After leaving “The Ranch” in Northern California I thought it would be good to take the long route onto the next destination.  I headed East through the Sierras of California and into Nevada.

I have never felt pure serene solitude as I have in Nevada. I took highway 6 East through Nevada and turned Southeast to highway 375 right outside of the infamous Area 51.  There was one town on the way.

There were plenty of unidentifiable lights flying around in the sky.  Distant lights that move unlike airplanes and skitter back and forth.  At first I thought they could be far-away radio towers but they were actually moving.  Three lights in the distance that seemed to be moving together but were too far apart to be one unit.  I have no photo of those three lights, but I did take this time lapse while I was sleeping.  Each frame of this lapse represents 30 seconds and the whole time lapsed is about 12 hours. At the bottom of the screen you will see cars zipping by and in the sky you can see plenty of tiny specks of light flashing on and off which are probably shooting stars.  But, at about 19 seconds look closely at the right of your screen and notice about 50 lights flying off into the distance over the course of several hours.  Also, at about 22 seconds there is a huge streak of light in the upper left of the screen that cannot be a shooting star.  If anyone out there in internet land can explain them, please leave a comment.

Many nights of hiking around in pitch black setting up time lapses, and more hours spent driving down dark and dusty unknown roads that don’t show on maps.  My car has felt the pain more than me perhaps…

In Utah I found Skutumpah road, an old dirt road that wraps around Mount Zion.  It stretches for roughly 120 miles starting in the town of Glendale and heading Northeast before cutting Southeast.  The old man in Glendale asked me, “Are you absolutely sure you want to go down that road, you’re gonna need a can of beans and a lotta water.”

One of the locals that owns a Ranch suggested I camp in Lick Canyon.  I made it there after dark and hiked in occasionally looking up to see the Canyon rising above me.  Their were Cougar tracks in the mud so I took my photo and got out of there.

The end of Skutumpah road was said to be easier then the beginning.  This is false.  The further south you drive down Skutumpah the more it resembles two parallel muddy trenches passable only by dirt bikes.  One hundred miles in and I was not about to turn back so I held my breath and charged my 88 Honda LXi (who I have named Loxie) through the muddy trenches hoping things would look better around the bend.  Somewhere within the violent shaking both of my front lights popped out of socket.

Soon I was in Page Arizona surrounded by familiar Wal-Marts and McDonald’s.  I walked past the largest man-made reservoir ever built.  One of my fondest memories from this trip is swimming in the Glen Canyon reservoir.  After a week in the hot and dusty desert it was a delightful bite of heaven to soak in the cool water while looking up at the canyons towering above.

The next day I awoke in Navajo territory.  After doing some electrical work on my Honda over a cup of coffee I set out.  I stopped at a roadside market and ate a grilled mutton (lamb) while talking with the cook.

desert-0828My goal in passing was to find a Navajo or Hopi elder who had been alive before the Peabody Black Mesa Coal Controversy in 1968.  Peabody essentially screwed the entire region out of their water and natural resources.  I researched it and read that the Black Mesa coal mine shut down in 2005.  I stopped at a store and asked where the abandoned Peabody Silo is.  “Peabody is still here unfortunately,” said the cashier.

The abandoned Peabody Black Mesa coal mineSure enough there were two relatively new coal mines in the region. I guess the stigma of the Black Mesa plant was so big that it was best to just open a new coal plant.  I did find the abandoned Peabody plant and took this shot.

Afterwards, it was another hour or so of dirt roads.  The clouds were amazing.  Whatever dirt road I was on shot me out right where the first mesa is.  I saw many abandoned trailers along the ridge of a vast canyon.

I walked into the Hopi cultural center and caught an old man named Kiv.  Judging by the deep burrows in his forehead I guessed he was in his 60s or 70s.  He explained to me that he was born on the first mesa of Hopi land, but he left at the age of 9 because all the rest of his family had left.

“There was nothing left, no reason to stay,” he told me.  He seemed upset as he told me that he had never been to the Grand Canyon.  I soothed his anger by describing my hellishly painful descent into the canyon with no sleeping bag and having mice crawl on me as I slept on the picnic tables…He got a laugh out of that.  I threw in a tid-bit about some guy that died there last week.  I asked if he knew any elders that could talk about Peabody coal and he told me I would eventually find someone.

On the road I picked up a young hitch-hiker with a “Disturbed”  tee-shirt.  He didn’t say much but he had me take him directly into the village.  Everyone in the village was at a volleyball game that we passed along the way.  The village reminded me of Tegucigalpa, Honduras except empty and on top of a huge mesa surrounded by canyons.  Nobody was there and half the shacks were abandoned.

I found the edge of the canyon and had a peek. On my way back to the car I saw an old man in front of a shack sitting on a crate with a cowboy hat on.  I walked up to him and said “Hi.”  He responded by ignoring me for a brief moment.  I almost thought he didn’t hear me but then he looked in my general direction and started hocking up loogies and spitting.  He got about three of those out before I was out of listening range.

The second mesa sits upon a canyon right across from the first one.  There was a tiny village of adobe pueblo on top of a mount with cars wrapping around it.

There was a house on the edge of the canyon with a sign that said “Crafts, Welcome,” so I made myself welcome and knocked on their front door.  A young boy came out and told me there were no crafts for sale today.  He told me there was a dance going on at the top of the mesa where I can find a man named Walter Koyowitha and interview him.  I tried to get the young man to go with me but he didn’t care for dancing.

I was about to stand out like Rosanne in a baseball auditorium so I left my camera in the car and took the rock stairs up the mountain.  Everybody that was from the area knew Walter Koyowitha and it alleviated the awkwardness of essentially being in the middle of a Hopi Pow-Wow and being a complete outsider both mentally and physically.

The village felt like a castle, the way it winded up.  As I hiked up I imagined that centuries ago the Hopi were dancing and banging on drums just like they were tonight.  The dance was in a open space on the top of the mesa that was only accessible by ladder.  Someone told me that Koyowitha was singing and drumming.  I would have gone in to look for him but the dance was letting out and the ladder was swamped with people trying to leave so I waited and watched and listened to the language, the accents and the beautiful clothing and jewelry of the Hopi.

Finally, I found Koyowitha in front of his old adobe home.  He was sweaty and tired.  I told him that I wanted to record the oral history of Peabody Coal within the Navajo nation.  It was important because Peabody is still blowing up the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia while cheating people out of their mineral rights and exploiting their lack of education.  His face grew dark when I mentioned Peabody.  “You shouldn’t talk about such things around here, the Hopi people are still bitter about what Peabody did.”

I didn’t get my interview, but I got to step into a world of culture that I thought had no longer existed.  I figured it existed in a Disneyland-like way, as a touristy faux of the real thing that once was.  I was surprised.

Every mesa village I went to, the entire village was together at some event.  The Hopi tribe is truly a great example of what intentional community could be.

Perhaps I will walk into every community and say that I am looking for Walter Koyowitha, just to see where it takes me.


Hey All,

For the past two weeks I have been at an anonymous commune in Northern California. I was given the opportunity to film with the understanding that I do not name the actual commune, thus we will call it, “The Ranch”.  The commune began in about 1968. It was one of the original “Hippie” communes and I understand it used to be a training ground for the Black Panthers.  There is an excellent book about it that has been out of print for 30 years called “January Thaw”.

There were many philosophically and politically minded people, most were transient. It was very different from the structure that I found at Alpha Farm in Deadwood, Oregon. There really is no structure at the Ranch only guidelines it seems. The motto is “Free Land, Free People”.  This community is like a school and an ongoing experiment that began in the 60’s. A group can honestly test how life and a society can run itself in different ways.  I think the people that started this commune occasionally look at it and laugh, thinking about how they have been through every thing all those kids are dealing with.

As more people became okay with being filmed, many of the people who were against it at first came around to being interviewed. There were a few anarchists that wanted nothing to do with the camera, although a few of them did get interviewed with masks on.  There is a wall of security amongst some anarchists, and it is difficult to get access….  hell, its difficult to even come around and not get my camera smashed.

I learned a great lesson; do not film when people are drinking heavily.  Every time I tried I came into an argument.  The second time it happened, the argument escalated until a man was screaming “You need to pack your shit and get out of this commune right now!”  The next day, we had to have a “feelings meeting” because we had spent the entire night screaming at each other and we woke up half the commune.  We came to a clear understanding of how it all happened and I see where I made my mistake.  Since then, we have laughed about the whole scenario.

Right now I am in San Fran with and I am about to film a squat called “Fancy House” in Oakland.  I know that Oakland has had issues with police brutality, but I never understood how much animosity the people of Oakland had towards the police until last night.  The conversation was bitter and I could not get people to agree that perhaps at least 1% of police have good ethics and want to make a safe and better society.  We talked a bit about the Oscar Grant case.

I drove into the Wolf Creek Sanctuary to film and interview the gathering and some of the elders, I was a bit nervous being a complete outsider.  My nervousness was justified when I was told to wait across the street as the elders decided on whether or not allow me in.  The gathering had just had a heated debate the day before to decide who was allowed into the gathering.  As luck would have it, they decided they were not allowing women or any man not identified as homosexual.

Unfortunately, the Radical Faerie Gathering will not be making its way into this documentary, but I am still in contact with a Faerie community that would like me to pay a visit but is still undecided about allowing me to film.  Being a sanctuary, they are justifiably concerned with their privacy.

About this project

Imagine getting away from all the problems you face in this society… Away from sticky situations that come to us uninvited, away from everything that you don’t believe in. Well, some people have actually glided out of that misery and into a more agreeable environment for themselves. Or at least they left searching for it.


This is a documentary about the people of intentional communities in America. What drove these people to seek out a better version of society on their own terms? How are they going about creating it? We try to answer these questions while looking into the unique ways in which the people of intentional communities lead their lives.

As a side note:

Since the rise of a the internet and technology like the smartphone, we have seen journalism move from the control of big media companies and into the hands of individuals on the spot. There is little room for on the spot and immediate journalism but I think there will be a growing need for well thought out documentary style journalism, to keep us up on the bigger picture that takes time to grasp. We hope this is the first of many great documentaries to come and all help is greatly appreciated.