Hearts and Bones: a leisurely meander along the Sangre de Cristos

20160518_173259_resizedOh, sweet desert rain. That smell of water evaporating off of sagebrush is intoxicating. They say that scent can evoke deeply ingrained emotional memories and, standing at the rim of the Rio Grande Gorge, the sweet mist swirls around me in the stillness and silence, conjuring what I can only describe as love. I know this response is nostalgic; some of the best times of my life have been spent in the high deserts of this country with the people I love most in this world. Central Oregon, Eastern Utah, Northern New Mexico… desert rain on sagebrush brings it all back.

Rio Grande Gorge
Rio Grande Gorge

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, like many New Mexico destinations, is a hidden gem. The Rio Grande, here still wild and relatively unrestricted, cuts a deep gorge through basalt and the desert plateau, plunging almost a thousand feet below the rim. The Red River joins its flow in this gorge, creating a peninsula-like mesa above. We were fortunate to have the place to ourselves this week, with no other campers in the entire campground, and only one group of hikers and llamas on the Arsenic Springs trail for a couple hours. Other than that, our two days in the monument were still and silent, with dramatic storm clouds racing across an expansive sky.

Between intermittent thunderstorms, we hiked down into the gorge and to the Rio itself. The Rio Grande holds some sort of sacred place in my heart that I cannot describe; plunging my hands into her milky chocolate-colored spring flow felt like a pilgrimage. I pressed the red clay beneath my feet, closed my eyes as the sun came out, and listened to the lonely calls of ravens and desert songbirds. And there was that smell again. Just like that, I was home.

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What’s Coming: Summer 2016

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I am so happy to report that Ramey will be back on the road this summer.

After a long cycle of surgeries and recovery, I am now ambulatory and feeling pretty good. I still won’t be backpacking or climbing much this summer, but I will be traveling quite a bit. I wanted to give you all a sneak peek at what’s on the docket for May through August:

  • May: A 2-week road trip through Wyoming and Montana again with my best friend Jessica Kilroy, collecting video, audio, and stories from the places we find ourselves in and the people we meet along the way. We’ll also be headed down to Telluride, Colorado at the end of the month for the MountainFilm Festival.
  • June: I will be spending 3 weeks in the Northeast, including NYC, Boston, midcoast Maine, and a week in upstate New York for the Flaherty Film Seminar (I have been selected as a fellow this year).
  • July-August: Western road trip time! My partner, Ben, and I will be driving an extended loop to and from Portland, Oregon. We’re hoping to hit Banff (Alberta), Glacier National Park, and a few other places along our route. Exact details TBD.
  • Sometime in the summer months, we’ll squeeze in a trip down to Southern NM to check on our property and get a dose of desert love. I so miss the New Mexico deserts.

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The journey within

10527388_10203856120219799_4946734703162978337_nIt’s been six months since I have written a post here. For that, I apologize. But, to be fair, it has also been six months since I’ve done much adventuring to speak of.

It has been a long winter indeed.

Shortly after my last post, I started graduate school at University of Colorado Boulder. Everyone knows that grad school gobbles up hours pretty effectively, leaving little time for intrepid capers.

Not that I could do much capering anyway, given my current physical state.

In October, I had surgery on my right hip. Turns out hip surgery is sort of a big deal, and managing school, work and recovery was a lot to cope with. Then, in January, I had surgery on my left hip. Turns out bilateral hip surgery is really a big deal. Long story short, I had bone spurs in my hips that, over time, had destroyed a lot of the soft tissues in my hips (ligaments, labrums, capsular tissue, etc.) Fortunately my cartilage was still in good shape, or I would have been in trouble (best case scenario: double the recovery time). Both operations caused my body significant trauma and some very unpleasant adverse reactions, but overall I came out alive and kicking on the other side.

Six weeks after surgery number two, I’m still using a crutch to walk more than a block or two. Ugh. That makes it pretty difficult to do much adventuring.

However, medical obstacles create another sort of journey, I’ve found (and no, this is not my first surgical rodeo). When we are faced so immediately with our own physical fragility, we are given a wonderful opportunity to journey within. Continue reading

The Great Wide Open: Montana, Wyoming, and the American Prairie

As a last hurrah before launching into graduate school, I took a two-week road trip in August with a dear friend, Jessica Kilroy. I met her in northeast Utah as she finished a five-day rafting trip on the Green River and, after a much-needed night’s rest, we packed up the RV and my three dogs and hit the road for north central Montana. Our destination: The American Prairie Reserve, where Jessica is participating in an intermittent yearlong artist residency (she is a recording artist).

I could tell many a hilarious tale about our journey, and perhaps I will elaborate in the near future. Suffice it to say that our trip was full of laughter, biker gangs (thanks to Sturgis), ghost stories, shockingly racist small town folk, gracious dog-loving ranchers, terrible books, incessant snacking, plagues of mosquitoes, welcome respite in unlikely places, intentional detours, awe-inspiring storms, and plenty of wide open spaces.

For now, please enjoy this video I made with footage from our trip. The music is by Jessica, composed using sounds she recorded on the prairie during her spring visit.

Video: beneath the sea in the Philippines

“Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” 
Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer

There is something magical about being underwater. Gravity is much less relevant here. You feel the swell of the tide gently push and pull as you float along the reef. You hear the clicks and pops and alien noises of the deep, and you watch as your breath rises in columns of bubbles toward a receding world of air and light.

Here time seems to slow down. Here your spirit grows quiet, pensive, present. Breathe in, breathe out.

Float, glide, rise, fall.

This video was filmed in Dumaguete and Apo Island in April, but I just now got around to editing it together. Enjoy!

Notes on a creative life (a.k.a. my return to academia)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

streetI quit my job today. After less than a year of employment.

Was it an awful place to work? Not really. Were my coworkers difficult to get along with? No, for the most part they are wonderful, kind, intelligent people. Were my job duties mind-numbing? Sometimes, but such is the reality of many office jobs, I think. Were the hours long and conditions demanding? Definitely not. In fact, I had a pretty sweet gig: part-time, good pay, telecommuting/flexible hours, and I could even bring my dog to the office.

Why, then, did I quit? Why would I give up on a job after such a brief term? Continue reading

Time machine: Northern Vietnam

Our path through the frontier.
The road through Ha Giang province.

There are few places in this world that still hold vestiges of the distant past, where you can imagine yourself transported, transmuted, transfigured by the landscape and people around you. The far northern region of Vietnam is one such place.

Ha Giang province borders China in the northernmost reaches of Vietnamese territory and is often referred to as “Vietnam’s final frontier” — rugged, remote, and scenic. This region is also home to the recently designated Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark, a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2010.

The landscape is surreal: towering karst formations create a labyrinth of near-vertical cliffs and ravines, gaping caverns, and a few very sinuous roads. The steep hillsides are cultivated by colorfully-clad hill tribes such as the Tay and the H’mong people. While you might occasionally see the indigenous folk riding a motorbike to the market or making a call on an old cellphone, you will see no farming machinery here; water buffalo still pull plows, and tribespeople still tend every plant by hand. Continue reading