Supporting My Friend Carleigh

Some of you may know that I have this amazing friend from way back in the day – when we were just teenagers at ‘Coyote Tracks’ the nickname of the organization called Children of Earth Foundation (Cotef) which at that time was based in New Jersey. It is the youth nonprofit that was created by Tom Brown’s Tracker and Wilderness Survival School. Carleigh Fairchild and I became friends during the summer programs and while it was years later that our friendship realized its full potential, we are great friends for life.


Carleigh & Joannie in a Hawaii Waterfall

Carleigh has done quite a few cool things with her time thus far on our Planet. Starting with Coyote Tracks as a kid. She has hiked a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Took classes with Earthwalk Northwest in Washington state. And more recently enrolled in the WildernessFusion program where we are in the same class (which has been a freaking blast) together. Being the two crazy Alaskans who fly the furthest for these classes 4 times a year is a bonding moment in itself!

Last year Carleigh was one of 10 people picked to go out into the wilderness to survive for up to a year all the while filming their experiences for History Channel’s ‘Alone’. Season 3 takes place in Patagonia and they were dropped a couple of weeks before winter set in. I recommend checking it out – even with the over the top reality tv show feel it has. Most of the people on it are real and have a passion for being in the wilderness. The winner gets $500,000 and some serious bragging rights. Season 3 just finished airing and Carleigh was so close to winning! Two people were left when she was sadly pulled by the show because of her low body mass. There is a lot of speculation going around that it could have been rigged and wasn’t fair. I do agree that the runner-up really should get a little extra money for their efforts and perhaps more when it’s practically a tie. I don’t claim an opinion about the show being rigged or not, but I do know that History Channel left themselves open to a lot of backlash by how they portrayed the final weigh ins and pulling Carleigh out. Showing one person’s BMI but withholding the other is not okay, especially when its the female contestant being scrutinized by the all-male medic team while there is a plethora of gender and women’s rights issues all over the News. Leaving themselves open to so many potential avenues of attack just doesn’t fit. I am confused History Channel. Many of the viewers are confused and downright pissed. While I believe that Carleigh has more than earned monetary compensation (outside of the small stipend every contestant was given) for her time out in the woods, 86 days to be exact. She was expected to film 40 hours a week AND survive alone off the land indefinitely. I have absolutely no ill will towards Mr. Fowler who did walk away with the win. I only wish him and his family the best.

An incredible amount of people have been touched by Carleigh’s presence on Alone and inspired by her state of being. As her totally biased friend – I whole heartedly agree, Carleigh is freaking awesome. During the finale, such an outpouring of comments and posts were made for Carleigh that Shaun (my partner and also friend to Carleigh) got a wild hair that night and started a Gofundme for Carleigh to celebrate what she achieved. Shaun gets the credit as this was entirely his idea. The Gofundme is just a way for people to reach out, if that is what they feel called to do, and support Carleigh. The Gofundme is taking off much quicker than we initially expected and overall is well received. Being the internet, there is of course those who react to the idea that money is being given away – which I personally find fascinating. I always wonder what makes a person think their opinion matters when it isn’t their cause or their money involved.

Link to the Gofundme:  Celebrating Carleigh

I am sharing this with all the people I can – as many of you also know Carleigh. But for anyone who received this link and doesn’t feel called to give money its OK. If you feel called to just share it – that is great! No expectation here just because I wrote about it on my blog. I’m simply supporting one of my best friends and bringing awareness of what she has accomplished.



Changes to the Blog

As you might have noticed the Blog is undergoing some changes. I think my time away from writing has gone on quite long enough. While I am not entirely sure what this revamping will bring in terms of writing content – I am sure it will be a little different from past posts. At this stage I really cannot make anymore large posts that are primarily photos – I no longer have space with WordPress. At least until I decide if I want to shell out cash for said media space. I am also setting up ‘Pages’ that are static (on the front menu) as I have been getting more and more people who I’ve never met as readers, and having context for my posts seems very useful. The ‘Author’ page for example is now the Back Story page, with sub pages like the one for my Mother. Hopefully I will add to these soon in the ways that I feel called. I also felt a need to really spend time on the ‘Places along the Journey’ page and create sub pages for each Place that has been significant for me along the way, both past and present. This will continue to be a Personal Blog for myself – and while I tie in plenty of other people, places, groups, and the occasional product or author – it is and will be foremost my thoughts and experiences. Hopefully with this intent I will actually be churning out regular posts as well as filling in some of the pivotal moments that I haven’t covered from the last 2 + years. That said, I’m only human so don’t be surprised if this is a struggle for the next little bit.

More to come!

Close to a Year

“Time Flies When You’re Having Fun” is an often quoted statement. In a way, I completely agree. Life has been chaotic, amazing, trying, exciting and sometimes just plain busy. It’s been almost an entire year since I’ve last written. Even just a mediocre sparse update about how I’m ‘busy’ but good overall. I think there is probably a multitude of reasons for this sabbatical. Some of which are; I got even busier with less down time during 2015.

My class homework with WildernessFusion became even more time-consuming than previous.

Shaun moving to Alaska and living together meant I was naturally busier with more outside social things and have had less drive to write.

Time sped up. My days have been constantly fuller be it work, people or just trying to catch up. Time seems to be moving quickly and often at a rate that I sometimes find hard to stay present with. Working multiple jobs often feels like this to me.

Some days there simply isn’t enough time for all the things. The phone calls that have to be made by 1pm because of the time differences, the bank/business/store errands that have to be done before they all close – but working later into the day means there is only a couple of hours to get to everywhere at the most traffic dense time of the day.

In addition to all the practical reasons, I’ve also been struggling with ‘what’ to write. Often I simply don’t want to share what’s been on my mind because it’s not always happy or nice – and/or I don’t have the energy to create an ‘adventure’ and ‘fun’ post with all the details and all the cool pictures (which takes hours to sift through, reduced the top choices to a more reasonable number that I can again try to trim so I don’t spend just 24 hours alone uploading large picture files) that while I love when I can crank one of those out for all that want to know what I’m up too – sometimes the mental energy just isn’t there (which has been a lot in the last 2 years). I often have the image that I’m pathetic and shallow if I openly discuss whatever challenges and trials are happening in my life when I also have all these amazing things going on.

Simply stating this feels a little gross, I’m sharing the stuff that I dislike about myself and are my ‘reasons’ for not writing or posting picture adventure posts. But Alas I want to work on my writing and this is one of the few avenues that I can seem to find some words in.

It’s 5:30am here and I’ve yet to sleep much. Shaun and I both have today off and there is a list of things to be done, hikes to be had, dogs to be walked and our lives to be lived. Something I actually enjoy more often than not these days.

~ J

Spring Post

Another Spring has come and soon will be gone. The Summer Solstice just around the corner. Since being back in Alaska, I’ve immersed myself with work, dogs, books, yoga and my ‘Alaska’ life – which still doesn’t have much of a routine but is a bit slower than being on the road. I still manage trips and adventures around Alaska – hikes with dogs, road trip to Valdez, Motor-home trip with the Gardners to Seward along with all the dogs in tow, kayaking, hiking, plotting out the best way to get a picture – I’m usually up to something. Outings around town – I occasionally catch a movie, hit up a local bar or just enjoy our rather tasty Sushi here in Anchorage. The middle of April I arrived to snow in the higher elevations and still in the shade at sea level. Now just over a month later the buds on the trees have long since turned into leaves and wildflower season is just around the corner. Time doesn’t stand still for anything, least of all my ‘to do list’ and blog! The more I find what life has to show me, the harder I find it to juggle keeping this thing updated. Sporadic internet and an outdated laptop don’t help either – but mostly its just my slacking.

I watched Mother’s Day come and go this year without much comment. I did reflected some about Happier Mother’s Day’s past, I noticed more how much I no longer sit in this place of society that most people in my life do. Particularly friends close in age – heck many still have more than one grandparent! Its strange and rather sobering to sit on the outside with the many so-called ‘holidays’ we have. Kathy (who lost her Mother just over a year ago now) and I mostly grumbled at the overly cheerful people at the store and inquired to our men and friends in life whether or not they had spoken to their Mothers/Grandmothers. Basically at the end of the day, I felt like I should keep most of my pain and grief brought to the surface, to myself, and hope that those who had people to celebrate did so with much happiness.

River has been my constant companion as always, often accented by a Beagle, Pete the Border Collie or even a friend’s dog. Her winter coat is officially too long and hot for the ‘heat of Alaska’ which hasn’t reached over 70 degrees yet – but that is swimming weather! I’m helping her with the shedding by brushing her out – something she seems to have mixed emotions about but takes with ease all the same. Since the Bunny population is in its natural decline this year, the Birds of Prey are spotted even more often and rather hungry, I error on the side of caution with my little Weasel of a Dachshund and limit her freedom off leash; something she is not thrilled about and I get lectured on in her own way.

I head back to the East Coast in less than two weeks to visit Shaun & family and to attend my 4th and final (for year one) WildernessFusion class – which is hard to believe I committed to taking almost year ago. It both feels like forever and just yesterday (as much of my life is wont to) that I standing on the that particular ledge of choice on. The classes have given me some rather major life changing tools and even more life changing people. I will be attending year two – hopefully as will many (all?) of my amazing classmates. River will be staying in Alaska with the Gardners since it is now getting quite hot in Maryland – and she is not a fan of the ticks (frankly neither am I). I’ll post the actual dates and schedule of the upcoming summer soon (and maybe even a post about fun trips??).

As you may have noticed from FB or even this post, I still don’t sleep regularly or much – unless I’m sick – then I sleep like the dead. Yet other than some random annoying allergy-rash that has appeared on my face I’ve been pretty good health wise. Clearly I am one of the few who can somehow ‘live’ on chronic sleep deprived hours. I’m not convinced this is actually a good thing. My memory still is rather holely and soon as I am stressed suffers noticeably. I’m still the queen of long baths (ideally Epsom Salt ones) and enduring back and hip pain. Thankfully I have my own bathroom complete with a nice bathtub in my room at the Gardners house that I can monopolize for hours (half the night sometimes). While my life of sleep deprived pain can be a bummer – I don’t find myself that upset about much (not that I ever did to the point that many people have/do) of it anymore. Other than the random insensitive remarks made about my ‘slacker sleep schedule’ and how I’m too ‘young’ to have real pain – I’ve found some measure of peace with how things currently are (which yep – suck but that’s what is real for now) and instead focus on a sunset or an owl calling to its mate under the full moon.

I hope that as the Spring season turns to Summer, you get out, outside of your house/apartment. outside of your city/town and firsthand experience life in its eon long natural state. Alaska and Seattle are pretty much the only places this Pale Redhead actually gets excited when the Sun is out – but excited I am. And you should be too. Regardless of where you are in life, there is something out there worth seeing, you just have be willing to go look.
Every step is just part of the Journey ~ J

Trip to Montreal CAN ~ Element Sisters

As many of you know, I have a group of 3 women whom I often call my ‘Element Sisters’ (but am not related to them in any fashion) that I met at my Philosophy 1 Tracker class in 2012. Between the 4 of us, we live all over North America. Linda (Water Sister) lives in Quebec Canada. She has a beautiful home on Mohawk lands that we converged at for some much-needed Sister time!

I drove to Maine the end of March in the Black Dragon with the River Rat where I stayed with Tracy (Earth Sister) and her husband Carl along with their animals. River charmed everyone – even the Gizzy the stand-offish little cat. After resting for a day or two, Tracy and I repacked the Black Dragon, did everything we could to ensure that River would make it across the Canadian border and off we went! The drive should have only been about 7 hours. We managed to make it well over 10…Our intense conversation kept taking us down the wrong roads – even though Tracy knew the area well. We found Jesus Christ on a very hilly back road in Maine. Scared many a logger and managed to not attract the police. The border took awhile, River passed with flying colors though. My Dragon was taken apart because clearly we are drug dealers… The border guards finally dismissed us and shook their heads with many a french word about our characters.

We made it to Linda’s house late in the night after entirely too much coffee and sugar. The first 24 hours was spent catching up and unwinding. Linda’s impressive man of a son brought us dinner even! River charmed the girls who had yet to meet her and one of Linda’s dogs. The other was not interested in making friends and just glared like a cute gremlin at her.

Moon Hidden in the Blue

Moon Hidden in the Blue

Even though Linda lives outside of Montreal, woods and wetlands surround her with beauty. We headed out for an afternoon walk the next day (or was it day 2..I cannot remember) – fresh air and some actual movement were needed after hours upon hours of talking, laughing, crying, cooking and just plain enjoying each others company.

Linda showing us her Sit Spot

Linda showing us her backyard

Afsoon & Tracy carefully examining a special place in Linda’s woods with much seriousness.

Tracy  & Afsoon in careful consideration of Sit Spot

Tracy & Afsoon in careful consideration of Sit Spot

Walking around enjoying the beautiful day – it was a crisp and bright day. The temperature was perfect for moving around in the snow with the sun shining down. Afsoon was bundled up to keep her California blood warm and more importantly the baby that will be joining us later this summer! The rest of us were dressed similarly to ward off the colds we were fighting.

Tracy, Afsoon & Linda wandering the old railroad trail.

Tracy, Afsoon & Linda wandering the old railroad trail.

Sumac – the Rhus typhina variety – also known as Staghorn Sumac grows everywhere on the land! Many people think of it as a scrub bush – good for nothing. But you can do many tasty and even medicinal things with it. Obviously be sure you know which type of Sumac you have before eating it though – there are a few poisonous types in places.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina)

Closeup of Sumac Berries. Personally I find it a very pretty plant and would like to try some of many drinks made from it someday. I’ve bought it as a ‘spice’ which is used in many ethnic dishes around the world (though the type of Sumac varies) and even salads.

Closeup of Sumac

Closeup of Sumac Berries

Linda has much knowledge of her local botany and shared much of it – which I think most of us have forgotten as no one had a notebook! Though plenty of information was shared over the weekend, the main goal was to relax, soak in each others company and discuss the important parts of our lives and futures.

Tracy and Linda discussing the botany

Tracy and Linda discussing the botany

Ask anyone who has had the misfortune of being in the 4’s presence – we LAUGH. A lot. Like as in most of the students at the classes the 4 of us have attended with, don’t know our names, just ‘the loud laughing women’ – particularly Tracy. In fact I just say ‘the one with the loudest laugh’ and people who cannot pick her out of line up instantly ‘know’ who I am talking about..(We love you Tracy). Linda likes to say she is the ‘quiet’ one…But actually not. In fact, she is more often the instigator… If someone is actually ‘quiet’ in the group, it’s probably me. Afsoon..well she gets shit done. She makes it happen. And gods help you if you think your going to stand in her way (she is a Lawyer after all..). I think I can speak for the group on this one; we love it when Afsoon decides to take matters into her own hands and marches her cute little butt up to the poor unsuspecting soul who is about to have a serious reality check. It’s as Trace would say ‘FREAKING AWESOME MAN’!

As someone who never really had the whole ‘girl’ time thing – most of my female friends are pretty tomboy like myself – I am beyond grateful for these 3 wonderful women in my life. It is as much a mystery to us as it is to the rest of the Tracker community that we meet and how such a powerfully intense, deep and loving friendship sprung from such radically different people. But is exactly what we need.

Carhartt colors! Afsoon borrowed a pair of Carhartts as she hasn’t learned where to find such things in LA – but the rest of us proudly sport the very comfortable and useful pants – the men’s ones no less! We had the rainbow of Carhartt colors almost complete – clearly we should be getting free pants with our advertisements here!

Carhartt Color Wheel

Carhartt Color Wheel

Spring ‘breakup’ was only days away. But for this walk things were still fairly frozen and picturesque.

Frozen Marshland

Frozen Marshland

Nothing like trying to take ‘selfies’ of 4 people at once…It was pretty painful, and many less than ideal shots had. This was one of the ‘better’ ones. All of us were sporting Smartwool hats! Another place we should be getting free gear from me thinks…

Four Elements!

Four Elements!

Air, Water & Earth! Looking adorable together.

Afsoon, Linda & Tracy

Afsoon, Linda & Tracy

Beautiful even with the goofy grins!

Air & Earth (Afsoon & Tracy)

Air & Earth (Afsoon & Tracy)

Tracy was the photographer here – she said something rather funny and got this ridiculous shot!

Water & Fire in Hysterics

Water & Fire in Hysterics

Without even trying, Linda and I had the opposite color combo going on.

Water & Fire (Linda & Joannie)

Water & Fire (Linda & Joannie)

Probably my favorite shot of the landscape. The whimsical Phragmites in the breeze against the ever-blue sky.

Beautiful Phragmites

Beautiful Phragmites

We had towel fights in the kitchen. Revelations over pancakes. Shopping spree in Montreal at the Market. Amazing Chocolate at Coaco 70 – also in Montreal. Tea 2 and 3 times a day. Delicious food that we all whipped up. And of course, much laughter.

I wrote this post for you 3 – Tracy, Linda & Afsoon! Hope you enjoy ♥

You find your people on the Journey ~ J

Late Winter Schedule – Where I will be at

Wow. 31 days of January over and done with, now into February and I don’t have much to show for it with writing yet. I did take pictures though. Many pictures… In Short, I was busy with work, dogs, cooking, showing Shaun around Alaska – during possibly the worst stretch of weather in a while..more dogs and travel plans.

*detailed date by date events are at the end*

As many know, I have been in Alaska since Dec 31st, I am due to fly out to DC in a couple of days. Originally I was supposed to go to Utah for a few days to visit with a fellow classmate and friend – but sadly that fell through. Once in DC, I will pickup my car (Black Dragon!) from my wonderful Aunt Cathy and family, who have been amazing with letting me park my car, drop me off and pick me up when possible at the airport – and has even extended that kindness to a few close friends in need. After some rest, I drive south to Tennessee with a stop off in Johnson City to see my long time bestie Lorien! Then on to the Farm to see the family. River will stay in Alaska with Kathy & Dave and the Beagles. She will probably sulk and give me the paw of ‘screw you’ for a while, but I will have the peace of mind that she is very well cared for.

After about week in Tennessee, I will start heading north – hopefully see a few friends along the way and end up in Maine to see two of my Element Sisters Linda & Tracy (Tracy’s husband Carl too). I have an overdue promise to get together with everyone that I am quite excited about. * I will NOT be on the Eastern Shore of Maryland along the drive North. Which brings us to – the end of March, where I’ll be in New York with my Wilderness Fusion Healing 1 class! Early March has me making my way back down to Maryland, see my favorite snarky cousin Lucy, family and Shaun; before heading back into DC to fly out to Belize!!! I’m going to Belize with Wilderness Fusion – a last-minute class I was able to get into, that will be almost a week in Punta Gorda. Very excited. Once back from Belize, I will be in DC for a few days for fun stuff like the Shamrock festival with Shaun, Kathy & Dave, probably some museums and who knows what else! Sometime after that I will head back to Alaska since I will need to see my Rivers (and make more money..).

I know, I’ve left a LOT out. But this is the overview. Actual dates of everything as best as I can estimate are as follows:

Feb 11th – Arrive DC.

Feb 12th – Arrive Johnson City TN, with Lorien.

Feb 13th – Arrive in TN at Farm.

Feb 20th ish – Begin driving North to Maine. Hopefully with a stop in NJ for sleeping & visit.

Feb 22nd to 27th – Maine.

Feb 28th – Drive to New York for Class.

March 1st through 3rd – Healing 1 Class in New York.

March 4th  till the 14th – Maryland.

March 14th – DC to fly out early the 15th for Belize.

March 16th till 21st – Belize with Wilderness Fusion class.

March 21st to 23rd – DC Fun.

End of March – tentative back to Alaska.

Going to be a great and rather hectic next couple of months. On the off chance that the East Coast has a wicked snow storm or two, I am hoping many of my Jersey Peeps will allow me to park my car should it come to that (New York too!). I have in my driving ability and the Black Dragon to make it to Maine, even in snow – but other drivers on the damned East Coast – I do not have so much faith in…

Home is the Journey ~ J

December Fun

Arrghh! Once again I look up and time has gotten away from me. December 20th!? WHAT. November was a great month, Thanksgiving nice with Kathy, Dave & friends! I spent about 10 days in Maryland visiting with family & friends before flying out to Alaska for work and the Holiday.

Early December found me in Seattle for a lay over with Reuben. We had a great time seeing some of our old haunts and taking in Seattle’s sushi & coffee. Early the next morning I was supposed to be off to D.C to meet up with a classmate from WildernessFusion and to pickup my car, but I was delayed getting checked in and missed my flight. 8 hours later of sitting at the airport I was *finally* on my way. DC was shockingly warm compared to Alaska and even Seattle. My wonderful Aunt Cathie picked me up along with classmate B, and we stayed the night in Arlington, VA before heading out for NY state. The drive was an adventure itself, but we made it in one piece to another classmate’s house near the park where the class is held. Quite a few people from the class were already there staying the night as well, so much fun was had.

My class itself was an intense – but amazing – and also freaking cold (and damp) time. Wouldn’t have changed a thing. The last night of the class the snow turned to ‘freezing rain’ (my favorite…) and everything was covered in ice. Breakfast was late that morning. By midday, things had warmed up but the skies were not promising to play nice. A few of us met back at J’s house (classmate we stayed with before class) where B was staying till his flight the next morning. Being tired, it wasn’t hard for them to convince me to stay the night (I had planned on staying with Amy in NJ). By the next morning snow was everywhere and no one was leaving… I ended up being snowed in for 2 nights, during which we all had a blast of archery (with hand-made bows), snow tracking while wandering through the storm, venison steaks, even a bit of dog training, and great conversation. Best ‘stuck in NY’ yet!

Snow on the Lake in NY

Snow on the Lake in NY

Once the roads cleared I made it back to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Took some time to myself, hung out with Shaun and basically let my brain stop for a day or two (class was very intense, it needed a break). Food, movies, the rest of the Walking Dead episodes that I hadn’t seen yet; I enjoyed being lazy and Shaun was happy to partake. Then the dreaded Christmas shopping began. Everyone to whom I have sent gifts (or will, since I’m always late with this sort of thing) I love dearly, and even like giving them things. But I HATE HOLIDAY SHOPPING. People are crazy. The music is horrid. The lines ridiculous. And the children… Don’t even get me started on the freaking brats in the store. Crying. Wailing. WHINING. Ugh. And I’m not even done…

This weekend I am going to get to see the semi-famous Baltimore Aquarium and go dancing with Shaun. I just hope I don’t kill anyway who is out shopping with their kids…

I then fly out to Seattle to stay with Reuben, where Linda (Element Sister from Tracker) will meet me and we will be adventuring around the West Coast (literally) for the Holiday. The plan is to see the Redwoods in CA, drive along the Oregon coast, hit up the Olympic Peninsula in WA and see a show in Vancouver, BC, Canada. While in Seattle, I will also get to see my Aunt Michele and Uncle Dave!

On the 31st I will be back in Alaska to kick off the New Year with Kathy, Dave and of course – River. I’ve plenty of work to keep me busy for most of January in Anchorage.

Hope your Holidays are fun!

~ Joannie