Monthly Archives: June 2014

King Harvest Has Surely Come

We left Lincoln City Oregon on Wednesday…..a couple days earlier than planned. We had done an over night stay in Portland, enjoyed it, and wanted to spend another night there. Wednesday night and enjoyed some of the best sushi I’ve ever had.

From there we went a little more “off plan”. After intending originally to go north on Interstate 5 to Seattle (boring) we grabbed the chance to see an area we had never experienced and plotted a course that would take us into western Washington State. After leaving Portland Thursday we headed back toward the coast. Lunch found us soaking up the panoramic view of Astoria from across the mouth of the Columbia River at the Dismal Nitch Rest Area over a sandwich.  From there it was a night in Hoquaim/Aberdeen, Washington, followed by the winding drive on Highway 101 around and through the pristine Olympic Penninsula to Friday night in Port Angeles and our arrival here in Seattle yesterday.

That drive was amazing and it surprised in so many ways. There was very little population density. We didn’t see a billboard from Portland to Port Townsend. The forests were dense and still, feeling at times like their only movement was an imperceptable encroachment that threatened to swallow the edges the two lane ribbon of road. Traffic of other travelers on the route was light and rare…….with one exception. Logging trucks. They were an ongoing reminder of the ragged scar that would intermittently interrupt the absolute beauty of the area……clear cutting.

I had noticed the evidence of clear cutting in Oregon with swaths of hillsides where tall mature trees were missing in strips. In their place were typically new and obviously smaller, younger growth. Mere midgets compared to the bordering giants that stood yet untouched. Some swaths were still bare where new seed was yet to produce. This pattern seemed to worsen and appear more often in Washington, and especially around Aberdeen.

Clear cutting at first glance (literally) seems like a horrible way to extract lumber. There has to be a better way…..right? Like anything in The Corporate States of America there are of course well funded groups  that will “invest” in presenting not only the “cons” but the “pros” to what is a visually ugly practice. But are they objective? Not every one agrees. The cons of clear cutting are pretty obvious aesthetically but the less obvious issues can  be even more devastating. Habitat disruption, watershed contamination, destruction of fishing industry, and landslides can all be exascerbated. But while the lumber industry is thirsting for more and more profit the Department of Natural Resources that is charged to regulate the long term balance is pressured to do little of that. The agency is  crippled by a lack of funding to execute any regulation at all. Within this environment in Washington State it costs only $150 to file for a permit to clear cut any land, and current law establishes that if the DNR doesn’t complete a review on that application in 30 days it is automatically approved. Obviously unregulated clear cutting is profitable and legislation has made it more attainable, but certainly not safe or sustainable. Does a time come when the resource and profits have been extracted and the balance is lost. If so where is the tipping point and when does it come?

As always there is another side to the coin. There is a need to harvest trees for a lumber industry that provides not only a product in demand but jobs and income for local economies and the people of the communities that industry built. The adjoined cities of Aberdeen and Hoquaim are a community in obvious hard times and an example of what happens when that industry fails and the jobs go away with no alternatives to replace them.

We saw abandoned buildings in Aberdeen, and Hoquaim, and many others in obvious decline. We also saw a number of road signs about dedication to reforestation. One gave these dates:

Last Harvest: 1985    Replanting: 1986   Next Harvest: 2046

It takes 3 generations for a clear cut area to recover. In 3 generations what will the status of Aberdeen and Hoquaim be and will it’s prosperity or population see any growth? I don’t know the answers. I do know that it was for the most part a beautiful and unexpected leg of the trip. it also gave a lot more to think about than I had planned.



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Traveling Light. Detach and Embrace.

We will be leaving Lincoln City, Oregon the day after tomorrow and we’ll have been here two weeks. We left behind our rental winter home on the coast of Baja Mexico on May15th.  This has been the first place since then where we’ve settled in for more than 6 days. On the first day here we unloaded from the Blazer only what we take out when we stop for a night in a hotel on the road. That means our carry on bags with a couple changes of casual clothes with exercise dvds and toiletry kits, one small bag and one backpack holding valuables and electronics, litter box, the cats and their food pack…….that’s it.

Over the day or two after I pulled out the rest of our belongings from the vehicle that is our rolling home. That was mine and Traci’s duffle bags (1 each) with other clothes, a small box of kitchen supplies with canned and dry foods (and coffee…the one item we still buy in enough bulk to warrant a stop at Costco) and a small bag with laundry supplies. With that, the Blazer was pretty much empty and it was a reminder of how light we travel.

There was a time when we first contemplated this lifestyle (from a conventionally stocked 2 person 2 car home) that we wondered “how could we live without all of our stuff?”. Eventually it became “what do we DO with all this stuff?”. We sold or donated most of our possessions (including a car, all furniture, etc.). Admittedly there is still a storage space in the suburbs of Chicago with our padlock on it that houses a couple flat screens, clothes, a stereo, kitchen items, bedding, and I don’t know what else. We don’t really miss any of it. It’s just stuff.

Being detached from their “things” is a very unsettling idea for most people. It’s too easy in the current culture to attach your emotions and even your own sense of self to what you do and what you have. In fact that’s the norm. But none of that is who you are.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and someday we will probably want a home base again where we hunker down for a part of any given year and rent that home out for the majority of the time. Then we can lose the storage space. Until then we are loving the freedom of roaming, the sights we see, and the experiences it allows……detached from all but the most basic of our “stuff”.

On detachment, Ali Ibn Abi Talib said “detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you”. Centuries later Albert Camus famously said ” And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world” Detached from a house of possessions and present where we are in the world, we look forward to Wednesday morning. We’ll load everything (and everybody) in the Blazer and in 5 minutes time we’ll head north, ready to embrace the wonders that lie around the next corner.



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John Muir (as always) Was Right

“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.” – John Muir


Of course Muir also famously reveled in the grandeur of the towering Redwoods, just like we did last week. But he’s right that there is something uniquely restful and tranquil about the green deep woods.

Here in coastal Oregon that’s exactly what we are surrounded by. In California the woods were beautiful but the creek beds were stone and flowed with only dust. The trees we walk amongst on our hikes here are draped in moss and the forest floor is all thick with grass and heavy with ferns. It’s almost like the bayou with out the gators or the heat, but instead berries and intermittent fog and mist.

We are staying in Lincoln City, OR and since we left the Baja Mexico Coast May 15th it’s our first stop of more than a week in the same place. That too is restful. Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t leading a stressful life on the road. But it’s nice to be able to bring in from the Blazer more than just our overnight bag. For the cats, it’s great for them to have room to run in a 2 bed 2 bath rented house for a number of days without having to get loaded into their crates and bags and shuffled back to the car the next day to get another couple hundred miles covered. Our traveling pace, like most things in life, are best experienced with balance.

The town itself is a familiar wind of restaurants and shops, stores and businesses. It’s small enough though that giant strip malls and chains are mostly thankfully absent. Once you step outside of town the deep green woods are everywhere and inviting us for a restful stroll.  Think we’ll take one now. Thinking of you Mr. Muir.



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Best of the West?

On the 15th of May we crossed the border at the Tiajuana-San Ysidro port of entry in temps over 100% and San Diego County was on fire (literally…..with 9 wildfires all less than 10% contained). We saw drought scorched hills and brush (and what used to be grass) as we stayed consecutively in Ontario, Visalia and Dublin, CA. The bread basket of the Central Valley was more like burnt toast until we jogged west and over the ridge by Hayward to drop down into the Oakland Hills……greener but still looking like “pre-rainy season”, not post as the month of May should.

Guerneville was great, but as soon as we left for the northern half of the Central Valley it was more of what we had seen as we made our way to Redding CA and Grant’s Pass Oregon. At last today as we jogged northwest towards the lower Oregon Coast we found ourselves amongst cool, lush, misty green. Every travel day up until now we had to go through drive thrus for lunch and take turns going to the bathrooms in gas stations and restaurants. Why? To insure the cats were staying cool in the running Blazer with the A.C blasting to avoid feline heatstroke before we got to that night’s destination. At last today we got to have a relaxing lunch here: safe in the Knowledge that they were napping in a shaded and locked but quiet Blazer on an overcast 63 degree day with fresh cool air wafting through cracked windows.

Once we reached the coast it was every bit as rugged and beautiful as any shore in California. The difference was here was (there’s that word again) lush……and green, not brown. The steep hillsides looked like they were wrapped in an abstract shag carpet of thick wide pine tree tops packed and enmeshed. Mist was in the air and spray came off the crashing tide in waves……and it felt great.

This afternoon we arrived in Newport, OR,  happy to pop the hotel room window open and leave the A.C. off. A cold beer after today’s drive will taste great, but something heartier than we’ve been having. Maybe a Dead Guy Ale here:

I’ll have one for you Kelly Tighe!

Tomorrow we arrive at a house we are renting in Lincoln City and we’ll stay put there a couple weeks to relax, enjoy the ocean, and let the cats take a travel break.

More to come,


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