Friday, October 31, 2014

A Pilgrimage to the Fallen...

At Storm King Mountain Fire Memorial.

Halloween seemed a fitting day to visit the Wildland firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice while combating this lightning caused inferno. October 31st is more than Trick or Treating or dressing up in a costume; it's about remembering the deceased too. 

I made my way along an established trail through a steep, windswept landscape. Sporadic stands of scrubby oaks adorned the hillsides. The whole scene was punctuated by narrow gullies plunging toward the Colorado River below. 

On a minor ridgeline I turned right to the site where twelve heroes met their fate. The vertical distance between life and death was approximately 80 feet. For Hot Shot Scott Blecha it was a mere 20 feet to salvation. With the rate of fire spread estimated to be 35'/second the distance may as well been measured in light years. There was no escape from this kill zone when the fire turned into a pyre for the victims. 

Two Helitack crewmembers succumbed in a nearby rocky ravine well below the ridgeline. 

Please take a moment to read the poem placed on a plaque near the memorial. I couldn't help myself, I wept on that mountain.

Mann Gulch Fire: Montana. 1949. 13 Fatalities.
Storm King Mountain Fire: Colorado. 1994. 14 Fatalities.
Yarnell Hill Fire: Arizona. 2013. 19 Fatalities.

We can only hope history will one day stop repeating itself.

Good night on Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thrown off the bike...


This was how my summer of 2014 began. A major tumble followed up by this major owwie. (Please ignore the bikini briefs, little people require little undergarments). 

This purple mess misshaped the left side of my middle. Shorts that previously required a belt were tight on me. Unmentionable body parts were discolored too. I spent my time in boring Utah towns (isn't that a statement of redundancy?) with ice packs on my wounds. I wasn't a happy camper. 

I tried to recover on a two-week raft trip through the Grand Canyon. In that magnificent gouge I acted (correct description) as an assistant boatman. The chores left me feeling worn out and whooped. Hey! I've been retired for nearly seven years. I'm not used to working a schedule or being productive. 

My summer was starting off as a bust.

Then the Queen of Good Fortune rained down on me. On a hike down Mount Sopris, I missed my turn off from the summit. I was following West Sopris Creek when I spotted a young woman sunbathing au natural. 

From that defining moment on, all was good and right in my world. The summer was salvaged! I owe it all to the naked woman on Sopris. May God bless and protect you and provide you with some warm clothes this winter.

That's my Throwback Thursday tale.

The rest of the story can be found on the Mount Sopris post.

From Carbondale, Colorado

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

He got the urge for going...

When the meadow grass was turning brown
Summertime was falling down and winter was closing in

Joni Mitchell

Atop 8,144 foot Green Mountain, I could see the inevitable approaching. The summits of Rocky Mountain National Park had the appearance of numerous squashed down vanilla ice cream waffle cones. They were spray painted with White Death (AKA snow) in the parlance of this Blogger. 
I'm no Frozen Chosen Wandering Jew. It's getting too chilly to wear flip flops on my bicycle rides to Happy Hour saloons. It's time to go.
By tomorrow, I'll be saying goodbye to Boulder until the sowing season of 2015. 
The Utah deserts are calling, but I won't wander around them for forty years like Moses and company. 

Isn't retirement great?

BTW. You can subscribe to this blog with no money down and no obligation. If you aren't 100% satisfied, you can unsubscribe anytime. 
Does the Wandering, Wondering Hindu blog offer the same great deal?


Monday, October 27, 2014

It was merely a...

flesh wound.

I drove the patient (Barley) to Caliber Collision for a new paint job as scheduled. The nice GEICO rep said, "Wait a minute, that's water based spray paint. We'll have it off in no time."

Faster than I could exclaim, "A pox on the vandal who painted WHY on my van," I was boogieing down Broadway in Boulder. Now, that's the way to start a day.

Please, don't tell the angry neighbor to use oil based paints next time.

I'll be moving along soon. The Front Range of Colorado is cooling down. I had to wear pants twice in the last few evenings. (My legs broke out in hives and I began to hyperventilate from the emotional strain.) 

Yep! We are one big happy traveling family once again,

PS. I would still keep an eye on your neighbors though. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

We interrupt this Blog...

To bring you a word from our sponsor.

Every now and then I receive fan mail about my one and only book.
I'm pretty proud of this missive. I attached it below:

WOW!!! Just finished Destroying Demon's...   My boyfriend Hank and I (ilya) met you 4/22/14 in Utah when we were dropped off at the trail head for a one way hike of the west rim trail. The driver was a bit sketchy about where the trail head was, and before the rest of us in the van had donned our backpacks, you were off and running and yelled "Miami" here it is. You were maybe 30 yards away and you got us all on the right track. You didn't know my name but you knew we lived in Miami from our conversation. Your book is awesome. I'm a slow reader, 1 or 2 pages before I fall asleep, but I've learned a great deal about the history, geography and culture of this wonderful country from your book.   I grew up in England and Jamaica so I wasn't schooled in American history. I think your book would be a great read for our young people. It's informative and inspiring. I was shocked at the end to learn about your close call with that hit you took. Hank and I are amazed at how incredibly fit you are. Thanks for leading us in the right direction in Utah and thanks for an inspiring read. I'm sad it's over but loved every bit, especially the little vignettes from your career as a firefighter at the beginning of each state. We wish you all the best.

Ain't that great?

A former girlfriend indignantly deemed the book to be pornographic.
Buy a copy and decide.
If I get a spike in sales, I'll know the cliche "Sex Sells" is correct.

If you buy a squeaky clean new book direct from Amazon, I score $3.52. Don't give up your day job to self publish a book, even if it might be a bit "Blue." 

Find it here before the holiday rush at Amazon begins! It's available on Kindle too.

PS. The ability to read separates humanity from the animals. Enjoy!


Friday, October 24, 2014

We are all coping...

Numerous showers couldn't rinse away the emotional angst of Barley's external violation. 

Fido and I donned black arm bands in a display of solidarity to honor our steady-as-a-rock traveling companion. 

As of this posting, there were no suspects to this mean-spirited crime. (Although the names Mr. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum and Mr. Green have been bandied about). Personally, I think the Butler or an angry neighbor did it. No other vehicles were tagged in the area. Barley was singled out and the "hit" was made. 

On Monday, I'll be taking my buddy in for a new paint job. GEICO (15 minutes could save you 15% on your van's insurance. They paid me to write that) is taking care of the details, including a rental car. 

I'll have to shell out two weeks worth of Happy Hour IPAs to cover my end of the loss. What's worse is losing my snug home and hearth for a few nights. No one wins when vandals strike. We all pay the price in increased insurance premiums and wasted resources. 

Be safe out there and ever vigilant. Fido was apparently asleep on guard duty when the painter struck.

Back in Boulder...
PS. Edna is so traumatized, she refuses to leave her post on the dashboard for a photo op. She's wearing a tiny black arm band too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finally! A Copilot for me...

and Barley!

I know. She's kind of small, but Man! can she wiggle!  She's not much for conversation though. But then again, I like quiet time when I drive. I'll have to work on getting her to read maps and do vacation planning researc. 

Meet Edna. In Hebrew the name translates to pleasure, rejuvenation and delight. That's a lot to ask from a tiny figurine strumming a ukelele. 
Regardless, she looks dashing on Barley's dashboard.

It's another fine Indian summer day in Colorado. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Wonderful Time was...

had by all. (I think!)

My brother (my hero and mentor) said it all when he announced to the crowd, "I never knew Jeff had so many friends!"

I had the pre-party jitters big time. I'm the kind of guy who can go days without saying anything more then, "I'll have another beer. Please!" to a bartender. For a sociable hermit like myself, I was nerve wracked until the big event began to roll along. Even I had a great time connecting with the people of my past. There were three fire chiefs there too!

If you attended thanks for coming. If not, you'll have to wait until 2024 when I turn 70. By then I will have calmed down enough to throw another soirée. 

BTW: I really turn 60 on November 15. I just didn't want to be this far north then. Brrr. I'll be in the Grand Canyon on the big day. I need to be someplace that is older than me.


The family photo shot could be the cheesiest smile I ever made.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Colorado National Monument...

I'll say it right off the bat. Other than my dear friends Jack and Judy Miller, Colorado NM is the bestest thing about Grand Junction, Colorado.

For me, it's always been a joy to amble up and down it's many spired rock canyons. The Rim Rock Drive is considered by many (me included) to be road cycling nirvana. It's a great place to escape! 

And we owe it all to that free spirited trail builder John Otto for making it happen. In the early 1900's, he began to explore the area. He looked around and thought, "Hey! This is a cool place. I'll start constructing trails." When the local Chamber of Commerce saw this one man Tour de Force, they exclaimed, "Strong Work! Dude! We'll get Congress to declare this a National Park!" 

It took our chubbiest President, William Howard Taft to utilize the Antiquities Act to declare those red rock canyons a National Monument in 1911.
Good old Mr. Otto was named the first park ranger. He held that lofty position for 16 years while living in a tent. In all those years, he kept on rolling rocks around to make trails. 

Thank You John Otto and may heaven provide you with a better shelter than a tent. 

BTW. Google the Antiquities Act of 1906. This is one tremendous piece of legislation.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Horsetooth Mountain Park, Fort Collins, Colorado

Long before the mountain bikers discovered this open space area west of Fort Collins, I was out there grinding up the trails in boots and trail runners. In the 31 years I lived in Fort Collins; I spent a lot of those days wandering around these foothills. I can honestly say, it never got old to be there.

The Native Americans thought the rock resembled the heart of an evil giant. The early trappers and traders had less of an imagination. They thought the granite chunk looked like a horse's tooth. The name Horsetooth began appearing on early maps and the moniker stuck.
The mountain is part of the City of Fort Collins logo. (Those lawn destroying, pooping Canadian Geese share the symbol too). 

At 7,260 feet it's only 70' shorter than Mount Kosciusko in Australia. The tallest peak in the land of Vegemite. 

It's a great place to have in one's backyard.

BTW: Late responders are still welcome to my soirée this Sunday. I'll admit this sociable hermit is a bit nervous about seeing all these human flashes from my past at one time. 

Cheers from the Choice City,

Saturday, October 11, 2014

White Rim Trail, Canyonlands National Park...

There's a reason I submit my body to the bumps and grinds of five days of mountain biking the White Rim Trail. Simply said, it's beautiful with big sky views. This vast region possesses an almost terrifyingly silence. That is when there aren't any motorized dirt bikes or 4X4 vehicles nearby. This was my fifth go around. It won't be my last.

I'll need more "Granny" gears the next time though. I believe the hills got steeper and rockier since the early 90's. It's just not possible I've aged a lot since then. 

This jewel of a park is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Come by and say "Congratulations!" I fear the tide is turning and it won't be the same in a few more years. Canyonlands is finding itself on humanities radar screen. The secret is getting out. 

I'm now in back in Colorado. What a two month road trip, it's been. 

Good night from Grand Junction

Monday, October 6, 2014

The White Rim Trail, Canyonlands National Park...

Lovers of nature and wild places have the Cold War to thank for providing future generations with this 100 mile 4X4/mountain bike route. It was in the 1950's when the Atomic Energy Commission was searching high and low and in between for uranium to manufacture nuclear weapons. After all, as a nation we didn't feel safe unless we could destroy most of the life on the planet a few times. (The cockroaches would have been kings). 

Lucky for all of us, it never came to that. The yellow element wasn't found in enough abundance to warrant mining operations. The views were spared.

In 1964, LBJ (in a moment when he wasn't abusing his pet beagles) signed into law the creation of Canyonlands National Park. Good for him. 

In the early 90's. I rode the trail for the first time. I took a nasty header where I punctured my thigh. There was an ER doc on that trip with a stitch kit. He sutured me in the middle of the desert. Guess what general anesthesia was used? 
A few shots of tequila with limes and salt of course!

I'm heading in mañana for the fourth time.
Wish me luck.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah...

The rural legend goes, a few ornery cowboys corralled (read trapped) a herd of horses on a spit of mesa   connected to the mainland by a narrow neck. The horses were forgotten and starved to death. Hence the name of the park. Not a pretty story for such beautiful place. 

Some local historians claim the deceased horses were salvaged by McDonald's for Big Mac hamburgers. No one has substantiated that claim though to my knowledge.

Here's a photo of my great friends, Paul and Robin. We attempted to mountain bike some of Dead Horse park. It didn't go well. I wiped out and Robin got bruised. We leave on Tuesday to begin the 100 mile White Rim Trail. Our learning curve better improve.

BTW. I was Best Man at Paul and Robin's wedding. In fact, I've had that honor three times. All the couples have been happily married now for over a century. My point is: if you wish to stay married and keep away from divorce lawyers, get me to be your Best Man. My fee is not exorbitant. 

Good night from Moab, Utah. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

La Verkin Creek, Zion National Park...

The trail getting there isn't the OMG kind of scenery visitors come to expect from Zion, but the destination is worth it. The attractions are less people, a creek to lullaby you to sleep and Kolob Arch and Bear Trap Falls to hike bonus miles to.

Kolob Arch is the second longest free standing arch in the world. Unfortunately, it's a shy arch and not very photogenic. You'll have to visit Arches National Park to see the largest span. Landscape Arch is uninhibited and a real crowd pleasing show-off. 

The 30 foot waterfall in Bear Trap is sublime, but the water is Brrrrr. (That's Jeff speak for cold). 

There's so many beautiful places to see.

Good night from Moab, Utah. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

After another...

tough day of retirement, it's always nice to come home to Barley the Van and Fido. That is one well-mannered dog.

It doesn't get any better than this. Well, it can, but this is pretty good.

LBJ is known...

For the Vietnam War, being a one term President after JFK, and picking up his pet beagles by their ears. OK! Not the best things to be famous for.

BUT! He also signed the Wilderness Bill of 1964 into law.

Thanks LBJ for doing that one thing right.

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park...

After scoring my permit for an overnight in the Kolob Canyons for mañana night, Yay! I hit the trail almost running. I wanted to beat the lines of (shall we say) awkward hikers who would soon arrive on scene. 

Angel's Landing is a huge drawing card for the multitudes of Zion's visitors. It's a rite of passage to many. It features a lot of cliff-side, big drop exposure. So why do so many people with a fear of heights do it??? I dunno. I'm afraid of water, but then again fish do all kinds of bodily functions in it too. 

I got up to the top without having to say, "Excuse me! Please!" too many times as I slid by other trail blazers. 

By the time I was heading down, the Converse Sneaker, cotton sock and jeans wearing crowd was ascending. Although the Europeans stand out with their fashion statements. Dress shoes, button down shirts and slacks seem to work for them. Can someone please explain to me the wearing of scarves in the desert?
There was even one woman decked out in tight (I hardly noticed) black leather pants. Wow!

Then again, I'm sure I entertained them with my neon tank top and "Blue Light" special baggy black shorts.

In retrospect, today was more of a people watching day, then a scenery observation day. It was fun. 

A Dogfish 60 Minute IPA anyone?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

East Rim Trail...

Zion is Utah's most coveted and sought after park among looky-loos. (2.5 million visitors/year). This humongous rock garden is a real hit with people from all over the globe. English is almost a second language here. would rationalize there's no places to get away from your fellow scenery seekers. Not so much. I hiked three hours today and was only passed by a few clouds and deer. There's not many folks on the upper portion of the East Rim. Perfect.

It won't be so quiet mañana, I'm planning on going up to Angel's Landing. I'll have to get a numbered ticket and wait my turn for that one.

Good night from Springdale, Utah