It's no secret that I am an outdoor enthusiast and animal-welfare activist/advocate. Due to several years spent in the darkness of addiction - I did not fully grasp the capabilities of which I hold to be fully immersed in these. Since moving to California to attend rehab four years ago - I have more than I could have imagined. I have, in fact, found something other than the 12-steps that my sobriety relies greatly on (though without those steps I certainly wouldn't have any of it).
Three years ago, when I had one year sober, I achieved a lifelong dream - learning how to ride a motorcycle. In doing so, I unknowingly joined a secret society - the motorcycle community. I started hearing people talking about riding the "Angeles Crest Highway." I finally took a ride up there, after getting my bearings on my little Harley-Davidson Sportster 1250. It was one of the single greatest days of my life.
Photo by Ryan Strongin
From then on, I was fully obsessed with "The Crest." If I didn't get up there on my bike once a week, I was taking my dogs up to hike one of the MANY trails in the Angeles National Forest. I was enamored with the beauty, the smells, the fauna - including the folks I met at Newcomb's Ranch. If I couldn't find peace from my addiction in meditation, prayer, service, speaking with others, etc. - it was a sure thing I could find it up there. I have drawn constant artistic inspiration from the Forest. I had doubted my place in Los Angeles - until I found The Crest and Angeles National Forest.
In 2014, President Obama helped get our Angeles National Forest protection as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Since then, the Monument has been crucial in the clean-up and preservation of areas that were previously in disrepair or cluttered with garbage.
My path doesn't end there - but takes me next to the San Bernardino National Forest - with similar fauna and flora and ecosystems - but with a striking high-desert altitude attitude that makes my heart skip a beat. Over 4,000 miles of the SBNF are included in the San Gabriel National Monument. I wandered with dogs and motorcycles to the magical town of Idyllwild. I met beautiful, like-minded souls there and felt a deep connection to the town, not knowing that my later adventures in rock climbing would make that even deeper.
I could go on for pages about various spiritual and adventuresome experiences I had in these mountains - but none compare to that of the experience I had/continue to have with Wolf Connection - a wolf and wolfdog sanctuary that rests in the Angeles National Forest.
Hiking with a howling Ayasha, who is coywolf.
I found the wolf sanctuary and immediately knew that I belonged there - as a volunteer, employee, anything I could be there in service for. I was hired and have been there for over two years, caring for the animals, working with kids and people in recovery - TEACHING art to them. All of this is done while witnessing magic that can't be explained - wolves have incredible amounts of knowledge that they are willing to impart onto humans, and the healing that they are capable of is indescribable.
Hiking with Koda, at Wolf Connection.
Best friends and coworkers at Wolf Connection.
In March 2017 - I began rock climbing, which has literally and metaphorically brought me to new heights. It's the first thing I have done for myself and my body since learning to ride that has changed my very being. It's terrifying, humbling, and brings me close to nature and introduces me to people that I have an incredible connection with. Thanks to the preservation of the National Monument, there are first-class climbing destinations at my fingertips. I can drive less than an hour to crags that most climbers can only dream of.
Trad and bouldering in Angeles National Forest.
SO, what am I writing about, exactly?! I wanted to paint a picture for you - of what this Monument means for ONE person. President Obama created protection for this space only THREE years ago. Now, a California congressman (Paul Cook) is urging President Trump to shrink the boundaries of the Monument in honor of "economic activity." According to him, people were very much in opposition of the creation of the Monument due to their businesses being affected and the land "encroaching" upon them. WELL, Paul - I say that it is quite the opposite; your businesses and economic development are encroaching on our wild lands. Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties are together 24,856 square miles, surely there is enough space for your economic development?
These mountains provide 70% of open space in Los Angeles County, and serve a population of 17 million people. These mountains are home to charities that do priceless work with people and wildlife. I am only one person, imagine how many others (possibly yourself) have been deeply affected by this land.
Photo by Pat Walker
That being said, a few years ago I made this potential tee shirt design - and while I still love this design, my next project will involve a new one - with proceeds going to the protection and clean-up of this land. I haven't quite worked out how/when/what exactly - BUT I needed to write this to urge you to help fight against Paul Cook and Donald Trump's anti-wilderness agendas. Please follow this link to see how you can help - and follow my blog, Instagram, and Facebook for updates on my personal conservation efforts that you can help with.