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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mother Nature is beautiful, unless she..

kills you. 

Ever since I've seen the lyrically named Music Pass on my Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Wilderness map, I've wanted to backpack there. According to Google info: beyond  the pass, there's alpine lakes teeming with chubby trout. Rimming the Valley and basins are numerous 13,000 foot-plus mountains beckoning the peak-bagging crowd. The terrain is steep and Ireland-green with vegetation. The landscape sums up the notion of the 1964 Wilderness Act, "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” 

I like that. So...I went.

I left my non-4x4 Barley Van at the lower parking area. After sauntering uphill for a few road miles, my hike  began to Music Pass. Of all the Welcome to "such and such" Wilderness notices, the placement of the Sangre de Christo sign was the most dramatic I've seen. (See photo). Now, we're talking sublimely luscious. 

I descended down the valley only to eventually go back up to 11,460' Lower Sand Creek Lake. This would be home for two nights. I found a nice piece of Federal Real Estate where I set up my tent to mark my turf. After hastily stuffing a day pack, I took off to see Upper Sand Creek Lake. Mind you, at this point dreary gray clouds were beginning to evict the summery blue skies. I heard gurgling thunder, but it was a distant rumor. Two-and-a-half miles later, I was at the Upper Lake. I shot a few photos. 

Shortly after, I heard a whisper in the wind. "Gotcha!" Then all hail broke out. Ice pellets ranging from pea to grape-sized slammed into me. I quickly donned a few layers of fleece and a "My Trails" ultralight poncho over my sweaty cotton tank top. The temperature plummeted as I was getting pummeled. I began to trail run down  through polar puddles of crystalline solids. My feet were numb. I splashed through fast flowing creeks. The water felt like a tepid shower. The storm wouldn't let up. First a flash, followed all too quickly by a belch of thunder. I was running in the epicenter. As I closed the gap between me and my shelter, I began to worry, will I find nothing but ripstop nylon confetti where my Big Agnes tent was once standing? 

Nope! Good tent! I crawled inside and into my snuggly warm down sleeping bag. It took over a hour for me to defrost. The hail continued in total for three hours, followed by light showers. Mind you, the forecast was merely a one in five chance of any precipitation occurring.

Moral of this post? Be prepared. Mother Nature is beautiful, but she can kill too. 

For a great read check out "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. 

Hey "My Trails" and "Big Agnes" I just gave you a plug! 

Cheers! And be safe out there,

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Weren't you the guy who saved his...

Wife by performing CPR on her, after she got struck by lightning?" 

I asked this question to Nelson, a stranger to me up to that awkward introduction.

His humble response, "Yes, that was me." 

This scenario played out thirty-seven years ago in Fort Collins, Colorado. We've been acquaintances turned beer and backpacking buddies ever since. Nelson now makes up the better half of the "100% Kosher Sub-Eleven Foot Adventure Team." I'm the other half.

Besides being short in stature, we share a few other common traits. We both have a deep love for wild places, especially mountains. Freud's conjecture would be we are making up for our lack of inches by achieving peaks where we can finally look down upon others. Maybe so.

We sweat our way to the summits in hiking styles as antipodal as a tropical rain forest is to a Saharan desert. 

Nelson finesses his way up. He analyses the terrain and chooses the path of least resistance. I, on the other hand, take the direct approach. There's the top, go for it! Oftentimes, this isn't the wisest choice. I.E. false summits, exposing myself to more exposure and the possibility of a much longer and steeper tumble. Nelson is a ballet dancer, I'm a fullback. He's smarter. 

Nelson's wardrobe appears to be out the Activewear issue of a AARP magazine. He looks professional. His trousers and shirt sport perfect creases. (I think he hauls in a iron and board to look sharp.) He's clean! I buy my outdoor wear from Big 5 Sporting Goods, Walmart and Goodwill stores. It's a sloppy disheveled look. I guess it's me. 

Nelson's organized. He's a "place for everything and everything in it's place" type of guy. I'm the "there's some space, cram it in" sort of fella. That's why I can't find necessary gear and he can. 

Most of all, Nelson has many endearing qualities. 

He's a man of humility. He doesn't toot his own horn. His achievements have to be coaxed out of him. I now know he taken more than a few award winning photos. He's an artist of the shutter speed, aperture setting and tripod. I recently discovered he's summited Mera Peak (21,247') in the Himalayas without oxygen! 

 Most of all Nelson is a Mensch. From Merriam-Webster :  a person of integrity and honor. I try to be a Mensch. I estimate my batting average to be about .650. Nelson nails it at 1000. He consistently does the right thing. I wish I could be more like him. 

I'm honored he considers me a friend. 

Sometimes inspiration comes in small packages. 

For more posts about this interesting man, please check out:


Monday, July 10, 2017

A Real Game...


It was a six-pack's worth of years ago when I awoke in a ditch. Blood was everywhere. Worse still the red stuff was your's truly. Movement was out of the question. Good Samaritan First Responders pleaded with me, "Don't Move!" So I listened. 

Getting struck from behind by a speeding sedan wasn't part of my Life Game Plan. 
I was then on Day Two of a Ten Day bicycle tour in Montana. 

Eventually,  I was placed in a lower rib to chin brace for ninety days. Three Doctors declared my survival to be a medical miracle. As my paramedic buddy Steve Main once said, "Jeff! You must have landed just right." 

I then had to deal with the physical and mental side of surviving a near crematorium experience. Yes, I was stiff, scarred and sore. I wasn't sure how I'd mend. On the cerebral side, I was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. My dreams (nightmares) caused me to jolt awake drenched in a clammy sweat. That sucked. 

Three months to the day the brace was unceremoniously deposited in a dumpster.. A few days later, this slow moving walking wounded was on a plane to NYC for my youngest nephew's nuptials. Before the affair, I would be staying with my nephew Keith and his lovely wife Courtney. 

At the time K&C lived in a swank high rise in Manhattan. (Yankee Third Baseman  Alex Rodriguez lived in an adjacent building). A Doorman allowed me passage after getting the high sign from Courtney. Up I went in the elevator.

Upon exiting, I stiffly looked right and then left.  Courtney was standing in her apartment's doorway. Her eyes were Full Moon wide open. Her right knuckles were clenched in her mouth. It was a look expressing many emotions at the same time. Most of all it said, "I'm so happy to see Uncle Jeff alive!" 

For me, it made me realize there are people who would miss me if I hadn't woken up in that Montanan ditch. There are people who actually love me. 

We then gave each other a long teary hug 

So...what have I learned from this Readers Digest True Story episode?

First) Even a curmudgeonly sociable hermit like myself can be lovable. 

Second) Pay more than lip service to your passions and dreams. Always be working on your Bucket List, even if the result maybe living in a van down by the river. Do what feels right to you. (Just so it's not harmful or hurtful to others.) 

Third) Unless you foster suicidal tendencies, no one is certain on when they will feel the icy breath of the Grim Reaper or the sudden desire to be pushing up daisies. (Final photo) Play with passion. Life is finite. 

Here's a few more anniversary posts, if this one wasn't enough!

Cheers and be safe out there!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

In 2009, I rode my bicycle from...

San Diego to Bar Harbor, Maine. I went looking for America.  My 6,500 mile journey took me through Small Town, USA during the Bull's Eyes year of the Great Recession. 

From my two wheeled conveyance I witnessed the economic calamity from the ground up. Countless businesses were shuttered, our Nation's unemployment rate hovered in the 10% range,  many homeowners found themselves suddenly homeless. As we all recall, it was hard times in the US and the rest of the World. 

In the hundreds of bars, cafes, diners and General Stores I stopped at, I made it a point to speak to my fellow Americans. I asked a lot of questions and was rewarded with honest, forthright answers on how our citizens were coping in the money crisis. The overall consensus seemed to be, "Its tough, but we're all in this together." 

Fast forward eight years, our Nation is now being chaotically led by someone who utilized a "Divide and Conquer" strategy to gain access to the White House. Trump rose to the top by  "telling it like it is." There was no politically correct pause button. Armed with a 100 word vocabulary he verbally cheap shotted most minorities. He sidestepped his history of being crude to women. His speeches were heavy on "Bigly" promises, (now unfulfilled) "alternative facts" (lies) and daily doses of finger pointing. His rants were light on details, kindness, unity and compassion. Everything about his campaign scared the poop out of me. 

Since the Inauguration, it's been a long slog of "The Apprentice" repeat episodes. This is understandable when the Billionaire President has Steve Bannon (White Supremacist) and Jared Kushner and Ivanka   (Jews lacking a kosher soul) advising him. The message is bound to be muddled. 

Now, I find myself waking up and checking the latest top billing "Reality TV" show. Thinking,  "What the Hell is he up to today?" It seems to be a daily assault on the environment, National Monuments, health insurance, public education, our Allies and just plain sanity. 

The result has been I've become more withdrawn. 

 I want good scandal-free Government. I want the US to cease being a Rogue Nation (similar to North Korea). I want a President who sleeps with his wife instead of punching out angry Tweets at 3:00 am. I want a return of America the Beautiful and the demise of America the Badass. I want a leader who acts Presidential instead of adversarial. I want both sides of this ideological chasm to tone down the nastiness which occasionally escalates towards violence. 

I want out.

On August 22nd, I'll fly on a one-way ticket to Geneva, Switzerland. A few days later, I'll start a trans-Alps hike from Chamonix to Zermatt. After that I'll begin my third Camino de Santiago. 

The reasons for my third Spanish Pilgrimage are many. The biggest is the  joy I get from partaking in Happy Hour with humans from all over the World. We sit, chat, exchange ideas and information about our countries. We tell stories, lots of them. We laugh. When we are done, we hug. The Camino is truly "A River of Goodness." (Tony "The Pilgrim" Greenwood quote.) I need a vaccination of this now more than ever. 

I'll be a Goodwill Ambassador. I'll make it known our current FaceTime leader's aggressive views do not represent all Americans. I'll smile, hold doors open for strangers, buy rounds and say "Por Favor!" and "Gracias!" I'll try and win over hearts and minds. 

Lastly, getting back to my 2020 Presidential Campaign run, I'm still in need of a First Lady. American voters don't take candidates seriously without one. (Last bachelor President was James Buchanan in 1857). On my first two Camino's I met one kind, sweet and affectionate woman per Pilgrimage. I'm hoping for a good outcome by starting this 550 mile amble with eyes and heart wide open. Wish me luck. 

So what will be the name of this European Journey? One without a finite end in time or place? 

 "The Hugs! Not Shoves! International Be Nice Mission." Of course.

Until then, I'll be spending my time in the mountains of Colorado. I need to whip this senior discount applicable body into shape for the rigors of the Alps and whatever comes after that. I want to be lean, but not mean. Fun loving hikers are welcome to join me along my Intrastate way. 

For further readings, please check out:

I'll end this post with a verse from Simon and Garfunkle's classic: "America"

"Kathy, I'm lost", I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
"I'm empty and aching and
I don't know why."

Counting the cars

On the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come
To look for America,
All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

Maybe there are times one needs to leave your country to rediscover it.

The last two photos demonstrate the infamous "Shove" vs. the Hug.
Who do you want to see represent the US?

Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day,

Saturday, June 17, 2017

In 1937, My Grandad bought my Dad a...

One way ticket on a slow boat to America. Like so many other tales of immigration this one too is interesting. 

My dad's family resided in a village near Lodz, Poland. They made their living mending and making clothes. The family was considered middle class. When a wave of Nationalism began to spread from Germany, a high tide of Anti-Semitism followed along. It wasn't a good time to be a follower of Abraham in Europe.

My Grandfather (according to Dad) was a pious Jew, who saw the hand of God in every random event; such as a letter arriving from the Sambur clan already ensconced in the Land of the Free. Unfortunately, it was written in English.  Fortunately there was a Polish-American visiting the town. The gentleman gave it a quick look. He told my Grandfather (in Polish) the letter was a wedding invitation. 

My Grandfather must have had a  "Something Wicked This Way Comes" premonition.(Book title by Ray Bradbury) Here was a Divine Sign. Seventeen year old Sid would go to the wedding in the Big Apple with no return fare. The Polish/Jewish DNA strain of Sambur's  was now destined to continue. 

Mind you, it wasn't easy for Young Sid. He knew many European languages but not the American one. He learned fast, got a gig as a tailor and eventually moved out of his Aunt's apartment. Around 1941 he met Clara Zinn (a recent Jewish/Austrian immigrant with a beguiling smile) on a blind date. On December 7th, 1941 Pearl Harbor woke the "Sleeping Giant."  America was then at War.

Irony: The US Army drafted Sid and eventually sent him back to the Europe. (The Continent his father shipped him away from). Dad wasn't assigned to the Front Line. He gave tetanus, penicillin and other inoculating shots to injured soldiers. He performed clerical duties.He also read letters from home to his illiterate Made in America compadres. 

It wasn't always chummy. Sid told a story of a cold night when soldiers were gathered around a communal campfire. A late arriving GI tried to bully my father away from the fire. Disparaging words were said about Jews. Verbal confrontation upgraded to physical confrontation. The combatants were eventually separated. Sid resumed his place by the fire. Apparently, the other guy wasn't able to let bygones be bygones. He swung a sucker punch, blind side haymaker at my father. The bastard was clutching a tin cup too. Sid's jaw got broken.

This incident made the rounds while my father was convalescing. A Jewish Captain appeared and gave Sid a two-thumbs up for standing up to the bigot. He went on to make it clear to the medical staff, Sid would get treated very kindly or their would be issues. 

V-E Day (May 8th, 1945) finally arrived. Refugee camps sprang up giving aid to the war ravaged and displaced Europeans. Sid's officers must have been aware of his gift for the local languages. (He spoke Polish, German, Yiddish and English fluently) He would serve as an interpreter in the camps. One day, he met a people from his village. He queried them about his family. I suppose they looked down at their shoes and shook their heads. Sid's parents and two siblings were executed for the crime of being born Jewish. In total,  approximately 6,000,000 Jews were victims of the Holocaust. 

Sid eventually was honorably discharged and returned to NYC and Clara Zinn. In 1948, she became Clara Sambur. My oldest brother Allan arrived shortly thereafter, followed two years later by Mike. I was the caboose who arrived after a four year gap. 

My brothers have four sons between them who have been busy procreating. 

My Grandfather can now RIP knowing the Sambur lineage is continuing on in the New World. Thank you Grandad, even though I never came close to meeting you.

Thanks Dad for teaching me the nuances and ways of being Jewish Thanks too for showing me it's OK to stand up for your beliefs. (Even though you might get pummeled!) 

Finally, thanks for all the times you said, "Jeffy! Be a Mensch! Do the right thing!" 

I'm trying, Sid, I'm trying.  God knows I'm trying. 

BTW. Without America"s Pre WW II  Immigration Policy, this post would never had happened. You would be looking at a blank screen. Please give this a thought. We are a Country of immigrants. 

Happy Dad's Day,

Saturday, June 10, 2017

In June 1864, Abraham Lincoln...

Signed  an Act of Congress ceding the Yosemite Valley and nearby Mariposa Giant Sequoia Grove to the state of California. With his signature two natural treasures attained a level of protection from loggers, sheep herders and other short sighted individuals. The land transfer wasn't perfect. Eventually Yosemite would become a National Park (1890) under Federal jurisdiction.

Now think for a moment about this random historical event. 

The US was in the throes of a calamitous Civil War with no obvious expiration date in sight. Death and destruction was the order of the day. A war weary Congress was able to take a time out, sigh and say, this conflict too shall pass, let's think about our Nation's future. The Act passed despite the fact most Congressmen or Honest Abe wouldn't ever gaze upon a Giant Sequoia (Behemoths of Biomass) or see Half Dome, El Capitan or Yosemite Falls in all its photographs don't do it justice glory.

That is unselfish and forward thinking! That's what made America Great. 

Now our Country is in the midst of another Public Lands debate. Twenty seven National Monuments are now under scrutiny to see if former Democratic Presidents wielded  the power of the Antiquities Act of 1906 a little too "Bigly." Disciples of the Sage Brush Rebellion shout "Federal Land Grab!" only to discover the property is already owned by the Feds. (Most of the lands are under the Bureau of Land Management or the US Forest Service jurisdiction) In the words of Woody Guthrie, "This land is your land, this land is my land." 

Yes! We are all part owners. 

Utah's Escalante/Grand Staircase NM and the recently named Bear Ears NM has drawn the most attention. 

In a recent blog, I spoke out about this contentious issue. 

One good blog deserves another! So... I decided to give a further look-see at Bear Ears NM concentrating my efforts in the Dark Canyon region west of Blanding, Utah. (Oh the sacrifices I make to provide good copy and photos for my handful of readers!) 

First off, both controversial Monuments have short growing seasons for human intervention. In winter, many of the unpaved roads get clogged with White Death (AKA snow). When wet the clayey roads become a slicker than phlegm mess. Even the most macho 4x4 trucks can get mired down in the primordial goo. Summertime is too hot and unforgiving in this desert environment. For these reasons, Spring and Autumn are the High Seasons. 

I justI spent five peaceful days hiking the canyons, driving the  dusty wash-boarded roads, reading, drinking IPAs, pondering things and sightseeing. In that time frame, I endured five minutes of conversations with other bipeds. It was wonderful.   

Not everyone's in favor of the Monument.  Many locals (I.E. Monticello and Blanding) want the upgraded Federal protection status to be rescinded. They look at the Ponderosa Pine covered mesas, the ravines, the canyons, the gulches, spires, turrets and arches to be their neighborhood sanctuary/playground. They feel by creating a Monument outsiders will come and "love the place to death." These are valid concerns. 

However, there's a problem with rolling back Bear Ears NM status. This would empower the current Administration to unravel the other 26 National Monuments under review. A Domino effect of areas of Natural Wonder, History and Solitude could possibly occur. The "Drill! Baby! Drill!" Crowd are the type of folks who ask for a "taster" sampler in a brewpub, then demand the whole keg-for free! In other words, their greed knows no bounds. 

For those who still seek to rescind Monuments, look at it this way. In the next four years there will be no net gain in National Monuments, Parks, Federal Wilderness Areas or Wildlife Refuges. 
The one and only exception would be President "Aren't Golf Courses Wilderness Areas?" to declare New York's Central Park a National Monument. The reason? This would increase the property value of the nearby Trump Towers. 

In the long run, it'll all average out.

Back to the start of this post. 

153 years ago, Congress squinted into a cloudy Crystal Ball and took a chance. Now no one complains about Yosemite National Park's protected status. They might be miffed at the gaggles of selfie stick wielding visitors but not the scenery. 

153 years from now, Americans won't be whining about too many or too large-sized  National Monuments. They will be pleased to know they are out there for everyone's use and enjoyment.

Besides, future Sociable Hermits (like me) will still need places to go.

From my three-acre meadow campsite! 

PS. Final photo. Yes! I am a tree hugger. Fido is marking his territory. 

For further reading on our National Treasures: 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Losing your Mother at...

the age of seventeen is miserable.

To this day, I think about how much I missed out on. I never got to know Clara Sambur as an adult. I never got the chance to have real conversations with her. I was denied the opportunities to get her opinions on how I was maneuvering through life. I've always felt cheated.

Would she have approved of my choices or just smiled and went along with them? 

I'll never know the answer.  What I do know is she gave me my smile. She gave me my love of the written word. She gave me my nurturing and affectionate side. She taught me the joy of giving and receiving hugs. She gave me my ability to herd someone with a gentle touch on their elbow. She passed on her bliss of being in the sun's snuggling rays. 

Mom! You passed on my best traits in those seventeen years of knowing you. 

Thank you! 

I wish you were around a whole lot longer.
You would have made me a better all-around human.

I still miss you.