Monday, November 15, 2010

What to do "In This Weather"

I know I have been gone awhile, and I am here to say I am sorry to each and every one of you. I thought that my blogging would pick up once the weather changed, but a funny thing called life got in the way. I know, as a business, it is my duty to keep you all informed of the goings-on of Exotic Hikes. I will do better. That being said, we will get to the meat of this rant.
The weather here in Olympia ranges from beautiful to downright gross, and for the past few months, it has been anything but gross. The sun was out almost everyday, from what I remember, and I got to go to some pretty amazing places with friends, family and other. I suppose I was a bit naive in thinking the fun would last forever, and that the war between blue and gray would be won by blue. This could be a Civil War reference, but it isn't. It just means that the blue skies that kept me so happy and outside turned and ran away, allowing the slowly leaking clouds to slide on in for the foreseeable future. It would be one thing if if snowed here, but we have a good 3 solid months of 42 degrees and rain before we get 3 days of flurries and back to clouds and rain.
Don't get me wrong, I am thankful to be in this area, because our mountains are some of the best in the country. We also have the Olympic Rain Forest, which, without all these clouds and rain would be pretty lame. The reason why I dislike this weather is a personal story of an injury that I am still recovering from.

So last January, around MLK Day, I came back to my parent's house from my grandma's house. I was house-sitting at the time, so I was returning to my parents house. It was a little windy, but nothing to mention to the weather people about not predicting. Driving home I saw a total of zero hundred reasons why stepping outside at 11pm was not a good idea. Sure, the tree branches were moving a bit in the breeze, but as I type this now I am watching leaves fly at a 45 degree and and splattering wetly against my car, driveway and trees. Speaking of trees, my parents house is surrounded by multiple 200 foot tall firs trees, keeping it cool in the summer and even darker in the winter than it ever should be. So I pull into the driveway, wade through the sludge that rain, leaves and poor drainage causes and go inside. I probably just should have taken my shoes off and laid upside down and watched The Daily Show, but apparently I care about the dogs. Who knew, right? I decided that I would take them for a short walk/jog and then feel like I treated them with a little respect. Grabbing a leash, and an old sweatshirt, I took Millie and Poppy for an adventure that none of us were expecting.
Right away, when I got to the end of the driveway, a gust of wind hit me and I heard pine-cones attacking the ground like Chinese military drills with chopsticks against the ground. Again, this is nothing new. I am watching the same scene unfold out the front window and just went out to get the mail. No big deal, and I, and the dogs, didn't think twice about it. We rounded the corner and walked down the dark cul de sac as the gusts sounded like cars passing overhead. I remember thinking something like "I wonder if Doc Brown will pick me up", but let the thought pass because no McFlys live in my neighborhood. After 15 or 20 minutes, we reached the end of the road and the dogs and I turned around and headed home. We were a little wet from the light drizzle, but not bad. In fact, the rain felt nice, which is something I rarely say. The wind was starting to pick up, and I started to hear small branches fall along with the pine-cones. I made a decision to start to jog home, as the wind was picking up every few seconds. It was when we started running that the gusts hit. The first gust surprised me, but having lived at the ocean for 6 years, wind was more fun than not. The second gust flew down the street, letting loose a barrage of small projectiles. Pine-cones, branches, kites, previously trapped cats and squirrels all jumped out the trees, some pelting me in the chest. The dogs appeared scared, so I picked up the pace. Larger branches fell, but nothing too big to do anything but make an awkward splat on the pavement. We got to the intersection right by the house and that is when things got "fun".
So, seriously, I am not even 100 feet from the front door to the house when I hear a large crack above me. I would love to have ran, or had cat-like reflexes and jumped away, but no... Before I had any time to react, the thing that cracked above me crashed down and hit my left shoulder and my head, knocking me out cold, laying in the street. Millie, the smart dog who doesn't need a leash, ran to the front door and started barking, trying to tell everyone that Timmy was trapped in the well. Poppy, the dog who would ride the short bus and needs a leash, bolted to freedom when the leash was released. I only know this because once I came back to life, I saw the scene unfolding. I was motionless in the street, still in shock, so not in pain. I had no clue what happened, like Central Washington University students drinking FourLoco (google it)...Go Wildcats! As strength came back, I realized I was under a huge branch and was covered in mud. I somehow got up, and to this day have no clue how I got there, but next I knew, I was inside. Millie was inside, following me around like always, and Poppy was...damn it, Poppy was still outside. So I took my busted self back outside, with the wind even worse, looking for a dog that was darker than a collapsed mine shaft. I called and called for her, but to no avail. It was then I looked at the street and saw the monstrosity that felled me. Using the one arm that worked, I grabbed the branch and started pulling. I was soon blinded by both pain and the headlights from a car, which stopped and asked what I was doing. I described my predicament in great detail, to which the punk driving the car replied "huh" and sped away. For his sake, he is lucky I haven't seen him again, otherwise I would pretend he didn't exist...yeah, that would learn him. After maybe 5 painful, tear soaked minutes, I had successfully brought the branch of doom into the yard. Right as I dropped the branch, Poppy came running up, soaked, but happy and we went back inside.
I decided that since it hurt to breathe, walk, sit, cry, swear and punch, I needed to go to the Emergency Room. I wasn't going to call an ambulance because I didn't have insurance. It was solid logic at the time. I called my grandma, but she said her eyes were bad and she couldn't drive at night (she later said i should have not pretended I was OK over the phone) so no ride from her. I called my sister, no answer. I called my parents, no answer. I called my grandma again and no answer, though I found out later her power was out. It turned out I had to call my friend who lived 30 minutes north to come give me a ride. Waiting, I prepared my camera to take pictures of the adventure. My friend showed up at about 1:20 am (they had a mid-term the next day). The doctors took x-rays, gave me pills. I waited...

They returned and said I didn't break anything. That was all I needed. I bounced out of there, picked up the rest of my pain pills and came home. The next few days sucked, but after realizing I needed to sleep on my left side and the I couldn't reach for anything, things got better. It was a few weeks later that my arm looked like this:

It didn't hurt too much, so I spent the next month rock climbing:

(Note- see wince on face as left arm is elevated)

Though it turned out, a few months later when I couldn't move my arm at all that I was misdiagnosed and had 2 separate fractures on my collar bone, that had I kept going all willie-nillie about it, I would have required surgery. It turns out my arm was more messed up than Lindsay Lohan. Who knew? Apparently everyone else, is who. I tell this to my friends, all 3 of them, and they are not shocked at all. This makes me happy. Not because they think I am dumb, but because they think I have a high pain tolerance.
Now, anytime the wind starts to pick up, and the rain is falling from dark gray clouds, I get gun shy. I used to love this weather. I used to run multiple miles in this weather. I used to go hiking and take beautiful pictures in the weather. Now, all I can do is watch the light from the sun fade away, and not leave my house, in this weather.

Douglas Scott of Exotic Hikes....out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rocky Picture Show-Part 1

You ever have a day when you decide to go out and find something amazing, and with little to no planning, you stumble across a life changing moment of beauty and awe? Where out of nowhere you get the chance to bond with nature in such a way that just one picture can bring you back to that moment?
Last year, I decided, on a whim basically, to pack up a bag and fly to Salt Lake City. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are plenty of things to do in the SLC, but as soon as the wheels on the 747 touched down, I was ready to bounce out of that city like a Kangaroo on a trampoline. The plan was exactly that, but as we know, plans never quite work out the way we envision them to in our mind’s eye. I was supposed to meet my spiritual guru and good friend Jaia at the Denny’s by the airport a few hours after my flight landed. I figured I would have a few hours experience night “life” in SLC with my college buddy Ben, and then roll south to Orangeville, Utah, Zip Code: 84537. I include the zip code because it is just as unimportant to the story as the city of Orangeville, but more about that later.
I landed, and walked to the front of the airport, Ben was waiting for me, I tossed my bag in the back of his pick-up and we were off. Contrary to my previous belief, SLC was actually pretty at night. As we drove through the mostly quiet streets, I could see why people moved there. The mountains were silhouetted in the distance by a nearly full moon. The light of the buildings danced off the dash and hood of Ben’s truck, which would later be replaced visually with a table, a few cups and the lights of the dance area of the club Ben was a member at; it was our home away from home for the moment. A few hours passed and we boogied out to his truck and proceeded to the Denny’s restaurant. A few minutes of chitchat, a bro-hug and a goodbye, I was alone in a foreign land. 
As I watched the red taillights of the truck fade into the mass of jaundiced lights that made the main section of the city, I took up a seat in a booth and took out my cell phone. I wasn’t concerned that Jaia hadn’t contacted me. Not the first 3 hours at least. Once 2am hit, I decided I might as well get some sleep, so I left my one-time-use friends at the booth with my empty coffee pot and proceeded to the nearest, cheapest hotel to rest until my phone rang. Now, I could describe how awesome the d├ęcor of the hotel was, and elaborate on how the not quite shag carpet would have the same consistency and color of the boulders we would be climbing on later. Instead, I will use the awesome literary trick of jumping ahead.
Hours later, and dehydrated, hot and heads nodding along to hip hop, Jaia and I pulled into a tiny, truck stop looking town called Orangeville. With a population of two and a half thousand and surrounded by mines and uninhabitable land, Orangeville seemed like a place that time forgot. 
Orangeville- Staying Classy
Luckily, we kept driving until we reached a dirt road, which was followed to the point where we saw a Subaru stuffed to the brim with rock climbing gear, food and people. We had arrived. This is where the trip went from a seemingly normal, unplanned semi-disaster into the most beautiful event of my outdoors career. Stepping out of the car, smelling the dry, spring air and seeing, surrounding me like I was Custer, were legends and giants. Rocks which if had guest books would read like a who’s who of ass-kicking climbers. Sandstone creations devour your senses, making this a timeless masterpiece that few, according to the population and chamber of commerce data of Orangeville, see or experience. Here I was, less than 24 hours of deciding to fly down to Utah, and I was in rock climbing heaven. At least, that is what I thought, until I saw where we were camping. We hiked down and around countless boulders, stopping to feel the rock and test our and its strength, heading to our campsite. I had no idea what to expect, in fact, I was so caught up in getting to know the rest of the crew that I didn’t even notice what was directly ahead of me as we rounded the last 40-foot boulder. I was talking and talking, as I do, and I noticed a few seconds too late that everyone else was silent, as if they had just set foot in a holy site. The fact was, we did. Ahead of me, next to a small stream of clear, fast moving water, was a shallow cave underneath the behemoth of a boulder I had just walked around. The cave at the mouth was about 6 feet tall and slanted down at a 45-degree angle. I am positive countless other climbers had stayed there, but I felt like I was the first person to stay there for hundreds of years. Away from lights, roads, and other people, we were back with nature. We put out the crash pads and napped under the cool rock. While the dreams are hazy, I swear the people who called the Wasatch Plateau home visited me in my slumber. I was welcome, I was safe, and I was in for more of an adventure than I had bargained for.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Step One of Millions

Sometimes getting started on things is the hardest part. For me this is true in nearly everything I do. This blog idea is a prime example of it, as I have been bouncing the idea around in my head for nearly 6 months. The longer it sat in my cranium, the harder it was to flush out and do. Like a french press with finely ground coffee, I nearly became stuck. My concern was that this blog will be like all the others that give tips on photography, hiking and life in general. So, with that said, lets do this. 

I think of blogging like mountain climbing. At first, looking up at the huge peak, you become overwhelmed and all your training goes out one ear, landing on the dirt at the base of the mountain. Like with climbing, your skills get more impressive after each attempt, and before you reach the peak, you suffer set backs and difficulties. This doesn't mean I have an excuse for failures in climbing or in writing, but it does helps to demonstrate the level of dedication one must make to be successful in any field. 

This first step is brutal, not knowing what the path ahead will hold for me. I know I have taken many steps just to get to this level, but it isn't the same when I have so much riding on this endeavor. Those of you that know me, know what I mean, but those of you who are new to Exotic Hikes probably don't know much about who I am and what I have done, so the following few posts will be some stories about me and my climbing, hiking, photography and life experiences. 

One thing you all should know is that I always like to be ready. I always have extra food, clothes, batteries, headlamps and shoes in my car or in a pack at all times. I never go anywhere without at least one camera. This is because the few times I went on trips or even to the store without a camera, I saw incredible things that words can't describe. I believe that is the true idea behind photography. To capture something beautiful, something incredible at that exact moment, wrapping a canvas around the world and with the blink of an eye have it all on film; this is what I plan to do until I die. My quest isn't just one peak, or one great piece of writing. My goal is to take a picture. Not just any picture, snapped off without really focusing, but a picture that shows the human spirit and the interaction that nature has with everything. I suppose in my head it sounds so simple, but if you took a picture of me in front of the TV in 1988, watching an enormous fire burn my favorite places in Yellowstone National park, you would have seen nature and my emotion, as tears flowed down my cheeks, realizing that even things that seem steady and durable can be destroyed with the blink of an eye, or click of a shutter.