From the Desert to the Ocean

A recent podcast discovery came as the result of Outside Magazine’s successful harvest of my contact information. Automation sent me Desert Oracle Is a Spooky Look at the Southwest.  I took the click bait, read the article, and downloaded the podcast. Immediate entertainment. Sometimes marketing spam gets it right.

Ken Layne is the creator of Desert Oracle.  Inspired by his homeland near Joshua Tree where “Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.” – National Park Service

The print release of Desert Oracle. Some chapters nearing word for word the podcast narrative. Like watching a movie of a favorite book its fun to analyze the mediums transposed. This podcast has won me over. Howl at the moon…

Layne’s implementation of sound that appear to be one-layer of background music. His writing and voice add much to the tantalizing broadcasts; narration is infused with humor and wit. Layne has a unique tone and well-paced cadence. Oracle is intermixed with live interviews, other tidbits scientific relevance and historical obscurity. Guests include conservation scientists, park rangers and the like. It is low budget audio gold. I love it, love it.

Outside notes “Even the ghost stories that fill Desert Oracle’s pages and soundbites serve a greater purpose: saving the desert. ‘The mission of Desert Oracle is desert and wilderness conservation,’ He often sneaks the conservation messages into his show and his publications”. – Outside

Oracle provokes daydreams of the intangible. It’s been along year… This essay began with a photo; I was compelled to share stuff that I shouldn’t be allowing myself considering the many real-world issues that need TLC.  What gives Desert Oracle its redeeming and endearing lifeforce? Layne merges escapism (perhaps… ) with topics such as conservation, the effects of climate change, and the creatures he is observing in the public lands surrounding him.  

Like other blogging projects this one got me thinking. Why am I fascinated with the obscure? When did become entangled with contemplating life’s meaning? I’m kind of stuck on the fence and have been longer than I care to admit; the end game is uncertain in my mind. Anxiety, uncertainty – creeping into my personal narrative.  These stories broadcast from the high desert sooth and distract if you let them. Yet, there is a theme of disruption calling for action from the upside down. Only the campfire is missing.

While writing this essay I was remined of Omni magazine. For many years this showed up at our house and graced the coffee table. “Omni Magazine was an enormously influential publication that ran from 1978 to 1995 ” – The Verge

I have seen strange objects in the sky. My father was stationed at Beale Air Force Base. He was a hydraulic systems mechanic on the SR-71 Blackbird. A well know flying object. Flybys over our neighborhood were impressive.  Officially retired in 1990, Black Mamba still retains its mystique; seeing this craft in the sky and even on the museum floor provides a shot of awe. It’s a distinct and unique shape.  Might it have been mistaken for a UFO at some point? High probability. Desert Oracle’s Season 1/Episode 11 – Those Sinister Black Triangles – Layne says triangles appear as early as the 70s. Unlikely that the SR-71 is responsible for the bulk of these cosmic events. Seems more likely to be the classic triangular shape of stealth technology. says “the trend of open deployment of flying triangles is not consistent with secret operation of an advanced DoD aircraft”. Looks like a dead end for my purposes. Black triangles. There is more to it. More complexity. More nuance. Layne’s gift is keeping you at the campfire long into the night with Desert Oracle.

My own exposure to God and his Son begins with fuzzy recollections of 1979 in Marysville, CA. Life and times of youth and danger especially during the years that my father was getting his bachelor degree in theology. This section of my adolescence included our family visiting various churches as he looked for a place of fellowship: the Pentecostal church near our home blasted instrumental Christian rock performances alongside churchgoers speaking in tongues. Once, in this setting, a vivid movie of the second coming; the show graphically detailed the ramifications for non-believing. Hell had an ominous look and feel.

I had a feeling this was somewhere… My father received his Bachelor of Theology at a later date than my recollection served me. “Our culture, our society, our very sense of self, relies heavily on a faith in our memories as perfectly accurate. But what if our memories aren’t as reliable as we think? What if we can recall vividly, things that never actually happened?” – American Hysteria – Viral: The Mandela Effect

Around seven, after a summer at Dad’s, my mom recalls running to my room to wake me from a nightmare.  This event would cause her to snatch my Kiss album from the collection of few titles; the flamboyant musicians had made a gust appearance in my dreamscape. The summer parent swap resulted in fear and loathing for my mom. Her son discovered he might burn in hell or miss the rapture.  Experiences during this time were not limited to church. My Dad had a fascination with the supernatural. Issues of Omni magazine on the coffee table. Graphic recollections of very scary themes at our local drive-in. I don’t think my parents grasped the idea of age-appropriate content and the impact it might have on their children’s psyche.

During his search for meaning, we listened to cassette tapes of fundamental icons of the era such as Dr. Walter Martin “godfather of the anti-cult movement” founder of the Christian Research Institute. My father carefully explored the Apocrypha with the acknowledgment of risk. One might be exposing themselves to influence of Satan. It was not taken lightly at the time. I recall his sensitivity that we might all be in danger of demonic possession. Some years later he decided that an all-access pass was ultimately the result of “faith” not “works”. He succeeded in getting his degree and we no longer experimented in finding fellowship at our local organized houses of worship.

The desert is a strange and complicated place, and the depth and weirdness with which Layne explores it has earned the radio show and publication a cult following. Stories of missing hikers, ghost stags, and Yucca Man sightings (the regional equivalent of Bigfoot). “The Voice of the Desert.”  – Outside

Advanced discussions of God would come later when I was pursuing my own BA in psychology at UC Davis. It was a period of mostly healthy tension between us. I was learning from a “secular” institution, however, and he had some reservations about the content that was filling my thirst for knowledge.  Not long after arriving in Davis – 1993 – pop culture birthed the X-Files. Art Bell’s Coast to Coast Am was at its apex in 1997. Other titles from the post VHS era included Alex Jones’s infiltration documentary of Bohemian Grove. It was a plentiful time for seekers curious about the counter-occult revival of that era.  I had the opportunity to take Charles Tart’s upper division psychology class Transpersonal Psychology after attending his widely popular lower division entertainer, Altered States of Consciousness. My time in Davis was a gourd of intellectual and spiritual plenty. It included some crash and burn, as well. Recollection of my father’s quest and these collegiate experiences feel appropriately juxtaposed to the discovery of Desert Oracle.

The Podcast’s is both escapist and learning tool with a fresh twist on the genre.  Oracle seems to be without much if any advertising. If my book purchase subsidizes Layne’s livelihood, I am in. Layne has become a new and hip curator of alt vibe desert phenomena. History has shown that many UFO sightings are uniquely paired with the high desert and the landscape’s mystique. Is it the proximity to military activity? Maybe. I am anticipating more complexity and layers from Layne and others. The genre is not one I have explored in many years. Newport has its own local boy contributing to the club: Jim Perry is the creator of Euphomet, “a podcast host, creative producer, and entrepreneur based in the Pacific Northwest. His fascination for the anomalous events that happen in people’s lives inspired the creation of Euphomet, the critically acclaimed audio documentary podcast about the strange and our relationship to it.”

Perry is a cultural excavator who artfully demonstrates the complexity of the supernatural for truth seekers both unknowing and intentional. Perhaps, we all have a few tales from the dark side. Those new to the genre will discover explorations of phenomena such as Perry’s are far more intelligent compared to the average History Channel’s treatment of these subjects.

A Vast Unknown. More is known about the moon’s surface than the depths of the ocean. In fact, 12 people have stepped foot on the moon, but only three have been to the Mariana Trench — the deepest part of the ocean, at roughly 7 miles (11 kilometers) deep. – Google

I think my dad would have enjoyed our new media. The scholarship and academics in theology are thorough. His highlighted scripture and reference books that filled our household were his proofs of concept. There is more to waking consciousness. I hope his work contributed to the “works” necessary for his all-access pass. A few years before his death he resumed study for his masters. Although his concentration was brief – this rejuvenated effort revealed his creative personality still lurked in the shadows of his depression and inactivity. My stepmother noted shorty before death he was air drumming in his living room bed. I went home a few hours before he passed. I didn’t think his time had come or I would have slept in the chair.

I hope we meet again. In the desert under the moonlight. Maybe we will talk in a vast nirvana with luminous spirit bodies that resemble our physical shapes. His curiosity became my curiosity in so many ways – despite the scary moments and the fear of an unforgiving Godhead. Its hard for me to imagine a life without the impressions his search for truth has made upon me. Desiring to share Desert Oracle with you has gifted me with a trip down memory lane. The unknown becoming the known again.  I look forward to the next campfire with my son and the stories we will share about these mysteries under the stars.

Cascade Head Biosphere Reserve (Part 1)

Question: What are Biosphere Reserves? (UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

Answer: “Biosphere reserves are ‘learning places for sustainable development’. They are sites for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity. They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges. Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each site promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use…. Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located.”

Hart’s Cove Trail at Cascade Head. A welcome bench awaited us as we made the 2.7 mile descent. This rest stop appears to gaze over the destination to come. We didn’t find out on this journey. But, we’ll be back!

I saw Paul Robertson (Re – Robertson Environmental) in September at the Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC). He flashed me on the concept of our biosphere reserve and that Kaety and I might participate in an upcoming listening session with interested parties. At the moment I don’t have a lot of details about this event and do not see it posted on either ( or ( I should have more to come on this soon. Nevertheless, this run in with Paul was a stimulus for my own exploration of the Cascade Head Biosphere Reserve.

I had difficulty wrapping my head around the general concept in the beginning. Indicative of how little I am knowledgeable and trained in matters of ecology and nature’s living systems. I spend an unhealthy amount of time in the digital matrix.  So, instead of navigating to resources about our actual biosphere reserve I first watched the 2020 documentary Spaceship Earth – as if I expected to see a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome unknow to me in north county!

It was designed to explore the web of interactions within life systems in a structure with different areas based on various biological biomes. (Wikipedia)

The documentary is well done and enjoyable. As I learned more about Cascade Head the concept of “Biosphere 2 (which) was originally meant to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in outer space” became a nicely placed tangent to my growing understanding of why we might create an artificial system or designate a geographical space as a biosphere.  

Real or artificial we have an opportunity to observe, measure, explore and discover. Biosphere 2 was comprised of seven biome areas (3.14-acre).  How might a small group of “biospherians” survive in the largest materially closed ecological system ever created?  How would the enclosed mangrove, savanna, ocean and more thrive along with its inhabitants? Turns out (spoiler alert) not well.

We have much to learn and optimize before colonizing our next planet.  Taking it up an octave we much to learn about the original spaceship earth. Modern times debate our current stewardship. Oxygen levels were difficult to maintain in the 1991 experiment. It turned out the microbes in the soil and the curing cement were outliers that necessitated turning up the volume on the carbon dioxide scrubbers and pumping in some fresh air.

Biosphere 2 is now owned by the University of Arizona. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching, and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. Looks like they have a podcast. We’ll be checking that out!

Our First Trip – A Hero’s Journey

On November 30th, my son and I embarked on our first adventure to the real deal. Its notable to disclose that I did close to zero research about where we were going and what the hell we were getting into. Oddly, post hike, I am still having difficulty searching the interwebs for practical information about how to access and enter the area. I’ll take responsibility for my clunky research should I just be missing the simplicity of the request.

We traveled up Hwy 101 not far from Lincoln City/Otis and turned east on N. Three Rocks Road – Cascade Head Trail. The gated and gravel road was easily navigated with occasional tight spots with oncoming traffic. We initially traveled to the Nature Conservancy Trail which was closed. We continued to Hart’s Cove Trail and found parking and turn around space along with 15 other vehicles.

Reed Miller. 10 years old. We debated heading down Hart’s Cove Trail. After months of distance learning and tele-work at home we were finally on a journey together. It was epic simplicity. He demonstrated courage and a positive mindset to get moving!

My lack of planning would thwart our endeavor. We left our home in Newport with minimal intel:  “We’ll take that turn off…. You know the one we’ve seen on the way to Pacific City? The one that says Cascade Head Trail. I think that’s where we should go. I think we can hike to the ocean? Let’s just see what happens.” I had watched several videos on the Cascade Head Biosphere Reserve You Tube channel anticipating we would be in for some ocean eye candy at some point.

Shortly after we entered Hart’s Cove Trail we inquired with passing hikers.

“How long did it take?”

“About an hour down and an hour back”.

One hiker had the rhythm. “Naismith’s Rule estimates hiking time on reasonably easy ground based on 19½ minutes for every mile, plus 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of ascent.” The trail head sign said “This 2.7 mile hiker trail takes you past Cliff Creek and into the Neskowin Crest Research Natural Area. It ends in a grassy meadow with no beach access. The first ½ mile of trail is rather steep.”

Calculating our situation, we realized that at our current time of 2:15 pm we would exit the trail head at dark. This left us little time to explore the grassy meadow, soak up ocean views and worship the setting sun. It would be prime time for photography. I could taste the Instagram worthy outcome of making it to the end. We continued. The other hikers we encountered were going the opposite direction.

“Most people do not know at all how beautiful the world is and how much magnificence is revealed in the tiniest things, in some flower, in a stone, in tree bark, or in a birch leaf. (Letters on Life)”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

As the clock ticked and our legs continued to tire, we stopped and deliberated. He was becoming nervous and I was concerned our return might be too intense should we tackle the last of the trail in the darkness. We had no food or lighting. I provided an inspiring lecture: it was the journey not the destination that we should embrace. We decide to reverse course. During our return I could hear Reed’s boots dragging into the trail. We were in darkness as we lifted ourselves into the comfort of our truck.  

I am grateful for Paul’s request to include us in this upcoming conversation about our local biosphere designation. At the moment, I know little of the breadth, depth and purpose this meeting he has asked me to attend. It has required that I begin to explore the subject of Cascade Head. Most significantly, for my own mental and physical health, the greatest reward thus far has been spending time with my boy in the outdoors. Reed and I desperately needed to get out of the house. In my professional work as a public information officer for Lincoln County 2020 has been vigorous. Our organization’s response to COVID has created a significant workload. Additionally, the response and continued recovery to the Echo Mountain fire has added a seemingly endless menu of options in my work life.

We struggled for about 1/2 hour deliberating to stay the course or turn back. Ultimately, we called it quits. To date, this is the longest hike Reed has made. He displayed courage and joy. Being outdoors is the rejuvenator.

One layer of future inquiry is the possibility that structures destroyed in the Echo Mountain Fire might result in toxic run off into the Salmon River. The Salmon River and its estuary is a notable feature of Cascade Head Biosphere Reserve. This “social system” of human dwellings may have a negative impact on the “ecological systems” within the biosphere. The purpose of a biosphere is to create conscious awareness of our interrelationships with other living systems: winter rains pass through ash and debris and enter larger waterways. What are the consequences?

Since our adventure I have continued to research this topic. Right now, I am curious to understand more about how the United Nations fits into the sphere of influence.

The UN’s objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law (Wiki)

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.” (SDGS)

How might we model these goals locally? Its inspiring to think we’ve got a head start in this thinking turned into action: Cascade Head Biosphere is our local biosphere within in Spaceship Earth. Its a living template. We are certainly blessed to have this asset.

Cascade Head Biosphere Reserve. The local influencers: Paul Robertson, MSc (Project & Communications Manager), Duncan Berry (CHBR Co-Organizer/Cascade Head Resident) and Dan Twitchell (CHBR Co-Organizer/Cascade Head Resident).

More to come in part two… My continued lines of inquiry include the following links and more: