was delicious.

The sky darkened with the setting of the sun, and I walked back to the hotel. I sat out on the fifth floor patio and looked over the Malecon. There were people walking along the boardwalk. The decorated streetlights winked on, and then grew brighter. The small waves lapped at the shore. Two dozen sailboats bobbed in the harbor, their dinghies tethered to the stern. The sunset left the western sky a dull orange smudge, definitely not the best sunset (that came later in the week), but still added to the scene. It was peaceful. It was another tranquil evening in La Paz.

I climbed back in bed, and slept a very satisfying sleep.

The next day was very enjoyable. There was no hurry to my day, as the bus to San Carlos didn’t leave until 5 pm. I had breakfast on the seashore, followed by a leisurely stroll. I had lunch at Rancho Viejo, and ate the best fish tacos I have ever eaten in my life. I went back to the hotel and met up with the guy who I was replacing. We had coffee and talked of the ship. The ship is a constant topic of conversation, among boat folks, and there was a lot to catch up on.

The ride across the peninsula was fun. I was a bundle of nerves, being both a little bit nervous, and quite excited about seeing my friends and the boat once again. I sat far back in the bus as we whizzed through the inky desert night. It was kind of like being on a plane with a lot of turbulence, but for some reason since I knew I was connected to the ground, I wasn’t concerned about it.

Finally, we arrived in San Carlos and I saw the bright lights of the Sea Bird. My nervousness and excitement grew, and a smile began to grow on my face. I stepped off the bus and into the melee of luggage, crew, guests and hubbub. I was back onboard. I spent the evening giving hugs, catching up, handing out chocolate, and staying up late. It felt really good.

As with all choices one makes in life, the outcome is never clear or certain. I figured to make the best of my time here in Mexico.

Sublime Times in Mexico
I had the morning off. I like to ease back into work, and I spent my time on the west side of Isla Magdalena at a place called Sand Dollar Beach. I sat for a long time, just watching the rollers curl and break on the sand. There were dolphins in the distance, and the warm sun baked into me. I stalked a small crab that was skittering along the shore. I took its portrait. At last, I could not resist it anymore, and I shuffled my way into the ocean. It was time to catch a few rides on the waves. The water was a perfect temperature, reminding me of Lake Superior in July. It was not too hot or cold. It was refreshing, it was rejuvenating, and it was good for my soul.
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On Kissing Gray Whales

I’ve talked of my first experiences of kissing a whale in "To Kiss A Whale" (March 2011 I am a fortunate man. I’ve done it again.

As part of our itinerary down here in Mexico, we spend a couple of days watching the gray whales of Magdalena Bay. Our captain, complete with his heart of gold, called the whale watching guides in Lopez Mateo to get a crew boat to go out and watch the whales. I was on the second tour, and several of my friends were gushing about their experiences on the first. TTwo of my friends kissed whales. I was beaming too. It’s funny, everyone is extremely happy when other people have good whale experiences. It is such a great moment.
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There were seven of us in our group as we cruised out to the Boca Del Soledad. The Boca is a small opening to the sea from Magdalena Bay. The gray whales frequently use this as their entrance to and from the bay. The crew cracked jokes and told stories, vented and relaxed as we looked out for spouts from the whales. We followed a mom and her calf around, but they didn’t want to play. It was great to be out among the whales again.

Then it happened. We were following a mom and calf pair when the calf started to come close to the panga. We all leaned over the side, almost, but not quite tipping the boat. We splashed at it, called for it, said hello, cooed, and welcomed the whale to come closer.

It came right up to the boat, and I said hello and touched the calf on the back of the head. I said aloud, “You feel just like an eggplant.“ No sooner than I had finished uttering those words, then the whale surfaced and blew its breath directly and forcefully into my face. I was no more than 15 inches away from the blowholes. It was kind of like being three inches away from a human sneeze. I begged the whale its pardon, and apologized. I wonder if a whale knows what an eggplant is. I can imagine it saying, “Why are you saying I feel like this thing I never heard of before?”

After that, the whales put on a show of affection. The mom and calf played around us, and the feeling of good will and kinship grew. I kissed both whales twice. That means that I have kissed three different whales in my life. The thought of that is preposterous to me. I whiffed on two other kisses though, and I ended up dunking my face into the water as the whale retreated.

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My favorite moment was seeing the mom’s eye up close, not more than six inches below the water. It was beautiful. To me, the eye was relaxed, full of compassion, maternal serenity and knowing. It was like being noticed by a grand beautiful queen, even for just a moment. It was beautiful, and I hope I never forget that moment.

Punta Colorado
I like to pick a high point and hike there. This one was very satisfying.
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Sunset
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The sunsets of the Sea of Cortez are consistently the best I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure there is much more I can say about them. They are simply amazing.
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What a great first week. I can’t believe my good fortune. I wonder what the next three weeks will hold?
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Posted by Rhombus 11:27 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches hiking mexico rocks whales deserts oceans ships Comments (2)

Ski Bumming 2012: Magnificent Mountain Landscapes

The mountain landscapes, Zen moment #3,268,103, and Woo

sunny 21 °F

There are days when the mountain blooms into a magnificent masterpiece of winter landscape. After a week straight of strong winds and heavy cloud cover (which produced gorgeous blankets of light powder), I woke up to a beautiful bluebird day. The air was crisp and clean, and the snow crunched underfoot as I walked down the street to the gondola. The sky was a deep, rocky mountain azure that made the brilliance of the new snow that much more intense. I was glad I remembered my sunglasses.
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As I rode up the chairlift, I realized that the day was not about skiing; it was about appreciating the magnificent mountain splendor. I made it my mission to admire the mountain from as many different perspectives as I could. After unloading and coasting to a stop at the top of the run, I stopped and marveled at the mountain scene that stretched before me. It inspired awe. I smiled broadly.
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The Statues
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I made a few runs, skiing slowly while focusing on the landscapes. After a week of pummeling winter weather, the trees looked like dazzling white statues against the distant mountain slopes and deep blue sky. Throughout the morning, the lighting continued to change. Not only because the sun continued rise, but small patches of streaming clouds continued to pass over the mountain at various times. These clouds moved at different elevations, sometimes hovering just above the mountain, and other times covering several acres of the mountain slopes. The shifting light patterns were part of the magic.
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Mountain Scenes
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Zen moment # 3,268,103:
Once again, I hiked to the top of Wardner peak. I sat down in the snow bank in my favorite patch of pines to catch my breath. I was digging the trees, and eating my lunch, when, as usual, I saw a scene to take a photo of… I stood up in knee-deep snow and set up the following shot. I hear a soft rustle above me, but I kept my focus and WHAM! A huge pile of snow landed right on my head! The trees gave me the ultimate snow job. I had taken my helmet, hat and gloves off to eat my lunch, so I had snow everywhere. I laughed. It was all I could do. Trees are tricksters! I hung out for another 20 minutes, and not one more chunk of snow fell off any of the trees. What are the odds?
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The Views From Wardner Peak
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Concerning Woo
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I was riding the chairlift the other day when a hotshot skier rocketed by below me. The people in the chair behind me saw him and instinctively howled out a long, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.” The word “Woo” seems to be what we all yell out to vocalize our enjoyment of life. At one time, possibly the early 1900‘s, the word that was used was, “WEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” (picture someone riding a slide or Ferris wheel). So what’s next? In another eighty years, will we be yelling, “WAAAAAAAAAA?” Some of you readers should take this logic to the street and be on the cutting edge of cool. Start yelling “WAAAAA” before anyone else.

I digress.

I began to notice how many times I heard “Woo” being hollered on the mountain. It’s damn near universal. Since I have a lot of time to think about these things, I began to wonder about the various meanings of woo. At the time, I only knew two definitions of woo (and I realized I just rhymed a lot). To woo a lady (something at which I am quite good at if I do say so myself), is to make amorous advances towards someone. Secondly, Woo! The vocalized exclamation of enjoyment.

I went home and looked up woo on the internet and came up with some other definitions: In Chinese, Woo means the number five. While I was thinking of Chinese, I wondered if people aren’t yelling woo, but wu. Wu is a dialect of Chinese spoken in the Yangtze delta.

The next time I was up on the mountain and began to hear the distant calls of “Wooooooooooo!” I started laughing. I imagined them not yelling for enjoyment, but to encourage romance. Or maybe they really like the number five. Or perhaps, they are fans of the Yangtze dialect.

It’s been a good week on the mountain, however the winds of change are blowing once again. Sadly, this upcoming week is going to be my last week of ski bumming here in Idaho. Against my better judgment, I have agreed to go back to work for a month down in Mexico. I know it sounds foolish, but I have recently bought tickets to Alaska in May. I figured it would be a good idea to refill up my coffers before I head out on that (hopefully) epic adventure. May is far away, and for now, I’m going to enjoy these last few days of relishing the life of a ski bum.

Farewell for this week, and I hope to hear you yelling out your appreciation for the number five!

Posted by Rhombus 21:51 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes mountains trees snow winter skiing clouds photography idaho Comments (2)

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