Following a month of travel and visiting family and friends in California and Oregon, I met up with artist-beat-writer-poet-friend Trevien Stanger in Washington for a circumnavigation of the Olympic National Park. From coastal camping to running through the rainforest, this place sings songs, and we spent a few days joining in. Photos + quotes from Elizabeth Kolbert’s highly anticipated new book I just finished, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Haunting and illuminating. (Spoiler Alert: We’re in it and we’re causing it.)
“What history reveals, in its ups and downs, is that life is extremely resilient but not infinitely so. There have been very long uneventful stretches and very, very occasionally ‘revolutions on the surface of the earth’…To the extent that we can identify the causes of these revolutions, they’re highly varied: glaciation in the case of the end-Ordovician extinction, global warming and changes in the ocean chemistry at the end of the Permian, an asteroid impact in the final seconds of the Cretaceous. The current extinction has its own novel cause: not an asteroid or a massive volcanic eruption but ‘one weedy species.’ As Walter Alvarez put it to me: ‘We’re seeing right now that a mass extinction can be caused by human beings.'”
Photos from 3 weeks in Todos Santos, Mexico. After living there last winter, it was restorative to spend time with family, old friends, and mountains. Quotes from Alan Weisman’s (“The World Without Us”) newest book, Countdown. Incredible achievement covering the complexities of our world population predicament. Heavy. Bleak. And important as hell. Read it.
A World Bursting its Seams. “Even if today’s breeding generation is having fewer children per family, because their grandparent and parents had so many, every four-and-a-half days, there are a million more people on the planet. Even to a schoolchild, that does not sound very sustainable.”
Swapping hemispheres for a few weeks is a surefire way to pack home some stories.
Second day in, joined hundreds in Bogota (and millions around the world) in a Global Day of Action against Monsanto. Serendipitous encounter with a fellow foot travel activist, Juanita Ariza, who ran from Tierra del Fuego to Guatemala for world water rights. Humbled and inspired. One full week in Cartagena, a coastal town spewing magic from its tragic roots as slavery port. Meeting up with old-time family friend Karina Bell. Spanish classes, salsa-dancing on repeat, swimming backstroke deep inside a mud volcano. 5 cups of coffee per day at least. To finish, a solo, 10-hour, pant-crappingly harrowing bus journey south of Bogota to the mountain village of Salento. Two days weaving through coffee plantations, sampling local trout and posting Fastest Known Times by terrorizing trails on a fluorescent bike full of squeaks, trying to keep with a fleet of Colombian kids in polychromatic Raybans.
All while devouring Craig Childs’ newest book Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Ever-Ending Earth. Certainly one of his best and not nearly as depressing as it sounds, I promise. Absolute mastery, the highest recommendation.
New camera, new possibilities. Quotes + Photos.
One final mountain scouting expedition in the Baja high country gets into the heart of Mexican ranch culture and inspires me to fight for what remains wild and free in all of us.
“It’s entirely conceivable that life’s splendor surrounds us all, and always in its complete fullness, but veiled beneath the surface, invisible, far away. But there it lies, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If we call it by the right word, by the right name, then it comes. This is the essence of magic, which doesn’t create but calls.” – Franz Kafka
I hide my peripheral glances across the wooden table as orange peels fly from his knife like bubbly shavings of pastor pork from the spit. My clumsy laboring yields a negligible pile of citrus confetti unmatched to Martin’s work.
I am tucked into a lesser-known canyon on the east side of the Sierra de Laguna Mountains in Southern Baja, Mexico. Through the process of organizing a campaign against open-pit gold mining plans here, I was invited to a meeting on the beaches of La Ribera with CONANP (National Park Service) and several community organizers. Following the meeting, two officials agree to drop me at the foot of the Sierra. The plan: Stay the night near the trailhead, run up and over the 25-mile, 7,000ft vertical mountain section the next morning and get picked up on the west side in the afternoon. This eastern ascent is the only piece of my 70-mile trans-peninsula project I have not yet covered.
Aussie Byron ripping his new Ibanez
Sea Turtle Nest Excavator. Member of Agua Vale Mas Que Oro, organizing 70-mile Transpeninsula pedestrian protest with local activists against cataclysmic Canadian gold mining operations. March 21st. Hasta La Victoria, Siempre. Befriended two young Aussie travelers. Hours exploring trails and land. Cardon Catcus. Ocotillo. Torote. Palo de Arco. Picaya Dulce. Todos Santos Music Festival. Took Ben Gibbard, lead singer for Death Cab for Cutie/Postal Service, on 14 miles of Baja singletrack. Solid foot traveller. Sat with REM lead singer and artist Michael Stipes for a chat. Offering weekly trail running classes in town. Wednesdays, 3:30pm. Forget money, only trades/gifts accepted. Get creative. Helping conceptual design for “huerta” ecology center development near town. Giving yoga one last chance. Ukulele progress, one and two new songs. Apprenticing with neighbor to learn biodynamic gardening practices. Graduate applications in. And I wait.
Anxious. Excited. Confident. Ready. Free.
Photos accompanied by music and favorite quotes from Jay Griffith’s Wild: An Elemental Journey. Delicious book. Don’t die before reading this one.
Photo: Nic Heidbreder
“Nomadism is like an original fire in our wild minds; we stole it from the gods, and we made it our own, leaping to new places, quickening to motion, curious and light as flame. The keen urge has never left us to take a flinting tent and fling it under the stars, then swing on, on at dawn, on an elemental journey. That is how to burn most brightly. That is how to catch like wildfire.”
A last-minute opportunity to go to the “Valley Isle” of Maui for 8 days presented itself, so I bounded on it. Returned with some grand adventures in my pocket…
- Hitchhiking the road to Hana
- Surfing with giant sea turtles at Ho’okipa
- Synchronistic crossing with PDX friend Jesse Cox. Ran Haleakala Crater (10,000ft)
- Hand-rolling sushi with family and high school friends. Fish minutes fresh.
- Party with festive Argentineans in Haiku.
- Living in a tent under falling coconuts. Dreams thrashing wildly with the fronds.
- Paying homage to the grave of Native Hawaiian and visionary David Malo. Short but steep trail, 2,000ft climb, overlooking Lahaina.
All of this complemented by wrapping my head around French philosopher Pierre Teillard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man. Complexification, the Omega Point, Cosmic Involution, the Noosphere. Whoa. Photos + Quotes.
“We are space-needing, wild-country Pleistocene beings, trapped in overdense numbers in devastated, simplified ecosystems.”
Paul Shepard – Coming Home to the Pleistocene (1998).