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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!

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Blog

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

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. 

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?! 

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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.

Transient

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.

Transient

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.

Transient

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.