Monday, September 8, 2008

Deep in the Backcountry Again

This is another excerpt from the journal I keep when I go into the woods.

Deep In The Backcountry Again

An unknown ridge, except to the sheep, the bear, birds, bugs and me. Climber's won't come here, too loose. Hikers won't come here, too much climbing. Hunters, HA!, too far away from where a horse can take them. The waterfall is half a mile, straight across, maybe three by hiking. I have always been told I have billy goat legs, this is a good thing. From where I sit, it is a good thousand foot drop, to my right, only a couple feet away. Best not to siesta here. I am recharged, refreshed, renewed. It must be how a Catholic feels, after Confession. I would not know of that. All I know is the deep connectedness I feel up here. I am alone, but totally surrounded. The chirp of grasshoppers on wing verify this, and remind me.

I do not know where I am, in terms of a map. But, I know I am looking DOWN into Sunlight Peak's massive bowl. The sound of the waterfall is quite inviting. Funny, even with all it's rage, all it's volume, it still peters to nothing by the time it hits the road. I can see the road if I look behind me. I choose not to. There is too much looking behind in life, and far too many roads. In this place, there is no road. Thank God for wilderness, or there would be a tram to the top of this place by now. What drives me out here? I could build my little cabin up here, and you would never see me again. Is that bad? Why do people seem so terrified of running away? Don't they realize there is so much more out there, and beyond what they can see from the road?

It feels good to get away. I am free to sing aloud, talk to myself, contemplate the deepest thoughts I have, and the only complaint heard is the whistle from the wind. She is not too cynical today, though, she seems to be agreeing with me. She, along with some clouds she blows in, have made, MADE, the place I sit. I feel like they have carved out this nook in the rock just for me, just waiting until I came along.

I want to push up further. My view of a high mountain is blocked by a goblin of gneiss. I could climb up the once I am leaning on, but with the long fall to the right, this shitty bonded rock is not quite convincing me to caress her. If a man in the mountain falls, and no one is around, does he still make a sound?

So many ridgelines up here to explore. I, for one, have always been more fond of following the ridgelines, rather than go up the bottoms of the canyons. I like to be able to see off into the distance, rather than just in front of me. I will look back only so I know how to get down. Right now, where I sit, that is a good thing. I am completely cliffed out, and taking the wrong way back, we may be able to test our falling theory. Walking and climbing the gneiss, or kitty litter, is an art form. For every step up, you lose two down. Maybe that is why people don't like hiking in the Absarokees. The bedrock is another fun concept, and challenge. Usually found right where you don't want to fall, raw cliff will be covered by an inch or less of tiny, tiny ball bearings. You don't sink enough to get traction, and the ball bearings cause even the best boots to skitter. Sticks from the ground are helpful. Move quickly, and take deliberate steps, hoping you find deeper scree before you get cliffed out and cannot go back. If the kitty litter is bad, the cliffs themselves are worse. Low angle, slabby nightmares, where every hold breaks off. Climb fast friends, and pray you don't crumble a hold, while you are using it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Cross Link From One of My More Eloquent Moments

This was something I wrote up on Myspace once upon a time, after coming back from a river trip, and I had to post it over here.

To start off with, a little bit of Katie Lee. If you don’t know the name, you should. Quit reading this puny excuse for desert prose, and my thoughts, and go read some of hers. Better yet, listen to her songs. If they don’t get you up in arms, you are a diseased person, at the very least.

The Giants Once Among Us

There’s a canyon in the desert
There’s a river in the canyon
There’s a spirit on the river
And her song is my companion ... when I’m free
She’s the eagle with her children
She’s the feather of the eagle
She’s the stream that floats the feather
On incredible and regal ... mystery!
Come with me ... come with me
Where the water’s gone or going
Where the children do not know
Of the giants once among us
I am singing soft and low

Once the river was a warrior
Dressed in golden spume and tearing
At the granite round the Temples
Where the water God were daring ... destiny
Came a breed of men, undaunted
By these rapids of the ages
Now their burning eyes are haunted
Mystic journeys are for sages ... Majesty!

Follow me ... follow me
(same as above)

Now the river lies in drowned arena
Coiled and waiting for the spilling
Mighty serpent of the legends
Stream of Life beneath the filling ... Treachery!
And the Giants, unforgiving
Jealous lovers of the Spirit
Be they lost, or drowned, or living
Know my song and when they hear it ... Liberty!


Liberty! ... Liberty!
Where the water’s gone and going
Where the children do not know
Of the Giants still among us
I am singing, not so low
Listen to me ... !
Set him free ...!
Set him free ...!
Set him free ...!

Song by Katie Lee

Now for a bit of a backstory and the events leading up to all of this. I returned last night from an extended trip to Abbey country. My country. Your country. This trip started with a trip down Cataract Canyon, which is the Colorado River from Moab, UT to Lake Foul, World’s Largest Cesspool and Sewage Lagoon. I got there a day early, before we left for the river, and bummed around, going wayyyyy back into the Amasa Back area, up the four wheel drive roads back there, getting back in touch with the desert. The river trip was amazing, but that is not really the purpose of this particular blog. No, this one is more for what I wrote in my time down there.
I do not pretend to be anywhere close to the eloquence of Abbey, or Thoreau, or any of the great literary minds, I just observe what I see, and what I feel, and try to compose some sense of my thoughts into words. The following passages are all taken straight from my journal, on the way down, and while I was just sitting around in unknown and untouched places. There have been some minor modifications, when things get a going a little too far away on their tangent, or where I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to know some things I wrote. That is for the good friends at campfires on sandy beaches, with a tamarisk fire burning hot and bright, and a bottle of good whiskey being passed around.

Another damn dam:
The dam was just this (Cody) side of Grand Junction. It was definitely a diversion dam, and a new one at that, still in construction, with the sole intent of storing water for people living in the Desert. Interesting dichotomy. Those of us who love and know this desert, surviving by with what Mother Nature give us, yet those dams are put in for people who claim to love the desert. Someone, not me, but someone, should make a road trip. Starting at the head of the Colorado, and another team at the bottom, and blow every goddamn dam between the ocean and the headwaters. meet in the middle at THE dam. The one that flooded a million side canyons I will never get to see... If others decide a direct action must be taken, I will stand by them in their times of trials and tribulations. However, I will not be responsible for their action. Time for a bit of philosophy. The characters Edward Abbey wrote about have inspired us all, I do believe. They take the extremist stance that so many of us wish we could. Let’s face it. We all have a part of us that says we preserve ourselves. Somehow, petitioning and writing in this book do not equal decisive action, which is required. I can only hope more people step up to this maniacle, people eating, concerned about profits machine. Luckily, people are, somewhat. I abhor violence, yet it seems to be the only thing the machine understands. Violence and loss of profit. But, I digress. This red dirt gets in your soul, and moves you. I have been absolutely giddy since leaving Cisco. Yes, it is cold at night, but the desert, somehow, by power of inspiration, makes the cold less bitter.

Arches National Parking Lot, and other ramblings:
*This was after I got back from the river trip, bumming around the desert around Moab*

Today, as I write, I sit on the rim of one of the more amazing slot canyons you will never find on a map, at least not the official government issue Arches National Parking Lot map you get at the visitor’s station. I am somewhere in Arches, yet I am off the Willow Springs 4x4 road, and weaved through a maze of slickrock to get here. It requires too much work for most people. Getting their cars dirty, having to find a route, having to jump, dip, duck, and dive. All very hard for our genetically modified beef fed overweight population. If it can’t be drove to, it isn’t worth it. If the government hasn’t labeled a trail, and said it is mildly straining, it can’t be done. I sit in the middle of Abbey Country. Your Country. God’s Country. My Country. Enjoy it. Love it, and for God’s sake, explore it!
There is no church as beautiful as this cove, nor any architecture as perfect. I am going to call this place Roost Wash, since there is no way to be seen from any road. And that is the allure. Whist there are throngs of people at Delicate Arch, I sit here along, in my own little Eden. I hate to leave, but I must continue on my journey, a journey ripe with losing way, losing faith in our species, losing sweat, blood and tears. But never will I lose hope. I know this place will be here, always, until the three inches of rain a year carries it all into the sea.

The New Deal:
The New Plan for Arches National Parking Lot. *This may sound somewhat like Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, probably for good reason. This was simply what I was feeling after I got to where I could see the plumes of dust from parking spots on the main road, and felt a need for a change.*
First and Foremost: There is an amazing place at the bottom of the hill to park. Do that. Do that now. When visitors pay, don’t give out crappy maps of the arches. Let them be found on their own. Give them a topo map and compass for twenty five bucks. It can be returned when they are done, in full functioning order, for a full refund. Remove the phrasing in the guide, "If you want to hike, don’t go here, go to Canyonlands", and replace it with "Hike all you want, off the beaten path, whilst being mindful of footing. Be not afraid to find your own route and explore, that is what we at the National Park Service encourage." Have clinics educating people on how to find water, find their way, find God, find Nature, treat sunburn, live with flaky skin, dig catholes, fix cracked hands, eat plants, drink beer, scratch their asses, and shoot pool. At this point, they will be ready to go into the Great Unknown. For those who we seem to have sympathy for, they can ride the shuttle bus from the entrance to Devil’s, twice a day, while we take people into the park to be dumped off for their hikes. It may not be fair to ask everyone to hike the breadth of the park, so we will have shuttle busses.

More from today:
I explored quite a bit of the Professor Valley today. Onion Creek up towards Fisher Valley is certainly a sit to behold, and to hold, very near and dear to the heart. It is a very narrow chasm, with room for a road, and not much else, aside from the creek. I am not such a fan of this side, though. You can never get away from people, and truly explore. There should be limits over here too. No one can come over unless they possess a willingness to hike. Close the road close to Moab, and at Cisco. As I wrote that sentence, two cars drove by. At least they are climbers at this campsite on Big Bend. But, they are more of what I had on the river. Loud college kids. I go back to the San Juan River trip and remember that night at Odjedo Canyon. Early morning, but such a completely serene experience. That is the way the world should be. No sound except the pen touching paper, a crackle from a fire, and the words and thoughts and powers of wonderful observation that roll though the amazingly calm night, deep in a slot canyon, where even the moon has no power to penetrate.

Katie Lee:
Tonight, I read Katie Lee’s Eulogy to Glen Canyon tonight. It is a very bone chilling and thought provoking book. One that I put down only to write, tend my small fire, and contemplate the stars, the clouds, and the way the moonlight illuminates the patinas on the canyon walls surrounding me. I pour heart and soul into these little journals, and by doing so, all troubles, fears, hopes, dreams and doubts fade away with the dieing of the flames. It brings a sense of transcendence, a higher level of Being. And, it also allows my mind to wander to things that I do not like to comprehend in moments of less conciousness. The Green River Dam cannot go through. The words and thoughts of K.L. ring a bell. The law only works until those who want something decide to change it. The river is only consideration for Wild and Scenic, which I already call bullshit on, since it cannot be truly Wild and Scenic. Contact has been made with other like minded individuals, including the Sierra Club. They knew nothing about it, yet. Which is why now is the perfect time to strike. We as a society, cannot allow the ideologies that brought about Lake Mead, and Lake Powell (what a cruel, crul epitaph, for a man who truly found love here) to damn another river. The scenery is different in Jackson, but that does not mean that the effects and consequences will be any less severe.

If you made it this far, I congratulate you. Thank you for trying to make sense of my ramblings, which I understand how hard and incomprehensible it can be sometimes. Hopefully this may make you run away to your favorite out back of beyond, and enjoy it while you can. Run free into the wilderness, and never look back.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Times Like These

It is easy to get caught up into the stress and troubles of day to day life. I have been going through a period lately where I have been very concerned with things that don't really matter. Then, you go out, to do something you love very much, and are so intensely in the moment that time stands still, and all that is is you, and the sensations you are having at that very instant. We were supposed to take Justin and Bekah climbing at the Bridge Bands today, but rain hampered our efforts. Just as we were thinking about packing it in, and not going out, Travis and I had the idea of taking them bouldering on Cedar. All I can say is thank god we went out. It was much needed. I got to play tour guide for one, in an area that I know well, that I have established problems in, and that is one of my sanctuaries, when so many other people are tied down, and I want to get away for awhile. The pictures speak more for it than I ever could. The crew wound up being fairly strong in number. Justin, Bekah, her sister, Amanda, who I swear is nothing but smiles, Lisa, Travis, Cheeto Bandito and myself.

You would never guess she is twenty feet off the ground, scared to death. Amanda is a trooper.

Justin on the highball Mark Ciahia and I set up so many years ago.

Justin and Bekah on top of the highball.

Amanda working her way up. She is already about five feet up.

Bekah at the top. Around twenty five feet.

Pressing it out.

What now?

On the highball.

About fifteen feet off the ground. Not bad for the first time bouldering.

Justin by the Assassin Boulder.

Hands of the Assassin.

Trav, with the Assassin behind.


Bekah working it.

Bekah next to the Assassin.

Justin and Bekah.

I swear, all she does is smile.

Justin preparing for some finger ripping fun.

Little knobbies.

Me on Turtlehead.

Check the swing!

Pressing out the mantle from hell.



On the Bearhug.

Light, rock, chalk.

The first moves of Turtlehead.

Travis hugging some bear.

J-man giving her.

Amanda on Dirt Boss, after pulling a pretty good sit down start.

Dirt Boss.

Good times, good times. It is quite a bit of fun to go out with a bunch of people you really feel comfortable around. It makes it so easy to try things way to hard for you, when you trust them, and know that they are there for you. Get out there, play, and have fun!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Week Later... It Is Done

So last week Travis and I decided we needed to break our tattoo artist into the world of climbing. He decided to bring his girlfriend along, and I almost *don't tell him* think she climbed harder than he did! She is an animal, they both are, and we got them hook, line, and sinker!!!!

Justin and Bekah looking up at Bruce's Crack (5.6) wondering what in the hell they are getting in to.

Justin getting ready to give her.

Justin pulling the roof.

Taking a breather at the first rest after the roof.

Travis, Justin and Bekah getting ready to follow me up the Prow. (5.4)

Bekah and Justin

Bekah styling it.

Bekah on her first rappel.

Justin following her.

It was a great day to be at the Island. I got back into the swing of things after taking much of the summer off, and kept my head through all my leads, which made me quite happy. Tomorrow we are taking them up to the Bridge Bands, so we will have even more stories and tales of excitement.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cedar Mountain Downhill

No great pictures, from this little excursion I had yesterday. I just needed to take a couple of hours to get away, and I really wanted to play on some downhill. Right then, with my time frame, and with lack of a shuttle, Cedar was it. Parking, with no shuttle, or even with a shuttle, is down at the bottom of the mountain. From here, the fun begins, or at least that is what I have been told. Up four miles, give or take of switchbacks. I have always cut off early, on the fourth switchback, halfway up the mountain. From here, it was time to don the crash gear, and prepare for quick singletrack. From top to bottom, it took about twenty five minutes. There are a lot of bigger drops, at it is really easy to get way too much speed going into some of the squeezes this trail goes through. I am a slow, technical downhiller, so I didn't catch any great air, or do anything too stupid, especially since I was on my own.

Anyway, now it is time to go get ready for some kayaking fun, so, I'll maybe have another entry for tomorrow.

The ride goes down the back side of the mountain on center right, towards town.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Into the Desert

So I got invited to go along a Cataract Canyon trip about two weeks ago. The run is 112 miles, and goes from Moab, UT, to Hite Marina. This, I thought, was a great time to get away from the lack of stress in Cody, and run away for a little bit. The crew was from Colorado School of Mines. I agreed to go along as raft support, so more of them could kayak. This would be the second trip down the canyon, and while it wasn't the same experience as the last time, it was still a good one. We put on Sunday, and took out Thursday night.

Wall Street, on the way to the put in.

Flatwater, about a five miles into the first day.

Brian enjoying the sun.

Derk, Geordie, and Joe.

Our motorman, shower of lines, and general badass.

Joe, Brian, Derk, Nick, Geordie

We motored roughly thirty miles the first day, camping out along the river left bank. The camp was a little bit muddy, but it wasn't too horrible. Much drinking ensued that evening, and the stars were brilliant. We had about twenty miles left to motor the next day, beyond the Confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. The second day we camped at Spanish Bottom. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Flatwater, but gorgeous views. Closing in on the Confluence.

The sign below the Confluence.

ARRRRR! At Spanish Bottom

The bar, with the river in the background.

We wanted to get to Spanish Bottom the second day, so we could do a hike up into the Dollhouse. This is a formation on river right, about three miles below the Confluence. We woke up at about six that morning, myself a little earlier, so we could take in the morning peace and calm. The hike up to Dollhouse gains about 1200 feet in probably less than a mile. It goes straight up some switchbacks out of the canyon. The Dollhouse itself is located in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Of Edward Abbey fame, now with a well defined Jeep road going right into the heart of it. Still, the easiest way to get to the Dollhouse is by floating down the river.

The Dollhouse

The Maze jeep trail comes in by the right shadow.

Hanging out on the rock, overlooking part of the Maze.

Nick ponders climbing.

Nick, Geordie and Derk on a ledge overlooking the river side of the Dollhouse.

The Colorado in the background.

We ran twenty rapids that day. Aside from swimming through Number Five, after hitting a hole I should have never been around, it was a great day of fairly easy rapids. Number Five and Number Ten had some very large holes, and Corkscrew, part of Mile Long Rapid, was a little dicey. We ran everything blind this particular day, which I wasn't really a big fan of, but I had Joe and Ben running their rafts in front of me, so at least if they hit something, I could adjust from there. The flow was around seven thousand, so there were quite a few rocks to avoid, with some pretty big wave trains. We made camp at the bottom of Rapid Twenty, which seemed to be a fairly short day. Now, this camp is right above the Big Drops. Rapids 21, 22, and 23 form Big Drop 1-3 respectively. Our camp groover that night overlooked Big One, which was GREAT on my already shattered nerves. I knew what we had to go through the next day, and I remembered the Big Drops being very nasty, particularly at this level. Especially Big 3. I knew that I wouldn't have too much trouble on Big 1, I knew Big 2 wouldn't be too bad, but 3 scared me.

Bottom of Rapid 20

Shameless Werner shot, looking downstream

Ben, with the reaction to gin being blown on fire.

Geordie, with his reaction.

The morning after, with a couple of wounded soldiers from the long night, we were game on for rapids 21 through 29. Big 1 was a straight down the middle shot, Big 2 had a center to right line, kinda hugging the rock that makes Little Niagra at higher water, nothing to bad. Big 3 was a left side line. Previously I had run it on the right, without much trouble. The left side was crap. A narrow tongue led into a lateral, fed by a pour over that makes Satan's Gut at high water. Joe hit the line perfect, and only took one stroke once he entered. Ben went too far right, and almost hung up on the rocks in the middle. I thought disaster was going to be forthwith, but he pulled it out quite well. I hit my line exactly where I wanted to. Two waves marked the entrance, and you had to be angled right to catch them perfectly, and be pushed back into the line. I went with a little too shallow of an angle, and got spun sideways, heading right for the rock backing up the pour over into the left side. I knew it was going to do that, so with one back stroke, then two, I pulled into the lateral, and it pushed me back into the middle of the current. Two back strokes to the left cleared the next rock, and I was home free, into the eddy on the left side, where the Hammer and Sickle flask of gin was passed around to all the rafters. The rest of the drops were nothing big. All a bunch of wave trains, little holes, random little things. There was, however, another big hole, much like Number 5, that I hit, yet again, head on. I almost was destroyed, but I didn't swim this time, I somehow had my feet lodged deep under the thwart, and just had my world rocked.

The bottom of Satan's Gut, a.k.a. Big 3


Change for a nickel?

Flatwater below Gypsum Canyon.

Derk reading of the J.W. Powell Exploration.

Ben, relaxing with the evil brew of Mr. Coors.

Geordie soaking sun. Kinda.

Guide, Coors, and Abbey. What more do you need on the river?

The bridge to Hite Marina, only a few more miles.

Looking back up, Goodbye Colorado, hello Lake Foul, World's Largest Cesspool and Sewage Lagoon.

After the river, I elected to stay in Moab for a little while longer. The first day was spent at Arches National Parking Lot, the next was cruising the back roads. The photos are out of sequence, but here they are.

LaSal Mountains, on day two, up Jug Handle Road.

A new arch being formed, maybe 20,000 years out?

LaSal's again, looking over Needles.

A drainage I hiked up, that was very, very cool.

Castleton Tower in the Professor Valley

The backroads of Arches National Parkinglot.

A mini arch. Maybe 3 inches tall.

My little slot canyon. Who knows who have been down there, but themselves?

The LaSal's across Arches.

Leaving Jug Handle Road, until next time, Moab!