Why I write.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

It occurred to me on a cloudy Wednesday morning that I needed to escape. The kind of getaway akin to being so engrossed in a story I can’t help but cheat and flip to the end to find out what happens. It was essential I lose myself in another place so I could expel an escalating melancholic energy; the sort of malaise that occasionally takes hold when a project I’ve been working on finishes or another I’m excited about falls through. Continue Reading

Not Making Any Resolutions

Nope. Nada. Nothing. I hope to make mistakes (it means I’m trying). I intend to laugh, a lot and during awkward moments (it means I’m human). I aim to fail at every training program I start (it only motivates me more). I will not diet (it never works). And, I plan not to plan (I’m letting life surprise me).

That last one feels more resolution-y than the others do. But after plodding through one of the most challenging years of my life, scheduling every stinking moment to get myself back on plan, I resolve not to resolve. My 2015 intentions are non-intentions.

I suppose I could just say, “I’m over it,” especially if I utter it in that way people who are really are over it say “I’m over it.” Truth is, I’m not really done done, just over my year of planning, scheduling, and strategizing.

I intend to have fun from here on out. Fun with a capital ‘F.’ Everyday Fun. Cool Fun. Naughty Fun. Work Fun (yes, work fun). Adventurous Fun. Boring Fun. Four-letter-word Fun.

Okay, maybe I do have a few resolutions but I’m not writing them down in list format.

Latest plans?

Nalychevo Nature Park, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia Far EastFive years ago we were halfway through our ski expedition on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East. In fact, we were getting dumped at the 208th kilometer on Kamchatka’s only highway – in the middle of nowhere looking for two things: Good weather and skiable slopes. (Check out the October 2008 issue of Backcountry magazine for my piece about this portion of the trip.) We were hoping to be back in Kamchatka this summer but I’m not sure we are going to make it. We would like to return and have shelved plans for another summer.

Which leads me to: What next? I was at a party last night and someone asked me about our “latest plans to travel.” I gave my standard answer, “Not sure where to next, but somewhere soon.” It got me thinking about the next six months. Part of me misses the challenges of planning an expedition to parts unknown. Surfing the internet looking for others who may have been there or know someone who has. Sending emails to far flung places hoping to get a helpful response and make a new friend. But the other part of me is enjoying the prospect of not making any long range plans. Taking it week by week, 3-day getaway by 3 day getaway. Last year – we were in Ireland – and we missed out on excellent weekend trips with friends. And while Ireland was cool, it felt like the rest of the summer we were just trying to catch up.

As to our latest plans? I am looking forward to adventuring closer to home. A two-week kayak trip to Washington’s coast? A long backpack in the Wind River Range? A rock climbing road trip looking for stellar routes through the west? Not sure where, but I know whatever we do will be epic enough to get us through to the next big plan.

On the Run

Exploring Portland’s Forest Park

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Finding myself in Oregon’s Portland with a morning free of commitments, I decided to explore. My nearly new copy of One City’s Wilderness: Portland’s Forest Park was warped from earmarks I’d folded over the last couple of days. Each tag advocating a trail worthy of running.

I always turn to running when it comes to getting to know a place. Shoes are easy to pack and placing one foot in front of the other allows a slowed-down view of the scenery in front of me. Today’s exploration was no different: I was enticed by the description of a loop beginning where Leif Erikson Drive crosses Germantown Road in Forest Park’s north east end. The payoff: six miles of dirt and almost 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

The slow ascent of Leif Erikson gave me a chance to settle in; it’s wide track was busy with walkers and mountain bikers. But at mile three I took a hard right onto the Ridge Trail and found myself completely alone. It was here the forest canopy began to shed its moisture and a second later I recognized the steady plop of watery drops hitting the leaves. I welcomed the rain – it cooled my efforts as I climbed to Wildwood Trail. One hundred year old pines towered above as I cruised the slick dirt path in the direction I had come. My route traced the ridge-line, diving in and out of deeply, fissured canyons with such consistency I turned my focus forward and paused only to capture a few images with my iPhone.

На здоровье or Sláinte

Learning Russian is the one thing I covet most – every year I swear I am going to teach myself the language – and the single inspiration where I’ve experienced the most failure.

Sure, when I’m traveling in Russia I pick up a bit of the lingo. Although, I confess to having a tendency to mix in a little Spanish or French when stressed. I’ve answered ‘si’ rather than ‘dah’ when asked about citizenship by Russian customs agents and ‘oui’ when confirming to the babushka I wished to have two of her lovely meat-filled piroshki. It’s not that I am proficient at Spanish or French, it is that when anxious, my muddled brain reverts back to the two languages I studied in my teens.

I can say “сколько” (skol-kuh), Russian for ‘how much?,’ but am completely unprepared for any answer. As Russian words spill forth from a shopkeeper, I listen intently, stand in silence with no sense of what was said and still in dire need to know how much. After a moment, I’ll respond with gestures from a made-up sign language. A style of communication that requires the use of huge, overly expressive movements as if to say, “whoa, slow down, in English please.” I’m much better at voicing simple concepts that don’t require a response, like “Доброе утро” (dobraye utra – good morning) or ‘ Baltikas два пожалуйста’ (two Baltika-brand beers please).

And as I begin to plan a return to Kamchatka in the midst of getting ready for a quick jaunt to Ireland I’m worried that yet another tongue will further conspire against my ability to learn a single language well. In Ireland will I utter some confused expression like ‘Como atá vous?’ or ‘Kakh dee-lah’ (phonetic Russian for ‘how are you?’).

I’ll let you know how I do.

Malawi Bound

LeighAnneBWJordan Romero is at it again; this time with his mom, Leigh Anne Drake. The pair leave for Malawi, Africa in late June to build a school. “We’ll be digging trenches and making bricks by hand,” says Jordan; “resulting in a school where there wasn’t one before.” Leigh Anne and Jordan will be traveling with twenty-two other teens, ages 14 to 18, and adults, and will stay with Malawian families.

Malawi is among the poorest of African nations with the majority of its population residing in rural areas outside the capital city, Lilongwe. Education is a top priority for the Malawian government and they have signed an agreement with BuildOn, a U.S.-based program that empowers at-risk teens “to change their world and the world of others by building schools in some of the poorest countries on the planet.” Malawi promises to supply teachers and support for every facility built on its soil.

Leigh Anne, a long time educator, volunteers her time with Awakening Young Minds (AYM), a Los Angeles-based non-profit helping teens “find their passion and purpose.” AYM has partnered with BuildOn for this endeavor but Leigh Anne and Jordan must fund their travels by raising $7,000.00 before June 20, 2013. Make a donation and learn what $7,000 can do by clicking here.