Affinity Forest

Life is better off grid

Affinity Forest: The Origin Story – (Carley's Version)

I met Aaron in early 2019 when our life paths crossed.

No, I mean literally our life paths crossed – on a trail.

It was Jan 12th, 2019, and I had come up from town for a weekend day hike getaway on a group snowshoe hike. I was seeking some clarity and closure and fresh air and sunshine that only driving an hour and a half east up into the elevation of the snowy mountains could provide.

For added context, The Lion King musical had just come out and I had just seen it (amazing by the way!) and so, Elton John’s “The Circle of Life” was playing in my head. More specifically the refrain:

“It's the circle of life And it moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love 'Til we find our place On the path unwinding In the circle The circle of life”

Oh, and of course the other part of that song:



Anyway, welcome to the world living inside my head. And back to the origin story:

So our life paths crossed both literally and figuratively that day.

Over the years, I’d met a lot of people on a group outings, and I have to say that this meeting was no different. I didn’t think too much of the encounter. Though, I do recall being slightly curious of this guy hiking in shorts in the snow in front of me, while I followed his exposed calves up the snowy trail and wondering, “What’s this guy’s deal?”

But my thoughts quickly shifted after a couple of miles to the blisters that were quickly forming on my feet as I continued to hike in ill fitting shoes that were attached to my snowshoes.

Every year I did this, go on a snowshoe hike, and then halfway through remember…oh yeah, I need to get a better shoe situation going for this. And then I would proceed to not do a snow shoe hike again until the next year, and the painful snowshoe cycle would repeat. (Does so to this day)

So, I braced myself for the long and painful hike that was ahead of me that day.

Days and weeks passed after that hike, my feet healed, and I admit, at some point, I did do a quick Facebook search of “that fellow”, and saw that he had posts of a lot of pictures of himself with bicycles, but to his discredit, not too many on mountain bikes.

So I casually suggested he join an upcoming community mountain bike ride.

From snowshoe hike life path crossing encounter, to group mountain bike ride day, to further outdoor adventures he would later go on to invite me on, time passed. And as it did, “that fellow” became Aaron with the Adventures!

I was more than ready to join any and all outings he invited me on. Of which, there were quite a few, sprinkled in with a few I included him in on with my packed tight calendar of regularly scheduled weekend adventures.

As time passed, and winter turned into spring, and spring was just turning into summer, he did a romantic gesture, in addition to the best romantic gestures of giving me adventure after adventure which filled my heart and soul with wind and sunshine and trees and trails, water crossings and vista views.

And what romantic gesture did he specifically do for me you ask?

Did he give me flowers or candy to swoon me?

Write flowing poetry in cards?

Take me out to a fancy dinner?

Play acoustic guitar at me and croon sweet nothings at me before a sunset?

Nope. He gave me this titanium cook pot and this titanium spoon:

The pot and spoon, I kindly received with the same enthusiasm I would if they were flowers, chocolate or jewelry, and then promptly sat them on my kitchen counter where they remained unopened in their boxes for weeks and months.

For months, they sat there and I’d eat my breakfast staring at them for many mornings contemplating them before hopping on my bike to commute to work at the school I was employed at each morning.

And of course, the pot and spoon, along with my faithful and patient dog Bella, would be there to greet me each day I’d home from work very late each evening. My eyes and hands first seeking out Bella’s warm fur and presence, and then quickly my eyes would be drawn to that dang pot and spoon.

Again, I’d contemplate them while I leashed up Bella for her evening walk, run or longboard ride after being cooped up all day since our early morning walk or run before work to get her zoomies out.

What was the meaning of them I wondered?

I never had a use for them for the first few months of being given them, I didn’t even quite 100% understood how they worked. But I did have an inkling they had to do with cooking at a campsite.

And so there they sat in their spot on the kitchen counter taking up residence where previously so many other vases of flowers, cards or candy had sat in the past.

I swear, sometimes in the quiet early early morning hours with soft Bella Dog at my feet under the table as I wrapped up yet another bowl of oatmeal and blueberries while having my daily stare down at that pot set – I could almost hear it whispering a hint of adventures to come to me.

But, I’d shake that off as I began putting on my raingear, helmet and Blinky lights to head on down the bike path to work.

The grueling march of the cycle of another busy school year calendar continued at work as the backdrop to all of this titanium pot & spoon stuff with the winter and more fast paced spring high school activities occurring – full of senior nights, prom, Junior Parent Nights, 8th grade transitions to freshman year activities, culminating in commencement and graduation.

And then, we went on our first overnight camping trip.

“Oh yeah, bring your pot and spoon.” He had said to me as I was packing up all of my camping gear for this trip.

So into the car they went, and off into the woods the three of us went – Aaron, Bella and I. Where we would explore waterfalls, hot springs and trails. And in the evening, satisfied from the adventures of the day, but hungry for dinner, he showed me how the pot was to be my cook pot to replace my jetboil I had always previously used in my previous life of adventures and backpacking.

Ohhhhhh. I see. The pieces of the puzzle were coming together.

Attaching a fuel canister to a small, lightweight pocket rocket, I was able to place the pot on top full of water to be boiled.

I was pleased to see the weight difference between this cook kit and my previous cook kit, and the space savings in my backpack. Not to mention, the pot DID have a good feel to it doubling as my coffee mug in the mornings at camp.

The long handled spoon? Perfect for reaching deep into those freeze dried backpacker meals, saving my hands from getting even dirtier while out in the wilderness. Oh, and the spoon made ever such the satisfying sound of “*tink, *tink, *tink in the mornings after I would swirl and stir my instant coffee inside the pot. I’d stare at the swirl of spinning coffee before sitting back to take in a warm sip while staring out of the open tent and contemplating the sunrise before me, rubbing Bella’s soft black fur laying next to me in between folds of sleeping bag.

My heart and soul, and cup would continue to be filled with what they’d been so deeply aching for all those years: Adventures and experiences. To be dropped into Mother Nature. To engage in the ancient Japanese process of forest bathing-a process of relaxation whereby you engage in the simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees.

In my own way, starting as a small child, I’d been seeking this process out in bits and pieces-getting it whenever and however I could in a survival sort of way-including even just my short bike commutes to and from work at the time.

But with Aaron the Adventurer, these experiences were becoming deeper and fuller experiences for me, leaving me feeling more fully satisfied after each period of time in the woods.

I was healing.

I returned home from that first of what has become many overnight camping trips, and placed that cook pot and spoon back in their spot on the kitchen counter. This time, outside their boxes.

They now had meaning to me. They represented this healing journey, and definitely beckoned promises of future (and now reminded me of past) adventures to come every morning at breakfast when I would now pour my morning Mr. Coffee into the pot and stir it with that spoon. Sipping and dreaming where this journey was taking me. Choosing to follow what feels good.

And this felt good.


We would later go on to complete our first bike packing trip together that first summer, where I credit that ride as fully cracking my heart open to Aaron.

I’ve written about this experience already on August 19th, 2019 just as I was beginning another school year at work. I posted this experience at my other blog:

But for a short teaser of that experience, if you’ve still read this far and are interested, I’ll include a condensed version of that adventure below. To me, in hindsight, that journey is really what I hold responsible for it all, and I will forever hold that trail in a very special spot in my heart. Of course, that is in addition to the trail I first crossed paths on with Aaron.

Enjoy and stay tuned for future adventures!

Life’s a Journey, so Ride on~

Video of the beginning (the adventures leading to The Olympic Discovery Trail) can be found here: Adventures with Aaron: The Prequel


Exploring the Olympic Discovery Trail and Discovering Something Completely Unexpected Along the Way

August 19th, 2019

The Olympic Discovery Trail…also known as The Pathway to the Pacific because it goes from Port Townsend to La Push on the Washington Coast.

I have been fantasizing about bike packing this trail for about 4 years now.  Driving past the various trailhead markers in my truck as I have made many journeys from Oregon to Port Angeles over the years to visit my Mom, I would let my mind slip from the drivers seat of the truck to imaging pedaling my bike on that very pathway.  Curious as to what kind of discoveries I could find on that Discovery Trail, what treasures were around each bend.   Isn’t that at the core of the human spirit?  The most ancient of things…following a trail to explore?  I have been exploring trails ever since I was a kid, from the corn field across the street from my home in Hermiston, to tossing my rollerblades and walkman in my high school beater car and driving across town to the Nature Center Trail in Pueblo, Colorado.  But…for this Olympic Discovery Trail, I didn’t have the gear, the know how, or a good riding partner to accompany me on a journey like that.  So I would constantly content myself with my imagination.

But!  When my path crossed (literally and figuratively) with Aaron in late January of this year on another trail…I of course did what any other intrepid explorer would do upon first meeting another adventurer:

I tossed him my well worn map of the Discovery Trail and asked him if he was in on checking it out together sometime.  I mean…things needed to be explored out there! And I could tell he was just the man to be adventurous enough to join me and who would fully appreciate the journey as well.  Much to my delight, he took my map of the trail and kept it with him for months, and brought up planning ideas here and there during the dreary months of February and March.  He pulled up websites, and talked gear and took me to date nights of workshops on bike packing at the local bike shop here in town.  I smiled with glee when I noticed that map was folded and re-folded and more worn than when I had originally handed it over to him months earlier.  And this past July, he took me to that trailhead.

However, before we ever first stepped foot and nosed our front bike tires onto that ODT trail this past summer, we’ve been adventuring together quite often.

I wasn’t entirely sure who this Aaron fellow was when I first found myself hiking behind him up some snowy trails in January of this year, but I was happy to follow along as I usually am.  With Bella dog scouting out every pine needle and pine cone in between us.  I was lost in my own world that day, letting my thoughts come and go as I listened to each footfall of mine squish into that soft snow as the sunlight cascaded through the trees above me.  Bella’s faster footsteps creating a different drumbeat ahead of me.  The trail winding in and out, sometimes allowing me a distant view of Aaron up ahead, and sometimes the bend in trail separating us.  That day was beautiful and exactly what I needed in the midst of a pretty chaotic and confusing January for me back at home.  Up in the clear air, sunshine and mountains I could find a more meditative pace.  Unclipping my snowshoes and loading Bella Dog back up in the truck later that afternoon, I didn’t think I’d see him again which was perfectly okay with me since I had just embarrassed myself in front of him and the other hikers who kindly helped me figure out the 4 wheel drive function of my truck so I could extract myself from my parking spot.  Seriously.  I know.

But then, a month later I found myself skiing down Mt. Hood with him, swishing in and out of the s curves he was making on the hill in front of me.

Then about a month after that, I found myself following him along the McKenzie River Trail to Blue Pool and hiking up Misery Ridge on Smith Rock where I’ve always, always wanted to go.  Bella always happily in between us leading the way.  Then, earlier this summer, I found myself in a river raft tied to his river raft, floating down the Willamette with him and a bunch of his friends on a river float.  My feet splashing carefree in the water.

Then there was beach getaway weekend in May that I had (as usual) booked for myself earlier in January.  An annual tradition of sorts for me as a reprieve from the daily grind at work and life and I invited him to join Bella and I for our beach excursions.

Beach weekend was important to me.

You have to understand as a child, my life-long goal, and one that I held with amazing tenacity and was what I based every decision I made in middle and high school and college and grad school: I always, always fantasized about living in Oregon.  Owning a truck.  Driving that truck down the coastal highway in Oregon. With a dog.  In my fantasy, the dog always had it’s head out the window, tongue flailing in the wind.  It’s important to note that in my fantasy, I never put someone in that truck with me.   I guess even in my fantasies, I knew how to keep it real.

Certainly, romantic love is something I have chased my entire life, fascinated by it.

Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever known how to recognize romantic love.  I’ve been wrong about it a lot of times.  So, I have spent A LOTTTTTTT of time trying to figure it out.  Case in point-there is a jar above my fridge that contains over 447 years of combined long term marriage advice from approximately 20 happily married couples that I am close to that I have been collecting since 2010 after my divorce.

Reeling after that experience with divorce, I would occasionally run across the people in my life (cousins, aunts/uncles, trusted co-workers, friendly apartment maintenance crew members that I’ve gotten close to, the grocery store manager that I would share a small connection with, etc.) who would proudly share with me in daily, normal conversation, that it was their 12th wedding anniversary, or their 33rd, 50th, 9th, etc.  Fascinated and desperate to understand a successful, long term connection like this, I wanted to know what these people knew.  So after the usual, “CONGRATULATIONS!  Oh, that’s WONDERFUL!  What are you going to do this weekend to celebrate?”  I would ask them all, and if you’re close to me-I’ve probably asked you if you brought up your wedding anniversary-

“What is your ONE word?  What is ONE word you would use to describe how you got here to today….10, 25, 50 years of marriage?  I wanna know what you know.”

It certainly has been fun over the years listening or reading my friends and families response to that question.  Weather I’m standing in line at the grocery check out, or standing over my broken dishwasher last summer with the apartment maintenance crew, reading a facebook posting from a high school friend or sitting side by side on a cozy couch with my 90 year old grandmother 2 years ago, cups of English Breakfast Tea warming both our hands, I’ve listened intently to every response and worked hard to hold the answers in my head until I could get home to write it on a piece of paper if I didn’t have any at the time.  I have enjoyed the pause and thoughtfulness that goes with each answer-watching the years of marriage dance light and sometimes storms across their eyes as everyone has come up with their own answers.

The answers are unique with lots of similarities too.  And I value each one.  With over 447 years of combined marriage in that jar above my fridge, I figured it was time to synthesize the data this past spring as I was camping or biking or hiking with Aaron.  I collected the repeat words and tallied them to get the top 5 words in rank order.  As I pedaled along the ODT this summer,  I found myself reflecting on these relationship qualities as well as the adventures we’ve had leading up to ODT. The top 5 answers to my highly empirical study in rank order:

#1: Friendship

#2: Perseverance

#3: Compromise

#4: Humor

#5: God/Christ-Centered/Prayer

However, my favorite goes beyond just the ONE word, and into the stories everyone told behind their ONE word-basically their elaborations on the word they chose followed by most often an explanation.  Some examples include:

“Be willing to adapt-people change.  She used to dance…”

“Love the flaws”

“Compromise-say you’re sorry.”

“One time divorce came up, we were super poor, so we were seriously considering it.  But in the end, Nelson said the kids didn’t ask to be born, so we have to stick with it for them.”

“Great sex with my best friend.”

“Gus has been my best friend from the beginning and through thick and thin.  It helps to share everything with a close friend.”

As I found myself on day 2 of our grand Olympic National Forest adventure,I recognized that I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out romantic love.  It fascinates me.  I want to experience it.  So I’ve been collecting those 447 years of advice, listening to Ted Talks, reading things like The 5 Love Languages and putting myself out there.  But certainly, I never put anyone in the truck with me in my fantasy future life goals for myself.

And the life goal of Oregon, dog, truck, beach has certainly been realized for me in the past 10 years.   And hopefully you can see the brightness in my eyes over this.  I still sometimes pinch myself when I realize I really AM in Oregon.  And that truck?  Despite me needing to really learn how to use the dang thing to it’s full capacity, if you’ve seen me rolling into the parking lot at a mountain bike event with my bike on back, and the eagerness with which I am to offer shuttling bikes to the top or to a Moab adventure for friends, I am so thrilled.

It’s just…I never realized I’d be in the passenger seat, and that there would be someone else in the truck with me that maybe, might stick around for a while.  I know that the companionship could go away, but for now I’m happy.  And I’ve got my jar of love advice to guide me along the way.

As I was flailing my arm out the window as Aaron drove Bella and I south in the truck on the 101 for a coastal tour of his hometown on beach weekend getaway-I was lost in beach weekend bliss- singing tunes while watching the waves crash outside the window and the lighthouse steadfastly holding it’s place on the cliff and Bella dog’s head poking out the rear window-tounge flailing drool behind her in the wind…when I paused and looked over at Aaron.  And I goofishly grinned as I realized I was in the passenger seat.

It has felt like my adventure orb crossed paths on that snow shoe hike back in January, and has slowly been orbiting into his.  Everything he has suggested we do for a day trip or weekend adventure has been right up my alley.

“Do you want to go to the Umpqua National Forest and visit the hot springs there?”  Aaron would ask.

“Uh…..lemme think…..YES!”

Aaron: “Have you ever wanted to go to Glacier National Park?”

Me: “Umm…of course!  It’s on my list, along with all these other things…here lemme show you!”

And we compared our actual adventure lists.  There were numerous overlaps, but also lots of new things each of us had never heard of before but the other had.  We shared website links to race events, national parks, campsites and more in rapid fire texting late into the night.  He’d come over and peer over the maps I dug out of my adventure box.  Giddy with excitement and ideas I’d mention which times of year I heard the wildflowers were the best here and how it might be best to take the train in September or October to San Francisco according to a friend of mine because that’s when the Bay Area is sunniest.  I unabashedly told Aaron I wanted to train ride there and then bike ride all over and eat sour dough.   He would smile and start talking gear up the wazoo and into finer detail than I’ve ever heard before and as he went on, I may have zoned out a bit as he went on to describe the fabrics made and instead focused on his eyes and the light in them and suddenly…I saw a trail opening up before me.  A life path I’ve always been on, but here was someone who I could maybe really share it with and who would quite possibly expand it beyond anything I’d ever imagined before.   The stormy and confusing waves I’d been lost in earlier seemed to recede and the trail I’d been on suddenly opened up and brightened up with so much sunshine and promise.

Sitting down to eat at the bottomless salsa bar in Sequim on day 1 of our ODT bike packing trail, I let my screaming legs stretch out while I consumed mass quantities of chips and salsa and a gargantuan burrito as I reflected on the muddy mountain bike festival I casually invited him to early on.  I remember meeting up with him and introducing him to a friend of mine  at the trailhead at the festival who had a loaner bike to borrow, before I left him and dropped in to the extra muddy trail that day.  I needed some bike time.  I needed to be on the trail where things made sense.  I’ve often said, “Things just make sense here on the trail.”  “Out there in the world and what I see at work sad things are happening-things  that just don’t make sense to me…but when I’m out here pedaling along a trail, it’s just makes sense.  Trail.  Pine needles.  Trees.  The feeling of contentedness after exerting my body for hours.  Smiles and cheers around a fire. I feel reset to drop back in to life.”

Later that afternoon on muddy mountain bike day, after both my bike and I had been thoroughly smattered in mud that only a good pacific northwest spring day of riding can do to a girl- I found myself as usual roaming the crowd of mountain bikers at the festival dropping in and out of conversations with different friends I have made along the way.  Not being the most socially skilled person, I like it best this way in a large group of people.  Me roaming, coming and going as my social bucket gets filled easily-eventually finding myself a quiet spot in the middle of everything, but also on my own next to the warmth of the bon fire.  I recall tucking into myself, my warm coat, pulling my beanie tighter over my head, wiggling my toes in my muddy shoes and looking across the fire and saw a smile.  He was standing opposite of me, alone but in the crowd as well.  Hands in pockets.  Similar hat and coat on.  Muddy as all get out.  And that smile just warmed me more than that fire or any fire ever had in my life. It came with a feeling of familiarity and comfort.

I smiled back.

Yup, life is now surrounded by PCT trail maps, shiny new titanium mugs, sleeping bags, and more bike paraphernalia than I’ve ever had before.

I have fallen in love just like it’s supposed to happen.  Slowly over time and trails, mountain tops and ocean views.  Gently letting it rock me like the river or in a hammock on a hot summer day in the woods.


Full version of the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure can be read here: Olympic Discovery Trail

Video of the Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure can be found here: Olympic Discovery Trail- The Movie Version

Hello world! It is I, Oregoniangal. Nice to meet you. I’m looking forward to writing many things here soon! Stay tuned!

P.S. The book is always better than the movie


noun: a close connection, a natural liking or attraction; a feeling of kinship, for someone or something


noun: an ecosystem or assemblage of ecosystems dominated by trees and other woody vegetation, usually wild. verb: to cover an area with a forest where none existed before.


brand: an attraction for, a kinship with, the outdoors, with a purpose of spreading that affection and fondness with others.

What: AffinityForest really came about in the realm of brainstorming personal/social branding, coming up with names, trying to find something unique (wasn’t taken), and that I could find a domain name for.

Process: My process revolved around a sort of purpose driven, spontaneous, abstract, mind mapping of words and doodles to paper. As to the drive of purpose: I was trying to capture something that represented the theme of adventure, and the outdoors. I wanted to capture the realm, the entirety of it, rather than just a single or specific focus or discipline, like just backpacking, mountain biking, or camping. I also didn’t want to be too general, or generic. My intentions were to find something that wasn’t too personal (singular), but could represent a group or community. I also wanted something that invoked a sense of love for the theme. I relatively quickly found the word affinity first, it just seemed fitting, and I like the word (I have an affinity for the word affinity :D); the process of pairing it with another word was the majority of brainstorming and reflection. And I think most would agree, things like, AffinityOutdoors, AffinityAdventures, and AffinityMountain, just don’t have the same roll off the lips and tongue, like AffinityForest does. A bit later, I realized the bonus for the sort of double entendre using forest as a verb.

I’m pretty excited about what I came up with, and as a brand I think it captures and encompasses a lot of what I hope to represent here.

— Aaron

I don’t know where to start; so I guess I’ll just start.

What’s the plan, what’s the goal? The idea is that this will be a place to publish and share our stories, experiences, and adventures with our family, friends, and the new acquaintances we meet along the way.

I suppose the first steps toward this goal are to make this a sort of habit. A habit to write/type, to document, and to get the ideas and thoughts down, something to tend and rework.

Excellence manifests from discipline.

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