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.

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Siren song: San Diego to Big Sur

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
-Buddha

Big Sur, Calif.
Big Sur, Calif.

The towering cities of the East inspire in me a melancholy contemplation of humanity. The organized chaos of urban density forces me, hesitantly, to confront the relentlessness of time and cultural experience in a way few other places can.

But it is in the deep skies and open lands of the West that I find solace.

I left San Diego on Saturday after a week of good food, dog beaches, tennis in Balboa Park, and runs along the marina with Ben and Bridger. I dropped Ben at the airport on Saturday afternoon for his flight back to New Mexico, and set off north with my dog.

I made a slight detour to Nuevo to pick up a puppy that needed delivering to the Bay area, which routed me around Los Angeles the long way, skirting the metropolis to the east and the north. I always try to avoid L.A. whenever I can. Unlike the condensed vertical landscape of New York, Los Angeles casts a wide net, sprawling across an enormous stretch of terrain. Its labyrinth of congested freeways tangle together like a massive web, millions of cars shining in the sun like drops of dew along each strand. I sped though as best I could, knowing that if I stopped I would surely be caught in the sticky suburban web. Surely if I stopped I would be devoured. Continue reading

Gulf Coast: vol. 1

But when a southern anthem rings,
she will buckle to that sound.
When that southern anthem sings,
it will lay her burdens down.
-Iron & Wine

I will gladly brave the Gulf Coast seafood. Doing my part to support local industry. Ha. Yum – oysters!

It is difficult to believe that the Deep South is part of the same country I have called home for most of my life. Sure, there are Home Depots and Wal-Marts and McDonald’s and Starbucks, but the Gulf Coast feels so… foreign. So strange. So much different than the world I inhabit in the Southwest, or that in which I was raised in Oregon. I feel my hackles raise and I am on edge, like I am when traversing foreign countries, in anticipation of the inevitable swindler, hustler, or  criminal waiting for opportunity. I feel entirely out of place here; a feeling not unwelcome.

From Savannah, I drove straight around Jacksonville and began my trek through northern Florida. I joined Interstate 10 on the beginnings of its long journey to the Pacific, but then our paths diverged as I took a detour through the piney woods. I find the most interesting sights, people, and places are to be found away from the interstates and their thundering semi trucks, long haul pit stops, and endless fast food establishments. Plus, I wanted to avoid at all costs traffic in any major city, and I was rapidly approaching Tallahassee. So off I went, toward St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf Coast. Continue reading

Red River Gorge and Kentucky backroads

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
-John Muir 

Sunrise at the Red
Sunrise at the Red

After two and a half weeks in the big cities of the East Coast, I was more than ready for some peace and quiet. Being a rock climber provides a ready-made excuse for exploring the woods and mountains, as well as a community of people with whom to do so. There are, as I’ve been told, only a few top climbing destinations in the Eastern states: The Gunks in New York, New River Gorge in West Virginia, Red River Gorge in Kentucky, and somewhere in North Carolina. Since I’ve not had much opportunity to climb this summer (I only went a couple times in Maine), I decided to take a detour to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge en route to Nashville. Continue reading

Goodbye Maine, hello NYC

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.”
-Charles Dudley Warner

And so it has begun. A 4,200-mile road trip has cast its troll line; the stern of the summer steadfastly in Maine, my compass aligned roughly southwest. I am so ready for this journey.

My last night in Hope. Will miss this peaceful spot!

I left Maine on Monday with a packed car and a fond farewell to the North (and to summer). Avoiding the ambitious 12-hour drives I endured to reach Maine in May, my route home takes a more leisurely route and pace. I made it only as far as Boston on Monday, and stayed with a student from MMW in Winchester (20 minutes outside the city center). Tuesday brought us to the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, which currently has a really wonderful exhibit by Ori Gersht that addresses the uneasy relationship between beauty and violence, specifically in the context of the Middle East conflict and Holocaust history. The body of work was a mesmerizing combination of high-speed video and still photography. We also perused the historical English photography exhibit, and by the end of the contemporary art collection we had whiled away 3 hours. Yay art! Continue reading