where’s Waldo?


ute 022Otherwise christened ‘the adventure trailer’ at a Hoover Dam checkpoint by the DHS agent who directed me aside, more to check it out than suspecting I might have something in it which would threaten the security of the homeland; Waldo has been in tow since 2001. On the occasion of it’s renovation I’ve backtracked along the trail to see where he’s been…

DSCN3777From humble parentage as a simple enclosed cargo trailer on Beaver Island, Michigan (and before my days with a digital camera), Waldo wound up in New Mexico. One of the first customizations was a painstakingly crafted cherry and Baltic birch side hatch which quickly peeled apart in the constant bright dry climate of the Southwest. At some point during an adobe house restoration adventure I even tried to sell it, but by now it had become to strange for the woodhaulers in the neighborhood to appreciate. The sliding side window is from the Emerald Isle, a commercial ferry on Lake Michigan that had to have solid windows installed on the forward passenger cabin, these sliders leaked like busted fire hydrants in rough weather. Being a lowly deckhand but also the ships carpenter I was given one of the old windows which I had a fine use for as I began to plot my escape from the gales of November and general gloom of Michigan winters.


colorado 2007 063A much to early trout fishing expedition to the San Juan Mts. of southwest Colorado was occasion to appreciate snug quarters while waiting for the trout to thaw out of their winter snowbanks; likewise a late spring snowstorm in Utah was reason to sidle up against a boulder and enjoy shelter from a raw wind.

ute's cabin 006The badly weathered wood hatch replaced with a crude box of pine and plywood, the trailer had now become my home. Working seasonally for the US Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and trail crew foreman; I lived in it during the summer months at various duty stations in New Mexico and California and spent one winter in the southern Rio Grande Valley, hopping from state park to state park every 21 days as per snowbird rules and regulations.

home 001A steel-frame tarp-covered storage shed was modified and attached to the trailer, and in this I spent my first two winters on the central Oregon coast. A whole lot o’ shakin’ goin’ on during some of the winter storms, the ‘tent’ had to be roped to the little picnic table inside to keep from being blown away.

waldo 029Taking advantage of a long stretch of dry and sunny weather this past month, I’ve nearly completed a significant renovation. Waldo no longer has the funky red, white and black attire we’re accustomed to and is now a coordinated grey to better blend in with the alders and coming somber days of life on the Pacific coast.

waldo 020The best side hatch yet! Sliding window, stainless steel hinges and everything! A few more finishing touches and it’s ready to hit the road. Gotta look sharp, there’s some tough competition out there on the highways…

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topknot 041Not always apparent at first glance, but yes, I’m a treehugger. Axes, saws, splitting mauls, chisels and the permanence of wood dust in home, vehicle and clothing belie my reverence for trees, shrubs and all woody materials. It’s anyone’s guess which was the first tool our distant ancestors picked up, a stick or a stone, but as it was possibly edible, I’ll go with the stick.

topknot 010In the side yard of a friends place a 70 foot tall Port Orford Cedar had succumbed to a root fungus that is spreading throughout the coastal mountains of California and Oregon, killing many of this specie. Having now become a potential hazard to structures and property, I agreed to take it down. With no clear avenue to drop intact it was necessary to climb, limb, top and cut the trunk section by section till it was safely on the ground. In the following shot my friend dutifully clears below as I cut my way upward, leaving a foot or so of branch still attached to the trunk for hand and footholds. What might first appear to be the trunk sweeping down is actually a branch; there were only so many details I could focus on in the moment and odd perspectives in the viewfinder were way down the totem pole.



topknot 036A final crucial cut, and the top 20 feet begins it’s fall into the target patch of blackberry bramble below.

topknot 037Bullseye… section by section I now worked my way back down, removing 2 to 3 feet at a time.

topknot 045Able to drop the last 14 feet of trunk in one piece, yesterday I finished up work on the project. By specially sharpening a chainsaw it is possible to rip tree trunks lengthwise and  from that last section several broad planks roughly 2 to 3 inches thick were produced, along with numerous bags of highly aromatic shavings and a months worth of gourmet kindling.

I’d like to thank Tony and Carson; two tree toppers working on a Marbled Murrelet habitat improvement project for the U.S.Forest Service who put me to work marking trees for them my first winter here in the coastal mountains of Oregon. Watching as they scampered up 100 and 150 foot giants to create nesting sites for the endangered and threatened murrelets gave me some ideas…



Sunday is my day off in town… groceries, laundry, sundry hardware parts for the kayak project and a fast food fix. These two birds pulled in next to me as I ate, hopping for a french fry.

crows 026Continuing on to the laundromat, I found affixed to the bulletin board this sign demonstrating the diverse meaning of the term ‘heat’.

crows 011The wave of new marijuana rules and regulations wafting across the Pacific Northwest has hopeful merchants setting up shop in otherwise vacant properties. Ironically this storefront used to sell polished stones. The red-rimmed eyes and the skewed smile of the doormat seemed to imply it’s not “just looking”… If you need meds you’ll have to come back another time, if you’re just looking to get high use the ladder.

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this might work…


A kayak customization project has filled the yurt with boat bits, parts and pieces.

kayak1 002Many years and many keels gone downstream, this one is becoming a functional piece of art. Here the working deck is being assembled, Russian birch plywood affixed to the cockpit rails gives me a solid surface to keep gear on and offer a bit of shade for the knees.

kayak1 006Gnats got into the act of varnish, forming a brief constellation before I ended up taking the odorous process inside.

???????????????????????????????After being inside either hung from the rafters or on the work table, the ‘yacht’ is now outside, nearing completion and it’s first voyage. A ball and clamp camera mount is attached to the short mast step, a 6″ heavy aluminum tube for hoisting a sail rig or fishing rod. The SLR would rarely to be used, the waterproof Canon point and shoot will likely be the common camera.

afternoon nap


A nestling Swainson’s Thrush snoozes in a finely woven bowl of moss secured with blackberries, wire fence and baling twine.

lbbs 004 lbbs 003In the zeal of summertime fence clearing the previously well concealed nest was exposed before realizing it and the three small brown-spotted pale blue eggs contained was there.

Declared off limits till the fledglings fly, I visited this corner of the orchard with the telephoto and caught them napping. All three eggs hatched, the other two are swaddled in there somewhere.

So far so good…

In Memorium



Near Prescott, Arizona, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives battling a wildfire on June 30th, 2013. Hotshot crews are elite initial attack forces; sent in to critical areas of a wildfire, often hiking several miles in steep mountainous terrain just to get to the fire. Hard work at best, hazardous conditions and erratic fire behaviors only add to the arduous tasks these young men and women face.Teamwork, safety and a clear knowledge of duties and responsibilities are core elements of becoming  a hotshot.


An investigation conducted into the cause of the loss of all but a single member of the standard 20 man crew revealed poor decisions at the upper levels of the Incident Management Team; distracted as they were by moving the Incident Command Post while firefighters were on the line.

At the age of 50 I joined an emergency wildland firefighting crew in New Mexico and subsequently spent 6 years being called up to fight fire across the west. Primarily working on Type 2 crews, I saw little initial attack. Our crew mostly secured firelines put in by the Hotshots; and worked hard to gain experience and skills to someday become a Hotshot.

At my age a long term career as a firefighter was unrealistic, but the high point of this time was being allowed to join the Mt.Taylor Hotshots as a fill-in for a 14 day assignment to Arizona and northern California. I survived well enough mostly due to the wisdom of the Crew Boss who assigned me duty as fire lookout; more in line with my physical capabilities and my general nature of being a particularly observant person.


The lone survivor of the 20 man Granite Mountain Hotshot crew had been assigned duty as lookout, then subsequently directed to move one of the crew vehicles, removing him from the lookout’s position. This was perhaps the final error in the series of misdirections by overhead command that resulted in the catastrophic loss of life. Knowing firefighters as I do, this man will carry the burden of being that sole survivor, and know what could have been different. Along with the families, wives and children of the fallen firefighters, it is this man who is to be considered and prayed for. He is still alive.


cheep entertainment


21 days old, the chicks are turning into teenagers; curiosity and a few glimmers of personality.

???????????????????????????????Free ranging within the confines of their little coop, the brooding enclosure is gone and they can see a bit of the world beyond.

???????????????????????????????Wing feathers replace fuzzy little stubs, the beak lengthens into a scimitar arc.

???????????????????????????????With the coloration and patterning of a young peregrine falcon, I’m keeping an eye on this one for any chicken hawk tendencies…

???????????????????????????????“I gotta get outa’ heah…”






hightide 120The same seaweed here borne on a rib bone of black basalt, plastered tight into every crevice and pocket, streaming down it’s face.

hightide 127 What do we see in patterns? What is it we want to see in patterns? What patterns do we  notice, look closer at and plug into, thus becoming the pattern. The plant splashes every summer upon the ocean’s bath tub ring; rimming the stone basin of it’s cradle, arriving early and now leaving so soon.

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Waves and wind are mild, the sun at it’s zenith in the north. Here be a giant of earth, festooned with the Goddesses verdant tress, a favored son for his position of moment.

hightide 126Ascension to her throne of high achievement was by the fortune of a mild winter’s pass along her kingdom’s shore. The countenance of creation seeking the wind and sun; homage to the winged creatures above whose white blessings nurture and sustain, assuming their image and smelling the same. Once slender bubbly lime light threads of glory are now transformed into airy feathers that fluff the soft wind.

Low at her feet lies a last cradle of life for the season, compact and conserving, in service and autonomous at the same time.

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hightide 172A pair of tiny snails in their catch-pocket ark of stone. An agate’s epochal skin grins with the knowledge of far vaster stretches of time, welcoming the polish and beauty of being weathered away to sand, rejoining its brethren mineral elements in a timeless cycle.

Water is the universal solvent, it can in time dissolve anything. The Earth sloshes it’s life blood around in the great catch pockets of oceans, air and sun play over the seas and lift it over rocks, mountains and plains. All life catches water to it’s ability… drinks it, swims in it, grows with it. To be mindful of waters cycle on the planet is a task looming over the human race like a perfect storm. There are seasons we as humans can comprehend, seasons incomprehensibly greater in scope we can’t. Patterns are mirrors large and small, echoing the cosmic dance of particles and pulsars, green seaweed and galaxies.





A shallow pool filled with fresh water from rain and springs in the bluffs above is nowadays rimmed with sea moss, a fleeting summer phenomenon along the upper tidal zones of the Pacific Northwest.

hightide 221Not actually a moss, this is the closest I could get to actual identification:  “Chlorophyta (Green Algae) Previous names: Conferva coalita, Spongomorpha coalita, Codiolum petrocelidis”
“Similar species: There are many similar species that are only distinguishable with a microscope, including Acrosiphonia coalita and Acrosiphonia spinescens.”

I’ll just go with ‘sea moss’.

hightide 240Anchored to the bedrock bottom tiny bladders hold delicate fronds suspended in the sun-warmed water of the catch pool, in a side grotto surreal forms are mirrored in the pool’s surface. Tiny air bubbles held underneath by surface tension are now being joined by micro bits of plant debris stirred by the movement of hand and camera in the near stagnant pool.

???????????????????????????????Only in the first few movements can I get photos clear of the drifting detritus. Embracing the inevitable I decided to have some fun with it…

hightide 253Playing with contrast and color, an interesting cosmos emerges. Further travel encountered even stranger sights.

hightide 265

The same photo inverted…

hightide 265

… the way back


Arriving at the destination of a rarely visited cove, even on a low tide; I lingered upon a lava finger to wait out the highest reach of surf and visit with the locals before the return trek.

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A brave bloom on miniaturized stem nestles with sparse grass and hardy moss in a barely sheltered pocket.

Back down on the sand; a marooned clam gasps for moisture in a rain pocked flat the sea only reaches on the highest tides.

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hightide 080Clambering over another rocky point and a quick dash ahead of an incoming wave…

…it was close.

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Ah, here we are…

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Prepare to go below.

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thar be whales


In a happy bit of synchronicity I pulled into the beach access parking lot at the same time a pair of Grey Whales were feeding about a quarter mile offshore. They appeared to be in a pattern of alternately sounding, working towards shore then making a dogleg into the prevailing north current for a stretch before heading back out to sea to repeat the cycle. I felt fortunate to watch them for about 20 minutes before properly parking and putting on the backpack to begin a beach hike at high tide.

whales 013

Navigating the rocky headlands on a high tide quickly focuses attention to a closer range.

hightide 195A day off with sunshine is rare enough and I felt desire to switch from a habit of hiking beaches on the low tides. Mind the steps…

hightide 159