Mapping the Stories

Explore the map above or click here to go to the ArcGIS Online hosted version.

In December of 2010, I launched Memories are vague, but I seem to remember working on and initiating the launch while sitting in the Albuquerque, New Mexico airport waiting on a flight to New Hampshire for Christmas. If my first blog post is any indication, I had camped out the night before and was struggling with the WordPress platform.

In starting a blog, I had two primary goals: The first was to learn more about the internet, how it worked, and what things like SQL, PHP, cPanel, and Linux meant; the second was to “force” myself to write by creating a platform on which I would share my writing every month. The first of those goals was well intentioned, and although I have become somewhat less clumsy at behind the scenes maintenance of the website, I still rely on graphical user interfaces to get it all done (i.e. no code, no SQL, just point and click with the cursor.) Even now, in writing and preparing this post, I am learning how to use the “Embed” feature on WordPress’ Block Editor; I have pushed off changing to their Block Editor because I had eight years of the classic editor under my belt and it worked fine. . .  The second goal was wholly completed and then some. Close to 160 months later, has over 180 published blog posts, 95% or more of which contain written content. My long lost companion blog, easily had an additional 60; more on the long-lost part later.

Needless to say, it has been a process and a journey. Along the way I have done considerably more writing than what is here—or lost on the web; a guidebook, a spoon making book, countless drafts, one writing class, and an in-process re-write of a NOLS educator notebook are just some of the avenues through which I have created written words. I discovered that nothing makes me write more than adventures in the mountains. Patagonia, in particular made me write like no other place. While journeys to East Africa, New Zealand, and India all got the creative juices flowing as well, I have just spent more time in that region of South America. Being in the mountains, finding adventure, crafting the post even as I build rappel stations, it makes me want to write. In that pull to share my experiences I find my truth—I like having been on the mountain more than I like being on the mountain. I like returning and having a story to tell but even more I like returning and being able to tell a story. I wonder if I climbed to write, just to give me something to share.

Outside of the random poems and a piece of fiction from college, I strove for creative non-fiction, a genre that tells a story in a lyrical, narrative manner yet relays information and experiences. Over the years, the topics about which I write have shifted. First rooted in a NOLS instructor, itinerant climber lifestyle it changed course as I became rooted, got a job in an office, bought a home, and eventually moved away from a place that had been home for over 15 years. I shifted from climbing and mountains to horses and mountains. I shifted from alpine adventures to attic adventures and from love to well, love. I started with my blog’s tagline being “kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight” then, in late 2016, changed it to a Leonard Cohen line “love is the only engine of survival” thinking that “love’s the only house big enough for all the pain in the world†.”

Place based themes are strong: the alpine, the desert, New Hampshire, and Wyoming to name a few. In 2012 I started a blog for Patagonia based writings. Eight trips over thirteen years left me with significant rambling prose. Boating Chilean rivers, death in the mountains, friendships, reflections on “why I go,” sport climbing in Chalten, machete purchasing in Chaiten, and so much more inspired words. Then, sometime in late 2020, it just stopped showing up and responding. Searching my GoDaddy account yielded a database filled with content: pictures, writings, etc., but I have yet to find a way to at least bring it back onto a hard drive so it isn’t lost forever.

Interest themes emerged too (not yet sure how to represent post categories on the map), with NOLS, climbing, travel, family, horses, heartache, home, and place all having their fair share of posts. As the office and home projects overtook the alpine and weeks in the field, the subject matter and place zeroed in too: Wyoming and reflections began to find there ways through my fingers and onto my screen.

Today, I still write about the vertical world and I still write about horses and mountains but also write a lot more about the Inner Workings and the Engine of Survival. I wonder what the next twelve years will bring. . . ?

In the last year I started a project with an aim to provide a map based representation of the writings on I exported a table of blogpost data and set to giving each post a latitude and longitude representation. Some got two or three, some got random assignments, others stacked on top of each other, but slowly the spreadsheet filled up. Then it sat. A week ago, after finishing up an Introduction to ArcGIS class that I had been taking, I returned to the spreadsheet with renewed interest. The eight-week class itself gave interesting insight into my interests and non-interests. Many of my peers were excited to use GIS to solve problems that happen at the human/environment interface—which by the way, is everywhere. . . I though, found that I want to use maps to tell stories and to give spatial representation to things and, in that space, begin to parse out meaning or at least give voice to something. I have no idea how to do that or even where to find something that needs doing in that nature, so for now, I start with my stories.

Last spring I used to create a resource to help NOLS instructors write Land Acknowledgements] for their courses, so I turned to that platform for this place-based organization of my writings. In light of the fact that all the land that has given me fodder for my pen has been made available to me through forced removal, genocides, and broken treaties, it seems appropriate that I also incorporate the amazing mapping resource available from to bring attention to the indigenous struggles to regain and retain homelands.

Being a novice, I found myself using a roundabout method of plotting the location using, copying and pasting into the table I had created on Google Sheets then, when done, importing the .csv file into the mapping platform on In the process I discovered continual evidence of the Viagra hack, which has overtaken many links to website pages (if I create and post a link, it corrupts the link and directs the user to a generic Viagra/Cialis website—needless to say it is a hard problem to fix.)

So today, I try out a spatial and temporal representation of most of the 180 or so blog posts I have written over the past 12 years using maps and online mapping; the former something that I have been so fond of since getting highway maps at rest areas as an eight year old and the latter something that I see directing future learnings and endeavours.

† with a nod toward Martina McBride.

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A little bit less of a nomad now, Jared still likes to refer to himself in the third person.

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