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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.