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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Cold Water: Reflections of Baja

A short, 4-minute film update “Cold Water: Reflections of Baja,” expressing gratitude for all the support for our documentary “The Crossing.”

Super excited to share with you “Cold Water: Reflections from Baja,” a short, 4-minute update and thank you for all the supporters of our film “The Crossing.” Includes some great video from our Spring 2015 screening at the Todos Santos International Film Festival, giving a $1000 scholarship for Ecology Project International in Mexico, and me awkwardly attempting to play the ukulele. Thanks again everyone for helping make this project happen. It’s been incredibly powerful. Much more to come.


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.”

Related posts:

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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Summer of the Written Word

The next several months have turned into a lovely string of environmental writing events, presentations, and retreats. 


1) Compose 2015, Saturday, May 2nd. Oregon City, OR: Clackamas Community College Creative Writing Conference. The blurb of the workshop panel I am leading:

“Telling Stories of Revolution:” How can we find our voice when writing and filming stories that help transform ourselves and our cultures into more eco-centric, resilient ways? It’s hard but necessary work, but the future of our planet demands that we do, now more than ever. In this workshop, we will discuss how to create and deliver stories through writing and film about environmental and social activism, about advocacy work, and about unique approaches to turning heads about specific issues and causes that matter to you.


2) Orion Breadloaf Environmental Writer’s Conference, June 1-7, 2015, Middlebury, VT.
Will be working on craft with some of the greats: Rick Bass, Scott Russell Sanders.

asle3) ASLE Conference, June 23-27, Moscow, ID – Presenting a paper on the ecological undercurrents of circumambulation, a type of circuitous pilgrimage.

4) Environmental Writing Institute, September 9-13, Missoula, MT. Working with David James Duncan on craft.

5) Banff Mountain and Wilderness Writing Retreat, (Pending) Oct-Nov 2015.