Mixed bag

To travel…

Today I’ll ponder about the state of traveling. Reading the news I came across articles that made me think. First, there is a 21 year old woman from Nevada, who visited all 192 sovereign countries of the world in her young life. She set a Guinness world record as the youngest person to accomplish this (what shall I call it?).

I am wondering, what do you do after this? And what did she take away from it? Just wondering.

She liked Northern Pakistan the most because of the unexpected kindness of people (and the absence of other tourists). Her travels have attracted 50,000 followers… A book is next… Still…

“The traveler sees what he sees.

The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

G.K. Chesterton

Then this is for all cruise ship passengers to think about. Princess Cruise Lines and its parent company Carnival Corporation have been fined another 20 milion US$ for dumping plastic waste into the ocean. Not the first time they were fined for environmental crimes.

Not sure what the attitude is here, soiling your own playground?

And finally, considering climbing Mt. Blanc in France? Better make reservations. No ticket, no mountain for you. 25,000 climbers have overwhelmed the hut system and the environment, so local authorities are limiting access to the mountain.

I think there is a common theme here. Too many people in one place, locals or visitors, are not good for the environment. Wild and quiet places turn into tourist attractions. What’s left? Now even rugged mountains are being overrun?

Begs the question, why some of us are seeking solitude and wilderness.

Our modern ways of living and traveling allow us to see the world, but do they let us experience nature?

Well, that’s it for today. Another day of business as usual.

PS: A day after I wrote this I found an article on The Atlantic. There is a word for this phenomenon: overtourism.


Mixed bag

First ship


“The traveler sees what he sees.
The tourist sees what he has come to see.”

G.K. Chesterton

The first cruise ship of the season has arrived in town. Spitting out 3000 passengers in search of memories and experiences.

For some travelers these memories consist of merchandise: T-shirts, hats, and diamonds…

Unfortunately the diamond hunters did return empty handed, as none of the 25 diamond stores in a town of 700 souls had opened their seasonal shops. The stores are closing in fall the day the last ship leaves and remain locked for the whole winter. The large window fronts collect dust, hiding the bare interior. In spring a row of nondescript, rusty containers roll into town. Overnight windows are cleaned, shop signs are polished, and display cases are overflowing with expensive jewelry, watches, and art work. Well, I assume the goods are expensive, since no prices are displayed.

This year the first ship beat the diamond stores to the punch. All we had to offer was a beautiful spring day. I wonder how many visitors appreciated the precious beauty of their surroundings and took home those memories free of charge.


Spring time

Inside Out

One moment you are happy…

“You are happy for an instant
and then you start thinking again…”

Georgia O’Keeffe

Hiking alone. Good for the body and the soul? I am wondering.

Here I was hiking up Mount Decoeli outside of Haines Junction in the Yukon. Mount Decoeli is with 6,279 ft / 1,914 m the 138th highest mountain in Yukon, no big deal. It is readily accessible from the Alaska highway and promises a great 360 degree view with glimpses to the distant ice fields. It is seven o’clock in the evening when I start hiking from Bear Creek Summit. Not a soul in sight.

Bear scat, willows and alders, a loud creek to begin with. What am I doing here? What if I run into a bear? I am clapping my hiking poles, holler, whistle, and rumble along and across Bear Creek, as much as possible, to stay out of the man-high vegetation. The hike is outside of the Kluane National Park, so I did not have to register with the rangers. Nobody knows where I am, where I am going. Calm down. This is great. This is why I am here. To hike cross-country, finding my own trail…


A few hours later I pick up a faint trail leading into steep scree land. A social path, a wildlife trail? It seems to go in the right direction and the path  makes it much easier to walk on the mountain slope. It’s 10 o’clock. The sun is still up there throwing warm beams of light on the hillsides. Across the valley I see nine dall sheep, inching their way back into the mountains, grazing in places without, at least from the distance, any green.

Finally, the top. More snowy mountains emerge in the West. Nothing seems to be that tall, like viewing Denali from the distance. I do not know that I will fly over these distant mountains in a few days, which leaves me with the feeling of belonging. Not tonight. The sensation of loneliness creeps into my body. Circling thoughts, not exhausted enough to keep the head from spinning. What now, Georgia?

sky over kluane

Georgia O’Keffe had an open marriage with Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer, gallery owner, and magazine publisher. Were they in pursuit of happiness during their unconventional relationship? Benita Eisler described their marriage as “a collusion … a system of deals and trade-offs, tacitly agreed to and carried out, for the most part, without the exchange of a word.” Several hundred portraits of Georgia were taken by Alfred. One notable portrait exists by no other than Ansel Adams, who described Georgia as “psychopathic.”

The nine dall sheep are still grazing on the side of a mountain when I descend around midnight.

It is past two o’clock in the morning, when I stumble back to the car, hungry and tired. A cup of udon needles with sweet carrots fixes the hunger. I sleep in the next morning.

What’s next? Rest, think, hike, worry, repeat…

One Man's Paradise


home is not a place,
but a state of mind nourished by friends?

James Baldwin

One aspect about seasonal work that I love is the possibility to live and play in beautiful places. I have called the great outdoors of Alaska, the Southwest and now Wyoming my home for the last three years. I did not need a villa to feel home. I have occasionally lived in my car, tents, cabins and simple to fancy hotel rooms. I have meet people from all walks of life, most have come and gone, few have become friends.

I think, the feeling of being home certainly is a state of mind. Some of us may not have the need for a home in the traditional sense. A simple shelter may do it. To feel safe, whole…

Mormon Road, Teton National Park

Mormon Road, Teton National Park

By the way, James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. He made his home primarily in the south of France, but often returned to the USA to lecture or teach. In 1957, he began spending half of each year in New York City.

Early Weed Bench, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, UT
Inside Out

A letter to Everett Ruess

Dear Everett,

we have never met, but I have read a lot about you.

I have spent the last few days in the Escalante area, a place that you have like so much. Now I can understand why. Most of the area is now protected as part of a national park, the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, can you imagine?

There are some things that have changed since you traveled this amazing landscape 80 years with your mules. For one, they built a large dam near Page and flooded Glen Canyon and a lot of the tributary canyons to create the second largest man-made lake on earth. Some of your camp sites are under water, as many other historic and natural sites. Besides generating energy and distributing the water they also let visitors race power boats and jet skis on the lake and call it a Recreational area. It is a weird sight to see that much water in the middle of the desert.

Kanab, Escalante, and Boulder are now little towns catering to tourism. I assume most visitors are happy to explore the desert from the safety of their cars, although a few desert rats seem to venture into the canyons, carving a few days out of an otherwise busy schedule. Nobody travels the desert like you did, for months on end, just with two mules and limited resources. I have seen some packers using horses going into Silver Falls. The horses are hauled into the desert on big enclosed trailers, pulled by a strong 4-wheel drive. After the trip of a few days, usually a weekend, they go back on greener pastures. For hikers on foot, we have now detailed maps, trip reports, weather forecasts, GPS devices, satellite phones and emergency beacons to make traveling predictable and safe. It is a different world.

Some people writing about you have said that we in reality do not understand your exuberance and enthusiasm for traveling alone in the desert. I think we would need to travel on your terms to have a similar experience as you had, to become a part of this ruggedly beautiful landscape. You went on an open-ended journey not knowing what tomorrow and the day after will bring.

I am sure it was extremely unusual in your days to travel alone the way you did, although you were not the only one. Traveling alone is not new to me. Spending a few nights out in the canyons and hills near the Escalante river made me feel small and vulnerable at first. I also thought this is the perfect place to get lost. Then, after a few days I discovered it is also a great place to find yourself.

Sincerely yours.

Inside Out

A change of season…

Somewhere in the Southwest

Somewhere in the Southwest

I have been on the road for some months now. Summer went, fall came, and winter is knocking…

Time to reflect.

I was a tour guide this season, driving a 15-passenger van with a trailer, and most importantly, guiding a group of visitors from Europe throughout the Western United States. We did see some of the finest National Parks, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and last but not least Las Vegas. The contrasts could not have been bigger, returning after days in the desert to the glitter and blitz of Las Vegas.

What did I like?

I liked the moments when my passengers were in awe. I was amazed how often squirrels and chipmunks did the trick.

Sunset in Monument Valley

Sunset in Monument Valley

What did I miss?

I missed quiet times to immerse myself into a good book and I missed good companionship. I missed the freedom to stay in one place as I wanted to.

Sunset at Mono Lake

Sunset at Mono Lake

What comes next?

Only time will tell.

On the Road

Porterhouse, baby!

San Francisco, Yosemite, Mono Lake, Death Valley, and Las Vegas. Those were the highlights and low points of our whirl wind tour through the Wild West with 26 Dutch tourists and a trailer in tow.

What do we do on our night off in Vegas? Sleep!

Well, not exactly. There was a $70 Porterhouse and a couple of serious margaritas involved to soothe the pain from our babysitting job.
San Francisco was fantastic. The best Chinese food at the house of Nanking, thank you Peter. The best Dim Sum at Tom Kiang, some Russian Pastry, and a great World Cup final.

Yosemite is a zoo. This is not a park. Ban all private traffic and commerce in the Valley. Enough said.

Mono Lake surprised us with a spectacular thunder storm. Wish you were here, if you know what I mean…

Then we roasted at the furnace of Death Valley. It was 48C. Dry heat, though. It melted off the sole of one of our passengers.

Finally Vegas, baby. Tolerable only with blood alcohol levels exceeding the legal limit.

On with the show…