Blues Run the Game 

Views of the San Juan Islands from Mount Erie

 

Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence. -Wendell Berry

The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours in which we truly live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time. -Richard Jefferies

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I spent this summer playing around the San Juan Islands working as a kayak guide, where I successfully managed not to lose anyone at sea, although I did have to rescue capsized clients (twice!). During my months in Washington I started lead climbing, hiked many hikes, and entered a new decade. I can hardly believe the summer is really over, although it’s even harder to believe in less than a week I’ll be leaving my beloved west coast, bound for a new job with Absolute Adventure in Oman.

Guide training at Deception Pass

Hard to focus on climbing with this view

 

There were a few days this summer where I wasn’t sure I would make it to the end. My first couple weeks I was so sore from wrestling kayaks that I could barely get out of bed in the morning. My body managed to adjust right as work really started picking up, which often meant 13 hour days in the sun, repeating information on a loop. On my occasional days off it seemed important to explore the many nearby adventures Anacortes had to offer, and in the end all work and all play may have made Alyssa a dull girl just the same.

The Maiden of the Sea

Tree climbing with my coworkers

That being said, the nearly daily “pinch me” moments ultimately made any gripes I had worthwhile. Even just living in an actual house after so much moving around last year was a treat- simply being able to place my items into drawers and sleep in the same bed regularly felt luxurious. The San Juan Islands remain one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited, I felt as if I was walking around inside a moving postcard, constantly framing images in my mind.

Big boy leather star

Lil baby blood star

The underside of an ochre sea star

 

While I still don’t think I’ll ever voluntarily be an early riser, I quickly fell in love with my morning commute. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I drove through fog spread over the earth like cobwebs, watching as it danced across the lakes, beams of new sunlight gliding between imposing pines. Kayaking I constantly played a natural game of ‘Where’s Waldo,’ scanning the rocky coastline to spot purple ochre sea stars the size of my head nestled into cracks and crevices, while curious harbor seals followed stealthily behind my boat. At the end of the day, when cotton candy skies mirrorred the sea, wind would paint the water as shadowed islands reposed in the distance, and any stress would slip away with the sinking sun.

Gary Goldfinger!

Our 2.5 hour bushwhack to get to the Green Giant Buttress

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied- it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. -Ansel Adams

 

I was lucky to be able to work with my live-in boyfriend, who also doubles as my favorite adventure buddy. We really got after it this summer, but my favorite undertaking probably remains climbing ‘Dreamer’ on the Green Giant Buttress.  After a bleary 5am start we drove two hours into deep Darrington up bumpy dirt roads, branches clawing our car as the path gradually grew narrower and narrower. Eventually we were forced to abandon hope of driving any further and began hiking, initially through peaceful alders alongside a literal babbling brook, then past tall pines where we hopped rocks and balanced on logs to cross rivers before arriving at a waterfall, where we then began bushwhacking through thorny hedges of blackberry bushes, finally emerging two hours later to scramble up a precariously steep granite slab to the first pitch. Ten pitches of spectacular climbing later, we were rewarded with a perfect 360 degree view of the Cascades, feeling like the only two people in the world. The reverse journey took just as long, and after what wound up being an 18 hour day, Taco Bell never tasted so good, and my 6:30am alarm the next morning never felt earlier.

Gary working his way up pitch 5 of ‘Dreamer’

View from the top!

Can’t get enough of the Cascades

 

My birthday provided another opportunity to escape to the mountains. We set out after work, driving east singing along to the Beatles, eventually setting up our tent alongside a river just in time to enjoy watching the stars come out one by one. The next morning I crawled out of our tent to splash icy stream water on my face before setting out to hike to Colchuck Lake. At the lake we passed a bottle of Fireball back and forth, gathering our courage before plunging into the crystal clear waters. We emerged gasping for air, laying like lizards on a rock until our shivering stopped, trekking back down with the setting sun. Before heading home we payed a visit to Leavenworth, a kitschy faux German village nestled in the mountains, where we enjoyed a bratwurst and a beer before the long drive back.

Colchuck Lake

Forest friends

Living on the same coast as my friends and family was also dreamy.  I did my best to make up for lost time, frequently visiting with two of my besties living just across the border in Vancouver, heading down to Seattle for a music festival with one of my oldest galpals, reuniting with college buds in Olympic National Park, finally meeting my baby cousins, and hosting other friends in my guest bedroom. My parents came up for a visit, and to my surprise I was actually able to convince my mother to get in a kayak for probably the best tour of the entire season. A crew of my favorite people hung out in Seattle for a weekend, where we sampled coffees and grilled cheeses, touristed our way around Pike Place Market, played in the sound lab at the Museum of Pop Culture, visited a couple breweries and stayed up way too late roller skating. Now that I’m back in San Diego for the week, I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings playing gin with my grandmother (even though she always wins), dinners with my parents and visiting my childhood pals.

Ma/Pa!

Hiking to Park Butte Lookout

 

I suppose my point is that my summer dose of friends and family makes leaving again a challenge. In fact, the act of packing everything into a backpack and hugging people goodbye only seems to grow more difficult every time. No matter where I wind up in the world, a huge piece of myself remains fixed with the people I love. So, if you’re reading this, I love you, and thank you for being the rock to my kite.

Mount Baker from the Park Butte Lookout

Sunset from Cypress Island

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In My Life

There are years that ask questions, and years that answer. -Zora Neale Hurston

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After my first taste of the majestic Himalayas in Leh I was eager to spend more time in the mountains, and planned to spend the last part of April trekking in Darjeeling and Sikkim. As the trip grew closer the idea of going back to India started to give me night sweats, and so despite having lugged around unnecessary cold weather trekking clothes for months, I decided to eat the costs of my flights and instead head to Myanmar for my final trip. I’m feeling pretty lazy about actually writing anything, but here are a few pictures:

During my first day exploring the temples in Bagan the only other people I saw were a handful of other tourists and four monks in crimson robes fixing a flat tire.

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22 (Over Soon)

I was lucky enough to spend cumulatively a little over a month working in Bali, and despite being overrun with tourists, I still found it to be kind of a magic place.

Sunrise, West Bali National Park

Temple entrance

Hotel view

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Current Carry

We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.- Jack Gilbert

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately, especially as the current political climate continues to relentlessly break my heart, and since reading Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate’ has been giving me some restless nights. All I can figure is the only way to combat the phase we’re in now is to speak up where it matters, to love with more depth, to be even kinder, and to stubbornly enjoy every little moment of joy we can find. Sri Lanka provided the perfect opportunity to practice gladness, it really was a perfect 12 day trip.

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Lovely Sri Lanka

One of many

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Always Alright

Let me keep my distance always from those who think they have the answers. Let me keep company always with those who say ‘look’ and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads. -Mary Oliver

Temple time

What a wat

Sa bai dee, Laos! I wish I had been more motivated in Nong Khiaw, but I didn’t accomplish much else other than watching the slow rotation of the earth from my hammock. After a lazy two days I moved down to Luang Prabang, which I found totally charming. Hugged on either side by the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, there were plenty of riverside cafes to relax at, temples to explore and well preserved French colonial buildings to admire. I perhaps should have done more research on the appropriate time to visit, turns out April is low season because of the oppressive heat and haze that covers the north’s sleepy little towns like a quilt. Midday the unrelenting temperatures made anything other than cowering in the shade with a cool drink impossible, but once the heat grew a little more manageable I spent the late afternoon walking around, passing temples filled with monks in saffron robes  and perusing little shops.

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In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Flying into Labuan Bajo

With Flores it was love at first sight, truly. My short flight from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo offered views of volcanic islands surrounded by perfectly clear turquoise waters, and by the time I landed on a runway practically built on top of the sea, I was all in. Our main motivation for the visit was to stop by neighboring Komodo Island National Park to say hi to the dragons, but one of my best friend’s best friends, Anna, who manages a dive shop in the area insisted that diving was a must, and she couldn’t have been more right.

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Highway Anxiety 

What a whirlwind 2017 has been! I’ve been on the move constantly, living out of my backpack while balancing work or play in a different country every couple of weeks. It’s been a blast, but after three months of non-stop motion I’m finding myself a bit weary. As a remedy, I flew into Laos and immediately made my way to Nong Khiaw, a sleepy riverside town that perfectly matched my mood.  After my first day this entire year spent alone, I finally got some much needed introvert recharge time, spending a lazy afternoon watching the Ou River meander past from a hammock on my hotel balcony. After a 10 hour long nights sleep, I finally feel rested enough to attempt to turn these half finished thoughts into some sort of a post.

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Riverside views in Nong Khiaw

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First encounter with nature in Borneo


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Cranes in the Sky

Cambodia

Sun bear cub at the animal sanctuary, like a big puppy with claws

Tea plantation hike in the Cameron Highlands

 

After a busy month shuffling between different gigs at an animal sanctuary in Cambodia, back to Tioman and finally up to northern Malaysia to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highland (Malaysia’s equivalent of the Pacific Northwest), Gary and I hopped on a flight to Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, the motorbike capital of the world. In that spirit, we set out to buy our own, crossing our fingers that it would carry us all the way north to Hanoi. 
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India, A List 

Things I will miss:

-Cops enjoying festivals. The police more often than not during the many festive occasions in India would jump into the mix, becoming joyful participants rather than shutting them down. 
-Men holding hands. Love the lack of shame in men showing affection towards each other! 
-Monkeys making it thunder while clambering across the tin roof or sitting nursing their babies, watching us aspiring yogis with puzzled expressions while we perfected our form in downward dog.
-Colors. All of them. Everywhere.
-Delicious, inexpensive, perfectly spiced meals. With infinity types of bread. Maybe worth all the pooping. 
-Eating with my hands. So fun!
-Massive, vine-covered, green, mossy trees. Pure magic. 
-‘Ji.’ Peppered at the end of names or sentences, it made conversations that much sweeter.’Okay-ji!’
-Babies wearing eyeliner.
-Not having nearly every social gathering revolve around alcohol. 
-Sanskrit lettering, has there ever been a more beautiful written language? 
-Inexpensive yoga classes and Ayurvedic massages and fresh juice, nonexistent in California. 
-Papaya! Dear God, I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted anything quite so delicious as Indian papaya. One bite would cause me to wax poetic for the rest of the meal, I’m sure my dining companions looooved it. 
-Sunsets. The big red ball of a sun sinking into the mist behind the emerald Himalayas, while conch shells sounded from the banks of the Ganges, was pretty unforgettable. 
-Crickets singing me to sleep.
-Endless cups of chai.
-Being in bed/ usually asleep by 9:30pm every night.
-Sweet faced cows with their surprising grace, able to delicately lift their back legs to precisely scratch the tips of their noses. 
Things I will not miss:

-Waking up at 5:30 every morning. I was so confident I would at last be one of those elusive morning people by the end of my time in India, but it’s just not in my DNA. 
-Poop. On the ground, coming out of me, everywhere, all the time. 
-Heat and humidity. No one likes feeling like a hot, wet blanket has been thrown on top of you just because you went outside. 
-Honking horns. I never want to hear another horn for the rest of my life. 
-Poor service in restaurants. I don’t think I ever actually got what I ordered the entire time I was in India, despite having it repeated back to me and seeing it written down. Makes no sense. 
-Not understanding English… the Indian accent was a challenge for me, the amount of time I was left puzzling what had been said after someone had spoken to me in my mother tongue made me feel like an idiot. 
-People (men) cutting me in line. I want to cry sexism but I’m just not sure. 
-Feeling scandalous for exposing my knees. 
-Not using vowels. Vrt is a real word. I never had a chance. 
-People taking pictures of me/ with me. Still unclear why anyone would enjoy having a selfie taken with me, or what they do with it later.
-Crazy drivers. Said a lot of Hail Marys in the back of taxis, and I’m not even Catholic. 
-Staring! UGH. Men. Staring. Without pause. At me. Everywhere. All the time. Culturally not rude, I know, and I was warned about it in advance but it still shocked me and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable as a woman traveling alone. 
-Again, cows, with their intimidatingly large horns and loud bellows, causing traffic jams and blocking narrow alleyways.

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Blackbird

Sunset over the Ganges

After a week recovering from life in the clouds, I spent another 8 days trekking through the Markha Valley with some of my best friends from college. After days filled with laughter and snow-capped summits and skies more starry than I thought possible, it was finally time to leave my now beloved Leh. I arrived in Rishikesh after a south-bound flight over massive peaks, a steamy jungle town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, cut perfectly through the middle by the mighty Ganges River.
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