Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Box-Death Hollow?

For the name of a Wilderness Area? Well fans, (all twenty of you including hackers) I'm glad you asked. 

Death Hollow scored the scary moniker for all the livestock who plunged to their untimely demises while attempting to cross this sharply angled canyon. In other words, it's crazy steep. There's no mention of any salvage operations for the pulverized burgers or mutton. I guess the fresh protein was a treat for the local cougar. 

I chose the much mellower Box Canyon for today's wanderings. This big view canyon was formed by Pine Creek's constant liquid flow. I even saw fish in the waterway.  In fact, the only other creatures I sighted in 4.5 hours was a few frisky squirrels, some flittering birds and a scattering of lizards. There were no other humans around in this part of Utah. Now, that's a wilderness experience!

I'm kind of falling in love with the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. Isn't there anyone out there who might be interested in a fall backpack trip here? You hackers are invited too! The autumn colors would be beyond awesome. Probably bordering on tubular, Dude. 

The slot canyons are calling...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

While growing up...

In the Bronx, our early American history lessons were geographically eastern based. It was all about the Original Thirteen Colonies strung out along the Atlantic Ocean side. 

It wasn't until I made the great leap west in 1978, did I begin to realize there was heaps of White Folk history on the other side of this continent. The only difference was the White Folk spoke Spanish instead of English. 

In 1776, (isn't that year significant in U.S. History?) Fathers Dominguez and Escalante left Santa Fe, New Mexico in an attempt to find a route to the Catholic missions in Monterey, California. They endured hunger, cold, thirst and other hardships while traversing a harsh landscape. They were the first Non-Natives to see a significant part of the Colorado Plateau country. They left behind a few names of the rivers they crossed: the Dolores, the San Miguel and the Mancos. Their brave efforts failed to gain them the prize they sought. They returned to Santa Fe to a less than warm welcome. They were looked upon as losers.

So, it's a little ironic that the one River they didn't ford or even see is named after Father Escalante. Kudos to Almon Thompson who mapped and named the river in 1872. This humble river (only 90 miles long) was the last waterway of its size to be discovered in the Lower 48. Thanks Almon for not being a suck-up and naming the river after your boss - John Wesley Powell. 

I forded the Escalante River today over and over. I have photos to prove it too. Please don't look at me as a failure for not making it to Monterey. 

There is so much to see in the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. I'll be doing some exploring in the days to come. Anyone interested in backpacking here this fall?

In the final photo, a few knockoffs of Casey Nocket left their sign in a beautiful alcove. Shame on them.

Be nice out there. 

BTW. The W,W Jew blog just scored its 15,000th page view. So what, if many of those hits came from Eastern European hackers! Maybe they read my stuff in between sniffing around for my password. 

Why can't we all just get along? 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

"So, Mama don't take my Kodachrome away..."

Kodachrome by Paul Simon.

It was a chilly, blustery day at Kodachrome Basin State Park. I donned tights, lots of layers and a Windstopper jacket to brave the elements for my ramble. I miss my shorts and tank tops! 

So Jeffy, how did this park get named for a now extinct Kodak color film? I'm glad you asked because I'm in Cannonville, Utah (Yawn!) and I have plenty of time to expound.

Back in 1948, a squad of National Geographic Society photographers descended upon the area. One Jack Breed piped up, "It was a beautiful and fantastic country...we renamed it "Kodachrome Flat" because of the astonishing variety of contrasting colors in the formations."

Personally, I think "Mostly Mud-Colored Rock Flat" would be more accurate, but Jack was here first. 

At that time, Kodachrome film was fairly new on the scene. (Maybe NGS was scoring some payola from Kodak!). In 1962, the land was deeded to the Beehive State for use as a park. A little later, Utah was granted the OK by Kodak to use Kodachrome as the name. Why not? Free advertising! 

In 2009, Kodak discontinued production of Kodachrome. Digital cameras made film obsolete. Future generations will one day say, "Daddy/Mommy! What's Kodachrome?"
You're a Baby Boomer if you know what a Brownie camera is!

The wind can stop anytime now...

From downtown Cannonville, Utah, yawn...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Land of Giddy...

If Zion National Park is the Land of Make-Believe than Bryce Canyon National Park is a Land of Happy Hikers. Grins are  prevalent except on the steep climbs. The visitors aren't happy then. But when they halt mid-stride and look around, they'll usually smile again. It's a place to let your imagination run wild. 

Didn't that rock look like a camel's head? Wasn't that Queen Victoria over yonder? Is that a couple in the act of coupling to the left of that pine tree? The Hoodoos (the name for the eccentric rock formations) won't say.

The Paiute Indians believed the stones were the Legend People. However, they were evil in nature. The trickster Coyote turned them into crumbly columns for their digressions. The story is a Native American knockoff of Lot's Wife and the Pillar of Salt. I guess humanity has only so many yarns.

It's a park in constant transition. The rock is sedimentary and soft. Every time it rains (like today) or White Death descends from the sky, a little more is flushed away into the Paria River drainage. So you better hurry to catch this whimsical place before its a geologic memory. 

BTW:  the park is not a canyon, it's an amphitheater. In the 1870's a Mormon pioneer named Ebenezer Bryce helped build a road to the rim and its bounty of timber. His neighbors called it Bryce's Canyon.
Old Ebenezer is credited with describing the nearby turf this way, "it's a hell of a place to lose a cow!" 

From rainy Tropic, Utah.
It's Saturday, (the Hebrew Sabbath) this Wandering, Wondering Jew is taking a day of rest here. 
Hark! Is that an IPA calling me?

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Make-Believe...

Landscape is how I describe Zion National Park. Regardless of the viewpoint or the season, that one thought never changes. This place can't be real. 

Spires, turrets, pyramids, canyons, vertical slabs, one Virgin River, mesas, rock slides, a few mammals and birds, it's all here. Paint it all with colors ranging from subtle pastels to Peter Max Day-Glow pigments. To this mix, add heaps of tenacious pine trees that eke out a living in a few scoops of substrate. Their deep green hues put the finishing touch to the whole well orchestrated scene. Simply Amazing. 

When I see Zion, I want to shout "Encore! Encore!" 

But there is only one Zion National Park in the world. That is why the world comes to Southwest Utah. It's not for the brewpubs. Real brewmasters live elsewhere. 

I've walked 33 miles in three days here. I'm growing older but Zion never grows old. When I return, I'll think once again, "this place can't be real!" 

Excuse me, I've got to look up and gawk now.

Cheers from beyond the Zion Curtain,

A note about the pics: 
On Angel's Landing at rush hour. It'll be within a few years, that too will require a permit. Looks like a traffic cop is needed there.

The tilted tree obviously got into my Imperial IPA stash. It was standing straight and tall before it imbibed. For those of you who are concerned, I'm down to two cases of brew. I think I have enough to get me to the Colorado border. I'm kind of worried about my coffee supply though. 

I love the squirrel notice on the buses. It's great the NPS has a sense of humor at times. 

Get out here before you need a visa to see it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

0 for 2 on the...

Wave lottery.

While I sat in the auditorium watching the winners smile as the losers fidgeted, I fast-forwarded this scene to future generations. I feel sorry for them. 

In the early 30's, Everett Ruess wandered in the Southwest untrammeled by crowds or regulations. It was a unfenced landscape. There were no required permits for his wilderness sorties then. He disappeared in 1934. America's population was 126 million.

In 2015, I wander around via Barley the Van instead of a mule like Everett. Popular hiking trails are rife with people. So much for the wilderness experience. The really sought after destinations like the Wave require a permit for the pleasure of photographing them. My future outdoor plans require at least three permits for me to play in the Great Outdoors. America's population is now 319 million. 

More people are reaching for the same piece of pie. Sadly, the slice is not getting any bigger.

Today I hiked Lick Wash. It was an airy, big view canyon for the most part. Certain sections even contained twinges of Zion National Park. There are no permits required except for overnight stays. I saw no one in 8 miles. I saw one snake though.  I think it'll be just a matter of time before hikers will have to go online to secure a permit to see it. 

I'm glad I was born in 1954 instead of 1994. 
I know, a very sobering blog. 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Close but no...

Wave Permit.

The lottery process for scoring a much coveted Government OKAY is similar to a Bingo game.
You fill out an application, and a number is assigned to you. The numbered balls begin to roll in a Ball-O-Matic silver cylinder. One wooden ball is expelled at a time. My # was 
5. Lucky Winner #6 was drawn. No one had the moxie to shout "Bingo!" The losers in the audience might have throttled him or her.

So...I had to make other hiking plans. Originally, I was thinking about the starting segment of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. When I saw the route from the parking lot, it looked as boring as a slice of Wonder Bread with Parkay margarine slathered on it. Nope. Not today.

I doubled back to Wire Pass and hiked a small segment of Buckskin Gulch. BG is famous for  being the longest slot canyon in the world. It's usually wet, slimy, muddy and no place for the claustrophobic. A flash flood here would do more than ruin your day. 

I'll try my luck again this morning. However I fear my chances are as rare as discovering a 60 year old Jewish man living in a van down by the river. Doh! 

I included a web shot of the Wave. See what I'm missing? That sign will probably be as close as I come to it this go-around.

Happy Monday,

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Being polite and a smile...

Works wonders.

I'm now in Kanab, Utah where the one reason to be here is to score a permit for a hike to the "Wave." My lottery chances are slim. Less than one in fifteen applicants walks out of the morning drawing satisfied. I needed a backup plan for other play options. With that in mind, I headed over to the local Visitor Center for hiking advice. 

I walked in and saw an elderly gentleman with a glint in his blue eyes. 

"Hello Sir! Would you be kind enough to suggest a few nearby hikes for tomorrow?"
"Sure! We have a few brochures on four hikes right out of Kanab."

I gave them a quick glance over. The distances were kind of piddly and the route descriptions weren't Grand Canyon exciting. 

"Can you suggest something longer and more interesting? Please?" 
At this point, I could tell he was sizing me up and sort of warming up to me.

"Well, you could hike along the Escalante River and explore all the slot canyons along the way like I did."
"What! How long did that take you?"
"Six weeks."
"I guess you had someone drop you provisions along the way. Right?"
"Nope! I killed what I ate. Rattlesnakes saved my life." 

Eating rattlesnakes might have been a payback for the time he was bit by an irate one in a hay loft. He was six years old then.
"My Mom took a plug of tobacco and chewed it.  She took the wad and put it on the bite. She tied it with a piece of cloth. She told me to go sit down. You know? I didn't get sick." 

Eureka! I struck a Pot of Gold of western wisdom. Jerry began pouring out stories, photos and maps of "must see" places for me to visit.

He went on. "I've discovered a lot of ruins. They were intact and there was no plundering of the contents. I told museum and university people about them and showed them a few. They dug them up and took the artifacts away. Look at these photos."

He showed me photos of ruins that looked like they were constructed yesterday. From a folder he pulled out more pictures of exquisite pots, digging tools and lovely petroglyphs. 

"See this panel? My wife dangled me from a rope so I could get a better picture of it."
What a guy!

"I hiked in the Maze area before it became Canyonlands National Park. (That was in 1964). I sure got turned around in there."
"Where did you find water? There's none there unless you hike down to the river."
"Dig two feet below a green plant and you'll find water. I used a plastic sheet to collect the moisture from evaporation." 
Can you believe this? And Jerry is 80 years old!

We spoke about the legacy of Everett Ruess, the controversy of taking artifacts away from the sites or leaving them in place and other western topics. Our opinions varied, but we respected each other's thought processes. 
He once mused, "A lot of our artifacts went overseas. That really steams me. I would rather see them in our museums." 

I suggested a few books for him to read on subjects we spoke about. He jotted the names down and thanked me. 

"Jeff! Stop by before you leave town. I'll show you a few more photos and tell you about a few more canyons to visit." 
Indeed, I will.

So...I am back behind the Zion Curtain of Utah. As usual I came prepared. Photo Two.

I'm staying at the Hitching Post RV Park and I will observe the Quiet Hours. Photo Three.

I'm kind of warming up to Kanab after sizing it up too!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why do you think it's named...

The Grand Canyon? 

"Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American... should see."

Theodore Roosevelt

On any hike during Psycho Season (AKA Springtime), one must be aware of extreme weather fickleness. 

Brad and I descended into the Canyon and met summer. We sought shade like Bedouins in the desert. A cold front blew through two days later. We then sat in the wimpy sunshine like snowbirds at Miami Beach. Last night, a chilly rain assaulted us at Tanner Beach. White Death struck at temporarily misnamed Desert View tower and the rest of the South Rim. Barley the Van was coated with the evil White stuff too. 

It wasn't a comfortable hike out. However it was a great journey. After all, it's the Grand freakin' Canyon! 

I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Brother from another Mother...

Meet Brad, A two decade buddy.

He's my hero and baby brother for two reasons: 
A) Brad beat cancer twice.
B) He came up huge after my car/bicycle accident and proved to be the ultimate buddy.

Here's the tale: As I laid supine on an uncomfortable backboard in the ER, decked out in a neck brace, IV's running into me, blood oozing out of me and a heart monitor on. I made emergency phone calls. Let me tell you, no one picks up the mobile when you really need HELP! After I ran the gamut of family members. (I batted 0-6 on those.) I started calling  friends. One of the first was Brad. Of course he didn't pick up.

"Dude! I got hit my a car. I'm f--ked up! That climb up Mount Whitney is not going to happen for me. Get someone else to go with you. Maybe Jonathan. I'm scared as hell too! Bye!"

When I eventually healed and got my strength back, Brad phoned me. Unlike everyone else on the planet, I picked up the call. Here's what my hero said.

"Dude! You were cheated on Whitney. I'll get the permits for a backpack trip. We'll summit on our last day of hiking. Interested?"

Was I interested?
Do chimpanzees eat bananas? Is Antarctica nippy? Do the Yankees have fans in the Bronx?
Heck yeah! It was then Brad unknowingly became a member of the exclusive Sambur clan. (We are small in numbers and stature). 

It was an amazing backpack trip in the Sierra Nevada. The scenery is such, once in awhile I was forced to sit down to take it all in.  I nearly cried a few times.  (Manly men can cry too)
The finale was my first ascent of Whitney (14,505') and Brad's second. BTW. It's the highest point in the Lower 48.

Brad took one for the team. That's an unselfish act. Doesn't that qualify as a brother from another Mother? I vote yes. 

Tomorrow, we'll begin a four-day 40 mile backpack trip in the Grand Canyon.
This ought to be fun. 

On the road again...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

It's Not Yankee Stadium...

But it's still America's Pastime. That includes me since I'm an American. 

The venue is Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. The local Boys of Summer (Diamondbacks) are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. I'm cheering for the old Brooklyn Bums. Besides, they have Donnie Baseball AKA Don Mattingly managing the team. 

Mattingly has always been a Yankee fan favorite. (That's me) He played his entire 14 year career for America's Team. Afterwards he became a hitting coach and bench coach for the Bronx Bombers. He was a finalist for the managing position when Joe Torre was ousted from the job. I still miss Old Joe and never warmed up to the new Joe. 
I wish Donnie Baseball was given a chance to follow in Joe Torre's footsteps. I'm sure there are other Yankee fans who feel the same way.

So...Go Dodgers and Don. 
Of course Go Yankees and Rockies too.

For those keeping score, the Dodgers were shut out tonight. 6-0.
It was still more fun than going to work or being in Kansas.

Friday, April 10, 2015

So Long Tucson...

My A Team did an admirable job of watching over me during my stay in Southern Arizona. 
Thanks Sid and Clara!

Nothing catastrophic happened, physically or emotionally. 

Tucson hadn't changed much in 18 months and neither have I. The Old Pueblo still seems to be a city living from paycheck to paycheck. In 2011, it had the dubious distinction of being the 6th poorest Metro area in the US. In a recent survey by WalletHub, Tucson ranked 143 out of 150 cities as far as recession recovery is concerned. 

As I drove the main drags in town, I couldn't help but notice the over-abundance of pawn shops, tattoo parlors, trailer parks, thrift shops, used car dealerships, check cashing businesses and billboards announcing "We Buy Ugly Homes!" 
Transients huddle up at major intersections facing the cardinal directions holding handmade cardboard signs. The signs don't resemble the one I made.

Clearly, the city center doesn't scream "We are a thriving Metropolitan!" 

There's fits and starts of pockets of prosperity. There's a shiny new trolley system, a well-developed bicycle trail along the dusty dry river beds and a few new tony restaurants and pubs Downtown. Tucson is a slow work in progress. 

It's not all negative though. Tucson is a great place to whip your body back into shape with its abundance of hiking trails. After being a reluctant Beach Bum in Hawaii, I needed to move!

It's a fine place to sit still for March Madness.
University of Arizona baseball is the lovable bastard child of Tucson sports too. 

Tomorrow morning, I'll partake in my all-time favorite Tucson activity. I'll get in Barley the Van and leave the Old Pueblo behind. 
The road trip starts!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Have You Seen...

Peggy? AKA the "Gila Angel"?

The plan was a simple overnight backpack trip in the nearby Rincon Mountains. 

We set up the shuttle before the sun rose and and began hiking uphill.  I might not have been paying attention for a moment or three to the whereabouts of this almost septuagenarian power plant. I crested a short rise and waited in the shade. I waited and waited and waited. Crap! 
I double-backed about a half a mile at a faster than usual clip. No blond-haired Minnesotan marathoner in sight. Crap II. With visions of the Arizona Daily Star's front page reading, "Ex-Firefighter Abandons Granny!" I sought cell phone service on a rocky outcrop. 
 I phoned the Misplaced One first. It rang a few times. I held my breath. She picked up!
"I'm lost!" (That was an understatement)
I scanned the landscape from my aerie and spotted some motion. 
"Walk around. I think I see you." Sure enough it was my hiking buddy. 
"Stay on the trail and walk away from the City. Stay on the trail!"

In a few minutes, we were reunited. So.. Just like Lewis and Clark, "We proceeded on." The rest of the 21 mile, two day trip was kind of  ordinary. 
What's anything but ordinary is Peggy. Her resume reads 70 marathons finishes. She slogged through  the Bataan Death March Marathon just two weeks ago. (Try running on sand for 26.2 miles!). Her energy is boundless. I'm a statue compared to her. All this motion from a retired nurse who was born during the Harry Truman administration. Simply amazing. 

Meeting Peggy in Tucson was one of the few social highlights of my four winters here. She's an inspiring friend. 

I'll keep a better eye out for her the next time we hike. I promise. 

Baseball is calling me to Phoenix on Saturday, and I must go. 

Don't get lost.