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Please email frances.buerkens@gmail.com or use the form to reach me. I check email daily. I would love to hear from you regarding projects which include brand management, design, photography, and project management.

Questions about photography technique, mind numbing technological challenges, or equipment and tools? Ask away!

Exchange St
Portland, ME, 04101
United States

I would love to hear from you regarding projects which include brand management, design, photography, and project management.

Questions about photography technique, mind numbing technological challenges, or equipment and tools? Ask away!

caiman negro, cocha lobo.jpg

Blog

Escapades documented with photography and candid (stream-of-consciousness) storytelling.

Where will I sleep tonight?

Frances Buerkens

Mendocino County, California

Mendocino County, California

Impulse struck. I slowed and flipped a U-turn on Highway 1 in Northern California. I had just left Mendocino and found the town to be charming. Classic island architecture dotted the landscape and surf roared in the distance. Locals and visitors roamed the streets and the state park that surrounded the quaint village on all sides. There were only a few hundred people in the entire town and it proved to be immensely friendly. As I departed, I found myself feeling remorseful about my decision to leave. So... I changed my mind, because I can. 

I parked on a sliver of land that juts into the Pacific, just outside of Mendocino in Northern California. I am putting my moon roof to good use. The moon peeked through the fog at me. Its yellow warmth provided just enough light to illuminate the whitecaps raging 100 feet below. Every few minutes a muffled boom echoed as a larger wave beat against the cliff, sending spray nearly as far as my car. The wind kept shaking my car so I did not sleep especially well, but it was worth it. That might be the prettiest place I have camped thus far.

My humble abode. 

My humble abode. 

Notably, I haven't paid to sleep in a single spot this trip. No motels, no campgrounds. I've slept in truck stops, grocery store lots (Whole Foods and Safeway are the most ritzy as far as parking lot sleeps go), coffee shop lots, random places in the backcountry, and quiet spots in the Eastern woods - and of course an abundance of spare bedrooms. I even slept on a roof deck in Oakland for several nights, cozied under a mosquito net in a temperpedic mattress. I've managed to avoid sleeping on couches, save for my trips to the Bay Area, but only four nights of couch-pitality in 5 months is pretty good! (Notably, my last couch was a critical traverse point for an intense game of rock climbers playing The Floor's Lava. It's possible that the white paint from the molding will never come out of my toes. It ended, as many good things do, not in flames (in spite of the fireplace crossing) but blood. Oops.) 

And let's not forget, Laundretta gets the laundry room all to herself when visiting my father. (It's never good when your stepmother starts making Cinderella references about you.) That said, I slept in my car over Christmas so as not to be be woken quite so early by my little brothers. The last time I slept in the house, I awoke to Gabe screaming "Mooommmm! Jake pooped all over the plaaacccee!!!". Notably, I pretended to sleep through the incident, as I was not keen on getting involved. I have excellent 'possum' skills. 

I just now remembered that I stayed at the AAC for a week but it was $5/night, whereas campgrounds are usually $20+. I'm pretty sure that $5/night hardly counts as paying.  

Ah yes, finding places to sleep tends to be quite a game!

So It Goes

Frances Buerkens

I left the city and cut toward the coast, savoring the winding vistas of the rocky shore. It was easy to find places to sleep for free along the coastal highway. State parks were nearly abandoned. It was uncommon to share the beach, save for the occasional committed dog walker. 

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Crekesgiving

Frances Buerkens

Indian Creek - Utah

Indian Creek - Utah

It was so cold that my toothpaste froze. My skin was raw. My hands were bruised. I stank of campfire smoke. I terrified myself as I learned to lead my first cracks. I wore four pairs of pants to stay warm. My stove nearly blew up. 

I can't wait to do it again! (Though I'll bring a different stove.)

What a treat to be surrounded by a group of fabulous people, talented climbers, and gourmet glampers for a Thanksgiving celebration in one of the world's greatest climbing destinations. We pot-lucked a Thanksgiving dinner that would rival that of any made in the comfort of a cozy kitchen. 

Each night as the full moon crested the mesa behind Pasture Creek, the entire campground erupted into wolf howls. Lasting as long as a minute, the howls from each site dissolved into fits of tipsy laughter as each group huddled as close to their campfire as their down coats would permit.

As per habit, the campground howled for the full moon on Thanksgiving, but a breathless silence befell upon the somber stroke of a cello in a neighboring site. Only the wind accompanied the cellist on that starless night. Snowflakes fell softly to the rhythm of the music. Only the bonfire, upon which we roasted a deer heart, punctuated the perfect silence with explosions of sweetly aromatic Juniper sparks. 

FoPoMo leading Short & Stupid

FoPoMo leading Short & Stupid

Anasazi pottery shards.

Anasazi pottery shards.

Indian Creek

Indian Creek

The camouflaged ruins.

The camouflaged ruins.

On our last morning, Timpson took us to visit Anasazi ruins in the valley. We drove for several miles down gravel roads and through rocky creeks. Eventually the road became too rough for the cars, so we walked, meandering along deer paths that lined the canyon wall until suddenly a modest village lay before our eyes. The ruins are several hundred years old and in surprisingly good shape. The walls located under the roof of the rim were completely intact, thanks to their protection from the rain. 

Pottery shards lay scattered on the ground, the occasional arrowhead punctuating the linear patterns of the pots and vessels that once bore water. Dry wooden beams supported the sod bricks of the well protected, ancient homes.

Climbing Edge of Time

Frances Buerkens

Longs Peak looms in the background, while Mo scales Edge of Time. Note: There are ONLY ladies crushing in this photo. I don't know what world I'm in, but I have never witnessed a climbing world that was short of a sausage-fest.

Longs Peak looms in the background, while Mo scales Edge of Time. Note: There are ONLY ladies crushing in this photo. I don't know what world I'm in, but I have never witnessed a climbing world that was short of a sausage-fest.

Ashley Clement cleans house so we can go to town and gorge on celebratory tacos!

Ashley Clement cleans house so we can go to town and gorge on celebratory tacos!

Climbing with Mo has been awesome. She is a board member for Paradox Sports, working to create physical adaptive sports communities. Mo has only one hand, though that doesn't seem to hold her back on the wall! Last year she won first place in the International Federation of Sport Climbing paraclimbing world championships. Check it out!

 

Se moi in the background! Leading Edge of Time 5.9. 

Se moi in the background! Leading Edge of Time 5.9. 

Mo's getting her stretch on.

Mo's getting her stretch on.

Love at first hike: Rocky Mountain National Park

Frances Buerkens

It was time to take a rest day from climbing, so I scampered off to Rocky Mountain National Park to take advantage of leaf peeping opportunities. The Aspen are absolutely raucous right now, bathing everything in yellow. I arrived around 7:30, having mustered the grit to rise at 6:30 without anyone else prodding me. (This is a big deal.) My early arrival was worth the groggy start as I was lucky to enjoy birds singing sweet melodies and elk brawling with mournful cries. The sound of the elk echoed across the valley until the late-morning sun made submissive creatures of the massive beasts, retreating to shadier realms.

Stream flowing from Dream Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Stream flowing from Dream Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk bask in the field while the clouds grow increasingly ominous. 

Elk bask in the field while the clouds grow increasingly ominous. 

I have never enjoyed life at altitude, but having spent a month in Boulder and surrounding areas, I've acclimatized more than I realized. My first week in Colorado was a blur of headaches and breathy walks, but now I'm hiking without much ado at 10,000 feet. This is significant progress from the stroll I took along Boulder Creek just two weeks ago. Everybody was either running or biking along the trail, while I walked at a meager pace to match my thin skinned lungs. Notably, the only other people actually walking on the trail were homeless people dealing with various shades of mental illness. Damn the Boulder and the Beautiful! They have a way of making you feel sub-par, without actually trying.

I pieced together trails along the park probably tackling around 8 miles, and maintaining a burly pace to boot. That said, hiking without 15 lbs of climbing gear, a gallon of water, and camera equipment is rather tame compared to the scree slopes I have been scrambling of late. No wonder I'm eating 4 meals a day! (I just discovered that Whole Foods sells cookies by the pound. This has proven dangerous.)    

RTIL - Road Trip of Indeterminate Length

Frances Buerkens

Last night I had the distinct feeling that my road trip has finally begun. The air in Kentucky has lost its humid summer weight and adopted the crisp flavor of fall. Rolling down my windows, I burst into laughter at the absurdity of this fabulous new life. I couldn’t be luckier or happier than I am today.   

I have been on the road since July, but as I pulled my car out of Meg’s driveway in Kentucky, I realized that I am finally embarking on the unknown portion of the trip. New states, new faces, and new places will form the core of my days. In a sense, my vacation is over and the real work is about to begin.

Traveling alone can be a lonely endeavor. I thrive under certain dosages of these conditions, but it’s not my go-to state of living. I opt to surround myself with the people I love. They’re there, more in spirit at the moment, so I am confident and excited about doing this remarkable trip by myself. On a side note, nobody has to hear me shamelessly sing – one benefit of traveling alone that nobody mentioned to me.

I’m getting ahead of myself. What exactly is this soul-searching plan of mine and why am I doing it? I recently left a long-term relationship, finished my M.B.A. in Supply Chain Management, and landed a part-time telecommuting job doing market research in the food and agriculture sector. It’s the trifecta that set the stage for my cross-country road trip. I work part-time-ish spend my free time rock climbing (mostly sport) and dancing tango.

On a side note, I totally understand if you hate me now. Each morning I open my eyes, try to remember where I slept that night, and in doing so, realize how lucky I am to take an RTIL (road trip of indeterminate length).

Lida and I at Lago Linda's in the Red River Gorge

Lida and I at Lago Linda's in the Red River Gorge

I left Maine and drove to Virginia where I visited with mom and Paul. A week later, I descended upon the New River Gorge. Paul Nelson and I climbed the gorgeous Nuttall sandstone cliffs and rafted the class III, IV, and V rapids (twice!) along the Lower New. Notably, Paul was ejected from the boat on both occasions leaving me to my merry-lonesome self. Later, I connected with former professors and dear friends in Berea, and spent several days as the rope-gun for a slew of sport climbs in the Red River Gorge.