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Portland, ME, 04101
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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!

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

Desert Backpacking

Frances Buerkens

The first two days of the trip took us across the slick rock. Carrying 35 liters of water for 7 people, we were slow moving. It did not help that the topography of a land pockmarked with canyons is rather difficult to navigate. Having no trail meant that our experienced crew of backpackers could not just fall into a rhythm of breath and footsteps. While we were only walking 3 miles as the crow flies, we had to zig and zag endlessly, avoiding 60 foot cliffs which appeared to the sight only when standing directly on top of them.

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Frances Buerkens

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Backpacking in the Cascades

Frances Buerkens

It's far too late at night for me to be editing photos - but I couldn't resist. They were just too pretty.

Here's a teaser from my week long backpacking adventure in the Cascades region of Washington state. Glaciers, alpine meadows, steep mountain passes, and perfect (yes, perfect) sunshine the entire trip... What more could you hope for in a vacation?! 

Se moi! Courtesy of Will Ginn. 

Se moi! Courtesy of Will Ginn. 

The View: Gaspe

Frances Buerkens

Now that I'm home, I have the luxury of high speed internet and Lightroom to process my photos and upload them for my voracious readers (and viewers). Here's a few of my favorites. I noticed that I forgot to take vertically oriented photos. Se la vie!

You may click on the images to enlarge them.  

Chic-Chocs (in French, "shic shochs")

Frances Buerkens

Emerging lazily from out tents, we were overcome by incredible thirst. Our faces were bright red from the wind hindering our every step the day before. Gulping down fresh, sweet mountain water, we slaked our thirst while we lounged about camp, stretching our stiff legs. Despite arriving by car at dusk, it took little imagination to conceive of the beauty of the Chic Choc mountains. The dense trees sheltered us from other campers, but granite topped mountains peeked from behind the clearing morning fog.


The Chic Chocs are a part of the Appalachian mountain range which extends from Georgia to the tip of Gaspe, where we had stood just days before. The Appalachians pick up again in Scotland, scaling the western coast of Norway. Notably, we hiked several sections of the International Appalachian Trail. They receive significant precipitation year-round, likely due to their geography on a slim peninsula surrounded by two frigid and large bodies of water. The materials were in French, so it's an educated guess. The important details? Snow positively dumps on these stunning mountains come winter, and the Gaspesie National Park meticulously grooms the hiking trails for cross country skiing. No snowmobiles, as far as I could tell, are allowed in the park. Should the snow bird in me take wing, I know exactly where to fly!

Feeling the toll of yesterday's bike ride (we were akin to the chicken I had desiccated in the dehydrator last week beyond the point of resuscitation), we chose lazy hikes. Though we were driven to explore, discover the caribou hidden amongst the high tundra, or meet a bull moose in the dark forest, we chose something that would likely offer more bang for our buck. "Lac aux Americains". That's right, American lake. Aptly named, we suggested to another traveler, due to the easy 1 mile walk with a 50 meter elevation gain. The name gained credence with newfound friends. Don't feel too sorry for America. It really was the most beautiful lake in the park. It resembled Chimney Pond, except it almost felt like cheating since our reward was practically next to the parking lot.


Sneaking in one more hike, wary of the darkening thunder heads forming, we scampered up a rocky 3-mile trail which afforded a 360 degree view of the park - and of Mont Albert, the mountain we would have climbed any other day.

Every 30 feet along the trail, a smaller secondary trail wandered into the bush. Signs in French warned visitors at each intersection to maintain course on the marked trail. I took the observation for granted until Sarah pointed out the frequency of each trail. "Moose highways." Indeed she was correct. This place was practically crawling with moose. While we did not encounter more then a startled bunny at the bathhouse, or a leery porcupine along side the road, it truly felt like moose country.

As the clouds gathered, we returned to our tent site, relaxed in the hot shower, and luxuriated in the glory of clean clothing. Retreating indoors for the oncoming rain, we seated ourselves at the resort bar (the only establishment in 50 miles) and ordered drinks. The local brew was fantastic, but cringing at the $10/pint bill, we decided to go for cocktails - at $7 - for our second round. I was dubious if any alcohol was actually in my drink (and wishing for a shot of insulin to help it go down). Okay, so Gaspe National Park isn't exactly famous for its booze. I can live with that. Besides, they let us smelly gypsies use their microwave to make dinner. We've taken to bumming hot water where we can find it, rather than cooking in the rain. Last night was cous cous in the Subway parking lot at sunset (Oh la la, romantique!) and tonight was wild rice with tofu and cheese in the lodge.


Overall, our trip was fabulous. The sun shined when we wanted it. The rain came when we needed it. Our bellies were satisfied and our days were full, and wild, and fun. I would do it again, it a heartbeat.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for my trip with Will to the Cascades in Washington as we do a section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Calamity of Errors Meets Mission (Im)possible

Frances Buerkens

Today started like any ordinary day. We woke up, packed our bags, loaded our bikes, and bought fresh bread from the patisserie. Rolling out of the campsite, Chris noticed that his load was loose. The bolt and nut holding his rack in place had fallen out. Within minutes, we located a hardware shop 1/4 mile from our campsite. Sarah rigged a zip tie to hold the gear in place for the interim.

Se moi! Courtesy of Sarah. Note: Raccoon cheeks (windburn!). 

Se moi! Courtesy of Sarah. Note: Raccoon cheeks (windburn!). 

Setting out, confident and eager after a solid day of rest, we began to scale the first hill out of Perce. My gears felt a bit sticky, but I thought nothing of it. Everything about my bike is a bit different with this heavy load. Two miles out, my chain suddenly fell off. No big deal! Smearing the grease from my hands on my legs, I remounted my bike only to find that now my upper gears were no longer operable at all! My bike was stuck in the lowest hill slimming gear possible, which given the incredible headwinds we were battling was not the worst. I might go a full 25 miles today and not even shift into middle gear - after all, I had just gone two miles in crawl mode, hunched against the wind, swimming upstream. Now as I write this, I feel my cheeks are on fire. Wind burn, like nothing I've ever had, even in Patagonia.

Five hours passed quickly. Despite leaving a significant two hour buffer, we spent our spare time negotiating mechanical errors leaving us to race the clock at 5 mph. We planned to catch a 3:20 bus to New Richmond where we would hop in the car for a quick visit to the Chic Choc Mountains in Gaspesie National Park. Normally 25 miles would be easy. We had been riding 6-9 mph every other day, and with significantly more food and water. The headwinds were killing us! Now I understood why there was little sailing here. There is too much wind! (Or so I am assuming).

Yet... We were so close. The bus station was just three miles out. We would make it, but barely! Sarah shouted ahead to me, stopped by the side of the road. Her back tire had just blown. Under ordinary circumstances, we would merely stop and fix it. In this case, we ditched plan A. Chris quickly unloaded the gear from his bike, allowing Sarah to leap into action. Sarah would race the three mikes to the bus station, catch the bus to New Richmond, drive the car back to Chandler (60 miles), and then we would drive to the Chic Chocs. Given luck, we would arrive at the camp before the gates closed for the night....

All in all, it was a perfectly acceptable fate. We would still get where we needed to be. I settled in the heavenly shade, pulling open my book. By the time I caught my breath, I already had a new plan. Strolling across the parking lot toward a few burly men (i.e. the type I assumed might be driving the large trucks parked in the lot) and their wives, I asked in my pathetic combination of French, Spanish, and English how far the bus station was. In truth, I knew it was three miles away, but let's keep things simple when we are rolling with a language barrier. They told me, and - as you might expect, my face fell. I explained that we would not make our bus because our bikes were broken. These were good ole boys, coal miners in fact, from Northern Canada on their 12 week vacation in Gaspe. I bid them goodbye, hoping that they might shout out and offer a ride to the bus station, even though I didn't actually ask. I felt shy imposing, and better if they readily offered the service themselves. Five minutes later, one of the men pulled along side us in his truck. "Get een! I geeve you ride." Chris and I were ready. Score!


So, despite incredible headwinds, and minor mechanical failures on all three bikes, we still caught the bus. It didn't go exactly as planned, or even as fate had planned it. I do, admittedly, love making things happen despite the odds. It's very satisfying.