Goodbye To All That, 2016

sun-bowie

Thank you all so much for the condolences and encouragement. It really does help to hear from those who have been touched by Bowie. This weekend marked 3 weeks without him, the longest I’ve ever gone. I miss him so much. I miss his utter contentment in my presence, paired with his enthusiastic willingness to go with me anywhere, unwavering for many thousands of miles. I miss his sprawling furry form in my lap, in my bed, in my car, in my life. I miss that big clown, King Bowie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m sad but I’m happy too, happy he’s free of that tired old body. Happy he’s free. Through the tears I’m learning that he’s still right here. He lives on in his brother Dio and the hair in my soup and other forms less obvious. I put Bowie’s ashes in a tin that reminds me of my grandmother. Of course, the big dog barely fits and the lid won’t quite close. So I put a heavy Ganesh on top to help hold him in along with a piece of labradorite and a small river stone and a Chinese fortune that says “stay in touch, above all, with how you feel.” I look forward to releasing him on top of our mountain, when I’m ready. Spring feels right.

In the meantime, I’m skiing all over this place, imagining Bowie running free through the snow, on the wings of cheeky ravens, in the tracks of curious fox. This is a tough time, but I’m blessed to be weathering it in Big Sky. I’m living the most unexpected dream I’ve ever had here: after earning my EMT license this fall, I joined the biggest, baddest Ski Patrol team in the country. If you had told me two years ago that this would be my path, I would never have believed you. But skiing is believing and believing is something I’ve always done well. 

The only cross I've ever worn

Much love to you all this holiday season! I’ll see you in 2017! 

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Uncategorized | 17 Comments

There’s A Starman Waiting In The Sky

Bowie, Always an Angel

Friends and readers, I’m sorry to resurrect this blog with sad news, but I wanted to let you all know that I had to say goodbye to Bowie. He’d been having a hard time lately and he was ready to be free of his tired old body. Loss is hard but the end was as beautiful and graceful as it could be. We shared the best possible life together for 12 years and I’m just so grateful for so many moments, so many miles.

The very first shoe shot self portrait on top of Mary's Peak in Oregon.

Our very first shoe shot self portrait on top of Mary’s Peak in Oregon.

When Bowie brought home his protege, D.O.G., I’m sure he had these days in mind. I’m so thankful to have Dio keeping me company right now. He always worshipped his big brother and adopted all his best attributes. You’d never know Dio was once a wild dog and Bowie truly lives on in this amazing creature.

comb-ridge-dogs

Someday I will write a book on everything I’ve learned from these dogs. Lately Dio has been teaching me about accepting loss and letting go. I brought him in to see Bowie after he was gone and Dio sniffed him and then looked at me with complete understanding and acceptance. Then he was ready to leave. Bowie is gone, life goes on, says the wise desert dog. Let’s go play in the snow and believe Bowie is bouncing around with us. I am blessed with the best dogs, living and spirit.

Powder Hound D.O.G.

Powder Hound D.O.G.

Thank you for all the love and support this community has shown Bowie, Dio and I on all our journeys. I am well and happy and in the best possible place to lose my best friend. Letting go is love. Grief is gratitude. Onward and upward!

Me & My Shadows

Me & My Shadows

Click here for a slide show of my Travels with Bowie & D.O.G: 12 years, 49 states, thousands of miles, so many moments… Here’s to the best possible life!

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G. | 47 Comments

Finding D.O.G.

First Sight

First Sight

Seven years ago, I took a road trip to Monument Valley, near the Arizona – Utah border, and came home with a puppy. Keeping a skinny, filthy, half-wild mutt I found wandering in the desert could have been a complete disaster, but it was meant to be, and we both knew it at first sight.

On January 14th, 2009, after a long drive from New Mexico, I pulled off the highway onto a random dirt road, parked, and set off across the open desert with my dog Bowie to hike around a distant, unnamed butte.

No place for a puppy.

No place for a puppy.

Rounding the far side, I saw movement under a sage. Crouched in a sliver of shade was a dog, wagging his tail. Something about him made my heart skip a beat. I held onto Bowie, in case the stray was hurt or sick, and talked sweetly to the dog, who cautiously emerged. Then I saw: He was in terrible shape, but filth and ribs aside, he was the spitting image of Bowie.

Kaymoor Steps Dogs, WV

Kaymoor Steps Dogs, West Virginia

He was young, six months at the most. I could see the bony points of his hips and the line of his backbone through the matts tangled in his all-black coat. No collar. Clods of dirt were matted between his toes. I coaxed him, but he wouldn’t come closer so I poured some water in a dish and stepped back. He shot forward, desperate for a drink.

You've come a long way, baby. Lake Tahoe Dogs!

You’ve come a long way, baby. Lake Tahoe Dogs! Nevada

Monument Valley was an improbable place to find a dog. We were surrounded by nothing but desert. The only manmade things in sight were a barbed wire fence and my car glinting in the distance, parked on the side of a rarely traveled dirt road. No water, no shade, no people, no houses. Nothing.

Return to Monument Valley, two years later. Dio didn't show any inclination to return to his wild ways.

Return to Monument Valley, two years later. Dio didn’t show any inclination to return to his wild ways.

I didn’t have any dog food with me. There was nothing else I could do out there for him, but walk and hope he followed. He looked like hell, but I was relieved to see he still had enough energy to be rambunctious. Over the next hour, the three of us circled that nameless, stunning butte, with Bowie and the puppy playing together like long-lost brothers. It was the youngest Bowie, then six, had acted in years.

Dio keeping Bowie young! West Virginia

The puppy was curious about me, but wary, and he was downright afraid of my camera. Every time I pointed it at him, he shied away and so I put it in my backpack and showed him my empty hands. Eventually, the puppy would follow Bowie within a few feet of me, but he always remained just beyond my outstretched hand, his tail wagging and eyes bright, wanting to be friends, but unsure.

Bowie & Dio on the Appalachian Trail, Vermont

Between he and Bowie, it was true love. I’ve never seen two dogs so happy to have made a friend. The two of them romped the whole way back to the car. When we got to the road, I put Bowie in the car and gave the stray more water and a small handful of dog food, not wanting to upset his neglected stomach.

I watched him eat, surprisingly daintily, for a starving dog. Where had he come from? How long had he been out here? Most importantly: What should I do with him? When he finished eating I opened the car door again, and he made the decision for me, jumping in next to Bowie, who outright grinned: Can we keep him?!

Summiting Quartz Peak- 13,300 feet!

Summiting Quartz Peak- 13,300 feet! Colorado

Living on the road, housesitting different places every few months, having a second dog – a wild one no less – was totally impractical. But this bedraggled, sweet-eyed creature had crossed my path and chosen to follow me. I wanted to trust him the way he was willing to trust me. I sat in the car for 15 minutes, coming to terms with what I already knew: this dog was mine, then I abandoned my plans to camp out that night, pulled a U-turn and drove straight back to New Mexico with that stinky, wild dog curled up in the backseat.

He slept the entire trip, only occasionally sitting up to look out the window, a road trip natural. I was afraid to let him out of the car. If he ran off it would break my heart and I didn’t want to scare him with a leash. Somewhere along the way, I named him D.O.G.

New Orleans D.O.G.

New Orleans D.O.G., Louisiana

We got back to the Earthship well after dark and I opened the car door and let him loose. The other two dogs at my place pounced on him, but he sorted himself out like a good-natured dog and soon everybody was running around the driveway together. I took all four on a get-acquainted hike down my long dirt road. The moon was new and the stars were epic; I couldn’t see all-black Dio in the dark, but I was no longer worried about him running away. He had found friends and I knew he’d follow us forever.

Mount Rundle D.O.G.

Mount Rundle D.O.G., British Columbia

It took another day for Dio to let me touch him and a month before he’d roll over for a belly rub. He was especially afraid of men and it was a year until he would willingly go up to strangers. Gradually, he got over his fears of brooms and sticks, running water, bridges and quick movements, though he’s still wary of children and terrified of gun fire.

Desert Dog Meets the Pacific

Desert Dog Meets the Pacific, California

Seven years later, you’d never know Dio had a rough start. He’s sleek and handsome, obedient, unflinchingly friendly and more worldly than most people. By last count, Dio has been hiking with me in 47 states. (He’s missing Hawaii, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Bowie has been to 49; he’s only missing Hawaii.) Not bad for a wild dog! He and Bowie are inseparable and people regularly ask me if they’re related. Now 12 years old, Bowie has only a little grey and a touch of arthritis and will still follow me anywhere, though I have to limit his miles to easy ones. Dio has kept both of us young!

Dogs running in dog-deep snow, Maine

When people hear Dio’s story, they usually say he’s a lucky dog, but luck implies chance and I know I was meant to find Dio. Across all the Southwest’s open, rugged space, I pulled my car over at that nondescript spot, went for a trail-less hike to a nameless butte in the middle of nowhere and found a perfect dog. That’s not luck, that’s love.

Dio on Day 2

Happy dog Dio on day two of the rest of his life…

Check out Travels with Bowie & D.O.G. under Archives A to Z for lots of photos from our travels all over North America. These dogs have seen more of the world than most people.

Chaco Canyon D.O.G.

Chaco Canyon D.O.G., New Mexico

Pemaquid Point D.O.G., Maine

Pemaquid Point D.O.G., Maine

Las Vegas D.O.G.

Las Vegas D.O.G., Nevada

Athabasca Glacier D.O.G. British Columbia

Athabasca Glacier D.O.G. British Columbia

Emerald Lake D.O.G.

Emerald Lake D.O.G., Colorado

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

2015 in 100 Photos

The Rover in Winter: skiing, ice climbing, hiking, snowshoeing.

The Rover in January 2015: skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing.

In 2015, this little blog of mine was visited by a few hundred thousand people in 167 countries (out of 196). I myself have only been to a dozen or so countries (in North, Central and South America and Europe) and I’m more than a little flabbergasted by the wanderlust of my words. In 2016, I’m gunning for the good fortune to visit at least two more countries – Nepal and India – and for the Blonde Coyote to travel even farther – and further. Thanks to everybody for following the “world renowned” Blonde Coyote and Happy New Year! 🙂

Here are a few of my favorite photos from a few of my favorite moments over the past year. Remember: Success has less to do with the accumulation of things and more to do with an accumulation of moments and creating a successful life might be as simple as determining which moments are the most valuable and seeing how many of those I can string together in a line. – Pam Houston

Subzero Skiing

Braidsicle, Subzero Skiing, Big Sky, Montana

New Neighbors: Mama moose with twin calves

New Neighbors: Mama moose with twin calves in Big Sky

Skiing Mount Hood, Timberline Resort, OR

Self-portrait Skiing Mount Hood

Dogs at Mount Hood

Dogs at Mount Hood

He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy...

He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy…

In Holly wood they say Mush you Huskies! In Montana we say, Hike you Mutts!

In Hollywood they say Mush you Huskies! In Montana we say, Hike you Mutts!

Turning for Home, to Lone Peak!

Turning for Home, to Lone Peak!

Our Home Mountains

Home Mountains

Ready.

Ready.

Keeping up with the Gnarliest Bros I know... aka my roommates!

Keeping up with the Gnarliest Bros I know… aka my roommates!

Hiking the A To Z Ridge out to Headwaters, the realest-dealest inbounds skiing in America.

Hiking the A To Z Ridge out to Headwaters, the realest-dealest inbounds skiing in America.

My Brother Slaying Lone Peak

My Brother Slaying Lone Peak, Cedar Mountain in the background

Great Falls on the North Side of Lone Peak

Great Falls on the North Side of Lone Peak

Montana Dognap on Antlers & Skis

Montana Dognap on Antlers & Skis

Backcountry Skiing

Backcountry Skiing

Beehive Basin

Freshturns in Beehive Basin

Saint patty's Day in Jackson Hole

Saint Patty’s Day in Jackson Hole

Spring Thaw, Big Sky Meadow

Spring Thaw, Big Sky Meadow

Spring Hiking, Gallatin Range

Spring Hiking, Gallatin Range

The Great Bear Awakes

The Great Bear Is Awake

Spring Thaw on the Gallatin

Spring Thaw on the Gallatin

Spring Roadtrip, Utah

Spring Roadtrip, Utah, Last ride of the Rover 

Strange Writings

Strange Writings

Strange Worlds

Strange Worlds

Filling Big Footprints

Filling Big Footprints

This makes for a better story.

RIP Rover, Incredibly Blessed to Walk Away

New Ride: Ruby the Subaru

New Ride: Ruby the Subaru. Summer road trip to WY, ID,NV,CA,OR

International Car Forest of the Last Church, Goldfield, NV

International Car Forest of the Last Church, Goldfield, NV

Mono Lake D.O.G.

Mono Lake D.O.G.

Summit of Lassen Peak, on the 100 year anniversary since the last eruption in 1915

Summit of Lassen Peak, on the 100 year anniversary since the last eruption in 1915

Hello Shasta

Hello Shasta

Skiing Mount Shasta. We had to carry our skis up to 8,000 feet then we skinned up to 10,500 and skied down.

Skiing Mount Shasta. We had to carry our skis up to 8,000 feet then we skinned up to 10,500 and skied down.

Dream Ski on Shasta

Dream Ski on Shasta

Crater of Mount Hood. We skinned up to here then skied down and climbed it again the next day to summit on foot.

Crater of Mount Hood. We skinned up to here then skied down and climbed it again the next day to summit on foot.

Helens, Rainier and Adams from Hood...I've climbed 3 out of 4!

Helens, Rainier and Adams from Hood…I’ve climbed 3 out of 4!

Oregon Coast Camping

Oregon Coast Camping

Crabbing for Dungees in the Newport Bay, OR

Crabbing for Dungees in the Newport Bay, OR

Tenants Harbor, Maine

From one coast to another: Tenants Harbor, Maine

Back to Big Sky: Early Summer

Back to Big Sky: Early Summer

Storm Castle, Summer Wildflowers

Storm Castle, Summer Wildflowers

Finding Our Way

Finding Our Way

Lone Peak D.O.G. from Wilson Peak

Lone Peak D.O.G. from Wilson Peak

Lone Peak from Woodward Mountain

Lone Peak from Woodward Mountain

Van Life, Montana

Van Life, Montana, Woodward Mountain

Lone Peak from the Sphinx

Lone Peak from the Sphinx

Lone Peak from Gallatin Peak

Lone Peak from Gallatin Peak

Lone Peak from Bonecrusher

Lone Peak from Bonecrusher

Lone Peak Hike, HIgh Summer

Lone Peak Hike, High Summer

Gallatin Peak from Lone Peak

Gallatin Peak from Lone Peak

Looking Down the Big Couloir on Lone Peak

Looking Down the Big Couloir on Lone Peak

Hey Goat!

Hey Goat!

Hey Bear

Hey Bear

Hey Bear

Hey Bear

Bears Here

Bears Here

Bears Live in Beautiful Places

Bears Live in Beautiful Places

Ross Peak, Ancient Coral Reef, Bridger Range,

Ross Peak, Ancient Coral Reef, Bridger Range,

Almost Up, Coral Reef, Montana

Almost Up, Coral Reef, Montana

Summit Buddies on Ross Peak

Summit Buddies on Ross Peak

Into the Winds!

Into the Winds!

Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Happy Hiker, Dreams Coming True

Granite Wonderland, Dreams Coming True

Wind Rivers Waterfall

Wind Rivers Waterfall

Storm Incoming, Cirque of the Towers

Storm Incoming, Cirque of the Towers

Tent Bound D.O.G.

Tent Bound D.O.G.

Wind Rivers Hikers

Happy Hikers

My First Rafting Trip! Hells Canyon

My First Rafting Trip! Hells Canyon

This is what Class 4 looks like

This is what Class 4 looks like

Hiking Hells Canyon

Hiking Hells Canyon

Riding Rubber through the Deepest Canyon in North America

Riding Rubber through the Deepest Canyon in North America

Back In Big Sky

Back In Big Sky

Happy Backpackers in a Hailstorm at 9,000 feet

Happy Backpackers in a Hailstorm at 9,000 feet

Crossing Table Mountain

Crossing Table Mountain

Crossing Windy Ridge

Crossing Windy Ridge

Petrified Wood , Gallatin Range

Petrified Wood , Gallatin Range

Gallatin Firetower

Gallatin Firetower

Bearcountry Cabin.. those spikes aren't for pigeons!

Bearcountry Cabin.. those spikes aren’t for pigeons!

Fall Roadtrip: Trans-Canadian Highway to Nova Scotia!

Fall Roadtrip: Trans-Canadian Highway to Nova Scotia!

New Watershed!

New Watershed!

Lake Superior, North Shore

Lake Superior, North Shore

Thunder Bay, Lake Superior

Thunder Bay, Lake Superior

Hands-in-Pockets Weather, Lake Superior

Hands-in-Pockets Weather, Lake Superior

Nova Scotia D.O.G.

Nova Scotia D.O.G.

Bat of Fundy, Low Tide

Bay of Fundy, Low Tide

Bay of Fundy, High Tide

Bay of Fundy, High Tide

Alma Harbor, Low Tide

Alma Harbor, Low Tide

Alma Harbor, High Tide

Alma Harbor, High Tide

Blueberry Camping, Nova Scotia

Blueberry Camping, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Sunrise

Nova Scotia Sunrise

Showing part-Newfie Bowie Newfoundland

Showing part-Newfie Bowie Newfoundland

Ferry Crossing the Bay of Fundy

Ferry Crossing the Bay of Fundy

Borrowed Vans are like Pink Elephants

Borrowed Vans are like Pink Elephants

New Mexico, Revisited

New Mexico, Revisited

Hualapai Mountains, Arizona

Hualapai Mountains, Arizona

Heading for Home, 10,000 miles later

Heading for Home, 10,000 miles later

Out of one dream ride, into another...

Out of one dream ride, into another…

The Rover Love Continues...

The Rover Love Continues…

Winter Comes Again, Moose-Spotting

Moose-Spotting as Winter Comes Again…

Going Up!

Going Up!

 

Posted in Beyond the USA, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 8 Comments

Travels in Geology: Hells Canyon

The best seat in the house: the wooden Dory named the "Might As Well"

The best seat in the house: the back of the wooden Dory named the “Might As Well”

Why would you ever visit a place called Hells Canyon? Especially given how hard it is to get there: Few roads and only steep, difficult trails run down into the 2,400-meter-deep gorge — the deepest canyon in North America — which forms part of the border between Oregon and Idaho. Despite its remote and rugged challenges, however, Hells Canyon has attracted visitors for thousands of years, from the Clovis people and Native Americans to turn-of-the-century gold miners, sheep ranchers and homesteaders.

Riding shotgun in the "lunch boat" with guide Anna at the helm

Riding shotgun in the “lunch boat” with guide Anna at the helm

Today, the canyon is popular among whitewater rafters and fishing enthusiasts. A trip through Hells Canyon, with its diverse geologic pedigree involving 300 million years of island arcs, volcanism and catastrophic floods, will also delight geology-minded travelers. You don’t even need to be an extreme adventurer to enjoy the canyon: Shove off with a reputable rafting company like ROW Adventures and you’ll barely even need to paddle.
So this is what a class 4 rapids feels like...

So this is what a class 4 rapids feels like…

Hiking in Hells Canyon. After a few days sitting in a boat, I was jonesing for a walk!

Hiking in Hells Canyon. After a few days sitting in a boat, I was jonesing for a walk!

A few of my past Travels in Geology features are there too: West Virginia’s New River Gorge, British Columbia’s Burgess Shale, and the German Alps.
Posted in Hiking!, Photography, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Ask the Blonde Coyote: Where in the World Are You?

Good Morning, Bay of Fundy

Good Morning, Bay of Fundy. Cape Split, Nova Scotia

Dear Ms. Caperton, Because of the long time since your last post, I’ve concluded that you have taken a turn off the open road life toward something else. So, I wanted to thank you for sharing your adventures, and for letting us (me) learn about your remarkable family.

I had hoped (I’m an accomplished procrastinator) to trade trail-craft with you and learn more about your kit and kaboodle e.g.
why do you use a trailer rather than a van (one less axle)? –do your dogs sleep in the trailer or outside? –what’s your experience with mosquitoes? –what are your absolute travel necessaries? (mine are back scratcher, kept within reach esp. while driving; flyswatter; night-time water bottle).  I was also going to plague you with questions about your electrics.
But onward. Happy trails.
New Roads, new Watersheds

New Wheels, New Roads, New Watersheds

Several of you have written me emails over the past six months, wishing me well and wondering what I’m up to these days. I’m still at it, living the dream, all day, every day. I have been taking a break from blogging, but I’m still living the life. I’m just focusing my time and creative energy elsewhere, on other endeavors. Right now, my copilots and I are in New England, having driven a Volkswagen Eurovan from Montana to Nova Scotia on the Trans-Canadian Highway.
Nova Scotia D.O.G.

Nova Scotia D.O.G.

I’m still learning new lessons every day too: the road is all fun and games until your ride decides to break down in Nova Scotia and you’re 4,000 miles from home with two dogs and a borrowed van with a dying transmission. It seems my good car karma has run out, temporarily. There’s no easy way home, no easy way out, no easy way down, but we’re figuring it out one decision at a time. Van or no van, we’re moving forward, enjoying the hell out of life on the open road.
Bay of Funday, Alma Harbor at low tide

Bay of Funday, Alma Harbor at low tide

High tide, 6 hours later

High tide, 6 hours later

 To answer your questions: I bought a trailer because I had a good tow vehicle at the time (my 2004 Subaru Impreza, the Raven) and I wanted to stick with it. Right now I’m traveling in a borrowed van because we’re on the east coast, visiting friends and families in major cities and we don’t want to be towing or parking a trailer in east coast traffic. We can sleep in the van anywhere – on our 3 week journey across Canada we didn’t pay for a single night. We stayed in the van every night and had no trouble finding places to park safely and legally for free.
Our VW van

Our VW van “Stella Jo” parked in a free campsite in the blueberry bushes on Cape Breton.

 The dogs sleep inside, always, of course. Bowie’s 12 now and one of his favorite hobbies is being comfortable. He’s all about the memory foam, sleeping bags and pillows. He’s earned every feather. Dio usually sleeps on the floor in the trailer or under the bed. We all fit just fine in the van too.
Part-newfie King Bowie getting a glimpse of Newfoundland in the distance from Cape Breton

Part-newfie King Bowie getting a glimpse of Newfoundland in the distance from Cape Breton

 Mosquitoes are only bad in certain places at certain times of the year. So I don’t go there then. Or when I do, I keep on the move – those suckers can only fly around 2 mph so I hike at 3 and they can’t keep up.
No mosquitoes here now.

No mosquitoes here now.

Not a one.

Not a one.

 My absolute travel necessities can be boiled down to a good pair of shoes. And I’m no longer in need of Ruby slippers. My Ruby ride didn’t make the cut. After a summer of check engine lights and mysterious overheating, we parted ways. My next pair of shoes will need to be a bit wilder! Happy trails to you all, too!
Why Not?

Another Rover? Why Not!

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Vagabonding 101 | 16 Comments

Ruby’s First Roadtrip!

Ruby Meets the Tetons

Ruby Meets the Tetons

Introducing…. Ruby: a 2004 Subaru Forester! After the Rover went out with such a spectacular bang, a big part of me wanted to keep living the drive-to-the-end-of-any-road dream and get another beast, but I elected to keep moving forward onto the more practical dream of driving something more reliable and fuel efficient. After visiting every used car lot in Bozeman looking for a manual that could tow, I found Ruby. I bought her on a Monday and hit the road on Tuesday with no better plan than to ‘drive south ’til it stops raining’. After a 2-week, 3,500 mile loop through Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, California and Oregon, across deserts and mountains to the Pacific Ocean, Ruby’s part of the family.

Perfect rainy day activity in Idaho

Perfect rainy day activity in Idaho. I wanted to get to know Ruby before hitching her up to the trailer so we picked up a roof rack big enough to hold our skis and hit the road the old-fashioned way.

Taking Ruby to the Moon

Taking Ruby to the Moon

Crossing paths with a friendly rattler

Crossing paths with a friendly rattler…he barely rattled at us!

Test drive on a playa lake in Nevada

Test drive on a playa lake in Nevada

Ruby meets her first UFO on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada

Ruby meets her first UFO on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada

Bowie taking a dust bath at the The International Car Forest of the Last Church

Bowie taking a dust bath at The International Car Forest of the Last Church in Goldfield, NV

Crushed Car Canvas

Crushed Car Canvas

Sundial

Sundial

Mono Lake D.O.G. Driving up California's route 89, one of my all-time favorite roads!

Mono Lake D.O.G. Driving up California’s route 89, one of my all-time favorite roads!

Ruby with Lassen Peak

Ruby with Lassen Peak. A new national park for me! My list of never-seen national parks grows ever shorter…

Heading up Lassen

Heading up Lassen

On the summit of Lassen 100 years to the day after its last eruption in 1915.

On the summit of Lassen… 100 years to the day after its last eruption in 1915! Happy Anniversary, dear volcano…

Mount Shasta from Black Butte

Mount Shasta from Black Butte

Carrying our ski gear up the snow line on Mount Shasta.

Hauling my ski gear up to the snow line on Mount Shasta. We skied from around 8,000 feet up to 10,000 feet. This summit is definitely at the top of the list for next spring!

Dreamski

Dreamski down Shasta

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast Spring

Ruby Meets Boat

Ruby Meets Boat

Pedal-kayaking in Coos Bay, Oregon

Pedal-kayaking in Coos Bay, Oregon

Dawn on Mount Hood

Dawn on Mount Hood. We woke up at 1am, were on the mountain by 2, on the summit at 7, down by 10.

In the Shadow of the Volcano

In the Shadow of the Volcano

We skied down from Hood's crater

Skiing Hood’s Crater. We skied up to the Hogsback and down from here the day before we summited.

Climbing up the steep final pitch up the crater wall

Climbing up the steep final pitch up the crater wall to the summit ridge

To the Summit!

To the Summit!

Helens, Rainier and Adams from the summit of Hood. Check 3 out of 4!

Helens, Rainier and Adams from the top of Hood. Check 3 out of 4!

Getting a hitch put on Ruby for the teardrop is near the top of my to do list, but after spending last summer rolling around the West from one mountain range to the next, my goal for this summer was to find a place to really get to know on foot. What more could a hiker ask for than to land in Big Sky country?!

Pointing out my home mountain from the summit of Woodward Mountain. Summer project: hike from here to there!

Pointing out my home mountain from the summit of Woodward Mountain. Summer project: hike from here to there!

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | 24 Comments

RIP Rover: On Walking Away

Me and my dream car in Cathedral Valley, Utah

Me and my dream car in Cathedral Valley, Utah

Two summers ago, stuck in Crested Butte, Colorado with my trailer, two dogs and a dying Subaru, I searched Craigslist on a whim for my dream car: an older Land Rover Discovery. A rare 5-speed manual popped up for sale in Colorado Springs, and I limped my rig over the mountains to buy it outright, in cash. My ’96 Disco was not without flaws – it stranded me three times in the first month I owned it – but over the last two years and 60,000 miles it took extraordinarily good care of me, my dogs and my trailer, with a good chunk of those miles over the kind of terrain Land Rovers are made to drive.

If your Rover's clean, your doing it wrong

If your Rover’s clean, you’re doing it wrong

A week ago, I was driving down the mountain – without the trailer – when the Rover’s back right tire blew, sending us careening out of control and then rolling roof over wheels down the mountain. After three rotations we came to rest on our wheels right next to some electrical boxes, engine still running, music still playing. I shut the Rover off, shouldered my way out of the rig and got the dogs clear of the wreck. Miraculously, save for a small scratch under Dio’s left eye, we were all completely unscathed. In the end, the Rover took all the hits for us.

This makes for a better story.

This makes for a better story.

I’ve been moving through the stages of grief ever since, missing my rolling home on the road, but mostly I feel incredibly, unbelievably fortunate that my dogs and I walked away. It was the perfect wreck. All those rocks and dinosaurs and that solid brass owl flying around inside with us – nothing hit me. The medicine bag an Oglala Lakota woman had given me “to keep me company and keep me safe” on my travels was still dangling from the rear view mirror stem, though the mirror lay broken on the side of the road.

Dashboard altar to the gods of winter road tripping

Dashboard altar to the gods of winter road tripping

I’m not sure yet what my next ride will be. A huge part of me wants to get another Land Rover. But the rest knows I should move forward, on to the next dream. Onward and upward, thanks to the Rover. It will always be my dream car.

Our last road trip through Utah's 9-mile canyon. The tire could have blown here, hitched up, in the middle of nowhere, but it didn't. It blew in the best possible circumstances. Thanks, Rover.

Our last road trip in April through Utah’s 9-mile canyon. The tire could have blown here, hitched up, in the middle of nowhere, but it didn’t. It blew in the best possible circumstances. Thanks, Rover.

In honor of the Rover, reread some of the adventures we had: Rover Love, Wheeler Geologic Area, and Between a Rover and a Hard Place.

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Road tripping!, Teardrop Trailer, Uncategorized | Tagged | 40 Comments

Skiing Is Believing

Lone Peak, Big Sky, Montana

Lone Peak & Fan Mountain, Big Sky, Montana

In October, I climbed Mount Saint Helens by moonlight and when I stood on the summit at sunrise, I felt the mountain rumble beneath my feet. On the way back down, sliding freely down the loose scree slope on the soles of my well-worn hiking boots, I said, “I want to learn to ski.” I believe in the wishes I make on mountains: it’s now mid-April and after around 100 days spent sliding down the slopes of Lone Peak in Big Sky, Montana, I’m well on my way to being an expert skier.

Ready.

Ready.

Driving east to Montana after Helens, I wasn’t thinking about skiing. I was thinking about Clydesdales. I had been offered a gig ranch-sitting a horse farm in southwest Montana for the winter and I was in love with the idea of having horses back in my life. After a week on the ranch, working side by side with the resident ranch woman, getting to know her animals and forming what I thought were trusting partnerships, I shook her hand and told her I’d be back in a few weeks, well before she left for winter in Hawaii. Then I headed south for Zion.

Overlooking Zion from the Eagle Crags

Overlooking Zion from the Eagle Crags

But my winter with horses was not meant to be. One morning I woke up to a sharply-worded email of demands, all of which should have come up much sooner: no friends or family could visit me at the ranch, my dogs needed to be kept penned up and I was to live in the tiny bunkhouse and use an unheated outhouse all winter, instead of the main house. Most disturbing was the uncompromising tone of the email and the implication that I would be watched; it was clear this woman had some serious trust and control issues. Red flags were flapping feverishly… this was not somebody I wanted to work for.

Pretty dreamy but you gotta know when to walk away.

Pretty dreamy but you gotta know when to walk away.

When I told Dan, a friend from Big Sky and my co-pilot for the Zion trip, about the ranch woman’s email he said, “Well, how about you spend the winter skiing instead.” What a perfect Plan B: if I couldn’t spend the winter with my first love – horses – I would spend it with my next great love: Mountains. And so I closed the barn door and climbed out the window to Big Sky.

Our big backyard

Everything is big in Big Sky

And so here I am, wintering at one of the the most epic ski resorts in the world, on the most beautiful mountain in Montana (which in Montana is saying something), surrounded by skiers – people who live to ski, for whom skiing is being – learning new lessons outside in the mountains, everyday.

Three of the gnarliest bros I know... aka my roommates

Keeping up with three of the gnarliest bros I know… aka my roommates

Before this winter, I’d skied a handful of times, but I was in no way a skier. Now I have an Unlimited Gold Season Pass to the biggest ski resort in America and I go skiing just about every day: on sunny days, snowy days, and on negative 20 degree days. I’ve skied all over this mountain: from greens to blues to blacks to double blacks to the backcountry. Now I can look at Lone Peak from any angle and say, yeah I skied down that face.

Lone Peak, yeah I skied that

Lone Peak from Porcupine Ridge…Liberty, Lenin, Marx, the Gullies, the North Snowfield, the A to Z’s and the Headwaters: check. Still to go: the Big Couloir!

The most important lesson I’ve learned this winter is that Skiing is Believing. Skiing is purely physics and metaphysics, both of which the body and mind speak fluently, if you can keep your doubts, your fears – your ego – out of the way. I’ve been working on my balancing act for years, living on the razor’s edge, believing. Now I stand on my skis, these erstwhile awkward clown shoes, at the top of a steep snowy slope and I push over the edge and behold: my skis ski, my body balances and my mind is free. I believe in the wishes I make on mountains.

Hiking out the Headwaters ridge to ski my first chute

Hiking out the Headwaters ridge to ski my first double black diamond chute

Skiing down the North side of Lone Peak... double blacks all the way!

Skiing down the North side of Lone Peak… double blacks all the way!

Getting out of bounds, into the backcountry

Getting out of bounds, into the backcountry

Dio's quite the powder hound! Skiing Beehive Basin with Lone Peak in the background

Dio’s quite the powder hound! Skiing Beehive Basin with Lone Peak in the background

Posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Where Warm Waters Halt…On the Trail of Treasure in the Rocky Mountains!

A "blaze" I found in the Rio Grande Gorge in northern New Mexico last spring.

A “blaze” I found in the Rio Grande Gorge in northern New Mexico last spring.

“Where warm waters halt… where warm waters halt… where warm waters halt.” For two summers, I’ve been exploring the Rocky Mountains with those words on my mind. Why those four words in particular? Because I believe they lead to a modern-day treasure chest.

In 2010, Forrest Fenn, a retired antiquities dealer based in Santa Fe, N.M., set about creating his own legend: He bought an antique bronze chest and filled it with valuables and artifacts including gold dust, coins and nuggets, Chinese jade carvings, a 17th-century gold-and-emerald ring, an ancient turquoise bracelet — together worth between $1 million and $2 million — and then lugged all 19 kilograms of it to a mysterious hiding place somewhere “in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe.” He then released a poem containing nine clues as to the treasure’s whereabouts. More than four years later, nobody has yet found Fenn’s treasure, and he maintains that if it goes undiscovered, the chest will stay safely in place for hundreds of years.

The Fenn treasure has been valued between  million and $2 million and the chest itself — a 12th-century Roman lockbox made of sculpted bronze — has been said to be worth about $35,000. Credit: Forrest Fenn.

The Fenn treasure has been valued between $1 million and $2 million and the chest itself — a 12th-century Roman lockbox made of sculpted bronze — has been said to be worth about $35,000. Credit: Forrest Fenn.

Thousands of people from all walks of life have gone searching for Fenn’s treasure in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana (Fenn has eliminated Utah and Idaho). When I heard about the treasure, I couldn’t help thinking about it from a geologist’s point of view: The poem implies that the treasure is hidden near water, but the courses of waterways can change drastically over time, even from season to season, let alone over centuries. And as someone interested in archaeology and paleontology, I’m well aware that if you find something interesting on public land, it’s not always “finders, keepers.” I was intrigued. Could I put my background in geology and my hiker’s knowledge of landscapes to work searching for a treasure chest?

Posted in Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Science Writing, Sustainable Living, Vagabonding 101 | 14 Comments