Constant State of Transition – A Quick Note

I am on a plane yet again flying north back to Alaska (River too). Work – the doggies are in need of me. While I am not thrilled to be leaving Shaun, I am ready to see mountains, my ‘Alaska family’ as I refer to the Gardners and a couple of other very close people I am lucky enough to have in my life. This year started off in a state of transition and shows no signs of stopping that trend. My name as a ‘Dog Trainer’ has spread and I continue to be able to make travel and work..well, work. In only a few weeks, I will be flying back to the East Coast for more dogs and to spend time with Shaun.

My time is rather largely shared between Alaska and the East Coast. This is both awesome and exhausting depending on how much sleep I’ve had. I continue to find people in all sorts of places to share things like rock climbing, a festival or just a cup of coffee. Occasionally the stars (I mean schedules here..) align for people whom are very dear to me and we can get together. Recently I had a very short but still sweet visit with Lorien. Sadly my siblings and I have been unable to make it work – but I am hoping in the coming months that will be rectified.

The main thing I’ve come to realize is the difficulty of writing on the blog, returning phone calls, emails and such when one is in a constant state of transition. If I haven’t been quick to respond or you feel ignored, I am sorry and hope that one might understand that is it quite unlikely a personal thing. I will say for those who may need to get a hold of me for whatever reason – a text saying ‘Need to talk’ will get you a callback faster than an email or voicemail will.

The constant change of time zones, climate, driving style (east coast verses Alaska is a VERY different set of challenges), personalities of the people I’m around (in the Gardner house I can say fuck anytime of the day, in my relatives space not so much), and even worse – food option challenges, tends to leave me a little discombobulated. I wouldn’t trade it for staying in one place in the least, but I cannot say it is easy or leaves energy for other things at times. All in the trials of being a Wanderer.

I hope to add more content soon (but I’ve said that a few times before..).



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

Back from Belize – an update

To say that I have been busy is, well… an understatement to say the least. I arrived back to the states from Belize a week ago today (Fri 21st). In many ways it feels like the Belize trip itself was much longer than a week, and that I am still ‘adjusting’ to being stateside. I surprised even myself with how quickly I adjusted to ‘not being in the states’. It was almost too easy. I no sooner hit American turf than I was already plotting another overseas trips this Fall. Don’t get me wrong, I love being back and with some of my people… but a part of me seems to be ceaselessly wanting to wander, never satisfied unless another adventure is on the horizon.

squinting in the Belize brightness

Squinting in the Belize brightness

Belize was amazing. The class with WildernessFusion was amazing. The People are simply beyond amazing (both many locals I met and my classmates). I can’t say I ever thought I would visit Belize; it’s not that I didn’t want to, it simply wasn’t on the top 10 list, or even top 20. But man did I have a great time. I’m ready to go back and explore all the things I didn’t get to see. We stayed at a wonderful eco-lodge called Cotton Tree Lodge: what a great way to rest between adventures, and for those who are a little less inclined to ‘just go’ on their own, a fun and safe way to see the sights and experience some of the local flavor. I’m not going to get into the details of the trip, class or even attempt pictures of everything yet – I have 980 to sort through first…! I’m not purposely being a tease, I just want to update and forewarn. I only have bad iPhone photos for this post!

After my serene trip to Belize, I arrived in DC late in the evening, Shaun picked me up from the airport and we headed to the hotel where Kathy & Dave Gardner were waiting along with my River!

River waiting for me at the hotel...

River waiting for me at the hotel…

Kathy & Dave were in town for some work related things, and to join in on the fun of the ‘Shamrock Festival’. We had no idea what to expect, but it looked fun! River got to come last-minute since her and I were missing each other terribly. Saturday we dropped River off (much to her chagrin) at a Petsmart to day-board – possibly overnight so she was safe and cared for while the 4 of us were at Shamrock Fest.

To say the festival was… interesting is probably not doing it justice. It was a little more party and a little less festival than I was hoping for. But we still had fun. The noise and crowds were a little over stimulating after Belize, but I managed well enough! The 4 of us wandered about, often splitting up and then finding each other. It was very cool to be share the crazy with Kathy and Dave and see them have fun regardless of the years that separate us.

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest

Kathy, Dave & I at Shamrock Fest!

They even had an EDM dance tent which is where Shaun and I spent most of our time after the draw of the bands wore off (and Shaun had enough to drink to tell the “tall people” to get in the back’ so he could see…)

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun & I in front of the EDM tent

Shaun headed back to Ocean City, MD on Sunday, while River and I stayed with Kathy and Dave that evening. The next day Dave, River and I toured around DC while Kathy took care of some work stuff. It was a lot of fun to walk around Monument Mall with Dave, talking about history of the various sites, the government system (which I will readily admit, I know very little about even though I’ve been told/read books about it). River earned many an ‘ohhh!’ and ‘look at the cute puppy!’ For the areas posted ‘no dogs’ I put her in my backpack (this is after all the best view point for her to see the various national parks I take her to).

She was also really into the squirrels…I made this image macro of the picture I took of her in the car right after yet another furry tailed-rat had dashed right in front of her (but due to her being leashed – no chase ensured). She wore this grin for quite a while!

River Meme

River Meme

For a late lunch/early dinner we met at McCormick’s which is just a damn tasty place to eat! After much-needed catching up, it was time for me to do last-minute car stuff with Dave’s help before hitting the road with River in the Black Dragon.

Dinner at McCormick's!

Dinner at McCormick’s with my Alaska family!

As you can see from our color pallet and choice of patterns..we look rather family like here. Kathy LOVES teal (I do too, maybe just not quite as much as she) and Dave often sports a plaid shirt (they are undeniably comfortable and dashing), so me in plaid teal pretty much tied everyone together in this picture (clearly I should have been in the middle to get the optimum effect). I always have a great time with these guys, and for some reason they do with me as well ♥

River totally zonked

River totally zonked

The last few days River and I have been chilling in Ocean City MD at my family’s rental. Shaun hangs out with us after work and often feeds me and buys me coffee (coffee is the important detail here..). I am mostly just adjusting to not being on ‘Belize Time’ which is something that doesn’t exist in this country. Also the weather changes from hot and humid Belize jungle to blustery Northeasters on the coastline has been a couple of days of uncomfortable. A few days from now I head north to Maine to meet up with Tracy and then we head to Quebec, Canada to Linda’s place where Afsoon will meet us. Element Sisters reunited! The plan is that River goes with me every step of the way.

I head back towards DC with a few stops along the way in early April, and then back to Alaska by April 14th. River too. Once back in AK we stay put for a while as I have work to attended to, Dogs to train, money to be made if I think I want to go on another trip any time soon.

Dave took this great pic with his phone of River & I in DC right outside the Lincoln Memorial! It was a windy and chilly day – my leather cap is all I could find instead of my warm wool knit, so I kept my hair down to help keep me warm (which is why the rather dramatic style going on there..). But it made for a very photogenic picture with my black leather jacket and little black & tan dog – whose ‘tan’ markings are such a shade of red that they just about match my red hair 😉

River & I in DC

River & I in DC

~ Always on a Journey  – Joannie & River.


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

How does River survive the cold?

So upon my FB status of ‘negative temps’ in Anchorage and how River and I arrived back in the state, a few people were curious as to just how River is able to join me in the outdoor adventures of cold and occasionally sub-zero Alaska. Well, see, her being a Long-Haired Dachshund really, really helps! Her Short-Haired cousins DO NOT LIKE THE COLD. If you end up with a ‘naked’ Dachshund as I tend to call them, for the love of all, get it a SWEATER, a heating pad too if you live somewhere cold. And be warned, they will steal your blankets.

Due to her coat, River is able to handle temps down into the teens without much help from me for a quick potty walk – I usually only bundle her up for weather 20+ if we are going to be outside for a long time/romping in the snow. She gets a jacket if it’s a cold/freezing rain as well – which was common in Seattle’s winters.  The jacket also helps with the snowball clumps that stick to her fur. If it is below say 15 degrees F, She will get ‘layers’ if we are going to be out for a while.

The Evolution of ‘Bundling River Up’.

River had a basic ‘winter coat’ that I brought with me from Tennessee in the winter of 2011 when she finally joined me in Alaska – Below you can see how short her fur-coat was the first few months!

River's 1st 'warm coat' 2011

River’s first ‘warm coat’ – 2011

Below: River in the early days of ‘layers’ with one of her training – demo dog shirts.

River in Layers 2011

River in layers – 2011

By the next year, I had found a new jacket and coat on sale for her- the coat was a bit too big so I improvised with safety pins. It was quite eye-catching, if I say so myself! River had also grown a much thicker fur coat – which helped immensely

River in her new and improved 'layers' 2012

River in her new and improved ‘layers’ – 2012

Her jacket hoody up – makes me think of a gnome.

River in her jacket 'hoody' 2012

River in her jacket ‘hoodie’ – 2012

When it isn’t cold enough to warrant both layers, she sports her hoodie.

River in just her Jacket 2012

River in just her jacket – 2012

River’s newest jacket/base layer is the best fitting one yet – probably because it cost the most… Roughwear is well worth it if you have need of such things. Finding jackets long enough in the torso, deep enough in the chest and short enough in the leg cuffs for a Dachshund is no laughing matter. River wore just this one while we were in Taos, NM with temps of -4 F. She did just fine during our hikes as did the late Rosie who also had one.

River's newest jacket - 2013

River’s newest jacket – 2013

River has a great time adventuring with me regardless of the weather; this summer it looks like I will have to find her a life jacket for the boat we are going to be on in the Gulf of Alaska. My baby seal 🙂

Below: an epic shot of my Super Rat flying over the snow. Ears up, tail out, paws stretched!

River flying over the snow - 2011

River flying over the snow – 2011

Hey, if my Mini Dachshund can tough out the cold, you can too!

~ J

Fall Travels & Update

Well, looks like time is moving faster yet again. I’m basically fully recovered from my surgery and doing well. Only time will tell (I’m told to expect about 6 months before I can know for sure) if the procedure helped significantly. But either way I am glad to have it behind me!
River is also fully recovered from her digestion/liver issues that she experienced while I was laid up.

My last week and a half in Alaska was busy and good. There were many Moose to be seen, great sunsets and strange weather. Usually by Halloween there is plenty of snow on the ground and at the very least its cold. This year it was a balmy 40 degrees and lots of rain/wind. The prolonged Autumn weather meant I caught the tail end of the Fall color! I snapped the picture below with my iPhone before the wind storm blew all the leaves away.

Last of the Autumn Colors

Last of the Autumn Colors

River originally was going to stay in Alaska with the Gardners so I didn’t further stress her system out, but she was doing so well and made herself quite clear that she wanted to go with me on my visit to the East Coast for a few weeks. She has been bouncing around and is her usual overly social self. I arrived in D.C Friday evening (1st) – and have been staying at my family’s rental that is empty at the moment in Ocean City – River and I are enjoying the space and quiet for the time being. We visit family and friends in the area, walk to beach and sometimes the boardwalk. The first couple of days in Maryland were a little warm for the both of us with the warm front that had come in…But the windy, rainy and damp days are back so there is less panting on the beach now.

Below: More photos from my iPhone of the world’s cutest Dachshund. She really attracts all kinds of people to pet her wherever we go…

River on the Beach - Ocean City, MD

River on the Beach – Ocean City, MD

Another day on the beach – River enjoys romping across the sand like a rocket weasel shot out of a cannon. She also finds stinky fish to roll in… Which I do not enjoy.

The Sand Rat

The Sand Rat in Flight

My time in Maryland may not makes sense to a lot of people, but having the space to process some things from the last few weeks is quite valuable to me. As is spending time with my Cousin Lucy in the snippets of time we get and friend Shaun. I also have a lot of ‘homework’ to do for my healing class and some other group activities that I need to focus on now that my head is clear (or as clear as it is going to get) from the medications.

My Travel plans have changed around quite a bit since I last wrote things up. Pretty much what happens when I try to plan things more than 1-2 months in advanced… Sadly I will not be going to New Zealand over the Christmas Holidays with Carleigh as planned – she needed to cancel. As expected I’m more than a little bummed but I still plan to go, just closer to the off-season so that the tickets are cheaper! I am putting money & supplies aside just for this trip. If there is anyone who interested in meeting up/tagging along for something like this write to me. I have committed to my good Friend Linda to cheer her up during the Holiday season – since NZ was just too expensive for 10 days in Dec, we are going to adventure around on the West Coast, maybe catch a Show in Vancouver or something equally awesome.

My Fall dates are as follows:

Oct 8th – 31st  ~ Alaska for work & Surgery.

Nov 1st – 20th ~ Ocean City, MD for fun/alone time.

Nov 20th – Dec 5th ~ Alaska for work.

Dec 5th ~ fly back to East Coast to prepare for class.

Dec 7th – 9th ~ NY for Healing 1 class.

Dec 10th – unknown ~ East Coast for a week or two before joining a friend for some West Coast Adventures.

Jan 1st – 15th ~ Alaska for work.

Be well ~ Joannie & River.

Alaska for the week & River

Back in Alaska for about a week this time, just a quick trip. I Came back for a doctors appointment (went well) and more importantly – to be with my RIVER. Ohh how I have missed her. My little River Rat. Also my Super Rat. And my better half… I am enjoying the cloudy and cool weather here. The fresh air (no nasty chicken houses or gross fertilizers here) and the ability to soak in the bathtub once more!

River is thrilled to have me back! I took the picture below of us today while I worked on the computer 😉

River Happy

River Happy

She has been in most excellent care of Kathy & Dave G. Playing with their Beagles and all in all, making herself quite at home. She sleeps on their bed (with the rest of the dogs) and even has a set of stairs so that she can come and go off the bed, since its a tad too high for her short legs! Kathy even handled the dental work River needed (originally I was going to wait till I had a chunk of time to arrange it myself). Kathy & Dave are AMAZING!!!

River & toy

River & toy

I took these picture of her a few months back at Kathy & Dave’s house – seemed like a good time to show them off! And yes some of them are in Black & White – I rather like the effect.

River Sitting-Pretty

River Sitting Pretty

River – while not thrilled at being apart from me, was living it up doggie style and is no worse for the wear. Clearly I am the one with separation anxiety here…

Warning: Worlds cutest Dachshund below (If I may say so myself here..).

Portrait of River

Portrait of River

I sadly will be returning alone on Sept 3rd, due to my classes on the East Coast – but have complete faith that I will see my River again in the same health and spirits as she is now – which can you really ask for more? ~ J