Any given weekend around Glacier, WA

Somehow I managed to miss all the crappy weather that everyone was whining about earlier this summer. I’ve been home for about four weeks since early July and it’s rained approximately 10 minutes during that time. I’m guessing that daytime temps for Glacier have averaged in the mid 70s and peaked in the low 90s since I’ve been home. It’s been a perfect time to weed-whack the yard, build a fire pit, go for exploratory hikes and bikes, and drink beer in the sun. I’m kind of sad that I have to leave for AK in just over a day because the weather is showing no signs of being anything less than awesome anytime soon. Here are a few photos from the last few days from some of the recreation near my home.

The Yellow Aster trailhead is about 20 minutes from my house. Keep going up the road and you hit Twin Lakes. Some people are happy with peace, love, and trees. Others rock with Flying V guitars and Marshall full-stacks.


It’s wildflower season in the alpine.


Mt. Shuksan is not quite as snowy as she is in the wintertime but she’s pretty nonetheless. The ski area is on the right of the frame.


Crossing the last bit of snow before the final steps to the summit of Yellow Aster Butte.


On the summit of Yellow Aster Butte w/ Baker in the background. This was the first time I’ve repeated the first hike I did when I moved to Bellingham in Sept. 99. I’m wearing a Fu Manchu shirt because technical hiking outerwear has nothing on a cotton T representing one of the greatest bands in the world.


My friend Mike turned 40 this weekend and brought a keg of Rainier to the bottom of the DH bike trails to celebrate. The locals came out, shuttled DH trails, and partied. Notice all four of the vehicles in this part of the lot are sporting Metalmücil “Go Home” stickers. 542 pride.


My friend Dean dragged me away from yardwork this afternoon to go for a quick hike up Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker. 20 minutes from my house and one hour from the car and we’re at the Coleman glacier. Not bad.


And that’s about it for this weekend. Hikes, bikes, and summits = check. Yardwork = check. Epic ragers = check.

Fear of the Dock

This is my first “solo” recording in quite a while. Metalmücil has been taking up most of my creative musical energy but after seeing Iron Maiden for the fourth time the other day (they still kill it after all these years) and having a bit of time on my hands I decided to get back in the studio and finish a project that’s been sitting on the back burner for a few years.

“Fear Of The Dock” is based on Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark” from 1992. I wrote the lyrics back in 2008 after witnessing one too many yachter-yahoos crash into the docks in Friday and Roche Harbors. I figured there was no reason to try and reproduce the original arrangement so I came up with my own arrangement based on Garageband’s drum loop “Funky Latin Beat 14”. As with all other Bird Robot/Blood Plume recordings I play all guitars and bass as well as vocals.

Here’s a link to the original version so you know where I was coming from:

A Report from Saipan

June 15, 2012, Saipan, CNMI. We got a bit rained on in the morning and never ended up finding any whales, but we caught a couple of aku and I got to play my first game of Ultimate frisbee in four years. All in all it was a pretty good day; I’m sitting here in an air-conditioned house overlooking the pool with a beer at my side. Saipan may have economic troubles (you can read about some of them here… )but for the casual visitor like me it’s a tropical paradise. Just look at this photo I took the other day; the hotel on the beach houses a waterpark and the waters our front are a great place to snorkel, dive, fish, kiteboard, and do just about anything else you could want to do in crystal clear tropical waters. What’s not to like? The whole island is popular with tourists from all over Asia, especially Japan.

That being said, there’s a bit more going on in this photo. If you look closely you can see the wreckage of a Sherman tank in the lagoon. It just so happens that it ended up there exactly 68 years ago today during the opening stages of the Battle of Saipan, which lasted from June 15 to July 9, 1944. The hotel is located on Red Beach, where the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions landed. The only thing “Red” about Red beach nowadays are the petals on the flame trees but I’m sure the scene wasn’t quite so tranquil back then.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, if anywhere. I’ve been here before and swam out to the tank, visited the museums, walked the beaches, seen the suicide cliffs on the northern end of the island, read books about it, and even watched “Windtalkers” with Christian Slater and Nicolas Cage. I guess being here on the anniversary made me think about it again.

Red Beach today:


Red Beach 68 years ago today, courtesy of Wikipedia:


11/12 snow season recap

I’m writing this from a NOAA ship in the middle of the South Pacific ocean. We just left American Samoa en route to Hawaii via Palmyra Atoll. It sure was strange to wake up in a cold, dreary, rainy Bellingham and then a few flights later be in a warm, humid tropical paradise, but that’s how it goes sometimes. My freshly exposed skin is pretty excited to see the light; I can tell by the way it immediately turned bright red within seconds of meeting the equatorial sun.

So far the mammalian soup is as thin as expected, with only two sightings in the two days we’ve been out. Yesterday I caught a group of presumably spotted dolphins right at dusk and today I found a mixed group of spotters and striped dolphins hiding in the glare. Luckily there are enough Cook’s and Mottled petrels, Audobon’s, dark morph Wedge-tailed, and Sooty shearwaters, boobies, noddies, tropicbirds, and other feathery creatures to keep our eyes busy while we scan more charismatic megafauna.

Before I left I started going through all of my POV footage from the season. For various reasons I didn’t have very much to work with but today I was finally able to put together a little something that will at least give me a nice reminder of a fine season. Lots of high speed pow, a bit of meadow skipping, and the odd huge huck by Super Frenchie Matthias Giraud. Big thanks to Jean Remy Ceron of PVS for his non-POV footage. The first portion was taken in Japan with Grant Gunderson, K.C. Deane, Carston Oliver, and Johnny Collinson and the rest was taken at Mt. Baker.


Metalmücil at Graham’s on St. Patrick’s Day

This was by far the highest energy night we’ve had yet, and probably the craziest that Graham’s has been since Hell’s Belles played on New Years a few years back. We have to give props to the two death metal bands that opened for us and Katie for hosting. I hope everyone in the crowd found the shoes, hats, jackets, eardrums, and braincells they left behind. Instead of posting the whole show I just chose three extra rowdy songs from the middle of our set. “Slut Machine”, “Shit Wig”, and “Interstellar Up Your Butt”. Enjoy!

March 21 2012 at Mt. Baker

It’s the unexpected midweek bluebird days like today that make Mt. Baker my favorite place to ski on the planet. The weather reports were calling for more storm action (seems like the daily standard for this March) but apparently Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. When photographer extraordinaire Grant Gunderson and I got up to the parking lot it was blue!

There’s only one thing to do on a day like today and that’s go for a skin. I put a rather steep and challenging skin track up the first face above Chair 8 and Gunder and I quickly bagged a couple “one turns”, just in case the weather crapped out on us. By the time I was done with my second shot there was an army of skinners on the way up to Shuksan Arm. Among the first wave was Paul Kimbrough, who is in my opinion one of the strongest telemark skiers on the planet. We discussed the “Slingshot Gap”, which is a classic air that rarely gets attempted. Paul had tried it a few times before with limited success, but today it was looking prime. Paul wisely skied Slingshot (the line, not the gap) and then cycled back up, sent the air and completely STOMPED it. I’m going to say he’s the first free-heeler to ever attempt let alone stomp that thing, and if you know otherwise, feel free to call me out.
Here he is skiing Slingshot. For reference, Slingshot Gap involves airing from the top of the sunny spine above the cliffs OVER the ramp he’s skiing here and landing just to skier’s right/looker’s left of the rocks to his left. It’s gotta be in the ballpark of 100′ from takeoff to landing and you need some serious speed to clear it.


Also on the hunt for some action was Jackson Hole shredder Corey Felton. He and his brother Taylor had rolled into town the day before. Unfortunately, Taylor decided to deal with some RV maintenance and missed out on the action but Corey was all about it, first shredding the Hollywood spine and then sending 50-50 (he was in the latter 50 if you’re keeping score).


While those guys were teeing off on the Hollywood airs, Jesse Goosman and I went farther out the Arm and got some primo long-lens action. Here are a couple frame grabs from my POV camera.

1st line:


2nd line:


Once we had all cycled back up to the top of Chair 8, we decided to head up and work some close-up shots. Matthias Evangelista is hiding behind Grant and Austin (Corey’s filmer).


Corey shredding. Grant and Austin have the $$$ angle.


The views in this neck of the woods are pretty marginal.


Matthias getting artsy at the end of the day.


I shot a handful of photos with my snappycam. Grant shot somewhere around 32 gigs and claimed it was his best day of the season. It was probably mine too; how can you go wrong with perfect snow, awesome light, great friends, and a full day of shredding, spectating, and “working” (if you can call it that) in the mountains? Dorothy was right – there’s no place like home.

My first peer-reviewed publication

I’ve had my name in the acknowledgements (at the bottom) of many papers over the years and I’ve written or co-authored some Gov’t reports, but now, finally, I’ve got my name on top of a peer-reviewed publication.  It’s a note in the Journal of Marine Animals and Their Ecology (JMATE) Vol. 4 No. 2 2011

First Records of Anomalously White Harbor Porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from the Pacific Ocean
William Keener1, Isidore Szczepaniak1, Adam Ü2, Marc Webber1 and Jonathan Stern3
1Golden Gate Cetacean Research, 9 Edgemar Way, Corte Madera, CA, USA
2Protected Resources Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, 3333 North Torrey Pines Court, La Jolla, CA, USA 
3Biology Dept., San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA, USA

My portion of this note is related to a sighting of a white harbor porpoise in the San Juan Islands of Washington that I didn’t think much of at the time, but became a bit more interested in after discussing porpoises with Bill Keener and the good folks at Golden Gate Cetacean Research in California.  Turns out it was the first record of an anomalously white harbor porpoise in the Pacific Ocean.  

I’d like to thank my co-authors Bill Keener, Isidor Szczepaniak, Marc Webber, and Jon Stern, not to mention the reviewers, for their help with the writing process and my co-workers at the USFS birdhouse for tolerating my off-effort efforts when it came to cetacean action.  

Japanuary 2012

After the grand success of Japan 2011, Grant Gunderson, K.C. Deane, and I decided there was no way we could not return this year.  We brought Carston Oliver and the Seven Summitteer Johnny Collinson and spent nearly three weeks checking out some unknown little areas instead of the usual “Hakuba and Niseko” Gaijin haunts.  We were not disappointed. 


Flying in we were treated to a beautiful sunset over Mt. Fuji.



We’ve arrived!  Time to hop on the train to Myoko.



Bill Ross of Dancing Snow picked us up in Myoko and drove us to our hotel.  It was “Myokoing” heavily!



Carston and I were pretty excited to be right where we were.  The snow was stupid deep, just like last year.



K.C. goes big. 






When the snow is this deep even I get in on the flippy spinny action off of cliffs.  Thanks to BravoSki editor Tatsuya Tayagaki for the photo.



After my near-miss in the super deep snow of last year we adopted a new strategy this year, with one extra person standing by below in case landings were more augered than stomped.  It paid off for Johnny Snacks, who slightly over-rotated a corked 3 and ended up face down about four feet under the snow.



We also played with smaller, lower consequence features. 



Carston plays in pillowland while Gunder gets the shot.



And then it went blue!  K.C. skins above the ski area and looks at terrain that is far from mini-golf.



Carston nears the top.



Almost there…



Mt. Myoko looms high above us.  We’re not going to summit today.



Carston doesn’t mind dropping in to Trenchtown.  He goes left.



K.C. goes right.



A beautiful day merits an apres-ski snack of candied crabs, noodle bowls, and beer. 



The sun didn’t last long.  The next day it was Myokoing again so we stayed in the trees and gullies down low. 



Carston didn’t mind.  Here he is spinning into oblivion.



Johnny Snacks drops in to waist deep tree skiing perfection. 



Carston follows suit. 



Gunder had to clean off his ice beard after every run.



K.C. couldn’t keep his hands to himself.



Johnny Snacks gets upside-down.



Snacks can also do a mean switch zero spin double pole grab.



After a few more days of snow it went blue again.  K.C. can finally see where he’s going. 



Carston slays a spine.


Johnny Snacks makes it look easy.



A rare second-angle of yours truly plundering the depths, courtesy of K.C. Deane’s Instagram magic.  



Carston wonders “why ski down pillows when you could air over all of them?”



We took a day trip to Charmont Hiuchi.  They have high-speed lifts there but some of us were too excited to wait to the top before starting to shred.


It was Myokoing pretty hard on the way home but we had K.C.’s birthday party to attend. 



Bill and Carston fire up the pony keg at Dancing Snow world headquarters.



Sushi bonanza!



More sushi bonanza!


Ultra sushi bonanza!!!


K.C. was pretty bummed about turning one year older.



Growing up is hard to do.  


We had to leave Myoko but first the streets had to get cleared of the meter of snow that fell between midnight and 0530.



Myoko takes snow removal seriously. 



Carston and K.C. navigate the train schedule.  Next stop = ???



The convenience stores in the train station sell four liter bottles of whisky.  Apparently it’s Suntory time all the time. 



Our next stop was Minakami in Gunma Prefecture.  There are quite a few ski areas in the region, including one near the deadliest mountain on the planet.  The ski area itself was pretty small and didn’t have much to offer aside from one large cliff in the middle of the bowl.  Of course that was the first thing we hit.  K.C. gets inverted.



Carston spins to win.



K.C. flat-spin 3



The real gem of this area is the easy-access backcountry.  Johnny Snacks blazes a trail towards the deadliest mountain.



Carston milks a turn on the way while K.C. watches.



Hello, are we in AK now? 



That is most definitely NOT mini-golf.  Japan terrain stereotypes = shattered. 



We dropped in to one of the countless gullies with perfect trees and waist-deep pow.  Johnny Snacks, descending. 



Carston is in there somewhere.



Johnny finds the light.



K.C. milks a turn.



Then he found a lane of perfection



Our 2nd lap and the mountain was more visible.  WANT!



But first, more perfect trees and pow and bliss.



There was nobody around to heckle us so we heckled ourselves.  Carston and the paparazzi.



K.C. leaves his mark everywhere.



Kensuke Nomano was our guide for the first couple of days.  He definitely knew the area and we were happy to have him around. 



Johnny finds a pocket of awesome.



BravoSki editor Tatsuya Tayagaki joined us. His 4wd camper bus was the envy of all. 



Carston errs towards air.



Carston tried to teach me these corked somethingorothers.  He stomped.  I did not. 



K.C. turning Japanese.




“And then it went blue!”  Time to climb the summit on our last day.



Magical light in the foothills.



The fact that this mountain has killed between 700 and 900 (depending on your source) people since 1930 was not lost on us. 



A better view of the gnar that was just around the corner.



Johnny Snacks climbed the Seven Summits when he was 17 and he’s only 19 now, so we let him break trail. 



Of course he got smoked by the local grandparent-mountaineers. 



Tatsuya nears the summit



Carston and I pose for the obligatory cheesy photo with another summitteer.



Looking down a potential line.  Maybe next time…



The descent towards town.  Not necessarily OUR town, but surely there’s a town down there somewhere.



Can you find Carston? 



Success!  We made it down the world’s most deadly mountain intact!  This calls for a celebration.



Unsurprisingly, Grant passed out immediately which left the photo processing to the rest of us.



Dinnertime.  All-you-can-eat buffet of this?  Danger danger!  By the time we were done, our plates of sushi and sashimi were nearly as tall as the actual mountains.



We had to cut loose so Johnny Snacks, Carston and I went to the local Karaoke bar with pro snowboarder Mari Mizukami.  Lil Wayne, Nate Dogg and Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Bon Jovi, Kiss, Billy Joel, and other Japanese song favorites were all attempted with great gusto.



The next morning was harder for some than others.  Our little Johnny Snacks was all tuckered out after the big day of climbing and skiing and singing so he took a nap on the train.



Luckily, the Ocean on a Stick street food is perfect for recharging. 



We arrived in Miukamachi, where our hotel had a serious collection of comics ranging from PG to NC-17. 



The town had a local snow museum where they had documented a tiny fraction of the snowflake potential. 



The treeskiing here was second to none.



“And then it went blue!!”  Unfortunately the lower elevation of this area didn’t handle sun well, but we gave it our best. 



Johnny likes alternative views. 



Carston chasing his tails



After a few more days it was time to head back to Tokyo.  We found a magazine rack in the train station and checked out evidence of our previous trip.  Who’s that on the cover of BravoSki? 




Our arrival in Tokyo coincided with their first big snow of the season.  Shibuya Square, with flashing lights and people and snow and noises and cars and distractions!!!!!  It was just like you’d imagine. 



Carston found a hot pepper shop and had to check it out.



We went back to the Tsujiki fish market.  Yep, there are still (or there were) a few tuna left.



There’s also a bit of whale available if you’re interested.



I’m not sure what this restaurant specialized in but the pictures might be a hint.  Can anyone translate?



I found guitar shop heaven in Tokyo.  This place was seven stories, each almost as big as a Guitar Center back home.  The 3rd floor of this place was where all the Gibson Custom Shop and Paul Reed Smith custom guitars were housed.  I played the one hanging up on the left… $5,500.00. 



Before we flew home we spent two days walking all over Tokyo.  We could have spent a week or a lifetime but we made the best of it.  Here’s the Imperial Palace.



After last year’s trip we never thought we’d score Japan nearly as well, but this trip exceeded all of our expectations.  Japanuary 2013 is already being planned.  Who’s in?


This trip would not have been possible without supermega help from JNTO, Dancing Snow, and K2 Japan.  We get by with a little help from our friends. 



Metalmücil’s first show of the season

I’ve been back in town since the 7th and in that time it’s snowed maybe six inches. What does one do when they live in a ski town and there’s no snow? Well, they ski on hardpack by day and they rock out by night. Metalmücil had a 7.5 month hiatus while Thom and I were out working but now we’re back, and better than ever (not saying much)! Here’s an edited video of our first show of the year, Dec. 20 at Graham’s Restaurant in Glacier, WA. We brought out a few new songs and were so excited we forgot to play an old classic. Sorry for all you “Equal Daddy” fans – I promise we’ll play it next time. Whee!

Stay tuned (ahem) for upcoming show dates and venues.