Sunday, December 21, 2014


I've been wanting to do a series of blog posts about the things that rattle around in my head on a weekly basis, and the one being most paramount time and time again is housing.

It is the linchpin that is driving much of the suffering in our world. Just this week Notch of Minecraft fame bought a $70 million mansion in Beverly Hills-the MOST expensive one in the area. That my friends is a grotesque affront to all that could be done for good with that insane amount. Money, like time/energy, is a precious resource because all three elements are intertwined. Beyond that, until the property owners that be accept something other than cold hard cash, everything you spend on other than housing, is something that takes away from simply keeping a roof over your head. Yet so many people are hemorrhaging and flitting away their money left and right...when if they took a closer examination of their life, they would see the so much of their suffering is tied primarily to rent,  let alone the other bills and disposable income "living it up".Breaking the work/spend cycle takes time, and solidarity with others to provide examples and course of action always helps. Self inflicted damage is rampant.

 Food, clothing, community, entertainment etc can all be had for either free or extremely cheap. But try and find a reliable place to sleep that is safe, allows for personal space/storage and perhaps a few basic amenities(lavatory/kitchen etc),and you will be hard pressed. I've made a very clear intention to funnel 99% of my money towards housing...and lo and behold I am thriving.

I live in a very unique situation in Casa Tequio, where we have many people sharing rooms(fitting about 10-12 in the 2300sqft house). One guy lives in a 3x8 closet! He's my hero. :) Another hero of mine is Rob Greenfield who has done a lot to bring attention to food waste, cycling, alternative living and more. He too lived in a closet for awhile. Rob Greenfield 6x6 closet. Please check out his videos and blog, inspiring work on there.

Rob Greenfield

My quaint room is about 10x12, with a nice window that I enjoy the breeze from, a single bed, a dresser, a bookshelf, some storage room and a place I dump all my panniers at the foot of my bed. Above me is a loft space where my roomie resides, with a skylight and cozy confines of about 8x8 feet. I consider my space about as optimal as you can get without going to a walk-in closet. In combination with my work trade value exchange I do for the house, I pay $150 for everything, and I am eternally grateful for this setup.

My lovely room.

Even still... filling up this house isn't the most optimal use of the land. What would be ideal for an urban area is something like this :Eugene S.L.E.E.P.S.Or in my neck of the woods, Right2Dreamtoo and Dignity Village.

Cooking with Food Not Bombs at Right2DreamToo

A lot of people just want a place to sleep, store a few things, and build community around that. It's kind of unreal to think it's illegal to lay your head down in the vast majority of the landscape. I often find myself on bike rides around the city looking at places where one could crash in the's slim pickings indeed.

Harassment from the authorities, hooligans, drug addled folks's not always safe to just lay down anywhere either, but I've ran across many that do as an intentional way of living outside the system. They don't want the overhead of managing a house/apartment and all the BS they entail; working full-time, giving your precious life energy to less than ideal endeavors just to sleep securely. There needs to be a contraction of resources, and in many places it's already underway. Detroit is one example of thousands of buildings being leveled, leaving many vacant lots for gardens or maximizing infil If we tore down our house and put a yurt village setup, we could probably house twice as many people with more private/open spaces for less money to rent the land...?

Detroit in Crisis: 60 Minutes

In places like Dignity Village etc, one of the issues is the stigma attached. These SHOULD be destination locations for freegans, activists, artists or anyone else wanting out of the rat race. Instead they are largely viewed as transitional places, or homes for the dredges of society...or "derelicts" as someone I know put it. One campaign in Eugene has a plan already fleshed out for a more long term area called Emerald Village. It's crucial we start modeling that there are alternatives...we are monkey see monkey do culture and the more we transition to alternative methods of shelter, the more it will snowball into manifesting on a larger scale.

Opportunity Village Design

I've often thought about the blurry line between travelers like bike tourers using warmshowers/couch surfing, and people who live in permanent locations. When does  a person shift from a guest, and into a burden? In what way can they add a net positive to those around them? Can't people just float around town, continously surfing and spreading the love? My friend Russel rotates between a few spots where he gives back value. and has built some awesome forts to sleep in. That's one way to do it. Another is a combination of couch/yard surfing mixed in with sleeping in wooded areas like Mt. Tabor, along the river south of Portland etc. I had a conversation awhile back with a long-time houseless advocate called Lightning about creating a craigslist type site that could pair housless folks with housed in whatever exchange of value they could determine. Hopefully creating a symbiotic mutually beneficial relationship, and easing the huge strain on the official channels that usually have to handle so many folks. Any given night here in Portland there are more than 2,000 people without a home.

 All these things are made much easier with bike transportation, as most houseless types tend to congregate around the resources(shelters, food, dry areas to sleep outside) while those more mobile fill in the outskirts. Even Forest Park is easy to slip into it's massive acreage for months at a time, like my friends Satya/Fallon have done in the past.

A more mobile option that utilized my beloved bicycle is  the Bike RV system. Bike RV A local houseless advocate actually has his own version, and he can even squeeze in his large dog for cuddling! I did copious amounts of research into living out of a van/rv, and even spent 6 months living in 25 foot 5th wheel trailer with my ex-wife and dog...a bit cramped, but not too shabby. Still, the overhead is too much in my opinion; initial purchases/outfitting, registration/insurance, fuel, repairs, can't be that stealthy, environmental footprint etc.

Typical housing uses up tons of resources to both build and power them, fill the insides and the countless hours people spend working just to keep them in operation. Contraction is already happening...with peak oil looming and other issues, people are going to have to live alternatively. There are also not enough quality jobs to go around to support the typical lifestyle...for every teacher, there a hundred baristas with Masters. I for one would rather live unconventionally thriving than work some 9-5 waste of my precious life energy. in exchange for more "comfort". I am time rich, but monetarily poor, and loving it.


Decentralization is also a key feature of how many houseless live. They use parks, libraries, grocery stores, coffee shops, bookstores, FNB kitchens, tool shares etc to access the infrastructure they need. So many of these houses I see with vast areas of unused spaces, or rooms dedicated to art, exercise etc are a poor way to be efficient with space. Get some bunks, load up the largest room in the house, and use the other rooms as needed. Or use the micro-community model, anything but the standard way with huge houses for a few's insane.

Going forward I hope to collaborate more with people creating these more permanent  communities around major urban centers, while continuing to challenge the notion of what one needs for shelter.


Great article on Tiny Home Villages in the NW

Friday, September 19, 2014

Wy'East(Mt.Hood) Retreat September 2014

Just got back from an 8 day adventure hiking the Timberline Trail around Wy'East(Mt.Hood) with four of my friends, Satya, Fallon, Andy and Christal. It was the third and final trip of the summer with Touching Earth Sangha

Spent the first night at our friend's Arrons, sleeping out in the yard with my new favorite kitteh friend, Mr's Grey!!!!


I came out to bed down and she was snuggled up on my sleeping bag, nearly stepped on her sweet furry body. She got up and readjusted and ended up snuggled up next to me for a few hours while I tried to get some sleep.

Breakfast in the morning before we left. 

On this trip we ate lots of oats for the first meal of the day, but this morning we had some scrumpious millet, the leftovers I carted up to the mountain(heavy!).All vegan, 99% organic, whole food goodness. Just look at our bounty we brought up for five people.

Oats, millet, lentils, apples, carrots, sunflower butter, spices, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, dried cherries(sucked on them on the trail yum, thanks Andy!), bagels, and tons of bread.

We left around 2:30pm on Tuesday the 9th and made our way along the Springwater trail all the way to it's terminus in Boring. After a quick snack/rest break, we took some country roads along Barlow Road/Historic Oregon Trail along the way up. We ended up about 10 miles out from our bike camp near Ranoma Falls Trailhead, so we ended up just camping near the Sandy River the first night.

On Wed the 10th we loaded up our bikes again and finished the last leg of our journey, which is probably one of the tougher stretches of the nearly 60 miles to the mountain, as it's about 2-3 miles of gradual elevation gain, forcing most of us to walk it up a pot-holed road to Ramona Falls parking lot.

We made it to bike camp around 1pm, had a quick snack , and started our hike with our 50lb packs to Muddy Fork about 6 miles away. Last time I was here in May, I stayed down here solo for a couple nights as I was exhausted from the physical overexertion and didn't join the rest of the crew higher up on McNiel Point, so I got to know the this site pretty well. Turns out a few months of sun and water and it was overgrown with plants, my old campsite was buried under shrubs lol. There is this really neat flat rock that we cook on, surrounded by a pile of boulders, while below it was our main bedroll area we all got cozy in.

Table rock

On Thursday the 11th, we got cracking on our way to Wy'East Basin. Satya and Andy ended up bushwacking up a steep tree-shrouded slope, rather than taking the path closer to Bald Mountain. I almost joined them, but it looked a bit sketchy traversing all the logs, rocks and other hazards. They ended up beating us to the redevouz point by about 40min, so not a huge gain in time after all.

We had pleasant little break and chat with a well experienced hiker, swapping stories of wildlife sightings. On the way up here Fallon, Chrystal and I actually ran across a large Garter Snake sunning himself on the trail, and a deer who was blocking our path, before effortlessly bounding off into the thick brush.

We pushed on, hoping to make it to Elk Cove, but ran out of daylight around Wy'East Basin, a truly stunning spot. In the morning  most of us went up on the ridge for practice(meditation, yoga, Qi-Gong) and enjoyed the views of the NW side of the mountain.



Our camp from the ridge

Many dead trees on way to Wy'East Basin

Ridgetop view looking into Washington.

On Friday the 12th we decided on taking it easy, hiking just a few miles to Elk Basin and spending the night there, feasting on a sumptious lentil/kale/sundried-tomato dinner down by the river. We even had toasted corn tortillas we found in a garbage can on the way up-dumpstering on the mountain for the win! On the way there we also gorged ourselves on tart wild blueberries-they were everywhere! Elk Basin is this really lovely meadow in the shadow of the peak, with numerous camp sites and a large stream, very buetiful location.

My trusty pack.

Still so much food!

On Saturday the 13th we embarked on our greatest challenge yet-crossing the Eliot Glacier. Now there is a pretty sketchy steeeeep rope assisted path that is much faster, but looking at it from above, it didn't look very fun or safe. So we opted to go off-trail a bit and hike an extra few hours up a thin spur top, and up and over a giant glacial field of boulders, sand, snow and dark blue ice.  My $40 Danali boots were torn to shreds, I could literally bend them in any shape I wanted after the day...bring some good boots on this journey folks.

Little did they know what awaited...

We crossed that.

The narrow steep rocky spur we traveled single-file on to reach the crossing point.

Satya found a pole and lugged it outa the glaical field.

We ended up hiking up to the shelter on the next ridge and decided to push on to Gnarl Ridge. We found a stream and filled up after a mile or so trudging along the barren moon-scape of the east-side of Hood, it reminded me of the Scottish Highland or Iceland. Navigating became a bit more difficult in the dark, as Andy and I tried trekking without lights, and  Christal graciously lighted our path when it was more dangerous. Satya and Fallon had gone ahead to scout for the camp spot. We got in around 9:30pm, ate some yeast/water/bread. and hit the sack.

Waking up to the sun rising was epic. Christal, Fallon and I nestled ourselves in this amazing Spruce lined cove, filled with fine sand and plenty of clearance to stand up and walk around.

My view out of the tree cove

Fallon sitting with the morning sun

View into Eastern Oregon

The tree cove

 On Sunday the 14th after spending an awe-struck morning up on Gnarl Ridge, we decended around the SE corner of the mountain, with the bulk of the stretch coming through the man-made Mt.Hood Meadows snow runs, chair-lifts hanging silently above us. We wanted to all get out of there ASAP, but we ended up having about a mile left to go and darkness approached. We wanted to bust into our free-box whole wheat pasta, so we decided to camp at this cute little spot nestled in the cool shade of massive trees. The pasta was AMAZING! Fallon made this great Italian herb nutbutter sauce and we all slurped spaghetti to our heart's content. I actually found an awesome 8-foot bamboo pole left behind at the camp and used it the rest of the trip-quite handy with vaulting over the numerous streams.

On Monday the 15th, we set out for Paradise Park on the SW edge of Hood. Along the way, we would stop by Timberline Lodge, a place myself, Andy and Christal had never seen. We got to check out the inside briefly while Christal made a phone call. It was a bit strange....seeing all these pristine cars and pudgy, graying tourists, juxtaposed with our grimy freegan selves humping our gear around the mountain.

We ended up getting into Paradise Parkl late , so it wasn't till the morning that the full glory of the place was revealed. There was this massive memorial rock that most everyone slept beside, with great views all around.

View from our camp into SW

Wy'East SW side.

That is not fog, it's smoke from the Eastacada fire

Memorial plaques on the rock

My camp

On Tuesday the 16th we made our final trek of 6 miles to our bike camp near Ramona Falls. The little wrinkle for me was my boots were shot. I had a hole in the left heel that had caused a very painful sore to develop, while my right heel was scuffed and scratched from the lack of ridigity...I ended up hiking without shoes. Luckily, I had spent the month of August walking barefoot around Portland, so I was a little broken in for the challenge. Most of the trail was pretty sandy and easy going, but many times there were little rocks that would press and poke me enough to double me over in pain. It was slow going, and by the time I made it to camp my feet and calves were on fire. Andy, Fallon and Satya all spent most of the trip barefoot though, so I was in good company. Many other hikers commented on this as they saw our footprints all over path, and wondered who were these crazy people lol.

Coming down break time

Andy "Lizarding" perched on outcropping.

Andy and Fallon staring the at the hidden waterfall on the other side. I took their word for it. :)

Sun setting on the Sandy as I hobbled back to bike camp
On Wednesday the 17th we departed froim our gracious host, and sped away on our much lighter bikes, zooming down the mountain. We really noticed the thick haze from the Eastacada fire, and were very curious as to how it was developing. The last time I did this trip in May I cycled back on Highway 26, surrounded by noisy traffic and exaust...not very pleasant. This time I went with the group, we were a tight-knit pack coasting along the backroads, snacking on grapes. native blackberries, apples and pears. We arrived back in PDX around 7pm, after six hours on the road. All in all, a glorious trip!


-Lots of water crossings! I think maybe 10-12, with a few of those being pretty challenging, like the ones on the White and Sandy rivers. It was always a bit funky deciding wether to wade or hop over...and you could never convince me to try the log route, save on the Sandy. It got easier the more we did it, but one time Andy actually fell in on the way to Wy-East basin. He was trying to move this unsteady rock off the crossing, when his stick slipped and his pack flipped him around on his back in the ice-cold water. With a startled yelp and wide-eyes, I ran over and helped him up, as he hurredly changed into his clothes, chuckling at how rediculous that was.

-Satya was a litter-cleanup champion. Hauled out a few bags of all manner of debris he found, most of it in the campsite firepits. Cans, scraps of plastic/paper, bottles, pink ribbons in the trees and more. He also was a shrewd guide and helped greatly with water crossings and his wealth of experience in nature.

-Andy carried our rocket stove all the way around the mountain, and for 4 cooked meals we had, it was WELL worth it. Thanks Andy!

-Fallon as usuall supplied delicious snack balls, composed of oats, nutbutter, dark choclate pieces, cardamon and more. She was indespensible for all manner of food stuffs. YUM!

- The pacing was just about right, but with our later starts hiking(average of around Noon) we usually didn't get to our camp before dark, so a little frustrated with having to muck around with flashlights and being tired in the evening. Practice was an integral part of the retreat though, so it was worth it having those hours in the morning devoted to it. We did find it a bit absurb to meet all kind sof folks who were doing the entire 40mile-loop in 2 days....especially these two young guys from Tualitan who ended up lapping us at one point...we didn't see the point in hiking at such a breakneck speed, hardly having time to enjoy the surroundings...but not many of us can break away for a week at our choosing.

-We filtered a lot of our water(freebox filter ftw), but much of it was pretty pristine from springs high up from glacial melt.

-I lost some weight for sure, even if I couldn't move for a day after I got back.

For more detailed info, check this link out Timber Line Trail

Touching Earth Sangha