Changing Tides: Moving to the Oregon Coast

Standing on one foot, tip of my toes perched on the 3 inch unstable edge with my opposing foot pressing against the smooth frictionless wall, I reached high with my hammer to pound the pin in the exact spot I needed to get this job done. One slip, and the whole game would come tumbling down, injury inevitable.

This might sound a lot like the oft-repetitious moments I've found while ascending the big stone in Yosemite Valley, or other big-wall venues around the world, and it does. But alas, what I describe above was a moment in an even more stressful, and at times, precarious task at hand, hanging a photo in our new (to us) home. Ha!

For a guy who's passions include climbing, flying hang gliders, paragliders, bush planes, and BASE jumping, you'd think that moving would be a breeze. I used to have a blasé attitude, thinking “anything that isn't threatening to kill me is no big deal”. Well, I'm here to tell you; moving is perhaps one of the most stressful things a family can do.


Moving the family to Oregon

Jeff, his wife Kara and daughter Nya.

Before I get started on the particulars, a little background is probably in order. As a young grommet, I grew up in the foothills of the Cascades, north of Seattle but each year, my brother and I would have the luck to travel to Hawaii to stay with our grandmother (Tutu) for 1-3 months. The contrast between the mountains and the ocean would continue from the time we were born, until we were teenagers. Time without us gave my parents some much needed sanity, while providing my brother and I some much needed perspective, independence and a deep seated love for the ocean. My earliest memories include surfing, free diving and the mental freedom a young boy can find while staring at the horizon of the mighty Pacific.

But, the mountains certainly made their impression as well. By the time I'd graduated from college, the Cascades and volcanoes had become catalysts for my dreams. At that time, climbing and flying hang gliders had developed into full-blown obsessions. Simply put, both became vehicles to inevitably expand a whole new worldview. In the late 90's, wanting the “perfect” training ground, my partner Kara and I moved to western Montana. The foot-launch flight potential in Missoula is consistently good and my ability to train for both rock and ice climbing was, in my mind, unparalleled in the U.S. Although it was never my intention, after the privileged opportunity to compete in my hang glider and paraglider all over the world and, in different parts of the season, test my abilities and knowledge as a climber in the mountains of Alaska and the Himalaya, I discovered a way to make a living in pursuit of my passions, and my journey as a “professional” began. Years of self-exploration within the art of wing suit BASE jumping, adventures home and afar while hunting with birds of prey, whitewater kayaking and anything else I could do to learn more about life, myself and most enjoyably, other places, people, culture and perspectives drove my dreams and fueled inspiration. The amount of humility and most of all, gratitude that's resulted is something hard-placed into words.

But, after 25 years of living in Montana, Kara, and our now 17 year old daughter Nya and I, felt like we wanted a new adventure. We'd been visiting the raw and powerful Oregon coast since the early 90's and felt a strong connection. Recreationally, flying in the smooth air flowing in from the Pacific, hitting the steep shoreline cliffs and creating lift bands to soar for hours, had always been one of my favorite ways to fly. It made me feel like a seagull. And, my memories as a kid in Hawaii, and subsequent surf trips as an adult, had me constantly day dreaming of days spent in the cold, green waters waiting for sets to roll in from distant storms out to sea.


The Oregon coast

Kara walking the dog on an Oregon beach. 

So, our family came together and made the decision. Change equals growth and believe me, packing 25 years of life into a 26' truck and moving from Montana to the Oregon coast is a big change!

As we fantasized about our new home, thoughts of spearing fresh fish and free diving for Dungeness crab were only outdone by dreams of dropping in on clean waves and surfing remote breaks. During the months of searching for “our new spot”, the pipe dream of finding lush land full of flowering rhododendrons, sprawling ferns and tall trees while still being close to the ocean was a tall order on a humble budget. But somehow, we found our new home and as things go, our “path” lit up in front of us during each step of the process. Personally, the idea that I might be able to routinely cook over a fire on the beach was beguiling; I mean, who wouldn't want to make a beach fire after a satisfying surf or spearfishing session to cook fresh fish or veggies? Sounds dreamy, right?


Grilling on a campfire on the beach

Jeff using his Wolf and Grizzly Grill to cook on the beach.

We've since learned that the beach can get windy so, being that we can hear the waves from the house, and the fact that the back yard is surrounded by enough tall trees to make the perfect wind break, a fire pit made sense. Windy: fires in the yard. Calm: a fire on the beach. Either way, cooking meals as a family with friends outside was part of the “dream”. Healthy living means healthy minds, healthy bodies and of course, healthy food!

So, the day (yesterday) finally came, now that we're mostly moved in. I finally got to pull out the Wolf and Grizzly Grill and cook dinner for our family over an open fire in the backyard (a little too windy at the beach). It was literally a “dream come true”. And that's what life is all about, isn't it? We stay motivated by finding inspiration, continue to learn and grow as people by finding change and new experience, and then do what we can to use our new perspectives to become the best friends, husbands, wives, dads, sons, brothers, sisters and mothers that we can. Healthy living is contagious and for us, this change has been a healthy start to a new chapter in our lives. New adventures await and in this column, I'm planning to share as many as I can. I hope you decide to follow along and even more importantly, find your own new adventures!

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