Friday, December 18, 2009

A Place to Call Home...

That's right, folks, we've finally purhcased our 1st home! We moved in two days ago and we're loving it so far. It has high ceilings in the living/dining rooms, a big bay window, a nice backyard, 3 bedroom/2 bathrooms, and it's located on a cul-de-sac near the elementary school. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what it looks like. Feel free to come and visit! Aside from Mike's "map room", we have a spare room. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving with Family!

Our home along the Pacific Ocean in Northern California is a long way from most of our family. However, we do have family that lives in San Jose, CA. Cousins Heidi and Jeff and their wonderful three children, Joshua, Nathan and Sarah, came up from San Jose to McKinleyville to visit over Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a very memorable couple of days with them, exploring the beaches and redwood forests and also basking in the warmth of a stunning November sunset.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Backcountry Patrol on the Lost Coast

I've always said that if I can get paid to hike, I've made it. If I can get paid to backpack, then I must really be making it! Well, I was sent to patrol the Lost Coast this past week, part of King Range NCA, managed by the BLM. This involved a 3-day backpacking trip from a place called Windy Point in the north, down to Shelter Cove in the south. This trip included about 23 miles of wild, forgotten coastline. Most people say that it's the wildest ocean coast in the lower 48 states. The entire trail follows the coast closely. Parts of the trail can only be done at low tide. I saw sea lions, harbor seals, black bear tracks and a skunk. I also ran into 18 other hardy souls backpacking in the potentially chilly, damp November weather. Actually, only Friday afternoon was wet and cold. The rest of the trip was sunny and comfortable. Not a bad way to spend three days of work!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Great Desert Escape!

I've finally done it! I am completely done with training. This training began in mid March of this year and as of Monday, October 19th at approximately 11 a.m. is now over! From mid March until mid July, I was at the Federal Law Enforcment Training Center in Georgia. From early August until this past Monday, I was in Field Training in Yucca Valley, CA, Bishop, CA and Gerlach, NV.

My final phase of Field Training was back in Yucca Valley. Now, there's really nothing wrong with the desert. It's wild, rugged and beautiful in its own way. But, I am a cool and wet climate person at heart. While leaving the desert this past Monday, I couldn't help but cheer. I was going home!!! Later, when I saw the towering peaks of Mt. Lassen (10,462 feet) and then the completely snowy bulk of Mt. Shasta (14,179 feet), I knew I had left the desert behind.

I'm now happily back in McKinleyville, along the Pacific Ocean, with my wife. All this crazy training is behind me!

Working along the Pacific

Susanna really has a fantastic job. She spends her days walking and teaching under the largest trees in the world. This time of year, it is often a busy job dealing with school groups who come out to Redwood National Park for a 3-day adventure at the Education Center. The kids live in cabins and slowly grow to appreciate and even love the redwoods, the creeks, the prairies and all the creatures that call that home.

On the days that school groups don't come, it is part of Susanna's job to get to know the park as much as she can. This, of course, involves hiking all over the place! The photos above are from a recent outing along the edge of the continent...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Two weekends in the Trinity Alps

We spent each of the last two weekends backpacking in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, California's largest wilderness, located just to the Northeast of us. The first weekend, we backpacked up Canyon Creek to a couple of stunning, alpine lakes nestled beneath massive, jagged peaks. The land looks very similar to the Sierra Nevada with lots of smooth granite, rocky boulders and steep mountains.

The weather was so hot that we went swimming in one of the lakes and actually lounged in the water for awhile! The evening alpenglow was absolutely stunning. A half moon illuminated the rocky, alpine world in silver. After the moon set in the west, more stars than we could count filled the sky. We returned to civilization the following day, rejuvenated and content.

The next weekend, we backpacked up the Stuart Fork trail to a beautiful sub-alpine area called Morris Meadow. Two things were distinctly different about this trip. The first is that we had the place completely to ourselves (last weekend we shared the other with a handful of people). And second, the temperature was about 50 degrees cooler. We fell asleep to the sound of ice crystals hitting the rainfly, but we stayed cozy inside our sleeping bags. The next morning, we awoke to a dusting of snow on our tent, as well as on the high, jagged peaks surrounding our campsite. We backpacked out of the mountains, realizing that winter was just one step behind us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Completion of Phase III

I have now wrapped up the 3rd of 4 Field Training Phases for my new permanent career. I finished up phase III back in Bishop, CA. The mountains are slowly turning from summer to fall. I was able to get up into the higher mountains a couple of times. Highlights included hiking on the PCT past alpine lakes en route to Devils Postpile National Monument.

My work activity was quite varied. The most intense part of it was an inter-agency marijuana eradication operation to 5 different gardens on public land near Bishop. I assisted with the removal of over 14,000 plants! It was a crazy event, but it feels good to be protecting our public lands from the devastating environmental and social impacts of these large marijuana gardens.

I am now back home along the Pacific. It is cool and cloudy today (a nice break from the mid 90's near Bishop). I will stay home for about 2 weeks, then finish up my training back in Yucca Valley, CA.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Burning Man

I spent the rest of Phase II and the first half of Phase III of Field Training working in the hot, dusty Black Rock Desert in NW Nevada. Here, nearly 50,000 people came to the desert to camp and be free to do whatever they wanted to do in the Burning Man Event. I got some great experience and all in all had a really good time. There were about 45 BLM Rangers working the event, so the comraderie was excellent.
For now, I am back in McKinleyville with my wonderful wife. I will finish Phase III back in Bishop in mid September. I'll then be back home in late September and early October. Then, finally, I will finish up Field Training in Yucca Valley in the middle of October for about 2 weeks.

Summer in the high Sierra

Ahhh!!! The Eastern front of the mighty Sierra Nevada met my eyes as I drove into Bishop, CA in late August. I ended up spending a week working out of Bishop as part of Phase II of Field Training. I had several opportunities to patrol in and have some time off in the mountains surrounding this beautiful town. The biggest highlight was a hike up to Bishop Pass (over 11,200 feet), which is also a back entrance into Kings Canyon National Park. The high mountain lakes glistened like sapphires in the crisp mountain air. It's hard to beat summer in the mountains!

Summer in the California Desert

When the temperature gauge on my patrol vehicle topped 120, I knew I was in a different world. I have spent quite a bit of time in deserts before, but never in the summer. When I stepped outside of my vehicle, I felt an overwhelming heat that was almost suffocating. I can't believe people live in a place like this! Despite my initial impressions, I ended up spending a very fun couple of weeks getting to know the desert in Yucca Valley (near Joshua Tree NP) in Phase I of Field Training. I figured out early on that there were some great hiking hours in the mornings and evenings. The rest of the day, I would try to spend as much time as possible in air conditioning. Now, it's on to the eastern Sierra Nevada!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

From the Atlantic to the Pacific

I am finally back along the mighty Pacific! I left the coast of Georgia late afternoon on July 16th, right after graduation from FLETC. After camping in Oconee National Forest in Georgia and Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, I arrived in Michigan on July 18th. Five days was not enough time to live up summer near the shores of Lake Michigan, but I did manage to have lots of family and friend time. Much of my time was spent along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan and hiking on the North Country Trail in Newago County.
On July 23rd, I left Michigan with my brother Mark enroute to Fort Collins, Colorado to visit my brother Dan and his family. After an interesting stay in a small campground in rural western Iowa, Mark and I arrived in Fort Collins on the 24th. We also had time to travel off the beaten path to Pawnee Buttes, a couple of tall buttes on the eastern plains of Colorado. After a nice visit with brother Dan and family, I continued west into the mountains. I soaked up the cool mountain air as I hiked on the Continental Divide near Rabbit Ears Pass. The wildflowers were absolutely incredible. From there, I drove down into the wide open spaces of far western Colorado. I camped that night along the Green River in Utah (Dinosaur National Monument).

On July 26th, I drove nearly 15 hours from eastern Utah, over the mountains near Salt Lake City, past the Great Salt Lake, across the barrens of Nevada and finally to the forests and mountains of Northern California. I camped that night along a rushing river in the Plumas National Forest.
On the 27th, I awoke early in the crisp mountain air, and drove into Lassen Volcanic National Park. Twice in the past, Susanna and I have been to the park (once in the north and once in the south) and both times we have found the scenic drive closed due to snow. Fortunately, in the heart of the summer, this was not the case! I spent the morning driving the scenic drive and hiking several shorter trails along the way.
Finally, on the evening of the 27th, I crested the final summit on highway 299 and drove to the cool, foggy coast. I am home at last with my wonderful wife! I'll be home for about a week and a half before driving south into the deserts of southern California. Over the next 2 and a half months, work will take me across much of southern California and parts of Nevada. I'll hopefully make it home a couple of times in between. But for now, I'm living up being home with Susanna along the beautiful coast of Northern California.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2 Days Until Graduation!!!

Yes, that's right--Mike has just 2 days until he will officially graduate from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. This week was a busy and stressful one for him. On Monday he had his final defensive tactics physical exam, as well as his final written exam. Today he finished up with arrest warrants and the final physical efficiency battery (PEB), which includes benchpress, agility run, flexibility, and a 1.5 mile run. He improved on most of his scores from the mid-term PEB, and I'm so proud of him! long last, on Thursday the 16th, he will graduate alongside his classmates, and be released from the hallowed halls of FLETC.
So Mike will soon drive north toward Michigan, and then west, west, west. We'll be able to spend a few days together before he'll drive 13 hours to the south, to begin a (the 1st of 4) 3 week "field training" session. During these next 3 months, he'll be a commissioned officer in various areas of California, Nevada, and Washington, working very closely with experienced BLM rangers. Then he'll return to his job (and wife) in Humboldt County. Yay. :)

Fern Canyon, its steep walls covered in lush green ferns of many varieties (where part of the Jurassic Park movie was filmed)

Redwood NP has such a diversity of habitats! I was surprised to see the "Bald Hills" area, high above the redwood forests.

Pretty in pink!

Pink rhodedendrons in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Redwood trees...

Tiger or Columbia Lilies

Wood rose

Douglas iris

The rhodedendrons are ever brighter than must come and see them blooming sometime!

(As for me...) I've seen some beautiful scenery lately, while becoming oriented with the trails in Redwood National and State Parks. The rhodedendrons were still blooming as of last week in the Lady Bird Johnson photos didn't capture their full color, but they're still pretty.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Snorkeling in the Keys

Bahia Honda State Park (middle of the Florida Keys)

Mile 0 of US 1 which goes from Key West, FL all the way to the Canadian border above Maine!

This Key Deer (above) is about the size of a medium-sized dog. They are only found on Big Pine Key and one neighboring key.

Mike spent yesterday snorkeling in the Florida keys with a buddy from FLETC. Imagine the clear water and the variety of colorful fish they must have seen! At one point, they were surrounded by a school of at least 1,000 fish, making Mike feel as if he had become a member of the underwater world. One of his friends lives and works in that area, so today they plan to go out on a boat and leave their FLETC worries behind.

By the way, he has just 9 working days left at FLETC!!!

My job as the lead education ranger at Redwood National and State Parks is based out of the Wolf Creek Education Center. I've been through two days of training, and I'm enjoying it so far. The commute is a bit long, but there's not much traffic and the road follows the gorgeous coastline, so it's as pleasant as it could be. I plan to buy a prius later in the month, while trading in our gas-guzzling Explorer through the new government car rebate program (

So all is well in our lives. I'm readapting to life in northern California, and Mike is getting ready to finish up with his Georgian lifestyle. I wish we could fast-forward through the next few months, so that we could be living together under the same roof again!

Have a happy Independence Day!