Mary’s Peak

Last Saturday night, I was sitting in a friends house chatting around the kitchen table about all the awesome things that we need to do this summer. I mentioned we should head up Marys Peak to watch the sunrise later in the summer. Marys Peak is the highpoint of the Central Oregon Coast Range and the highpoint for Benton County.

As it turned out, neither of them had ever been up Marys Peak at all (even though one had lived nearby his whole life) and they were excited to go. In fact, they were so excited that within twenty minutes we were in the car with sleeping bags and some warm clothing. Sprocket happily hopped in the back of the car and away we went.

Arriving at the end of the long twisty road that takes you nearly to the top of the peak, I pitched a tent for Sprocket and I just outside the car. We promptly fell asleep after setting my alarm for 5am. (Sprocket, as usual, was an awesome tent cuddler. His nose immediately found its way into my sleeping bag.)

Waking in the dawn twilight, I realized that it was sort of cloudy so we wouldn’t get the full sunrise effect from the mountain: when it’s really clear all the Cascade peaks from Rainier to Shasta are silhouetted by the light and the furthest peaks disappear the moment the sun rises over Mount Jefferson. Since we’d driven all the way to the mountain we hiked the 0.7 miles to the top despite the clouds and watched the sun rise over the valley, picking out I-5, the Willamette River, Eugene, Corvallis, and other small towns.

Starting the day on a mountaintop is never a bad plan

Sunday Sermon

“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”






–Leo Tolstoy

On The Page: Shop Class As Soulcraft

Although my dad was involved in the construction industry the whole time I was growing up and built me a desk and assorted bookshelves, the expectation of me was that I would go to school and obtain white collar work. Shortly after I met F, I read this New York Times Magazine article about skilled labor by Matthew B. Crawford. Since I had just met a free spirited motorcycle mechanic, my interest was primed for some musings from a Ph.D. philosopher turned mechanic on finding fulfillment in your work. Somehow I didn’t get around to reading his full book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work until just last month.

This is really a book that you need to read if you’re interested in how the dynamics at intersection of work and fulfillment play out. Crawford’s background as a philosopher definitely shows in the dense, intellectual analysis. Crawford says, “This book grows out of an attempt to understand the greater sense of agency and competence I have always felt doing manual work, compared to other jobs that were officially recognized as ‘knowledge work.’ Perhaps most surprisingly, I find manual work more engaging mentally.” I totally connected with him there: sometimes making something or physically doing something can be more fulfilling to me than generating an knowledge “product.”

Crawford places great emphasis on the craft of manual work. He discusses at length the importance of a mechanic or craftsman obtaining an understanding of their work through years of working at it rather than relying on computer diagnostics or “how tos”:

“To repeat, when Bob looks at a part and judges it to have ten thousand miles on it, he is relying on a tacit integration of sensual knowledge, unconsciously referring what he sees to patterns built up in his mind through long experience. With computerized diagnostics, what is happening is rather an explicit integration of information, but this explicit integration is happening at the level of a knowledge system that is social in character. The results of this explicit integration are communicated to the mechanic by the service manual, written by people who have no personal knowledge of the motorcycle.”

To this end, Crawford mentions the past utility of apprenticeships as ways to learn a trade rather than through classroom education. In an apprentice-master relationship, the apprentice is able to learn the patterns and thought processes of the master rather than just accumulating facts and figures.

I really enjoyed Crawford’s views on the value of connecting with things and having an objective way to judge the value of work (does the motorcycle run?) as well as his understanding of how work can contribulte to living the “good life”:

“My point, finally, isn’t to recommend motorcycling in particular, nor to idealize the life of a mechanic. It is rather to suggest that if we follow the traces of our own actions to their source, they intimate some understanding of the good life. This understanding may be hard to articulate; bringing it more fully into view is the task of moral inquiry. Such inquiry may be helped along by practical activities in company with others, a sort of conversation in deed. In this conversation lies the potential of work to bring some measure of coherence to our lives.”

While not “light” reading I completely recommend Shop Class As Soul Craft for anyone interested in why we do the work we do, what work makes us happy, and how we connect with our material goods.

How do you feel about a connection with objective work? Have you read Shop Class as Soulcraft? What did you think?

Oregon Coast

Last week Oregon experienced the rare spring heat wave. Its reach extended to the coast so that’s where we headed. As native-Northwesterners we knew this was a rare event so away we went!

EIGHTY-FIVE at NOON on the ocean, in April no less. Amazing.

#TryingStuffInJordan, Part 3

Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my #TryingStuffInJordan adventure!

Day 7

After breakfast, we headed south from Petra and soon found ourselves in Wadi Rum loading into trucks for another 4×4 adventure. As we headed out into the desert, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the American Southwest. It all looked so familiar and so different all at the same time. After we looked at some awesome petroglyphs (seriously, they were petroglyphs with camels), we stopped at tent for some Bedouin tea. Before we sat down to tea, however, Mohammed told us that everything was harder in the desert and that we should run up a near by sand dune so that we’d understand. A handful of us lined up to run the dune. I certainly knew that running a dune wasn’t easy but I was going to give it a shot. Ow.

Photo Courtesy

We stopped for lunch and were given two options for the afternoon: we could either go on a scramble to a rock arch or ride to a longer arch with less of a climb. I opted to join the scrambling group. Our guide lead us swiftly up the mountain to a gorgeous rock arch. After our hike we drove to a camp in the middle of the desert. We spent the remainder of the evening scrambling to the tops of rocks for sunset and bidding Heather adieu. (She was headed off to Bali for a friends wedding!) We capped off the night with a delicious dinner and some dancing with the Bedouins around the campfire. Some of us went for a moonlight walk and then slept under the stars.

Day 8

First thing in the morning, we loaded our stuff back into the trucks. The #omniten, however, hopped on to camels for a ride back to breakfast and the bus. I must admit that riding a camel wasn’t the most comfortable experience but it was one that I would not pass up when in Wadi Rum.

From Wadi Rum, we drove to Aqaba where we immediately boarded a boat for some water fun on the Red Sea. After jumping off the boat some of us did some snorkeling over the reef. It was really nice to be out on the salt water enjoying the sunshine! After dinner, it was time to say goodbye to Seth’s beard. Mohammed, our guide, took us to a barbershop where Seth (plus a few others) got their hair trimmed.

Day 9

After breakfast, we started our day with a drive from Aqaba up to the Dead Sea. After glimpsing it earlier in the trip, we finally got a chance to stand at the lowest point on earth: -1,400′ below sea level! We floated in the sea and basked in the sunshine.

Photo courtesy Seth Yates
Photo @Calebfarro

Day 10

After having floated in the Dead Sea I was out of ideas on what there was to do in Jordan! As we should have expected, Columbia and the Jordan Tourism Board had one more awesome adventure cooked up for us: canyoneering in Wadi Muijb. Although the water was just a little bit chilly it was a blast to float the water, scramble up waterfalls, and enjoy the big waterfall at the end.

Photo courtesy Seth Yates
Photo courtesy Seth Yates

Day 11

After all the fun of the previous ten days, it was time to head back to the airport in Amman. The thirteen hour flight to Chicago seemed longer than the flight to Jordan, mainly because I didn’t sleep on the flight. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone in Chicago: my favorite part of both of my Columbia trips has been getting to adventure with so many awesome people. I miss you all!

Photo courtesy Caleb Farro

Thanks so much to Columbia Sportswear for another amazing #omniten opportunity. Thanks also to the Jordan Tourism Board for your hospitality!

#TryingStuffInJordan, Part 2

In case you missed it, the first part of my #TryingStuffInJordan recap is available here. In Part 2, I pick up the story as I woke up at the Feynan Ecolodge:

Day 4

We started our day with a delicious breakfast at the Ecolodge before starting out on a hike through Wadi Ghwayr in the Dana Biosphere Reserve. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from our canyon hike other than that we were warned we’d be getting wet…

Photo Courtesy Justin Lukasavige

The hike was so much fun. The wadi, Arabic for valley, was absolutely gorgeous: the water was crystal clear, the sandstone had beautiful swirl patterns, there were palm trees overhanging the canyon, and there was plenty of fun scrambling and waterfall scaling. I’ve been on lots of wonderful hikes but I really do count this as one of the top 10 most beautiful ones in my life. Bedouin tea breaks and a sand bread snack (literally bread baked in the sand) were only icing on the cake.

At the end of the hike, we climbed into vans and were off the next destination: Dana’s Rummana Campsite. When we arrived, it was chilly so we immediately layered up and headed for dinner. After the long hike, I was pretty tired so called it an early night—after a couple post-dinner cups of Bedouin tea of course.

Day 5

The morning was brilliant and sunny giving us some beautiful views of our campsite. After breakfast we did a little bit of hiking and scrambling around: my favorite way to explore!

Leaving the nature preserve, we drove to the town of Petra. After a nice relaxing afternoon at the hotel, we headed out for dinner. We all had an idea of what might be in store for us that night and were all delighted to hear that our guess was correct: we were going to see Petra at night.

Wandering down the candle lit path through the Siq was a really neat experience. The tall canyon walls were just barely illuminated by the moon giving only hints of the grandeur surrounding us. Suddenly, the Treasury appeared illuminated by the light of hundreds of candles. My photo definitely doesn’t do the beauty of the scene justice.

Day 6

After being given a glimpse of Petra at the Treasury, we were all excited to go see more. Our guide Mohammed took us all over the ancient city telling us the history beginning with the Nabataeans and then the Romans and the Byzantines. The large tombs carved out of the solid sandstone cliffs were absolutely huge (plus there was lots more of the gorgeous swirled sandstone).

After lunch, we continued on to the Monastery and then to a view point beyond. At the viewpoint, we were told that we’d be meeting at 7:45 back at the hotel but we were on our own before that. Earlier in the day, Mohammed had mentioned hiking behind the Kings Tomb to a high viewpoint to the Treasury. Justin and I soon decided that we would use our free time to head that way, Seth soon caught up to us and away we went. Our added route took us by some additional tombs, up a huge flight of stairs to a really amazing overlook of the Treasury. It was definitely time well spent. As a bonus, we even got a nice quiet walk out the Siq with just enough time to shower before dinner.