Random Observations

Redwood National Park

Sometimes it seems like California has it too good when it comes to nature. Great beaches. Inspiring mountaintops. Epic scenery. And the biggest tress on the planet.

Redwood National Park is crowded with such monsters. The forest here feels like a primeval temple, a devotion of sorts to ancient gods. Or, for a less pious perspective, the redwoods here are simply beyond your imagination. You’ve never seen a tree this tall.

Fortunately for us modern humans, we still have an opportunity to visit these old giants. With the gold rush of the 1850s came an unsustainable need for lumber. In effect, large tracts of old-growth redwood forest were axed. According to the National Park Service, “logging had consumed nearly 90 percent of all the original redwoods by the 1960s.”

Alarmed environmental activists eventually intervened, pushing for responsible logging practices and preservation. Their voices were heard, but large-scale logging continued in the area until Congress created Redwood National Park in 1968.

Here are a few photos from our recent redwoods camping trip.

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All it needs is a doormat.

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A maximum tree hugging effort for scale purposes.

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Safety first, says the elk.

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Claw marks left behind by a critter with big claws.

For more big tree action, read my post on sequoias.

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Getting Old: Wise, or Missing Out on the Fun?

I think I’m getting old.

I can hear your sarcasm loud and clear already. Eric, that’s so amazing, you’re thinking. Weird how time marches on and people age. Yeah, yeah, whatever.

And before you older folks verbally accost me for the misuse of what appears to be my youth, hear me out.

The other day I was on wind hold at a Kirkwood lodge with a huge group of meetup.com pals. Ages varied, from those in their early ’20s to those of us not in our early ’20s.

The lifts weren’t spinning, nor were they going to anytime soon. Snow was blowing sideways at a rate of an inch per hour. Wisdom and experience said we weren’t going anywhere. So I joined two new friends, both of them grey in the goatee, for a few rounds of rummy.

Eventually the youngsters grew restless and decided to hike a ways uphill to take a few hard-earned powder turns. Several of them asked us older gentlemen if we’d like to join in on the fun. We took one incredulous look at each other and simultaneously said “you kids go on.”

That they did. I thought nothing of it at first, as my main priority was to destroy my rummy opponents. Later, when the the kiddies returned to the lodge exhausted, covered in snow, and jubilant, I had a moment of regret.

Maybe I should’ve went for a hike. A young Eric would not play cards waiting for the storm to pass. A young Eric would’ve went for a hike.

Sad story, right? Those of you who are many years my senior can now verbally accost me.

My point, though, is that maybe as we age, we develop a “been there, done that” mentality. We miss out on more opportunities to have fun.

Or maybe we’re a smarter bunch. How is a grueling hike uphill in waist deep powder considered fun, anyway?

We Get So Jaded: Why You Should Always Appreciate Where You’re From

Why is it we’re always trying to get somewhere we’re not?

I was riding a ski lift at Heavenly the other day with a friendly couple, both Tahoe natives. The woman told me about a Brazilian man they met on a lift who made a spontaneous decision to cut his business trip short to experience Tahoe.

“He was like a kid on Christmas,” she said. “He couldn’t believe how beautiful Tahoe was. Big smile, eyes lighting up like he was opening presents or something. We get so jaded living here. Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are.”

We get so jaded.

I’ve met so many people over the years who live somewhere beautiful and “can’t wait to get outta here.” I get it. You’re from there. You want to expand your horizons.

Stop to smell the roses for a second, though. Take a deep breath. Look around you.

If you live somewhere beautiful, be grateful every single day. If millions of people vacation where you live, nobody wants to hear about your eagerness to leave.

Even if you don’t live somewhere as stunning as Lake Tahoe, I’m sure you can find beauty in the place.

So go on, experience the world. Take it all in. But be “like a kid on Christmas” when you get home.

Here’s my jam of the day to help you appreciate home even more:

Into The Mind – Official Teaser

One of my favorite topics, on film. Sweet. The only bummer here is having to wait a year to see the full-length.

“Blur the lines between dream state and reality, as you perceive the world through the minds of many. Into the Mind contemplates the experiences passed between mentors and peers to paint a philosophical portrait of human kind. What drives us to overcome challenge? How do we justify risk? What forces are at the core of a mountain addiction? Unique athlete segments over a multitude of mountain sport genres depict the connectivity of Earth, and window into never seen before moments. Explore how we begin our perception of self, construct the foundations of confidence, and are ultimately led up the path of self-actualization.”

A Slight Obession With My Man Cave

I think I might have a problem. I spend a lot of time in my garage now. Too much time, perhaps. Guess where I’m writing this post. Yep.

Let me explain. My man cave (and I hesitate to use the term because of its ridiculous popularity lately, but I have no idea how else to describe it) is a constant work in progress. I have done a whole lot of manual labor setting this space up. You have no idea how difficult it is to prevent your wife from storing all her unwanted crap in your garage.

It’s rather comfy out here, actually. I have a dirty black rug I rescued from a neighbor who abandoned it when he moved out. My dog loves it. Guess where he is right now. Yep.

I have a cheap lamp from Target—my wife’s only piece of unwanted crap permitted in my cave—and this burly clamp lamp attached to the rafters. The lighting in here is very soothing.

There is plenty of seating. Well, 3 chairs and a cooler. One of the chairs even has a footrest. Fancy, right?

And I have plenty of decorations out here. Maps, pictures of nature doing nature things, a collection of old press passes and backstage passes, bulk coffee bag (whatever, it’s cool), dart board, mullet wig, and some fish decoration we bought on clearance. I have one of those little iPod charger/radio thingys, too.

I enjoy being around my outdoor gear. Call me weird, but I like the idea of hanging out in a gear shop/living room which just so happens to be my garage.

I burn incense and smoke cigars out here, something I’m definitely not allowed to do in the house. I fart when I want. Something I’m highly discouraged from doing in the house.

Anyway, back to the problem. Me spending too much time out here. So I have one question for the dudes and one question for the ladies.

Dudes, how much time do you spend on average per week in your cave?

Ladies, would you suspect your husband or boyfriend had a problem if he started eating dinner out in the garage?

Adventure: How Far Is Too Far?

You love a new adventure. But would you jump out of a helium balloon from high up in the stratosphere?

That is exactly what daredevil Felix Baumgartner hopes to accomplish today if the weather would just cooperate. Seems a little risky, right?

While “Fearless Felix” is no stranger to big jumps, his mission does beg an important question: When it comes to the pursuit of adventure, how far is too far? Is there a limit to what  you will attempt?

Consider the details that go into jumping out of what basically amounts to one of those cheap rice paper floor lanterns your wife always seems to bring home from Target:

“Supported by a team of experts, Felix Baumgartner will undertake a stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet / 36,576 meters and make a record-breaking freefall jump in the attempt to become the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall (an estimated 690 miles / 1,110 kilometers per hour), while delivering valuable data for medical and scientific advancement.”

A stratospheric balloon flight to more than 120,000 feet! A 690 mph freefall! Certainly no small feat.

Also, consider the following conditions which could easily take Felix’s life:

“…any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurized suit. A rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 21 Celsius below zero. It could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as ‘boiling blood.’ He could also spin out of control, causing other risky problems.

To answer the question how far is too far, well, that is entirely up to you. People may find you a tad insane if you willingly choose to hurl yourself out of a helium balloon wearing a space suit.

And the thought of “boiling blood” probably prevents most of us from going forward. But you know what? If you want to go bigger than anybody has ever gone before, do it. Who cares what the “normal,” “sane” people say.

Just think of the stories “Fearless Felix” will tell.

There is one very important catch, though: Always consider your safety and your skill level. Always!

Watch the whole thing live in the video below. And don’t worry. Organizers said “there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.” Oh boy. Good luck up there, Felix.

Where’s the Weirdest Place You’ve Ever Stayed?

My answer to that question: The Kings Canyon Lodge.

You can say a lot about the Kings Canyon Lodge—rustic, basic, pleasant, old fashioned, kitschy—all of which would be true. Perhaps the most accurate description of the Kings Canyon Lodge is this: plain ol’ weird.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with weird.  My wife and I regularly seek it out when we’re on the road.  But this place…man, this place is on a different level of weird.

I mean no disrespect to the family who owns the lodge.  They seem like nice people. Really, they do.

We stormed into the lodge wet and cold after a weekend in the rain/snow. Things seemed a tad off from the get-go, but we’re easy-going folks. We shot a few rounds of pool with busted sticks, drank cheap beer, listened to fellow traveler’s tales. We watched on as a minor dispute erupted over a kitchen bill. A creepy picture of George W. Bush stood guard over the bar.

Eventually we retired for the evening, where we were serenaded by the proprietors in the adjoining room singing church hymns long into the night.

The whole experience was 100% weird. Would we go back? I see no reason why not.

So tell me, my fellow adventurous traveler, where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever stayed?

What It Takes to Survive a Tedious Slog

You have 5 miles left. All uphill. Every corner you turn you’re sure is your last. The end must be near. You have to be getting close. Just a few more switchbacks.

Your legs are shot. Your knees feel like somebody bashed them with a baseball bat. Your ankles aren’t any better.

You hate life.

You’re over the scenery. It was nice and awe-inspiring and blah blah blah 16 miles ago at the start. Now it’s just annoying. And the heat. Don’t even mention the heat. You haven’t been this over-heated since you pulled an all-night dance party at your buddy’s wedding.

You top out to a point you’re absolutely sure is your final destination, and guess what? You still have 4 miles left. Mama Nature thinks you’re an idiot.

How will you ever survive this tedious slog?

I’ve got a few words for you.

Bacon. Beer. Pizza.

Those 3 words will get you through anything. If you can imagine a beautiful bounty of bacon, beer and pizza at the end of your long, dusty, and irritating trail, you’re golden.
You will survive your tedious slog. I personally guarantee it.

Now I understand bacon, beer and pizza may not be available the moment you get off the trail. This is perfectly acceptable. Clean up a little, put deodorant on (or don’t, up to you), head to the nearest town. Somebody, somewhere, is serving bacon, beer and pizza.

BBP is magical inspiration, and not just for hikers. I’ve stood at the end of marathon routes and listened to lean, anorexic runners scream at nobody in particular “where’s my beer and pizza!?” They forgot about the bacon, but you get the point.

Try it next time you get hoodwinked into spending multiple days out in the wilderness, hiking over extremely difficult terrain.

There is a (bacon, beer and pizza) light at the end of the tunnel.

Mmmm…Bacon. Beer. Pizza.

One important tip, though: Don’t start dreaming about BBP right from the get-go. You’ll be a blubbering lunatic halfway through. This I can also guarantee.

Tempting Fear: Inside The Mind of an Extreme Skier

I could discuss the topic of extreme sports psychology at length (for more on that, check out my post “Thrill seeking: crazy, or a transcendental pursuit?”).

So I’m always excited when I hear about movies like “Tempting Fear.” Swedish extreme skier and alpinist Andreas Fransson is the main subject of the movie. And while this isn’t an extreme sports psychology film project per se, viewers are offered an inside look into the mind of an athlete who routinely risks his life for big adventure payoffs.

“Only by defying society’s expectations can you find the true uncertainty that defines adventure.” — Andreas Fransson

I’ll let the filmmakers sum it up.

“What makes Andreas most intriguing are his thoughtful musings on meaning from a life on the edge—a willingness to enter mental spaces that few have ever experienced.

“In Tempting Fear, Sweden’s soft-spoken Adventurer of the Year explores a place in which fear overwhelms all emotions, playing both friend and enemy in a pas de deux where death lies just one misstep away.”

Tempting Fear is coming to a Mountain Film Festival near you in October.

8 Travel-Related Jams for the Weekend

I’ve been inadvertently jamming to a few travel-related songs this week. Clearly it’s a sign to pack my bags and hit the long, dusty road. A wise traveler can’t go on ignoring such obvious signs. The universe works in mysterious ways, as you are well aware.

Thing is, most of these songs aren’t necessarily about traveling. They just mention mileage, or Greyhound buses, or being a long way from home, or what have you. I said wise traveler, which we all know I am not.

Still, it’s a sign, damn it!

I do have one travel-related question for you. Which headphones do you use when you’re on the road? Just curious. Me? Sony Noise Canceling MDR-NC7. They’re foldable. And they come with a sweet pouch.

Anyway, enjoy the tunes. Happy Friday. And maybe even Happy Travels.

“Five Thousand Miles,” Zigitros

“Lonesome, On’ry, and Mean,” Waylon Jennings

“Long Way Home,” Old Friend Band

“Jamaica,” Theme Park

“Venice,” The Lighthouse and The Whaler

“East,” Last Japan

“Shades of Funk,” Kill Paris

And finally…

“San Pedro,” Mogwai