The Great Northern Golden Triangle: The Ogre Pulls Off Another One

After getting mentally and physically prepped for the last couple of weeks, I awake one Monday morning and decide that leaving several days early on a ride of the North’s “Golden Triangle” is in order. My boss and co-workers seem to have no issue with the notion, and off I go to take care of last minute details at home.

Some folk’s call the ride in question the ”Alaska Golden Triangle”, which is a misconception since most of the ride occurs in Canada’s Yukon Territory. The route however, starts in Alaska, crosses British Columbia, traverses about 180 miles of the Yukon’s mighty interior, crosses back into B.C., and finally ending in Alaska at Skaguay. The first few miles and the entirety of my first day pedaling consist of the Chilkat and Klehini River corridors through the beautiful Chilkat Valley, ending at the Canadian/ U.S. border and the beginning of the climb up to Haines Summit, more locally known as Chilkat Pass. This Pass separates the interior of Northern B.C. and the Yukon from the coastal and heavily glaciated Chilkat Mountains and Alaska’s ice capped Coast Range, of which temperate and maritime systems exist at their feet. It is in this coastal region that Haines, and my home exist.

Going to bed a bit late and waking casually, I dress in my normal bicycle traveler garb consisting of loose fitting nylon pants, t-shirt, Loose fitting long-sleeve shirt, and lace up cross training footwear. Onto the Ogre, I spin into town to meet with Angela and grab some coffee and breakfast before commencing to the endless highway.

After a casual time at Sarah J’s eatery in Haines, I say goodbye to Angela and begin the flat and pleasant cruise up the highway in hopes of finding a good camp near the border. Hours later, a faint path appears on the river side of the road leading through the Alder thickets and ends abruptly on the Cotton Grass flats above the Klehini River. A great camp with views of the Saksaia Glacier and fine and tasty drinking water direct from the river has me smiling on this first evening of the trip.

Many bicycle travelers it seem have a burning desire, especially in the northern tier, to seek out camping in “official” and pay campgrounds where other people gather. To my thinking, this never really made any sense, not here in the northern wilderness, where some of the best and most plentiful free range camping are to be had for the taking. Why pay to sleep when one can create their own world wherever one wishes? Many claim it is their fear of Bears. After spending more nights out in the Alaskan and Yukon bush than I can count, I believe that the Bears have far more to fear from Humans than the contrary. Of course extreme occurrences can happen, but being smart about the way one camps greatly diminishes these chances. In fact, I believe that having Bear problems are increased in public camping areas where Bears may be conditioned to Humans and their glorious trash. As far as the social thing is concerned, well, to each there own. Camping alone in these wild places allows me breathing room and a purposeful reflection towards the natural world and creates in me a great and humbling respect for it. This is where I can watch the river flow and the Falcon soar; hear the wind blow and smell the sweetness of the North in the air unencumbered by a Human world that tends to feel dominance toward all I see before me. That said, loneliness could from time to time drop in for an unexpected visit. But not tonight.

The morning sees rain pattering the rain fly of the tent and I must say I dread it, since today is a big climb up to Chilkat Pass, where I am hoping to spend more than a day hiking and bagging a peak or two if the weather cooperates, But, cooperating it is not and I pack up my little world and spin the mile up the road to the Canadian Customs gate and soon I am climbing upward into the big grind known as “Marinka’s Hill”, the primary climb up to the pass. The rain shows no sign of letting up and I don rain gear and continue, sweating as much on the inside of the clothing as the rain on the opposite. As the storm intensifies, I realize there will be no hanging around and leisurely climbing mountains, but instead, waiting the fury out tent bound. Just past Three Guardsmen Lake, in a low hollow just before the main summit, I pitch my tent and dive in. For the next 18 hours I read, eat, drink a beer or two, and sleep. The following morning the rain is continuing, but I must go on and the tent is put away wet and the pedaling continues. At the pass proper, the rain stops, clouds open, and glorious sunshine reveals itself, if only for a few minutes. Then it begins again. But heavier this time. Soon torrential downfalls of drops appear, and for a moment, even the roadway ahead is barely visible to my eyes. Although a part of the journey, especially in the North, rain can make the difference between pure suffering and pure bliss on a bicycle voyage.

Later, after the rain lets up, I cross the Yukon’s Takhanne River and set up a pleasant camp next to the water and bathe my foul clothing and myself. Snacking on my supper that evening, I watch a Hawk harass the Swallows at the entrance to their mud nests burrowed deep into the ancient riverbank. Clouds gather and then part again while the sun peeks in to cast great and colorful splashes of yellow and orange against the rocky mountainsides before me. Patches of deep blue sky swirl around the sun/cloud union like a predator in pursuit. At midnight, a Loon cries out from somewhere nearby, and the only thing stirring now is the soft and occasional breeze gently touching the tops of the Spruce and Aspen stands situated nearby camp.

To my ears, the call of the Loon is one of the most enjoyable and haunting sounds coming from the forest and lakes. It is nearly as engaging as the sound of the Wolf howling in the dark of night. And as I pedaled the next morning up a monstrous Yukon hill, one of the biggest of the trip, the Loons were creating a symphony of joyous monotony pushing me upward and over that mound and deeper into the great Yukon interior I love so much. I meet a 64 year old French man on a decrepit bicycle, heavily loaded and carrying an axe for which to chop twigs for his home made hobo stove. He has spent a great deal of his life traveling by bicycle in various parts of the planet, and travel in these parts is not alien to him. Later in the day, I take a side trip to the ancient native village of Klukshu. A side trip of about a half mile leads to the small but Salmon heavy Klukshu River, where native people have been harvesting Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho Salmon for millennia. I arrive at the bank of the tiny river; a Sockeye splashes about as it sees me, there is not a soul around but the fish and myself, lest a Bear hidden in the forest nearby. The village is deserted. There is something going on here that is unexplainable; there is an ancient sensation that I am somehow connected to that feels both like sadness and deep connected love. The air feels thick with history and community. Tears swell my eyes as I sit next to the river; this strange place I have never been feels like home. It is strange indeed. If there is such a thing as past lives, then I’m certain I was a Native North American. I pedal onward and past the equally haunting and beautiful Kathleen Lake and the beginning of the colorful and rugged Kluane Range, forefront to the overwhelmingly enormous St Elias Range and Mt Logan. Home to the second tallest peak in North America and some of the biggest and expansive ice fields and glaciers on Earth. The Yukon is a mind-blowing place indeed. Soon I am rolling into Haines Junction for a meal and some re-supply on food and luxuries.

Now I am into the thick of things. The Alaska Highway is traffic heavy compared to the mellow Haines Highway, where trucks shipping supplies from Canada to Alaska whiz by at maximum speed and clueless tourons barely in control of bloated recreational homes-on-wheels as big as my house meander down the pavement, gawking at the scenery and not watching the road, too lazy or disinterested to actually stop and explore beyond their steering wheel, most of these southern travelers never really see much at all.

The pedaling is flat and windless; miles fly by. The Ogre slithers along in silence. The endless boreal forest of the interior swallows me up and I am one with it. Arctic Ground Squirrels scurry in and out of the roadway as if attempting to throw themselves under passing vehicles. I often hear bicycle travelers complain about the sometimes endless and monotonous stretches of Alaska and the Yukon’s boreal timberland, saying that it is a dread to ride through it. Beats riding through most anywhere down south if you ask me. I connect with this forest; to me, this boreal play land is an endless supply of tranquility, animals, lakes, rivers, muskeg, swamp, taiga, streams, and beauty. There is a living breathing force here that cannot be ignored. To me, there is nothing monotonous about it. Riding through endless highway traffic and Human civilization is monotonous, dangerous, and disturbing-nowhere to camp either.

The climate and terrain is changing rapidly from a wet mountain environment, to an almost desert like boreal landscape that reminds me somewhat of western Colorado. A several mile gravel section of road appears near the Native village of Champagne, and I unknowingly watch as the last stream goes past and some 25 miles later, I am running low on water. At the 61 mile mark for the day, I emerge on the banks of Stoney Creek; a crystal clear mountain stream perfect for both drinking and bathing, and with an endless supply of ripened Raspberries growing adjacent to it’s flanks. I call this lovely place home for the evening and settle in with a sizeable grin adoring my mug, all the while snacking on raspberries for dessert.

In Whitehorse, I’m tossed into a world I have not seen in a long time. Since moving to Haines nearly three years ago, I have not left at all, except to go see an orthopedic last year when I broke my ankle at work. Haines is a quiet little Alaskan town; very little commotion at all. Whitehorse on the other hand, although quite tame by modern city standards, was abrupt, fast, and in my face a bit. I actually like Whitehorse. It is a small city of about 40,000 souls, with tons of mountain bike and hiking trails, the glorious Yukon River, and surrounded by endless wilderness. But on this day, to me here and now, I just wanted to get through it and back to my forest. Pedaling through town finds me along the Yukon River and past the hydro power dam and on the shores of Schwatka Lake, a Human made reservoir with float planes and powerboats here and there, but still a beautiful and serene place to be camped. That night, I awake about 1:00 am and noticed the first star in the northern sky since late April. Summer is slowly closing down and the days are getting a hair shorter each cycle. Before you know it, there will be some of the white stuff back on the ground, the tourists will be back in Florida, Texas and all parts south, and the Bears will be heading to their high country denning grounds to await the next round of Salmon entering the rivers in May.

Heading south on the Klondike Highway in the morning, I pedal all the way to Spirit Lake and devour a breakfast there before spinning down into Carcross (Caribou Crossing) and the beginning of what is known as the “southern lakes region” of the Yukon. In this part of the Province, there are many, many extremely long, deep, cold water lakes; meltwater remnants of the massive glaciers that covered this part of the Yukon a millennia ago. These lakes are a thing of beauty to say the least. Encased in wilderness, and rising from them mighty mountain ranges so remote, few have seen their endless and omnipotent shores outside of a powerboat. Soon, I can see the coastal mountains rising from the horizon and the beginnings of small yet prominent glaciers adorning their sides. The road now traverses the Windy Arm of Tagish Lake and around the bulk of Tutshi Lake, where this highway begins to tilt upward a bit, and the Yukon/B.C. border comes and goes. More climbing in the distance I can see, for White Pass is ahead, separating Canada from Alaska and the end of my Journey at Skaguay.

Finding no outstanding place to camp, I reluctantly pedal mile after mile, passing mediocre spots hoping the Golden Camp Spot will appear. After 76 long and exhausting miles, the fabled glory camp does not appear, and I throw down my nylon ghetto onto a deserted gravel pit and enjoy myself regardless, happy to be off the bike once and for all for the day.

Up bright and early the following morning I am sore, and there are rapidly moving clouds and wind coming through, but I feel good. It is only about 20 miles to White Pass from here according to my calculations. The road turns gently and ever so slightly upward from here and the landscape changes once again from the sub-alpine boreal forest to the higher and more colorful alpine arena of tundra, swiftly moving streams, and low lying brush and stunted Pine and Spruce. The route follows a glorious emerald river, adorned with many rapids and small waterfalls. A Bald Eagle soars overhead, and a Gull meanders behind, perhaps hoping to reap any benefits the Baldy might conjure. The wind picks up and it is a struggle to keep the Ogre upright on the hills. At timberline, the first of many low lying alpine lakes appear, and the stiff breeze grows fierce. Glaciers show themselves briefly during interludes in the cloud cover and before long they disappear once again into the thick alpine mist. Near the pass, I clamber over granite boulders to get a good look at Summit Lake and onslaught of the storm; wind and whitecaps embellish the lakes surface. A Gull scares up and hovers over me, squawking loudly that I must leave. She must be protecting a nest. I wish her well and skedaddle back to the bike and finish the last bit of the climb to the pass. At the top, a great and magnificent alpine meadow sits below and decorated with a mighty waterfall, so picturesque it is difficult to believe it real. At the pass, the weather is foul, and thoughts of espresso and a hot meal entice me. I peer at the highway ahead and it is a steep downhill for 14 miles to the sea. I had ridden up this massive hill back in 2013 when I rode from Skaguay to Deadhorse to Valdez, so I had gained a healthy respect for it’s magnitude. After tossing on my jacket and sporting hat and gloves, I fly downward and into the fantastic canyon, past more waterfalls and jagged peaks and soon there is no more. A gigantic cruise ship appears a half mile off; perched in the waters of the upper Lynn Canal, it’s passengers flooding the streets of Alaska’s biggest tourist attraction. I meander through the insanely crowded streets attempting not to hit or be hit by those not paying attention, which are many. It is a shock to the senses again. Haines will feel quiet and pristine compared to this insane asylum. Later, after a meal and some casual town observation, I board the marine vessel Le Conte for an hour ride down the canal to Haines, where a six mile ride from the ferry terminal deposits me back at my quiet little crib.

All in all, I had ridden most of this trip previously: the Alaska Highway portion back in 2011 when riding from Moab to Fairbanks, and the Klondike Highway/White Pass section in 2013 on the way to the arctic. Only the Home stretch of the Haines Highway over Chilkat Pass were new, but it is an outstanding pedal through some of the most beautiful countryside the North has to offer. I may even ride it again. Complete with a side trip to Klukshu, some exploring of random dirt roads in the forest and the pedaling in Whitehorse and looking for camp spots, I had pedaled about 385 miles over eight days. I can’t think of any reason why one would attempt to do it any faster; there would be too much to be missed, and in my opinion, far less enjoyable. These trips are not a race folks; they are to be felt and appreciated.

The Ogre pulls off another one.

 

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Klehini River Camp
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Stormbound
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Chilkat Pass Climb
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Haines Summit AKA Chilkat Pass
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Stickered Sign
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Alpine Tundra Landscape
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The Green Hut Emergency Shelter Near The Pass
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White Spruce And B.C. Glacier
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Norther British Columbia
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Takhanne River Yukon
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Takhanne Camp
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Apen Stands
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Entering The Native Village Of Klukshu
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Moose Antlers And Satellite Dish
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Cabin and Fish Drying Hut
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Cache and Fish Hut
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Aspen Groves
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Mountains Near Kathleen Lake
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Kluane
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The New Grocery Store In Haines Junction
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Alaska Highway Gravel Near Champagne
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Takhini River Area Yukon Interior
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Good Snacks
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Wild Rasberries At Stoney Creek
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Takhini Bridge Graffiti
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Love These!
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Carcross
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Tagish Lake
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Historic Abandoned Mining Structure Along Windy Arm
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Summit Lake
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Summit Creek
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White Pass Area
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Looking Down From White Pass
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White Pass
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Moore Creek Near Skaguay

 

 

 

Ramblings of an Insane Man

What is it to embrace the notion of artistic expression? What is it to conjure images in one’s mind a greater human evolution? And if these questions were answered, how would it be put to use by our ancient ancestors set forth upon the Arctic plains of North America 12,000 plus years ago? Would they have imagined a society transfixed with political or otherwise convoluted notions that one must impale themselves on a social system bent on devouring itself on the notion that a greater political power has our best interest in mind? How has it come, in the pass of of Human evolution that we have become transfixed on the idea of voting into power, the contradictions of one persons idea of a happy and fulfilling life vs the idea that we must all contribute to a society that continues to worship, historically, the idea that political power, no matter how well intentioned it is, focuses on greed, wealth, and war, not it’s people. It never has.

I am a believer in the tides, the current, the swell of the ocean, the constant downward drift of the glacier, the omnipotent erosional forces of the Earth upon itself. The force of the river, the perpetual shift of seasonal onslaught gaining the landscape. Not of political bully play.

From the perspective of person born of this insane culture, yet who rejects it to a certain extent, I believe it is time for us to all ponder something far different that has been presented to us since birth. Why not move, or shift our perspective away from ideas that politics and partisanship are the singular way for us to all be in rhythm with what is ours for the given: the notion that we can all be at peace and not be courtesan to a system that does not have our best interest in heart? The notion of politics is one of futility to the embrace of those who desire real and genuine peace. It cannot and will not be the keeper of subsistence to the longevity of our species. If this notion is wrong, then so is the Human Race.

When I speak of artistic expression, it goes far beyond the notion of what a piece of technology can offer; wether it be a digital camera, computer, paintbrush, or even a piece of paper and pen can offer. I speak, humbly, of something greater: the mindset that we can become something far greater than the extraordinarily limited offerings of politics and commerce. These things have been engrained deeply within us for as long as any of us can remember and longer, by far. These notions have led to nothing but war, poverty, and dismay of the entire non-human world. As well as our own. Yet we are not different from them, we are them. We are them. This is who we are, unbeknownst to the internet news feed that most take for gospel. Time to make a shift people…

The “shift” I speak of is obviously not a new idea. There have been “shifters” around as long as the first human “politicians” have been around. There has been dissent as long as anyone can remember, and a lot, lot longer. Dissent is what makes a developmental case for real progress. Without it, we are all slaves. Which we all are I might add. Time to break free of the oppressive system that has taken hold of our evolution since our beginning and conjure something new. Then we will be free. It is time, I believe for all to re-think what it is to be happy and content. Happy and content is not what the masses of the world are. Not in America, not anywhere.

So how do we do this? Myself, as a Human, struggling to make a payment to the bank, knows not what that it is exactly. I do know that a more than gradual shift towards something non-political is the real hope for who we are, and more importantly, for the sake of our children, who we will become. If, and when we can accomplish this, we will be appreciative of our neighbors, our surroundings, our air, our water, our Earth, and all who else inhabit this beautiful planet.

I wish to step into the wilderness for a spell; that is the place where genuine reflection of our species and all species can occur, I wish the same for you, even if you don’t think you should, can, or don’t have the courage to do so. Think radically, think different. Don’t be afraid to speak out. You are the voice, not  the politics. Act as though the system does not exist and you are supremely righteous. Do what is right and courageous, not what is expected of you as “Americans” by the status quo. Be real. Be supremely real… Be an artist in it’s truest form.

It is all a frame of mind, and it is extremely important to our children and all the other creatures who inhabit this tiny place we all call home.

Then we will be free, and not before.

If you have absolutely no idea whatsoever what in the hell I am talking about, best go back to Facebook and start over.

A Bold Step?

Alaska Range
Central Alaska Range

My mind’s eyes focuses intently on a people and a society that is not focused on a realm of technology but one that inherently desires to achieve a sense of wonder regarding a planet that they inhabit with all species and not on one that intrinsically needs to overcome and destroy their surroundings in order to achieve a means to place themselves squarely at the “top” of an imaginary dimension of superiority amongst the living creatures around them.

 This is my vision, or some may say, fantasy. A fantasy it is not, I say. What do you say?  Technology is a misnomer in the regard that, of course, we have the upper hand above all that surround us, but, ultimately we do not control. We control ourselves. We are engaged in a culture that does not assume responsibility for our actions, but instead, we rely on a seemingly grotesque vision that we must dominate the planet; that we are privy to all that is and all that will ever be, which, in a sense, is not only killing us, in a sublime fashion, but killing all that surrounds us. A species that assumes such cohesive control over everything in it’s path must only, in this authors humble opinion,  be considered mad. A species that destroys it’s surroundings in order to achieve dominance, is a stupid and feeble species indeed.

  I am quite certain that when I say this, it is correct, at least from my limited perspective of the world at large, but nonetheless, here goes, I know that technology is not the answer to our most perplexing questions. I know this with all of my heart and being. I sit here writing on a computer, that I am told, it’s processors are built with a resource that only comes from a small place on the planet; one that is probably decimating an entire culture of peoples in the process; I do not condone this, but, I am using this technology to convey a message from my heart in regards to all of our future. Our children’s future. The future of the Bears and the Salmon, and the Wolverines, that cannot be rejuvenated once depleted. The use of technology is a tool that must be used to further all that is and not to destroy it. We MUST become more responsible to ourselves and to others. And when I say others I certainly mean the Bears and the Salmon and the Wolverines and all others trying desperately to make a home on this globe, where, in fact Humans are the common enemy.

So how does one make sense of all of this, You ask?  First off, I am not a purveyor of wisdom; I am only a man who wishes deeply to connect with You, the human, in order to perceive the world we live upon in a harmonious way.

Living in harmony with nature, at least in this culture, is the stuff of fairy tales. It seems to be only an acceptable thought undertaken by children, the mentally feeble, or the unrealistic idealist. But to me, any other way of looking at the world is total madness.

We seem to exist in a culture where there is little intention in regards to utilizing the technology we have to actually better ourselves; and when I say better ourselves, I mean bettering all species, because for all species to flourish is for us to flourish as well. We seem to be utilizing state of the art tech in order to entertain ourselves, to distract ourselves from the real questions at hand.

Technology.. A bicycle is a form of technology; It’s metals are extracted from the Earth utilizing toxic methods and polluting means, rubber used is created much the same, not to mention the machines created to accomplish such tasks.  But, people!  Bicycles are here. Now. Utilizing them and educating our peers, needs to happen at this juncture in time.

I don’t drive often, but when I do, the experience of stammering along on a crowded freeway going either 5 mph or 80 mph, depending on the time of day, really makes me ponder that we are headed for  a painfully disturbing death, not only for ourselves, but for all around us. I know that this is not the way we are supposed to live. In fact, it really makes me want to vomit.

In Sacramento, the cops don’t give a damn about bicycle theft; to them, bicycles are reserved for either a few elitists, or homeless junkies unable to afford a proper car. This is utter nonsense and a typical view that American’s seem to have. Bicycling creates a feeling of euphoria and calms the nerves, invigorates the body, mind, and soul, and deeply limits the need for extracting fuels that are destroying what’s left of North Americas’ greatest wilderness asset: The Arctic…  Which is why I am headed there this summer. I encourage everyone to take a bold step in realizing that we are headed for disaster and that taking a leap toward an unconventional form of thinking is what is now in order.

Those who do not do this, are merely taking up space…  I’m going for a ride now.

Not Saddle Sore

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The Rivet Pearl…
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..with Ti Rails!

I’d rather be riding my bike today.. but, well, it’s raining. I know what you’re thinking; how can someone who raves endlessly about all matters northern, about how riding in the rain does not bother, about the “glorious” weather of SE Alaska, simply whine about a simple California drizzle.  Well, for starters, the trails I had in mind to ride today are going to be muddy. In fact, the trails I was going to ride today are in fact illegal. By riding on muddy and illegal trails, I set the stage for prosecution and closure by creating said muddy tracks.

Also, part of the reason for going on a ride today was to test out the new, famously good looking Rivet Pearl saddle, that was graciously given to me for such purposes by the fine folks at Rivet Cycle Works.  As soon as I get the chance to do some vigorous thrashing on this beauty, I will be posting a review, so keep Yer eyes peeled.

So, my time spent in the hours before heading to the bike shop to work will be filled with coffee and hopefully something interesting to say to you all.

Here goes…

I struggle as a writer, struggle as photographer, struggle as an adventurer, insofar as creating the means to do so. I fear not the “talent”, or the creative processes that are required for my sanity, or to paint a beautiful picture of the natural elements of this splendid planet.. I feel soo lucky to have been born here. This globe is beautiful beyond wordly description; that is why I must do what I do. The far reaches of this planet’s wilderness are my calling. This can cost a lot. Financially, yes, but this not what my voice speaks. These places come as a cost in regards to how one can handle the pressures of our given society and how one perceives self and how, not to behold, the “values” that we have been so engrained in believing. Why must we live the way most do? Can it be “acceptable”, by one’s family and peers, to embrace the beauty of the planet before us, to, perhaps, live as our ancestors did, to love all creatures, wether or not they are located in the food chain above us or not. To see and to feel the wind; to be there at that moment in time?

These are the questions and reasonings I behold, not to stroke an ego of self in regards to media or self promotion, but to truly empower one’s self as a Human; a human lost on a planet ruled by a species gone mad.

On certain terms, the living in a  city has been good for me. It has re-shown me the path that we ALL are on and the one that I must follow.  To recognize the destructiveness of our behavior.

I tend to “think” with my heart; my brain merely functions as a overseer to what needs to happen at a given moment in order to accomplish a task at hand, and nothing more. Heart is what guides.

What gets you off most: the thought of the new iphone 5 coming out, or what your heart might feel sitting or walking or riding a bicycle through hours of the most torrential rain storm in recent memory? Can you smell the odor of the trees coming alive with quench of the moisture, or do you merely quander at the thought of what your peers may think of your latest achievement? These are genuine questions that beckon the prose: Am I here to fully realize and experience the whole  of what we really have to offer one another and the planet as a whole, or are we here to simply entertain ourselves through the current form of technology?

I think not.