Solo For the Soul

I have been amidst the darkness of the vortex of an unbeknownst level of labor. I have lived an entire life of jumping into things over my head and beyond my scope of realization of exactly what I am in for. However, as before I wallowed through the valley of the shadows of ridiculousness and emerged on the other side a better man as a result of the journey. I was remodeling a home on a nearly impossibly ambitious timeline, and learning to be a father to a brand new baby boy. My absence in postings to this website is just one of the many indicators of my absence from reality and daily life. I will explain all of that in a different post on here when I finally finish the remodel to a showroom status. As for now I will just say I went to a dark place, grew a large beard, camped out in a construction site, and lived to tell the story. As a reward to myself my lovely wife acknowledged my efforts and allowed my to travel half way across the globe to my happy powder place, Niseko, Japan. I went solo for the soul. No big cameras, no magazine projects, no athletes, filmers, or photographers. Just me, and the journey laying out in front of me.  

^Travel is a gift I don't take lightly. It has enriched my life beyond expectation. My night job deicing airplanes for Delta Airlines has afforded my experiences that no dollar-for-dollar 401K contribution can ever match. I am glad the check clears too, but I might do it for the travel alone. It is a quality perk.

^Window seat view coming into my connection flight to Tokyo in Portland, Oregon.

^My five dollar fast food lunch in the Narita airport. 

^Finally, after a good amount of travel I arrive at my home away from home. Last winter I stayed here at the YHA Niseko Fujiyama Karimpani nestled in the countryside of Niseko. Max and Yuko Ito run a quiet hostel B&B like an extension of themselves. All the guests eat together from the home cooking kitchen of Yuko and the friendly staff for each meal. Their children play in the hallway as you meet new friends and enjoy the Japanese homestyle cooking. I often get bouts of homesickness when I travel from time to time. As I shook off a little bit of those feelings I found myself put right at ease by the family style environment and friendly spirits of all the guests, and most likely as a result of our hosts. 

^Anyone who took any effort to seek out so, has found a special soulfulness to these hills and people. My OCD nature lends itself to the culture's cleanliness and organization. Everything has a place, and time, and purpose. The Shinto belief of the existence of god in all things from the rocks and trees to the air and snow is clearly at work in everything. The goddess of winter, Yukii-Onna, brings the snows to this area by way of the Sea of Japan in droves for nearly a month straight each January. I am only thankful I have been blessed with the opportunities to be a part of it. 

^I am also glad they see fit to close this road on account of the goddesses presence each winter, because the touring access from it is among some of my favorite stashes. A solo tour in the woods was the first call of action for my trip. Breaking trail in the silence of perfectly spaced Japanese glades is exactly what I came for. Of course the equally silent, but waist deep powder is the extra icing on the cake to allow my soul to emerge from it laborious depths of three months of dust and frustration. 

^At one point a trail breaking kick-turn to the south yielded this view of the morning sun trying to peek through the consistently snowy overcast skyline. Bluebird days are the exception to the normal this time of year here, but that is why I am here. This little peek felt like a gift just for me in my lonely situation in the woods of Niseko. After a day of short laps in the deepness of the trees I slid down the country road on my skis to the pugently obvious mineral bath near the sulfer rich mountain stream. I paid my five dollars and soaked my achey traveled body in the traditional onsen. As I lay in the hot spring alone with snow falling on my head I melted into the pungent water. I laughed to myself out loud as I often do on my journeys at the preposterousness of the reality I found myself in. I have a lovely wife, and brand new baby boy, an overly abundant life, and now I am finding myself in one of the most beautiful places on earth ski touring waist deep powder in the lonely trees of Niseko, Japan. All the while wrapping up the day in the onsen bath in the bottom of the canyon among the mountain stream.  Goodness gracious.

^My new friend from Australia, Latisha, is helping Max's children with their homework along with a taste of goofiness. Max's children are blessed to be introduced to his very international demographic of guests. Latisha and her husband, Paul, are among the many folks who come back to see Max over and over each year from around the globe. They were also lovely guests and friends to me on my stay. They all were including my dorm bunkmates, Ben and Todd, who were also from Australia. Paul and I among the other guests solved all kinds of world problems each night on Max's nightly onsen tours. Good people are everywhere and all you need to do is introduce yourself to find them. 

^Max hooked me up with his good friend, Minoru Sieno, who is a guru of a guide on Mt. Yotei. I was stoked at the chance to go out for a stormy tour with him on that special mountain that looms over the skyline of Niseko. 

^One of Minoru's friends leads the way through the woods. Our language barrier is rather high, which I aim to correct now that I have vowed to return many times in my future. However, thankfully for me, smiles and high fives translates across any language barrier.


^Seriously, if you can't find peace inside your soul in here then you are in big trouble.

^The locals.

^Thigh deep powder.

^Minoru's soup for our lunch at his base area cabin.

^These guys gave me a gift I had no way of expressing to them, but I hope they felt it in my smiles, high fives, and yes, I may have been bowing to Minoru in dramatic worship at one point. I may be a bit over the top at times, but I think they felt my intention.

^I hooked up with a friend from last year in town for a few beers. Harley Trivic is an Aussie snowboard pro that I met last year. When I heard he was back in town I figured I'd go out of my way to reach out to him. I am glad I did. I meet a lot of folks in my travels and anytime I can extend that relationship beyond that "one time" scenario, I like to try to do so. It is people in these places that makes the world go around. Good people.

^On my last day I hooked up with hostel guest and now new friend, Jaryd Krause. Jaryd is an Aussie from the Gold Coast who travels the globe most of his life. This trip was Japan until spring and then on to China and the unknown. He runs a travel website,, among a variety of other online-based endeavors. The life lends itself to that kind of work, and I can definitely relate. We spent the day waist deep in the backbowls of Niseko United ski area. It was a leg burning and fitting finale to my trip. One more night of onsen, and I my time was done. The following morning I was packed up and on my way back home with a full heart, and eager to get back to my wife and baby boy in Utah. Also, a storm had finally arrived in my Wasatch home to break the early January dry season that I was escaping when I ventured over the big pond for the Japanese powder paradise. Good timing for me I guess. I took on the marathon of return time travel escapades with a smile and a soul that was restored beyond expectation, as usual.