Bike trip

So, our bikes were in good enough shape to make it across the country and back! I can't freakin believe it. The week that led up to our trip, my bike broke down and then a bunch of the fluids started leaking. I replaced the whole charging system, a new regulator & rectifier, stator coils, new wiring, all that shit (and got new gaskets for that leaky business). It set us back two days, but at least it broke before we left, right? Although, I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous everytime that I went to start my bike during this trip, but dammit, she held up! 

We left Chicago in the AM and got to Des Moines that night. Stayed with a friends brother and he grilled an incredible meal for us, I felt so spoiled, the first night in. 

From there we hauled ass through Nebraska, stopping once to take a snooze in the grass, and then ride straight into a hail storm on our way into Denver. We almost ran out of gas as we pulled up to a small station, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was a good stop, the sun set, we filled up, and got back into the storm. We crashed at a hotel for the night and met up with some friends in the morning, bopped around the town for the day and headed to the Rockys a little later. I still think the riding through the Rockies is one of the most incredible experiences from the trip. We also got the last staff camp spot for the night (thank you to the nice ranger who let us camp there!)

From the Rockies, we rode to Dinosaur national park. I felt like I was riding into jurassic park. Also, we were the only people at our camp site, besides a few nice germans, and a couple of helicopters that were landing to fill water buckets as we rolled up, to take to the wildfire on the other side of the park. Camped for the night and rode through the park the next day.

After Dinosaur, we hit up Utah. We really wanted to make it to the Bonneville salt flat races, but SLC traffic held us back and we missed it. Thought about heading up the next day, but already being two days behind schedule, we decided to ride on. Next year, Utah. We camped at a campground named "Firefly" after a squirrelly experience on a steep decline rock road - not fun.

From Utah we rode through Bear Lake (Idaho) and into the Grand Tetons. Stayed for a night, still thinking about it though. I would like to give all these places more time on another trip. The Tetons were chilly, and thinking about the heat from Utah the day before, I realized the craziness of what we were actually doing. It was a good kind of crazy though :)

From the Tetons we rode north to Yellowstone and stayed for 4 or 5 nights. Jakes bike got knocked over and his clutch broke, so we rode around doubles on my bike for a while, and then decided to rent some horses. It was a good way to see the park.

After parts arrived, we headed to Montana, and stayed with a few of Jakes family friends. They showed us around, let us shower (we smelled pretty awful at this point), fed us, and kept us in good company. Montana is a wonderful place, and I cannot wait to get back. After a few days in Montana, we began to head back home. We stopped at a small motel in Broadus, and as I got up early the next morning to leave, we met Bill.

When we pulled into the motel, it was about 2AM. There were two bikes in the parking lot next to ours, one from Canada, and one from Alaska. In the morning, I began strapping down the bags, and I turned around and saw a sweet old man in the doorway of his motel room, offering coffee. We got to talking and he was the biker from Alaska. We asked him to join us for breakfast and we went to the local bowling alley (it was recommended, and rightfully so). Talking with Bill about his lifetime of motorcycle adventures made me excited to grow older and keep riding. He showed us an album from his ride from Alaska to Argentina, and told stories that made me feel like I was his buddy his whole life.  It was a very memorable interaction,  I am looking forward to seeing you again & riding my friend.

It was a good way to leave Montana, and head to the Bandlands of South Dakota.

Pulling into the Bandlands at sunset is something I will never forget. I don't really have many words for it. The Prairie dogs on the way out were one of my favorite stops though. I can watch animals eat peanuts for days. 

There is something about living out of a backpack, that I just can't quite get enough of. I need to give all of these stops, and all the little stops we made between the larger ones, more time. I also need to give myself more time to do things like this. In total, we rode over 4,000 miles in two weeks, slept at 11 different camp sites, and three strange motels, visited several national parks, saw birds that i have never seen before, and filled lots of disposable cameras. 

This trip meant a lot to me, and I learned a lot about myself from it. Excited for the next one.


Bird in a merlin and a wood duck!

It's been an exciting week. To start with, I am pretty sick, and I broke my arm. Just walking, an everyday thing that I'm apparently really good at. But for other reasons, its been a great week!

I found a dragon fly inside a merlins throat while I was preparing it this past Friday. Naturally, I dissected the stomach once I got the torso out! I found a bunch of fur and wads of feathers, and more bits of dragonfly. I also found two little feet though! I showed my boss and we decided to keep them in the "stomach contents" collection.

Also, there was a wood duck in the pond at Humboldt Park


Porcupine Mountains

Sometime this past summer Jake and I drove up to the Porcupine Mountains to visit our friend Dave while he did an artist residency there! Some photos from the trip.

Oregon & Washington

Ash and I got to bop around a bit of Washington and Oregon last month. Incredibly beautiful & foggy, got some good birding in, lots of driving, and good company. Some are flim, some are digital, some are mine, some are Ash's, all are beautiful.

A weekend with Hawkwatch International.

Last week, Jake and I headed out to Oregon to spend a few days with Hawkwatch International, watching the raptors migration. We spent most of the weekend with binoculars to our eyes, sitting in a 'blind', trying to lure in raptors so we could put a band on them, take their records, and then release them back to the sky. All of the information taken (wing, tail, weight, eye color, molt, parasites, etc.) then goes into a database and the bird then has a record that corresponds to the number on its leg band. 

Those records are used to monitor the environment around us. Throughout migration, birds cover thousands of miles within a few weeks, heading towards their wintering grounds. Long-term data can help determine if a population is consistent or changing. If a specific species is in threat, it can give insight to a possible climate change, depletion of food source, or other variable factors. These records are helpful for conservation and indicators of ecosystem statuses. 

I didn't bring a camera, and since we were literally camping on a mountain, my phone was dead most of the time. The few photos I got are posted below, Jake took some really incredible ones though!

Our flight got into Portland a little after midnight and our first stop was to pick up a car then head to a hotel until we could make it to the campsite. The car rental portion of the night was a little frustrating so we decided to walk to a hotel to get some much needed sleep. We woke up early the next morning and figured out the car situation and decided that we were going to drive it as much as possible to get our moneys worth! So we drove the complete opposite way of Mt. Hood and headed to the coast for the morning. It was pouring rain as we drove through the forests. I rolled down the windows just enough to feel the air without allowing any rain in, the smell of the wet trees was incredible.

By the time we got to Cannon Beach, the rain eased up a little bit so we decided to walk to the shoreline. It started pouring again once we got out there, but at that point we were already soaking so we just decided to walk through it all. It was windy, there weren't many people out there, and it was completely beautiful. We trudged through it for a bit then decided to start the drive back east and head to Mt. Hood. 

We got there a little before the sunset and the drive up was a little stressful (I don't recommend taking a sedan up a rocky mountain). So we parked and hiked to the top of the Bonney Butte. Driving through all the trees and winding roads on our way there, I was pretty speechless, but once we got to the top and I could see everything around me for miles, with no signs of civilization besides us, I suddenly felt small. I don't know if there is a word to quite describe it, but it felt right.  We sat in silence and soaked it in, then headed back down to set up our tent and meet the site interpreter, Dustin. 

He fixed some food for us and we sat with everyone in the main tent for the rest of the night. It was a small world, someone there grew up in a town not far from our hometowns. What are the chances of that. 

We woke up early the next morning, had some coffee, made lunch for the day, and headed to the top of the butte again. For the next few days, we identified birds flying through, and the ones that came into the site got their records taken then we released them. It was a slow first day (bird wise) but we were still exploring all of our surroundings so the day went faster than I could really take in. 

We found a good spot for lunch and ate there everyday after, plopped right on the side of some rocks. 

A lot of birds flew overhead and a few got banded, this is a sharp-shinned hawk that was in the blind on one of our days there. The second photo is a coopers hawk. 

On Sunday, we decided to go for a hike to one of the lakes in one of the valleys. It was only a two mile hike, but it was pretty steep, so it took us a little while to get to it. We could see a cool blue poking through the trees though and reached a beautiful lake in the midst of the forest. 

We drank all of our water by the time we reached the bottom, so going back up was quite a bit of fun. ;)

The last day of the trip, we decided to stay in the banding station until we got one more bird. After a long and slow morning, we were thinking about heading out. Then a red-tailed hawk flew in and wow, she was beautiful. It was strange how calm the birds were. They would look at us, with intense eye contact, making sure you knew that they saw you the entire time. This particular red-tail stared me down while she was getting her measurements taken, her mouth was open the entire time and her glare was fixed on my eyes, she seemed to know what was going on and although the photo below looks like she is screeching at me, she didn't make a sound. After her records were taken, we brought her back out and I got to release her. It was kind of surreal to feel her in my hands, I could feel her movements as she focused on mine. I threw my hand into the air and she circled over our heads for a few minutes before heading back into the valley. We felt like that was a good way to leave the mountain, so we headed back to camp to pack up and make the trip to Eugene.

I was sad to go, and I was glad it was a long trip back down through all the trees, I wanted to stay as long as possible. But Eugene was next and I was excited to reunite with Katelynn for a drink. A few hours to catch up didn't seem to be enough, so I'll be seeing you again soon Oregon.