Monday, July 1, 2013

That which inspires me: Nature

These are some of the places that have inspired me to do what I do when I build gardens.  Nature is foremost for me always but sometimes humans do a pretty knockout job too.  Here I will show some of my favorite natural landscapes on Earth.  In a later essay we will visit landscapes created by humans that have moved me as well.

Olympic National Park, Washington
At the base of the World's largest Western Red Cedar, Olympic National Park

Ancient trees are astounding things, sometimes spanning millennium.  We are here but a short time by comparison.  Olympic National Park in Washington State harbors some of the largest species of trees on the planet.

Redwood National Park
Giant Redwoods tower more than 200 feet above the Eel River in Northern California

The western United States is one of the most beautiful parts of the world and the biggest trees are found here.  No trees are taller on this planet than the Redwoods of northern California.  Everything looks small after a day amongst these giants.  Trees can live to be over 2,000 years old.  98% of the original old growth of these magnificent forests have been cut and turned in to building materials.
Only in America
Cerro Fitzroy in Argentina
I don't think I've ever stared at a cloud for so long.  It lasted for over an hour, an eye in the sky

Patagonia in the south of Argentina and Chile has some of the most breathtaking landscapes I've ever seen.  The largest glacier system outside of Antarctica has sculpted the Andes into unimaginably fantastic vertical forms.  I've spent parts of 3 winters trekking throughout the region.  A clean, unspoiled natural ecosystem is unsurpassable in my mind.

Perrito Moreno Glacier
Glaciers make it clear that the Earth is always being resculpted, constantly changing and evolving.  The famed Perrito Moreno Glacier in Argentina is still advancing while most around the globe are retreating due to global warming.  The glacier at times forms an ice dam that separates two lakes.  When the upper lake fills to the breaking point an incredible flood of water bursts through creating a true spectacle.

The Galapagos Islands

Our boat driver jumps in to the abyss
When people ask "Where is the most amazing place you've ever been?" I usually say The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.  We stayed in the islands for 3 weeks, and the intimate contact with wildlife really made me feel as if I was a part of Nature rather than separate.   Evolution is made totally obvious when you travel from island to island and see the variations that have developed between species based on the restraints of each environment.
Swimming with playful female sea lions is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had
Some of the most pristine beaches on the planet

River Rafting
The Misahuai River in Ecuador
Rafting is one of my favorite activities.  Living on a river changes you.  There is only one way in and one way out and the route in between can vary from utterly placid to the most exciting thing you've ever experienced.  Days of clean air untainted by automobile exhaust are a rare commodity in today's world (the first thing you notice when you get to the take out is the smell of cars).  There is the marvelous scenery, the vitality of riparian ecosystems, and the thrill of the rapids (I've nearly drown!).  I've rafted the Thompson River in British Columbia, the Middle fork and main Salmon Rivers in Idaho, the Snake, the Rogue in Oregon, the Colorado through the Grand Canyon (more than two weeks of some of the grandest scenery imaginable), and the Green River in Utah.  In Asia I've rafted the Marsayangdi in Nepal.  In South America I've rafted the Futaleufeu in Chile twice, the Rio Fonce in Colombia (during high water the rapids were the largest I've ever seen, and the Misahuai in Ecuador where hand size blue morpho butterflies and flocks of parrots bejeweled the Andean jungle above the Amazon Basin.

Camping on a beach in the Grand Canyon in Arizona
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake during a lunar eclipse    photo by Louis Ruth

I grew up in Western Oregon and fantasized as a child that I would someday become a ranger in a National Park.  When I was 18 I got a job working on tour boats at Crater Lake National Park, the deepest lake in the United States.  I rode around it at night on the Rim Drive alone on my bicycle during a full moon once.  It is incredible to swim in it's endless pure blue.  Blue is the only color in the spectrum refracted in the crystal clear water of this 1,943 foot deep lake.
For geology it is hard to beat Utah.  Layer upon layer of rock are revealed from the temple like heights of Bryce Canyon to the depths of the Grand Canyon.  The Grand Escalante Staircase and Capitol Reef lie in between, seen from what is one of the most beautiful roads there is, especially in the fall when the Aspens are golden.  Around Moab, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks are sculpted by wind and rain to the realm of the surreal.

Southern Utah
The Doll House, in the Maze, Canyonlands National Park
The Nepal Himalaya
Jharkot on the Annapurna Circuit

The Himalaya are the greatest and highest mountain ranges in the World.  I trekked to Annapurna Base Camp in 1996, and for 21 days walked over 200 kilometers on the Annapurna Circuit in 1997, and Langtang/Gosaikund in 1998.  Crossing the high passes in deep snow were the most physically challenging things I've ever done.

Climbing to Thorong La Pass in Nepal in April, 1997
Southeast Asia

I spent 11 winters in Asia.  A roundtrip flight to Bangkok from Portland used to cost around $500.  From there I would island hop to some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen in Southern Thailand and islands off the coast of Malaysia.
Kayaking in the Phi Phi Islands many years before the Tsunami

My first trip to Asia was to Bali, Java, Lombok, Sumbawa, and the Island of Komodo where the dragons live.  Komodo was like visiting some primeval film set, with giant lizards, wild pigs on the beach, flying foxes in the trees, and acrobatic dolphins doing triple twists for the fun of it on a wilderness island.  Later on I traveled around the great island of Sumatra and saw Orangutans living in the jungle near Bukit Lawang.

I saw Orangutans in the jungle near Bukit Lawang on Sumatra
Southeast Asia has a treasure trove of incredible places to visit.  I visited Myanmar at a time when travel restrictions were briefly removed for the first time in decades.  I visited Cambodia twice, the first time when the Khmer Rouge controlled much of the country.   Laos is perhaps the sweetest country I've explored.  A gentle culture separated from the rest of the World for decades somehow preserved it from the rapid development that has swept up the planet.  That is now rapidly changing with the growth of tourism.
Many heavenly days were spent swimming in the pools of Quang Xi Falls near Luang Prabang, Laos
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
The Amalfi Coast from the Villa Rufalo in Ravello, Italy

Italy is a geographically beautiful country with surprisingly rugged mountains and some dramatic coastlines.  One of the most breathtaking of all is the Amalfi coast, which has inspired lore since ancient times.  The Sirens from Homer's Odyssey were believed to live on small rocky islands off shore, luring sailors to entrapment with their intoxicating songs.  Tears came to my eyes each time I navigated the winding highway along it's precipices.

The Columbia River Gorge, Oregon and Washington
Crown Point and the beaches of Rooster Rock State Park in the Columbia River Gorge

One of the main reasons I live in Portland is it's close proximity to the Columbia River Gorge, and epic landscape that cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range between Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens.  A number of catastrophic floods during the last ice age created the the sheer cliffs from which plummet the largest number or high waterfalls in North America.  Many a blissful day has been spent on the wild beaches of Rooster Rock State Park, home to Ospreys, Beaver, and Deer.

Sunset from Rooster Rock State Park
There are so many places I haven't mentioned, some intimate, some grand.  The sound of the trickle of snowmelt is one of the main reasons I build so many fountains.  Mountains and rocky beaches inspire my stonework.  And I love to plant trees, knowing they will grow to be so much greater than me.  I love Nature above all.

Thanks for reading, Jeffrey


  1. wow thanks so much for the great pictures! have a nice week! best wishes

  2. What a wonderful life you have led! I admire your comments about the never ending places you have visited!!! Your gardens are magnificent -your love of nature is obvious. Love your site and creativity............