• Beech Trees Argentina River by Jay Goodrich

    A glacier river flows through wind driven beech trees in Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina.

  • Sunrise Andes Fitz Roy by Jay Goodrich

    Sunrise over the peaks near Mount Fitz Roy in Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina.

  • Sunrise Weather Argentina Lake Viedma by Jay Goodrich

    Sunrise over Lake Viedma and the mountain peaks of Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina.

  • Sunrise Andes Fitz Roy by Jay Goodrich

    Sunrise over the peaks near Mount Fitz Roy in Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina.

I Have Been Here Before

I’ve been here before. Definitely. Not literally, but maybe in another life? If that is possible to believe? I remember these places. It’s a simple case of deja vu, and if you have ever watched the movie The Matrix you know that deja vu symbolizes a glitch in the matrix itself. So is there some type of glitch going on inside my brain, or am I truly a recast spirit entering the body again and searching out what my past life threw forth for me?

It is safe to say that I am not a religious man. My days of worship have always taken place in the mountains of our world. For some uncanny reason I have never responded to the ocean, to the plains, or to the cities. I have sought out the mountains since age fourteen, coincidentally when I began skiing. I quickly added mountain biking to the list of sport pursuits to keep me in the mountains during summer months. To this day, over three decades later, I still long to return to those mountains. Any mountains. It doesn’t matter. I have lived in the Southern Alps of France, skied and biked the monster peaks of Alaska, and explored most of the ranges in the Continental U.S.

I can’t really explain what spending so much of my life in the layers of peaks does for me. There is a calm that appears. Tranquility. Stress disappears. Even during the most severe of situations that any peak can throw at the inexperienced. I stay fast. Positioning myself and those with me in a state of perpetual slow motion. A safe zone. I always see a way out during what most would see as a moment of crisis. I can’t really explain that either. Avalanches, whiteouts, and injury are all processed with a severe decisiveness that most find, odd. It all heads back to my opening thought. I’ve been here before.

Do you dispel my emotions? Do you think I am full of the proverbially chalice from which I drink? Possibly, but I know what I know and mountains mesh with me. Even in their angriest, coldest, most strenuous situations, I still have zero distaste. I long for more and always feel like I’ve been here before.

The people that I surround myself with during my explorations all seem to be there at those given moments because they too have that similar emotion. Though they may not feel as if they have noticed a glitch in their subconscious, I feel as if I have traveled with their souls before. And if it is their first time here, I find a way of giving them the introductions necessary to pass safely and often with me. I may be a fool for this entire process.

It is as I stand on the windy step looking deep into the heart of what will be the next two weeks of my life that I experience that fuzzy multi-colored frequency change of an old TV screen. A tuning moment. Again and again upon every composition that I visualize. I am standing at the base of 7-9000 meter peaks, that I have only envisioned in my wildest dreams. Looking for lines of weakness in which I would love to descend on skis or bike with monstrous spinning wheels. I have just entered Patagonia. Whether my conscious and subconscious are wrong or right, crossing streams or not. I’ve been here before. Unequivocally.

  • Driving Around Lake Clark by Jay Goodrich

    A group of photographers ride around on ATVs looking for Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

The Vagabonds

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
Hunter S. Thompson

The sound and smell of an airport – have you ever noticed it? It is a combination of Jet A, leather, cigarette smoke (from the old days unless you are in Salt Lake), fast food and the perfume of misplaced souls. You begin to smell it as your ride pulls you up to the departure lane. Alaska, United, Frontier, Continental, Virgin, Southwest. The signs slowly come into focus and march off into the distance. You bob and weave through happenstance travelers. No nothings. You watch the airport cops, and are reminded of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. They have only one task at hand – write tickets to the slow and foolish. Simpletons. Your mission is a quick in and out job. Exit. Grab. And then roll. Capital letters and numbers in hand or in the brain, memorized during the ride over.

For me it is mandatory. UPGRADE! As often as possible without hesitation. Why? Why waste the money? Who cares? I do. I want to be comfortable on yet another excursion. I want the ability to stretch out. I want to find that happy place, without having to remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine gets stuffed in center seat in the back of the plane with the common folk. I do deserve it. I spent years back there, and thousands of miles earning my freedom.

That smell of Jet A, leather, etc., makes every airport on this planet a beacon for Superfund Clean up, should they ever shut it down. It is that smell that creates a butterfly in the gut. You are about to embark on a journey. A place you have never been or a place you return to frequently. There is a mission, an itinerary, and a journey that is going to ensue at this point. As you build those miles, you realize that the life of a vagabond is not all it is cracked up to be, and then again maybe it is.

I sit there wrapping off the pilots communications in my head. They are in fact the ultimate vagabonds. They are homeless. They do in fact make the money to pull them from a true vagabond status, but that is where their hearts live. Maybe they are more like pirates, swashbucklers? Technologically driven travel. Much in the same as my camera-laptop-iPhone-iPad toting self. “Alaska Niner Eight Heavy, position and hold runway one six. That’s position and hold one six for Alaska Niner Eight Heavy.” It is the moment that you know stuff is going to happen really fast and you are going to be on your way.

As the metal rumbles down the runway things happen. Noises. Movements. Then the bounce. The bounce that says I am ready to fly. Rotate. And flight. Everything stops, a calming moment where everything seems at ease, with the exception of the turbines at max. You are headed to Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, New York, or even points beyond, Europe, Asia, Australia, South America. The sky is the limit. Life is the limit. You are one step closer to beating up that soul and crashing into the end with a hard skid and a middle finger to the world. Life is so good. The loneliness and cravings for a cheese burger are a distant thought right now. You are about to experience a newness that you want. A newness that is essentially different than what you currently know. The memories of your every day life will come running back soon. It all depends on how long this drifting moment lasts.

I am Anchorage bound to meet some old friends. Where are you headed? We are the Vagabonds. It’s another amazing ride. Again.

  • Startrails over Mount Baker

    Startrails are capture in the late evening hours over Mount Baker, North Cascades National Park, Washington.

  • Snow on Baker by Jay Goodrich

    Mount Baker is viewed from a hike along the Shuksan Arm near Pyramid

  • powder skiing at sunrise by Jay Goodrich

    Mark Kogelmann makes some powder turns in the backcountry near Mt Baker ski area.

  • skiing near Mount Shuksan by Jay Goodrich

    Mark Kogelmann skins up for another run in the backcountry near Mount Baker.

  • skiing near Mount Shuksan by Jay Goodrich

    A ski track in the backcountry on Mt Herman Washington.

  • powder skiing at sunrise by Jay Goodrich

    Mark Kogelmann makes some powder turns in the backcountry near Mt Baker ski area.

The Mark

The sky is deep blue. Stars still lingering to the west. Bitter cold. Tires crunch as they roll to a stop in the parking lot. The tailpipe smoke quickly evaporates in the still, cold air. Doors open and close. Skis hit the ground. The ripping of skins, clicking of boot buckles, flicking of binding locks, exhale, it’s cold and you’re off. Pole, slide, step, pole, slide, step. Up through the trees. Towards the higher ridge tops. The wind starts to move the air ever so slightly. One thousand vertical, half way there. Still dark, but clear for once.

Warming. Time to shed a layer. Heart pounding. Snow deepening. Pole, slide, step. Higher still. Sixteen hundred. Seventeen hundred. The volcanos have the faintest glow of light. A tinge of pink. Colder. Windier. Trees, gone. Lines in the snow from the wind. Deep snow. Four feet. Almost there. You look back. Your partner is right with you. Both amped. Both swarming with adrenaline. A glimmer in the eye, sparkle in the tooth. Grinning ear to ear. This is GOING TO BE GOOD.

You look down below the crest. Forty five degrees of pure white. Untouched. The sun is starting to warm. The air moves in its warm convection. Ice crystals hit your face. Pulling skins. Locking bindings. Zipping packs. Gloves on. Boots buckled. Hat on. Pants zipped. Goggles out. Transceivers checked. Heart elevating. Moving. Ready? Who? “You or me?” You. Inhale. Deep. Eyes? Check. One last re-check. Pack on. Buckled. Ready? Yep. Drop? Dropping.

Turn one. Ski cut. Stable. Turn back up hill. “Got you rings out.”

Turn two. One more cut with a hard push. Nothing moves. ? Dropping.

Turn three. Picking up speed. Feeling the snow flow. Soft. Stable. Cold. The sun peeks out. Turning everything orange. Two hundred feet.

Turn four. Speed increasing. Feeling more. Snow moving. Speed. Marker passed. White carpet out in front.

Turn five.” Oh, the red button there kid, don’t ever, ever touch the red button!” Too late, Pressed. HOLD ON. Brain fifty, one hundred, one fifty feet back. G forces kicking in. YES! Metallica on…

Turn six. Brain catching up. Holy shit you’re flying. Driving a wake. “Chewie make the jump to lightspeed.” Afterburner on. Breathe. Hold. Drive. Speed. Faster. Faster. Adrenaline ON. Exhale.

Turn seven. A wake bigger than Pipeline on Oahu. Breathe. Exhale. Faster. Faster. Faster.

Turn eight. Hitting the runout. Damn. Deceleration. In…Goose, “I can’t reach the ejection handle.”

Turn nine. Ripcord pulled. Ejection. One last high speed sweeping arc to the finish. Safety. You look back. The mark is laid. Sloughs litter the face. Movement everywhere. Snow still falling out of the air. Two thousand vertical in two seconds. Inhale. Catch your breath. Look up, poles straight up. Off the wind you hear, “DROPPING.” You relive the line again. Skis hit the ground. The ripping of skins, clicking of boot buckles, flicking of binding locks…again.

  • Silhouetted Against the Arch by Jay Goodrich

    A hiker stands silhouetted in Arches National Park Utah.

The Rise

I stand in the middle of a valley surrounded by rock formations. I can not see any of them yet, but I know they are there. It is so dark that I can not even tell if there are any clouds lingering to add to the drama of photography this morning. Red earth all over my shoes, my clothes. It is in my hair, my nose, my ears, and even my eyes. It was a little windy yesterday. I look to where I think the horizon is but I see nothing but a big black void. There is not a soul around, it is completely silent. I am for once, early. I head to the back of my truck to grab my backpack and my tripod. The rear bumper is covered in a layer of red powder about an eighth of an inch thick. I write “wash me” in it. As I open the door the dust stirs into little tornados before it falls back to the earth. My pack and tripod have traces of the deep maroon powder all over them as well. I stumbled upon this place yesterday afternoon.

I am a bit tired. I spent the evening shooting star trails only to realize that morning was going to come way too soon. There is a crispness in the air, it tingles as it enters my nose. It reminds me of that sound you hear when a person bites into the perfect fall apple. A little pop, followed by a sweet aroma; I can just taste the explosion of flavor. Vapor crystals leave my nostrils and mouth and scatter as far as I can see. I hope that my mission is going to yield imagery that ties over my soul for awhile – this is my last day here.

I pull the Petzl lamp out of my pack and wrap it around my head. I turn it on, throw the pack onto my back, adjust the straps and buckles, sling the tripod onto my shoulder with one hand, and close the truck door with the other. More dust scatters. I start to walk into the belly of monuments and darkness. I am now the only light source.

As I stumble to my location, a calm comes before me. It was like I donned that old comfortable shoe that was completely molded to the contours of my sole. I began to run on auto pilot. The light was starting to fill the sky. At least, enough that I could see those rock formations. They were looking a little pink. This place is so magical. I knew that would change as the sun began its race to the other side of the planet. It always starts as pink, or tan, something very subtle and muted, pastel. And depending on the atmosphere, the day could become, gold, yellow, orange, red, crimson, maroon, or any variant there of, a perfect contrast to that deep blue fall desert sky. The formations – sharp and jagged to smooth and bulbous. Why this place over any other? The mountains are my home, but this place speaks to me like no other.

As the sun begins to come up there is a slight breeze. It is the souls of those rock formations coming alive, they are looking for warmth as am I. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end, like it does when I feel the gentle kiss of my wife. My pupils dilate. I feel the eye muscles tighten. The sun is showing her face ever so slightly. The warmth begins to bathe me and all of my surroundings. The crystals from my breath fall away closer to their origin. I quickly realize It is going to be a golden rise. Everything is covered in hues of yellow and orange. I look through my viewfinder one last time. God I love this place. And click.

  • Fir Silhouetted Sunset Colorado by Jay Goodrich

    Fir tree is silhouetted against a crimson red sunset sky in Colorado.

The Valley

I took my dog for a walk tonight, as I do almost every night, on a trail that we’ve walked probably a hundred times. Tonight was different. There was a crispness to the air. Winter was on its way. The grasses were tall. Dry. Sidney closed his eyes as his face pushed them out of his way. He was a big dog. 100 pounds. A malamute and as ornery as they get. He was not one to mess with. I was safe no matter what, even if that bear was back. We walked for miles and miles. Up over the rock outcropping. Into the forest. Douglas fir and Colorado Blue Spruce surrounded us. Many turning brown from the beetles. We ducked through their branches. We crossed the streams that were now slivers of water. All of last year’s snow gone. Evaporated in the dry mountain air.

The flowers were dry and gone too. Not even a lone soldier at this point. The aspens were beginning to change. I love this time of year. It is a point where color finally returns to the valley. Every thing cooked from the long, hot, dry, summer. Soon though. Soon I would be in splendor. With camera in hand at every dog walking, on every hike. I would get up before the sun and sleep well after its journey through the sky. Work? Funny.

Farther and Farther up. We see an elk. Just a cow. Higher still. The cars and the houses are beginning to shrink. Tinier and tinier. Sidney’s heart keeps pulling me. His life is about the tow. I oblige. Less work higher up. The valley is beginning to unfold before us. The sky speckled with soft puffy clouds. The remainder of the heat of the day. They too will dissipate as the sun folds once again. We reach the out cropping. An overhanging piece of sandstone, deep maroon in color. Lime green lichen clinging to it. I sit and over look the valley before me. Sid lays by my side, paw extended. The hand grasp to the chest. Nothing beats a little attention in the late afternoon. The sun is approaching the horizon warming our faces. A breeze send chills down the spine. Goosebumps all over. The clouds are beginning to change–white, to yellow. Sid sniffs the air. Unseen creatures. I am safe.

The surrounding peaks turn golden with intermittent shadows. If only had a…The sun heads for other worlds. The sky now yellow and then the catapult. Hyperdrive to orange, pink, red, purple, blue, grey, then back to white as the sun leaves us for another day. I revel in it. The last light. We sit. It’s almost dark. We watch the cars turn their lights on well below us. The grasses drift ever so softly in the breeze. There’s a crinkle and a cracking as they touch each other. Soon there will be snow. Soon it will be different. Now the air begins to cool as the light drifts away. I stand. Scan the valley on more time. Sid’s bright blue eyes gaze up. Not a blink in sight. I look down. As if he read my mind. Up. We start to walk back home. Ah, the valley.

OZ

The Oz Couloir Chugach AK

As the blades of the heli chopped hard at the air to move the machine off the ground, the wash churned up crystals of ice that scoured every inch of my exposed face. I had to watch. I was excited to watch. This machine defied all the laws. I looked to my friend Chris, he was staring as I was. I caught a wink from him out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t believe that I was here, for the eighth time in my life. That was the fastest it ever took me to get into these massive peaks. We hung on to a rocky outcrop that was as fine as a razor’s edge. HUGE drops to either side, eminent death.

I was quivering with excitement and fear. I knew what was ahead and was not totally sure if this dream was one I wanted to live down. Would reality kick me in the face like the rotor wash and send me cowering home? I clicked into my skis and stared down into the steepest line I have ever seen in my life. 3500 vertical feet of sustained 60 degrees in what looked like a band-aid strip of snow between monstrous cliffs to either side. I was off of my rocker. So were all of my friends. We even asked for this shit. Feared absolutely nothing last night while pumping the alcohol through our veins. Are you kidding? My stupid right leg began to shake. In the climbing world they call it “sewing machine leg” because you are so scared that something, some part of your body, has to release a bit of the tension, and it is usually your leg bouncing like a sewing machine.

The snow was the coldest I have ever seen. Three feet of untouched. If the beast didn’t let go and bury me under the “Alaskan Slough”. The Alaskan Slough is the equivalent of an avalanche anywhere else in the world. My eyes dilated. My heart was racing. I could hear my pulse. So could my friends. Our guide called out. “Jay, your first.” I looked up with blank stare. I was shaking my head on the inside in disbelief. I guess I asked for a little taste of OZ. Although, those monkeys were a little frightening. “It’s okay, ski that way until something gets in your way, then turn.” Stupid French girl, in that stupid 80’s movie. “5….4….3”, Al-Z shouts, “Stay out of the gutter.” Great, the avalanche rides the gutter. 60 degrees, 60 degrees, 60 degrees. Oh my god, is this truly what I wanted out of life. Hands shaking, both legs going, no way. I can’t do this. “2”. The radio blasts, “Al-Z are you sure you want them dropping into that? That thing is a slough monster”. Stay out of the gutter.” Pupils are so dilated they are going to burst. “1”. “Jay, DROP!”.

Fear pumped adrenaline, adrenaline brought excitement, a super deep breath, and all at once a calm came over me, I felt like I was home again.…“DROPPING”.