UnNamed, USA

July 23rd, 2014 by Larry

In the doldrums of summer, in the land of my birth, I go to the mountains to quench my thirst.
It will be called UnNamed, USA where I go. All of us have a special place called UnNamed. Some are fortunate to have many. It’s not a place available for general public consumption, like we travel writers make a living exposing, or in most cases, ruminating about places from our own subjective experience that have been written about time after time. You have to find your UnNamed on your own. I’m sure you already have. If not, find your own and tell no one (or very few). There are places that I have found and that I have explored that I will not write about in specifics, though maybe so in broad, general, unnamed terms.
As a travel photographer/writer, I get to experience a variety of places in a variety of lands. It pays my bills and it always leaves me enriched and thankful for the breadth and depth of this Old Earth…and the reader can go there, too, either literally, vicariously, or both. Yet these journeys only partially fill me. UnNamed fills me completely. To the brim. To overflowing…and it is relatively inexpensive as it is close to home. In times of travel penny pinching, our UnNameds are wise travel investments.

My wife—mortally deceased fourteen years ago—and I spent part of many summers at UnNamed. Our son Steen—now 29—did, too. UnNamed was our camp, our sanctuary, our Shanghai-La. It was our eye from which we explored our region. Family and friends had and still have the pleasure of UnNamed, too.
Everyone should have an UnNamed. A place to go, to be alone, to be away from it all…or just to be with whom you want to be with.

FIRST MEMORIES

My first memories at UnNamed were with my Dad and brother, often accompanied with other friends and family, too…and many times, just Dad and I. We came to fish this stream of dreams. It is where my Dad taught me to be a very proficient spin fisherman. Though I fly fish only now, my Dad made me into an expert at bait and spin fishing. Trout trembled at the approach of both of us…or so we liked to think. In those days, it was rare that we would catch and release. We had a large family to feed, with few resources, and we wanted to “bring home the bacon” to prove that we actually had been fishing. We didn’t want anyone outside the family to sense that we were having great fun in the process for fear that they would seek too much information about UnNamed and then we would have to stretch the truth and send them on a wild trout chase (few geese were involved) in the general vicinity without naming UnNamed specifically. When I took up fly-fishing, catch and release became the mantra, though the old black skillet still gets used on occasion.
We came to UnNamed right after the school year ended and before the summer haying began. Mom and Dad had a custom hay hauling business. Between hay cuttings in August, we came, too. Our lives were simple. We worked hard and played easy. Still do.
The UnNamed River that runs through the canyon where I sit writing at this moment—at July’s ending, seated in a chair, in the water, wearing my summer black short shorts with a cold margarita placed on a flat rock a hand length’s away( it’s 80 plus in the sun; I’m in the cooler shade of the creek cottonwood)—has the soft cadence of languid summer days.
The river starts as a series of brooks that come together as a creek, cascading from the base of a wilderness area’s highest elevation. The flow is tamed by the first large valley where it meanders gently through pine, willow, aspen, red osier dogwood and alder thickets: home to small mountain brook trout, beaver, song birds, butterflies, deer, coyote, squirrels, raptors, a few eagles and occasionally elk. There are mountain lion and bobcat here, too, though I’ve never seen one. A few cattle graze this area, but less so than in years past.

FIRST HIKE 30 YEARS AGO
My first hike to the headwaters was 30 years ago. JJ and I hiked into the wilderness, setting up our mountaineering tent in a sequestered grove of aspens near a bend in the creek. The following morning, both of us fly fished for brooks en route to the source. Along the way we marveled at the richness of the summer wildflowers: delphiniums that towered above our heads, the delicate and intricate columbines, paintbrush, yellow monkey flowers, elephant heads and an array of penstemons. With her pad and drawing pencils, she illustrated several scenes.
Hummingbirds were active in this fecund garden of nature. Somewhere en route at a deep pool, we stripped naked and slipped into the water. The cold, clear, mountain creek was like a jolt of electricity, energizing us for the remainder of the upper valley trek. We eventually arrived at UnNamed’s source: a Garden of Eden.
The natural tending by Mother Nature was extraordinary: a scene mindful of manicured French and English gardens, abundant with a variety of wildflowers and a series of little brooks gushing from springs at the basaltic rock. There were still a few remnants of snow. Gathering as one, the little brooks tumbled from its high mountain nest over a small waterfall, the beginnings of NoName Creek which later (30 miles distant) gets a name change to NoName River—the only such body of water in the state which I know whose adolescent name is changed when reaching adulthood. From beginning to end, NoName winds from high pine and fir country to the high desert—a near hundred mile course—and then exhausts itself as though dying from old age.
Every time that I come to the camp at NoName, the past comes with me. I hear the laughter and stories of days gone by. I see my Dad in the prime of his life along solitary stretches of the river making casts toward the wary and elusive rainbow and red band trout. Occasionally, he would take a break and light up a Pall Mall, a habit which he overcame the last 20 years of his life, but he had to live with the lung damage along the way. His choice though, as I’ve recognized that all humans have vices, one way or the other, and some things that some people call vices are really not vices at all. It is the fabric of our intricate makeup. NoName makes me philosophic, yet, concurrently, it also makes me—that is, allows me—to be empty and pure again without any philosophy, religion, imprints, prejudices and DNA encoded weight. I’m light at NoName, like the feathered flight of warblers, spotted sandpipers, tree sparrows, flycatchers and the Western tanagers that frequent the camp. NoName is anonymity and anonymity is freedom.
The presence of my wife is here, as are part of her ashes, released the summer after her death, by our son and me, and her sister and husband. The last time we stayed here together as a family was the summer of the year she died. The three of us threw our bedrolls on the ground and slept under the stars. The night was still and the twinkling stars glistened in the heavens. We counted falling stars. Little did we know that her star would transcend later in the year.
Our NoName camp has been from simple to deluxe, depending on how much time we stayed. Sometimes, it would just be a pup tent or a sleeping bag on the ground. Most times though, we had a full tent (or the 16-foot antique camp trailer), a screened kitchen tent, two umbrella tables, two hammocks and a portable dining table. Often, we brought a kayak or inflatable raft. Often with family and friends, we spent the Fourth of July here, sometimes the camp swelling to 20 or so. Today, I’m camping alone.

NoNAME’S NAME
NoName has many names, among them: love, family, honor, celebration, peace, tranquility, the moment, nature, harmony, simplicity, tradition.
Wherever your NoName is: attend to it. Let it flow through you and become a part of you, and never let it go. If let go, you are denying a vital aspect of your soul. In a sense, your NoName is an ultimate freedom.

Highway 101 & 1 California/Camping Journey

May 20th, 2014 by Larry

It has been a 3-week adventure traveling down California Highway 101 and 1 along the coast from the Oregon border. We reached our southernmost camp at Morro Strand State Park, making it our eight and final encampment. These words are written at campsite A. The view is perfect of the beach. The sun has come out drenching unique Morro Rock—home of the peregrine falcon—with morning light, as foreground to fog and clouds at Montana de Oro in the background.
Our campsite is unique and campground host Jeanie says it’s the best site tho’ overlooked by most because of the proximity to the restrooms and the walking trail to the beach. Our tent is on a small dune, abuts to the snowy plover protection zone for breeding and nesting purposes. Literally our tent is against the cable, directly facing the Pacific…indeed, a room with a view and surprising privacy, too. It is amazingly quiet here during the week. Surfers come for the weekend and things amp up.
Daily we walk the beach for exercise and refreshment…and photography. The coastline is quieter here, much less rugged than what we’ve seen driving down. The strands of waves that come in are lace-like, as they break on the gentle, ample beach. There is a constant conversation between the surf and shoreline. Our friend Kevin at Big Lagoon camp (where we stayed on the first leg of the journey) mentioned that when he got a motel in Eureka one night to stay, he couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t hear the surf. Shore birds are abundant.
Our eight campground stays: Big Lagoon (3 nights; our only encampment off Highway 101; the remainder were off Highway 1), Westport, Gualala, Sunset State Park (near Monterrey), Limekiln (Big Sur), Kirk (Big Sur), San Simeon State Park (near Hearst Castle) and Morro Strand. We’ve stayed mainly in state parks with the exception of one county park (Big Lagoon) and a private campground south of Gualala. Five nights were spent sleeping in the back of Lynette’s pickup and the remaining nights in my 5-star tent. Each encampment has had its’ own uniqueness, beauty and pleasure.
Highway 1 is one of the most picturesque highways in America. The coastline is spectacular with a combination of rugged (mainly) and gentle scenery. Spring is a great time for travel because of the abundance of wildflowers, greenness and mild weather…and less traffic during the summer months.
We intentionally started with no itinerary, as this is my favorite travel mode, to go with the whims of the wind, if you will…to stay where you wish, as long as you wish. Only once did we find a campground full whereas we had to go elsewhere.
Our notion was to explore back roads as much as possible…and so we did. Literally, the first day—after departing Talent, Oregon—we departed the main road to the coast, traveling a dirt road through Stout Redwood Grove, ending up south of Crescent City. Yahoo!
The Big Lagoon camp was the perfect start. Our view was idyllic. The following day we explored the charming hamlet of Trinidad with its’ lighthouse, new dock, art shops, eateries (we had clam chowder) and the wonderful Moonstone Crossing (www.moonstonecrossing.com) Wine Shop with their whimsical wine label names such as Wish Upon a Star, Temptation of Angels and Midnight Caress.
The day of our departure we joined Kevin at the Arcata Saturday Farmer’s Market. Try out their famous waffle and potato/gravy concoction (which they’re famous for). We purchased some artisan bread (a couple of days later, a skunk made a raid in our food box, absconding with a $7 loaf!), greens and fruit for the road.
Driving south, we went through the Avenue of the Giants…the land of redwoods that will leave you awestruck. At Leggett, we departed Highway 101 for the start of Highway 1, winding our way to the coast, north of Westport, where we had a campsite not to die for…because if you did, you would miss the glorious sunset which we experienced. We had cocktails on the bluff overlooking this magnificent coastline.
Quaint, quiet and under-spoken Westport (which I had a history with 30 years ago) was our first stop the following day as we wandered the streets, getting in our morning walk. Passing through Fort Bragg, we made our way to Point Arena Lighthouse (a must stop), the town of Point Arena (a town that I could live in) and the old, funky, charming Point Arena dock where we ate fish and chips, a great Manhattan chowder and drank a couple of Old Rasputin beers. Heaven! Then we made our way past Gualala and found a private campsite for the night.
Bodega Bay, Tomales, Tomales Bay, Point Reyes, Stinson Beach, San Francisco and Santa Cruz we traveled through the following day, en route to our Sunset Camp. We walked to the beach that evening and had it all to ourselves. This campground is a nice find and it is unique being right next to farm fields.  I fell in love with Tomales and Tomales Bay with fresh oysters and lamb sandwiches to be had. The countryside pulsated with spring green.
Departing Sunset, we made our way to Big Sur, stopping by Caramel-by-the-Sea briefly. Forty years ago, it was charming. I couldn’t wait to leave this time tho’ because of tourists like me. I have no desire to go back. I remember back then photographing the Bing Crosby Open (I met Pat Summerall and Katherine Crosby) and pissing off Johnny Miller because my shutter went off prematurely when he was putting! Yahoo!
The Big Sur coastline is as I had remembered it from years ago. Rugged, stellar, achingly beautiful…but with much more traffic than way by then. Our Limekiln and Kirk Creek encampments were blessed, as was our hike to a nearby waterfall and rocky beach explorations. This is a place (especially Kirk) to take a deep breath and exhale slowly a landscape that is utterly profound to the eyes and heart. Get one of poet Robinson Jeffers books and read about this area.
I’ve never been to Disneyland and I have no desire to. Hearst Castle the same…but we did stop at the Hearst Ranch Winery after departing Big Sur and it was most enjoyable. I did photograph the castle in the background and we stayed at nearby San Simeon State Park which was pleasant.  The following day we arrived at Morro Bay.
The Morro Bay stay has been memorable with day trips to beautiful downtown San Luis Obispo (Lynette got her first degree at Cal Poly), Morro Bay Harbor, Montana de Oro, Los Osos, Avila Beach, San Luis Bay and downtown Morro Bay.
The pics will tell the rest of the story.

Whistler, BC

April 8th, 2014 by Larry

Just released my latest story on www.highonadventure.com. It’s about my recent trip to Whistler, BC, Canada…skiing, bobsledding (with famous Jamaican bobsled coach Pat Brown from the movie Cool Runnings) ziplining and exploring the Olympic Village. Enjoy and read and the photos of this world class destination.

Four-man bobsled

March 14th, 2014 by Larry

At 365 yards, we reached 80 MPH in the four-man bobsled and G forces of 4plus. It was the most exhilarating ride that I’ve ever taken…likened to astronauts being blasted into space. My respect for bobsledders reached a new level with the experience at the Whistler (Canada) Sliding Center, the site of the luge, bobsledding and skeleton events during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. And of all things, the driver of our sled was Pat Brown who once coached the Jamaican Bobsled Team, made famous in the movie Cool Runnings. View the general public offering at www.whistlerslidingcentre.com. I was rider #2, in the yellow jacket, right behind Pat. My friend John Paulsen was rider #4 in the sled. Out of seven teams we had the top time Last Saturday evening which was also the top time of the week and our top speed was equal to that of the Sochi Games (where Pat just returned from as a bobsled women’s judge) winners. The Whistler track is the fastest in the world.

Whistler Blackcomb

March 9th, 2014 by Larry

Whistler Blackcomb is one of the world’s greatest snowsports resorts and the host to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Vancouver, BC is one of the world’s greatest cities. These images represent some photo snippets from the last few days with my friend John Paulson. Enjoy, hey!

Death Valley National Park

February 13th, 2014 by Larry

Death Valley National Park is one of my favorite places on this old and beautiful earth…especially during the winter months when one can warm up like a lizard within the comfortable embrace of this unique zone which encompasses the lowest place in the USA (-284 feet below sea level) and is near the highest elevation in the Lower 48 States: Mount Whitney. My favorite camping area is Panamint Springs, space 27. However I like Stovepipe Wells Campground, too…and the access to the swimming pool…which we had all to ourselves for a week recently. Death Valley is perfect for hiking and exploring, just bring plenty of water, some energy food…and watch out for the sidewinders, especially in and around the sand dunes!  With offroad travel in the park, bring an extra tire or gunk for filling up flats. We had one flat. The only repair station is the Chevron in Furnace Creek. Enjoy the laid back ambience of Panamint Springs. 180 beers are available, including several nice tap selections. They even had one of my alltime favorites: Deschutes Brewery’s Abyss! January and February day temps get into the 70s. Nice! Nights can be cool, though, so prepare yourself appropriately.

British Columbia, Canada

December 17th, 2013 by Larry

My latest story at www.highonadventure.com is about skiing and exploring Red Mountain and Rossland, British Columbia, Canada…the hometown and mountain of my friend Nancy Green who was named Canada’s Female Athlete of the Century a few years ago. Enjoy the read and photos!

Rainie Falls Hike, Rogue River, Oregon

November 26th, 2013 by Larry

Rainie Falls Trail is a relatively easy four-mile trek into the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, Oregon. The Trail is accessed 25 miles from Interstate 5, taking the Merlin exit to Grave Creek Bridge which is along the Merlin-Galice Road. The Trail is on the left side of the river. It is steep in places but well worth one’s time as you trek through some very picturesque country beside this famous river. Salmon and steelhead can be seen jumping the falls as they migrate upstream to their spawning grounds. My friend Rick Ponte and I recently took this trek. November is a great time to do the hike though it can be hiked any time of the year if one is properly prepared.

Blossom Bar, Marial Lodge, Wild and Scenic Rogue River, Oregon

November 5th, 2013 by Larry

In the deep wilderness, some days sing in tones and resonances that you’ll never experience again. Such was a recent day in the heart of the Rogue River Wild and Scenic section, between Merlin and the Oregon Coast…Blossom Bar, Marial, Rogue River Ranch. My friend Rick Ponte and I drove several hours to Marial, then we hiked three miles to Blossom Bar…a class IV series of rapids, the most deadly in the State of Oregon for rafting fatalities, including two this year.  We were the only people on the road  and we were the only people on the trail. It was a day beyond magnificence. There was a sombernance and a reverence to this day, too, as I remembered my dear friend George and Jean’s son–Sarah’s brother and Renee’s husband– whose ashes were released at Blossom Bar. Jason: I knew you but I hardly knew you…but I was blessed by your life and your photography and your love for wild places. I felt your presence on this trek, deeply. Thank you for your contribution to humanity.
Jean is a direct descendant of the Billings family which established human presence in this area. John and Adeline were her great great grandparents and Jean’s mom was born in the Big Meadow here. The book Illahe is about her family and the area.
We saw bear, kingfishers, migrating warblers, mergansers. Only two rafts passed, in the late light. The harmony of the river was absolute…as beautiful as it will ever get, viewed by humans. In the modern era we often look at things and relate to things through the ‘eyes of Hollywood’ such as the film Rooster Cogburn with John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn that was filmed here, in and around the Rogue Country. And that is fine…but to be in a place like this is beyond anything that Hollywood could ever provide.
Our journey into the heart and soul of the Rogue was a blessing, a gift, an opportunity. It was poetry defined by landscape and our willingness to go into it.
And a river. Oh, such a river! The stirrings and the gifts of the day will forever pluck strings, hidden in my heart, defined by the willingness to make one’s self vulnerable to something that is unknown.
Marial, the Rogue River Ranch and the trailhead to Blossom is 37 miles from Grave Creek. It is not recommended for travel in late autumn, winter and early spring. Make sure that you check road and weather conditions before attempting this route. Info can be found by calling one of these three 541 area code numbers: 479-3735, 618-2200, 247-3600.

Westside Road near Glacier National Park

October 11th, 2013 by Larry

This is an autumn road worth taking on the western edge of Glacier National Park. The road is accessed via Columbia Falls, heading north along the North Fork of Flathead River. It is paved and dirt, ending up on the Canadian border (no crossing here, though). Stop at the Polebridge Mercantile for lunch and one of their delicious pastries/breads. Fly fish the Flathead. Revel in the beauty of autumn meeting winter. I drove it last week. Any of these photographs are available for signed print purchase; inquire message to skiturn789@yahoo.com.