"SeaWeed Monkeys"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) The first thing I saw when I got to Ocean Beach (San Diego) was these strange looking seaweed things (The round part naturally fill with gas, then floats to the surface to collect sunlight.) People had carved them out like Jack-o-lanterns & left them in the sun to dry. I believe the one on the right is supposed to be smoking a bong...oh, excuse me... a water pipe.
 "Under the Pier at Sunset"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) Keep walking this direction at sunset & you will find a big collection of travelkidz & hippies, hanging out & playing drums, smoking funny things & tellin' funny stories.
 "Leading the Curl"
(San Diego, CA - 2010)
 "Tide Creeping In"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) At this point (of this month), you usually had to leave within an hour of sunset... or else you would be trapped on the rocks by the tide.
 "Palm Streak"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) This unhappy palm tree says it all.
 "Ever Changing Puddles"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) Soon, these puddles would all be underwater, due to the tide.
 "Spray at Dusk"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) Taken just a few second after photo 178.
 "Mossy Crumble"
(San Diego, CA - 2010)
 "Longest Pier"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) This is the longest pier in SoCal. True Story.
(San Diego, CA - 2010) As the night got darker, the only way to find your friends was to look for the flick of their lighter.
 "Cold Day"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) This was on an especially cold day in San Diego... it dipped down to the upper 50's. I ALMOST had to put my hoodie on! (Meanwhile, the locals walked around in multiple layers, scarves, hats & coats... no joke!)
 "Rinsing Tides"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) This spot was neat because the water carved out a great little channel (that you can't really see here). The channel went back 15 feet or so.
 "Down the Ridge of the Wave"
(San Diego, CA - 2010) I used to meditate on the pier (right where I took this photo from.) I would breathe in as the waves came towards me, when I felt the waves 'bump' the pier below me, I breathed out.
 "Bird Said It All"
(San Diego, CA - 2010)
(Southern California - 2010)
Barley running up a tree
(Wichita, KS - 2010) Barley would run/jump straight up this tree and retrieve this stuffed animal from almost 7 foot up!
Barley runnin' up tree in a poncho
(Wichita, KS - 2010) My friend, JeetleBruce, is taller than me & Barley easily grabbed things taller than him!
 "Hidden Passage Way"
(Athens, GA - 2010) I stopped into Athens on my way to visit a friend at Nature's Harmony Farm (in Elberton, GA... BEFORE I apprenticed there...) I found this little secret niche & it was so grimey & colorful that I just HAD to photograph it!
 "Athens Alleyway"
(Athens, GA - 2010) The painted red lines & the electric rope lights really helped me decide I needed this photo.
 "Sneaky Shadow"
(Atlanta, GA - 2010) You might not think about it at first, but that shadow is NOT from the lantern shown.
Barley lookin' fresh
(Wilmington, CA - 2010) As if he didn't look cool enough with his stylin' hoodie by the ocean... you probably can't see them, but he also has fresh 'gangsta slices' I shaved on the side of his head! (To match mine!)
 "Half Passed Moon"
(North Carolina - 2010)
 "Still Hitchin' at Dusk"
(North Carolina - 2010) It's about time to set up camp if you're hitch hiking. Very, very rarely will someone pick you up when it's dark.
(Wendell, NC - 2010)
 "Orange Melody"
(Wendell, NC - 2010) Like the clouds were on fire...
 "Textured Skypiece"
(Wendell, NC - 2010) I like how the trees sneak in from the sides.
 "Skeeter & the Mushroom"
(Wendell, NC - 2010) One of Barley's buddies & one of mine too! My friend Kara & I & our dogs explore the woods by her house.
 'Lonesome Fungi"
(Wendell, NC - 2010) Cap to the sun, a lone mushroom stands against the towering trees.
 "Rollin' in Sunny Patches"
(Wendell, NC - 2010) A lovely triangle formed by nature.
 "Safe Now"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) Whenever I hitched towards the south, as soon as I saw the first 'boiled peanuts' sign I stopped what I was doing & yelled 'We're safe!" ...because that meant we were finally in the south. (...and yes, I'm a midwest boy, technically a 'damn yankee'. ...I just feel more comfortable in the south, especially while hitch hiking.)
Barley in the 'Confederate Cave'
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) This cave was used by confederate soldiers during the civil war. They blasted out the cave with dynamite & even blew 'side chambers' that you could get to without having to go outside. They also had holes to shoot guns through at anyone coming up towards the cave. (I also ended up shooting the opening scene of 'Dead Moans, IA' here in this cave.)
 "Clingman's Dome"
(Blue Ridge Mountains, NC - 2010) The tallest peak in the back (center) is called Clingman's Dome. This is all part of the Blue Ridge mountain range.
 "Rushing Waters"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) Normally, this was a relatively calm river, perfect for trout fishing (ranked #8 in the country for trout, actually). But, around 9am they would 'turn the water on' for rafters (so they could float & not hit the bottom.) They usually 'shut it off' around 5 or 6.
 "Blue Ridge"
(Blue Ridge Mountains, NC - 2010) (Western) North Carolina is my favorite part of the entire United States! Specifically, the Smokies, Blue Ridge & Nantahala.
 "Whoops & Hollers"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) The rafters (barely visible in the middle right) could always be heard hootin' in these here hollers!
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) Tracks from the retired 'Smoky Mountain Railway" train. Only passenger trains, full of tourists ride these rails now.
 "Round the Bend"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) I think my train dork is showing.
Barley, the great tracker
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) Well, at least Barley's a train dork too! Hahahaha! He is, actually. He loves riding them with me! Whenever he hears a train whistle (even far away) his ears perk up & he looks over at me. I always have to tell him... "No, we're not gettin' on that train, Barley!"
 "Creeping Mist"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) The Nantahala Forest is just a few inches shy of being considered a 'sub-temperate rain forest'. Which means, it rains a lot. It rains or sprinkles almost every day or at least every other day.
 "Jewelweed Falls"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) Beautiful falls with a beautiful plant growing above them, Jewelweed (Touch-me-nots). Jewelweed is one of the best plants to know in the woods... it's great for bug bites, stings & Poison Ivy. Just grab some leaves or some of the pretty orange (or yellow) flowers & wipe them on your itchy spot!
 "Morning Mist"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010)
 "Lichen with a View"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) Lichen is, of course, the cool looking stuff growing on the tree here. It always has great texture for photographing!
 "Smokin' Smokies"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2010) If I had to guess, I'd say this is probably why they are called the Smokies.
 "Arrrrrr! It be the P.B.R.!"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) PBR (Pizza By the River) is THE place for pizza in 'the gorge'. It is a rock-n-roll, beer drinkin' pirate lovin' pizza joint. I spent a lot of time here with friends. There was bluegrass shows on the patio & whenever people floated by we yelled out "ARRRRRRE YA GONNA STOP FOR SOME PIZZA?!" Hahahahaha!
 "PBR Rocker"
(Nantahala Gorge, NC - 2010) The favorite place to sit & enjoy your slice of pizza at the PBR... in a rocking chair, on a porch facing a mountain.
Snow pyramid dragon
(Carlisle, IA - 2010) A dragon snow fort I built with the help of my friend & his 11 year old daughter. I piled up snow from the driveway, shaped it & hollowed it out. They came over & helped me add on the dragon & color it (we put some food coloring in spray bottles.)
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San Diego & Midwest
During the winter, I continued exploring SoCal, spending much time In Ocean Beach (San Diego). Some friends helped me build a fort... well, more than a fort really... We named it 'Chateau De Swanky Willow'. It had multiple guest quarters, a 'convertible' roof, a small library & constructed in a great location out of sight, but still near 'the strip'. Throughout winter, we remained the most comfortable 'travel kidz' in all of San Diego!
I left San Diego in February towards Wichita (KS) again... at this time I began thinking about building a secret cabin in the mountains of North Carolina.
A. The 'skeleton' of the cabin
A. The north wall (on right side) is natural rock, part of the beautiful mountain that I chose to become the build site. I chose to use the natural rock wall because I knew it would be easier to hide the cabin (blending in as just a 'part of the mountain'). Plus, it was also an ALREADY EXISTING solid wall that would bounce heat from my stove back into the cabin better than anything that I could make, by hand, with no money, in secret & by myself.
B. Mixing mountain mortar
Everything I built with was found on the mountain somewhere. I found a great 'clay vein' 1/2 a mile DOWN the mountain... & soon began hauling UP 5 gallon buckets half full of reddish clay (after a few weeks I could haul up a FULL bucket of heavy clay ...after a month I started hauling 2 buckets at once!) Once I regained my breath, I had to go fill empty bottles up (usually about 3 liters) from one of the springs down the mountain a 1/4 mile or so.
C. Drying mortar
A layer of mortar & stones begins to form the floor. (A final smoother layer gets added later.) I ended up making about a 100 gallons of 'mountain mortar'. I dried & cut grasses to use instead of straw & I mixed in some hardwood ashes as well (I had been saving hardwood ashes because I was making Lye also.) I now know to use sand, but for simply creating/altering my own recipe for a mortar... it has worked great! (4 years later and it's still holding strong, with minimal weathering!)
D. Hauling Bamboo UP
This is part of the last 400 foot up to the cabin. It is steeper than it looks, the trees are actually growing straight up! (The camera is at an angle.) I hauled up over 30 Bamboo poles up total, lashing them together with old bike tubes & tying a rope on both ends to 'rudder' them between trees. I harvested them from 4 miles away 2 months earlier, so they could 'cure' (and be lighter!) I hauled them 3 miles over & then a mile UP. I moved them at night, so locals wouldn't see me & begin wonderin
E. Notching the Bamboo
It is almost too simple to cut a perfect square out of Bamboo. I cut 2 small slits with a saw (parallel to each other) then put the tip of my survival knife where I needed the next line to be (knife tip resting on the end of one of the cut slits) ...then WHACK! I hit the knife with something... I then repeated for the last line of the square. I notched the Bamboo so that it would hold tight onto the 'skeleton' of the cabin. (You can see how much higher the rock wall is than the tip of the roof.)
F. Lined up & lashed down
After they all were notched, I tied them all on with a heavy duty rope. I eventually laid a thick waterproof tarp down on the Bamboo, then some scavenged tin sheet metal on that & then another waterproof (dark green) tarp to top it all off. I made sure that no rain could find it's way anywhere through the roof... the first heavy rain storm came 2 days after I finished the roof. I sat nervously by candlelight, continuously checking for drips & leaks with my flashlight. But, none ever dripped!!
G. Lincoln Log corner
I only have the 1st row of logs mortared up here. The top logs aren't notched (yet).
H. Looking through the front doorway
You can kind of tell the slant at which the cabin was built on in this photo. I had to build up the foundation, raising the 'rock floor' up & out (south). Otherwise, everything would have been rolling towards the south wall forever! Hahahaha!
 "Ancient Rock Chimney"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2010) One day, while hunting blackberries, I discovered the crumbled remnants of a log cabin built ages ago. All that was left was the sheet metal roof & this awesome rock chimney. I hauled up all the sheet metal for my roof. Though, I didn't make a rock chimney, I studied it closely to really understand how to build one in the original Appalachian style.
I. Mixing mortar again
During the day, I would partially uncover the roof for sunlight. Here, I am mixing more 'mountain mortar' to make some shelves near the stove for spices & such.
J. New shelf begins to dry
I let my shelf dry for several days. Anywhere the mortar ever tried to crack, I wiped down with a wet rag to seal the cracks back up. You can also see the 'hobo stove' I made from an old 5 gallon metal bucket. Wood goes in the front & there is a hole in the back to help let out smoke. A kettle or a skillet warms up quickly on the top. (I used heavy steel railroad plates under the stove, so I could easily scoop out the ashes/coals.)
K. Finished shelf
This shelf made cooking so much easier! All my spices, cooking oils & cooking utensils were easy to reach & organized. The yellow tupperwares (bottom left) are full of dried Mountain Mint that I picked for tea & some dried Wood Ear mushrooms I picked for soups.
 "Tea Kettle Whistlin"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2012) This is actually taken 2 YEARS LATER than the rest of the photos shown here. This is in 2012. The cabin STILL stands strong & it appears that NO ONE has yet found it... or if they did find it... they didn't bother it or move anything around. It IS in a very inconspicuous location though! Unless someone was chasing game up that way, there is NO reason to be walking that way! There are much easier ways to get up the mountain & even the deer trails don't cut through.
L. Beginning to get pretty cozy
Though it is still unfinished here... I do have a 4" cushion as a mattress, plenty of blankets & a few pillows. I began sleeping in it as soon as there was a waterproof roof. I have snacks, books, games, medicine & other handy supplies all along the wall between the bed & the rock wall. The floor also turned out looking pretty good!
M. "Convertible" roof closed
The far left end of the roof is actually what I am calling a 'convertible roof'...
N. "Convertible" roof opened
The 2 Bamboo poles I'm using to open the 'convertible' roof are lashed on the back rafter with bicycle tubes (I use those for everything!) The bicycle tubes act as 'hinges', allowing the left side of the roof to be opened for sunlight & more importantly... air flow. (Also, to push/pull smoke when needed!) It was very difficult to make the roof be water tight, but STILL be able to be opened. I ended up overlapping tarps & sheet metal & finally found a good way that wouldn't let in water!
O. All covered up
This is what it looked like when I left (and every time I leave it since.) I usually put new branches over top the green tarp to help blend it in with the forest. Mountain Laurel is great for this, as it's leaves are bigger & they roll up on the branch & harden a bit... instead of quickly drying up & disintegrating.
 "Speckled Bottoms"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2012) This shallow, rocky bottomed river is home to many Rainbow Trout & Brown Trout. The lush mountain in the background may have on it a secret cabin, but I'll never tell.
 "13 Rattles"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2012) When I originally saw this beautiful Timber Rattlesnake, there was a smaller (darker) snake next to it. (I think they were about to 'bump uglies'.) Before I could hurry up & bring my camera over, the smaller one slithered away. I wish I had gotten them both, because they were both beautiful!
 "Timber Rattlesnake"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2012) Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not lying when I say that this rattlesnake is the 7th poisonous snake that I have touched so far! Now, I'm NOT an idiot. I DON'T try to touch snakes that are coiled & ready to strike! I wait until they are slithering away & the usually run my finger down their tail (lightly) or lightly pinch their rattle. My list includes: 3 Timber Rattlers, 2 Eastern Diamondbacks, 1 Copperhead, 1 Rock Rattler, 1 Water Mocassin & 1 Coral Snake.
Midnight stroll on the mountain
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2010) Taking advantage of the great full moon light, I stroll around the mountain, fishing spear in hand "just in case". (In case I suddenly was attacked by fish!? Hahaha!)
 "Woodland Fairy Site"
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2012) The actual title of this photo is "Woodland Fairies Have Been Spotted Here". (I just ran out of room.) I collected my spring water just a bit further up from here. I used this waterfall as a (very cold) natural shower after long days building. I more commonly used my homemade shower (made from a (dark) 8 gallon bucket & a hose.) I usually used the homemade one more, because It was easy to add some warm water in with it, so I could take a warm shower!
My Earth Calendar
(Smoky Mountains, NC - 2010) I figured out how to make this while meditating. According to my calendar, this photo was taken on Saturday, September 4th at around 12:30-1:30. North is towards the upper right corner. The next full moon appears to be about 19 days away… I also had stones set about 10 foot out marking sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset for each month I was there. By standing in the circle (facing North) I could then see which way the earth was moving & how the moon was moving too.
2 Mountain Gangstas
Haha! I put pants on for this photo! Hahaha! I actually put them on for EVERY photo. The best thing about being so high up on a mountain was I got to be naked ALL the time! 90% of the time up there I was BUTT NAKED! I chopped down trees, made mortar, hauled supplies... everything. The good thing was that I could hear/see anyone coming up, WAY before they could ever see me. (Thanks Barley!) I'd just put on pants, then go point them towards somewhere 'cooler' to check out on the mountain instead!
2010: Secret Cabin
Smoky Mountains (NC)
Though these pictures are just snapshots (& not actual photography), I am including them, to help further explain my long strange path, as well as explain the entire history of Starving Iguanas.
I spent nearly half a year constructing & collecting material to build my 'secret cabin'. I built it 3/4 the way up a mountain, only a few miles from Appalachian Trail. I made almost 100 gallons of mortar, from clay collected off the mountain, 1/3 mile below.
I cut & seasoned Bamboo, then hauled the seasoned Bamboo 3 miles over to & then UP the mountain (almost a mile) by hand, usually in the dead of night, to keep prying eyes off my strange activities.
I worked queitly during the day, Barley at my side, but with confidence, knowing that from my location... I would hear & see anyone coming my way LONG before they could see me.