PCH Tour: Oregon to Vancouver

Vancouver-Canada

Day 2 – I woke up at a rest stop 100 miles into Oregon. I only got 5hrs of sleep, but the car was uncomfortable and I had to be at the rental car return by 5:30pm. So I got moving north again. I stopped for a McD’s breakfast in Eugene, then next up was Portland.

Portland was a beautiful city of mountains, rivers and bridges. It reminded me of Pittsburgh back East. Just a little cleaner and more modern. Then as I crossed into Washington, a motorcycle cop flashed his lights at me and pulled me over. I didn’t pay attention to the speed drop and I was going 71 in a 60. He was a polite officer, but he still gave me my first ever speeding ticket. Thankfully he reduced the citation to only 5 over the limit. Still it was a blow to my budget and my track record. Oh well, life moves on.

As I approached Seattle, I got my first glimpse of Mount Rainier. It was massive, perched alone on the horizon. I felt like I was back in the time of the dinosaurs. It disappeared from view as I went into a deep valley, but when I approached downtown Seattle, it slowly grew on the horizon in my rear view mirror. Seattle was also beautiful to take in, a maze of water, mountains, skyscrapers and twisting highways. What did people do before GPS? I would have been absorbed into the concrete jungle, never to find my way out.

It was getting close to rush hour, but it didn’t take long to cross the Canadian border. Only after 10km or so did I hit a wall of traffic. Uh oh… Was I going to make it to the rental lot in time? It was almost a dead stop for 30 mins. A good time to practice letting go of control. I did the only thing I could. I waited. Eventually we got to the source of the problem. A 6 lane highway that condenses into a 2 lane road to go through a tiny tunnel. Once on the other side, the traffic moved again.

I don’t know architecture very well, but all of the high rise buildings in downtown Vancouver have a look unlike anything I’ve seen. The city is surrounded by water and mountains and I snapped this picture shortly after I dropped my car off and checked into the hostel. I crossed Burrard St. Bridge and looked back at a section of downtown as the sun was setting.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)


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PCH Tour: LA to Oregon

Sacramento-Mountains

Day 1: For me this trip is about learning to let go of control. There are no definite plans beyond a day or two out. My only goal is to make it back to LA in about 2 months. Beyond that, it’s an adventure that will lead me where it wants. It always amazes me how people suddenly become more friendly and open when you’re traveling. Something about being on the road puts you into a new state of mind. You’re detached from the ‘you’ that everyone back home knows. Maybe you move a little closer to your true self when you leave everything you know behind.

Yesterday I left LA in a rental car. All of my gear is packed and loaded. This photo is of a mountain range north of Sacramento, CA. It just sat there majestically, surrounded by endless fields. After taking this snapshot I continued through Reading and into Oregon for the night. I have to say, Northern California has to be one of the most beautiful places in the country. I can’t wait to go back and visit Mt. Shasta during the day.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Instagrams)


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Test Run – Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo Beach Sunset

In about 45 miles after 6 and 1/2 hours of riding my bicycle through the San Fernando Valley and down Malibu Canyon I finally arrived at my campsite in Leo Carrillo State Park. The website was vague and no one answered the office phone when I called before embarking on my journey, so I had no idea if there would be campsites available.

A pickup truck pulled up to the ranger booth before me, and the young ranger told the driver, “Sorry, all of our campsites are full tonight.” My heart dropped a bit. If I had to ride any further to set up camp I think I would have broke down. I had hope that there would be some of the hiker/biker spots still available. The truck pulled away and I inched forward. “Do you have anything for me,” I asked. “Yes we do,” he responded. I felt relief. I made it. I could set up camp, take a shower, refill my water and watch the sunset.

After getting my camp together I crossed the PCH and strolled down the rocky beach. The sun was setting and the temperature was warm, mixed with the cool salty breeze of the pacific. Kids played in the sand and teens jumped into the icy waves. I took in a deep breath. I did it. I made my first long distance ride with all of my gear. I snapped this shot of a lifeguard stand that overlooked the rocky beach. Then I headed back to camp and settled in for the night. The next day, I would have to ride back, and it would all be up hill. The challenge was just beginning.

(Repost of my 2014 Pacific Coast Tour Instagrams)


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On the Trail to Big Baldy

Big Baldy Trail Forrest

Recently I made a quick trip up to Sequoia National Park. It was my first time and it was an easy 3 hour drive up to the park’s entrance from Los Angeles. I was blown away by the size of the great Sequoia trees, their trunks wide enough to accommodate a two lane highway. The mountain trails were unlike anything I have every hiked – steep, secluded and full of cougar, bear and fire warnings. The warm smell of desiccated pine needles filled the air, bringing home the reality that my surroundings could spontaneously combust and trap me in a fiery maze.

I brought my Canon 7D, but I was lazy for most of the trip. I took plenty of photos with my iPhone 4S and posted Instagrams of the General Sherman Tree (the largest living thing on the planet), Moro Rock, and the surrounding mountains and forests. I just didn’t bring out the big gun until I summited Big Baldy. It was a 4.4 mile round trip with about a 650ft gain in elevation, topping out at 8,209ft. Not an overly tough hike, but I wanted something I could be sure to get in and out of before the sun began to go down.

Big Baldy Trail Mountains

I made it to the top of Big Baldy by mid to late afternoon. I finally pulled out my 7D with my new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. That’s when I shot the photo at the bottom of the page. It’s an image of the Great Western Divide, a tightly packed, impenetrable wall of rock that spanned the eastern horizon and separates part of Sequoia National Park from Kings Canyon National Park. You can even see the plume of a “small” forest fire burning on the far side of the mountain range, bringing home, once again, the dangers of the extreme drought.

I took some time to take in the view, have a snack, and shoot a bunch of photos from the summit. Then I packed up my bag and slung my camera over my solder. I really liked that the 24-70mm had a locking mechanism that kept the zoom from telescoping out as I hiked down Big Baldy. A little ways down, I snapped the middle shot (above), a rocky ridge that protruded out, adjacent to the Big Baldy trail.

The photo at the top of the page was taken only a short way down from the ridge photo. I saw the spot on the way up and snapped a couple pics with my phone, but I had to capture it with the 7D. The sun was in a great position, allowing for the long shadows of the trees to give the location a more enchanted feel. This hike was the first time I felt like nature could suck me up and make me disappear. All it would’ve taken was a wrong step or a hungry cougar. This shot captured that emotion for me.

On Top of Big Baldy

So I didn’t end up taking a ton of photos. I didn’t even give them a good look for over a month. But I’m really happy with these three. I cropped them all vertically a bit to give them a wider feel. I also desaturated all of the images with the black and white layer adjustment filter in Photoshop. I added the filter and then took down the opacity to around 50%, allowing the color to bleed through. For some reason, I really enjoy putting type over photos, so that’s why I made the titles. I used ITC Giovanni Std for the main titles and Helvetica Neue LT Std for the trail specs.

I hope to shoot more photos like these in the near future, next time with a little more purpose. I can’t wait to go back to Sequoia. There are so many hikes and climbs to explore. I really need to make it a 3 to 5 day stay. I bet there are some amazing starry night time-lapses waiting to be captured out there. Hopefully the government will get with it, because until the shutdown ends, none of us will be visiting a National Park. Sad times.

Make sure to click on the photos to get a full-size image. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.


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My First Skydive – Crossing Off The Bucket List

My first skydive

A lot of people proclaim that they would never jump out of a perfectly good airplane. For me, skydiving was something that I always wanted to try. I knew I would eventually get around to it. That mindset went on for years. Yeah, I’m going to skydive. One day. Why then, did I keep putting it off? It wasn’t fear, really, or money, it only costs about $200 for a tandem jump, not a huge cost to do something life-changing. I think it was simple inertia that held me back. If I wanted to skydive, I’d have to plan a day, find a place, and drive there. Sounds exhausting, right?

So, what got me unstuck? I happened to be shooting video for an adventure web series that I was attempting to create. This particular webisode was going to be about Bridge Day. It’s a B.A.S.E. Jumping event held on the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia. They close the bridge to traffic for one day a year and allow people to jump off (with a parachute, of course).

I was looking for people to interview, so I sent out a tweet with the hashtag #BridgeDay. Next thing I knew Ashley Mead (Skydive Chick) was messaging back. We met up and we had a great little interview about her recent foray into skydiving and her boyfriend’s participation in Bridge Day. After the interview, I mentioned how I always wanted to skydive. Ashley said that they jump close to where I lived and that I should come join them. I told her that sounded great and we exchanged info.

At first, I was going to put off the chance to go skydiving. Then I caught myself. This is my chance. Why am I putting this off? So, within a couple of days after Bridge Day, I decided to call Ashley. We scheduled a day when we could both meet at the drop zone. A couple of weeks later, I showed up and made my first skydive. It was a little scary, but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Our first parachute malfunctioned so Tod, my tandem instructor, had to pull the reserve. We landed safe, and we joked about how I got two free falls for the price of one. What a ride!

Now, what is on your bucket list that you’ve been putting off? The skydive took me about 5 minutes to plan an schedule. Don’t let inertia keep you from having experiences that change the way you look at the world. Decide today, toss out your excuses, and make a memory that will last a lifetime. Get unstuck.

For fun I’ve included the video from my first skydive. It’s pretty embarrassing, especially the amount of horns I throw, but it’s something I will never forget. I hope to do it again sometime. Maybe with you!


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