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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)

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)

Ski Bumming 2012: Powder and Longboards

Powder, How to Ski It, The Best Day, Coeur D'Alene, Longboarding, Riverside Contemplation

overcast 13 °F

If I never ski again, I will still die a happy man. I have had an amazing week, and I can sum it up in three words: powder and longboarding. Powder is every skiers preferred snow to ski on, we dream about skiing down mountain slopes with eight inches of light fluffy powder on which to glide. In the last eight days, I went skiing five times. On each day, there was at least six inches of powder. On some of those days, it was knee deep, and on others thigh deep. There are days where I can’t believe my luck.
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At first glance, skiing in powder looks easy. Good skiers make it look simple and incredibly fun. In practice, I’ve found it to be a lot harder than it looks. It is incredibly demanding on the leg muscles. Every move you make with your skis has six inches of friction (often more) to work through and it can wear you down. There is a technique to skiing through deep powder, and it takes practice to get proficient at it. Here are some general tips I have used to ski through powder. It is important to use your poles to set up your turns and keep your balance. It is better to keep your skis together to help you stay higher in the snow. It is often easier to get into a “hop” rhythm, where you hop though your turns to stay higher in the powder. All this extra effort wears down your muscles quicker, but the exhilaration of carving up a beautiful line of fresh powder helps you forget your muscles, at least until you reach the bottom of the run.

My Best Day of Skiing

My phone has been going through catatonic fits lately, and so on the night before the start of the snowstorm I wasn’t able to set an alarm. I figured my body clock would get me up sometime around seven thirty in the morning. When I got out of bed, it was eight. I checked the snowfall total on the hill, and found there to be six inches of fresh snow. Nice! I threw on my ski clothes, grabbed my gear, filled my coffee cup and was out the door by twenty after eight. I love walking to the gondola in the morning. It was lightly snowing, and beautiful.

There was not much of a line for the gondola, and I stepped aboard with three other older guys. We chatted for the entire twenty-minute ride up to the mountain house. Mostly, I did the talking, as they had many questions for me once they learned I was a ski bum. I don’t mind, I like to meet people, and introduce them to my lifestyle. I bade them farewell, and went down to the locker room to put on my gear and get my skis.

When I stepped outside, I knew it was going to be good. The six inches of powder was light, and new snow was still coming down hard. It looked ideal. I had taken a three day hiatus from the mountain (which I’ll discuss later on in this entry), and on my first run, it was though I had completely forgotten how to ski. I awkwardly made my way down my first run, a run through a thick gladed section. My legs were not moving, my mind wasn’t into it, and though I made it through the glades, I face planted hard when I broke onto an open area. I got up, wondered what happened to my skiing ability and continued down the hill.

Silver Mountain has two peaks, Kellogg and Wardner. Kellogg is on the east side and one hundred feet higher than Wardner peak to the west. I made it down the runs on the Kellogg side, but I was not in good form. It looked like it was going to be a long day for me. I usually ski the east side of the mountain during the first hour or so, taking my favorite runs until a line begins to form at the chairlift. Today was no different, and I went over to the Wardner side at about ten thirty.

It was though I turned on a switch: My skiing ability suddenly improved. I don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden I had gained coordination and in fact was skiing better than I ever had in deep powder. And it was deep! I have not seen it snow this hard in my life, and it was snowing well over an inch an hour. Any tracks I made early in the day were gone by noon. I had a ball, there was no fear of falling, and I took any jump I could find, landing most of them. It was awesome.
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I made the hike to the top of Wardner Peak. I really like this hike. It is a relatively steep, winding mountain path. It exposes you to the biting west wind. I was carrying my skis on my shoulder and using my poles as walking sticks. My face was going numb from the strong breeze that was whipping the heavy snow across the path with frenzied power. There was hardly any visibility, and the tracks of previous hikers were disappearing into the drifts. I was in my element.
I wound my way up to the peak slowly and steadily, breathing hard in the raw elements. I was reminded of Lin Yutang’s observation that, “the winter wind is like ginger.”
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When I reached the top, I stuck my skis in the snow, and waded off to my mountain top temple. The snow was up to my thighs, and it was a bit of a struggle to get to my sitting spot. I sat in the snow, protected from the wind by the tall pines that reside there. I rested, cooled down, and ate a Clementine. I meditated for a while and said, “Thanks.” I really enjoy sitting in the snow in a beautiful copse of trees.

I struggled back to my skis, snapped in, and did not look back. It was an epic day, and I have never skied better, or have had better snow conditions. All told, I spent seven hours straight in temperatures near ten degrees (F). My body was exhausted at three. That is when I decided to stop for the day. I was once warned that if I continued to make weird faces that my face would freeze that way. Well, I have proven the old adage is true, and my face has frozen for eternity with this dumb grin on my face. Ah well, it was well worth it.
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I stepped off the gondola and started walking home through gently falling snow. I saw a young girl maybe about 8 years old. She was standing out in the open, her mother watching nearby, and she opened her mouth and gazed skyward. She began to catch snowflakes on her tongue and smiled with each success. I smiled too, it was too cute not to. Long live winter!

A Longboarding Love Affair
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I have fallen in love with my longboard again. On three consecutive days, I took it out for a ride. I spent most of that time riding the deserted “Trail of the Coeur D’Alene.” I also went to Coeur D’Alene, the city, located on the north side of the lake of the same name. It seems like this section of Idaho is all about the name “Coeur D’Alene.” I spent all afternoon in the lakeside park. I enjoyed cruising the pathways and enjoying the gigantic trees that preside there.

The Magnificent Trees of Coeur D’Alene
The sun broke through the heavy clouds and lit these trees in perfect light.
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The city of Coeur D’Alene is probably my favorite city in Idaho. Though I haven’t spent a lot of time there, I have been impressed when I have. It has a cool downtown area, a good park, one of my favorite restaurants in northern Idaho, The Moontime, a groovy yoga studio that I attend, and a nice lake.
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The people are friendly, and it has a good vibe to it. There were many longboarders out, along with other people chasing their muse.

I went on a couple of longer jaunts covering ten miles and six miles on different sections of the Trail of the Coeur D‘Alene. I have talked about the finer points of the Trail of the Coeur D’Alene in past entries, see Exploring Silver Valley (Jan 2010). I love long boarding, I love the freedom it offers me as I pump my legs easily and ride the board for as far as gravity will take me. It is good exercise and fun at the same time. I can easily cover a lot of distance in relative ease.

I took my small camera along and the following is my first collection of longboarding photos.
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Excerpt from my journal, 2-25-12
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"I went on another longboarding excursion today under bright overcast skies. It was pleasant as I cruised over a bare asphalt trail covered in a scattered bed of pine needles. After three miles, I was stymied by ice and snow, so I found a place to sit under an old red pine. I watched the life of the wintering river, and heard the chorus of Canadian geese bugling in the distance. At one point, it became silent, and I heard the distinct scream of a red-tailed hawk. You know, the “Keeee-hhhhurrrrrrrrrrrrrr” the clichéd punctuation of a truly desolate place. It was marvelous."

I now have options: If it snows, I head up to my wintry mountain. If it is warm, I stay down in the valley and take my longboard for a ride! It is a good life.
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Until next week!
Cheers!

Posted by Rhombus 18:21 Archived in USA Tagged mountains snow winter skiing hiking photography trails idaho powder longboarding Comments (3)

Ski Bumming 2012: The Winter Scenes

On Snow, Skiing Techniques, Mountain Photography, and Mountain Top Temples

overcast 24 °F

Winter.

I have been reunited with winter, and I must say I am enjoying myself. Winter has a beauty all its own.
I was raised in the wintry wilds of northern Michigan. Where I grew up, a long winter was a fact of life, and not something to be taken lightly. In my mind, it isn’t winter if it isn’t snowing. Snow is a remarkable substance that has increased man’s vocabulary by thousands of words. Everyone I meet seems to have their own vernacular for describing it. “It is: sticky, silky, powdery, creamy, chunky, chalky, grainy, and fluffy, to name a few. The Eskimos have over 2500 words to describe it. I like to simplify, and I like to think of it as, “beautiful.”
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At times, an odd transformation happens to a skier when they have seen and partaken in twelve inches of fresh powder on skiable mountain slopes. They immediately transform into a snow snob. From that point on, nothing else is good enough. I was with such a gentleman just the other week. We were skiing a few runs together, and he had nothing good to say about the snow though he used a dozen words to describe its poor condition. I thought it was just fine, and maybe a little more work than perfect, but certainly nothing to complain about.

Skiers are connoisseurs of snow. After all, it is our medium to create, to carve, shape, and slice into physical artistic beauty. We love to create perfect lines of arcs down mountain slopes. The symmetry is beautiful. I like to add my own artistic design to my lines. Usually about half way down the slope I like to put a man shaped divot into the snow. These impressions can take on a variety of shapes, often with legs and arms akimbo and the head shape of a bearded man planted firmly in the snow.
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One can tell where I’ve skied by following the arc from the top of the mountain. First, you’ll see a nice symmetrical arc winding its way down the mountain. The arcs will become a bit less symmetrical, a bit more chaotic, as if someone had gained a lot of speed and seemed to have a bee stuck in his coat. Perhaps you will see the two lines of ski tracks suddenly disappear into one. Then, a small pine tree will be completely devoid of any snow whatsoever, even though every other tree around it is covered in snow. Soon after this tree, you will see another man shaped divot pounded into the snow. This is followed by a floating blue cloud of muttered obscenities hanging near the scene. To ski through one of these clouds is an eerie experience, whispered voices proclaiming annoyance of “bad form” and “stupid pine tree.“ More nice parallel arcs follow the cloud. I’ve got my own style, you might say.

I am reminded of Homer Simpson who was skiing and takes twelve pine trees to the groin, yelling the whole way down. Then at the bottom, giggles, and jumps back onto the chair lift while calling the liftie a “sucker“.

Among “Average Joe” skiers, I’m a good skier. I can handle double black diamonds, though it may not be pretty. Sometimes it is, but not as often as I’d like. Among elite skiers, I am piss poor. I can admire the form of a skier who really knows how to ski. Like most things I know how to do, I taught myself. I’ve never had any lessons, and it shows at times. I have gotten a few tips along the way, and those have been very helpful, but my bad habits often impede my improvement.
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I don’t mind challenging myself. I love steep, skinny lines through glades in powder. I’m happy inventing my own lines on the sides of runs, through trees, and anywhere that catches my eye. I use the chairlift as a reconnaissance, and try to decide what line I want to run on my way up. More often then not, I’ll change my mind and take a different route.

I grew tired of not being able to take my camera up on the hill. As you know, I love taking photos, and it was killing me not to have my camera with me up in the mountains. To remedy this, I bought a small point and shoot that slips easily into the pocket of my jacket. It has worked well, and I’ve enjoyed bringing some of the wonderful mountain views home with me to share with you.

The following are views from this week.

GREEN LICHEN
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FROSTED SILVER PINES
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LONGBOARDING IN WINTER
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There isn’t as much snow down in the valley, and I took advantage of a dry afternoon to go longboarding on the Trail of the Coeur D’Alene. Three minutes after I took this picture, it started snowing. I guess if you want it to snow, one should go longboarding.

SNOW COVERED PINES OF WARDNER PEAK
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MY COMMUTE
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It's two blocks.

NO. 2 CHAIRLIFT IN CLEARING SKIES
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PINES AND SHADOWS
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The chairlift offers a unique perspective of the world, humming away high above the tops of some of the pines.

HOAR FROST CHAINS
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I found these delicate chains of hoar frost well off of the beaten path. They were so very fragile and quite beautiful. It is a masterpiece of natural sculpture.

PINE BOW HIGHLIGHTED IN HOAR FROST
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This photo reminds of me Chinese Art for some reason.

SILVER MOUNTAIN WONDERLAND
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My Playground.

MY MOUNTAIN TOP TEMPLE
These pictures were taken in a small copse of pines on top of Wardner Peak. I love the fact that to get here one has to hike over 300 yards up a steep winding path that is whipped by a fresh west wind and stinging snow. In a moment of inspiration, I hiked through knee-deep snow to sit quietly and admire these pines that sat silently in the deep snow. It was dark in the pines, and I contemplated this magnificent mountain temple of pine trees. I grabbed a handful of snow, and ate some of it. I realized I hadn’t eaten snow in a long time, and I smiled in spite of myself.
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After awhile, I grew chilled from sitting in the snow, and hiked back up to where I had left my skis. I snapped in, and launched myself down an untracked line of eight inches of powder. Half way down I started laughing. Winter is wonderful.

Posted by Rhombus 17:02 Archived in USA Tagged mountains trees snow winter skiing photography idaho Comments (0)

The First Week of Ski Bumming 2012

Back on Skis, A Month of Ski Bumming, Mountain Grandeur

semi-overcast 32 °F

February 5th 2012- Excerpt From My Journal
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“First takes on the mountain.. My commute is two blocks.. I can walk everywhere from my house. On the mountain, I step into my skis, and snap in. I hear the sizzle of my edges catching on the corrugation of groom... My body acts on its own, and I'm planting the pole, arcing easily into the next turn. I haven't lost much in 2 years... A beautiful azure sky, that only the west produces, there's the crisp white of snow, and here I am... I love it when a plan comes together…”

This plan HAS come together nicely. Over the course of the next month, I’m going to expound on the finer points of being a ski bum. Every day has its own rhythm to it, and as I look out over the northern Idaho mountain ranges stretching to the horizon, I think to myself what a beautiful place I have landed.
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I have rented out the basement of a furnished house here in Kellogg, ID. My landlady is very sweet, and loves to ski as much as I do. It’s a block away from the grocery store, and two blocks away from the gondola, which takes me up to the mountain. “Location, location, location…”

Some of you might remember my last skiing adventures from two years ago, when I was living in a small cabin on side of the gulch in Wardner. So far, the biggest difference between 2 years ago, and today, is that there is much more snow this year. I’m told last year was an epic year for snowfall, but my life’s journey had me chasing other adventures.
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After working on the ship for the last year and a half, I need a break from eighty hour weeks, and being handcuffed to the clock. Last fall, I began formulating another plan to come to Idaho, to veg out, to ski, to relax for awhile in a place I could temporarily call my own. I'm enjoying cooking my own meals, reading books, and spinning the globe on my coffee table. I'm waiting for the day when I become inspired, and ready to plan and execute my next adventure. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will, and when it does, it will be a very good day indeed.
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Feb 9th
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Today was probably the most beautiful day I have ever skied. The mountain was shrouded in hanging clouds. While riding the chairlift through this thick cloud, I looked out and saw a lone pine tree standing tall, it’s branches covered in a fine coating of snow. Beyond it, was nothing. There were no landforms visible beyond it, and this simplicity of landscape was beautiful. A quiet beauty.
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Suddenly, a break in the cloud appeared and I could see the top of the mountain, a halo of blue sky above it, and muted sunshine breaking through to highlight the upper trees. The tall pine trees coated in thin snow, stood silent, and comfortable. Lin Yutang compares old pine trees on a mountainside to that of old men. “Like old men, the pines understand everything, but it doesn’t talk and therein lies mystery and grandeur.“

To me they are silent, beautiful, gnarled, and strong. Happy enough to sit through the years, keeping a quiet repose, and good company to those who venture out to enjoy them.
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The mountains of northern Idaho are old mountains; they seem to have been pounded down into the earth by some giant hammer. When I reached the top of the mountain, I stopped to look at the distant purple mountains. They were surrounded by horizontal streams of light to dark gray clouds. The spectrum of color was amazing with purple, gray, dark gray, white, pale blue and green in long bands from earth to sky.
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In this magical mountain landscape, I put my skis to use. In the night, two inches of soft powder had fallen, giving the mountain fresh snow to soften the tracks of the past week. I explored the mountain, and found the conditions fantastic. Some of the runs felt like I was gliding on silk, and I laughed aloud when my heart burst in happiness at the simple pleasures of using gravity to ride down this wonderful mountain on two shaped boards.

The Ski Bumming 2012 Project is off to a good start.

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” ~ William Blake

Posted by Rhombus 14:36 Archived in USA Tagged mountains trees snow skiing photography idaho Comments (1)

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