Day 55: Hayfork CA

Photo Map as of July 29th

Today is the 55th day of our trip.  In the days leading up to our departure, there was a very general plan.  Surprisingly, the trip has, for the most part, gone as planned.  


One of the planned stops was in Hayfork, CA.  A place I knew nothing about.  Well, other than the fact that my friend, Jesse, lived there.


Hayfork

This small town, roughly 2,500  in population, sits in the center of the Trinity National Forest.  When you look at it on a map, it’s surrounded by green.  Ironic, I know.


In this small town, my friend, Jesse, owns a bit of land.  On this land, Jesse farms and he constructs.  He lives with his fiance, Jennika, their baby, Rhye, and Jesse’s father, Brian.


Truthfully, I’m going to have a hard time turning this blog post into anything other than an ode to Jesse Flinck.  If I were to write an ode to Jesse, it would probably touch on the passion he has for everything he does, and how he meticulously cares for these passions.  


(When you look at the images below, be sure to take note of anything with wood. Jesse built that.)


When I arrived in Hayfork, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The town is in the high hills.  Temperatures reach 105º during the day, and 55º at night.  It was uncertain how long Sid and I would stay in the area, but we were excited about the amenities that go along with living on the grid.


Our first day at the farm, we were greeted with a wonderful meal of steak and corn on the cob.  Jennika is quite the chef.  She previously owned the Health Food Store in town and makes eating well a priority.


The first couple of days were spent exploring.  Jesse showed us some of his favorite swimmingly holes.  The country was beautiful.  


Back at the farm, Sid made friends with the creatures that patrol the property:  three dogs, Cora, Poot and Poppyseed, and one cat named Flo.  It doesn’t happen very often, but 26-lb Sid was the biggest of all these pets, a fact he held highly.  


We stayed in the loft of the house, which had two giant windows that opened at the crown of the roof.  The cool breeze felt great at night.  I recall staring out at the full moon for some time before finally falling asleep.


The stay was great, but the hospitality was even better.  It was July 14th when we left the farm.  We’d been there for about a week.  Before we left, Jesse talked about a gathering of friends he has at his home every year.  He called it “Summer Camp”.  This year, the gathering was to take place on the last weekend in July.  Almost two weeks away.  The time spent on the farm was so enjoyable, Sid and I vowed to come back to take part in the festivities!  




We cruised up to Oregon, spent a couple weeks camping at Lomolo Lake (north of Crater Lake), and then made our way back to Hayfork.  It was about a six hour drive.


We arrived on Thursday, a day before the rest of the group, so that we could help set up and decorate.  The first Summer Campers to arrive were a couple of guys I knew from back home, Spence and Jeremy.  They drove straight through, from Lincoln, resting for just three hours.


That night, we broke in the ping pong table and enjoyed the positive vibes that coincided with the liberating weekend feeling.  Jennika’s friend, Angelina came later in the evening with her son, Fin, and by the end of the day Friday, everyone had arrived.  


Toby, Jules, Ali, Teresa, Chloe, James, Alex, Alex, and baby Peter rounded out the group.  


Everyone was in positive spirits.  There was a strong aura that surrounded the group.  It was as though everyone was on a journey, and this was their opportunity to unwind!  


The guys of the group occupied the ping pong table for the majority of the day on Friday until Jules and Ali started playing.  Watching the guys walk away from the table with their tails between their legs became a common theme.  Eventually, we split up the teams so that everyone could have fun.   


Day turned night, drinks were had and a need for sleep overcame our playful spirits.


We woke on Saturday with a full day planned.  It started with a hearty breakfast and was followed by a trip to Sparkle Beach (I’m pretty sure Jesse made up that name, btw).  The beach was on the Trinity River, offering a nice escape from the heat.  We sat in the shade, did some light exploring, exchanged jokes and stories, but most importantly, we were all able to get to know each other better.  It was here that I realized how impressive Jesse’s ability is to introduce such a good, like-minded group of people.  Truly a delight to be a part of.


We made our way back to the farm and cooked up a feast!  Gathering around the dinner table with this group felt very comfortable.  Everyone was smiling, laughing, devouring the tasty smorgasbord that lay in the center of the table.  The nature of the meal offered a cohesive feeling of love and community that I had to experience on this trip.  This was the pinnacle of the weekend, and it was where this melting pot of creative individuals became one.


That night we all shared a truly intrinsic experience, one we will never forget.  The most difficult part of the weekend was parting ways on Sunday.  All of us headed in a different direction, but all of us headed in the right one.


The decision to come back to Hayfork wasn’t a difficult one, but I would have never guessed it could have been as memorable as it was.  Sunday was two days ago, and already I’m looking forward to Summer Camp ‘15.


Here’s to all of you, campers! Thanks for making the weekend amazing!!





Day 29: Caballo St Park

So, here’s the skinny on what’s gone down in the last three weeks.

Canon 6D w/ Lightroom 5


Sid and I left Austin on June 10th.  Since then our route has looked something like this…


Austin - Ft Davis - White Sands Nat Monument- Caballo St Park - Tempe - West Hollywood - Hermosa Beach - Long Beach - Big Sur - San Francisco - Lake Tahoe - Yosemite Nat Park - Redwood Forest - Hayfork


What makes this list appear a little overwhelming for me, is that I have only blogged as far as White Sands….

Oops.

Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do.  


The experience thus far has been a great one.  There have been a few snags, though.  Like, fighting a serious battle with poison oak, and having my car towed in what can only be the most expensive city to get your car towed in.  


Whatever. Right?


I mean, you’ve kinda just gotta take what you’re given and then make apple pie.  You've got crush that turd into a diamond.  Or maybe another analogy that makes more sense.  Regardless, I'm sure you get my point.


Each stop on the trip has offered a much different experience.  I am extraordinarily grateful to have amazing friends who are down to house me and my dog.  Even when my adventure mutt smell quite foul.  

Who am I kidding, we both stink.  

Our stinks differ, though.  I mean, theres only one of us who is relentlessly in search of foul smelling things to roll around in.  The good thing about camping is that you're the only ones who has to put up with your stench.  It becomes second nature... 


Anywho.


We left White Sands early in the morning on the 12th, and the heat was already beginning to rise.  It was an epic night of camping, but now we're covered in sand and in dire need of an escape from the brutal New Mexico sun.  I pulled out a map, found some blue, and decided it was to be our next destination.  


Caballo St Park did not disappoint!  The park was just an hour and a half from White Sands and offered a nice transition from desert living.  Sid and I cooled off in the lazy Rio Grande, and then we took a nap.


Canon 6D w/ Helios 85mm 1.5

One of the greatest things about this trip, is that we have no schedule.  There’s no unsettling feeling of being rushed.  We took a load off and layed in the tent.  We studied the large black ants as they carefully examined the new landscape that was the outside of our tent.

 

Even in the shade, New Mexico is brutally hot.  A fellow camper, a few sites down, stopped over the make chitchat.  

His name was Steve, and he had a totally awesome 86’ Jeep Wrangler.  (He added a sweet hood ornament, a gargoyle he found at the yard sale.)  “It cost me all the money I had in the bank!” He told me.  $5,000 to be exact.  Steve was from a neighboring city and just negotiated “rent” with the park manager to allow him to live at the park for $124/month.  He was quite proud of this.  

Canon 6D w/ 35mm 1.4

Canon 6D w/ 35mm 1.4

Steve was an interesting character.  After speaking with him, he seemed like the type of guy who knew how to tell a good story.  He stood in his jean shorts, held up only by the suspenders that appeared to be a permanent article of his daily wardrobe.  

Canon 6D w/ 35mm 1.4

He told me about a great area to get firewood, even invited me along.  But I still had to set up, so I passed on the offer.  “I’ll bring ya some back!”  He said with enthusiasm.  His Jeep backed out, and began to drive down the road at a pace you’d expect from a 60 something year old man without a care in the world.


Canon 6D w/ 35mm 1.4

He returned a while later, maybe an hour and a half, with plenty of wood.  He began to unload his truck full of treasures before continuing on to his site.  “I got ya the biggest log I could find,” he said.  Frankly, I was impressed he was able to load it up on his own.  I expressed my gratitude, and then he went one further.  


“Here,” he said, “I’ve for these fire starters too, they burn for 12 minutes at 1,200 degrees.”  I reluctantly accepted.  It’s not that I don't like gifts, or generos strangers.  It’s just that my inner boyscout felt like that was cheating.  You know, ya gotta make that fire from scratch!


I’m a little ashamed to say that of the six he gave me, they've all been used… Oh, well.  


When in Rome, right?


Steve went on down to his site, and that was the last I saw him.  He invited me to come down for beers, and in hindsight I wish I would have.  Like I said, he seemed like the would have been a good story teller.  A lot better than Sid, at least.


Canon 6D w/ Helios 85mm 1.5

Speaking of Sid…


Later in the afternoon, we got some neighbors!  And of course, Sid made his way over to introduce himself, and then suddenly I’m engaged in a conversation about the following things:


What kind of dog is he?

How old is he?

Is he a rescue?

Have you had him since he was a puppy?


Let me tell you, I've got these answers down pat.  Especially the bred questions.


“He’s a basset/beagle/corgi/lab,” I say with confidence.  Before I'm able to finish my ridiculous description, people are already nodding in agreement.  Then they realize what I said and have a little chuckle.  

Canon 6D w/ Helios 85mm 1.5


Sid’s pretty much my interaction melting pot.  He introduces himself to anyone with a hand that pets and I always enjoy the people he introduces me to.  It’s that basset/beagle/corgi/lab intuition, I tell ya!

Canon 6D w/ Helios 85mm 1.5


These neighbors were from a town near by as well.  Their camping experience they describe as “glamping”.  Basically a luxurious version of camping, equipped with an air conditioned RV, rugs and a smorgasbord of food!  They were a pleasure to get to know.  Eventually they talked me into sticking around for dinner, and then breakfast as well.


Canon 6D w/ 24-70mm 2.8

We were a day removed from a full moon, and it was a bright night.  The sun set on the mighty Rio Grande.  Sid and I turned in for some z’s.


We woke up the next morning, ate breakfast with the neighbors, packed up and headed west.

Canon 6D w/ 35mm 1.4


The next stop, Tempe Arizona!


A ride through West Texas, into the land of New Mexico. Check out the story here: www.alexhopes.com

Day 8: Austin to White Sands National Monument.

To infinity, and beyond!!

 

Those are the words that come to mind when thinking about this journey that my dog and I have embarked on.  The phrase is suiting, but lacks originality.  Hopefully, by the end of this trip, something more perfect will come to mind.

 

I guess that’s what this trip is about, though.  Finding something that I’m not looking for.  Granted, there is a lot that I am looking for.

 

There is a lot that I am expecting to find.  

 

Although I have set my mind to expect certain things, I’m hoping by the end of it all, no expectations exist.  Rather, I’m hoping to simply lose the need to have expectations.  If there are no expectations, there are no disappointments.  Right?

 

Today, Thursday, June 19th, marks the 8th day of our journey.  We’ve covered a little over 1.8k miles.  We’ve seen a wealth of landscapes and people.  

 

It was last Tuesday when we finally left Austin.  Preparing for the leave was exciting, but also overwhelming.


Will I need this? That? All of these?  Yes.  Well, until I tried to fit them into my compact car.

I'm so ready.

Bro, I'm ready!!

I began to load up around noon, and shortly after that, my car was packed to the brim, holding about two-thirds of my things.  I went back through, tossing out silly things that I had a difficult time justifying the second time around.  Finally, everything fit.  There was just enough room for Sid and I.

 

We made a couple final stops to fly the GoPro around downtown a few times before taking off.  In the two years we spent in Austin, this city has transformed immensely.  I’m looking forward to seeing what Austin develops into while I am gone.

It was nearing sunset when we finally hit the road.  Our first stop was about three hours outside of Austin.  A nice opportunity to stretch our legs, pee on fence posts, and chase our favorite blue ball.

 

The goal was to make it to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis.  The GPS had us scheduled to arrive around 3:00 AM.  That’s what we get for a late start.  

 

While sorting the items to take on this trip in the week prior, I was optimistic that there would be enough room for everything as well as room to sprawl out in the back if we needed to stop and nap.  Of course that wasn't the case, and once 1:00 AM rolled around, I was ready for a siesta.

 

Tossing and turning in the driver’s seat of my parked car, I tried to find a position comfortable enough for a few hours of rest.  No luck.  I googled campsites nearby, and one 15 minutes from the observatory popped up.  It was two hours away.  I took a shot of gas station coffee and powered forward.  

 

The failed attempt at sleep wasted caused us to arrive around 4:00 AM.  Thankfully, we were the only ones there.  I quickly pitched the tent, and instantly began to saw logs.

This wasn’t exactly the way I saw this adventure going.  We weren’t off to a great start.  The last thing you want on a long trip like this is to be tired and uncomfortable.  Though the long drive did put us in a great position geographically.

We were just a few hours from White Sands National Monument.  It was a place I had seen in photos, a place I had wanted to visit, but it was always an “if I have time” stop, rather than a destination.  

 

We arrived at White Sands around 6:30 PM on Wednesday night.  It just so happened that this night was also a full moon.  The ranger informed me that there were a lot of people who were going to be at the park for the Full Moon Walk.  Something the park does every full moon.  “Damn, tourist city,” I thought.

It was three dollars for admittance, and three dollars for camping.  The only camping option was primitive camping, about a mile and a half hike.  Of course I was only prepared for car camping, so this was going to be tough.

 

A seven mile drive into the park was where the parking sites were.  There were families everywhere.  All preparing for the Full Moon Walk.  Fortunately, it was nowhere near where I was camping.  

 

As I pulled in I was scrambling to get some photos before the sun disappeared over the horizon,  all the while knowing I needed to eat and prepare my things before hiking the mile and half to the primitive camp spots.

 

I began rushing, in fear that I would be forced to set up in the dark.  The primitive camping area was poorly marked.  I walked for over a mile before I realized I had no idea where I was going.  Nothing but sand dunes, and they all looked alike.  On my back I toted a 25lb bag with camera gear, a backpack with water, camping equipment, an oversized sleeping bag, and a folding chair.  The temperature was in the low 80’s, but beads of sweat still dripped from my head.  

I gave up trying to find the site.  I hadn’t seen anyone on my hike.  In the distance I could hear the faint sound of the Full Moon Walk tour guide spouting out inaudible instructions through her megaphone.

 

“Whatever!” I said, as I began to get the feeling that primitive campsite #3 did not actually exist.  I looked for the highest dune I could find and set up my tent there.  

 

The sun finally disappeared, moments after I set up my site.  The weather was perfect, there was a nice warm breeze and and not another person in sight.  Sid was having a blast exploring what appeared to be an endless land of white sand.

 

I sat in my chair, taking in the moment.  

 

It was perfect.  

 

Everything was perfect.

 

It was in this moment that I realized how much solitude was around me.  There was literally no noise.  There was no light pollution.  There was nothing.  

 

And it was perfect.

 

Shortly after this realization, I decided to become one with nature.  Living the way nature intended!! I stripped down to my birthday suit and began to aimlessly wander this immaculate and seemingly infinited land.  

 

It was before midnight that my head finally hit the pillow, a great night’s rest awaited me.  I was awakened by the heat of the morning sun.  I packed up my things and headed back to my car.

 

Camping at White Sands was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  It has set the tone for the trip thus far.  The stress of the previous night was followed by the most tranquil camping experience anyone could ask for.  It was almost as if the universe was balancing itself out.  

 

What is even more amazing, is that I slept, and I slept well.  While living and working in Austin, I spent countless hours staring at my monitor, my computer screen, my iPad and my iPhone.  From dawn ‘till dusk,  I would lay down to sleep at midnight, and often times it would be 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM before I would fall asleep.  Just two days in nature and my clock had been reset.  

 

We are fresh into our journey, but I’m highly optimistic.  My goal is to become less reliant on my own expectations, and more open to going with the flow.

 

I’m looking forward to sharing my adventures with anyone who wants to hear about them!

 

Until then, to infinity and beyond!! (until I come up with something better….) :)