New Work: Lost Off the Coastal Grid

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

A new client sent me on a new adventure to the Lost Coast, California’s unspoiled shores in search of empty waves with three friends. We brought along Grundens’ new recreational clothing line to keep us dry and warm, as well as camping gear by UCO and a couple action cams by Intova. View the gallery on the website, Industrial Revolution’s blog post here, and enjoy the full story with imagery below:

Kris stretches into the armhole and extends through, pulling a thick black neoprene sleeve up onto his shoulder. In defiance, his own skin bunches and folds with heavy drag. It’s a frustrating and familiar struggle for most. For Kris, it’s merely familiar. Calmly, he uses his other arm to help skirt over the shoulder before his hand pokes through with a distinct pop. His other arm then begins, this same process until the entirety of his 5/3mm wetsuit wraps up around his chest, and in doing so, covers a noticeable 8-inch scar. He is nothing but smiles. Almost giddy. Yeah. He’s giddy. With a quick zip and a pull of the hoodie, he grabs his board and jogs toward the heaving sea, leaving me behind to wrestle with my own suit.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Less than six months ago Kris suffered a heart attack—unbeknownst to him for days. He continued his work as usual until an increasingly shortened breath finally drove him to the hospital for an exam. He was nonchalant; the doctors were outraged. They called him crazy. They called him lucky. They called for surgery. Six months later, his arteries mended, his breastplate clasped closed, his skin stapled back together, and he is back; a retired teacher-turned contractor, marching miles through wet black sand, pebbles, large stones and crashing surf with three millennials to an isolated California lineup. The coast is calling. Five minutes later, I’m in the water paddling after him.

This is the Lost Coast: a raw, undisturbed land of wonder and contradiction. Graceful yet ferocious. Peaceful yet violent. Evolved yet ancient. It beckons as it warns. It is a shoreline of proud pine-clad cliffs, sturdy golden grass tuffs, and a thrashing blue-green Pacific Ocean. Kelp beds float below shore birds. Barking seals leap through the surface on wild hunts. Whales breach at the sun’s horizon and few onlookers gawk at the natural beauty. This natural beauty is undeniable, at times unbelievable, and yet few onlookers chance to gawk. To take the time and energy to hike out to this wild backcountry requires a strong willingness and preparedness that gratefully we possessed. Streams supply the drinking water. All else is packed in and packed out.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

With 10 pounds of food each (40 pounds total), stuffed into four bear canisters, packed next to clothes, cooking gear, tents, hammocks, sleeping bags, wetsuits and 6-foot surfboards, our backpacks weighed in at over 80 pounds. I struggled; this was by far the heaviest pack I’d ever carried. My two other 30-some-year-old friends also struggled. I could only imagine what post-surgery Kris felt under the weight and excessive heat we endured while hiking out. But still he and we trod on. We scrambled ridges, tiptoed intertidal zones, and silently tested every motivating mantra we’d ever heard, until finally descending the yellow grass bluff into camp. The waves were pumping. The view was stunning. For a few moments, the pain in our weakened knees and aching hips went unnoticed. Green lines interspersed with whitewash as backlit waves peeled into evanescent barrels. We dropped our packs, chugged our remaining water, and suited up. I was the last in the lineup. Kris is definitely crazy. And we’re all lucky.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

For six days and five nights, we stared at the western horizon. Whether bobbing in the water or resting on land, we became transfixed on the incoming swell. We learned what tides the breaks worked best, whether it was at the point or river mouth, and analyzed each potential crest. Which direction was the wind? Where were the exposed rocks and hidden threats? Was the tide incoming? Outgoing? What was it yesterday, and how is the swell moving in relation to the beach? Parallel or straight onshore? I hope it’s onshore. I hope it’s low tide now with an incoming swell. I hope it’s a building swell. Chest high. Head high. Two-feet overhead. Offshore winds. Our minds danced like monkeys, utterly consumed by the now, the physical. Our senses were elevated by the stillness and simplicity of life off the grid. We had carved out a forbidden space—a temporary break from our familial and business lives—our concurrent realities behind and looming ahead. We had found that other part of ourselves, which exists only in great solitude.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

The sun beat down on our shirtless bodies and blasted our squinting eyes. We rehydrated with hot drinks and fresh filtered water. We cooked large meals to quench our appetites, slowly emptied our heavy bear canisters, and let time disappear from our minds. All was sunrise or sunset, and we didn’t care. Our attentions were on the waves, and when it was on—low to incoming tide—we were as young as ever. We were mere children hyped on an inexhaustible spoon of liquid sugar. Bottomless. Boundless. Endless.

We surfed for hours, until our toes went numb from the cold and our legs reminded us of our arduous hike. Sam from Ocean Beach was always the first out. Seemingly impervious to the long hours in the water, Sam had the luxury of surfing almost yearlong in the punishing OB breaks. Kris, Skyler and I, though accustomed to a shorter season, were at least used to the cold waters—our Pacific Northwest temperaments adjusted to feeling numb year-round. Despite our differences, we were all aligned to one indisputable truth: not in our wildest dreams could we have imagined surfing in a pristine California location, miles away from road or highway, without anyone to share the waves but ourselves. Nothing can prepare you for this pleasure.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

For two days, the swell dropped as a thick impenetrable fogbank closed over our heads. We still got in the water, but now when the kelp licked our toes and bumped the bottom of our boards, it was no longer ticklish fun. It was unsettling. We looked out towards an unseen horizon. The curious fear had finally crept into the consciousness. This was shark country—and the appearance of the fog exacerbated this feeling. Weeks prior, Sam had sent us a video of a great white leaping out of the OB lineup. It was a subtle reminder of where we were headed and of the predator’s unspoken omnipotence. So we stayed tight, waiting quietly through the lulls and shivering in the cold as each passing kelp frond made its presence known.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Then one morning the fog was gone. The breeze was offshore, and the swell was building. As usual, we were up at dawn and down patrolling the waves before we could wipe the sleep from our eyes. The surf was immaculate; powerful, big, green, and beautiful. We rode them like they were the last waves of our lives. With the hazy mountains to our backs, we looked hopefully up and down the coast, as though searching for some way to prolong the trip or slow down time itself. Despite this, the hours slipped by, the tide came in, and soon we were spent, as was our time at camp. With heavy regret, we walked onto dry land, packed camp, and as if we were never there, departed. Sam couldn’t stop turning back at the unridden waves and the cruel beauty of the teasing sea. Nobody in sight. No boards but our own. We left the coast lost once more.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Right before sunset, as we wrapped up our 10 miles back with lighter packs and fuller memories, we came upon a dead grey whale. It lay motionless in the surf; its sides scoured with huge, gaping bite marks. The unmistakable work of the sharks—the ones likely near us, beneath us, and possibly upon us if it weren’t for this feast they had won. Now on land, we could more openly visualize what had been lurking in the waves and may still be just beyond the reach of the whale. And shuddering, we thanked the brave beast for its sacrifice—a fitting reminder of the celebration we had just experienced.

Sure, call us crazy. But we say we’re lucky—to be free, alone with friends, and surfing the spotless lineup along a stretch of one of California’s unspoiled coastlines. The little peril, mostly imagined, is but a small price for this wholly real reward.

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Surfing the Lost Coast with Grundens and Industrial Revolution's UCO and Intova

Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area (B+W)

AlpineLakes2-29The Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area north of Interstate 90 in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.  The land of 700 lakes.

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Cameron Karsten Photography

Washington State’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Cascade Mountains)

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A short week of city work and then we were out.  It was 6pm and we were stocking up, eating, forgetting things, stocking up again, getting licenses, and then heading east up and over Interstate 90.  Seattle – Snoqualimie Pass – Roslyn – Salmon La Sac.  It was dark by the time we reached the trailhead, about 11PM, and we were beat from the seemingly endless dirt road that only became visible through the truck’s headlights.  Everything else was black as the sky above.  We took swigs of whiskey, unrolled our pads and bags, and slept like babies under the canvas’ cover.

From Deception Pass trailhead, we enjoyed the wide path to Hyass Lake, before a slowly inclining climb got us sweating.  Simon and I were conditioned.  It had been too long since we were on the trail, so our mind’s excitement took up the body’s slack.  In less then three hours we reached the pass, an uneventful merging with the Pacific Crest Trail.

We had no plans except a start date and the last day we needed to be back down heading home.  We pulled out the topo maps and traced lines with our fingers.

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Our pace didn’t slow, it quickened with ease.  We couldn’t contain the thrill of being out, winding north from Snoqualimie Pass in Washington State’s Cascade Mountains to Steven’s Pass.  The area we were exploring was the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, a land nestled between I-90 and Hwy 2 with enough lakes to last you 10 lifetimes.  And at high altitudes, many cresting above the timber line, they were quiet, and well stocked.  Fly-rods: check.

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In less then 5.5 hrs from the trailhead, up to Deception Pass and north along the PCT we reached our first night’s destination: Deception Lakes.  And they were exquisite.  Two glistening bodies of water with long shallow shores that dropped into deep emerald hues.  The fish were going crazy.  Set up camp, pull shoes, rig the rods and throw some line.  But there was one problem.  These rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout were tiny, skipping across the water as they emerged for a vast array of insect life the size of gnats buzzing around your wine.  We had nothing, they had everything.  Hooking one small brook did not afford us the glamorous backpacking dinner we hoped, but the excitement to be here and how far exceeded expectations.

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The next day we rose and kept camp at Deception.  With light packs, food, water and fly gear, we headed up to Mt. Surprise for a summit before dropping down further north to Glacier and Surprise Lakes.  More fish, more action, but the same small size.  But what made the day was the Saturday morning spent atop Mt. Surprise.  With a thick rolling cloud cover the temperature of a warm bath and nobody within eyesight or earshot, Simon and I sat, played a deck or two and sipped our libations.  Nowhere else was more accommodating before dropping down through Piper Pass onto Glacier and Surprise Lakes.

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To return to camp that evening, we continued along a loop, rejoining the PCT south to Deception Lakes, trying to never walk the same path twice.

With sunrise, oats, and full water jugs, we packed camp and headed west down to Deception Creek, a small tight valley that originated at the base of Mt Daniels.  Simon and I hiked south toward Deception Pass, taking a new less-traveled trail that brought us through a rich land of moss and wild mountain blueberries.  The trail was minimal and our eyes were awake for lingering bears.

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By noon we were back at Deception Pass, before turning west along Marmot Trail to Marmot Lake.  And beyond that, a Shangri La called Jade.  It was a long afternoon hike as we took side routes for smaller excursions to ampitheatres of rock and screen.  The views were vast, as if we could reach out to the trails we were on just days prior.  Shortly before the late afternoon, the thick blue waters of Marmot met us, but it was the Jade that took our breath away.

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Jade Lake was an additional mile above Marmot, a steep perilous hike under darkness, but just manageable with light packs and three days of hiking under our feet and within our knees.  Jade Lake with it’s hushing sounds of wind screaming through the pass just south, was all to ourselves and the large trolling trout that could be seen beneath the surface, careless about our imitation flies.

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One more night, one more morning before the trail descended beneath our boots back to Salmon La Sac (after a morning fish of course).  Beers and billiards at The Brick in Roslyn washed down the 4 day/3 night dream to mere memories.  Next summer will be just as beautiful.

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Collecting Forks, Making Decisions (Location: The Traveler’s Road)

Experience is based on our personal choices, and we can bring as much or as little choice into the matter as we wish.

Life revolves; as the motion of the sun, as the pleating horizon and its contrasting hues from light to darkness and back.  The individual, from one’s perspective, is the traveler.  And upon all travels, there is a road to follow.

This road is full of choices. Which fork will you choose?

This question came to me long ago as an adage.  I was young, say nine years old.  It stated thus: “If there’s a fork in the road, take it.”

And I laughed.  I laughed until it hurt.  Who would put a fork in the road, and why would I want to take it?

It was a phrase filled with ridiculousness to my budding imagination, but one of deep wisdom as I grew into understanding.

The quote was read to me out of a book written by Pat Riley (one of the top ten NBA coaches of all-time according to NBA.com) entitled The Winner Within. I now see it in its full light.  I can taste the fork, the food of life from the past, present and future.  The flavors of choice.

The Life of a Student

Paris—its ancient European splendor discovered on one’s lap in the finest literature or upon the walls of the most selective galleries.

Five months I signed my life away and gave my word to family, friends, and Paris—I would be a student of the City of Lights.  But five months for the traveler is eternity.

The French classes, the home-stay with a lone parisienne woman, and the intense independence of a traveler buried within his consciousness.  The forks were many, arriving and departing, offering me choices in all directions.

Stay in Paris: the marooned traveler locked in a conceived commitment like a child to its bottle.  Return home: my mind, body and soul thirsted for a rest within familiarity, before the dusty lane of a lingering wanderer caught his scent afar once again.

I couldn’t help but sink beyond the mind-fuck of options into a wordless image of the road, where long curving paths travel outward, into movements of the unknown, guiding to new towns and hostels.  Flavors constantly pushing onward.  Possibilities endless.  The road limitless. Where was I?

From the start, way before the birth of my Parisian studies, I collected my forks.  This was my reassurance that I was okay.  Every choice in the road that led to the enrichment of adventure, shaped in spontaneity, was my destiny.  I was not lost.  I was not stuck.  I was on the road less traveled where the unabated borage of questions my mind teased me with was none other then normal brain activity.  I didn’t have to sit in mediation longer.  I didn’t have to eat healthier: rawer foods and purer waters.  I needed to breathe, observe and continue questioning until the choice felt right.  Until I made the decision to pick up the fork and own it.

My present moment—my past and future—rolled into one.  They were in my hand, on the fork, before sliding onto my tongue and across the palate.

The Manufacturing of Commitment

To commit is dedication.  With the soft pavement beneath my feet, as with the crisp steel shaping the idiom’s many forms, I’m dedicated to the life of the traveler.  Time in Paris was up.  I clearly saw my fork and I took it.

A thought is a thought.  Experience it.  Accept it.  Leave it at that and move on.

When a choice is made there’s a manufacturing of commitment.

“I will do this.”

You tell yourself.  You tell others.

There’s a response from all: Yes you will, or no you won’t.

And as word spreads around, a bond is created.  A thought, into speech, turned to action.

However, a choice remains at its origin in that plain thought.  Here lies the trouble: Perhaps you can’t let go.  Maybe, just maybe, you’re stuck because you took it too seriously, so whole-mindedly that there was nothing else to stand in its’ way.

A thought is a thought.  Experience it.  Accept it.  Leave it at that and move on.

Return to the Road

Although I thought about Paris from its conception, where I shared it, created it as my reality, and experienced it’s artistry for five months; whose commitment was it?

It was mine and I could change it.

Remember Cameron, you have the fork.  My conscience was speaking clearly.  You picked up the fork.  You own it now.  This is your life to decide what to do, when to do, without questioning why.  Feel your way through the flavors of destiny.

I stopped, took in a breath, and experienced the current circumstances.  A perceived commitment, which never existed, vanished for good as my path along the road became unblocked.  I let go and my movement proceeded, far from Paris.

No, I’m not married to any single thought.  I never was, and I never made a commitment, except to that originating decision to do it.  But then there is another, and another, and another, from the past, into the future sitting before me on the plate of the present moment.  And with my fork, I decide where, when and how I live this moment.  As my road evolves and revolves, new choices are made, affecting the current life circumstances.

I don’t allow someone else or something else to begin collecting my forks for me.  They’re mine.

In other words, it all comes down to this:  Bundled in a ball, simple enough for a nine year old to play with, Pat Riley continued, “Don’t let other people tell you what you want.”  Deliberately take it upon yourself to recognize and embrace your life’s choices.

Remember:  If there’s a fork in the road, take it.

 

 

The Art of Spiritual Travel (Location: Your Soul)

You’re at home.  Priorities, concerns, handling of money and dealing with the collection of physical accoutrements placed before you.  You observe life, you fall into it, and then suddenly one day a choice presents itself.

You feel a desire to leave everything: your work, your friends, your life behind.  It is the inevitable moment of choice: shall you choose the same rigorous routine, or a whole new dream, unknown and only imagined.

Which will you push aside?

There was the time in my life when the choice arose.  I remember it specifically: I could have shrugged my shoulders and assumed that playing the role of a “normal” life is what I had been selected to play; or I could have instead dropped everything and disregarded the responsibilities that beckoned me into a deepening well of apathy.

I regarded the two choices (go with it or change it) with all my senses, and then I threw them aside.  I decided to follow the choice presenting the illimitable possibilities within this world.

I listened to my heart and soul and disregarded the insignificant.  I dreamed of travel.  I yearned for the freedom of exploration.  My heart and soul whispered of tales abroad among a new life of transformation.

It was simple.

I packed the few possessions I thought I needed and left with a flexible ticket to the Orient.

There, I realized I didn’t need anything I had first suspected, and so I emptied my sack of all the perceived necessities and placed myself in the hands of my new environment.

With my mind lightened and my worries about necessities eased, my awareness expanded off the pack upon my shoulders to my surroundings.  This observance immediately came full circle, returning me to an original recognition of the potential that rested within.

Suddenly, traveling became an immersion into inner experience.

My lifestyle transformed from the ordinary railway line of dead-ahead tracks that began with my birth — to that of something entirely different.

Prior to my traveling transition, I longed to see as far ahead into the future as possible.  From as early as I can remember to as recent as the present day, society told me what to do, where to go and what to aspire towards.

I was assured through this dependence that the highest education and the most respected career would bring me happiness.  The future was what I needed: that was where my happiness lied, and subsequently, would forever be.  I sincerely believed it.

But then my lifestyle became an inner journey.

I no longer strained to peer into a remote future, but stopped far short and inhaled.  I breathed in the present moment and realized that in this very slice of existence—right before me, existing nowhere else—happiness prevailed.

Travel, and the immersion into an inner experience, begets more and more—and more—travel.  It’s not an addiction.  Nor is it a habit of escapism.  It is a transformation of lifestyles.  True travel is a place of opening yourself to the processes of inner journeying.

It is laying down the arms of ordinary life and undertaking a new style wholly involving oneself and the world abroad.  It is a return to the recognition of who you are, where you came from and where you’re going within the mass of global evolution.

I was traveling and this was my dream.  With this simple decision to follow my heart, I reclaimed my own destiny.  Without it I was not myself, and with it I could do anything.

My life became a spiritual journey.

Labors of India (Location: New Delhi, India)

“Oshi, please. Uncle is waiting for us.”

I am sitting in a renovated immigration hall experiencing way too much time.

“Oshi, please!”

The lines are getting smaller, people shuffling, waiting.  A woman beside me shoos her young daughter away as she kneels on white marble, scribing black letters on an Arrival Card.

She finishes. Mother and daughter leave for an Uncle.

I’m in India; an India seemingly small compared to the first time I was arrived.  Over a year ago, I was intimidated to be in this massive democracy, a planet unto itself with flavors, scents, terrain and more diversity.  But today it appears minuscule after the other countries and cultures.

Planes unload their passengers.  Paces quicken.

On my plane, there sat a young British woman from the Gatwick area of London.  She was in India on work and explained she was part of a human resources company preparing a presentation at the University of Delhi.  The company was recruiting employees and those hired would be trained in London before returning to work at their Delhi offices.

Lines fill again.  Customs is full of Germans.  Their voices drown out over the CD skipping through the speakers.  Between the scratches, the music is something like an electronic Peruvian flute, and as time lingers, I see people moving to the rhythm.  Germans sway.  A woman in a purple sari trails her lace scarf.  It catches a breath and flutters to the melody.

As she rounds a metal pole forming the orderly maze of security, her luggage follows closely.  Suddenly, it cuts too close, rises over the aluminum base and tips over.  The music stops.

Apparently Hong Kong arrived, but I see no Chinese. If the flight exists, I’m expecting to observe pairs of backpackers and hoards of tourist groups—name tags, color-coordinated luggage plates—walking in circles.

My plan is to catch a 7:20AM train, the 2031 Shabati Express to Amritsar.  Currently, it’s 2:30AM and my desire to wander the New Delhi Railway Station at this hour is nonexistent.  So this large room suites me well.  I’ll stay until the uniformed workers decide to kick me out.

Hours later I discover the Shabati is booked.  Next available train is on the seventh—four days.  I forgo my plans; find a room and crash, sleeping for over twelve hours before checking out in the afternoon.  I head to Paharganj of New Delhi and before I’m awake I’m on a bus to McLeod Ganj.  The destination looms distant.  It will take fourteen hours.  I have no seat, only a front cabin bench beside the driver.

Sitting on top bags, my limbs quickly fall asleep as cold winter air flushes into a cracked window. One after another, the driver smokes his beedis as day turns to night.  The bus climbs into the Himalayas and behind the blaring Indian music, I can hear the roar of the engine and passengers in the back vomiting out windows.  Shortly, I join the ranks.