Tag Archives: olympics

Hazy Days on the Duckabush River

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Puget Sound headed towards Bainbridge Island

It started with a slate grey sky. The glass and steel of the city matte under a thick smear of wet clouds, pinpricks of light glistening on the concrete. I needed to get out – the architecture was hemming me in, constricting my breath, making the clouds seem even lower. The forecast for the weekend – 100% chance of precipitation at all hours. Welcome to March in the Northwest.

I’ve been battling a sense of aimlessness coming back from the trail. I often find myself drifting through interstitial spaces with a blank stare – a dissociated look, distracted by speed and movement, looking for some distant horizon but surprised instead only seeing dumpsters, closed windows and construction barriers in excruciating detail.

After thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2013 I immediately started working on a gallery show with New Mystics and had a performance with Saint Genet scheduled for the summer. Returning to the comforts of the known was satisfying – the measured productivity of work, the intellectual engagement of art making, the support of the crew. Even if Harpo and I didn’t have a permanent address we still had each other, even after spending the previous weeks battling ice storms in Georgia.

It’s unnerving, returning again.

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The Duckabush River running high through the Brothers Wilderness, Olympic National Forest in Washington’s Olympic peninsula.

Coming back from the PCT has been a familiar animal in a different skin. After so many peregrinations the connection between my body and the body politic seemed unravelled, tenuous. Feeling alien in a hostile landscape, I find myself trying to conjure images of plenitude that somehow always seem two dimensional and unfulfilling, grasping at the tattered ends of some familiar memory faded by sun and worn thin by absence.

The easy, transportable sense of home that comes from pitching a tarp wherever you end up is harder to attain in the city. The sense of purpose inherent in the continual forward motion of thru hiking make feeling at home easy on trail. A community is simply manifest because a sense of commonality is clear – we’re all here in the woods together, mostly doing the same thing – escaping the city.

The city – a multifaceted and fractured beast – rapidly transforms itself, always eating it’s own tail. It’s hard to hold on because of the rapidly shifting topography; every memory becomes unrooted and unreal as the architecture that housed it changes or disappears. People are all travelling on different vectors, subject to unknown or unknowable forces, riding strange waves towards disseperate futures. It can feel isolating, as if everything is moving away from an invisible center you’ve just accidentally arrived at.

The pressure of architecture, the continual compression of dense human consciousness, the alienation originating in feeling alone in a crowd provides a contrast to the expansive space of nature, where details are infinitely complex yet uncrowded, quiet yet never silent. Swallowed by that quiet, resting in the belly of the Earth, I feel secure again. My sense of discontinuity fades away as I’m soaked by the pouring rain, as I traverse icy streams with frozen toes, as my perception creeps closer to my reality. This kind of loneliness is satisfying…

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Trail magic deep in the cut – 3 full cans of Bud Lite, one empty MRE and a lexan spoon.

Storm Queen

Harpo and I decided a couple of days on the Washington coast would clear our minds and hearts as we finish one holiday and prepare for the next. We’ve been coming out to La Push for a few years now, always during the winter, and enjoying the solitude of the stormy beaches. This trip was no different – with incredible breakers driven by unprecedented heavy rain throughout the Northwest. The skies were leaden grey, occasionally sparkling shot thru with distant light, and weeping heavy mist. Perfect weather for vampires or PNW natives… the beaches were almost deserted, often allowing us to lay first tracks.

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Harpo testing out the neoprene socks at high tide

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Northwest School of Mystical Hikers vibe…

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All the sea stacks fading into an impossible horizon north of Rialto Beach

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The surf was heavy, the sea swollen after recent storms – the breakers were hitting the high tide mark hours after

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Northwest forests are always spooky in the half misty light – ghosts abound, the imagination runs ahead of the feet…

Bogachiel River Romp – also Waterproof Sox

Harpo and I first hiked the Bogachiel River trail when we were starting to train for the Appalachian Trail hike in 2013. It was as wet as we remembered. And although it’s hard to romp hip deep in icy water, we did our best. The trail was muddy, wet and due to recent storms there were numerous blowdowns – but it provided a welcome (if not wet) few¬†hours of hiking.


We got to test some new gear – NRS Hydroskin .5 neoprene socks. These actually worked great when paired with wool liners – tho to say they are ‘waterproof’ is a misnomer. Neoprene works by allowing the body to heat a small area of water close to the body – so like using a wetsuit, you’re wet but warm.

I tried the neoprene socks alone, wool socks alone, and the wool/neoprene combo. The wool/neoprene combo was definitely the warmest, allowing for a quick reheat every time our feet were drenched again. Both Harpo and I remarked we’de like try the neoprene socks if we hiked the AT again, especially towards the end of the season. I used lightweight DarnTough no show socks as liners the first day, and DarnTough hiker crew socks the second day – my only complaint is the wool socks retain too much water, causing the feet to feel super heavy. I’m excited to try the combo with thin REI wool liners, as well as experimenting with poly liners. These beat a bread bag for sure! Tho considering carrying the weight just for those times when your feet are wet all day is tough….

Old Bones

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Just south of Yellow Banks on the Pacific coast in the Olympic National Park Harpo and I came upon a series of vertebrae bleached and strewn along a mile stretch of beach, impossibly long ribs that protruded like tusks from the sea worn pebbles, and bits of bone mixed with human detritus the winter currents had washed upon the beach. The things together were sad and beautiful – the graveyard of bones and plastic buoys, dead tires and twisted rope, and dreams of the greatest beasts alive wandering somewhere far from this distant coast.