Saturday, December 29, 2012

PCT Hikers

During my 34 days on the Pacific Crest Trail this past summer, I met over 75 hikers and took over 3,000 shots and almost 100 videos. Many have been deleted as I scrutinize images for content, composition, and clarity. This takes time, much more than I anticipated.

I promised the hikers I met that I would post pictures so they could see them. I will be posting all of the thru hikers but I'm only going to post a hand full of other hikers. If you met dbBrad and had your picture taken and don't see your photo, please e-mail me ( and I will happily send you any pictures I have.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Cheers

No matter how far I travel I draw hearts.  Here are two hearts I carved in the snow on the Annapurna Circuit.  They remind me, as I'm drawing them, how important both our emotional and physical heart health is and the important role exercise plays in one's heart health.  I started Heart on the Trail when I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  The fund raiser exists because I wanted to acknowledge that important link between heart health and exercise, and I wanted to give back to my world.  All proceeds collected  go to the Pacific Crest Trail and the American Heart Association.  The best Christmas gift you can give to me personally, as well as those two hard working organizations, is a donation to Heart on the Trail.  All proceeds (100%) will be sent to The American Heart Association and the Pacific Crest Trail.   Thank you and may your lives be blessed with good cheer and good health.  Peace and Happy Holidays!

A Heart along the Annapurna Circuit 

A heart in a Nepalese Village

Glorious Mountains

It's the mountains, all about the highest mountains in the world.  So awesome!

Brad & Yessi

Yessi is quite the trekker.

Brad (Freestyle)

Yessi with Tutwo Flag

Nepalese structures


Beautifully regional buildings with the dominate building material stone
village at 3000 m.

Between Buildings

Nepalese cows, mountains, buildings all intertwined

There is a Nepalese village down there

Stacked Stones

Green Giant Treks Nepal ~ 綠巨人苦旅尼泊爾

Yessi works for Green Giant Shoes in Xiamen, China in procurement.  Her company not only generously gave her a month off so she could spend time with me, but also sponsored us both on the Annapurna Circuit trek with new boots and walking shoes and for Yessi a new pack.  Our deep thanks, Green Giant!


Yessi wears a Green Giant pack
Brad (Freestyle) wears Green Giant Boots

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lovin' the mountains...

Snow, cold, high altitudes, mountains, beautiful...

Yessi & Freestyle

Brad (Freestyle) on Annapurna Circuit 
Brad (Freestyle)

Freestyle on Thorong La Pass, around 17,000 feet. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


The electricians in China seem to have a different electrical code!

The perfect shot for Wired Magazine 

All these wires and not a single bird.  The entire time I've been in Xiamen (10 days) and I don't think I've seen a bird yet.

Storm Water

There is so much storm water when it rains (it rains hard here) that there are streams created on both sides of the path.  As a result everyone has their own bridge to their unit and each one is a different style.

 A new development on the mainland where storm water has been well dealt with.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kathmandu Poverty

In 2012 Kathmandu's population stood at 1,006,656 for a density of 19,500 per km (less than a square mile -- how is that possible?)  My home town of Langley is exactly one square mile and we have 1,000 residents.  Langley is not crowded, by any stretch of the imagination, but to add another 20,000 or so folks, bogles the questioning mind.

As the most important industrial and commercial centre in Nepal, Kathmandu serves as the headquarters of most companies, banks and organizations, not to mention a very important tourist industry.   Yet, poverty surrounds and permeates the city.  It can be seen everywhere -- the homeless children, run down city parks, crowded streets, and an unreliable electrical system.  Neighborhoods have rolling electrical blackouts daily.  From what it looks like, the city cannot keep up with its population as more and more people move in from the villages.  

Life is  difficult in Kathmandu and although that difficulty is masked behind smiles, the people suffer from hunger and life-on-the-streets.  It is humbling.   As the full impact of Kathmandu hits -- people's heavily burdened backs; filthy streets and streams; crowds and crowds of moving people; an unending sea of cars, trucks, made-from-discarded-parts vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles moving, always moving, always honking; wandering goats, cows, scratching chickens, packs of dogs, cats;  make-shift shelters or only a street corner as a bed -- all combine to make me feel blessed, even very rich.


Yessi and I are off to get tickets for the bus, our permits, and fuel.  We will be running around all day.  Staying here in Kathmandu again tonight.  


This photograph is of kids loading a pile of old packed garbage into an already too full truck.  They had to use a pick to get it apart then handed it up in plastic crates.

Dirty Work 

This stream needs a little work.

Dirty Water

Kathmandu Traffic Madness

Goats  mix with motorcycles, cars, people!

There are motorcycles all over the place.  They weave in and out of cars and they swerve around pedestrians, riding up on the sidewalks.  It's absolutely madness-traffic around here.

Crazy Traffic

Motorcycles everywhere
looks like a car, a motorcycle and a farm implement all hooked together

two-man power

Night time traffic madness captured on videos:

绿巨人 鞋 (Green Giant Shoes)

绿巨人 鞋
(Green Giant Shoes)

绿巨人穿新鞋赞助我们的尼泊尔长途跋涉。他们给了我一双漂亮的靴子和Yessi悍然精彩的一双红色的鞋   谢谢

Green Giant Shoes sponsored our Nepal trek with new shoes.  They gave me a beautiful pair of boots and Yessi an outrageously wonderful pair of red shoes.  Thank you!  

Brad's boot details

Yessi's red, red, red shoes!

  Red walks best!

Or, do boots walk better than red shoes?

Brad trying out the boot slip factor

Color coordinated Yessi

Yessi the city girl turns into an outdoor  trekker

Yessi with Buddha

These shoes were made for climbing


Introduction to Kathmandu

Sadoj Simkhada met us at the airport.  Immediately after walking out the door we were approached by dozens of people offering us tours, taxi rides, and guide services.  This man was particularly on top of it.  A very good salesperson and we selected him though I'm not sure we had much of a choice. He gave us a tour of the town pointed, out attractions along the way, and delivered us to a great hotel.  

Yessi, Brad and Sadoj Simkhada at the Kathmandu Airport

The hotel card in the guide book and a Nepal guide card.  We've decided to do the trek on our own. Prakash was a guide for years and has a lot of experience.  He says there is nothing left here for him to do. Now he organizes tours and has great guides.  If we were going to do a guided Nepal trek  I would definitely use Prakash's guide services.

From our hotel in Kathmandu:

Brad & Yessi

View from our hotel roof

Our hotel in Kathmandu overlooking a very active street

Brad -  Kathmandu

Arrival at Kathmandu

Getting from Xiamen to Hong Kong to Kathmandu was an amazing adventure, involving almost every form of transportation imaginable  -- feet, car, bus, train, bullet train, plane -- and took two full days.    China is large, as we all know from looking at maps, but it is really huge!

From plane shortly before landing in Kathmandu

Brad & Yessi at the Kathmandu Airport

Thursday, December 6, 2012


From where I'm taking the photograph all the way to Yessi, not a single rice maker design I like.

Rice makers - too complicated, cheap and difficult to clean
Not one had a clean simple well crafted design.

Consumerism is contagious.  It start small and grows like cancer until it has swallowed up all the resources.  In the US we invented it.  Pioneered ways to bring more products to people for less money, how to use more resources for less benefit, how to ensure that our needs and/or lives were more important than the ret of the people on the earth and the generations to come.

We figured out ways to sell products to people that don't need them and ways to market products on one needs and then we escalated the potential of credit allowing those who had no money to live the dream.  Life wasn't about compassion or kindness, it was about consuming and we defined ourselves by what we ones, wore, drove.

And the green movement has finally kicked in and for the first time, recycling, smaller cars, biking to work and smaller homes, as well as organic food are taking their places in the lives of normal, average Americans.  Credit has become something you don't want, not something you maximize and brag about.

But, the cancer grows over the rest of the world.  In China, shopping is the thing to do.  And as I walk around the malls, I see endless items without needs but everyone seems to want one.

After an hour walking one of the dozens of fancy 'western' style malls here in Xiamen, I've not found a single producet I'm interested in.  It all appears to be the same fashion, kitchen gadget, living luxury, outdoor product in the states, but everything is made in China.  Of course, our products are also made in China, but from 'American' designs. 

These products all appear to be copies of patent designs but cheap copies.  Every generation's production exhibits degradation.  The bikes are called Jeep and Hummer.  They have disk brakes but are more like Huffies, weighing in at 50 lbs and not at all precision manufactured.  The stoneware looks like Japanese wood fired pottery, but has a plastic finish and the shapes and textures aren't quite right.  The sporting clothes look like North Face and Merrell, but are heavy, cheaply made and definitely an inferior product.  Down jackets are as heavy as wool.  Fancy shoes I wouldn't wear and packs that look right but don't work quite right.  It's all imaginary.  Products designed to look like their superior predecessors  but that will all be in a land fill in a few years.  Crap.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chinese Style Health Care

Acupuncture, massage, herbal tinctures ~

The Acupuncdture Needles

The health care here in China is so different from our American health care, as if from opposite sides of the globe!  How is it I was born on the wrong side?  From the minute I entered the building it was all a new experience.  Stone steps and wood siding with indirect lighting as well as natural light views.  It all warmed my soul.  Staffed by uniformed reception staff (all women) and doctors who dress like regular people (all men).  My doctor. Mr. Ju Qing X, is a funny, friendly man who inspires confidence and works from intuition.  Five minutes of dialogue and a quick look at my back and he knew what to do.

In the treatment room multiple patients gather for simultaneous treatment.  It is all very casual with the doctor and the patients all talking, bantering and laughing while needles are inserted into writhing subjects.  Yelps are common, as are smiles.  There is a sense of community among everyone in the room which is heart warming and comforting.

It's a shared experience

I couldn't help but compare this system of medical care, complete with strong social support, to our system of sterile rooms where patients are isolated to wait alone, in fear. America's waiting rooms are quiet.  No one talks.  No one shares.  We are afraid of the other patients and the doctors.  Here there is no fear only treatment and compassion.  Much more human.  And, did I mention, affordable.

Another life-changing adventure!

從我的 iPhone 傳送

寄件人: "Jet Airways eTicket"
日期: 2012年12月1日格林尼治标准时间+080010时25分23秒
收件人: ---
標題: Jet Airways Web Booking eTicket ( CGBQVU ) - Hankins

The long and short of the message above is Yessi and I have reservations to fly to Nepal to hike the Annapurna Circuit.  My passion to see the Himalayas is too strong to resist and having delightful Yessi as a traveling companion will make the trek especially meaningful.

The Annapurna Circuit is a 300 kilometre trek in Nepal around the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas.  We will get to see the amazing mountain scenery up close and personal including Annapurna 8091 metres, and the stunning ice pyramid Dhauligiri 8,167 metres.

John Hayes photo

With paths ascending from 900 metres to 5,300 metres we will encounter a wide range of climate zones and see many different animals, plants, and a variety of ways of life of the many people who live there.  Tea houses, a rural guest house developed for trekkers, provide rustic accommodations and inexpensive food.  Some are said to even have ensuite toilets.

Tea House at Jagat
John Hayes photo

Any trek has a spiritual element, but the spiritual component is especially strong in Napal. The path we will follow is the ancient trade route between Nepal and Tibet.  Today Tibetan Mahayana BuddhismHinduism and Bon religions coexist and along the way there are many pilgrimage sites. The most common outward sign of this is the prayer flag with its strong symbolism and tradition.  The flags are hung to promote compassion, peace, wisdom and strength.  The Tibetans believe the prayers  will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all nearby space. Prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

On my home island of Whidbey in Washington, USA, the Tibetan Buddhism tradition is strong.  One such example is Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Freeland. As a result of this spiritual influence, prayer flags wave beautifully and freely from many garden trees, fences, porches and tall poles on Whidbey Island.

Prayer flags in the Qilian Mountains, China
Wikimedia Commons photo

As excited as I get about the mountains, architecture, geography, and food,  plus my exhilaration from the outdoor experience, that's not the whole story.  Instead, if I think about the experiences that are most cherished, the stories I'm likely to recall when the trip is long over, it involves the people I meet along the way.  The wonderful Kiwis in New Zealand, Yessi's awesome family in China, the trail angels on the Pacific Crest Trail, the fabulous shop owners at the Banff Hotel in Canada, the charming Mexican families serving us fish tacos at the road side stands in Baja, and the world wide fellow trampers I meet on the trail. 

Most of these connections emerge unplanned and unscripted. They happen spontaneously. It’s not about scheduling time into my travel schedule to “meet people”, but about availing myself of the opportunities.  I try to stay open to "the hint" that these encounters might happen.

Life, including thru-hiking, visiting homes in far away places, experiencing local food and culture is a human exercise.  On the Annapurna Circuit, I hope to meet wonderful people as I have in my other travels.  I hope to meet people as varied as the photographs of these beautiful Himalayan people.