There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

21 January 2017

My first step into the Badlands

After an eternity on the long and empty roads of South Dakota, I finally made it to the entrance of The Badlands.

Windy and overcast, an ominous and dreadful feeling filled my bones. The signs to watch for rattlesnakes didn't help.

I could taste the spookiness on my tongue.
I wish I could tell you where I started to explore, but I can't. I was in the twilight zone, another dimension that seemed to mirror this world, yet a thin veil kept one trapped in this place.

Explore all you want, but you can never leave.
A makeshift ladder is before me, menacing, intimidating and unsteady. I quickly gauge my nerves vs. my resolve, then start to climb. Once I reach the top, I look back down and almost throw up, lose my footing and start to stumble back down. Somehow, I steady my gait and continue onward.

I swear I hear the laughing rattle of hidden serpents.
The desolate landscape plays music in the wind, flute chimes and piano keys softly churn out haunting melodies throughout the canyon walls.

It pulls me in deeper, this place called The Badlands.

18 January 2017

Tumalo Falls

The day was quickly fading, yet the call for one last exploration was stronger than the pain in my twitching leg muscles.

I find the route to Tumalo Falls, and head out in the late afternoon sun.
I get the last parking spot, yet the trailhead is void of people. Most are probably on the longer trek to Happy Valley, as you can see the Falls from the start of the trail, and it's only a 1/4 mile to the top of the waterfall.

After my day hiking along the Deschutes river, 1/4 mile is about all the distance my body can handle.
I reach the top just as the golden hour starts it's approach. The soft light creates a special feeling in the air, something that we all should get to know...
over and over again.

15 January 2017

along the Deschutes (part 2)

The road heading West was long, unassuming and empty. After a few miles of travel, I pull the car off to the side, strap on my pack, and walk into the wilderness.

I've no idea where the trail leads.
A couple of miles in, I hear the faint sound of rushing water, which I hope to be the mighty Deschutes river. I need the life force of this valley to be by my side on my walkabout.
The waters here go from narrow, rushing rapids at the bottom of a deep canyon gorge to a flooding, wide open plain.

I watch birds nest in the flooded plains, hold my imaginary son's hand on the canyon's edge.
At mile five or six I measure the amount of drinking water I have left, trying to gauge how far to continue before I must turn back.

My mind starts to play tricks on me out here in the open landscape.

I strap on protection from the unseen dangers that may be lurking around the next bend in the trail.
I find a perch high above the raging water below and get a bite to eat, calming the rampant paranoia that was overwhelming the conscious mind.

A paddle boarder slowly comes into view from behind a tree.

A dog with his owner are playing fetch with a stick.

A man on a mountain bike rides past me in ambiguity.
I watch the rushing water in slow motion, looking for salmon running upstream, or perhaps the glimpse of a greater truth in the water droplets as they dance in mid-air.

I see nothing, which perhaps is everything. I listen to that truth.

Can you hear it too?
The Deschutes river goes from a raving mad rush to a stillness that reflects everything. I come to the edge and look down, deep into the clear and picturesque landscape that is being reflected before me.
I realize that this here, this moment, is all I was wanting, searching for, hoping to find.

I feel a smile of contentment form across my tired and weary face....
and follow the Road home again.

12 January 2017

Oregon's Lava River Cave

Created almost 80,000 years ago, the lava tube started to form as the top layer was exposed to the cool air and began to solidify.

While the top crust hardens, the lava continued to flow like a river underneath, creating an almost one mile long exploratory tube beneath the Earth's surface along Oregon's Deschutes river.

Fast forward to the modern day and you find a sole explorer with a lantern in hand, ready to walk down into this dark and cold wonder.
As I descend the man made steps, my lantern burns brighter as the darkness swallows the daylight. I soon find myself in the total black of the Lava River cave.

You have no guide, only the occasional glimpses of another explorer's light ahead of you.

I carry on.
Slow is the only way to proceed down here, as the cave floor has sudden drops in the unstable rock. My eyes start to adjust to adjust to the darkness like a bat, my hands feel for the cave edges as I reach out for some comfort.

Luckily, my lantern burns brightly.
One mile down, and the cave tube is diminishing in circumference quickly, forcing me to crawl on hands and knees until I reach a sign stating to go no further due to instability.

The quiet stillness is unnerving and calming in equal amounts. I can hear tiny droplets of water falling down onto the cave tube floor, playing a maddening, repetitive sound.

drip. drip. drip.....

I'll never forget the feeling I had as the light from the cave entrance became visible once again.
It symbolizes that no matter how immersed in darkness one may be, if you carry onward with strong resolve, grit and determination, you will always find light at the end of any dark tunnel.

Imagine what lies beyond, waiting in the darkness as you listen to your own echoes.

09 January 2017

Chinese Acrobats

The Chinese have, for as long as I can remember, been at the top of the competition in sports such as gymnastics and swimming. Between their body type that seems built for such feats to their unwavering discipline and untiring work ethic, they are the one's to watch.

And so as the sun started to set, I arrived early to get a front row seat for the Lights of the World acrobatic show.
The music's rhythmic thumping lent to the excitement in the air. Once the show started, it was non stop thrills from beginning to end.
The show alone was worth the price of admission.