Friday, October 31, 2008
Well, pull up a glass of something and take this little trip down memory lane. Or memory river. Desolation and Gray canyons, to be exact.
(Thanks to "Wild" Bill Boudreaux for the video!)
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Looks like I'm heading West after work tomorrow.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I said, “What?”
I live on three acres just off Highway 666. It was probably the Highway Department’s financial advisor that devalued the same highway by changing its designation to 491, but the noise is still the same.
Semi trucks, pickups, SUVs, automobiles, big motorcycles, the noise of living beside a highway – any highway, really. The noise is so much a part of the background that I usually don’t notice it.
I still think I live on three acres of rural America where the birds and the bees create most of the music.
And then I get away from the acreage, like this week. Two days along the Crystal River, the noise of ice cold water gushing over rocks. Rush hour water. Starlight crashing down from the sky’s black tarmac. That kind of traffic. Every truck going by on the pavement that pretends it’s an asphalt river, snaking all the way over McClure Pass and down to Glenwood Springs, I finally hear it.
The silence, that is.
The rare moment in my life when there’s nothing to ignore.
Immediately upon arriving, the boys were off, whilst I got dinner ready. Teen boys move through the world like it's a game of parkour.
As they should.
Run, jump, wander, and risk. That's what teen-aged boys need to do -- and it's exactly what they aren't given enough chances to do in high school. I don't mean in the high-school years, I mean in the place -- in the box itself in which society hath deemed teen-aged boys must be contained.
That's why we came out here, to Hovenweep National Monument, even if it's for a quick 24-hour foray. It's the foray that matters.
Later, the boys stood around the campfire-on-a-pedestal, poking the fire, and talking teen.
"Just think what fire is --"
A dramatic pause while they stare into the fire, and I, sitting in a lawn chair, stare at them.
"It's plasma, dude."
I join in when Webb's friend's new dishwashing job comes up. We discuss kitchen work as a good skill to acquire to maximize their options -- you can work anywhere, and lots of good, cool, beautiful places; make good money; and you get days off to ski, surf, fish, whatever -- fulfilling my ongoing role as anti-career counselor.
(I'm not telling my kids they shouldn't go to college, etc. I'm just saying ... there are options. Maximize them and keep them open.)
Another veering in conversation.
"What's the worst way to die?"
After some debate and brainstorming, the winners were:
- Waking up in a buried coffin
The conversation goes global:
"You know who sucked? Hitler. And Stalin."
"And Dracula," which led to a history lesson -- the teen-ager's biography of the real Count Dracula.
Silence again. The fire gets poked. Stares are cast out toward the darkening night.
"Dude, this is so much better than sitting at home and chillin' watching a movie."
I'm not making this up, I swear. I immediately scribbled it down.
Later, the boys turn to a game of head-lamp chess, while I listen to the Red Sox game on the radio and take in the night, and the growing bubble of light rising from the silouetted reclining face of the Sleeping Ute.
When the moon crests the mountain's ridge, I point it out to the concentrating teens.
The boys look up from playing chess.
"That's so legit."
And that's what teen boys need a lot more of.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I may not have been successful hunting elk this fall, but on Sunday, I did manage to hunt down some winter.
Of course, a good guide helps. Enlisting the services of those guys who found some stash of winter in October, I joined a group of four other dried-out ski-holics this Sunday (a day reserved for sacred rituals ... even Animistic ones) heading high into this San Juans in search of those elusive autumn tracks.
It was there. Cached up a distant alpine valley hid the stems and seeds of this season's sparse storms. It took only an hour or so of skinned-up climbing to summit -- a chance to also work on the dimming remnants of summer tans in the October glare.
From our lunchtime perch, we could look south and see the long line of the La Platas behind the close-by ragged ranges of San Juans, and then turn north and see the gray and flat table-top top of Grand Mesa, with the brown cloud of metropolitian Grand Junction stuffed up against its western edge.
Then we skiied. That sacred ritual thing ...
It was thin in places. There were rocks. P-tex will have to be applied, edges honed, and at least one core-shot repaired. There were patches and strips of wind-blown crust. But there were also several tasty carves through even, forgiving, relatively deep packed powder, and the day was topped by a long, zipping run out on fast Fall corn snow through an exhilarating obstacle course of boulders and krummholz brush.
This hunt was much more successful.
See more pics in the slide show below.
Monday, October 27, 2008
There was a lot of excitement when John Salazar and Mark Udall's campaign tour bus pulled into the parking lot at Priscilla's Cimarron Books & Coffeehouse in Ridgway Oct. 23. The place was packed, standing room only. Everyone had come to hear the two candidates, particularly Mark who was good friends with the incredible George Gardner, who just passed in a climbing accident this year. His loss, like that of Brian Peters, who died in an accident several months ago, hit the Ridgway community hard.
But before that, after some initial introductions to State Rep.-elect Noelle Hagan (58th district) and Ouray County Commissioner-elect Lynn Padgett, John called me to back of the bookstore and proceeded to carry on -- about me, my work as a leader on the Western Slope, and how I'd taken on Club 20 because they'd stopped representing progressives and how we needed to reform that group and make it more accountable to the electorate. The crowd loved us all.
But my scooter, oh, not yet. Not yet by long shot. A jacket, gloves, and it's a wrap. Riding down the rural roads, taking it all in. The days may be getting shorter but I'm get great mileage out of the this long and luxurious fall. I can winterize all winter. Shiver and live with the government we deserve. Right now I vote for the fall.
Hillerman died at a hospital in Albuquerque on Sunday. In recent years, he'd suffered two heart attacks and bouts of prostate and bladder cancer.
Read the AP story here.
More about Tony Hillerman's life here.
Tony Hillerman's official website.
Watch Tony Hillerman talk about "The Art of Mystery."
Sunday's editorial notes:
In mid-August, the administration proposed two dangerous regulatory changes. One would free the government from considering the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on polar bears and other imperiled wildlife. The other would eliminate some expert scientific reviews of federal projects that could harm endangered species.The editorial says that under that ESA, the government is required to accept public comments before changes to the can be enacted. Some 300,000 comments were received on the proposed changes -- reflecting the public's awareness and concern.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne directed 15 staffers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review the comments -- but gave them only a week to do so.
At that rate, the comments had to have been read at a rate of 7,000 per hour -- hardly suggesting justice and sincerity on the part of administration.
"This rush job is, obviously, a travesty of the public comment process," the editorial comments.
Read the full editorial here.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
McCain and his supporters had the floor -- or the field, anyway -- at Durango High School's football stadium on Friday night. But Obama supporters were happy taking the street and parking lot to hold their own rally.
Hundreds of Obama supporters lined North Main Avenue, carrying signs and wearing Obama t-shirts distributed by Democratic Party staff and volunteers. Centered around the traffic light in front of the school, they chanted and sang to the honks, cheers, and curses from passing traffic.
Police and Secret Service (one Durango police officer warned a couple on cruiser bicycles that if they rode on the sidewalk in front of the school, they'd be tackled by the Secret Service) stood in clusters around the area watching the action, forming a line only when the crowd moved toward the entrance where McCain's motorcade arrived.
Meanwhile, in the DHS parking lot, a cluster of Obama supporters yelled slogans and hooted toward the line snaking slowly into the stadium.
The event didn't likely change the course of the election; still, all in all, it was an interesting and unusual -- and exciting -- occurrence for Durango. And it was a great thing for the students and kids to see -- the town getting passionate, which ever side the rallying is for, and playing a part in national politics.
There were no arrests at either rally, reports the Durango Herald, although there was some jeering directed from each camp to the other. One 14-year-old girl in an Obama t-shirt reported being told by some McCain supporters that she might be swayed if she listened, while others chastised her for being there at all.
And then there was one group that asked her, "Why do you think they call it the 'White' House?"
Welcome to national politics.
See article, more photos, and video at the Durango Herald.
Friday, October 24, 2008
And it's an inny.
Last weekend the now-teenaged Webb and I and a friend of his made a quick 24-hour pilgrammage back to this sandstone bellybutton -- hiding behind the Sleeping Ute, swallowed up by the grander Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, a ways off McElmo Canyon and over the dome from the Dolores Canyon, and laying low and unnoticed, a sort of doormat to Cedar Mesa and Monument Valley and the greater Canyonlands over yonder. Hovenweep just ... sits out there, somewhere.
It used to be remote out here. Twenty-some years ago, when I worked at Natural Bridges National Monument, it was an adventure we directed to only those who wanted a backcountry 4x4 Four Corners experience -- just getting there. Even when the last road was paved to Hovenweep ten years or so ago, camping out here was a backcountry experience: a dirt circle with a few unimproved campsites -- aside from a picnic table and metal fire ring. No resident rangers. No visitors center. No water. Pit toilet. No fee. And usually no one else, especially in the cool of late autumn.
A welcome alternative to the surge of development in the movement to make the parks profitable.
I will admit: Last weekend we found that it's still a quick-yet-remote getaway. It still feels like out there -- with the campground's immersion in seemingly-empty broken canyon country and long views to the Sleeping Ute and the Chuskas and the Abajos.
But, of course, industrial tourism hath started to show its telltale boils and pimples, even here: Now, an official Visitor's Center, erected in '01. Permanant ranger residences, with water and sanitation. Pavement. Nice bathroom. Paved walkways. Finely groomed and adorned campsites (more than half of which were occupied -- more than I probably saw camped there in all the years total before pavement. Or so it seems ... )
And: $6 entrance fee plus a $10 camping fee.
Still. Still ... Still it was grand.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
McCain -- minus his running mate, Sarah Palin -- will speak at the Durango High School football stadium at 6 p.m. Friday night.
KSUT radio reports that the admission will begin at 3 p.m., with the program starting at 5 p.m. McCain, who will appear in Denver in the morning, is scheduled to take the stage at 6 p.m.
Tickets are not required, but seating is on a first-come/first-served basis. There will be a security screening.
You can RSVP for the event at johnmccain.com.
Listen to the KSUT report here.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I have seen coyotes cross the highway at the state line several times, skinwalker ghosts not far from where Earl Morris dug up human bones from the 13th century, stewed in ollas in a couple of rock shelters in the cliffs there...two owls nearly ran into my car in search of prey after a hard thunderstorm. It was dusk, almost dark, and I wondered if the water had filled up the rodent holes so that they all flooded out, owl bait...skunks lose out big time with cars...two baby raccoons shot back their glittery eyes at the Breen bridge. I am acutely aware of the animal world on these drives, and our slaughter of them in the missiles we call our cars.
For more information on the reopening of the Wildcat Mine, see here.
To see more of Paul Pennington's photos, go here.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The San Juan Citizens Alliance urges your comments to address the following:
Learn more at the USFS roadless website here.
1. Take More Time: The Bush administration is attempting to rush the process to a conclusion instead of taking the necessary time to comprehensively review the proposed rule for ALL of the effects it would have on Colorado’s roadless backcountry.
2. Support the 2001 Roadless Rule: This rule offered adequate protections for Roadless Areas and is the high standard necessary to protect all of our nation’s roadless lands - Colorado’s roadless backcountry deserves this measure of protection. More than 1.6 million public comments backed this rule when it was first proposed!!
3. Any version of a roadless rule enacted must provide these basic protections:
- The cessation of road construction including the “long-term temporary roads” noted in the Draft Colorado Roadless Rule that would last up to 30 years!
- Halting further oil and gas leasing and associated development such as pipelines and compressor stations.
- A stop to logging, coal mining and powerline construction.
Learn more about San Juan area roadless areas here.
Send your comments to COcomments@fsroadless.org,
or submit comments online here.
This morning I realized that 3 of the 4 original Ramones are dead, and Flava Flav is almost 50.
Damn you, Time.
Thankfully, YouTube is timeless ...
And it might be a harbinger of the future.
There was a truly mind-opening interview last night on NPR's Fresh Air that's worth taking the half-hour or so to listen to. In it, author Michael Pollan arues that "the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close."
Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History Of Four Meals and In Defense OF Food: An Eater's Manifesto, last week published an open letter to the next President in the New York Times Magazine. The letter urges the President to, among other things, create create a Secretary of Farming, to convert the White House lawn into a food-producing "victory garden," and to legally redefine "food" to exclude snacks with empty calories. (If Ronald Reagan can get ketchup legally declared a "vegetable," then it should be only easier to exclude certain things, Pollan argues in the interview.)
Pollan also wants to government to require developments to have to file "food system impact statements," and to convert failed golf courses and such back to small-scale, urban-landscape farms -- which, he argues, is truly the next boom small-scale, close-to-home, local-employing "solar industry" that politicians and business have been touting.
"We need to wring the fossil fuels out of our food system," Pollan says in the interview. "Farming is the original solar technology."
Pollan's open letter to the next President.
Pollan's "Fresh Air" interview.
Michael Pollan website.
Monday, October 20, 2008
One thing I’ve noticed in the short time living at my new property is that I have basically two varieties of thistles and because I don’t know enough about botany to say for sure, I’ve resigned myself to classifying them for my own ease as Republicans or Democrats. The Republicans always seem to outnumber the Democrats in this county as a general rule, but one never knows how the seeds get blown about by the wind, and change happens subtly. Naturally, a few Independents must be mixed into the tangle, but from my porch they all just look like thistles. They pop up just like all those campaign signs you can’t help noticing around the county. Different colors, but they’re everywhere.
My neighbor says I should spray the whole bunch, but he also claims no matter what I do it’s impossible to get rid of them. He recommends going down to the County Extension Office for a little advice. I haven’t gone yet, mostly because I can’t imagine how I’d explain myself.
"Excuse me, I understand you have resources available to help rid me of my thistles."
"Yes sir" the county agent might reply, "but can you tell me which type of thistle you want to eradicate?"
"I think they’re Republicans."
"Can you be more specific?"
"They look like ranchers wearing big purple hats."
By then I’d be kicked out of the office, maybe out of the county. Around here people are obnoxiously serious about noxious weed control.
But I’d also like to know why I can’t get a little help in reducing this proliferation of campaign signs. With the November election so close at hand, a person would think the newspapers couldn’t find space for all the articles written by the candidates themselves who hope to be elected. A ongoing debate, for instance, between opponents, in print, responding to each other’s goals, ideals, and ambitions. Long, carefully written essays about life in America and the road we are on. Could it be that despite all the campaigning, in the end nobody running for office has anything to say?
I get the feeling our politicians are experts in signing their names. What the public gets is a noxious infection of political signs, as if the most qualified candidate is the one that can plant his or her name along the most ditches, at the most traffic intersections, and on the most lawns of America.
A similar problem chokes out any healthy discussion of politics on our electronic horizon. A barrage of expensive TV ads designed to discredit one another and reduce political thought to an encounter with a thistle.
Do I need a herbicide, or is there a chemical engineer marketing an effective pestisign?
Well, this trio of San Juan backcountry skiers didn't spend their weekend whining. They found where winter was hiding. (Somewhere above Silverton ...)
Check out more pics here.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
"Ski bum housing search grows desperate," by Michael Pearlman, examines how the days of living cheap in some lovely little mountain town so you can work a slave-labor job -- but one that comes with a ski pass -- so you can ski your arse off and hang with a tribe of other powder fiends have fallen victim to second-home and luxury life-style economics.
As gentrification extends to every back-alley cabin and shag-carpeted rental condo, it’s the workers on the lowest rung of the employment ladder that are most affected. When real estate prices skyrocketed in recent years, landlords and deep-pocketed investors cashed in, remodeling and selling older, low-end condominiums, the lifeblood of the rental market in most mountain towns. New owners who financed purchases with no money down had to increase rents to cover their mortgages, while skid housing was demolished to make way for new construction.Personally, as a graduate of the School of Ski Bumming, this is tragic. College is fine; but for a real education in Life and How To Live It, nothing can beat a season, or seasons (or life, as some of us have stretched this portion of our educations) lived simply and scraping by in exchange for place and tribe and getting out and actually doing things.
And to do that, to experience that, to learn that, there must be places to do that. Entire micro-economies that feed that.
Maybe it's time for a ski-bum bailout, eh?
Thursday, October 16, 2008
No, neither I or my two buddies managed to "make meat," as hunting philosopher David Petersen calls this most ancient and human of endeavors. But just hunting itself is its own reward -- reigniting those senses of both place and presence that are practiced and renewed by spending time in the woods. And not just time in the woods, but long stretches of time moving through the woods, in the way the hunter does, and must. Slowly.Deliberately. Consciously. Fully aware. Often immobile, not moving the body, but still moving the senses: looking and listening and smelling and sensing without focus, focusing on it all.
Together we saw a deer and five elk, a large cinnamon bear (which we were able to watch munch rosehips for a while with the comfort of a chasm between us), and a 6 X 5 still-antlered skull that Bryan found up a remote dry wash.
Good stuff. And in a really good place: We were up on Missionary Ridge, on the backbone of land between the Animas and Florida river valleys. So our views were out over these two deep glacial valleys, and toward the sugared ranges beyond, those rocky waves of land comprising the westerin San Juans and the nearby La Platas.
Of course that white "sugaring" I refer to is from the blustery winter storm that blew through on Saturday. And blew hard while it was here, especially up near treeline, where we chose to do our stalking on opening morning.
We crawled out of tent and into the dark, gusty morning at 5 a.m., and walked into the Weminuche Wilderness to pass the day wandering some high country drainages in search of wapiti. And hoping to make some meat.
No meat, but the morning was real Rocky Mountain early-winter -- and a blessing to be out in (for who would get out and experience a tree-line autumn storm, unless they had a reason -- or excuse -- to do that? Not me). The wind swirled and groppel peppered us and salted the ground. The woods were perfect for camouflaging us, and the clouds were grayscale artwork, yet nothing was so intense that I never felt I couldn't see hundreds of yards or have my shooting ability hindered. I was warm, dry, and felt the self-assuredness that comes with feeling I was equipped to survive a night if I needed to.
More good stuff.
Until about noon.
At which time, I got caught in a two-mile-long stand of lodgepole that must've had just the right combo of exposure and wind gust, 'cause it just started getting uprooted all around me, for about 20 or 30 minutes. I only witness 15 or so trees -- both snags and living, healthy looking hulks -- actullay fall. But those seemed to be within arms reach. The other two or three dozen I only heard, because I dare not glance up from my narrow line that led out of there. I was something how I imagine combat to be like.
During that time, I trudged, scampered, trotted, crawled, and, when I could, downright ran -- mutiple-layered, backpack-strapped, rifle-toting and all -- through what seemed like a scene from some Lord of the Rings sequel. I panted and frothed like a rung-out horse, as trees creaked, then croaked with a crash, in every direction -- inlcuding several across the snow-covered trail that was my only path out of that surreal piece of nightmare.
Hey, it was scary! I wasn't whimpering, exactly, when I finally ran into one of my comrades as I walked warily down the dead-middle of a narrow valley that was the first save haven I found. I was, perhaps, though, drooling and speaking in tongues. It had been a powerful, surreal, and mildly terrifying experience. Through it, though, I have achieved a deeper -- nay, mystical -- appreciation for and understanding of life.
The next two days, though, were more like the October that is perhaps the finest, most magical time in Colorado's woods and mountains. As long as you're wearing blaze orange. We moved into a lower drainage, and passed two days walking aspen glades and conifer stands with ridiculous views of the Animas Valley and La Platas out yonder.
Defining "success" after that is a matter of broad interpretation.
Monday, October 13, 2008
1. Go to CD collection.
2. Find the G section, pull out "Gin Blossoms."
3. Find the S section, pull out "Spin Doctors."
4. Walk to trash can.
5. Throw away CD's.
Now, replace them with this....
1. Funkadelic- the self titled debut or "Maggot Brain."
2. John Prine- Sweet Revenge
3. Bad Brains- Rock for Light
4. Replacements- Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash
5. Minutemen- Double Nickels on the Dime.
6. Slim Cessna's Auto Club- Cipher
Your CD collection is now on its way.