Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Norwegian Countryside

Well, it has been a while since I did anything out of the ordinary, but this weekend proved different. One of the owners, Per, was in town and he is always up for a good party. With very little twisting of our arms, we were convinced to head out to the local night spot down the road. Time flies when you are drinking $12 beers and it was 3am before we knew it. The group was divided, some were still awake and ready for more and others were more than ready for bed. Fortunately for Per and I, we had run into some people we knew and headed up the road for a Nachtspill. Well time flew at our after party too, and seemingly, even before Per could pass all the way out on the couch it was time to get up and head to work. Good thing I got those two hours of sleep.

I'll be the first to admit that the beer I finished at 6am might not have been the best thing to drink at that hour considering I had to be at work at nine. Fortunately for Per and I Sunday was different than most work days, and the first two and a half hours consisted of riding on a bus. By the time the headache began to subside, it was time to guide 6 family rafting trips back to back. The weather cooperated and all the little kids had a good time rafting down through the beautiful Hyen Valley.

Knut Arlid Flatjord taking care of the kiddies at the put in

The sun came out and made for some spectacular views

With all the family trip action on Sunday everyone was more than happy to have Monday off. Team America(Mefford, Liza, Julia(Liza's cousin), and I) decided to take a trip up the Stardalen Valley to check out the Haugabreen Glacier.

On the way up Haugadalen looking back down into the Stardalen

Although I have seen several glaciers from a distance I had not yet touched one in the flesh. Getting to Haugabreen is a really cool hike through one of the more spectacular valleys I have been to.

Heading up Haugadalen towards Haugabreen

The first good view of the Haugabreen

The hike continually provided amazing views, and a little excitement, in the form of me stepping in the creek. We eventually made it to the glacier and got to check out some ice, up close and personal.

The Haugabreen(breen means ice in Norwegian) is a branch of the Myklebust glacier. When you turn around from Haugabreen you are able to see a branch of the Jostadalsbreen. The Jostadalsbreen in the largest glacier in mainland Europe.

From Haugabreen towards Jostadalsbreen

On the way up to the glacier I spotted a route that I wanted to attempt on the way down. I separated from the group and headed out to the very top of the waterfall in route to the valley floor. From a distance I was told that I looked a bit like a mountain goat as I speedily made my way down the rocky landscape.

The view from the top of the waterfall back into the Haugadalen

A self portrait at the bottom of the waterfall

After the glacial exploration we made our way home and were back to work on the Jolstra today. Stay tuned for more Scandinavian adventures.

Don't forget a click on a picture will take you to a gallery with more pictures.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Time for Change... (Not the kind in your pocket)

Well, living in Norway has provided me with plenty of down time, to read, run, walk, kayak, and learn and think about the world as it is. I am in no way trying to declare my own innocence, rather spark intelligent discussion, and possibly inspire change.

Regardless of your political affiliations and loyalties there are a few things that are undeniable in todays world. The United States is the largest consumer of petroleum in the world and the country is in dire need of change on many levels. The economy has gone to shit, (pardon my French), I can personally attest to the fact that the dollar has weakened by nearly 20% from my arrival in Norway in 2007. There are many factors which can account for this decline, but our excessive consumption and costly campaigns over seas can not be helping.

Let's face the facts, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We have reached Peak Oil production. The fact of the matter is that gas prices, food costs, transportation, and the cheap plastic things you buy for kids are all going to cost more in the not so distant future.

Although I know the Climate Change issue is controversial in some regards, there are several truths, the planet is getting warmer, the ice caps and glaciers are melting, and weather patterns are changing in more extreme ways. Obviously the planet goes through natural cycles of change, but I would say the careless way which we have treated the planet for the past 50+ years(since we had a clue about finite resources) has not positively affected the planet, its ice caps, or its weather patterns.

At the root of nearly all issues of environmental abuse lies the fact that we have been completely reliant on cheap foreign oil, while neglecting to develop the proper infrastructure to deal with an ever changing world and finite fossil fuel resources.

A great deal of my inspiration for writing this came from a New York Times article on what was going to happen to General Motors Corporation. GM has been one of the biggest corporations in the United States for 90 years, but their future is bleak, and their 110th birthday may not come with the company in the same shape or form, if it exists at all. General Motors, in my opinion, has had nothing but opportunity to develop and change its vehicles and move towards efficiency and alternative fuels. The first fuel crisis happened nearly 30 years ago, but GM has continued to manufacture gas guzzling cars. As recently as the past 10 years, GM has continued its short sighted policy, in hopes of making the quick buck, probably at their own demise. The 1990's saw a huge push from domestic auto makers for the big SUV, with GM leading the way, Suburban, Denali, Tahoe, and the vile Hummer to name a few. Had GM taken a different approach, as few as 10 years ago, seeing the rising fuel costs, perhaps their future would look more promising. Like him or not Jimmy Carter was right on in his pushes for environmental reform, and his statements about the United States abundant oil consumption.

The fact that I am living in a country that still produces enough oil for its own consumption is another inspiration for this article. Despite the fact that gas should be abundant and cheap here, it costs nearly $3 a liter, that is about $11 a gallon. As well, you surely don't see, save for the very rare, Hummer riding down the road. The SUV is replaced with the spacious station wagon, or van. As well, I imagine more than 70% of the vehicles here run on diesel. Now throw away your previous notions about diesel vehicles, because a modern diesel engines are quiet, relatively clean, and incredibly efficient engines. For example, the 1.8T Gas powered Volkswagen Passat gets maybe 29mpg on the highway, while the 1.9L Passat Turbo Diesel gets upwards of 40mpg. This is not a new thing, but the American auto industry, petroleum companies, and federal government(who have been in bed together for a very long time) have refused to bring these efficient engines to market in the US.

Essentially the point I am trying to get at is that the United States, and the world as a whole, are in desperate need of change. If we refuse to change, as James Howard Kunstler says, "It is at our own peril."

Al Gore gave an incredibly poignant, inspirational, and powerful speech July 17, 2008 on the imperative need for change, check it out here (Watch it whether you agree or not)


Now I may not agree exactly with everything that Mr. Gore has to say, but I do think that he more than has the right idea. In addition, I think that in order to appeal to a broader audience Mr. Gore has sugar coated part of his challenge. I believe that if we are not energy independent by 2018, our country will not exist as we know it today. If we can change and build this infrastructure all the jobs in these renewable energy industries, in regards to creation, installation and maintenance, by their very nature can not be outsourced to foreign countries.

All of my recent readings, and experiences abroad have really gotten the wheels turning. As a result, I have committed to personally reducing my fossil fuel consumption. I hope this synopsis can inspire thought, discussion, and most importantly change.

For those of you who absolutely have to have some eye candy, here ya go...

An old fashioned American Meal(Meatloaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and delicious Norwegian grown carrots...Thanks for the tips Mom

Coming out of the Pearly Gates

Cruising the flats...

"The Government today announced that it is changing its national symbol to a CONDOM because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance. A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you are actually being screwed."

Thanks for reading,

Don't be Scared to leave Comments

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Extreme: Like Smoky and the Bandit

Shaving in the State Trooper Dew... (Photo MW)

Over the years my tastes in music, books, hobbies, and movies have changed. One of several constants throughout these fluctuations has been an admiration for Burt Reynolds. Laugh if you will: but whether staring in the ultra classic comedy "Smoky and the Bandit," or playing the rugged survivalist in the academy award nominated film "Deliverance" one thing is certainly true...Burt grows the best mustache.

So despite the laughable nature of having just a mustache, particularly amongst my age group, I decided that there could be no substitute facial hair style for the Ekstremsportveko- Voss' very own Extreme sports festival. For those that are able, have a Banquet Beer for me and the Bandit

Although last year was a great week of paddling and partying, I felt this year topped it. As some of you may know, I placed 10th place in the extreme Kayak race last year, and was on a team that placed 2nd in the rafting competition.

The author on a successful run of the infamous Nosebreaker Drop, Upper Raundalselva. (Photo by Philbert Williams)

This year, I opted out of the rafting, due to time conflicts, and the fact that I guide rafts nearly every day. Instead, I replaced the rafting comp with another kayak competition, the Team Race. Mefford, Greg Dashper (A Canadian friend, from my BC adventures, who now works in Voss), and myself competed and finished 4th. Unfortunately, I did not fare so well in the individual event, and finished 19th. The field was tough this year, and the water was low, making any mistake very costly.

Finishing the Team Race

Considering my dismal finish in the individual race, which was the highlight of my week last year, how is it that I would consider this year better than last? Well the answers are... Lot's of kayaking, new rivers, big waterfalls, good friends, great mustaches, expensive, but bountiful, beer, good music, crazy paragliders, and beautiful women, not to mention my first days off in 22. All this in six quick days of fun, in one of the coolest towns anywhere.

Top Picture- The author racing down the Brandseth (photo Liza D.)

Bottom Picture- The author on the Reimegrend Section of the Raundalselva (photo MW)

One thing is certain about kayaking, is that it is a tight knit and friendly community. As well, once you reach a certain level, you know damn near everyone...even if you are 3000+ miles from home. If you don't know people, they are friends of your friends, and thereby instantly friends of yours. The week in Voss, reconnected me with both types of friends and really reminded me of one of my favorite things about kayaking.

Zach, a newly made friend, met through mutual friends, getting it done on the Upper Raundal

Max, yet another new friend previously known only by reputation, punching a hole with enthusiasm on the Lower Myrkdal

Unfortunately, the week ended all too quickly. Before the team race was even over, it was back to the Salt Mines at Jolster Rafting for more work and less play, but much better pay. Mefford, Liza, and I, made it back to the base just barely in time for an evening rafting trip, and BBQ, which was followed by another crazy busy day of rafting, rappelling, BBQ, and paintball on my Birthday.
Fellow North American Mark Basso, on the Lower Myrkdal

Now that I am back at work, I am eagerly anticipating a visit from my Dad, and hope that we stay plenty busy at work for the rest of the season.

Did I mention it is kind of beautiful here?

To see more pictures-check out the new web gallery by clicking any picture on the blog.

For stories from different perspectives check over on Mefford's Blog, www.paralafamilia.blogspot.com

The Author on the biggest slide on the Brandseth. (Photo by MW)

All Photos by Amos Shuman, unless otherwise noted.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Eagerly Anticipated Eye Candy Update

Let me begin with my most sincere apologies, to all those who have been waiting on the edge of their seats, so anxiously for an update. Whether the last time you checked in was 2 days or 6 weeks ago, a lot has been happening, but very little has been written. I suppose that I owe a nice big and concise post is in order to catch everyone up to speed....

Where to begin... A kayak trip to Hood River Oregon? Ira, Cheyenne, Corey Ryan, and I left Missoula and spent three fun days of kayaking in the Hood River area. We started off with the Farmlands section of the White Salmon, and followed it up with a run down the Wind River, and three runs down one of my favorites, and a classic, the Little White Salmon. A great weekend including my first swim in quite a while and two runs off Spirit Falls a beautiful 35ft waterfall on the Little White.

The Author Getting Spiritual

We made it back to Missoula where the deal on my new car fell through, prompting me to buy a quick plane ticket to make it back for my nephew Eli's baptism. The baptism weekend was hectic, but lots or relatives came to town, of whom several I have neglected to see frequently enough.

Grandpa and my Lil' Bro with my new nephew Eli

The following week saw me to Mountain Top PA, at my parents house packing for Norway and completing random odd jobs when I was asked. My dad drove me to Philly on Tuesday April 30th for my departure. It also included an impromptu hair cutting. The trip, in comparison to Mefford's, was completely uneventful except for being transported across the Atlantic.

The Aftermath, also known as what I learned in Cosmetology School

I arrived in Bergen Norway 3 hours before my baggage, and 7 hours before Mefford. Fortunately after a quick bus ride and a quick train ride, we made it to Voss, Norway and our boss Per's house. That night we met up with friends from Voss Rafting for a few beers and some good hot tub and sauna action. Sunday came all to quickly and we found ourselves at our new home in Vassenden. The house this year is much closer to the base, but also unfortunately next to the main road, so quite noisy.
The Train Station in Voss

Crossing the World's Longest Fjord -Sogn Fjord
(That's pronounced feeeeyord)

Since arriving in Vassenden, business has been quite slow. Fortunately the weather has been nearly opposite of last year, and the 22+ hours of daylight have been mostly sunny since our arrival. There has been a bit of work, and rumors of the busiest June ever are floating in our heads. Many of the days of May have passed quite slowly, but it has given us plenty of time for reading, sleeping, kayaking the Jolstra, and even running(yes even I have been bored enough to run).

The View from Our House Looking to the North.
(It is a crying shame Norway has no decent scenery to offer, think how nice a Wal-Mart and some condos would look lining the lake.)

About two weeks ago the boredom got to Mefford and I, and we made an exodus to Voss, for a few days of kayaking. We met up with friends and got a couple of runs down the Bradsethelva, and I got a run down the Reimegrend Section of the Raundalselve. As well as kayaking we celebrated Norwegian independence day in Voss, May 17th. Not that Norwegians need an excuse to party, but they sure don't pass up a reason to party if they can help it. In addition to our patriotic celebrations and kayaking, we picked up a new member of the house after her adventures across the Atlantic, Mefford's most special lady friend, and childhood acquaintance of my own, Ms. Liza Duncan.

Our South African friend Hendri dropping in on the Brandseth

Benji Hjort on another Brandseth slide

Since our return from Voss Mefford and I have tried to make a point to kayak our river as much as possible. Our abundant river trips have recently been made possible by Liza, who is quickly learning the arts of driving a manual transmission vehicle. The plan is for her to be able to drive the Mini Bus when we get busy.

As mentioned, reading has been taking up a large part of the boring times. A significant portion of my reading has consisted of Ed Abbey's fiction and non fictions works... So, in the spirit of Abbey and adventure, we picked a mountain top that we wanted to get to the top of and hiked there. Nearly the entirety of the hike to the top of Tindefjellt, was off trail, bushwhacking and waling over exposed rock and through snow fields. I of course in my traditional fashion wore my Chaco sandals, which made for some interesting moments in the snow. Nevertheless, we made the summit and came to find spectacular views of valleys previously unknown to our vision. All in all the hike took nearly 5 hours, caused two bloody toes, and took us from approximately 300m above sea level to 1079m above sea level, a vertical gain of more than 2000 vertical feet!

Mefford Checking out The Creek that inspired the Hike and Liza Takes a drink with a dramatic view.

Near the Summit looking South

Looking at yet another area in desperate need of some Strip Malls

I hope everyone is doing well wherever you may be.
That's all she wrote for the time being... hopefully more adventure and sunshine are on the way.
Stay Tuned...
Ha Det Bra,

Thursday, March 27, 2008


So, after a fun party for Ira's birthday everyone was excited for our weekend jaunt over to Hood River. Certain members of the group had been planning for weeks. Unfortunately this morning saw a number of the supposed crew waking up with fevers, thus nixing the trip. After so powwows the trip has been tentatively rescheduled for next weekend...with the final destination yet to be determined. There may be a change of venue from Hood River to the North Fork of the Payette. Ever since I started kayaking, particularly class V, I have wanted to run the North Fork of the Payette. Either way keep you eyes peeled after next weekend for stories and pictures.

In the mean time, I just came into possession of some pictures from my 2006 trip down the legendary "Box" on the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone River. Ira and I met up with some characters from Bozeman two years ago in mid July for our descent down the "Box." For those of you not in the know, the Box is a two day wilderness trip through the 3rd deepest river gorge in the United States. Only the Grand Canyon and Hell's Canyon on the Snake are deeper. The rapids in the box are generally characterized by big boulders and big sieves and undercuts.

I have been on a lot of multi day trips, but the box ranks up there in memorable rapids, awe inspiring scenery, and scary portages.

The most notable section of river is known as Deliberation Corner. In this section the walls rise up dramatically and the river gets steep. Whether you decide to run the whole corner or not the last drop is mandatory, unless you have rock climbing skills beyond my comprehension.

Dropping the first 15 feet of Deliberation Corner.

The sequence consists of a 15 footer, followed by a boulder rapid into a 20 footer, around the bend to the mandatory 12 footer, followed by another 12 footer with a big hole. On our trip there were three groups that converged at Deliberation corner, and of the 16 people on the river only four of us ran the entire sequence.

Ira and I dropping the 20fter.

Box photos by Matt Rusher.

As memorable as Deliberation, but far less challenging, is the last major rapid on the run, Leap of Faith. Leap of Faith got its name because it is both mandatory to run, and unscoutable. You, have to go off the directions of the people that have been there before.

The author Leaping Faithfully

Shortly after is the final mandatory portage, which is awe inspiring in its own right.

Ira and I back in the water after the final portage, known as the Sunlight Strainers.

Two weeks after our Box trip we loaded down the Kia again, with British Columbia set out as our destination. A short detour through Seattle, to pick up JEB, and we were on our way. Unfortunately we did way too much kayaking to take a ton of photos, but we had some memorable days and got to see some amazing biking at the Kokanee Crank Works freeride festival at Whistler. In 7 days in BC we did about 10 runs on Callahagn Creek, two runs on Rutherford Creek, Rogers Creek, and the Upper Checkamus. We had to cut the short trip and get JEB back to Seattle so he could go to work in AK, but we finished the trip off with a run on the Green Truss and a run on the Little White Salmon near Hood River.

The Crew working towards a putin, with some ugly scenery in the background

Ira dropping in on Rutherford

Rutherford creek was slightly emotional for some of us, as it is the river where we lost a good boating friend, Matt Sheridan. The rapid that was the site of the accident produced a huge rainbow as we scouted, which lifted the heavy mood and got some smiles back on peoples faces. R.I.P Matt "Newschool" Sheridan

That's it for now, or until more photos resurface or I get back on the water. Look for a new post mid week for the pictures of my new ride... (Insert nickname). Hopefully a totally schweet name will come to me soon.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

From the Little White to the Tetons and Back...The final voyage of the Muffin

For those of you that I have not been keeping up with, I have had a fairly busy winter of traveling. Earlier in the winter my travels most often took me south to my previous residence of Driggs Idaho. This has been an unbelievably good snow year in the Tetons, and thus my trips have seemed more than justified. Other travel destinations have been both to the north and west. Unfortunately I was not able to make it East for Christmas and my travels saw me to Whitefish Montana, for more skiing, followed by a few jaunts to Hood River Oregon for some super high quality kayaking.
Christmas Eve powder at Big Mountain Resort
Overlooking Whitefish Lake into Glacier Natl. Park

Two weeks ago Ira and I organizing a group for a long weekend in Hood River. We arrived to find the Little White Salmon with almost twice the volume that Ira and I had seen just 2 weeks before. Although more water can be nerve wracking, I knew I was going kayaking. So, with a slightly smaller group than initially planned we put on and had an incredible day. Unfortunately, I was more than a slacker and forgot the camera in the car. The next few days saw more runs on the Little White, as well as several runs on the classic Green Truss section of the White Salmon river. My buddy Robin took some sweet photos of the biggest drop on the Truss, aptly named Big Brother. Check em' out on his web page www.infinitymountain.com. The above photo, I took of Ira on Big Brother on our second day. All in all it was a great trip...Good people, high water, and a visit with our long lost friend Polly.

After the long drive back to Missoula I was informed that I had no work for the rest of the week. This was seemingly great news because I had received a phone call from my friend Curtis, saying he and his wife were on vacation in Driggs. After a long and greasy day under my car, a new catalytic converter and oxygen sensor were installed, and I was underway.
Curtis hiking on a seldom seen sunny winter day in the Tetons

The new equipment seemed to alleviate my previous problems and I began dreaming about my April voyage back East(and how it would be the Kia getting me there). After 4 days of skiing I made the journey home, which included car issues starting up once again. Flabbergasted and frustrated are two words to describe my attitude towards the Kia, after all we had been through she was finnaly showing signs of rebellion, possibly even hatred towards me. Less than a week later the Kia, a.k.a The Muffin Wagon, The Scone, Superportage, M@+* F#$!_@(^ car, and many other names passed on to a new owner. Despite my honesty her new owner carried high hopes and expectations. Thus far, no calls or complaints, from either the car or the new driver.The Superportage on one of her great Cali adventures

It was a sad day to see the Muffin drive away. But, as I look back I can only say that I doubt any other Kia has been on as many adventures or taken anyone to access as many beautiful places as mine. In total, 2 separate summer long trips, from Asheville NC to California and back. Two trips from Asheville to Missoula, via Driggs Idaho and back. A trip from Missoula to and around British Columbia. At least 8 round trips from Asheville to Wilkes Barre PA. Easily more than 200 trips to the Green River. And this winter 6 trips to Driggs, and a trip to Hood River. All in all the Muffin Wagon carried me over 130,000 miles in just about 6 short years.

A few of the beautiful places accessed by the Muffin

I can only hope my next car takes me on as many if not more adventures than the Kia. Hopefully the next week or so will furnish images of my new ride.