MY JOURNEY IN TECHNICOLOR: OLD MAN WINTER AT MY BACK

As many of you know, the past four years I have traveled South for some portion of the winter to escape the winter doldrums. What started out as an experimental month-long trip that turned into 4 months became an annual excursion to the South West states to explore the multitude of different ecosystems that exist South of the Canadian border. Somewhere in the past four years the annual winter excursion became normal, but more importantly it became restorative. What was once no more than a passing thought about travel became something that I always do and something that I now need to do. The summer before Alison and I went down South together for the first time we made a decision to move onto Alison’s parents farm. This was a decision that made a lot of sense financially for us and would enable us to support Alison’s dream of becoming a cyclist. It’s been a long time and I can’t remember if we had planned to take off during the winters, but what I do recall is that it was only supposed to be temporary, maybe two years or so. Well, four years later we’re still here and what was once Alison and I packing up and going back to BC for winter semesters at University has turned into a traveling South. I realize now how important to me having the change of pace is. Usually by summers end I am completely burnt out. The farm is not an easy place for me to be and usually after two to three months of solid work I am in desperate need of life giving activities to restore my mind, body and soul. Having said all that, it was a surprise to me this past fall when I spoke the words telling my employer, father in law, that I would stay on for the winter. Obviously, if you’ve been reading my other blogs, there’s a purpose for that, but nonetheless at the beginning of the winter I was facing months of cold, work and prairie life without any reprieve. What was I thinking? Well, to make a long story short, by late November I was already planning on driving South with Alison. Alison would be flying back to Alberta instead of directly to California and shortly after her arrival we would depart by land to make the drive to San Francisco. The trip would enable me to get a little exploration done (one of my favorite things) and some time away from the farm and cold. I knew from the get-go that it was going to be a short trip and that I was likely to see a lot of seat time, but at the very least I could find some new roads to explore and maybe add a hot spring to the collection. What I experienced on this past trip was a lot of snow and undesirable weather, but what I’ve learned in my travels is that it is all a gift and nostalgia wipes away a lot of the struggle. I’m not going to write any more, I can see you, the reader, just itching for all this to be over so you can get to the visually appealing part, so…enjoy.

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As we prepared for our departure from Abbotsford, BC, I watched the weather for Washington and it was calling for snow. I knew it was imperative that we make it through Seattle before any kind of snow hit the ground. Luck had it that we passed through Seattle about two hours before snowmaggedon hit and the roads and highways became a nightmare. But, don’t think that we wholly avoided the snow. As we approached Oregon we turned off the I-5 and crossed over the Columbia River at Longview as we always do, but this time instead of following the coast around we traveled a little more inland over a few low coastal mountain passes to get to our decided-upon sleeping location for the night. Minutes after we left the 101 and began to climb up on the 47 we found ourselves entering the snowline and from that point we saw nothing but un-plowed roads and falling snow until we reached our spot after dark. We woke to wet snow on the outside of the tent and condensation droplets on the inside of the tent, wet.

A little cold won’t dampen our spirits, we’re camping and camp coffee is a must!

A little cold won’t dampen our spirits, we’re camping and camp coffee is a must!

Pro tip: Jetboil’s are the bomb!

Pro tip: Jetboil’s are the bomb!

Even Willow is wondering what the heck is going on with all this snow…

Even Willow is wondering what the heck is going on with all this snow…

We’d been on the road for a spell and we were getting hungry so I decided to swing a u-turn when we passed this beach-side park.

We’d been on the road for a spell and we were getting hungry so I decided to swing a u-turn when we passed this beach-side park.

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Shortly after our arrival it began to snow again.

Shortly after our arrival it began to snow again.

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This will forever be one of my favorite photos, the snowflake that you see dead center of the photo perfectly and decisively describes our short stop on the beach that day.

This will forever be one of my favorite photos, the snowflake that you see dead center of the photo perfectly and decisively describes our short stop on the beach that day.

Big trees, little truck.

Big trees, little truck.

Sometimes you need to hang your head out the window, other times you need to hang your body out the window.

Sometimes you need to hang your head out the window, other times you need to hang your body out the window.

One of our favorite spots in California to visit every year.

One of our favorite spots in California to visit every year.

Two of my favorites.

Two of my favorites.

Mesmerized by the waves and all their might.

Mesmerized by the waves and all their might.

After being cooped up in the truck all day it was inevitable that Alison stretch her legs a little.

After being cooped up in the truck all day it was inevitable that Alison stretch her legs a little.

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Leave nothing but your tracks.

Leave nothing but your tracks.

Getting recharged by the outdoors.

Getting recharged by the outdoors.

Pro tip: bring an awning with you when truck camping. #lifesaver

Pro tip: bring an awning with you when truck camping. #lifesaver

If only I had been holding my beer and not that lens filter, I may have not looked so awkward. I still really like this photo, Alison got a great capture here.

If only I had been holding my beer and not that lens filter, I may have not looked so awkward. I still really like this photo, Alison got a great capture here.

Camp-happy is what I call it.

Camp-happy is what I call it.

Four years in a row I’ve taken this same picture, always with a different camp set up.

Four years in a row I’ve taken this same picture, always with a different camp set up.

Coastal colors.

Coastal colors.

You know you’re taking a good photo when someone drives up behind you, parks and follows suit.

You know you’re taking a good photo when someone drives up behind you, parks and follows suit.

The looks we got from people as we stood under our awning and munched on sandwiches and sipped hot drinks while the wind blew and it tried to rain on us were fun. One thing that I think I manage with all my builds is something that catches the eye and when you’re spread out like us in a parking lot eating lunch, you catch peoples attention.

The looks we got from people as we stood under our awning and munched on sandwiches and sipped hot drinks while the wind blew and it tried to rain on us were fun. One thing that I think I manage with all my builds is something that catches the eye and when you’re spread out like us in a parking lot eating lunch, you catch peoples attention.

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We found this spot in Gualala used by the local fishers and four wheelers. To get out of the rain we nestled the truck inside a cluster of red woods which provided a good canopy. I struggled to start with the ultra hard wood that we had bought, but eventually was victorious. The next morning our little fire pit was under 4” of water.

We found this spot in Gualala used by the local fishers and four wheelers. To get out of the rain we nestled the truck inside a cluster of red woods which provided a good canopy. I struggled to start with the ultra hard wood that we had bought, but eventually was victorious. The next morning our little fire pit was under 4” of water.

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Our last night together on the road we sat by our little fire while eating greasy spaghetti (any red meat that that we eat that isn’t bison is now considered super greasy) and tried to stay warm. We turned in for the night around 7:00pm because we had burned all our wood, it was beginning to rain and we had little else to do. The next morning we woke, found a puddle under our mattress, packed up and left for the relative warmth and dry of San Francisco. We found out as we drove further South that the night previous had born massive rain fall and many roads were flooded. I had seen a rain fall warning for a 100% chance of 50-75mm of rain that day. After seeing all the closed roads and “flooded” signs, I had no problem believing the warning.

Fast forward a few days and I’m leaving Oakdale after visiting with some good friends of mine. I’ve crossed the Sierra which involved three hours of poor California drivers in a snow storm and now I’m cruising down the 395 to go visit my friend Genevieve in Mono Lake.

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This coating of ice was something new for me. I’d never seen so much ice frozen to my vehicle before, but I guess that’s what happens when sloppy snow is kicked up and then frozen by the colder passing air.

This coating of ice was something new for me. I’d never seen so much ice frozen to my vehicle before, but I guess that’s what happens when sloppy snow is kicked up and then frozen by the colder passing air.

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The initial meet up dog walk.

The initial meet up dog walk.

Approaching Mono Lake from the North.

Approaching Mono Lake from the North.

It’s always interesting when you have no means of communicating with the person following you that you want to stop for a photo. You simply stop in the middle of road and wait communicate in person. I did this quite a lot as we drove from California to Nevada, the scenery was simply stunning.

It’s always interesting when you have no means of communicating with the person following you that you want to stop for a photo. You simply stop in the middle of road and wait communicate in person. I did this quite a lot as we drove from California to Nevada, the scenery was simply stunning.

Mahalo my dude.

Mahalo my dude.

This is my all-time favorite photo right now. So much color, so much landscape, so much Toyota, so much epic!

This is my all-time favorite photo right now. So much color, so much landscape, so much Toyota, so much epic!

The Bandit and Thomas as we roll the gravel road to our hot spring destination.

The Bandit and Thomas as we roll the gravel road to our hot spring destination.

Genevieve and Sailor in Bandit rolling through Nevada.

Genevieve and Sailor in Bandit rolling through Nevada.

Hot spring home for the next two nights.

Hot spring home for the next two nights.

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A couple years back I officially met Genevieve in Yucca Valley when I recognized her camper and went over to say hi. The following year I caught up with her again and we camping outside of Joshua Tree for a couple nights and she showed me some good vanlife hotspots for food, bathing and camping. I made sure to let her know when I was coming South and we were able to do another couple of nights of camping and this time I showed her a new place. I’ve made some pretty great friends while traveling and Genevieve is one of those.

A couple years back I officially met Genevieve in Yucca Valley when I recognized her camper and went over to say hi. The following year I caught up with her again and we camping outside of Joshua Tree for a couple nights and she showed me some good vanlife hotspots for food, bathing and camping. I made sure to let her know when I was coming South and we were able to do another couple of nights of camping and this time I showed her a new place. I’ve made some pretty great friends while traveling and Genevieve is one of those.

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Genevieve and Sailor

Genevieve and Sailor

Willow and Sailor - These two are kind of hot and cold to each other, I don’t think they’ve quite spent enough time around each other to really determine if they’re buds or not. More time will tell.

Willow and Sailor - These two are kind of hot and cold to each other, I don’t think they’ve quite spent enough time around each other to really determine if they’re buds or not. More time will tell.

Genevieve being a boss and making us flatbread pizza’s. I offered her my kitchen to prep food, but she sat cross-legged by the fire instead, I think it had something to do with the warmth…

Genevieve being a boss and making us flatbread pizza’s. I offered her my kitchen to prep food, but she sat cross-legged by the fire instead, I think it had something to do with the warmth…

That fire was a fire to be proud of, it burned hot and it burned long. #firestarter

That fire was a fire to be proud of, it burned hot and it burned long. #firestarter

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I stayed for two nights at the first hot spring which meant when I left I had three days to drive up through Nevada, Oregon and Washington taking the back routes. I have to say, taking the back roads is so much more rewarding than slogging it on the interstates.

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I need a drone, I can only imagine the shots I’m missing out on while not having a drone.

I need a drone, I can only imagine the shots I’m missing out on while not having a drone.

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One of the many things I love about Nevada, the roads.

One of the many things I love about Nevada, the roads.

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I had scoped out a number of different hot springs I wanted to go investigate while on my way North; however, after driving 14 miles out to one and not finding it, essentially wasting an hour, I decided that more hot spring hunting would have to happen later on when I had more time and a better fuel range and travel budget. Instead of traveling all over the place I b-lined it for a hot spring near the border of Nevada and Oregon. I arrived well after sunset, wandered around in the dark for a while before finding my spot, set up camp, ate food then descended into the hot water. I soaked that night by myself out in the desert with a full moon and bright stars overhead, there was no wind and no sound. It was a truly magical night, one I won’t soon forget.

The next morning I woke to ice on my sleeping bag, ice on the walls and 3” of snow on everything else. I packed up quickly and left, no means delaying the inevitable and I don’t like being cold.

The next morning I woke to ice on my sleeping bag, ice on the walls and 3” of snow on everything else. I packed up quickly and left, no means delaying the inevitable and I don’t like being cold.

Hot spring steam kept on fogging my lens so this photo seems a lot foggier than it was.

Hot spring steam kept on fogging my lens so this photo seems a lot foggier than it was.

The first time I’ve ever crossed into Oregon from Nevada.

The first time I’ve ever crossed into Oregon from Nevada.

Driving the 205 along the Steens Mountains, talk about no one around…maybe 10 cars in three hours of driving.

Driving the 205 along the Steens Mountains, talk about no one around…maybe 10 cars in three hours of driving.

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That’s all for now folks, I have another blog following close behind this one laying out the successful trip I made with my new rig, stay tuned for that.

Final thoughts:

  • I am so blessed to able to do what I do and I love what I am able to do. Renewing my mind through travel and exploration is a practice that I am so fortunate to have discovered because, really, there are a lot of people out there who have not yet discovered their special way of relaxing and restoring themselves which means there are a lot of very frustrated people out there. I don’t want to be one of those frustrated people, because frustrated people take joy away from others, and I would rather distribute joy than take it.

  • I take REALLY good photos, I say that not as a brag but as a reassurance to myself that I take good photos; looking over these photos and seeing what I’ve captured and where I went to get them and how my artistic eye has rendered that moment in time reminds me that I’m good at what I do, it’s easy to forget that in the face of the media bombardment that we get every day. I may not get paid to take these photos, but it brings me immense joy to capture a moment in time, bring it home and then share it with you and hopefully pass on a desire to go out and discover what’s out there beyond your boundaries.

  • My truck camp set up needs refinement, it’s not very good at doing winter things. I should probably build something to keep me warm on my adventures…

  • Nevada is my favorite state, exploring is my favorite state of mind.