Sunday, April 24, 2016

Meet Glorious!

I am now fully integrated into my third vehicle/home...Glorious!  As a decade of part-time, vehicle-dwelling passes, I can think of no better way, in which I choose to exist.  Although, I aspire to continue upgrading the vehicles, I live in, this lifestyle is exactly what I want to be doing, currently.  It is awesome.  And getting more enjoyable everyday!  

While, the interior design of my home is a never-ending, on-going project, I'll give a tour of the inside, in its current, semi-disheveled, state.  I still need to do a bit of downsizing, after moving out of the condo, that was my van.  

First I ripped out the middle row of seats (the back bench was already gone).  This left a decent size well, which is now my kitchen and pantry.
I also got rid of the carpet and most of the paneling.  The carpet was gross and the paneling took up usable space.
I installed a sub-floor, which leveled the whole space out, and created the storage area, where the middle row of seats were.  The trap door, is where I cook.  The extra eight inches is integral, as without that, the stove would be too close to the ceiling.
Then came the laminate flooring.  
Next, some shelving.
Another view of the shelving.
With all my crap.
A wider view of the crap.
And cooking bacon and drinking coffee!  

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Nano-Season

In a sea of endless seasonal opportunities, how does one fit in all the fun living/working situation into this short tour of earth?  With a nano-season!

The idea to do partial seasons came to me, years ago, when I worked the last two months of a summer season, at the Park Cafe, near Glacier National Park.  Although that was a GREAT job, I realized, if I had been there the whole season, I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did.  Not because there was anything wrong with the situation, but because the nature of many of these living/working situations have a short shelf life, for my tastes...and attention span.

These situations can be intense.  Living and working in the same place, with the same people, can be really fun and really exhausting at the same time.  In addition, I pick the places I live/work based on their proximity to the recreation, I hope to have after work and on my weekends.  With built-in friends and easy access to fun (which for me, usually entails miles up and down mountains), on top of a full-time, usually manual labor, job, all this activity can really take it out of me, quickly.  I would much rather show up, knowing there is a short time left and give it my all, both with the job and fun, than try to stick out a whole season.  This is usually the state I find the rest of co-workers in, when I show up, towards the end of a season.  They are counting down the days and are no longer enchanted with the awesomeness of the place, they felt earlier in the season.  It has become like any other "real life" hustle to them.

Finishing out the ski season, at June Mountain in June Lake, California

There are other reasons, I would choose a nano-season.  In the past I have had a short window of time, so opted to fill it, with what I subsequently dubbed a nano-season or a "tweener".  This may take convincing an employer to hire me for such a short time and is why these are primarily for otherwise undesirable employers, such as ski resorts and National Park concessionaires. In a nutshell, these are undesirable employers, because they are so big and corporate. While, generally I find these to be undesirable employers, I find the location to be highly desirable. (This is so sad, but is the current state of affairs at most of these national treasures).  So, to reconcile...a nano-season.  Get in, explore, and take advantage of the good, and get out before I become disgruntled by the big, inefficient mess of (usually) crappy and/or desperate management and the (in large part) degenerate workers, these desperate employers seem to attract.  I used to not even bother at all, opting to only work at a small, private lodge or restaurant, near the attraction, until I figured out how to make it work for me (the nano-season!).

I consider my current situation, a nano-season.  I actually, planned on this nano-season, although I did not know where I would be.  Months ago, I foresaw wanting to be in the snow, this time of year.  Knowing that the nature and scope of ski resorts, requires perpetual hiring, I counted on working for a ski resort that had employee housing (as opposed to a small nearly lodge or living in a town, which, while preferable, isn't as easy to get into, spur of the moment), as I was not trying to commit to any exact plans ahead of time.  Success!  It was too easy.  I applied, interviewed and was on my way within a 48-hour period.

While the process of starting to work/live somewhere new, can be arduous, I have got it down.  I pride myself on being able to slip into a new role, effortlessly, and continue with my own daily routine, without too much interference from the new situation.  This the only way this lifestyle is sustainable to me.  This was the case with this job.  I jumped right in, with no problem or blip in my daily routines.  My current role, as a lift operator, does seem to have a bit of curve, for being fit enough to stand outside in the elements all day, while wearing 30-ish extra pounds of clothes, and dealing with the general public, especially lots of kids.  I have been pretty tired after work each day, but have been able to bounce back to fully take advantage of where I am, on my weekends.  As I start my fourth and second to last week here, I know opting for a nano-season, was the right call.  There is a time limit for my full engagement with this post, and it is dwindling as quickly as the snow here, in sunny California.  However, knowing the end is near, allows me to give it everything I have, the next week and a half.

This was a three week, nano-season, at Crater Lake National Park, a couple years ago.
Although most jobs in the seasonal work world, mirror the four seasons of this hemisphere, my internal clock, detects more like, 6-8 season, per calendar year.  Ideally, a mix of longer and shorter stints, seems like a healthy balance.  Adhering to my schedule, and not the arbitrary ones based around what the robotic tourists are doing, and therefore employers are on, allows for more fun, better work, living in new great places and feeds my insatiable need to continuously change my circumstances.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Addicted To Spectacular

Jagged, snow-capped, mountain peaks, crystal clear alpine lakes, centuries-old trees, raging streams, dry air, boulders.  Yes, these are a few of my favorite things.  But, just visiting this dramatic mountain scenery is not good enough for me, I need to live amongst it.  And …. It has to have a spectacular element, to it.

My addiction has currently led me to June Lake, nestled amongst the eastern Sierra, in California.  I find myself here rather suddenly, though I am not surprised.  I am a crack-head for this shit.  While finding myself in southern Oregon since returning from Europe, last September, with ample odd jobs to feed myself and keep busy, I could not resist getting into the snow, since it decided to grace the Sierra with its presence this year (this was not the case the last two years).  I had been loosely inquiring into finding a spot in the Cascades for the winter, but opted for the dry, sunny California, after being away from my home climate for nearly eight months.  It does feel like home.  And…it is spectacular.  I live right on June lake, with awesome views in all directions and work on the ski hill, where the spectacular-ness rises with each foot of elevation gained on the chairlifts. 

View from chairlift that gets me to work.
I am certainly getting my fix.  The drastic rise of the eastern Sierra from the high desert, is not only visually stunning, but lends itself to endless opportunities for recreation. Within a half an hour’s drive is, at least, five hot springs, that I know about and endless desert trails and roads to explore.  I wouldn’t even be able to scratch the surface with the immediate alpine-side of things, but now, have no doubts, that this is a place I will be spending much more time in the future.  Especially in the summer.  Everything I want in a place.  Paradise….for sure.

This addiction has steadily taken a hold on me over the past ten years.  It began when I was working in the high school in Leadville, Colorado and would stare out the window at the Sawatch Range that flanks the western side of Leadville.  There, I had a realization that jobs, that once seemed intolerable to me, are totally bearable when the location and benefits overshadow the job, itself. 

Is there a downside to this?  Do I not feel right, when I am not amongst the spectacular?  A little bit.  But all contrast is necessary.  Spectacular is relative.  And it can certainly be taken for granted, if in it, full-time.  I have lived plenty of places where my co-workers do not even seem to notice, that they are in a special place.  On the other hand, my eyes and other senses have been pried open.  I see beauty in things, that I used to gloss over.  Now, the Midwest seems enchanting to me, because everywhere else I usually am, is so much drier.  I can appreciate it, for the lush, insanely green, swamp, that it is. 

Glacier.  Crested Butte.  Fallen Leaf LakeCrater Lake.  NorwaySwitzerland.  Yeah, I might have a problem.  But, its my cross to bear.  I’m not ready to seek help for this compulsion.  I’ll make the best of it and continue to feed the addiction.  It is still serving me.  And, I can not wait to see where it leads me to next.  

Friday, March 25, 2016


What started as a bookmark folder on my internet browser, has become a mantra of my lifestyle.  Over the past 10 years, dozens, of what start, as ideas for potential places to live, get a subfolder, and house links, I come across, either by chance or while specifically looking for the next spot. When one of these potentials slides into manifested reality, the subfolder of that place, moves from “NEXT!” folder to the “And Now” folder. Some subfolders sit there for years, before they become an “And Now”, while others have little time between the hatching of the idea and finding myself in that actual location.

At this point, it is hard to say, if my organizational process mirrors my thought process or vice versa.  When it gets to be that time, I get a visual of “NEXT!” in my head.  I use it in conversation, although the other person does not know, that when I say "next", I mean "NEXT!", more than just a word, but a way of life.    
Because I move so often, usually migrating along with the change of seasons, if not, more frequently, maintaining this lifestyle, and continuously trying to figure out the NEXT!, could become a full-time job.  I have certainly met people, for which this seems to be the case.  For me, it seems to defeat the purpose of this path, I have carved out. If I am always thinking about what is NEXT!, I am not fully engaged in the And Now. I strive for the balance between eagerly anticipating what is coming next and being fully present and, hopefully, thrilled, about the And Now, I currently find myself in.  This is the sweet spot. I have found a direct correlation between what I am feeling now and what comes next. If my now is good, what is coming next will be good. If I am loathing my current situation, it is difficult to not bring some of that into the NEXT!.  So, as all the wise ones claim, all the power is in the now, but the excitement of this lifestyle is getting stoked for what is NEXT!.
My current, And Now, has been a subfolder, hiding in NEXT!, for seven or eight years.  This seems to be the pattern of many of my And Nows.  They are an exciting thought, when I first learn of these locations. They become long forgotten, hiding in the vast NEXT!s, then without much effort or warning become my current reality.  Often, I find myself in a long awaited NEXT!, when I was loosely planning on something else, for that particular season.This is precisely what happened with Switzerland last summer.  Five years as a NEXT! and then one day, I found myself there, without even trying or planning.  This proves to me that events will coordinate themselves better than I can orchestrate, and it is only my job to launch the idea, then sit back and let it unfold.  I have also learned there is, not only no harm, but part of the process, to launch an idea, although it might be years, before it fully plays out.  Other people seem to be critical of this process.  They tell me, that I said I was going to do, so and so, years ago, and never did.  Their shortsightedness is sad and limiting.  It is never done.  All those NEXT!s are lined up, waiting to pop into my reality at the perfect moment.  Attempting to force a particular NEXT! into place is a waste of energy and counterproductive.
Currently, I find myself in June Lake, California, finishing out the ski season, as a lift operator at June Mountain.  So, the Eastern Sierra subfolder, that so patiently sat in NEXT!, for nearly a decade, as moved into the And Now.  When I leave here, it will return to NEXT!, for it is never done.  This is likely to be the first of many stints, in this awesome stretch of earth.  In addition, a few new NEXT! subfolders have been created while here, as I receive ideas from fellow seasonal workers, about their past and future NEXT!s and And Nows.  The cycle continues….

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Winter Colors

What may be the most beautiful scene, many people, have ever witnessed, can be perceived as less remarkable when day after day, the light never changes.  Where I currently reside, a week may pass without a single cloud. When there is variance in the light, it is breathtakingly beautiful, but when long-term bluebirdom sets in, it can have a dulling effect, on those who are lucky enough to peer at it, daily.  For this reason, I feel compelled to survey each and every dawn and dusk, I spend of this beautiful lake, to appreciate the unique experience of light variety and witness the explosion of color, should it occur.

These are my favorites, I've captured, since returning, in late November.  All of them happen to be at dawn, my favorite time of day, when it is just me, my coffee, ducks and the occasionally a beaver.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Rested and Ready To Go

Even I had doubts, if I could sustain this lifestyle.  Well, not so much, could I?  But, did I want to?  A few years ago, I hit the wall.  I seemed to be growing tired of the constant moving around and changing of jobs.  I figured, I would just settle into one spot.  After all, I have a long list of previous/future base-camps, any of which, would make for a fun-filled home, where I could intimately explore a certain area, for years to come.  That notion seems laughable, now.  I’m rested and ready to go again.  After chilling out, in one spot, for close to a year and half, it is clear, geographical stagnancy is not in my near future. 

Two summers ago, I knew, I needed to mix it up.  Or rather, to stop mixing it up, and just root down, for a minute.  I was suffering from a lack of funds, although, that had never stopped me before.  While, I knew, I could find another job, in some new-to-me, mountain paradise, it was something else.  I needed community.  Some continuity.  But, even the thought of showing up somewhere new and starting over, sounded too tiring.  Nothing on my endless list of possible futures seamed appealing, at the time.  I finished out the summer, bumming around the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, before making my way back to the Sierra, for a fall conference season.  When I settled in to my third conference season, I knew this is what I needed.  Familiar faces.  Continuity.  Structure.  Ease.  A semi-permanent parking spot. 

I left that winter to fulfill a winter position, I had already secured, in Colorado, further convincing me, that the mild Sierra, is where my chilling out would take place.  I moved back to camp that spring and remained in that area for the last fourteen months.  It proved to be exactly what I needed, and ultimately, nothing was sacrificed by remaining in one spot. 

That time spanned three, two-month conference seasons, a perfect Tahoe summer, and my favorite winter, yet.  An ideal mixing of subtle seasonal change, but continuity at the same time.  This favorite winter, being the icing on the “chilling out” cake.  Five months in one big room, with a view, and the best job, I’ve had yet.

That carried me into the spring conference season, which I was not looking forward to, after having camp nearly to myself for five months, but turned out to be one of my favorite yet.  During that time, I started to feel it again.  As the season drew to a close, my problem wasn’t coming up with something to do next, but narrowing down the endless possibilities that were all presenting themselves to me, at once.  I committed to a road trip to Alaska, when offered a free ride.  This sounded absolutely perfect, but when that fell through, plan B, sounded even more perfect. 

The current plan is to meet Kali in our old home of Whitefish, Montana, and make our way to Breckenridge, Colorado...on foot.  And probably some hitch-hiking and bus.  We plan to arrive there in time to meet my family, who will be vacationing there, in a little over a month.  Perfection. 

I’m packed and ready to go.  I leave here (Ashland, Oregon) for Eugene tomorrow, and will take the Amtrak from Eugene to Whitefish on Monday.  It will be my first Amtrak experience.  Every leg of the journey excites me.  A perfect way to start the new leg of the capital “J” Journey. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Weekend Van-Dweller

Not since leaving Whitefish, Montana four years ago, have I stayed in one area for a whole cycle of the seasons. Whether for work, visiting, recreating, exploring new terrain, or weather-chasing, I have been in a fairly constant stream of seasonal migration.  This year, while I remained in one spot (or at least within a seven mile area), my working/living circumstances have altered seasonally to feed my dependence on seasonal change.  So, what has this meant for my van? 

The Mothership
After making the decision to keep Mama and get her fixed up, post marmot debacle (there was quite a bit of damage), her status has become that of a recreational vehicle and/or storage unit on wheels.  While this is often her status during seasons where I am housed, it seems to have been her role for many seasons in a row now.  I have become a weekend van-dweller.
I still live in a van down by the river...but just on the weekends.
I returned to the Stanford Sierra compound early last April, for the spring edition of the conference season.  As I drove the now, very familiar route, across the Great Basin, I was determined to get to the mild-weathered Sierra and stay for a while.  A break from the seasonal traversing seemed in order and a break from cold Colorado winters was certainly appealing after months of sub-zero temperatures in Crested Butte.
Spring in the Tahoe Basin
The eight week madness of the spring conference season came and went, and I settled into a nice room in cute house in an excellent spot in the nearby town of South Lake Tahoe.  I spent the summer as a live-in nanny for an eleven-year-old boy.  This situation could not have been more fitting or satisfying for me.  It was the perfect job, a nice place to live (close to Lake Tahoe and base of mountains), and I still had the weekends to get to the van out and enjoy the perfect summer weather. 

The summer went so well.  My job description was to have as much fun as possible and minimize the time the kid spent on his ipad.  No problem.  We spent the summer riding bikes, hiking, exploring,  paddleboarding in Lake Tahoe, and eating a lot of candy.  As it turns out, I have been missing out by not hanging out with eleven-year-olds more.  This kid and his friends proved to be the best hiking partners, as they had endless amounts of energy and a knack for finding every possible way to squeeze more fun out of each adventure.  Hiking down a trail was not enough for them.  Every cool looking rock garden had to be explored and climbed on, every boulder had to be jumped off of, every body of water had to swam in.  They ran circles around me like dogs just let off their leash.

Adventures while babysitting.
 When the kid returned to school, I returned to camp, for the fall edition of the conference season, with a whole new bunch of crazies as co-workers.  Eight more weeks of busy work schedules, infused with adventures in the Desolation Wilderness and perfect Sierra Nevada fall weather.  The fall season ended at the beginning of November, but unlike the last two falls that I spent here, this time, I don’t have to leave. 

My running partners in the Desolation Wilderness (backyard).
I will be spending the winter out here, in this most special of places, doing maintenance work and enjoying the view from my sweet room, which I will be living in the next five months.  This will be the longest I will have lived in any one spot in four years.  For the first time since getting it, I have fully unloaded the van and have all of my crap in one spot.  It feels really good, as there is nowhere I would rather be.  Except, I can take a month off.  Back in the van after all.  Yes please!  Destination…east Texas!  I leave Saturday.