Photographer & Olympian Chase Adventure From Baja to the Arctic


Where did you and Julia go to Field Camp in Montana? I attended the University of Montana Field Camp based in Dillon way, way back in the day--Summer of 1978.

Enjoying the trip, thanks for posting.

We went to the University of Indiana field camp in Montana. Weird right? Apparently there are a lot of people that don't like the fact that the State of Indiana owns land in Montana. The facilities are an old Japanese internment camp from WWII! Pretty wild. Sometimes I wish I had continued my geology education. I can't get enough! I guess there is still time.


IU Field Station in the Tobacco Roots and a wrecked Suburban

We went to the University of Indiana field camp in Montana. Weird right? Apparently there are a lot of people that don't like the fact that the State of Indiana owns land in Montana. The facilities are an old Japanese internment camp from WWII! Pretty wild. Sometimes I wish I had continued my geology education. I can't get enough! I guess there is still time.
Actually it's not unusual for Midwestern and East Coast schools to run field camps in the West. The Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association is the operating coalition for Princeton's and many other universities' field station at Red Lodge, MT; the University of Missouri's field station at Lander, WY is well known, as is IU's presence in the Tobacco Roots in west-central Montana.

During the summer of my U of Montana field camp, they were in a partnership with Purdue University, so we shared the campus facilities and all transportation requirements with PU.

We encountered the IU folks in the Sweetwater area, a patch of Precambrian metamorphics east of Dillon, in August 1978. We came upon a guy hoofing it down Sweetwater Rd, recognized him as a TA from IU, and stopped to ask if he needed a lift. He muttered angrily that he was fine and continued to walk towards some other IU vehicles about a mile away. We shrugged, continued on, and rounded the next curve to find the IU Suburban he'd been driving buns up in the ditch. He'd lost it on the gravel road and rolled it over a couple or three times. We stopped to make sure there was nobody in or around the Suburban and finding none, continued on into town.



We planned on switching back and forth between Kat and myself for the caption writing, but she is so consumed by organizing and editing images, that I have been tasked with the writing. However, she makes a short guest appearance in this section.

One look in the parking lot of the Walmart in Page, AZ and you know this is an awesome place. We have not seen a higher density of sweet overland trucks anywhere else. Hell we saw 10 G-Wagons in a row on the highway. These are even cooler than G-Wagons.

Enjoying your posts & adventures. Saw that LC extreme-mobile in upstate NY back in 2010... it was shinier back then!



Leg 5: San Diego to the ENTIRE Baja Peninsula!

Hi friends! We have been MIA for about 6 weeks because we were in Mexico most of that time, basically having the best time. We are sooooo stoked on Baja and excited to tell you about our excursion there. It is an overlander's and surfers paradise, but if you are only one or the other...or even neither, you will find something to love. The people are kind, the food is tasty, the water is warm (down south), the surf is UNREAL (everywhere), and if you have a 4x4 you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go. Without further ado, here's some info about our month-long Baja adventure.

Our goal was to fly through Tijuana and Ensenada, not only because we have explored these regions before, but because we were looking for uncrowded surf, and I (Kat) was looking for warm water. While we found tons of warm water our favorite spot ended up being in wetsuit territory. This was one of our first stops, just south of Quatro Casas...the surf was small because the North/NW swell wasn't in yet, but the views were infinite and beautiful.

Since the swell was small we kept driving. We passed the turn off for Bahia Los Angeles and decided to head over since the surf report said the swell wouldn't pick up for a couple more days. We spent a warm night on the bay, so warm that Craig needed to intermittentaly get up and jump into the water to lower his body temp. However, it did little to help as the water was just as warm as the air. There was a silver lining to Craig's hot flashes, we discovered that any movement in the water caused bioluminescence to light up against our skin. They were bright and beautiful, and I tried to capture them on camera, but the light they emitted was too dull. We will just have to lock that one in the memory bank for one of the coolest things we've seen. This image is from the next morning looking out over the bay.

Craig decided the Sea of Cortez side was too hot to camp so we headed back over to the Pacific side to check on the surf. I'm going to be slightly vague about telling you where exactly we went, just because surfers in particular seem to be very crabby about sharing these spots. I'll tell you that you take one of the only other paved roads to get to the Pacific side, and then go either north or south on the dirt roads...both directions are gorgeous.

We were paddling around in the crystal clear water when we got a surprise visit from this guy. After this guy got tired of swimming around with us, I headed in to the shore while Craig stayed out to catch more waves. A few minutes later I see Craig paddling in like a madman, with a face full of terror. "Holy ****, I just saw a huge dorsal fin and thought I was going to get eaten." Later we would find out that Craig is piss poor at telling the difference between a shark and a dolphin.

When I got out of the water I stumbled upon this beauty. The sea life is incredible in this area. Everyday we surfed here we saw dolphins bursting through the water.

And then there was this creature. She was adorable and totally lovable. I felt bad about her sunburned nose and the fact that she was probably really hot, but she had a collar and seemed to hang around a certain store in town. Needless to say, I can see how many surfers end up adopting Baja pups and bringing them home.

We had a friend flying into La Paz to hang with us for 9 days of the trip so we had to head further south in order to meet her. On the way there we camped on the Sea of Cortez side again, and although it was hot, even Craig managed to love Bahia Concepcion because it was one of the most beautiful places either of us had ever seen. You can rent cute palapas for cheap on a bunch of the beaches, and if we weren't in Baja for the surf we probably would have spent a lot more time in this area. Here is the sunrise view from just outside our palapa.

And here is the nighttime view from the palapa.

We took off to head further south and finally found some good surf at Punta Conejo. It's primarily a left (a wave that is surfed towards the surfers left) so we got some backside practice. We were slightly intimidated by the rocky bottom and asked some of the other surfers about it. They all said it looked more shallow than it was because the water was so clear, but I managed to promptly hit my shin on the rocks. We stayed a couple days and then took off to pick up our friend Julia from the airport in La Paz. Craig managed to create a comfy lounge spot at Punta Conejo using the Burb and a large rock cairn. Canyoneering skills put to a more relaxing use. Once we got to the highway Craig cranked it up to about 70mph and we heard a loud ripping sound. I turned around to see one of our solar panels floating down the highway. We went to retrieve it, and although it wasn't broken the wires certainly were. We attempted to find an electrician briefly in La Paz, but realized we were late to pick Julia up from the airport, so we abandoned the effort, swung by and picked her up, and then decided to head back to the surf. I suppose I should note here that I speak relatively fluent conversational Spanish. It makes life somewhat easier in Baja, especially when going through police and military check points. We found that because we were smiling, complying with all their requests, and even sometimes carrying along a little conversation, they were quick to let us pass.

Julia's here! And she managed to bring with her one of the most spectacular sunsets of the entire trip. Here are Craig and Julia talking surf at Playa San Pedrito.

This concludes the first week or so in Baja...more to come in the next few days!


Fantastic photography of a great trip. Perhaps we will see you somewhere along the way.


Leg 5: San Diego to the ENTIRE Baja Peninsula Continued...

As we arrived at Playa San Pedrito we noticed that we were alone on the beach with two other groups of campers, both of whom we had met at Punta Conejo. One of the groups was building a campfire and invited us over. Before we made our way to the fire, a tiny ghost wandered over into our camp. His name was Ashwin and his parents were traveling with him in an old VW Synchro to South America. He announced his presence by yelling "Trick or Treat!" We had completely forgotten it was Halloween, but were so happy to see this little ghost and his family. We gave him some chocolate and then headed over to the campfire to tell ghost stories and sing songs.

The next morning we set up a volleyball net off of our friend Spirit's truck. His 60 year old dad was an amazing beach player, and we had a blast. I was too busy playing to take photos. We finally decided it was time to get in and surf once it got hot outside. There were rocks again and I was a little nervous surfing above them, but we were in deeper water than at Punta Conejo. Craig caught a few waves, I got tumbled a few times, and Julia eventually made it out past the break. A win for all of us that day. A little background on our surf experience- I'm from Kansas and saw the ocean for the first time when I was 19. I first tried surfing 4 years ago in Hawaii and loved it, later when we moved to San Diego I dabbled a tiny bit, but never fully committed myself to learning as I found rock climbing more appealing. Finally in July I decided to spend the whole month surfing, so I'm still basically a beginner, but at least I learned how to turtle roll and the general idea of what to do. Craig grew up around the ocean in Rhode Island, his dad is an avid stand up paddle surfer, and Craig is probably the most athletic person I've ever met. He retired from Track & Field (competing) and took up surfing with me in July. At this point he was still fairly beginner, but managed to ride waves occasionally. Julia is a total beginner and this is one of her first times on a surf board. Anyway, Playa San Peditro had some of the best surfers we'd seen so far, including the first (and some of the only other) female surfers we saw on the trip.

Salty Sunday mornings at Playa San Pedrito

We discovered after a couple of days that Cerritos was right down the road and had a more beginner friendly beach break. The water was an unbelievable color, and clear, just like most of the other beaches we surfed. This beach was more touristy, but still really nice. We met an American expat named Paul and he kindly offered to lend us his umbrella for the next week. Everyday we saw him at the beach and he gave us tips on surfing and was generally the nicest guy. He had been surfing for over 20 years, but said he still considered himself a kook. Don't be fooled though, he was very skilled and was having a blast every day we saw him out there.

Cerritos is where I really hit a block in the learning process. Most days the waves were fairly big and powerful. Craig loved this and got significantly better during this time. I just became terrified. I was held down under a couple waves, slammed, confused, and I became really scared of getting back out there. I took a day off when the waves were 8-10ft tall one day, knowing I would not have a good time, and before I knew it we were heading over to Cabo Pulmo to go snorkeling. I had hit a surfers block and needed some time to work through it.

After a couple days snorkeling we needed to return Julia to the airport in La Paz. We camped for a night at Tecolote and then headed north, stopping at Bahia Concepcion again, and eventually ending up in the seven sisters region (Central Pacific Baja). We had briefly stopped by this area on our way down, but now the surf was breaking and we arrived just time to to catch the best waves of our lives.

Make America Mexico Again!

The best part about having a home on wheels is the view out the back window. No need for art on the walls, you get a new piece of art every day depending on where you park!

For the final two weeks of our Baja trip we stayed in the central Baja area driving the dirt roads between three breaks depending on what the swell was doing. This is where we really found our Baja flow, and our Baja tribe. There was a group migrating between these breaks and we fell in line with them, sitting with them in the line up, camping, and hanging out with them in the evenings. There was Mike from Alaska, and his pup Dungey, Andre from Brazil, Justin from Wyoming, and his pup Bear, and Spencer and Karolina from Las Vegas, and their pup Cappuccino. Other people floated in and out, Randy and his son Tom from Montana, and Baja surf culture fixture Glen Horn. Speaking of Glen, many of you will find him very interesting. He spends 9 months of the year in Baja- 6 months living out of the truck pictured below, 3 months at a treehouse he built in Scorpion Bay (see video HERE), and the other 3 months at his home in San Diego. His wife Roberta joins him for extended periods in Baja, and he has been living this life since he retired at the ripe old age of 37. El Toro Rojo Grande, when set up in camp mode even boasts a weight room! Also, huge thanks to Glen for jumping our battery when we found it completely dead in the middle of nowhere. We had to drive into Guerrero Negro to get a new one.

When I saw there was another woman- Karolina- roaming around the camps, I nudged Craig. "Craig! There's a woman! We need to go make friends." He had barely noticed we hadn't seen a woman other than me in the line up for weeks, but I was painfully aware. We noticed their Sprinter (2wd) seemed to be stuck in the sand so we drove over along with Andre and Justin to pull it out. Karolina invited us to their site for drinks and I finally had a woman to talk to about the Baja experience. I was so excited. Over the next few days we urged each other to get out there and try, often going out together. The guys in the line up were amazing and encouraging, pushing us to catch waves we were scared of, and insisting we were one step closer to riding a wave every time we wiped out. This group helped me to not be intimidated by the line up, and even though they were shredding Craig and I felt like with a little more practice we could shred too. Here is Karolina and Spencer's rig at our campsite one night.

Stay tuned for our final Baja installment, coming soon! We finally learn to shred...well Craig has been shredding for a week or so at this point, but I'm too busy getting tumbled in the waves to take photos of him doing it.
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Leg 5: San Diego to the ENTIRE Baja Peninsula Continued...

We really started to get in the surf flow in central Baja. I was still trying to work through my fear of being pummeled by the large waves so I paddled out one day with Craig and Andre. Andre is a really good surfer. Amazing surfer, really. So when he started to yell "Paddle, paddle, paddle!" well, I paddled. I caught this 6-7 ft wave (they are measured from the back, so the face is 12-14ft) and I proceeded to eat it hard. I came up and paddled back out, shaken and a little more terrified. Then I got caught on the inside (which means I was too far in and the waves were breaking on my head) and I decided to paddle in. Andre said to Craig, "Oh no, she paddled in. She can catch one of these waves!" Fast forward to later that afternoon during low tide. The waves had gotten smaller, and everyone went to town to re-supply or went over to a different break that only goes off during low tide. Craig and I paddled back out and caught the smaller waves, although the rides were not nearly as long as the morning waves I finally got a feel for what it's like to pop up and turn sideways fast. I felt like I leveled up and broke through the surf block. Here is an image of Andre catching a wave under the biggest supermoon in 30 years. He was the last one out of the water that night and the first one back in at sunrise the next morning.

Andre at sunrise

Baja wildlife

Here is finally an image of Craig surfing. During this time I tried to surf as much as possible, although sometimes it was more fun to shoot. I attempted to shoot in the water a couple times earlier in the trip, but with fairly poor results. I can't wait to go back and try again now that I know a little more, but I'm sure I'll have the same surf or to shoot?

Here's Justin from Wyoming shredding. How does someone from Wyoming learn to surf? Well, he goes to Baja for extended periods of time.

Ok, so although I had mastered the pop-up and ridden several waves, I still hadn't gotten one of those reeeeeeeally long rides that Baja is famous for. I saw people catching waves and riding for 30 seconds, a minute, sometimes even longer. Before we left I really wanted to get one of those long rides. About three days before we had to drive home I was in the water with Craig, Justin, and Spencer. The boys were catching great waves all over the place and the waves were smaller and slower than they had been the last few days. I thought that this was my chance for a long ride. Spencer caught a wave and was off, and I was in position for the next one. I caught it with ease and made the bottom turn and came back up the wave. This is the point I had gotten to so many times before, and usually what happened after coming back up the wave is that I neglected to angle my board back down the face to keep riding. This caused me to come off the backside of the wave and leave a beautiful face unridden. But this time I managed to turn back down for another swooping turn, and then again, and again, and again. I fell off the wave when it closed out in waist deep water and I heard loud whooping and cheers coming from the cliff and the line up. Karolina, Andre, and Mike were yelling from the cliff, and I distinctly heard Craig's voice from behind the break. I paddled back out with a huge smile on my face and Justin, Craig, and Spencer congratulated me. I thought, "Oh, so this is why people surf." It was a great feeling. I went on to catch several more long rides before we left. Photo by the lovely Karolina.

Craig surfing our favorite break.

On our last night in Baja we all gathered in Spencer & Karolina's spacious Sprinter. We talked, and ate, and drank, and lived in the moment. Some of us were heading off the next day. Craig and I back to San Diego, Justin to pick up his girlfriend in Cabo. Spencer and Karolina would head north in the next few days to return to Vegas. Mike was wandered further south, and Andre had plans to meet two Brazilian friends. Here's the whole crew on our last night.

The weather had started to turn a bit colder and the surf was scheduled to go flat later in the day. It was our time to go, even though we could have happily stayed for another day, another month, another year. As we were driving through the little fishing village I said to Craig, "I could live here. Do you think you could live here?" "Yea" he replied. And we drove back to San Diego. Here is an image of him sunrise surfing on our last morning there.

Next we head back to Colorado to surf some POW! Otherwise known as ski and snowboard.
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DIY Custom Truck or Van Awning Under $100

Hi Everyone! We made our own custom awing fitted to our Suburban for 1/5 the price of pre-made awnings. In this video we show you the set up and describe the steps we used to build it. Tools needed are a drill and hammer. You can find all the supplies at Harbor Freight. Ask any additional questions you have in the comments below.

Here is the build THREAD we used to build it.

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