Backpacking adventures

If you have never gone backpacking, do it this weekend. I mean, who doesn’t want to strap a whole bunch of crap to their back, hike ten miles, sleep on the ground in a tent? I do! *rasies hand*

I enjoy heading out for a weekend trek with only the essentials. I especially enjoy it with our Scout Troop. I get to be with my boys, and be around some really great adult leaders. We have a lot of fun, and usually make new memories each time we go out. Like the time Mr. Geiger fell off a large rock, backwards, landing on his back, and bending one of his trekking poles. Yea, that was a good time! Or, when Mr. Crumpler and Mr. Brunner ate “animal droppings.” Notice a theme yet? Some of the memories aren’t always funny, though, and it was due to poor planning on a Scout’s part. Adults do this, too.

Backpacking can be a miserable time if you don’t have a lot of knowledge about it. Poor choices make for a bad time. Poor planning can make things even worse. Not much worse than wet clothes, or not enough food or water, or a leaky tent, or the worst time with mosquitos. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Finding the right gear doesn’t have to be expensive. Sure, I could’ve dropped a small fortune in an hour on Eastern Mountain Sports and REI without batting an eye. The thriftiness in me, however, makes me search for the best price for the most performance and quality. It takes a lot of time searching online. Sometimes you have to wait for the sales or deals to happen. We are lucky to get a 50% discount, as members of the BSA, on all Alps brands products—packs, tents, sleeping pads, rain gear. When I was preparing for Philmont, I began obsessing about pack weight, and made a few purchases that, now looking back, were not necessary. Believe it or not, some of Wal Mart’s camping gear is actually pretty good. My son and I both used their brand of water bladder. They performed perfectly, and I continue to use it without issues.

I could really go down a rabbit hole, but maybe I should write a few individual posts about specific topics—types of gear, when to use it, etc.. Take away this from this post … don’t be afraid to force yourself to rely on ONLY yourself. There’s something to be said about being in the woods, swinging in a hammock, sipping a hot cup of joe you just made, and you are miles from anything civilized.

Caydn and Cross-Country

We encourage our boys to try new things. We are very active in Scouting, and it certainly offers a lot for them. There is also something to be said about being part of a high-school sports team. It teaches a lot of valuable character building skills that go nicely with the great things they learn through Scouting. This year, we encouraged Caydn to do cross-country.

Caydn loves to be on his X-box. He’s pretty good at his games, but definitely spends too much time on it. So we thought that a sport like XC would be good for him. It would give him a chance to meet new people, and feel good about accomplishments outside of X-box rankings. It also allows him to compete against himself.

I can’t tell you how proud of him I am. He wasn’t too excited about doing it, but he didn’t complain. He never gave a fuss about going to practices or meets. He showed up, did his best, and never complained. He never finished in the top echelon, but he never quit running. He never stopped to walk, he just kept running. I was beaming with pride every time I got to see him at a meet. Even though he was usually last, I was so proud to watch him keep running all the way to the finish. Even his teammates cheered him on as he ran the final 100 meters.

I admire his attitude. He’s growing into such an incredible young man. He’s becoming the voice of reason when brotherly spats happen. I am excited to see where his attitude and character take him. I love this guy immensely!

What it is, and what it shall be

I’ve come to a point in my life where I really value time with my family more than ever. Most of my time outside of work is spent doing things with the boys. We are always doing something on the weekends—camping, hiking, some sort of service project, going to the cabin, or just being outdoors. This was near impossible when I worked for myself, relying on photographing weddings as my main source of income.

I don’t want to miss these amazing years as they grow into amazing young men. I wanted to be fully present during all of the important milestones, big or small, in their lives. Working for oneself is more than a 40-hour job. It’s constant, never ending. Now, I’m leaving all that behind.

My career has taken a lot of different turns over the past 26 years. I’ve had job titles galore; graphic designer, art director, teacher, business owner/photographer, and now, just photographer. Finally, after many jobs with such different dynamics, I love my job! There is a lot of flexibility in my schedule, allowing for a lot of time at home. My last job shooting for an auction house sucked in that there was no flexibility in my day-to-day schedule. I like to get up early, get started early, and finish early. I was putting in 50+ hours a week because no matter how early I arrived, I had to stay until 5:00PM. It was in Harrisburg, and the drive home was almost an hour, leaving very little time at home to do fun things. Anyhow, my new job is great! I get in early, and am home shortly after the kids are off the bus, before 4:00PM. Fridays are usually a half day because I start early, and stay a little longer than eight hours early in the week. It usually adds up to a half day on Fridays.

It’s time to slim down—my gut and creative endeavors. Time to simplify my daily distractions, focus on what really matters.

I get to shoot a lot of food! Although, I wouldn’t eat this. It’s shaving cream in there!

So, this blog thing. What is it? Now that I have a job that is truly amazing, I have no need for my many other websites and brands. I don’t do weddings anymore, so Double H Media can go away. I don’t shoot for myself commercially to the point I need a dedicated website, so that one can go away. Finally, I hate (Stupid nickname. I wish I had just stayed with Harold.) I just wanted to narrow everything into one presence. A photographic journey with the things I love—family, career, camping, backpacking, cycling, Scouting, art, and great friends. Unum lumen. One light.

I hope you stop by often. I hope I can keep fresh posts happening that bring you back for more. Leave some input—feedback is a gift!

Philmont part 2 – Basecamp

When I was preparing for our trip to Philmont, one of the things I was curious about was the process at basecamp before we were dropped off in the middle of 140,171 acres of backcountry at the start of our 10-day trek. I had viewed dozens of photos of various happenings at basecamp, but it doesn’t really describe much of the happenings in the short time in basecamp.

There’s so much to do upon check-in at Philmont. One of the main things is meeting your ranger. This is an experienced staff member who goes out with you on your first couple of nights to make sure you understand and are following leave-no-trace principals. Our ranger’s name was Benedict. He was a really great guy; was voted staff member of the week just before our trek. I’m sure it happened again after our glowing reviews. He left us on the third morning. I like to think he was impressed with our crew’s backcountry skills, and always dreamed of one like us. Probably not, though. Thanks for the great company, Benedict.

Even though we only spent a little more than 24 hours at basecamp before hitting the trail, it felt longer. There was so much to do; final medical reviews, misc. last minute paperwork, and of course, a visit to the trading post and the branding tent. The only place to get stuff branded with the various Philmont ranch symbols is at Philmont itself. Most people get their leather belt branded. I did that and my hat brim. Caydn did his belt. Ya gotta get a belt, too.

Coudersport time

This past weekend my sister and I took our youngest children to the cabin; Vivian and Pierson, respectively. Guenna hasn’t been there in 20 years; Vivian never. We had intentions of getting so many things accomplished, but quickly realized we had enough to do with deep-cleaning of the kitchen area.

The cabin is locked up most of the time. Cousin Robbie probably uses it the most, followed by, as of late, me. It’s old. It’s extremely musty inside, and you take home the thick smell of it on everything you take inside. We wanted to put a fresh coat of paint—actually a stain/odor blocker—on the main living area walls. That will be another weekend. We focused on steam-cleaning the carpet and airing-out various things. We organized everything into plastic storage bins to keep the mice away, and make cleaning up after them much easier. Guenna went through the spices and ended up throwing out most of it due to very old expiration dates. I was able to restock all the essentials for $40 at the new Dollar General in town.

Though we really tried, the musty smell is still pretty thick. Unfortunately there is a set of windows that have sills completely covered in black mold. They aren’t really proper windows. A single sheet of plexiglass is all there is. The condensation is constant on this inside of it, and has soaked the bottom part of the window frame. It really needs to be replaced and the mold removed. That can’t be good breathing that in over the course of a weekend stay.

We’ve come up with two conclusive solutions to overcoming the musty smell, mold and mildew. One: knock it down and build a new one. I can never see it happening while the current board of elders is at the helm. It is nice, though, to imagine an updated getaway with a porch overlooking the stream and a second floor bunk room. However, I get why it hasn’t already happened. Two: New carpeting, fresh paint, new sofas and mattresses, and two new windows. I really think option two will add some new life to the cabin, and cut down the mustiness.

My Colorado Love

In 2012, my childhood friend, Duffy, got married. Luckily, he asked me to photograph the big event. How could I say no? After all, I had never visited Colorado before. So, I booked my trip making sure to include several extra days to travel. Duff was gracious enough to let me use their Jeep. The cliché was complete; me, my camera, and the open road. After being in Colorado Springs for the first few days, I was ready to head north to Denver. I called another childhood friend from my formative years, Eric. He picked me up at my hotel, and we hung out reminiscing until the wee hours of the morning. From there I stopped by Red Rocks, then headed south along the western side of the Rockies to the Great Sand Dunes. I was all alone, and it was magical. The dunes are massive; much bigger than they look from 10-miles away!

I definitely want a Jeep now. I drove to Cripple Creek one day and checked out some old mines and small shanties. I found a jeep path that went all the way back to Colorado Springs. It was narrow, but beautiful through the aspens. It was only wide enough for one vehicle.

Our little slice of paradise

Nestled in the back hills of Coudersport, PA, is one of my favorite places to go. It’s a humble abode sitting in a small hallow. Just the basic comforts—indoor plumbing, hot water, heat—makes this a perfect place to get away from it all. There is no cellular service, TV, cable, or satellite. If it snows heavily enough, you aren’t going anywhere by car for a while.

It’s not very big. Only a few hundred square feet. The main living area includes two sofas and Opa’s orange chair (living room), a short firehall type table and metal folding chairs (the dining room), and a small area big enough for one person in which to cook (the kitchen). There are two small bedrooms with bunkbeds—the gas chamber and the suite. I sleep in the suite. Opa did, too. Cousins Robbie and Chris stay in the chamber. Dad sleeps on the couch. It’s too bad it stays locked up for most of the year.

I really enjoy going with my sons. The older two love it there and are always happy to go. It’s nice to see them having fun without electronic devices. I also love that this tiny piece of paradise is being passed down to yet another generation.

My Great-Grandfather, William P. Forker, Sr., first bought this land in 1950. He came up often to hunt, staying in a tiny shack until this cabin was built. His photo hangs as a reminder of where we came from. Opa’s photo now hangs next to it. I guess it’s become a memorial.

Philmont trip 2019

This past summer, I got to do something not many other dads get to do. It’s a pinnacle adventure for any Scout; almost a rite of passage. We spent two weeks in New Mexico, ten of which in the backcountry of Philmont Scout Ranch. Located in Cimarron, New Mexico, Philmont is 140,171 acres, or about 220 square miles. There are 315 miles of trails, 35 staffed backcountry camps and 770 campsites. Over 22,000 Scouts and Leaders are expected to go on 12-day treks this summer. The only documented Tyrannosaurus rex track in the world was discovered within the camp’s boundaries in 1993 in North Ponil Canyon by the Anasazi Trail Camp. It was formally identified in 1994.

We went on this amazing trip with a few others from our Troop. It was a great group of Scouts and Leaders. We all got along and had a genuinely fun time. Our trek stretched 105 miles including side hikes and general getting-from-here-to-there jaunts. We were at elevations from 6500′ to 12,441′. The views were breathtaking at the summits.

This trip tested us in many ways. The 120° temps in the canyons during the day that dip into the high-30s at night were relentless. The steep climbs up long switchbacks were brutally hot and tiring. I had to dig deep on a few occasions; one 15-mile day in particular got the best of me.

I want to go back to Philmont,
I want to go back to Philmont
Where the old Rayado flows,
Where the rain come a seepin’
In the tent where you’re a sleepin’
And the waters say hello

I want to wake up in the morning
With my socks all wringing wet,
For it brings back fondest memories,
That a Ranger can’t forget.

I want to hike once more the canyon floor
From Scribblins to Old Camp,
With my pack sack a-creakin’,
And my back with sweat a-reekin’,
And my legs begin to cramp.

I want to hike again with such great men
As made those famous treks,
From Beaubien to Porky
And from Cito to Car-Max

It’s what I love to do

I am lucky enough to have a great job. I thoroughly enjoy my day-to-day time spent shooting food and product for the We are a studio of five photographers, a studio assistant, merchandiser/stylist, a food stylist, a dozen editors, logistics coordinator, managers and a director—Oh, Captain, my Captain!

This blog isn’t a promotion of services, though. It’s a photographic journal with some anecdotal notations and accompanying stories. I hope you enjoy my images; moments, captured.

We shoot a lot of glassware! That’s Jasmine being the bartender.