In Photo: The Circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais

A photo essay from organizing the 50th year anniversary circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais, after poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen made their historic walk in 1965.


This past weekend, I organized the 50th year celebration of the circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco, California. On October 22, 1965, Beat poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen ceremonially walked around Mount Tamalpais to “open the mountain,” and pay respect to their local bioregion. The three stopped at 8 self-designed stations along this 14-mile loop to conduct prayer and mantra.

Since the historic circumambulation, a dedicated group from the area have done this ritual walk every solstice and equinox, starting and finishing at Muir Woods National Monument. The leader of the tradition, Matthew Davis, (co-author of Opening the Mountain) recently died, so this walk was also a celebration of his life and dedication to place and practice. His son, Oren, led the circumambulation in his honor.

Here are some photos from this incredible day, paired with words from The Living Mountain by Nan Shepard, an absolute lyrical masterpiece. Organizing this circumambulation was part of a larger creative project, and an article will be coming out January 2016 for the inaugural issue of We Move Magazine. Stay tuned.

May such place-based traditions continue, and with their continuation may they remind us to slow, to inhabit our local woods and hills with greater intimacy, curiosity, and humility. May we continue to develop our kinship with ever-revolving change.

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“The talking tribe, I find, want sensation from the mountain — not in Keat’s sense. Beginners, not unnaturally, do the same — I did myself. They want the startling view, the horrid pinnacle — sips of beer and tea instead of milk. Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.”


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Published: “Running in Circles,” Trail Runner Magazine

Excited to see my newest piece “Running In Circles” in print for the October 2015 issue of Trail Runner Magazine. A meandering article and photos about the magic found in choosing circuitous routes. Look for it at your local magazine rack. Excerpt below!    


“Throughout the day, I sometimes felt strong and sometimes struggled–this is the psychophysical interplay that makes circuitous routes compelling. How I felt on one side of the mountain reflected the behavior of the exposure itself–its contours, its trail conditions, its shade and water availability.”

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One Year Later: An Excerpt from “The Circles of Kailash”

A year ago this week, I joined an international expedition of twenty to travel to Western Tibet for over three weeks and participate in a 31-mile circumambulation around Mt. Kailash, one of the most sacred mountains in the world. The powerful journey was part of a larger creative project I’m working on now, so to honor this one-year “revolution,” I’d like to share a short excerpt along with some additional photos. The scene is set at Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple on my last night. 



An oversized prayer wheel stands alone and it does not spin. Mani khorlo, they are called in Tibetan. Mani—jewel. Khorlo—circle or cycle. A wheel of jeweled prayer. They are used in Tibet and around the world as ritual, like kora, to gain merit, symbolic of an ever-revolving cosmos. Often lining monasteries and temples, each wheel is usually covered in sheet metal and embossed with Sanskrit prayer. Passing devotees spin these small wooden barrels, skewered upright on an axle like rotisserie. To lubricate them, monks pour warm rapeseed oil down the shaft, leaving a dark pool at its base.

It can sometimes look like blood.

But this one prayer wheel, this outlier, is different. At over three feet tall, the Sanskrit-inscribed cylinder is bolted to a storefront wall, too high for a person to spin, even if the wheel were free. Decorative trim shines beet-red and new.

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In Photos: Circling Mt. Tamalpais

A photo essay from last week’s 15-mile circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais, retracing the footsteps of a historic route set in 1965 by beats Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Philip Whalen. Part of a larger book project in the works. Powerful experience. 


Four Vows for Spiral Walkers: 

Sentient beings are numberless;
I vow to save them.

Consuming desires are endless;
I vow to stop them.

Bio-relations are intricate;
I vow to honor them.

Nature’s way is beautiful;
I vow to become it.

– From “Opening the Mountain” by Matt Davis and Michael Farrell Scott

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Published: “Circumnavigation: The Revolutionary Way”

Honored to have my article “Circumnavigation: The Revolutionary Way” and photos published on Territory Run Co.’s website today. Excerpt below. These folks from Portland, Oregon, are doing wonderful things for the sport and aesthetic culture of mountain/trail running. Grateful to be a part of it. This piece is hinting at a much larger creative book/photography project I’m working on now, aiming for Summer 2016.

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“So, I ask: what is it about circumnavigation? What the hell difference does it make what shape your journey carves into the mountain, into the psyche?

Perhaps it’s just nicer not to backtrack. Maybe that’s it. Maybe circling something makes it easier not to get lost. Yet I would argue for more. I would argue that something happens when we move around things, not just through them or up them or into them or over them. As outdoor enthusiasts, as howling-wilderness-animal-yahoos, when we move and interact and dance in concert with our home, this planet, something just feels right. Something becomes calibrated. Aligned. I’m convinced that to complete such a circuit is to mimic greater ecological rhythms at play all around us–seasons, cycles, orbits, weather patterns, electrical circuitry. The list goes on.” Read the full article. 

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