24 Hours in Victoria B.C.

“That’s a classic photograph there, eh?” A bald man drinking scotch at 3 in the afternoon with tattoos on his arms, and a thick Canadian accent says to me. I’m snapping photos of a stair case that leads directly into the Strait of Juan de Fuca—it’s waters splashing the stairs to say hello. Thick concrete walls, painted a faded turquoise with streaking rust stains line the stair case. I wonder why this stair case exist…it’s peculiar to me. It’s a sunny, warm, October day, and the water is incredibly inviting.

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I ask him what this concrete platform we are standing on is, and he says, “Not sure.” I look behind and see a concrete wall extending about a half a mile along the water, I know it’s a dike, but I’m confused at what purpose the two sets of stairs that lowered me from the dike right into the water serve. He then says, “I do know that there were once entry points to tunnels that run below the city of Victoria. It’s probably where all the drugs came out of that were smuggled into U.S. during the 1900’s. Port Angeles was a hot spot for receiving all this illegal contraband and Chinese labor from Canada, you know, eh? You’re from Port Angeles right?”

“Yeah-yeah, we’re from Port Angeles,” I respond with, “We just took the ferry over for the weekend—and our ferry home is leaving in an hour. We’ve never been to Victoria, and have never heard about ships transporting illegal substances and humans into U.S. borders, that’s crazy.”

“Oh yeah, used to happen all the time, I think its calmed down now…but wonderful city, eh? I’ve been here my whole life, and I’m never leaving.” He says while sipping his drink with a sly smirk on this face. “What have you two done since you’ve been here?” Looking at Gianna and myself.

 I turn to Gianna and ask, “What have we done…?” I get lost looking back on the whirlwind of the last 24 hours—from a 90-minute ferry ride across the Strait and into Canada, to biking through neighborhoods, to strolling around the city, to turning down alley ways, into coffee shops, restaurants, small shops, and night clubs—we’ve certainly done our best to get a feel for the city. Granted, a complete tourist’s snapshot of the city. It’s all been a blur of newness.

I realize I’m completely reminiscing in my head, and come back to the real world just in time to hear Gianna say that we unloaded the Black Ball Ferry, passed through customs and pedaled right to the British Parliament building to marvel at the 19th century architecture, rose gardens, sculptures, and murals that oddly exist just across the water from little ol’ Port Angeles.

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We even biked by at night to see Queen Victoria looming in front of the lit up Romanesque Canadian structure, and that it was quite the site! We were so intrigued with this building (because there is absolutely nothing like this at home on the Olympic Peninsula), that we pedaled two miles in-land to check out the Craigdorrach Castle. A castle built in the late 1800’s by the coal baron Robert Dunsmuir during the reign of Queen Victoria. It hosts arches, columns, tall bands, stained glass, and cylindrical towers with conical caps. I tell him how we were disappointed it was closed, because the inside must be just as spectacular as the outside.

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I realize as his eyes are glossing over because we’ve only told him things he already knows about his city…we both pause recounting the events of the past 24 hours. He smiles, “Like I said, wonderful city, eh. There’s no-where like here, I’m never leaving. You get coffee yet? It’s way better than Seattle’s coffee everyone talks about…”

“We sure did get coffee, and a pastry. I don’t think I’m quite serious enough about my coffee to say its better than across the water, but it sure was good.”

“You check out Beacon Hill Park?”

“Yep! We went there last night. The view of the Olympic Mountains was all time.” I smiled, remembering the bike ride from the night prior, as we slowly pedaled the bike path along the bluffs, and descended down onto the beach. The city fell away from us as a wide expanse of water shimmering with light, and our home—the Olympic Mountains—loomed in front of us.

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“I’ve never been up in those mountains, I’d like to one day, but its hard for me to go anywhere.” He says as he takes another sip of his drink. He breaths out and asks, “What do you do for work in Port Angeles?”

Gianna responds with, “I’m an artist, a painter, and I actually saw a gallery here with work that I really like. It was so simple, and refreshing. I enjoyed it.”

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He chimes in with, “Good for you, I’m sure you brighten everyone’s life with your paintings. I’m a butcher, you could say it’s an art form, only just a little bit darker than yours,” He says with a chuckle. I check my phone and see that it’s now 3:15, meaning the ferry departs in 45 minutes. We thank our new friend for the lively conversation, and helping us rave about our trip. We finally caught his name: Crane. While carrying my bike up the stairs, and onto the street I think to myself—Crane the Canadian—what a guy.

We start riding toward Victoria’s inner harbor, and pass a restaurant looking out over the water. It smells wonderful, the salt air blends with French fries letting me know that I must be hungry. We keep biking to catch our ferry, as I do my best to take in the last of Victoria B.C. It’s a city with so much history, it just feels old.

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Almost a polar opposite from Port Angeles, but similar in that both places are built on the water and around the water. With a million people, it makes sense why there are so many bikers, local shops, art galleries, parks, and green spaces everywhere. It has a mellow vibe, like a million people don’t actually live here. But, it still features castles, tall buildings, and very modern condos. A group of bikers approach me, the one in lead has a big smile on her face, and says a happy, “Good afternoon!” as she flies by. The people we’ve met have been extremely friendly, open, and talkative to two American tourists. The city is easy to bike around, and there’s clearly so much to do: restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, shops, culture, dancing, bars, movies, history, art, and museums.

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I spot a small boat with that signature yellow and black pattern of a taxi. I look out and see about five of them bouncing people throughout the harbor. This city is full of energy, but unlike Seattle, I see no one distracted by their iPhone, I see no one rushing. I wonder if this could also just be the fact that it’s a Sunday. We pass a dock that extends out into the harbor, offering fish, drinks, and cute little floating houses.

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We board the Black Ball Ferry, and say our goodbye to Victoria’s majestic Inner Harbor. Sometimes you just have to leave Washington to go to another country…but dang, a $100 ferry ticket for two people with their bikes to travel internationally, that’s pretty good to come by

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Lake Crescent Lodge

The following article was written for Explore Washington State.


A classic Washington day: cold, rainy, and foggy. The air, thick with moisture, began creeping inside our house, our car, our clothes…even our minds. Gianna and I live in Port Angeles, and we’ve heard a lot about Lake Crescent Lodge, but have never taken the time to visit. It’s only 20 miles west of our home, and given the cold October day, we figure it is time to go check it out. So, we bundle up and head west on 101.

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Tuning into a local radio station, a man informs us that each mile driven west from Sequim is equivalent to an inch of rain a year. Though Sequim receives 17 inches of rain a year, Port Angeles receives 26, and Forks gets 119. If you compare Forks to Seattle, that’s 84 more inches of rain every year. That is a lot of rain—and the farther we drive from Port Angeles, the rainier it’s getting.

I look out my window and ponder the fact that these high rainfall levels are exactly what makes this place so unique. I see clouds slowly crawling through the old growth forests, and I consider how incredible it is that these giants essentially dine and thrive on the nutrients and moisture from the fog. I think how a magic concoction of ocean moisture and cool air confronts the Olympic Mountains gifting the Olympic Peninsula its dense, gigantic, and mysterious coniferous forest.

Driving along, we hit the tip of Lake Crescent: a prolific body of water that stores some of this rain. The lake is gigantic, extending 12 miles with a maximum depth of 624 feet. The water is exceptionally blue and clear. But today—like the air—the water is dark. We marvel again at the fog eerily shifting through the steep mountains and old growth forests that line the lake.

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We eventually arrive at the Lodge, which is about halfway down the lake. Walking up to the entrance, we pass small cottages on our left with huge Douglas Firs towering above them. Firs so big that only the rain of the Peninsula can create them.

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And to our right—in all its mystery—was the Lake.

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We keep walking along the path until we spot a dock stretching out into the lake, so we stroll out to the end to take it all in.

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Reading a sign, we learn that Lake Crescent Lodge is formally known as, "Singer's Lake Crescent Tavern,” which was built in 1915 coinciding with road improvements and a ferry that provided access to this rugged and remote location. I think of the immense challenges early settlers must have had fighting all the rain, the mountains, and the forests the line the lake to establish this resort.

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Singer's Lake Crescent Tavern    from Lake Crescent around 1918. Doesn’t look a whole lot different than today!

Singer's Lake Crescent Tavern from Lake Crescent around 1918. Doesn’t look a whole lot different than today!

We decide it is time to head inside, and step through the doors. The cold damp air is lost to the stone fireplace, Frank Sinatra, a huge elk, hardwood floors, and a cozy, rustic atmosphere.

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Next, we are escorted to the dinning room, which is literally, “on the lake” and sit at a cozy table. While we may not have gotten the “seat of the house,” like these folks, we sure didn’t complain.

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For Gianna and myself, “fancy” dinners in Port Angeles are few and far between. So this one feels fancy to us. The table cloths are white, with folded napkins, goblet glasses of water, and a proper table set. We order wonderful pineapple ginger mojitos to get things started

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On the menu we read a small story about the lodge. During the 1930s, when the creation of Olympic National Park was being debated in Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Lodge to get a feel for the area. Here, Roosevelt sat with several other public figures discussing his support of the park. Soon after this dinner, a bill with Roosevelt’s support hit the Congressional floor which proved to be foundational in establishing Olympic National Park (1938), one of the true gems of the National Park System.

The options are diverse, offering primarily locally sourced food within an hour of the lodge. There are appetizers like the Wild Mushroom Quinoa ‘Arancini’, or salads like the Dungeness Crab Cobb Salad, and entrees like Brown Butter Basted Halibut, 14 oz. Angus Ribeye, Seared Local Salmon, and the Washington Farmer’s Basket Griddled Provolone Bowl. It all sounds delicious, but we both are craving fish and chips and decide to listen to our cravings.

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The dinning room proves to be very relaxing and peaceful. Dinner flies by with classical music humming in the background. The food is delicious and the service is excellent. A little slow—but, hey—eating at the Lake Crescent Lodge isn’t about being rushed. We enjoy the slower pace, it gives us a chance to step back in time and glimpse the early 1900’s.

Eventually and reluctantly we know it is time to leave the cozy warmth of the lodge and head out to the damp darkness of the Peninsula. So, we pay the check and head out to the lobby.

As I wander the lobby one last time, I spot an article on the book shelf written by Town Crier in 1919 for a Seattle weekly newspaper reading, “On the edge of the lake (Lake Crescent) is Singer's Lake Crescent Tavern, a truly remarkable hotel and a place to be fondly remembered by its guests for its good food, its air of solid comfort, its days of full enjoyment, its warm welcome.” Nearly a hundred years later, my impression resonates the same sentiment. These words still hold truth even today.

Port Angeles, WA

The following article was written for Explore Washington State and posted here in case any one wants a glimpse inside Port Angeles, Washington, my current home.


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Port Angeles is tucked off in between the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, and the strait of Juan De Fuca. Just a two-hour drive and a ferry boat ride from Seattle, with Olympic National Park towering overhead as its backyard, Port Angeles offers a true maritime small town feel. When driving into town, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you pass the sign that reads, "Welcome to Port Angeles, Where the Mountains Greet the Sea." Riddled with unique history, art, food, and people, this place presses beyond your standard small town expectations. It is the type of place where a fortune teller sits next to a piano in the heart of town…where during the summer folks from all over the world sink into the keys. You’ll hear music bouncing off the walls of a mountain mural and echoing throughout main street.

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Want to peruse some local shops? Main street hosts restaurants, small boutiques, businesses, and coffee shops. Whatever sort of creature comfort you might be looking for out on the rugged Olympic Peninsula, its all right here.

Getting hungry? The, "must eat at," restaurant is the Next Door Gastropub. The menu consists of 100% Natural Painted Hills Beef Hamburgers, arguably the best garlic parmesan fries on the planet, sandwiches, and creative salads. Not to mention the full bar, a unique local rotating tap, and a lively and ‘vibing’ aesthetic, the Gastropub is like no other pub around. With outdoor seating for the summer, and unique specials like the, "Redneck Happy Meal," what's there not to love?

Wondering about how this historic town was founded? Port Angeles has actually had many different names, and numerous boom and bust era’s with the power, fishing, and timber industry. It was actually once home to the worlds largest sawmill. If you want to learn more, look no further than the Museum at the Carnegie.

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While Port Angeles feels small, it's still the largest city on the Peninsula with around 20,000 residents, and plenty to do! The summers are lined with events, and fall appears to be no different. Here are four upcoming events that you should be sure to check out if you're heading to the Peninsula:

  1. The Big Hurt Race - September, 22nd

  2. Arts & Draughts Festival - September, 22nd - 23rd

  3. Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival - October, 5th - 7th

  4. International Forest Storytelling Festival - October, 19th - 21st

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Art, food, culture, and events are important, but the true pleasure of Port Angeles is it in it’s back and front yard—that is the towering Olympic Mountains and the silky waters of the Straight of Juan De Fuca. Wonder what there is to be enjoyed in the Olympic Peninsula? Look no further then some of my favorite photos of the beautiful place I call home.

Why Do You Exist?

 
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It was June of 2017 and I was 450 miles into a 2,000-mile bike ride down the west coast. It was pouring rain and I was alone, curled up in my tent. I was writing in my journal—working on a sort of poem—when these fours words assembled on my page.

“Life is like a glass vase on a wobbly table while 6 year olds play tag around it. Once accident, strife, vengeance, or infirmity, and its all over. The vase shatters. Time is limited, so what’s your purpose Kory, your contribution, why do you exist?”

I repeated it again in my head…why do you exist?

It had a ring to it. I loved it.

I loved it because I didn't ask to get bornbut I'm here nowwondering what I should do with my existence...?

So, I unzipped my tent. Laying below the rain fly was my blank surfboard bag. I maneuvered the board inside and spent the next two hours writing the phrase in sharpie. And just like that, my life was changed forever.

I spent the next 50 days biking on the Pacific Coast Highway while this surfboard bag asked every person that passed, this question.

And now its asking you.

So, Why do you exist?

Let me know kirbykory@gmail.com

Photo by  Alex Colorito

Photo by Alex Colorito

"Just an Asshole with an Opinion"

Yesterday I was out collecting elevation data to see how spits change over time. While I was out in the field, I couldn’t get a headline I read last week out of my head...GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels.

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I thought, well actually that could make sense. Especially if you considered all the sediment that our rivers dump into the ocean every year. I thought, maybe this material is actually causing our sea levels to rise. Maybe, he’s actually on to something.

So, I spent last night doing research.

According to NOAA, our oceans are rising about 1/8th of an inch every year. The surface of the Earth is around 200 million square miles. 71% of the Earth is water, so a global sea level rise of an 1/8th of an inch is equivalent to a cube with 6 miles on each side. To raise the oceans an 1/8th of an inch, the top four inches of soil from the entire U.S. would have to slide into the ocean every year. Now, that’s a lot of dirt! So, rocks, soil, earth materials entering our oceans can not be the primary driver of rising sea levels.

Sometimes I wonder if we live in a post fact society, where nothings actually, “true.” So, when I’m validating some form of “truth,” I’ll almost always go with one of my favorite sayings by Pat Byorth out of Montana: Without data, you’re just another asshole with an opinion.

The Bambu Lifestyle?

Bamboo:

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robust, strong, diverse, yet soft and sustainable. It has passion built right into its DNA. Its actually one of the fastest growing plants in the world, a versatile raw product used for building materials and food. With a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel. Its quite the photosynthetic derived material. I believe we could all learn a thing or two from this little plant.

I believe it represents a lifestyle. A lifestyle that's also robust, diverse, strong, yet soft. A lifestyle that's sustainable. A lifestyle focused on spending your time, money, and energy living passionately. Its the bambu lifestyle.

But what exactly is the bambu life style?

It's waking up on a Saturday to clean your house, do your errands, get your stuff done, and then escaping to one of your favorite places--firing up the camp stove, and cooking a meaningful, healthy, robust meal.

It's taking long walks through beautiful forests and hugging the huge trees that have existed long before the white people came to chop them all down.

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Its stopping to read the poetry.

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It's walking back to camp in the dark and crawling into a tent with the rain fly off--keeping the bugs out--but the atmosphere in. The connection to the planet, in.

Its falling asleep under the stars far away from light pollution, where a deeper universe is uncovered. Its acknowledging the night skies ability to fill the brains capacity and struggle to digest all its taking in, feeling so small in such a profound world. Its sleeping right under those stars, waking at two in the morning, opening your eyes and seeing them right there smack up against you!

Its then waking up to the birds chirping and the trees swaying. Asking yourself what one could learn on patience from those old trees.

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It's sparking up the stove for a simple breakfast of oatmeal, blended with just a little bit a chocolate--because bamboo too, needs sugar.

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It's then kicking your shoes off and connecting with the natural. Saying hello to the big trees and the little tree's--because a little tree is just a big tree with out enough time.

It’s living in the moment, for the moment. Making every day, minute, and second count knowing that your time in this world is limited. Because if your always looking to the future for something different, easier, better...it’s easy to forget to live.

It's sitting by the river, wondering why the water is so damn blue.

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Its pushing off the fact that its now Sunday, and that you have to work tomorrow, but instead driving to another one of your favorite places to suck out every precious moment of your Sunday.

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It’s sitting and listening…listening to what the ocean has to offer. Asking yourself what one could learn of its eternal power, using the hypnotic noise to clear your mind and become one with yourself and the natural world.

It’s feeling deep in your heart the healing power that is nature.

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Its firing up the stove for one more meal cooked outside while you watch the last light descend into the horizon. Leaning back in your chair, feeling content for the moment and telling yourself, "there is no place I'd rather be..."

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Now that's, the Bambu lifestyle.

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Eight Things the Dirtbag Diaries Taught Me

I am 23 years old.

I am a year out of college and I know I want to teach in some way or another, but am struggling to figure out how to make that happen.

I just worked 600 hours in a snowboard factory.

I made 1,568 snowboards.

I drilled out 18,816 inserts.

I worked from 3:30 to 2:00 AM.

I was miserable.

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Each day felt like my soul was getting sucked out as I did the same task over and over and over again. The hours were long, and it was hard on my body. It was dirty and physically demanding. I listened to a lot of podcasts. My favorite was The Dirtbag Diaries. I discovered it one day on my lunch break (10:00 PM), and it dramatically changed my life. I picked a random episode from 2015 and pressed play. After the 16 minute short, I stopped working, and downloaded all 219 episodes. I then proceeded to binge on the Dirt Bag Diaries. I absolutely loved each and every episode. I started to actually look forward to work, because I correlated it with the Diaries. I slowly worked my way through Dirt Bag Diary History all the way to the very first episode in 2007. On my breaks I would head to my car and write feverishly in my journal about the stories, the life lessons, and the wisdom of this amazing outdoor community that Fitz Cahall (founder) has managed to manifest into story form.

Here are eight things that the Dirt Bag Diaries taught me:

1) Life is all about seeing opportunity, where I’d only seen closed doors before.

In 2007 Fitz Cahall was on the verge of giving up on his dream to be a writer. He thought he had “tried everything,” and that all the doors were closed. It was sort of his last ditch effort to read a story from his closet in Seattle, into a microphone, and put it online. He then sent it out to some friends who responded positively to the first episode. He recorded another, and another. Now, the Dirt Bag Diaries has grown from a few downloads to over 9 million downloads.

Full Episode: Origins

*26:16 starts my favorite assemblage of words by Fitz in all 219 episodes 

2) There is always time to re-start my life.

Take it from Katie Craft, she was 30 years old wrapping up her tenth year working as a recruiter for an online advertising company. A job that she described as, “soul sucking,” and needing no “real life skills.” She claimed she needed a life re-start. So she quit her job and got a gig as a bar tender in Antarctica. She was then able to line up a guiding position in the Artic for the next season. In between the jobs she started living out of her truck. She started fishing, she took a lesson at a flight school, she started hiking more, she learned how to ski, she drove to Alaska, she even kayaked the Grand Canyon. She took a level 1 avalanche course, she got a Wilderness First Responder certification, and even took a fire fighting class. She then went to the artic and began driving and anchoring boats, tying knots, and identifying wildlife. She ended up creating the superwomen equivalent of herself that she set out to create two years before. The podcast ends with her heading to Greenland to work as a naturalist and an expedition leader. From boring 9-5, to guiding in Greenland, reminding me that what ever path I chose in life, its never to late to re-start.

Full Episode: Start Saying Yes

3) I am not defined by my first real job.

Brenden Leonard sure has lived one hell of a life. He beat alcoholism, moved to Missoula Montana to get a Masters degree. He then took that Master degree, and got a job at REI. He is now a full-time writer. Has published 8 books, is a contributing editor at Climbing, Adventure Journal, and The Dirtbag Diaries. His stories have appeared in Backpacker, National Geographic Adventure, Outside Magazine, Men’s Journal, Sierra, Adventure Cyclist, and other publications.

While working in the factory, I kept asking myself over and over, “What are you doing with your life Kory?” I took my bachelors degree, and got a job in a factory. Thanks to Brendan’s story, he’s helped me develop a work ethic to move towards my dreams one day at a time, to practice patience. But most importantly, to understand that I am not defined by my first real job.

Full Episode: Live From 5Point Vol. 9

4) No matter what I’m going through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

“There is a lot of people who are going through similar experiences, or similar hard times, or what feels like the hardest thing in their life, and you just can’t give up. Even if you’re in the hole and got four years to go in prison, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can promise you from my experience the light is so much better then even you can imagine it. If you didn’t have the bad things happen to you, how you could fully experience the good things, how could you go through the best time in your life, without going through the worst time in your life.” – Roland Thompson

Full Episode: 081 

5)    Don’t live life by what I “should be doing.”

Kathy and Peter were spending their free time in the outdoors. They were loading and unloading every weekend from the road. They were paying a mortgage. They were doing what they thought they should be doing. Then, they sold their house, a lot of their belongings, and hit the road with their daughter Abby to live the life of their dreams. They showed me to, “do me.”

Full Episode: Winnebago Warriors 

6) Don’t Wait to long…

Paul Markel’s dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail. He was in love with the idea. It was his wildest dream. It was his obsession. It was the “thing,” he wanted to do before he died. But, Paul never got the chance to hike the Appalachian trail because he waited to long. He never acted on the dream. He died before his 50th birthday. This story taught me to never wait to long, to do that thing, that I’ve always wanted to do.

“If it (this story) gets somebody else off their ass, that’s even better. Because we waited to long to do this. If this sparks someone into action to stop listening to the podcast and get the hell out there, that would be even better.” - M’Lynn Markel

Full Episode: Paul’s Boots

7) I need to create my own definition of success

Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. This story, helped me realize we each get to define our success. No one else can define, “my success,” but myself! Take it from Aimee Brown, who had a similar revelation after a 6-thousand-mile relocation for her “dream job.”

Full Episode: Successful Life 

8) If I want something, I have to go get it.

Kevin spent a decade writing and creating the “Emerald Mile,” but due to a disagreement with Barnes and Noble, they wouldn’t sell his book. Half the book stores in the U.S. refused to carry his book. His publisher marketing plan fell apart…and the book was dead. But not to Kevin, he decided he wouldn’t let the book die. So he climbed into his truck, and essentially went on his own book tour. He stopped at any independent book store he could find, and slept in his truck. He would read to crowds of 2-3. Usually the book store owner, and some friends he new. He did that for about a year. Slowly, it started picking up sales in the independent book stores and eventually it landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Kevin wanted people to read his book, so he went out, and got people to read his book.

Full Episode: The Threshold Moment

Once I listened to all 219 episodes, I no longer had the diaries to look forward to at work. It was devastating. One day, I had enough. I walked into the office and put in my two weeks. I had no idea how I was going to generate and income once I finished those two weeks, but I decided to take the advice from these stories. I spent every countless hour searching for a new job. A month later, I found that job, and I got that job: Education & Outreach Associate for a non-profit working to promote healthy, robust, Salmon stocks on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Thank you Dirtbag Diaries for all that you do.

Camp Host Mike

Meet camp-host Mike.

Photo by  Augie Schield

Photo by Augie Schield

I won’t ever forget the first words he ever said to me, “I know you two just lugged those 150 pound bikes 12 miles up that hill, but the campgrounds full.”

My friend Augie and I were 134 miles in on our first bike tour when we heard these fatal words. We’re not ones to really plan anything, so the thought on where to sleep if this campground was full had never even occurred to us. We looked at each other rather devastated. After three days on highway 101 in the heart of the tourist season, we were looking forward to a layover day in the green forests of Olympic National Park.

Photo by  Augie Schield

Photo by Augie Schield

Mike burst out laughing, “Ah I’m just messing with you two, I knew your faces would be priceless! I actually have a special spot reserved for bikers who make it all the way up here. I tell you what, if you help me move my trailer, I’ll even let you stay for free.”

Augie smiled at me and said, “Deal.”

He led us behind a small white and blue trailer to a flat spot that was covered in branches and logs. He cleared the debris revealing a small patch of moss for us. It was perfect. The ground was soft and there were trees for a slack-line. Just to our left was the trailer that was not much taller then myself. It was the home of Camp host Mike.

Photo by  Augie Schield

Photo by Augie Schield

I watched him wake up in the morning and use bundles of wood to work out. Then check in with every camper to make sure they were enjoying themselves. He took registrations for camp spots, and organized the site. He cooked when he was hungry, and he talked with campers when he was lonely. He loved to talk.

He told us how he spent much of his life in the chaos of Los Angeles consumed by traffic, buildings, dead end jobs, concrete, and busy people. He described walking out his door to immediately getting asked for change. He claims to have seen it all on a subway, from an overdose, to ladies stripping, to a couple having sex, to a guy masturbating.

He talked how he fell into addiction and struggled to find happiness. That he drank enough for the both of us and that we didn’t need any of that in our lives. He told us that we reminded him of his son who he hadn’t talked to in quite some time. He managed to put his demons away to save himself, but not quick enough to save his relationships with his family. This was the greatest regret of his life. One day he hopes to fix this.

He hit rock bottom, and was forced to sell his house. He bought a trailer, and began to drive north without the slightest idea on where to go. He stumbled into a camp host position in Oregon, and then eventually landed one in the Olympic Peninsula. It was here that he was able to finally slow down, think for himself, breath the fresh air, and embrace a simpler life. And he’s been there ever since. 

Just as we were leaving he told us, “no one ever looks back on their death bed wishing they worked more overtime. Bike safe boys, I’ll be thinking of you.”

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Sandstone on my fingertips

“I am pleased enough with the surfaces – in fact they alone seem to me to be of much importance. Such things for example as the grasp of a child’s hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of a friend or lover, the silk of a girl’s thigh, the sunlight on the rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind – what else is there? What else do we need?” – Edward Abbey

Experiences:

Sandstone on my fingertips, a feeling once unknown, I have become personalized too. So different from any other rock: distinct, soft, grainy, and texturized.

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There isn’t a cloud in the sky as I walk from the dry sand where the sun is baring upon me, into a cool moist alcove. I rub my hands around the sandstone attempting to find hand holes as to assist in climbing from the saturated sandy bottom into a slot canyon. I climb out of the darkness, and into the slot that’s only about a foot or two wide. Gazing upward my mind attempts to digest the magnificent reds, oranges, and layers of deposited sand. My eyes continue to drift even higher through all the layers until my head is stretched vertical through a small window at what appears to be the bluest sky I have ever seen. The color of the sky so vibrant it clashes with the sandstone wall making words useless to explain the true depth of this blue.

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I begin to realize I’m feeling cold air on my face, and moisture in the air. The dampness of the air is a feeling so distinct and common anywhere else I have traveled, but here it has long been lost to the hot, dry desert air. Moisture; a feeling my whole body knows, from my feet sinking into the saturated ground, to the cushion on my ankles and knees, to the hairs standing up on my stomach, chest and neck. Breathing in and out my mind begins to remember what moisture feels like. Even my tongue can even feel it. With the use of friction on my back, butt, and quads I travel through the tight canyon walls. The surface feels familiar, even upon my back, where individual grains of quartz grind across it. Only now do I begin to comprehend how water has a mind of its own, to architect, create, and carve into the sandstone shapes, and curves. I then walk out of the shade into the sun and my perceptions alter, a new consciousness overcomes me. It’s like the desert air, sand and sun rob you of complex emotions, only to be replaced by heat, swelter, aridity, and sand, so much sand. Experiences like this brief moment in time, allows one to realize how the beauty, delicacy, and allure of the Colorado Plateau can genuinely encompass your being.

 

Simplify

Garbage trucks, dogs barking, lights, traffic, noise, people. Emails, phone service, Wi-Fi, TV’s, screens, connection with the world. Chaos, hecticness, stresses consuming our lives. Day by day, week by week, month by month we bite off more then we can chew. Forty to Fifty-hour work weeks are common ground for a majority of society. In attempts to simplify our lives we leave it all behind. Abandoning familiarity and comfort, exiting what is traditional for the masses we head out for the wild, where life is distilled down to the essence. There are simply less things to worry about, less on your mind. In the wild, I’ve noticed the little things. I’ve realized that pieces often slip through my fingertips, slide past my eyes and get lost in my mind. That’s why I search to “simplify”. Sleeping, eating, and water are the essence of life. Everything else can at times create unnecessary complexities.

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We live in a consumptive society where it is so easy to have more then we need. Taking a step back and realizing that less is actually more can be an overwhelming, mind-altering realization. Grocery stores are filled with temptations and instant pleasures. In the backcountry you only bring what can be carried on your back.

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It’s the little things like relaxing with good friends after a long days hike. It’s uniting with those friends under a good meal, and appreciating a full stomach. It’s passing around a bag of soggy animal crackers and eating each crushed crumb one by one. It’s when an onion is starting to go bad, and a group member at lunch asks, “Anyone want some onion?” Ears perk up, smiles spread across the small community at the brief existence in a surplus of onion. When its a fresh sock day, taking the crusty, smelly socks off, and sliding your feet into freshness.

It’s hiking all day in a rainstorm, and appreciating the beauty that is rain in the desert. A dry desolate, landscape turns into something polar opposite, something spectacular. Starting with the cryptobiotic soil, lichen and mosses that turn green in the presence of that oh-so-precious water. The grasses, shrubs, and flowers all awaken to the presence of rain falling from the sky. It’s looking at a flower, filled with water on each pedal, and only then does the true power of rain show itself. The tree’s brighten green as well, stand a just a little bit taller; happy to join the party that is rain.

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It’s feeling the warmth of the sun on your face after a cold night or the rain dissipates, feeling grateful for the suns rays warming your soul. It’s the blue sky against red canyon walls, making the colors pop into your brain to forever be remembered. Its turning your headlamp off to a full moon, and letting moonlight guide you through your nightly deeds. As the moon cycles into darkness, hundreds of stars are revealed to the naked eye each night. It’s standing with your neck cranked upward far away from light pollution of society, where a deeper universe is uncovered. Thinking to myself, “I’ve never seen the cosmos so bright before…” It’s acknowledging the night skies ability to fill the brains capacity and struggle to digest all its taking in, feeling so small in such a profound world. It’s sleeping right under those starts, waking up at two in the morning, opening your eyes, seeing them right there smack up against you!

It’s the little things like having a working zipper on your sleeping bag to wrap yourself up into a cocoon for feelings of comfort and warmth. It’s having a warm fire at night to ease your mind from darkness, the crackling, shimmering, dancing flames more entertaining than any TV. Sitting by that fire, with friends and companions late into the night talking about hopes, dreams, passions, and realities for you, his, hers, societies futures.

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It’s having enough fuel for boiling water after a long day to make a hot drink. Sipping on tea, coffee or hot chocolate reminiscing on all accomplished during our last 12, 24, 48, 72 or thousands of hours before… Feeling the warmth inside your stomach, spreading through your veins, creating a sense of content for the moment. It’s living in the moment, for the moment, not trying to struggle through a miserable week, only for some brief time on the weekend. Making every day, minute, and second count knowing that your time in this world is limited. If always looking to the future for something different, easier, better, it’s easy to forget to live.

British philosopher Alan Watts bestows his views on how to live in happiness in today’s world where society makes us believe we have to follow the paths of others. He says,

“Its often easy to continue doing things you don’t like doing, in order to keep doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid! Better to have a short life filled with what you like doing then a long one spent in a miserable way.”

Leaving behind complications, and added stresses, living the past 48 days doing exactly what I want to be doing has excited my soul with endless possibilities for my life.

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It’s the little things like sitting listening… Listening to what true silence sounds like. Its strange to try and describe “silence” its really something that you have to feel to believe. It’s using this silence to clear your mind, and become one with yourself and the natural world. It’s feeling deep in your heart the healing power that is nature. Anxiety, stress, depression, violence, anger, and unhealthiness all relieved from leaving a complex world behind.

It’s acknowledging how lucky you are to experience places so special. It’s feeling grateful for all these little things, and really taking time to notice what’s right in front of you. When life gets crazy, it can be hard at times to acknowledge what’s slapping you in the face. I’ve been ignoring a lot of things in my life, and since I left an old one behind, a new one picks up the pieces.

I remember one night specifically where simplicity was summed up in one phrase. After a gluttonous meal of nachos, Ben leans back in his chair, a smile spreading ear to ear, he states, “I’m tingly from the shoulders up, ahhh, its really really quite perfect.”


Day 60 along the Green River with the greatest group of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

Day 60 along the Green River with the greatest group of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

Benjamin Bailey – Mary Loomis – Braden Lalancette – Luke Taylor – Jacob Seigel – Maris Kiefaber – Elly Voigt – Lyndsey Freitag – Carly Melchers – Katie Atherly – James Mouch – Katie Nelson

I miss you all dearly, and if you're reading this, I hope life is just fine and dandy.

 

Why today's hero could be tomorrows exterminator

The future success of human kind resides on the all encompassing issue of resource use.

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Because to choose what is best for the near future is easy, but to choose what is best for the near and distant future is very difficult, often entirely contradictory requiring ethical logic and reasoning that seems yet to be formulated.

Think of it this way, an individual running a country can be a criminal to his era, but a hero to future descendants. If he is to cautiously preserve his nations resources for aesthetic, intrinsic, and romantic reasons he will sustain his resources at the cost of his people remaining in poverty. Long term however, this tyrant will have improved the welfare of his citizens by giving them greater resources, opportunity and diversity of decision making.

On the other hand, today's hero may very well be tomorrows exterminator.

A well liked series of leaders can harness the energy of their people and increase the standard of living. This promotes a population explosion, which results with the unintended exploitation of resources, and congregation of a nations citizens to urban centers. These urban centers then create a specialized workforce where no one can provide for their own basic needs without the help of other specialists. While this society is technologically advanced and the standard of living high, it lacks resilience and diversity because so many are helpless once resources become constrained. Given enough time, this lack of diversity and resource scarcity may result in a societal collapse.

Our leaders of the 20th and 21st century have indeed been heroes, but may very well be looked upon one day as exterminators. For their systems ran on the premise that resources are infinite. They are not. Time is now working against us, it’s the one great equalizer. We are mere captives of its grasp. Resources are now becoming constrained, the verge of helplessness grows closer. The population bomb is ticking—we now share a planet with 7.6 billion other people where the pressure to “choose what is best” for now, and your grand kids is being magnified by our ever shrinking world.

For the Earth will always remain rigid, and life will persist.

But human kind, how long will you live?

The only flaw in the world

Our brain is a muscle, and like all muscles without use, grows weak.

When we sit, stare, and consume, we never question, only accept.

When we contribute, settle, and plead despair at the system, we fuel the machine.

When we believe the lifestyle that’s written for us, "is us," we tell ourselves, “its just what I have to do."

When we're all terrified to do the things we actually enjoy, we welcome heartache.

When we need to make a living, most of us reluctantly trade time, for money.

When we chase a fictitious trail of material wealth endowed upon us by previous generations, we trust that this is the guideline on how to live, this must bring us happiness, but then we fill our lives with forms of escape; alcohol, drugs, screens, toys, vacation homes and things.

When we all nitpick flaws and point fingers at human kind, we act like we understand our selves so well, that they must be the flaws in the world.

When we don't see that perhaps the only flaw in the world is this: we don’t know how we ought to live. So we rarely consult the wisdom of the one true thinker, and controller of our lives, ourselves.

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