Sunday, October 28, 2007

Responsibility of Ownership...

(Click on any image to view it full size.)

Back to Redding...


It was a whirlwind tour through Oregon, so many beautiful things to see and so many perfect examples of Vanishing America. I will definitely be back before this journey is complete.

There are a few things worthy of mention from my drive back to Redding.

1. The wild mustangs will have to wait a week or so until I get the Land Rover prepped and ready to tackle the off-road trails necessary to reach these elusive creatures. (This may take a little while -- the Rover isn't finished yet...)


2. There were so many abandoned and deserted buildings along the way, that I could have spent months documenting them all. And, they're not just in Oregon. I've seen them in California, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Georgia, and I'm sure they can be found all over the country. I hope that as I photograph them, I can get a glimpse into their histories and their heydays. Gas stations, hotels, barns, and even churches top the list of buildings that stand alone as progress passes them by. I look forward to being able to tell their stories.


3. The most obvious example of the changing American landscape was to be found in the numerous lakes and streams that, for lack of proper rains and improper water management, have dried up or are in the last throes of life as a source of water. I know this is happening all over the country (even my hometown of Atlanta may be out of water soon), but it seems to stand out all the more when the parched landscape left behind glows white with the cracked salt of the western lakebed.




As I sit pondering the past three weeks, I find myself confident in my ability to capture interesting images, but unsure of how I feel about this changing country of ours.

People have often asked me if I’m an environmentalist. I’m not sure how to answer that. I love Nature. I love to see the massive forests, the wide-open plains, the tree-lined and snow-capped mountains, the swamps and wetlands, the sweeping deserts, and the diversity of the seashore. I love seeing such a vast array of wildlife in their natural habitats, from the tiniest shrew burrowing into the warm earth, and the herds of elk grazing the highlands, to the largest grizzly catching its lunch in a run of spawning salmon. And, I adore the idea of this land as it was two hundred years ago, teeming with uncountable forms of life.

But, that bountiful landscape is only a memory. When humans began to significantly populate this country, Nature was forced to take a back seat while we shaped the land into something more suitable to the way we wished to live. And, it will always be that way. As a very dear friend of mine noted, "Human beings have to come first. Otherwise, we'll become extinct." That may be an oversimplification, but I believe the intent is correct. We put ourselves at the top of the food chain in order to survive. But being at the top of the food chain comes with responsibility.

For, as long as we’re kings of this mountain, as long as we're in charge, we’re changing the face of our nation to meet our needs -- for good or bad, right or wrong. We continue to grow, and we have to continue to accommodate that growth.

In my travels to big cities and small towns, I've talked with people from all walks of life, and have gotten opinions as varied as the species on this earth. But, regardless of who a person was, or where they lived, one common thread ran through the pattern: Management. More specifically, management of the natural environment. In essence, we can continue to grow as a nation, without destroying the planet or restricting our personal freedoms, by managing this land we call our own.

It's very difficult to do, but there has to be balance in order for both man and nature to thrive. And, since we’re the ones taking over, we must be the ones to take that responsibility. We must be the ones to manage the forests so they don’t go up in uncontrollable wildfires. We must be the ones to manage the herds and their range so they don’t overpopulate and destroy their lands and themselves. We must be the caretakers. Not zookeepers, but caretakers.

Long ago, we decided we wanted this country as our own. Well, now we must take responsibility of ownership.



And, as I continue on my journey, I'm constantly exposed to new ideas and perspectives, and listening to other people's opinions, and keeping an open mind, are two of the greatest advantages to making Vanishing America a successful project.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wild Mustangs...

Brrr...

It was cold in Pendleton, Oregon last night at the Wild Horse Casino (now there's a coincidence). Beautiful, but cold. This is the first time I've seen frost on the grass since I've been on this trip. Winter's a-comin'.

The drive from Pendleton down Highway 395 to Burns (Wild Mustang Country) was spectacular. It was all High Desert with gently rolling hills and yellow grassy plains, sprinkled with a variety of trees -- some still green, but others showing off their beautiful fall colors.

I'll have to make this trek again, in a smaller vehicle, for there were several towns would easily be missed if you so much as blink an eye. And, that's not much of an exaggeration either. One little "town" had only 5 buildings: an empty church, a barn, two houses, and what looked like a garage. Were there room to stop, you'd see some great shots of a truly Vanishing bit of America. But, as it was, the town was so close to the highway, there was nowhere to pull off without getting the RV in the shot. Definitely a stop for next time around.

Most of the little towns weren't this small, though, but they were small enough to get that "Mayberry" feel. This town, on the left, was all by itself in the middle of this huge valley off the 395. There wasn't another town for miles. It seemed so isolated, but yet, so cozy, nestled in among the hills.

Tomorrow, it's off to the BLM lands (Bureau of Land Management) to track down some Wild Mustang herds. Keep your fingers crossed. This could be something special...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wind Power

On my way through the small town of Arlington, Oregon, I stopped to take a peek at something some folks call clean energy and other folks call an eyesore.

I'm talking about power generating windmills. If you've ever been in Southern California and driven to Palm Springs, you're familiar with the hundreds of elegant white towers pacing the rolling hills of California's High Desert. Even if you've never been to Palm Springs, most of you are familiar with the image: essentially a giant fan on a stick. If you've ever wondered what they're for... well, in simplest terms, they take advantage of the desert's high winds and convert that wind into electricity.

Wind farms are a booming business as America looks for alternative energy sources to reduce our dependence on petroleum. To a lot of people, they're clean, relatively quiet, and much easier to look at than smokestacks and oil rigs. But not everyone shares that opinion. Some folks see them as a blight on the once beautiful rolling landscape and as a danger to bird migrations and nesting habitats.

Either way, as an artist, I find them intriguing -- Beautiful white towers, each with three delicately turned blades, standing tall and proud over the landscape, as if they know their purpose.

I can't argue their merits or their faults. But, like most other forms of alternative energy, they have their pros and their cons. And, like many things in life, sometimes you have to give a little in order to get a lot.

The Dalles, Arlington, and Alpharetta...

I was born in a small town...

... And everywhere I go, smalltown life
fascinates me. Seeing these small towns along my travels reminds me of how simple life was as a child growing up in my own small town.

Looking in the windows of this old building, do you wonder who worked there? What they looked like? Do you wonder what they did there? How long ago was this building used, and for what purpose? What color was it?

Looking at the image on the left, you can see the building is right up against the train tracks. Was it always like that? And, is there a story that explains the lone shoe by the entrance?

Rod Steward said, "Every picture tells a story, don't it?" What stories do these images, these buildings, tell us?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Columbia Gorge... Part 3

(Click on any image to view it full screen)

Driving an RV on the Gorge...


Yesterday was gorgeous (no pun intended. Really). And, I spent the entire day driving the RV along the Historic Columbia River Highway from Bonneville west to Troutdale, and then back east to Multnomah Falls.

It's a lot easier said than done, let me tell you. It’s best to do it in a car or on a motorcycle, but I had to do it in the RV. It’s about 25 miles of two lane blacktop that traces the original Oregon Scenic Highway laid out just after the turn of the century. In most places, it’s simple winding backroad. But, in some places, it gets very narrow. Some of the old bridges were actually too narrow for the RV and a car to pass at the same time. It got pretty hairy. And, to top it off, on one side was sheer rockface, and on the other – sheer cliff (often without guardrails). One wrong move, and you’re either shearing off chunks of the Columbia River Gorge or you’re sliding down it into the river. It’s a pleasant drive… in a car. But in an RV… it's not for the faint of heart.

But, believe me, even in the RV it was worth every hair-raising second. The views are spectacular, the bridges are incredible, and the scenery includes some of America’s most beautiful waterfalls – right along the highway. And, that’s what it was originally built for. As Highway architect Sam Lancaster stated,

“Our first order of business was to find the beauty spots, or those points where the most beautiful things along the line might be seen in the best advantage, and if possible, to locate the road in such a way as to reach them.”
Well, kudos to you, Mr. Lancaster. You accomplished your goal with resounding success.

Of course, I met some great people on the way. What would this trip be if I didn't make new friends. At Multnomah Falls, I met a fantastic couple from the LA area who came up here just in time to escape the fires raging through Southern California. (If you guys are reading this, you'd better email me. I have a couple of pictures for you!)

You know, sometimes I feel bad, keeping the cats cooped up in the RV the whole time. But, I can't really let them out to roam on their own. That's how pets get lost or get run over (or, if you're in coyote country -- eaten.) Have you ever seen a cat on a leash? Well, that's the only way the kids get to go outside. Reggie does a pretty good job on the leash. I can't "walk" him like I could walk a dog, though. He has to explore at his own pace, in his own direction. So, I keep him tethered and just follow along like a good daddy.


After the sun went down, I popped in to a nearby RV park, made a fire, cooked some
soup, and had a very relaxing evening. I can still smell the smoke on my clothes...


Today was another great day. A beautiful, warm, sunny day, just like yesterday, to hike and take in all the v
istas that I could. I made the drive from Bonneville east to Hood River and on to Mosier (population 430), to see the Mosier Twin Tunnels. These tunnels were part of the original Historic Columbia River Highway and were built sometime around 1920. There are actually inscriptions carved into the rock from when a group of travelers got trapped in the tunnels during a snowstorm shortly after they were built. When the new freeway came through, the tunnels were filled in (fortunately, they weren't destroyed, like some of the other tunnels along the route.) They were recently restored (and fortified, of course) to further the extent of the Historic Highway and are used today as part of a walking and biking path that runs from Cascade Locks to Mosier. The pathway runs along the ridgeline overlooking the Columbia River, so the renovation included steel gating to protect ambitious thrill seekers from getting hurt. But, if you peek through the gates at certain points in the path, you can still see the stonework stairs that were part of the original road. Now, don't misunderstand me here... Oregon protects it's beauty, but it also allows people certain access to that beauty. Otherwise, what's the point? The gates don't cover the whole stretch of the pathway. There are numerous places where you can walk out to a vista point (or, if you're brave, even to the very edge of the cliff looking over the freeway a thousand feet down). And, that's what I did. Well, I didn't go to the very edge. I'm afraid of heights. But I did get within about 5 feet of the edge. That was as close as I dared, and even at that distance, I was still uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? No. Scared is more like it.

Tonight I'm in a town called The Dalles. And, tomorrow, I head east to Arlington to see the windmill power generators on the Gorge.

How do you like the Gorge so far?

(Forgive me if the fonts seem mismatched and the photos don't line up right. Blogger is a very powerful tool for writing blogs, but it still has some bugs.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Columbia Gorge... part 2

Yesterday was a GREAT day, and today is looking even better.

Oregon's Historic Highway

I got out on the bike and toured a few miles of the 1930s stretch of the Oregon Historic Highway, across from Bonneville Dam. It's an easy ride -- paved, with gentle hills -- and the views are spectacular, as is the old bridge and tunnel work along the way. Everything was still wet from yesterday's rains, so the every tree, every fern, every tuft of moss was glistening in a verdant green you'd usually only see in a tropical rain forest. It was beautiful. Mere words can't describe it (well, at least my mere words). Hopefully, these images will help convey the splendor of God's country. (Click on each pic for a larger view.)














Today, with nary a cloud in the sky and the sun bathing the Gorge in its warm glow, I'm going to do a little more exploring along the western stretch of the Highway and then head east to Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods, and if I have time, I'll continue on to Mosier and Hood River. Heck, I'm feeling adventurous... I might even try to climb down to the base of one of the bridges that overlook a waterfall. Someone get me a rope...


I almost forgot! I do have a neat little side story...

As I was re-shooting some of the images at the Dam, I noticed some fishermen by the banks of the Columbia using a very unique method to get their line out into the water. Usually, with your typical rod and reel combination, and a heavy sinker, you can cast a line out fairly far. And, the longer the pole, the farther you can cast. But, there are limits. Even the best can only get their bait about 1/3 of the way across the river.

But Gene and Chuck, with the engineering genius of Gene's Uncle Howard, have managed to cast their bait over 2/3 of the way across the river, putting them in touch with the deeper water fish that a hand-held shore cast just can't reach. The Slingshot, as the guys call it, is essentially that, a giant slingshot made from steel tubing and rubber hose that launches their bait (with line attached, of course) off into the heavens. A special spool off to the side keeps the line from getting tangled and from yanking the rod off into the water with the bait. Oh, it's fun to watch, and every time they go out, tourists and fishermen alike stop to watch the launch. I was lucky enough to capture a sequence of images showing the launch of the bait (and the 16oz lead weight), and to sit and talk with some genuinely friendly folk.

(sorry about the image alignment. Blogger has its limitations, too.)







Saturday, October 20, 2007

Columbia Gorge... part 1 1/2

Stardate 2007. Saturday, October 20. Bonneville Dam. Columbia River. Oregon.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

I can't really call this entry "Part 2", since I'm not actually able to get out and explore the Gorge. The rain has been constant since last night, so I'm catching up on my research, and taking advantage of the internet connection while I still have a sky unblocked by trees or mountains.


I shot at the Bonneville Dam all morning
yesterday, taking my time, composing, thinking… being creative as opposed to reactive. As I might have mentioned, I've been slowly drifting away from my artwork and find myself shooting more and more "picture postcard" images to help illustrate my blog. But, since Fine Art is what I'm best at, I'm trying to turn that creativity around and focus more on my artistic images.


I
was getting some great shots at the Dam (finally!), but around 1:30pm, a slight storm (slight for Oregon) began to move in, so I took shelter in the RV. As I sat there writing, a howling wind was rocking the bus back and forth, like a sleeper car on an old cross-country train. It sounds scary, but it was really no big deal, and very soothing. I couldn't put up the satellite dish because of the high winds, so took a brief nap while I waited for the storm to pass by. After things cleared up, I headed across the freeway to the Old Historic Highway where there are old remnants of the 1930s-era highway: stonework, bridges, trails, tunnels, etc.

And, if the weather holds out this weekend, I may make it to Mosier, near the Hood River, where there are highway and train tunnels with some great history -- two of the tunnels were used as shelter by travelers who got stuck in a snowstorm. Some even left inscriptions on the walls (sort of an historic graffiti).

While waiting out the storm, I finished checking the shots I took at the dam. Great compositions! Boy was I happy. But wait, there's more... Unfortunately, many of them had motion blur due to the high winds. They look great at 5x7 or smaller, but when they get larger than that, you can begin to see the lack of detail. Now, I'm shooting with some of the biggest and best gear available, but even the best of tripods can’t stabilize the heaviest of cameras when the wind picks up. So, it looks like I may have to go back and reshoot. And, reshooting was what I was hoping to do today. But the rain hasn't let up since last night, so I doubt I'll be getting out of the RV.

Yesterday, after the rain stopped, I drove under the freeway to the Toothrock trailhead parking lot and hiked up the trails to find the remnants of the old highways. There were several trails to choose from, but no directions or maps, so after a little wandering around and exploring just like I did back in Alpharetta as a kid, I came back to the RV to do a little research on the trails. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a satellite signal there in the lot, so my research had to wait until I got back to the Dam today, where I sit awaiting a clear sky.





So, that's what happened yesterday.

Today, Sunday the 21st, it finally cleared up enough to get my tail out and shoot. And shoot I did! I finally found the right trails, met some great folks, and thoroughly enjoyed my day of hiking, riding, and shooting. I have to edit the images tonight, but I'll post them either tomorrow or Tuesday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Columbia Gorge... Part 1

What a beautiful place!

Even in the rain with dark, heavy clouds in the
sky, the Gorge is a sight to see. I got a late start today, so I only made it as far as the Bonneville Dam (about an hour East of Portland). It's a major operation, providing not only electricity to the surrounding cities, but also providing a series of locks for river-bound freight travel, and "ladders" to help the salmon navigate upstream to spawn.

Now, you may be saying, "What does a dam have to do with Vanishing America?" Well, I'll tell you...

There are many different opinions about this
dam, ranging from its effect on the salmon run to the "construction" techniques used to add a new "island" to this part of the Columbia River. Some of the opinions are positive, and some are negative, (and I'm sure this holds true for numerous other dams around the country), but I'm not going to get into that. I'm here to take pretty pictures, tell stories about my trip, and whenever possible, provide enough information from both sides of an important argument so that my readers might be able to form their own opinions. Right? So, here are a few pretty pictures...

I'll be going back to the dam tomorrow for more shots.

Columbia Gorge

Just a quick update...

Not much happened yesterday. I spent the entire day taking advantage of the rain and working inside on images, video, blogs, etc. It seems my progress moves in bursts -- several days of shooting, then a few days of post-production. Well, you have to take advantage of the opportunities as they come...

Last night I had dinner with Ron and Lynn Dusek, friends of my folks for over 30 years. They took me to a fantastic Italian dinner at a little place in Oregon City called Bugatti's Hilltop. Excellent food. (I had the cioppino. Mmmm.)

Today, I head out to the famous Columbia Gorge. The coast is expecting gale-force winds up to 70mph, so I'm hoping I'll be far enough away that I won't be affected. A big rectangular box isn't exactly the best shape to be driving through a windstorm.

See ya soon...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oregon Weather...

The weather report for Northwestern Oregon today... cloudy with a chance of rain. But, be prepared for that 10 minute window of sunshine!

And, that's exactly what happened. It seems to be a recurring theme as the area approaches winter. It rained on and off, and when the sun peeked through, you'd best get your butt out there and take advantage of it, because it will be gone in 10 minutes. That pattern went on all day long... rain, clouds... sun! Rain, clouds... sun! Rain... well, you get the idea.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Dave Heick, the owner of KCYS 98.1FM in Seaside, the only locally owned Country station in the U.S. (This was anot
her one of those serendipitous events that keep gracing me on this trip.)

I went to see Dave was because I heard the station mention that
fact on the air, and I thought it fit in perfectly with my project, seeing as how so much of American radio is owned by a few monopolies whose main priority is the financial bottom line as opposed to the listener. I called the station that morning, and within an hour, I was sitting in Dave’s office videotaping him for my project. He's a great guy. Very knowledgeable, and as honest and straightforward as they come. Not only did I get a good interview for my project, but I learned a lot about the radio business as well.

After the interview, I drove in to Astoria and set up camp in the Safeway parking lot. Astoria is a small town, and the Safeway is kind of like their Costco – full service fuel station, drug store, and grocery store (all in the same lot). Rather than find an RV campground, I just picked the Safeway lot because it was easy and convenient, as I was scheduled for an interview with their newspaper, The Astorian the next morning.


This morning I met with Pam, a reporter for The Astorian. A fellow artist, with a penchant for sculpture and multi-media, we got along very well. However, our meeting was too short, as are a lot of my visits through Oregon, but I it was worth every second. She even took the time to send me an email with great places to visit when I make it up to her home state of Washington.

After meeting with Pam, I drove to Portland to have lunch with my friend Sara. We had a great time, and a great lunch. Afterward, I made a quick trek to a local factory for some sunset photos, and popped in to a local camera store called Blue Moon. This is a gem of a shop, run by Jake Shivery, who started the business only 6 years ago, and who has built it into Portland's premiere photo resource. Being one of the few privately-owned camera stores left in this country, Jake's shop is truly part of a dying breed. And, with a traditional optical processing lab, classic camera gear, and a staff of fantastic photographers, Blue Moon is one of the last bastions of genuine craftsmanship to be found in this ever-changing world of photography.

After visiting with Jake and his staff, I went back to see Sara's newest project – the restoration of her 1920s era house in St. Johns, just north of Portland. What a great house! Wood floors, a fireplace, a landscaped yard that she did herself, and a floorplan that invites you to just grab a cup of coffee and meander lazily from room to room, breathing in the home's character and charm. I can't wait for her housewarming party!

After hanging out with Sara, I came south of Portland to Oregon City (the last stop on the old Oregon Trail). I got some night shots of another factory, and I’m currently at a riverside campground for the night.

It was a busy day for me, but not an adventurous day, so the exciting stories will have to wait until next time...

Meanwhile, I think I'll use this extra space to show you all some images I've shot along the way...

This next image is of Fort Stevens, a military post built in 1904 and used through WWII to protect the mouth of the Columbia River (click on the image to enlarge it). This particular image was shot simply to show a different side of Vanishing America: namely, the respect that people have, or used to have, for our country's history. The entire weapons battery is covered in this kind of graffiti. Now, I'm not condoning vandalism of any kind, but, the graffiti scratched into these 100 year-old concrete walls could have been someone's political comment against war or the politicians who profit from war, but, instead is merely names of kids who couldn't quite find anything better to do. I know vandalism of historic treasures has been going on for years, in our country and abroad -- just take a look at the ancient walls of Pompeii -- but for some reason, this particular assault struck a chord with me.


It's almost 1am. I'm going to bed.

Don't forget... you can click on any of these images (even the ones above) for a larger preview.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Oregon -- from High Desert to Rocky Coast

Busy, Busy, Busy...


Lots of great things have been happening since I last wrote...

I've
done two television interviews, visited some quaint little towns, seen some snow-capped mountains, hiked through logged forests, and toured the rocky Oregon coast. Along the way, I've taken pictures of covered bridges, shipwrecks, sand dunes, and abandoned towns. I've talked with local fishermen and loggers, rangers at the Forestry Service, biologists at the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and even some fans who saw me on the news and stopped by to say Hi. It's been a very busy week.

My most recent interview was with KEZI, Eugene's ABC affiliate based in Coos Bay. Here's what they had to say about Vanishing America...
video
I'm only in Oregon for about two weeks, so I've been incredibly busy shooting, editing, and trying to cover as much of the state as I can before I have to go back to Redding. And, there are definitely some places I'd like to go back to (and some people I'd like to see again). While in the small coastal town of Yachats, I shared some stories, laughs, and wine with my new friends, Tim, Pam, and their cat Daisy. They're living the life in a beautiful silver Airstream -- the very trailer I'd originally envisioned taking this trip in.

But, since
I don't have the Land Rover with me yet, I had to pass on visiting some of the small towns, tiny fishing villages, back roads and trails because the RV is just too big. In addition, I'm so pushed for time, I could only spend a few hours (or a day, at most) in any particular location. And, the longer I stayed, the more I learned, and the more I wanted to see. There is definitely another, longer, trip to Oregon in my near future.

As I mentioned before, I've met a lot of folks on this trip. And, not only are people interested in my project, they are friendly and willing to help out. While I was in Coos Bay/
Charleston, on the southern Oregon coast, my friend Scott Groth, who works for the Fish and Wildlife Department, took me around the bay and gave me the low-down on future development and endangered species. We even went out to look at a shipwreck on the beach. According to records, the freighter New Carissa ran aground in 1999. Before it could be salvaged, it was beached even further by severe storms. After the storms subsided, the Coast Guard attempted to minimize damage to the coast by setting fire to the ship to burn off all the oil and fuel that was leaking out. Unfortunately, the burn caused severe damage to the hull and the ship broke in two. And, after another series of storms, the bow of the ship was swept almost 80 miles up the coast, where it was later towed out to sea and sent to the bottom. The stern of the New Carissa still sits on the beach where it ran aground almost 10 years ago.

Scott not only gave me the tour, but he also gave me yet another perspective on wh
at is happening to the fishing industry, the logging industry, local flora and fauna, and the fate of the southern Oregon coast in general. With a mix of personal opinion and job experience, Scott helped me understand that there are several sides to every story. By talking with the locals, the environmentalists, the politicians, and members of the government agencies in charge of caring for the environment, I've learned that every opinion is valid, and every opinion needs to be heard. Only by taking every perspective into account, can we make the best educated decision on any issue. Granted, that's a lot easier said than done, especially when hearing each of those opinions takes so much time and because we live in a society where the loudest voice usually wins. But hearing them all is the goal. Even if we can't reach it, we should strive for it. I, myself, am guilty at times of basing my decisions on only a part of the story. But, I've learned that I don't know squat until I've heard all the sides. No matter how educated you are, or how long you've been in your particular field, the only way to be fully prepared to make a decision about what's going on in regards to our environment, is to see the story from all sides.

Another example of the conflicts of interest becomes clear when discussing the Oregon Dunes. These dunes, formed over 50 million years ago, are home to numerous flora and fauna, but are in danger of disappearing over the next 50 to 100 years because of the proliferation of non-native plant species. In addition, the dunes are constantly moving. Winds shift them, carve them, and push them into the tree line where they smother nearby sections of natural pine forest. They are a beautiful sight to see, but they are destroying the surrounding vegetation.

And, not only are the dunes a spectacular sight to see, they are also a fun place to visit. For years, the dunes have been a playground for dune buggies and ATVs. And numerous businesses have sprouted up along Highway 101 to take advantage of this government-designated Recreational Area.

So the conflict isn't just over the plants a
nd wildlife... the conflict exists for those that make their livings off the dunes and those that want the dunes protected at all costs. It's another classic case of Nature versus people and Nature versus Nurture. Do you protect the dunes at the cost of a community's livelihood? Do you eliminate one species of plant so that another can thrive? Who gets to make these decisions? It's full of controversy, and the only way to come to a valid solution is to take all these perspectives into account. I know I must be rambling, but I've learned a valuable lesson, and I truly believe that people need to hear about it. Too many important decisions are being made by people who simply don't have all the facts. And that needs to change.

On a different note...
I have to apologize for the small number of images I've been posting. I've been trying to keep the images relevant to the blog's text, and that means a lot of great images are being left out. But, not to worry! The website will be completed by the end of this month, and I'll have gallery after gallery to showcase what I've been doing while on the road. And, I'll let everyone know when it goes live. So, if I don't have your email address, make sure you get it to me!

So many stories to tell. So little time...