The Photographer

My generation will likely not grow old thinking, I wish I would’ve taken more pictures in my younger days? Why? Possibly because our brains weren’t wired the way they seem to be now.

In today’s world we look-for any excuse to use this highly sophisticated device that we always carry that is still referred to as a phone. No longer do you easily spot that nerdy picture taker from afar who never leaves home without that 35 mm camera hanging around their neck.

And what if you lost that phone or upgraded from Android to an IPhone like I did earlier this year? Where do those pictures go?

Above one of the first pictures I found taken by me in 2019 that will likely survive as a result of the ICloud.

And I don’t need to write about that picture to recall the exact moment I took it or the hike I was on. Somehow that information today I believe will always stay in my head. Or will it?

And now one of the earliest (2010) era pictures saved on my Google Photos account. Prior to this date it was either Kodachrome or Kodak.

And no the Kodiak bear picture was not Photoshopped, a word at that time I had never heard of. And yes I still think that I continue to do stupid things like that today even though I like to think that I am older and should be wiser.

The original Kodak bear picture was taken by my friend Petr on my Fujifilm XP WiFi capable camera. An app would download your picture if you chose not to remove the SIM card to transfer the picture from to your computer.

And why document the above or anything else for that matter?

Because for instance my single typing finger just got tired. And so as I looked down on my smartphone and the WordPress app, I suddenly notice a small microphone on the lower right corner. Why hadn’t it occurred to me earlier that I could simply dictate my story? Because like I said earlier my brain is not yet wired that way.

Words now flow from my eyes while looking down at a picture or screen to my fingers tapping on a smart phone or keyboard. Perhaps one day they’ll flow easier by simply speaking and a device will capture that sound and turn it into a written word on a device.

Perhaps change is a good thing. Perhaps slowing down to take a look at the past once in a while is also a good thing.

The picture above was taken over nine years ago. It’s also a reminder of how time continues marching on, waiting for no one.

“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’

Start where you stand, and work with

whatever tools you may have at your

command, and better tools will be found as you go along.

– George Herbert.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Hanging Tree 4×4 Ride

Russ from JeepExpeditions.com got me out on the trail testing my Version 2.0 of my Willys V8 project. Prior to this meeting the last time I saw Russ was in 2011 while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through the Big Bear area. And the last time we did any Jeep related expedition was also in 2011 when I believe it was ten jeeps that signed up to travel through Canada, Alaska and the Yukon Territory and on to our goal the arctic. The story is still out there if you google Jfreeks and Alaska Arctic jeep expedition.

Yesterday as we drove our 4×4 rigs through trails in the Holcomb valley Russ shared Big Bear old time lore. His voice came across well over my recently installed GMRS radio.

See that lone juniper over there, that was formerly a hanging tree during the old miner and prospector days of Holcomb Valley.

As miners and prospectors came to seek their fortune, outlaws, claim jumpers, gamblers, and general troublemakers followed close behind.

In late August, 1861, the notorious little valley was taken over by an organized gang of horse thieves from Salt Lake City known as Button’s Gang. This gang ruled so fiercely that its members could take over almost any cabin, or force storekeepers to give them any equipment or supplies they wanted.

When the victim of a hanging was finally cut down, the branch from which the rope hung was chopped off. So you can tell how many “met their Maker here. “

Two incidents are illustrative of the 40 or 50 murders committed the first two years after the discovery of Holcomb Valley: When “Greek George” jumped the claim of “Charlie the Chink”, a duel to the finish ensued. “Hell Roaring Johnson” was shot when he tried to fix the first election held in the valley.

Not all of the fugitives evaded justice. There is recorded evidence of as many as four convictions and subsequent hangings at one time on this tree.

When the victim of a hanging was finally cut down, the branch from which the rope hung was chopped off. So you can tell how many “met their Maker here. ”

Today cruising up to Big Bear Lake to meet up with Russ and a new member William and his wife I felt like I was part of the crew from “Roadkill ” where gear heads take trashed out cars and put them through their paces. Like I said earlier my jeep is a work in progress.

By the time I arrived home and assessed my loses I lost two bolts from my left side header, the old Willy’s rattling like an expired paint can, one headlight fell off on the trail and dust and dirt everywhere.

My body felt extremely dehydrated from the 100+ heat coming down the hill but, I was still smiling.

Unfortunately for me I only got the jeeps bumper welded on Friday so did not think or have time for any overhead cover till I was on the road.

Sometimes I feel that an off the “rack” (lot) jeep may have been the wiser way to go instead of this current project.

But, I’ll bet there is more satisfaction over the years to be had from this 1959 than any dozen new mall crawlers you tend to see all around. Like a guy once told me, ” they ain’t building anymore 1959’s.

And even when she is sitting she is putting a smile on kids.

Believe me when I say this four wheeling is hard work. I would’ve easily walked a twenty mile day on the camino in lieu of this hanging tree driving loop and felt way more rested and allot cleaner at the end.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 14 – Last day on El Camino de Costa Rica

Last night we celebrated the finish of our camino a day early. Wine, cheese and fresh crackers flowed freely. At around 5:30 in the evening two women showed up to cook for us. Conchita hired them to cook us a meal. Not just any meal but, a coq au vin classic style French stew.

This is where the chicken is braised slowly in red wine and a little brandy to yield a supremely rich sauce filled with tender meat, crisp bits of bacon, mushrooms and burnished pearl onions. And of course some of the local spices.

And for dessert a coconut flan is served. Good food, good friends, something to do, something to look forward to. What more does a human being crave or look forward to in this lifetime.

And on the last stage of our camino we covered 12.5 miles, 23,948 steps and climbed seventeen floors. Our start point – Naranjito to Quepos.

I now write these words while sitting on a teak leaf that I laid atop the still moist red rich Costa Rican soil. Sweat continues dripping from my body as it feels like I am sitting in a sauna rather than a country road while waiting for the others to catch up.

The camino is not yet over but, yet another stop is made to see or explore some other trail or “must see” thing. It does irritate me quite a bit to stop when I finally find my rhythm and possibly am feeling the “barn” effect, i.e. the finish.

At some point we go from country to city on the camino and my Wikiloc app is telling me I am on a direct course to the finish in around an hour. I don’t look back.

And just like that the Camino is over. I take a picture or two and sit by the Quepos sign in a shady spot. Soon our guide Yorly and Marco walk up and are surprised to find me.

A short while later our remaining two show up Conchita and Garry. Marco starts shaking up a cheap bottle of champagne and makes the experience memorable by wetting each one of us. We laugh, no tears shed. Just a happy ending to a two week experience. Garry and I started together and finished together. I know that I was a pain in his side sometimes. From the start I fought the “tour like ” experience we were on. Someone to watch over us, care for our everything from food to lodging to transportation of of anything we did not want to carry. I needed to do some pennance. I needed some alone time. Guides came in and out of our lives. Vladimir, Giovanni, Sergio and finally Yorly. Our tour operator Fabian made everything flow with precision. Three other wonderful people started with us Charity, Glenda and Kiley.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The bug bites will heal soon. I almost died on this Camino but, then I didn’t. When the trail through the jungle gave way I instinctively grabbed a tree root and pulled myself up and back onto the trail.

Live your life like it’s your last days they say. Well I think I’ve reached a point in my life where if it doesn’t kill you it will certainly give you more memories to share.

Pura Vida

Rafa on the Camino.

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 13 – El Camino de Costa Rica

Town emergency. The road somewhere up ahead experienced a landslide and is now impassable. The men folk are all in the fields and not able to assist in human road clearing. The stinky hikers just got enlisted to save the day.

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 12 of 14 – El Camino de Costa Rica

It’s now 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and according to my Apple Watch we just walked almost twelve miles, a measly 23,000 steps. We also climbed 62 flights of stairs on a downhill incline.

The road towards the Pacific Ocean stage of the camino. The first time we saw the ocean from our vantage point it still resembled land and roads. Must’ve been a reflection because later those ocean roads as well as the intermittent cloud mist suddenly vaporized revealing some spectacular scenery.

About two hours ago we detoured our way from the main camino road down another 20 degree grade into the town of NARANJILLO. The gravel road was slippery at times as a result of the heavier and heavier downpour now falling on us. Calling it a town is a stretch of my imagination as is village or I’ll just call it like it is; seven families.

When we saw the church and school and an open metal roof structure we arrived. No wonder to me it looked like the entire town turned out to see these three wet gringos; one even walking without bothering to put on rain gear.

We sat on a homemade park bench soaking wet from head to toe; even though Yorleny and I quickly donned our rain gear minutes after the downpour. The droplets were so thick you could even hear the sound of the rain change when Mother Nature cranked it up a notch or two.

Yorleny pulled out and carried an umbrella, me in shorts and a rain jacket, Garry just kept walking. I gave up on looking for my pack cover.

After our greetings the women got right to work preparing a feast. We told them we just ate enough for two days earlier. They then agreed on preparing a to go meal.

Earlier I saw Yorly using the same bbq to try drying her only shoes.

her soaking wet trail runners. Garry called it quits and didn’t bother shielding himself when the rain started. She is now wearing flip flops.

Update: At around six p.m. my home-stay familia receives a phone call to inform me that someone stole Yorleny’s shoes. Apparently she left them out sort of hiker box style and someone thought she was disposing of them.

While we sat for over an hour in wet clothes someone pointed out that dry clothes is a game changer and so is coffee/tea and fresh baked goods. The local welcoming committee provided it all. They even tried to feed us a second lunch.

Unfortunately, nothing could top our lunch today on the camino. Truly the best we’ve experienced. The ambiance of a place certainly has something to do about the dining experience but, taking that all away Rancho Turistico still wins hands down. Our second top contender is JOSE at Bosque Tropical Nuboso.

Everyone is trying their best to make our experience of walking the camino a memorable one.

Since we have eleven previous days to compare home stays we now know what a one to five star experience looks like. Sad to say I cannot in all honesty give anyone above a one star if that.

Tonight I was supposed to sleep in a tent set uo by the locals. Since Garry is doing a home stay I also opted to do so on account of the torrential downpour still going on.

After our arrival, food, an ice cold shower, a short nap and then around ninety minutes later it got dark at 5:30 p.m. Since this little town from where I now reside has neither WiFi nor a cell tower anywhere in sight it turned out to be a long evening. Down by the community center limited free slow WiFi did exist.

The home stay with a view certainly tops our list. The homestay with an extra experience such as sugar cane processing, organic garden tour or other or diversion certainly enriched the experience.

Someone once said that to understand life it must be observed backwards; but, unfortunately to live it, it must be lived forward.

My homestay view.

Pura Vida

Rafa

More to follow:

The food-

The home stay-

Mateo –

Marisol –

The land –

Our desire to –

My camino experiences in Costa Rica

Pura Vida

Rafa on the Camino

The Conchita trail-

On seeing the Pacific for the first time. Like Lewis and Clark

Comfortably numb by pink Floyd just pays through my headset.

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 10 – El Camino Costa Rica

Yesterday after waking and doing bathroom duties I began getting dressed, by first pulling a coolmax t- shirt over my head. Seconds later I started to dry heave on account of the horrible putrid smell.

Time to do laundry but, first find the least offensive and less wet shirt to wear. In 2011 I thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and my normal was usually five days without a bath or shower then walk down off the trail to my next resupply town where my Logistician mailed my hiker box for the following week. By comparison any camino walk is not only different but, far easier. And the scenery- priceless.

Today on the Costa Rica Camino it felt at times like I was walking in the Olympic National forest in Washington state for all the pine forest and moss. The area known as the Hoh rain forest receives over 12 feet of rain a year. By comparison some mountain areas of Costa Rica can get up to 25 feet of rain per year.

By 1030 a.m. today on the Camino Costa Rica a huge fog bank quickly rolls in and within minutes I feel the cold air. The rain started out slow but, not enough to warrant stopping to take my rain jacket out. By the time I sat down under a big pine to enjoy a cool drink and a snack. A Tico suddenly pulls up in his Toyota by me with a surprised look on his face. I tell him Pura Vida. He tells me fifteen years ago he lived in California. I then say to him in Spanish that I’m walking across Costa Rica.

He looks down at my backpack and then at me and says mierda santa!!

Literal translation- holy shit!

Costa Ricans are called ticos” because of their unique way of saying diminutives in Spanish. For example, when saying something is small —or “chico” in Spanish— Costa Ricans would say it is “chiquitico,” or very small.

We’re now just five days out from reaching the Pacific Ocean after having walked from the Caribbean ocean. Wonder how I’ll feel?

I’m imagining now the scene when Forrest of Forrest Gump is still running after he started three years ago for no special reason.

He crosses the country a couple of times and on his way, he gained a  group of followers. As they run on a desert road with the Monument Vally behind them, Forrest suddenly stops running.

He turns around and says that he is tired and he is going home now. While he is walking towards the group they make space for him and you hear somebody say,

“Now what are we supposed to do?“.

There’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes.” – Forrest Gump

“Always be able to look back and say, at least I didn’t lead no humdrum life.” 

– Forrest Gump

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 8 – Zero Day

This morning I felt totally disconvubulated when I got up after sleeping in what resembled a cross between a garden shed and outdoor closet; so I took a zero day.

A zero day in my hiking world means a rest day, zero as in no miles walked or hiked.

Disconvubulated is perhaps only as an American slang word of unknown origin that goes back well over a century. Probably just a fanciful alteration of discommode, discomfit, discompose, etc.

Feast or famine in our daily lodging choices. Tonight it was a feast night as we stinky hikers were dropped off after the day at a mineral springs resort. Totally self contained within a lush jungle setting. A waterfall, creek, trails. I splurged and was the first to sign up for a spa package of a much needed facial, right after my hot rock massage and twenty minute sauna to open up those pores that may have failed to open over the past week of trekking through everything from jungle to farmland.

Rio Perla resort – mineral spring

Sorry no pictures you’ll just have to take my word for the resort. And then in the afternoon it began to pour. A lightening strike took out the front power post. Thunder could be heard for a long time throughout the area. We decided dinner in town was a cheaper option so we all piled into a seven passenger 4×4 trailblazer and Fabian drove us to town running over the cats, dogs and frogs that kept falling from the sky.

On the El Camino Costa Rica.

And today we stopped to visit a yoga retreat and naturally I took some pictures.

Verdesanacostarica.com

A great future lodging stop on the camino?

Me now after trekking through the jungle on day nine of our camino.

Pura Vida baby

Rafa

Posted in Uncategorized

Day 7 – El Camino Costa Rica

Today my heart nearly exploded on the camino Costa Rica according to my Apple Watch tracking my heart rate. The culprit- shadeless high heat, humidity and at times a near vertical walk on a seemingly endless mountain road.

What happened I ask myself? This road started out as a paved highway. On google maps the road is designated as road 403. So why go from asphalt to a rocky road to a 4×4 trail before becoming a navigable mountain stream?

Just like the camino Costa Rica- a work in progress.

Today we walked stage seven of el camino de Costa Rica while Conchita in her trusty caballo blanco Mitsubishi 4×4 followed and at times led us after rescuing yet another injured pilgrim. She credits her 4x4s vehicles ability to climb but, I know better. Not anyone without off road driving experience can come out unscathed at the other end as she just did.

So, whom might you ask ask is Conchita? Possibly about as close as one can ever get to the original founders of the camino Costa Rica.

In 1982 it was Don Valiña Sampedro Elias’ idea to mark the entire camino de Santiago (Spain) with yellow arrows, a part he energetically took a part in. Elias’ camino project was made easy once pilgrims could find their “way” by simply following yellow arrows. The donated yellow paint came from the Spanish highway department.

In 1984 about 1,000 pilgrims walked the full camino de Santiago. After the movie “The Way” came out in 2004, over 300,000 pilgrims walked the Camino and now the numbers are staggering.

Conchita and her nonprofit group Mar a Mar (caminocostarica.org) are working hard to make this camino another tourism beacon for Costa Rica bound pelegrinos looking for the adventure of a lifetime, by walking from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean.

Coast to coast walking that the average intermediate hiker should be able to complete within roughly a two week timeframe.

Of course you will still need a guide through indigenous lands and starting real soon several camino multi day tour options become available through local tour guides such as Via Lig Tours) Fincavialig.com.

So, if my heart truly would’ve exploded then not to worry, at home my recently acquired Compostela sits after recently walking the camino de Santiago. A Compostela issued in Santiago allows one to bypass the purgatory period before being allowed to enter heaven.

A similar passport is being tested on us now on el camino de Costa Rica. It is made entirely out of biodegradable paper. So far it is holding up to Costa Rica rainy season quite well. Mine is well secured in a zip locked bag.

This camino will never become a walk in the park or ever fail to challenge you. One of our pilgrims during my camino injured her knee while walking through indigenous jungle lands. A mere two hundred floors of up and down jungle trail climbing. So, are you up to the challenge? In my opinion anyone fresh off the camino in Spain that walked their way from France to Finisterre is capable.

According to my Apple watch today we tackled 215 floors climbed, 16.3 miles of walking and over 30,000 steps taken. The high humidity and full sun took it’s toll on us, plus the rocky road did a fine job of tenderizing our feet.

Amazing vistas at the top but, did I die getting up the mountain.

NO.

Well then – it was just another adventure.

The trail now throws at us more sugar cane fields, the river down below and truly amazing scenery all about. Past Cipal there is another long climb.

We just finished lunch atop a mountain top cooked fresh by Armando. Homegrown skewered mushrooms, onions, peppers, potatoes, and pineapple. On a separate aluminum wrapped offering was a larger than normal mushroom stuffed with locally grown cheese.

Another side dish-offering included a ripe plantain banana about a foot long and stuffed with cheese. Lunch dessert was a pineapple slice soaked in a homemade juice, charcoal fire smoked to perfection. If that doesn’t sound appetizing to you you can easily carry your own lunch.

“Life is not hurrying on to a receding future,

nor hankering after an imagined past.

It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness that seems as

transitory as your youth once,

but, is the eternity that awaits you.”

– R S Thomas

Posted in Uncategorized

Day six (6) on El Costa Rica Camino

Heard the words when the going gets tough, the tough get going. There’s allot of truth in those words. So, what possesses someone to continue to drive on day after day.

Our hostess used to get up at 03:00 a.m. for the love of tortillas. Her husband would grind the corn fresh daily so that the woman can then make her masa for the days tortillas. Simply put – It must be love.

My first thoughts of the day as I stop to thank the start of a new day. Breakfast first then on to a butterfly farm viewing, then we’ll do good work getting ourselves up, up and over this first mountain. The tallest range mountains in Costa Rica says our guide.

Every archaeological indigenous pottery piece was found on this property.

I walked the property and saw lots of these.

So why go on? One of our girls has bone on bone knee pain that started long ago as a runner. Yesterday should’ve been her zero day (rest day) but, she said she doesn’t want to miss the experience.

Update: She could not go on and needed to be rescued after the first eight kilometer climb The tour company driver Enrique did double duty by first running across me; saying that I was on the wrong road. That’ll teach me to get too far ahead of our guide on this yet to be marked camino. Then he took our injured person to our end point.

Our days stats if you’re interested. See. You could easily do this? So what’s a little rain and mosquito bites plus a hell of allot of up and down climbing when you come across experiences like these?

Is the love of tortillas or the camino we are now on so great that we are willing to risk pain, sleep or anything to go on.

Our day six started off at Finca Via Lig an actual butterfly farm. Plus they grow sugar cane and other assorted crops and are a great and caring tour outfit.

A trained biologist and family member gave us the butterfly raising process tour.

As of today I only know of one person (a US Marine) by the name of Evan who can claim the honor of being the first to walk the entire coast to coast camino – by himself, except for a part through indigenous lands. To answer some of your questions about trail markings. At times they appear to me to be intentionally not marked at road intersections. That’s all I’ll say about road markings for now.

At stage four of the camino I walked with the 19 year old guide Kenneth who also shared with me that the youngest and oldest he guided through this stage of the camino is a sixteen year old boy and a seventy year old man.

So, am I being too critical of my experiences on the Camino Costa Rica? Truly you realize that walking across a country and through jungles requires a little logistical support. Yes we are using a guide service. At this development stage of the camino Costa Rica not even a camino Guidebook is available.

Today felt like we were walking through several villages each with their own beauty in every way.

The rain welcomed us in every way today. First it poured. Then as we continued climbing up this huge hill it continued letting up. Then an amazing mist quickly formed bringing the rain back up. The bird sounds are everywhere.

Please note: My disclosures. No WiFi, most of the time and when I write my daily story on my iPhone sweat drips down from my head to my glasses then onto the screen. Yes, bad grammar and no check spelling is the norm till I get back home. Enjoy the pictures. Day six in the books. Tomorrow starts day seven of fourteen.

Pura Vida baby!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 5 – Camino Costa Rica

Good morning Costa Rica!! I just sprayed myself with jungle juice deodorant and now ready for a breakfast of you guessed it, beans and rice. All kidding aside the food to me is all delicious. And yes you even get beans and rice with your eggs in the morning. And the Costa Rica coffee is my new favorite.

They say all caminos start off by first working your body, and then if you survive the first test, the camino moves on to your mind and towards the end, it finally reaches your very soul.

So far our stages 1 through 5 are all body over mind and soul stages. The first stage, I’ll refer to as the mosquito stage. Stage one did a great job on all our bodies as we all still have the mosquitoe bites to prove it.

One of the girls with us claims her stretch pants, which she says she will never ever wear again on this camino, served her ass on a platter to the mosquitoes; in a pin cushiony sort of way.

Our day one mosquito bites now can easily be distinguished between days 2, 3 and four bites. I can also now add an ant bite on my hand and two tick bites on either leg but, no leeches yet. Don’t laugh that may come later from a future water crossing. Such is the Camino Costa Rica adventure. Not all stages are for everyone but, some of the stages are for anyone wanting a camino experience.

One of our guide Sergio has two wasp bites from stage two, one on his forehead and one on his shoulder. He took the hit for the group in an early warning sort of way by walking ahead of us towards a wasp nest The wasp nest within strike distance of the camino road we were on.

And so I asked our indigenous guide how he got the scar on his chin and before he could answer our other guide showed us his scar marks. Seems a certain type of fly around here strikes and lays their eggs in you. The area around the strike consumes your body in a leprosy sort of way. Shots on your butt for thirty days are the only known cure. Great. Now I find myself looking at a recent fly bite. Just noticed these two new arrivals.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

The second stage, walking down gravelly plantation roads worked on toughening up our feet, for some, turning them into hamburger.

Then on to stages 3 and 4, elevations gain and losses equal to climbing nearly 250 flights of stairs was all body over mind control.

Today stage five can be called the start of the “mind” stage on account of another up and down gravelly road that gives one the opportunity to be in oneself and think.

Day 4 – Staying at Finca TRES EQUIS was our best stay yet. Remember on the camino here it is feast or famine as jungle lodging can be hard to find.

Our host (Don Alfonso) could not have been more accommodating. Today compared to yesterday is a short day. What makes today special is the road scenery and walking through several villages.

One of our guide lives in this picturesque village. Prior to arrival at tonight’s lodging we stopped at a local store for cokes, chicharrones and anything salty.

Another day closer to the Pacific side of the Camino.

Pura Vida

Rafael

Posted in Uncategorized