Vance Creek by John Mooney

Part 1

Vance Creek Bridge

I've been up for 20+ hours traveling across the county and the acid I took in the parking lot is starting to hit me. The setting; the sporting goods section of Walmart in the mountains of Washington state. D and the elderly employee are discussing state laws and blah, blah, blah... long story short, we aren't getting a shotgun for our late night hike. Which is actually pretty worrisome considering we are about to enter bear, wolf, and cougar country. I decided to get a glass 40oz as a last line of defense. Can take the kid out of Quincy and you know the rest.

I guess this use to be a quick hike. Not anymore. Now it's an endurance test. 3 miles of intensely varying elevation on loose dirt logging roads. All on private property. All patrolled regularly. Also guarded by the two cougars that were eyeing us half way into our hike from about 60 feet away in the tree line. For the majority of our hike we were seeing eyes in the trees. Typically pretty small. All of them instantly spooked by the flashlights. I had ditched my 40oz a half mile back. It was pointless. I was sweating more than the alcohol I was taking in. So I'm armed to teeth with nothing but my altered wit and a small machete, when my flashlight scanned across the first set of large cat eyes. I stopped dead in my tracks and so did D. Then the second set of eyes looked up.

At this point I'm ready to get the fuck out of there. I said to D, " That's it man. This is too sketchy. I'm ready to go back.". He convinced me to go forward, and I am always grateful for that. He had his insanely bright streamlight on them both and we went at them. Before I got a couple feet closer they both scattered and took off into the heavy brush on the mountainside. Alright, just a mile or two left. 

Long hikes with camping and camera gear is never an easy thing. I will forever suck at minimizing my weight for camera gear. It is what it is. It all might get used, so it all comes. The pain is part of the process that makes the product pure. Now, I don't remember exactly how long the hike took us but it felt like most of our vacation to me. Our East Coast brother @rmp_ryanmello had just done the trip solo the week before us and provided a detailed map to our destination on the south side. Thank you my man. I left you machete in Seattle. My bad.

Coming up on the bridge in the dead of the night was extremely misleading. You feel the breeze moving through the massive valley but couldn't really get a grip on the size of it. Almost instantly upon finding the tracks, I had my pack off and started heading out. The cold night air on my sweat soaked back felt amazing. It was just about morning on the east coast and I was starting to come down. I set up my hammock tent right across the tracks at the base of the Vance Creek bridge. The most amazing camping site I've ever had. And we earned it. 

The next morning I took my morning piss 340 feet in the air with a legal joint in my mouth. America!..or something like that. I walked back to the tent, washed my hands with purell & wetwipes. Grabbed the only small bag of trail mix I brought with me because I was so afraid of bears and headed back out to soak in the view while D was still sleeping. 

Vance Creek.jpg

-9 Degrees by John Mooney

It's  4 AM and it is the coldest morning in Boston since 1957. My gear has been packed since the night before and I have never been one to waver to weather. In my life rescheduling means a 1 to 2 week wait which is just simply unacceptable. Every opportunity must be met with full determination otherwise, what the fuck are we doing here? Luckily for me, my cohort is similarly minded.

Tucked away in the littlest state in the country is this incredible location. Once a school for religious studies it now sits in a state of uselessness. It's grandeur is causing delusions to none. A massive building with many, many problems; a restoration would be costly. This just being the main building on a campus of multiple large buildings in varying levels of decay. A large stone structure too intimidating to enter on our initial entry.

We decided to choose a smaller building that was used as a cafeteria and common area. Pretty trashed and boring we knew that we were not in the right place. The minimal saving grace was a modern spiral staircase but it wasn't the most interesting shot framed up. We packed up and decided to move into the stone monster.

I'm no boy-scout. I'm also not a career criminal. I would just avoid this whole point in the story if I had done anything horrible, but the backdoor was wide open. I've had some pretty easy entries before but this had to be the easiest. We enter to the sound of an alarm screeching. BEEP.....BEEP.....BEEP.....BEEP.....BEEP..... You get the point. Now most people would bolt at this point but some spots are like this in my experience. Typically the caretaker has turned off the alarm one too many times because it was set off by wildlife. 

Upon entry of the main lobby you are just taken back by it's beauty...and its warmth. A single heater in the corner of the dining room would prove to be my saviour later. Once inside the main building my accomplice and I went separate ways. Normally, this is how it goes with missions. Once entry is made, we stay close enough to be reachable in an emergency but far enough away to stay the F out of each others way. Some places seem to be more challenging than others in this regard. This place however was massive and I wouldn't see D until around the time I thought I had frostbite. 

It seemed like with every room you entered the more incredible vast spaces you found. All awe inspiring in their individual way. It certainly is a magical place to shoot. I got something I like in almost every room that heightened my interest. (I will share a few of the already posted ones below). A library, two large pseudo function rooms, multiple rooms with fireplaces, staircases, and plenty of peeling paint throughout. Basically a cream-dream. I shot like a madman for 3 hours (roughly) because I had a family brunch at Noon and I know how I get while lost looking through one eye. 

I found a staircase that seemed to go to the roof, or at least the widows walk. When I reached the top it was a room complete with plenty of dead pigeons, pigeon shit, and not as many windows as I had wished. After a couple hours inside I had almost forgotten just how horribly cold it was out. Unfortunately for my right hand I saw a shot of the grounds I needed to take. It was only achievable while hanging my hand and camera out of a 40 foot high window. Oh yeah, and i can't work my camera with my glove on.  

This, this is the image that I thought was going to cost me some skin. I have never felt a burning like the one on my right hand after hanging my hand out the window for 3-5 minutes trying (and failing) to get this shot. After my final image for a stack i sprinted back down the ladder and stairs to where I knew there was a heater. I viciously rubbed my hands together trying to get feeling back into my fingers, It seemed like forever until i could feel the heat of my blood circulate back into my appendage. Would I do it again, Fucking right I would. This is what I do. Nothing will change that. No rest for the wicked.

Solid Accomplice