2017 in Review… What a Year!

Heading off into the wilderness on one of my five backpacking trips in 2017.


I always approach the new year in a reflective mood that is divided between looking back and looking forward. This past year has been a tough one for the US, one of the toughest that I can remember. The turmoil has made me want to run off to the ocean, or the mountains, or the desert, or the rainforests— anywhere that the constant blare of modern media and Washington tweets is missing or limited. But then, I always want to run off to the mountains, the ocean and the desert. The wilderness serves as a second home for me— a place to think, a place to heal, and a place to play.

Living out in the woods, as Peggy and I do, also helps!

Sunset view from Mekemson patio on Upper Applegate River

A view of the sun setting in the west from our patio reminds me of beauty in our world, but also of the million-plus acres of forest lands and wilderness that surround us.

Applegate River

The Applegate River that runs in front of our house is quiet and peaceful in the summer, but can become a raging torrent in the winter. It is beautiful in all conditions, and the sound of its flowing waters always soothes.

Madrone tree in Mekemson back yard

Nothing marks the change of time like the changing of seasons. This large madrone that lives in our backyard and provides coveted shade in the summer, shows its winter face here.

spring at home

In the spring, our world turns green. Over 100 white oaks provide homes for animals as well as shade. In fall, their acorns provide food for squirrels, deer, turkeys and bears.

Fall at home

Fall always adds its splash of color, as it does with this Big Leaf Maple.

Ground squirrel with attitude

The wildlife that considers our property home provides constant entertainment and education. This ground squirrel had just managed to steal a cheek full of sunflower seeds from the bird feeder and had zero tolerance for my lecture.

Squirrel on birdfeeder

And this grey squirrel is trying to repeat its success. “Let’s see, if I rock this thing hard enough…”

Blacktail deer in Mekemson yard on upper Applegate River

The local deer herd provides us with an inside view of their lives, from birth to death.  The herd has scattered now. Wisely so. There is a cougar hanging out on our property and in the national forest land behind us. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have seen its scat in our back yard— and it is full of deer hair!

Fawn on our property

The cougar will move on, however. The deer will return. And the does will bring their children by for visits, as they always do. Life in its endless cycles will repeat itself.

Given my desire to escape this past year, it’s not surprising that the majority of my posts have revolved around trips to the ocean, mountains and deserts. That and Burning Man, which may be the ultimate escape to an alternative universe. Here are some photos that reflect our travels in 2017.

I’ll start with the ocean which includes trips I made on my own and trips the two of us did. Altogether, we covered some 1000 miles of coast between Big Sur, California and Forks, Washington.

Big Sur Coast

In the spring I made my way down to the Big Sur/Carmel/Monterey area while Peggy was playing Grandmother. This is the Big Sur coast.

Iconic Big Sur Bridge

An iconic Big Sur Bridge.

Ocean on 17 Mile Drive

The coast along Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive.

Cypress on 17 Mile Drive

A Monterey Cypress located on one of several world-famous golf courses found along Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive.

Seal at Point Lobos

A contented seal I found at Point Lobos just south of Carmel.

Bigfoot rock at Bandon, Oregon

Peggy and I found this marvelous rock on the beach just south of Bandon, Oregon. Note the toes. They stood about as high as Peggy. I called it Bigfoot, of course.

Face Rock at bandon Beach

We were also impressed with what is known as Face Rock. You can see the chin, mouth, nose and eyes on the right.

Ocean trash fish at Bandon, Oregon

This marvelous fish sculpture in Bandon had been created out of trash collected along the local beach.

Seal Cave near Florence, Oregon

I found these seals located in Seal Cave just above Florence, Oregon.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

And the beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse a couple of miles away.

Sea serpent at Rockaway Beach

Our trip before Christmas took us up to Rockaway Beach where we found a pair of rocks that reminded me of the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie.

Alpaca near Tillamook, Oregon

And this cutie near Tillamook.

Peggy Mekemson at Copalis Beach

We stayed at Copalis Beach in Washington where Peggy went for a walk on the beach at sunset.

The ultimate in escaping the noise and busyness of the world is backpacking. There are no phones, or TVs, or newspapers, or Internet.  Not surprising, I went out five times. Twice by myself, twice with Peggy, and once with Peggy, our daughter Tasha, and our two grandkids, Ethan and Cody. We backpacked in the Siskiyou Mountains near where we live and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of Sacramento, an area I have wandered in for 50 years.

Oregon stream

One of the streams we camped on in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Peggy's Lake

I found this lovely little un-named lake when I was hiking off trail in the Sierras and promptly gave it a name: Peggy’s Lake.

Black Buttes

The Black Buttes east of Interstate 80 looking golden.

Five Lakes Basin

I’ve had a number of trout dinners from this lake over the years.

Thunderheads at Glacier Lake in Five Lakes Basin

Thunderheads. Rain, hail and lightning storms added excitement to our trips.

Family backpacking

My trail companions: Peggy, Cody, Tasha and Ethan.

And of course we traveled elsewhere. Two of our trips involved returning to the desert. Peggy and I journeyed down through the Sacramento Valley and into southern Nevada where we visited the Valley of Fire State Park. I made my way back to Burning Man in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada.

Mt. Shasta

We always travel somewhere on my birthday, usually with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake. This year took us down past Mt. Shasta still wearing its winter coat…

California's Central Valley

Through California’s Central Valley looking very spring-like.

Rock sculpture in Valley of Fire State Park

And into southern Nevada’s very dry Valley of Fire State Park…

Arch at Valley of Fire State Park

Which included this small but colorful arch.

Tony's promotion

Summer took us across the USA to Charleston, South Carolina where we celebrated our son’s promotion to Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard. His wife, Cammie, and boys Chris, Connor and Cooper help add his new rank.

Man at Burning Man 2017

I returned to Burning Man…

Rabid Express at Burning Man 2017

Where I found this marvellous mutant vehicle known as Rabid Transit.

Pumpkin carving festival in Rhode Island

October found us back East again where we attended a pumpkin carving spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island.

Did I succeed in escaping the world of political turmoil? Not quite. And neither would I want to. I spent my life working as a community advocate with non-profit organizations on environmental and public health issues. Time and again, I have seen that concerned people can, and do make a positive difference.

Ultimately, I am an optimist. The majority of the people in the US believe that our nation should serve as a positive force in the world, want to breathe clean air and drink clean water, think that neither sex, age, ethnicity, religion, or sexual preference should be a limiting factor in determining what a person might become or contribute, believe that there is value in protecting the wild, beautiful and historic areas of the world, support a more equitable distribution of wealth, want to reduce violence, and believe that affordable health care and education should be available to all.

It is my hope for this country that leaders (be they Republicans, or Democrats, or Independents) will step forward with the vision to heal the nation and move it toward the point where it reflects what the majority of Americans support— and hope for. Likewise, I have a similar hope for the world. While I realize that this sounds naïve (and I’ve been around the block enough times to know), I also believe that we live in a rapidly changing world with great promise but even greater danger. If we are to achieve the promise and avoid the danger, which may include our very survival, we must learn to work together much more effectively for the good of all as opposed to the few. We all have a stake in the outcome, as do our children, grandchildren and future generations.

I have both enjoyed and learned from the people I follow on Word Press this past year as you have taken me along on your travels, adventures, and personal journeys through life. Even more, I have enjoyed the friendships we have created. My thanks to you— and to everyone who stops by to visit my blog.

Peggy and I wish each of you and your families a happy and healthy 2018.