last ride

I was already hitchhiking back toward the States, but I was taking my sweet time. After a ride in a sports car from a sunglass-merchant and philosopher named Mephistopheles I found myself living in Zihuatanejo, cleaning pools for a hotel manager in exchange for an air-conditioned, Polynesian-style bungalow to stay in. I was taking cooking classes and practicing Tai Chi under masters and I was swimming out as far as I could into the bay from Playa de la Ropa. I had made friends with a shaman who worked with Rodrigo y Gabriela, tending their tired hands and who assured me she could set up a meeting. Another friend knew an archaeologist busy excavating Mayan ruins who needed another hand in her crew. I was going to stay here a long time.

Then one day, I checked my email and discovered that Tomas Garreton had died.

He had fallen off a train.

I walked around the concrete buildings for hours on the outskirts of town, following behind children as they shouted and chased each other through the empty canals. Lazy dogs lifted their heads from the coveted shade to sniff the exotic stranger.

The hotel manager told me of his father’s death and how he had been a hero to many, how people had come from all around and there was music and feasting and biplane pilots who flew close enough to the earth to tear the grass from the ground and I don’t know much is true and how much is lost in this man’s love for his father and then I realize it is all true. The shaman takes my hand, she is filled with pity because she knows that Americans do not know death, that they try to sweep it under the carpet like so much bad business. “In Mexico, we know the truth about death,” she tells me. “Nothing is lost.”

That night, I sat listlessly as the dinner party complimented the “gringo stilo” food I had prepared and suddenly I knew I had to leave, had to go and pay my respects. I finished up my commitments and got back on the road two days later, my new friends urging me to stay, or at the least, to promise to return.

Everyone stops to pick you up in Mexico. It seems to make sense to them, you need a ride, they have a car. And admittedly, they are curious – there are no other white hitchhikers here.

The flipside is that everyone is only headed to the next town over. I might get thirty rides in a day. I would rise before dawn and still be marching in the dark, thumb out as the wild lights of the fiesta that defines all Mexican nights began to thump and call in the short distance. I was in a hurry to arrive before Tomas would be sent off into the beyond and all of a sudden, I would let nothing stop my progress north.

I would imagine Tomas there with me, in a truckbed, or across from me on a bench in the back of an collectivo, beneath a metal roof that resembled a covered wagon, smiling big with a look that always said, “Can you believe this?” I imagined him screaming above his ringing mandolin. A last journey together.

Six schoolbuses had parked themselves across the only southern highway and my ride and I were at the back of a long, sweaty traffic jam. Women appeared carried trays of cookies and bread and men called out prices, carrying coolers of ice cream on their shoulders. The schoolbuses bore signs demanding new schools and children kicked soccer balls in the dust between them. Women called out to me, coyly cooing, “Guido, Guido.” The police stood about, idly smoking cigarettes.

Before I left, Tomas advised me if anyone demands “Dame un peso” (Give me a peso), there was only one proper response. A drunk man, joining in on the merchant scene, approached me, the only gringo in the state, and tried to sell me a car jack. I told him I didn’t need it and he said just that. “Dame un peso.”

“No. Tu dame un peso.” The crowd erupted into laughter and the drunken man waved me off and moved on.

I crossed the border into my home country and the only ride I could get was in the back of a police car. The officer told me hitchhiking was illegal in Arizona, but he was headed to Tuscon if I needed a ride. I stood at a gas station in Tuscon for hours. Nobody would give me a ride, but they insisted I take dollar bills. They handed them over gingerly, as though I might bite. They ran from my eyes and words.

Finally, a prostitute gave me a lift to Phoenix, and I used the money to get on a Greyhound bound for Sacramento. Tomas’ celebration of life was two days away. I slept in a park, and a meth dealer cheerily woke me in the night to inform me we were neighbors.

Hitching north from there was a breeze, in the plush vans of young explorers and the electric hybrids of grey-bearded hippies headed to the mountains. Northern California thrummed with excitement for the coming of autumn.

I stood on the interstate outside of Medford, the sun setting in long rays behind the golden mountains. I had seventy-five cents in my pocket and held my thumb out triumphantly, determined to catch my last ride tonight. I saw something I hardly believed but which I can never forget, something I wasn’t meant to see: a man in a suit behind the wheel of a sedan, flying past me unseeing at eighty miles an hour. He was weeping and screaming and he held a pistol against his temple.

A trucker from Bulgaria gave me my last ride to Portland and that night I collapsed into a familiar bed. Soon, I would be back in Astoria, baking bread to fund a new adventure south, but for now I needed to rest. I was at the end of a journey of thousands of miles. Hundreds of people from all over the continent had traveled their own long distances and had weathered their own adventures to gather and say goodbye to our friend Tomas, who had always seemed to move too fast and to possess a spirit too large for life on this subdued earth. We would bring piles of instruments and cans of spray paint and stumble to the train trestle near where he had grown up and we would climb into its rafters and sit and reflect. We would all feel like I was feeling, like a hero had fallen, like there was a secret here we should realize but could not understand, like horrible injustice had proven itself in the world again but we wanted to know better.

Tomas, who had undertaken so many journeys and arrived on our doorstep, unexpected and filthy and filled with an undeniable, contagious mirth, who would proceed to wreck our environment every time but never prove himself unwelcome company, Tomas would not change. Still, he arrives at my door, too familiar to knock, coming right in and everything around me tries not to fall apart, but he knows he is always welcome to stay here awhile before he travels on. In this way, nothing is changed. Nothing is lost.


the bitch of Tulum

Everyday she walks by the palapa and we all pause our breakfast to watch her trot past us, her snow white fur coat shining and splattered with black spots like cutting-edge art, her head is held high, is fully white and pale as the moon with dark eyes searching the beach then quickly returning to the woman walking before her. We know she´s a she because of the six dark brown nipples hanging from her belly and we imagine her name must be Louisa. As she passes, we prod our own Dalmatian, Louie, to get him to notice, to get him to work up the nerve to introduce himself.

“Louie! Louie, look!” Louie spins in a quick circle and looks again at the omelet on the table.

“No, Louie, look outside!” We pretend to throw a stick in the direction of the beach, but Louie isn´t buying it. “Louie, go! It´s your girlfriend! Go say hi!”

Louie lays down and paws at his eyes and nose. “Aw, don´t be shy, little buddy!” We encourage him: “You need courage to win the girl of your dreams. C´mon! Have some balls Louie,” and then we remember. He doesn´t.

soulfire presenta – le grand voyage

our gig demo

more black & white sessions

as seen in mexican marinas

black & white sessions

We have a new guy with the bus, Javier, who is shooting footage for a SoulFire documentary. He’s also been filming some really cool black & white sessions with musicians on the bus. I think I’ll put up a few for your enjoyment.

Cooper & Laura

Laura on Accordion


busted card reader

Some dude at the internet cafe whacked my camera´s memory card reader with his briefcase and it seems like he busted it. I haven´t been able to find another one, so that´s why I haven´t been able to post any more pictures lately. Maybe I´ll find someone who has the right slot in their laptop or something, later on?

Anyhow, we went to the jungles of Palenque and now we´re beside the Caribbean on the white beaches of Tulum, playing lots of music, having a grand old time. Sometimes, I can even mutter a sentence in Spanish that doesn´t cause nearby Spanish speakers to cross their eyes with pain and frustration.

Just thought I´d drop a little note and let yáll know I am alive and safe. Ciao


fotos de Ryan

mexican pickup trucks

Lost Coast (pt. 2)

Lost Coast (pt. 1)


Just wanted to let you know…

I made it to San Diego with two days to spare before the wedding! Woohoo!

Have had some adventures in the meantime, for sure. No time to share them now, but I’ll try to upload more photos soon.


Go On…


So, uh, slight delay there.

But now it’s now! And now, I am super really going to Mexico. FOR REALS. I thought I was going to help produce an album or write another book or buy a sailboat beforehand but none of those things happened. At least not to completion. Somewhat frustrating, but certainly all worth a shot.

In the meantime, I’ve been taking Spanish lessons and I just finished my 8-week course this morning! That fact, and the fact that the weather is easing up on Oregon means I can finally get back on the path and go on down south to Mexico. It also means that this blog is back in action to record what I can along the way and send out signs of a pulse. I have some fun mini-adventures planned along the way which I’ll keep under wraps for now – and once I get to Mexico, who knows what’ll happen?

I leave tomorrow! And I have no return date, but extremely limited funds, as usual. For years now, it’s kind of been a tradition for me to begin grand journeys on Easter Sunday. After all, what better way is there to experience rebirth than to walk as a stranger in unknown lands?

so excited!

Winter in Yellowstone

A time-lapse self-portrait

I almost wasn’t going to post this because these photos are so goofy, but whatever.


I had the thought to take pictures of myself over the two months I spent on the trail to track my progression from responsible citizen into insane wild-man.

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What I Shoulda Brought

A common question that day-hikers ask thru-hikers is “What one thing did you bring that you wish you hadn’t and vice versa?” Well, I didn’t feel as though I was carrying anything I didn’t need. I’m a bit of a pack rat out there compared to the ultralighters. On the other hand, I did compile a little list of things I wish I’d had out there.

  1. A Third Pair of Socks
    1 clean, 1 washed and hanging to dry + 1 pair of comfort socks to wear at night. My feet get so cold after a day of hiking in the wet.
  2. Basketball Shorts
    For something to wear while swimming or doing laundry or… playing basketball, I guess.
  3. Flask of Whiskey
    For medicinal purposes only, of course.
  4. Trail Profiles
    You can get these cool side-views of many trails that graph out the elevation changes you will soon be suffering over an x-axis of mileage. They are useful for making the decision of “that can wait until tomorrow, I’m going to bed.”
  5. Space Blanket
    When my fellow thru-hiker Spice Rack was suffering from the early symptoms of hypothermia during that blizzard, nothing, not even a hot meal, seemed to help his state much until we wrapped him in an emergency space blanket someone had. At that moment, I was sold.
  6. Propel Raspberry-Lemonade Flavor Electrolyte Packets
    Let’s face it. I’m sweating all day long and drinking water all day. Mixing it up every once and awhile would be a refreshing change of pace.
  7. Leatherman
    I’m sick of these stupid Swiss Army knives. I like the functionality they offer, but they always end up falling apart on me.
  8. Mesh Sack
    For collecting mushrooms and other edible plants while helping to spread their seed.


i love this moment
the air is clear
the earth is bright
the breeze is gentle
it touches the trees
and the trees tremble
they shiver
a tree knows
just how to be tickled


The Ten Rules for Successful Thru-Hiking

Discipline is key if you want to make the whole 2650 mile shebang that is the Pacific Crest Trail. Below are my tried-and-true laws of the trail.

  1. Survival Essentials
    If you have a knife, a lighter, a hat, and duct tape, you’re going to be fine.
  2. Always Piss with a View
    This rule applies to men only. Men, hold it until the right moment. You deserve to piss with a scenic view. Disclaimer: You may find if the call is urgent, one’s definition of “scenic” expands rapidly.
  3. The Drive-By Berry Rule
    If you are lucky enough to have eaten so many berries that your stomach is approaching upset, it is time to institute the Drive-By Berry Rule: Any and all further berries today must be grabbed while on-the-move without any decrease in speed. If you tear leaves off the helpless berry plant, be sure to feel bad about yourself. You monster. Exceptions may be made for huckleberries and thimbleberries which really, are just too sweet and delicious to pass up and c’mon what are you out here for anyway?
  4. The Five Mile Buffer Zone
    Within the five-mile buffer zone around any given highway, populations of both deer and dayhikers suddenly skyrocket. It is best to rush past these confused throngs of wide-eyed, wobbly-legged creatures.
  5. Why are there Deer in my Campsite?
    During the night, deer will sometimes come to lick up your piss. The high salt content drives them wild. It is best to accept this. Just ignore the sound of their sandy tongues dragging across the rocks at that scenic spot next to your tent and go back to sleep.
  6. The Civilization Paradox
    As you approach civilization, you will find yourself desperate to delight in its comforts. Once you have entered civilization, you will find yourself desperate to escape back into the woods.
  7. You Are Thirsty
    You need to drink more water than you have been drinking.
  8. Soothe the Wild Beast
    In case you encounter a bear, the best possible defense is to sing at the top of your lungs. Whatever comes to mind will do, though I tend to prefer classic rock ballads. Your off-key screeching will, not unlike an air raid siren, warn the creature of your terrible powers, and he or she will take off running, possibly with paws clamped over its delicate ears.
  9. The Clif Bar Black Hole is Your Stomach
    You can never pack enough Clif Bars.
  10. No Trudging
    This ends up being a form of meditation, requiring constant attentiveness and taking significant practice to fully achieve for long. Pull your shoulders back. Take your eyes off the path and look around. Appreciate your surroundings. Daydream instead of worrying. Take your time. You chose to be here. Take a deep breath. Sometimes, truly foul weather makes the No Trudging rule impossible to follow, but generally, I think it is a sound philosophy that could be applied to much of life, even outside of hiking.

Almost There

Comparing some different photo services. It’s too bad all of these sites have such low upload limits. Here’s Week 6. Give her a click.

Almost There…


Rainy Days in Glacier Peak Wilderness

Week 5:

The Comforts of Civilization

Upon my return to civilization, I jotted down a list of things that are great about being civilized. I believe this list is pretty comprehensive, and it is only for these ten reasons that civilization persists.

  1. Padding
    Everything is specially made to be padded and soft and so cozy it’s hard to get up from.
  2. Backrests
    Things you can rest your back against and rather common.
  3. Refrigeration
    Useful, refreshing, and convienent.
  4. Movies
    Have you ever considered movies are specifically designed to delight your eyes, ears, emotions, and/or mind?
  5. People
    People are often friendly and are sometimes interested in very interesting things.
  6. Coffee
    Also, coffee shops.
  7. Ingredients
    A wide array of cooking possibilities await in the vast variety of your local market. Possibilities such as ice cream.
  8. Women
    There are women here.
  9. Hygiene
    It’s suddenly possible.
  10. Music
    As much as I love bird-song and cascading streams, there is something in the plucky guitar and soulful voice of a musician that I am not sure I could live without.

Walking in a Summer Wonderland

Week 4. Uploaded this batch to Facebook to save a little bandwidth for this site.

The Wonderland Trail (Part One)

The Wonderland Trail (Part Two)

Panoramas from the Wonderland Trail:

The Songs Driving Me Crazy

Alyssa mentioned to me at some point that she always hiked with a terrible song stuck in her head, tormenting her. I said, “Huh. I don’t think that happens to me.”

I have paid dearly for that statement. For most of the rest of the trail, my mind came up with tunes and relentlessly implanted them into my consciousness, forcing me to huff the bits of lyric I knew under my breath as I hiked up switchbacks, or else sing them ridiculously at the top of my lungs. At some point in my desperation, I decided to start keeping a list, hoping it would help work them out of my head. It did not. I now present you with the top offenders.

  1. Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine
  2. Fuck You – Cee Lo Green
  3. Push It – Salt & Pepper  (lord help me)
  4. Where I End and You Begin – Radiohead
  5. Status – RX Bandits
  6. The Theme to Law & Order
  7. Late May’s Gaze – Love You Moon
  8. Lollipop, Lollipop – Some awful person
  9. Your Kiss – Tom Jones  (I prefer to sing this song in the deepest voice possible)
  10. Hello My Baby, Hello My Ragtime Gal – Michigan J. Frog
  11. Crazy in Love – Beyonce
  12. Banditos – The Refreshments
  13. The Legacy of Margaret Brown – State Radio
  14. Friend Like Me – Genie’s Song from Aladdin
  15. The Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
  16. Magic Man – Heart
  17. Why? – Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire
  18. Here Comes the Sun – the Beatles
  19. Nostrand – Ratatat
  20. Pumped-Up Kicks – Foster the People

Week 3

Week 2


PCT: Goat Rocks to Mt. Rainier Ntnl. Park, a set on Flickr.

Trying out some different photo services so that I don’t hit the size cap for any of them. Give one of these a click to see the week I spent in the Goat Rocks Wilderness and Mt. Rainier National Park.



Pacific Crest Trail:

Wonderland Bonus Trail:

STATISTICS (for 2011 only)
DISTANCE:  ~593 foot miles
DURATION: 48 days (4 days of zero mi)
LONGEST DAY: 42 miles
HIGHEST POINT: 12281 ft, atop Mt. Adams
ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS: Deer, Elk, Bear, Mountain Goat, Owl, Hawk, Frog, Toad, Pika, Marmot, Squirrel, Chipmunk, Plagues of Mosquitoes, Horsefly Hordes, The Notoriously Dangerous Human Being, Still No Mooses
INJURIES SUSTAINED: Achilles Tendinitis, Shin Splints
ALIENS ENCOUNTERED: Zero (unless memory was wiped)
PEOPLE MET: All Beautiful
DAYS OF PRECIPITATION: 8 (all within the last ten of the journey)
BOOKS READ: The Instructions, Good Omens, Things Fall Apart, Lost Horizon, Redwall


The rest of the photos from my journey will upload over the next week so that you folks are not overwhelmed with hundreds of photos at once. Be sure to stick around for the conclusion. I assure you it is sufficiently epic. I’ll be out to the coast to visit y’all in a few days and after that…



Hi there! I’m still alive. Alyssa and Seth and I have completed the Wonderland Trail around Rainier and we are now in Seattle. The Wonderland Trail was awesome: very pretty – alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, herds of mountain goats, and we even got to enjoy lunch in a shelter while watching a black bear forage across the river. I’ll upload photos later on.

In a couple hours, I’ll head out to the highway to get back onto the PCT and continue heading North. This section is 126 miles without any roads, passing through the Western area of North Cascades National Park, and the guidebook describes it as the most challenging section after the High Sierra’s John Muir Trail. And I might be racing the coming of Old Man Winter…

Wild Man Meets Civilized Man

This is pretty much how I feel after spending a week in the woods.

Falcon Dive

Another neat nature video to entertain whilst I am unable to update with photos.

Day 7

Hi there! Staying with some trail angels in Skykomish. I’ve been having trouble all afternoon getting this computer here to upload more photos from my trip. I managed to get one more day to upload, via Facebook.

Click here: Day 7:

I’ve also got a few panorama shots from the gorgeous Goat Rocks for ya.

First view of the Goat Rocks.

View over the first pass in Goat Rocks.

The Goat Rocks are unreal in their majesty. I had to keep reminding myself it was real and right there. This might be my favorite picture I've taken so far.

View Atop Old Snowy, Mt. Rainier in distance. Look closely on the right and you can see where the PCT traces the very top of the crest.

My outrageous campsite on the knife-edge crest trail down from the Old Snowy summit

I went through the Goat Rocks Wilderness on Day 8.

Today is Day 21 of my journey, so my updates are way behind as you can see. I’ve got a bunch more pictures but it appears I will likely have to wait until I get home to upload them. Tomorrow, I will start hiking the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier with Alyssa and Seth. It’s a detour – not part of the PCT, but a famously-beautiful trail and I just cannot resist the opportunity. After that, I’ll get back on the PCT for another couple weeks and race the autumn snows to Canada. Then, I’ve just got to find a way back home to Oregon.

I will update again if I get the chance, but… we’ll just have to see.

Day Six

Today, the summit.

Ditched my pack.

And began the long ascent.

Shadow slant.

Dramatic shot!

Kept getting steeper.

So much snow...

Don't look down...


I think that's Sawtooth Ridge down there!

Lots of people trying to get up Adams. Roughly two thirds of them turned back, which I found rather surprising.

Man glissading down the mountain. Essentially this was a two-mile-long ice slide. Being an adult rules.

The glissade chute has seen some use. Yeah, I totally used it on my way down. Yeah, it was totally awesome.

These three mountaineers were a Godsend for the final push. Their crampons cut neat steps into the ice that I could climb right up without much difficulty.

What? That first bit was a false summit?

A cessna flies a few passes over the summit.


Almost at the top now...

Adams is the third tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, after Shasta and Rainier. On my way up, someone heading down mentioned to me that "conditions are perfect." They were. I have never seen such a view in my life.

Not only could I see the Goat Rocks (coming up in a few days) and Mt. Rainier, but in the distance (I don't think the photo got it), we upon the summit could even make out Glacier Peak - in Canada.

We could see far past the Gorge, where it turns into the desert of Eastern Oregon.

Farther than Mt. Hood, farther than Jefferson, all the way to the Three Sisters in Central Oregon.

We could see Mt. Olympia by the coast, and the curvature of the Earth. It was out of this world.

Getting down was a snap. Took maybe a half-hour of glissading. Here, I've startled a young deer.

This chipmunk fiercely protected his tree. You shoulda heard the little guy squeak his head off at me.

Then, I had to cross the gullies again back to the main trail.


It feels good to be back. Again.

Found another great campsite that night.

Grizzly Stalking Hiker

I saw this video awhile ago and thought it was pretty scary. Figured I’d share it with y’all since it fits the theme and whatnot. Don’t worry: There are no grizzlies on the PCT. Just black bears, and they are practically just giant raccoons.

Day Five

On Day Five, I decided I was going to climb Mount Adams. I began the eight mile detour trail toward the best ascent on the Southeast flank of the mountain.

Richie joined me for lunch in Horseshoe Meadow where he spotted Blaze sliding down that massive glacier. Blaze is another thru-hiker I met (not pictured) who is climbing every mountain on the West Coast in addition to the PCT because you know, he's out to make us others look lazy or something.

The Around the Mountain Trail featured many, many gully crossings like this one.

And this one.

St. Helens in the distance. Apparently, the Indians used to have a legend about these three mountains, Adams, Hood, and St. Helens. Hood (Wyeast) and Adams (Klickitat) both fell in love with the newcomer St. Helens (Squaw Mountain). She loved Wyeast, but Klickitat prevailed in a fight, so she had to reside in his territory. I wonder how this legend would account for the eruption in 1980?

Climbing up the flank of Adams, I can see where I-84 leaves the Gorge and meets the desert!

That peak still looks pretty far.


Chipmunk atop a trail cairn.

What is that creature moving over there?

Oh, it's a marmot!

The evolutionary strategy of the marmot wasn't speed or cunning or anything like that. They just decided to live way up high on mountaintops where predators seldom roam.

Their backup evolutionary strategy: Be super ridiculously cute.

View atop Lunch Counter, near my base camp.

Sunset by St. Helens.

Tomorrow, the summit.

Day Four

Panaroma view atop Sawtooth Ridge.

Adams is getting closer. Think I can climb that thing?


One Wilderness down, two left in this section. Later on, I learned from some trail volunteers that no chainsaws are allowed in the wilderness, so all the blowdowns must be cleared by handsaws. Or, if things get desperate, they use dynamite (it's a pre-Industrial solution).

See the frog?

AWESOME cache in this bearbin by a random road. Apples, dried cranberries, spare Ziplocs (so useful), hot cocoa, and... is that... is that coffee? In either vanilla or mocha? Oh my goodness.

I made camp nearby so I could make use of that cache's also-very-convienent trashcan. Trout Lake Abbey looks like a cool place. Their pamphlet says they're all organic, they sell produce and rent quaint rooms.

Tomorrow... I think tomorrow I might do something epic.

Day Three

Now it's just me and the trees.

In a dry zone, I come across an anonymous water cache for hikers at this campground. People are cool sometimes.

The old PCT sign, 70's era.

The snow begins...

No sheep at sheep lake.

I may or may not have briefly frolicked here.

Fire tower atop Red mountain.

Look at all those trees.

Panorama view atop Berry Peak.

There were an outrageous number of blowdowns in Indian Heaven Wilderness. Part of the trail here goes through an Indian reservation. The guidebook mentions you might even spot bare footprints, but I didn't see any.

Blue lake was beautiful! I should've camped here.

Decided to take a load off by Blue Lake.

Deer spots me before I spot it at Bear Lake.

By nightfall, all sight of the trail was gone and I was following fading footprints.

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