Saturday, April 21, 2018

Somethings Shouldn’t be Collected...

In the early 80’s, I went backpacking with three other firefighters to Utah’s Grand Gulch   region. It’s a beautiful canyon system featuring many rocky alcoves containing archeological wonders. On the hike, we came upon Turkey Pen Ruin. The site was substantial. There was an intact Kiva ( a round roofed ceremonial structure dug into the Earth ), a ladder leading down to the Kiva, tiny corn cobs, pot shards and a turkey pen. 

The turkeys weren’t utilized as the main dish at a pre-White Folks Thanksgiving Day Dinner. No. It was all about their feathers. The Ancient Ones used the plumage for making blankets and accessorizing their clothes. Turkeys were prized processions. 

We treated this outdoor museum with the respect it deserved. We took photos and nothing else. We walked away with a “how cool was that?” feeling. 

In 2012, I shouldered my backpack for a solo trip into Grand Gulch. I was looking forward to seeing Turkey Pen Ruin once again. Sadly, it had been ruined. The kiva, the ladder, the corn cobs, the pottery shards and the turkey pen were gone. Apparently, all had been plundered. The only things left were a few crumbly walls and rooms. 

I felt violated. Worse is the fact future generations have now been denied a “how cool was that?” moment at Turkey Pen Ruin. A few short sighted miscreants, vandals and clueless bastards screwed it up for all of us. A pox on them. 

I’ve visited many Ancient Ones ruins in the Southwest. Unfortunately the above story is not unique. Most of the sites have been demolished and plunked over. It’s gotten to the point where I’d rather hike to a rock art panel than a ruin site. It’s harder for the trouble makers to mess with pictographs and petroglyphs. 

Although they try. In Marble Canyon in Death Valley National Park, Bad People hauled in a battery powered drill for the purpose of creating modern day pictographs. Others scrawled on or nearby the ancient petroglyphs. 

Could someone please explain this antisocial behavior to me? Which leads me to another story...

A few years ago, I had the displeasure of being seated next to a hard drinking, dry coughing, turquoise wearing Wyoming drugstore cowboy at a group Happy Hour. He must have heard about the Wandering I do in the West. Between sips of his straight up whiskey, he asked me, “Ever come across Native Artifacts out there?” 

“Occasionally, but not that often. Most have been carted away by now.” 

He looked at me with Jack Daniel eyes and asked, “Well, do you keep them when you find them?”

“Hell No! First off, it’s against the law. (Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979). Secondly, it’s wrong to take what really doesn’t belong to you. The artifacts found on Public Lands belong to everyone. Wouldn’t it be nice to have lots of people find an arrowhead on the ground than for one person to steal it?” 

He gave me a slurry response, “Well, that’s stupid. If you don’t take it the next person will.”

Folks! That’s the mindset which triggers the pilfering of Turkey Pen Ruin to happen. There’s too many people carrying feelings of entitlement. All for the sake of owning an old bauble. It’s a sad commentary about humanity. The future generations will understandably curse us once they discover what we’ve robbed them of.

Speaking of robbery. The Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch area has recently been removed from National Monument status and protection. Shame on President Anti-Conservation and Secretary of Interior Toady Zinke  Your Grandkids will curse them too.

For further readings: “Finders Keepers” by Craig Childs 

For more blogs by opinionated W W J’s, please check out:

Don’t be a Meanie.  Leave the good stuff in place for everyone’s enjoyment.


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Want to save money?

Visit Utah.

A few years ago in Zion National Park, I struck up a conversation with some Young Turks from LA. I began by tuning them up for picking the trailside  blooms. “Guys! Zion is a National Park, not a Flower Shop.” After awhile they warmed up to me. One leaned in and whispered, “What do people do around here for fun? Where’s the nightlife?”

I laughed and answered, “Dude! You’re in Utah! There is no nightlife except looking up at the stars and the Moon.” 

Then I explained further. 

Utah’s towns are tidy, safe and graffiti-free. The locals are civil, polite, friendly, family oriented and wholesome. The liquor laws are Mormon Doctrine based. In other words, it’s not easy getting a quality beer or other libations in the Beehive State. I call Utah a BYOB State. (Bring Your Own Booze)

Why bother going out to a bar & grill serving watery and weak draft brews at premium beer prices? I don’t! I plan ahead and bring my own. Sure the initial costs can be a shock. Stocking up on a half ton, five week supply of quality IPAs set me back $260. (My credit card company called me to confirm the charge!) At $7.42/day I consider it an inexpensive Happy Hour. 

So don’t come to Utah to Party On! Do come to Utah to gawk at the canyons, mesas, plateaus and all the beautiful stuff above and in between. The state is 66.5% Federally owned, so more than likely you won’t be trespassing on private property. When all things line up: the weather, the cool campsites and uncrowded trails; you won’t even miss the Club Scene. 

There’s worse ways of spending an evening than looking up at the stars and the Moon with a Double IPA in your paws. 

Think of all that money you are saving too! 

From cold and windy Kanab, Utah. 
Come on warmer temperatures!


PS. Wish me luck on getting a Wave permit.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Fort Collins Syndrome...

“You can observe a lot by watching.”  Yogi Berra.

When I moved to Fort Collins, CO in 1978, the population was around 59,000. Old Town was a mess of shuttered storefronts and a spattering of dicey dive bars. One could buy a nearby house for far less than a pittance. The city was considered by many Coloradoan’s to be a “cow town.” In fact the University had a bull farm within the city limits, so it wasn’t too far from the truth. At least there were no cattle drives down College Avenue.

Fast Forward to the present. Now the population stands at 162,000 and gaining. Old Town is now the cool place to see and be seen. Gone are the shuttered storefronts. Gourmet restaurants, groovy bars and boutique stores for people and pets complete the scene.  My 1902, 1000 square foot home in Old Town would now fetch about half a million. I bought it for $72,000 in 1992. Fort Collins is making the “Best of...” lists cities drool to be on. 

I’ve now been on an extended road trip in the National Parks, Monuments, Preserves and State Parks of America’s Southwest. I’m seeing a naturalized version of the Fort Collins Syndrome in wild places. 

Joshua Tree National Park (which lacks the majesty of a Yosemite or Zion)  is  packed to the point where anarchy reins. I had squatters set up tents on my campsite without asking! Drunken revelers party on till 1:00 am. All these people for a park where the highlights are multiple piles of big rocks and funky shaped “trees.” 

When I visited Joshua Tree starting in the late 90’s the place was devoid of people.

After Joshua Tree, I headed north and east to the Mohave National Preserve. Five years ago, I discovered the “Hole in the Wall” campground. A sanctuary set in a spartan desert landscape where Happy Campers made an effort to distance themselves from each other. I was more than OK with that. Peace and quiet prevailed. 

This year the Hole in the Rock campground filled to capacity each night. Thankfully the clientele were still peaceful. 

Last year, I camped and hiked in Snow Canyon State Park in Utah. It was a nice enough experience to warrant another visit. A few days ago, I phoned about getting a campsite. The Ranger laughed, “We are booked solid for the next few weeks!” 

So...I found an RV Park in St. George, UT. The campground resembled a Walmart parking lot minus the store. In other words, it sucked. After a cruddy night of sleep, I drove up to Snow Canyon to hike.

The trails I had to my lonesome last season were NYC subway packed. I had to use my tried and true method of passing people. “Excuse me! Coming through! Hot soup! Hot soup!”  It works. 

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra

So Jeffy! What’s your point? 

Our wild regions are being visited in record numbers. Places that once weren’t considered worthy of a look-see are now scoring visitors. In other words, the Wild Land equivalent of a “Cow Town”(the  Fort Collins Syndrome) are now on people’s must-see lists.

It’s  only going to get worse. In 2016, 430,000 brand new RV’s were sold in the US. Those buyers want to take them to pretty places other than a Walmart parking lot. This is the pressure of population growth. 

Now my point: The Diminisher in Chief has eviscerated two of Utah’s National Monuments. Both Bear Ears (Obama) and Grand Staircase/Escalante (Clinton) have had their acreages vastly reduced. (Of course, the Courts will decide the final outcome). 

America the Beautiful is coming under attack for the short sighted monetary gains of a few. Possible mines, logging camps and oil rigs would replace scenic and archaeological wonders. The resource extractors would scar the land. Waterways might get contaminated. (Google Uravan and Summittville, CO). Worse still, that will be so many acres of lost wandering available for future generations. The very idea is shameful. 

Beauty may be skin deep, but it lasts a whole lot longer than a mining operation. Joni Mitchell summed it up this way. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” 

My advice? Let’s Drain the Cesspool in 2018 and 2020 to overturn these ADD land management schemes. Your grandkids would approve.

From stormy (not Daniels) Zion National Park,

PS. For further readers,  please check out: (there’s pretty pictures too.)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

“Homeless by Choice”

is how I describe my current address. On April 1st, I’ll be beginning my sixth year of this lifestyle that most people try to avoid. Being homeless. 

If you’ve been following along  you might have noticed lately I’ve hit a washboarded and potholed stretch of road. I’m having so few Eureka! moments to offset subjecting myself to 66 square feet of living space, the dubious at times toilet and shower facilities, the endless dinners of less than gourmet cuisine and the constant challenge of keeping my IPAs cold. Things I never thought much about, now feel strange and strained. 

One might guess correctly, I’m questioning what this is all about. You can say that lately I’m going through the motions of being in motion. 

Maybe it’s the incessant winds bearing  a “Damn the Torpedoes” attitude.

Maybe it’s a stubborn cold that refuses to unfurl the White Flag after two-plus weeks.

Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m floundering along instead of Wandering with a laser-like precision.

Maybe ( I can write this because I’m proud to say this is the Bigliest honest blog in the World ) it’s starting to get lonely out here. 

Maybe it’s a combination of all four.

However! With all that said, I’m not thinking of placing a “For Sale! Make Me An Offer,” sign on Barley the Van. I haven’t looked at Real Estate guides either. 

I’m more than half way through this road trip. Soon, I’ll make the big turn north and east towards Colorado. I’ll stop along the way: Zion, Grand Staircase/Escalante, Bear Ears ( what’s left of them after they’ve been drawn and quartered by an environmentally insensitive Administration ), Canyonlands and maybe a few others. 

My long range plans are to spend a few months in Colorado. By August I’ll head toward the Northwest and work my way down towards Fall. I’ll spend Thanksgiving in Colorado. Scottsdale after that. January 2nd, 2019, I’ll climb aboard a big plane kangaroo bound for Australia. 

All these plans are subject to change. Maybe I’ll meet a woman who not only lusts for me, but shares my Wanderlust. Stranger things have been known to happen like a Racist Commander in Tweet. 

 Which reminds me, I’m still running for President in 2020. 

In the meantime I’m hoping to get my being in Motion Mojo back. I’ll continue to look for a sign. I’ll keep my eyes open for that Pink Barleian Van. 

From Joshua Tree National Park where the campground resembles a noisy Cancun Spring Break crowd minus the wet T-shirt contests and MTV. 

 Happy Passover!
Happy Easter!

Final Photo: this is my Joshua impersonation for asking for Divine Intervention.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

“Goodbye Death Valley!”

supposedly was the parting words of a of prospective prospector who got lost with other “49ers” in the winter of 1849/1850. One of their members died in that Valley. They thought they would all perish there. 

The name stuck. 

A few months ago, I decided to try something new and completely different. I vowed to spend a month in the Death Valley National Park region. I based this decision oh past visits there. The temperatures usually follow the Goldilocks Principle. They are not too hot, not too cold, but just right. (Normally it feels like being on the receiving end of a touchless massage). 

This year that wasn’t the case. Of course, I mentioned this in a blog.

However despite Mother Nature turning a cold shoulder to this WW J, the month went by. It wasn’t the best of times nor the worst of times. It just was. I’ve come to realize no matter how poor a day I’m having eventually the clock strikes Happy Hour. 

Death Valley National Park is still my good Buddy. It’s the largest National Park in the lower 48. (A whopping 3.37 million acres. That’s a lot of Rhode Island’s). It’s mostly Wilderness. Elevations range from below sea level to above tree line. It’s the home of the pupfish and other hardcore survivalist. It’s beautiful in a raw, cerebral and unforgiving way. It’s a place where you can easily escape the other 39.5 million people who call California home. All it takes is a pair of trail runners, a willingness to explore and enough food and water to get you through the day. 

Hint: the further you venture the less people you see.

Its one of my favorite places on Earth. 

One day, I’ll return to say “Hello! Death Valley” once again. 

Chillin’ with a cold germ in Borrego Springs, CA. 

Still haven’t found my stride on this current road trip. I’m hoping for a change of


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Manzanar Revisited..

Back when I was on the fire department, I took on the role of referee. In other words, I often threw out the Yellow BS flag when colleagues stepped across the line. It was a dirty, thankless job but someone had to do it.

When Firefighter X proposed all firefighters don Kevlar vests for protection against physical assaults; I threw out the Yellow Flag. I even called him to state my strong opinion.

“Firefighter X! If you didn’t treat people in such a demeaning, condescending and disrespectful manner, they wouldn’t throw punches at you. Hell! People you work with want to punch you, but don’t want to get fired over it.” 

There was no mandatory Kevlar vests issued.

When Firefighter Y wrote a Department wide email proposing placing firearms on all pieces of apparatus; I threw out the Yellow Flag. My Department wide email suggested to Firefighter Y if he wanted to carry guns, the local Police Department had a few openings. Weapons were never placed on the rigs.

When some mean-spirited coworkers “Outted” a Gay Firefighter; it was me who made phone calls to Battalion Chiefs screaming out for justice. “Battalion Chief Z! That’s a hate crime! Those bastards need to be reprimanded. Letters need to be placed in their files. What they did was wrong!”’s not surprising as of Black Tuesday 2016 (Election Day), I’ve thrown out my fair share of political rants. They are my blogs Yellow BS Flags.

While in Bishop, CA I drove out to Manzanar National Historic Site for another look. I was there in September, 2014. I made this report.

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066  transformed an old apple orchard into a Japanese Internment Camp. Let’s just refer to these prisons as FDR did, “concentration camps.” Over 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry (many of them children and young adults) ended up in the Owens Valley of California. They didn’t have a choice. They were forcibly displaced. They left behind homes, belongings, friendships, memories and livelihoods. In total 120,000 Japanese were incarcerated in many inland camps throughout the the Nation. 70,000 of them were born in the USA citizens. 

Alll for the crime of their skin color, last names and the angle of their eyes. Shameful.

FDR, Congress and the Military chose to ignore the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) and the 14th Amendment (no person shall be deprived of “life, liberty or property, without due process of the law.”) Two clear violations by people who are supposed to uphold the fine ideals of our Constitution. After Pearl Harbor fear and paranoia took over. Reason exited Stage Right. 

We now are in the throes of an Executive who is either unaware or uncaring (or both) of America’s sordid past. President Evil’s leadership style is fear based and divisive. 

We are being led to believe a majority of Hispanics are card carrying members of the MS-13 Gang. 

A Continent of Nations are all “Shit-Hole” Countries. 

It’s OK to create a Travel Ban on predominantly Muslim countries who have no ties to 911. 

Women, minorities, religious groups, the handicapped, Gays and transgendered are all fair game in his daily War of Words. In his World, it’s Right to be White. Choose your parents better next time. 

As far as the Media goes, if it isn’t Fox Fear Network, it’s all “Fake News.” 

His attempt to leverage (blackmail) the DACA program (affecting 800,000 who know no other Nation as Home) for the construction of the Wall of Shame. It’s not everyday a President gets to substitute one Racist themed idea for another. 

The List goes on and on and...

The Moral Lesson of Manzanar is going unheeded by the Powers to Be. We are devolving back to a Black Eye moment in American History.

Folks, it’s Unconstitutional. It’s UnAmerican. It’s wrong.

I’ll end this lengthy blog with a quote from Clarence Darrow (Scopes Monkey Trail lawyer).

“As long as the World shall last, there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.”

That’s why I keep throwing out the Yellow BS Flag.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Being a Cold Weenie...

is a curse.

We base our decisions on past experiences. ( I.E. A child quickly learns the harsh lesson of a hot stove top. )

So after a decade’s worth of visits to Death Valley National Park in the months of February and March, I deemed it warm enough for a month long layover from true winter. Alas, Ma Nature has a way of monkey wrenching the best of game plans. In that time frame Death Valley had below average temperatures and above average winds, dank clouds and precipitation. Bummer for me. 

While there, I was able to recruit Greg L. ( a former firefighter colleague ) to backpack the Cottonwood/Marble Canyons Loop with me. Of course, it was cooler than normal. Ice formed overnight on nearby puddles. I froze my tuchas off the two nights we camped. Of course I whined about it. ( The 28th Amendment guarantees me the right to complain. If everyday citizens can possess a weapon of mass destruction, I should have the Right to whine. )

After a while, Greg had enough. I can’t blame him. I can become the Wandering Wondering Whiner pretty easily. He said, “Jeff! You need to get over this cold weather obsession.”

I replied, “Greg, I envy people like you. I wish I could handle all the seasons. My life would be so much simpler.” 

As we started hiking ( me wearing two layers of fleece while Greg wore a cotton T-shirt ), I thought about what he said. 

Then it dawned on me, I come from a long line of Cold Weenies. It’s in my DNA.

Mike and Robin ( the best brother and sister-in-law in the World ) split their time between Palm Beach, FL and Queens, NY.

My Dad, Sid spent the entire year in South Florida. No Snowbird action for him. Sid rarely flipped on his AC even in the muggiest most sultry of Delray Beach summers. He might have been a Cold Weenie, but he was no Heat Weenie. 

Recently, Israel sent 10 competitors to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. Let’s just say the results were no “Miracle on Ice.” 

Go way back to Biblical times. Read about Moses leading his manna munching Tribes for 40 years through the Empty Quarter of the Mideast. Hebrews are the People of the Desert. No one calls the Jews the “Frozen Chosen.” 

Being a Cold Weenie is in my blood. I’m unable to click my flip-flops together three times ( with eyes closed ) and say out loud, “I’m going to live in a Igloo. I’ll bide my time making Snow Angels while naked.” It’s not going to happen. day I’ll probably settle down half the year in Colorado. The other half in Snobsdale, Arizona. This might happen sooner than later. 

From cold ( of course ) and windy Bishop, CA.

A chilly Cheers,

PS. All the photos are from the Cottonwood/Marble Canyons Hike. That’s Greg who now knows I’m a Cold Weenie. 

Final photo. There are alligators in Death Valley NP.