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Jacob Smith, mt. bachelor
As the first few feet of snow fell in the Oregon Cascades, many eager snow bunnies made their way up to the snow covered peaks looking for something, anything, to shred.
Cole Smith and I made our way to Mt. Bachelor in hopes of getting at least one run in. After strapping on our snowshoes, we set our sights on the local favorite: the cinder cone.
As we hiked, we scoped for areas to build a feature of some sort or natural jumps and slides. When we reached the top, sticking out of the snow was a metal pipe.
So naturally, we had a quick pre-season rail jam.
shirley chan, sparks lake
About 30 miles west of Bend off the Cascade Scenic Lakes Highway, Sparks Lake lies hidden in the depths of the Deschutes National Forest. The glistening lake is graced with the views of South Sister, Mount Bachelor and Broken Top. Nights are spent with laughter and stories around the campfire.
Levi Gittleman, yosemite national park
It started with a stomp. Little feet make surprisingly large amounts of dust fly in the air, and this discovery was not to be forgotten by any of the 12 tiny backpackers that were becoming increasingly restless at our campsite. We were nestled between a grove of trees by the Snow Creek Trail, and had just set up camp after walking 4 seemingly endless miles filled with moans and groans mixed with some oohs and ahs. Soon enough, Griffin, a 9-year-old boy, had discovered that he could cup his hands together and throw large amounts of dirt into the air, creating a so-called “dirt bomb.” Before long, all 12 kids were covered in dirt from head to toe. They threw mounds of dirt into the sky, creating nimbus clouds of dust at about eye level for me and the other adults on the backpacking trip. All shouts about “leaving no trace” were drowned out with laughter and screams, as the campsite seemed to explode around us.
This is one of many memories I have from taking kids on backpacking trips into Yosemite National Park. I feel so fortunate to have been able to accompany kids on these adventures, for they become wild creatures engulfed in the beauty of nature without even knowing it. They ponder over muddy tracks and massive bugs, they jump over fallen logs and trickling streams, they swim through mountain rivers and sleep under bright stars. I’ve watched countless times as a boy no taller than 4 ft. stares dumbfounded at the massive granite wall in front of his face. I see his eyes trying to comprehend the magic of what’s in front of him and I see curiosity and wonder overflow from his head and form into a thousand questions. Most importantly, I see his love for nature grow by the second, and I can only hope that it will continue to grow for the rest of his life, as I know it has for mine.
Shirley chan, morocco
In southeastern Morocco, a village called Merzouga attracts droves of tourists drawn by the allure of the Sahara Desert. Our Indiana Jones-style joyride across the sand dunes replaces the typical sunset camel ride—it is a fast and furious glimpse of the vast and peaceful region known as the world’s largest hot desert.
sid Beck, road trip in the sierras
500 Miles, 24 Hours, and a Volkswagen Van
It had been a long time since I had ventured deep into the mountains. The only memories of these special mountains I had were memories a 10-year-old mind could take in: slow car rides, sledding in the hills, and burgers. It seemed fitting to go back and appreciate the land with new eyes, eyes that had since been trained to overlook the temporary and latch onto the permanent, eyes that are not hasty, but patient, soaking in every inch of untouched, ungroomed, raw land.
We drove. Cole and I thought we’d make the best out of some time off, so what could we fit into 24 hours? Swimming in an alpine lake, fishing on a prairie, sleeping in the hills, relaxing in a hot spring, surfing the big blue sea, climbing sandstone slabs, and smiling (almost) the whole way through seemed like the plan.
We started in the Sierras. The chairs came out, the umbrella went up, and the beers popped open. This was living.
The weather forecast looked grim. 103º was the high for the day and we didn’t come prepared. The car had no AC, we were almost out of sunscreen, our water was as warm as the air, and we had a few miles of river to scan for fish, all with the predicted blazing sun beating down from high-noon ‘til sunset. As it goes with most high mountainous regions, the weather changed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, pouring rain, lightning, and high wind set in. We fled the alpine lake in search of gold (fish).
Upon arrival at the river, the heaviest part of the storm set in, rendering us hunkered down in the van with our limbs tucked away from any metal objects that could give us the kind of ride we weren’t looking for; a zap from mother nature. After some food, some laughs, the rain subsided and we hit the river.
North we went.
We found a far more untouched land than we had been dealing with before. This northernmost section of river had its advantages and disadvantages. Rumor had it that some 18-24 inch trout had been pulled from this bit of wilderness, but they hid well below the tangles of riverweed and underwater boulders. The sun began to set.
Then, the dark and once-distant clouds were directly overhead.
Through marshland, cow pies, and swarms of mosquitos we ran back to the van.
Soaked, dirty, and out of breath our spirits were still on cloud 9. Who cares that we didn’t catch fish? The memories were made.
Dinner was pasta with the highest-tier sausage a supermarket could offer: hotdog meat. Yum.
We ate, cleaned up, watched the sunset, and settled into a night of good beer next to a warm fire, and the kind of conversation that bonds.
Alarms went off at 4:50am. Just in time to catch the sunrise at a nearby, organically fashioned hot spring.
100º of goodness warmed our bones after a chilling night sleep under super-market blankets.
We left and hit the pavement but not before turning around, just once more, to look at the land that had just fed us with enough life to feed on for the months to come.
The forecast came true. 103º through the desert, in the car, meant we took new measures: spray bottles and draped towels. We blasted through the heat and made it to the coast by 1pm. We had five hours left in our 24 hours to play with dolphins and climb like monkeys.
The boards came off and we dunked.
There weren’t any dolphins, but there were waves. Hootin’ and hollerin’ our way around the sea, we found a good zone and caught the peak. Good rides and good vibes kept us in the water a little past schedule, but we hopped out and I hit the gas and we stayed at our usual 70 mph…because the car literally can’t go any faster.
Up in the dry mountains we donned our climbing gear and I set up the anchor, did a couple climbs, fending flies from our eyes. We remained laughing and smiling, despite fears of heights, loose bolts, and weird sounds. No matter the weather, the time of day, or the conditions, getting high above nothing feels right at home.
Walking away from trips I tend to reflect, as most do. What continues to irk the depths of Sid is this simmering longing for more of nothingness. This desire to run from things, to rest in vastness, and to think about life and all of its facets; the follow-through of this desire is what helps set my tired and exhausted soul on fire.