Friday, July 31, 2015

Fear of Farbluzhet...

When I was a little "boychick," the Sambur Homebody family would hit the open road every now and then. Our vehicle was usually a used Chevy in suspicious condition. (We even owned a Corvair!)  I would take my place in the front between Sid and Clara. My older brothers watched the Bronx go by from the backseat. 

We would be cruising around when Clara would pipe up, "OY! We are Farbluzhet!" This is the Yiddish word for hopelessly lost. Sid would then get the "I'm nervous, very nervous" look combined with his worried expression. Those weren't happy moments in the Sambur Chevy. So I grew up thinking getting Farbluzhet should be avoided and feared at the same time. 

Now I hike in wilderness areas and alone most of the time. I take a large scale Trails Illustrated map, and often times a vague notion of what lies ahead. I also carry a fear of getting lost in my backpack too.The worst thing about becoming "disoriented" is how it would screw up my Happy Hour schedule. 

On my recent three day, 30 plus miles backpack trip in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, my fear of pulling a disappearing act was more pronounced than normal. I heard from reliable sources (a Wilderness Ranger) that a segment of my itinerary was dicey. The official U.S. Forest Service handout acknowledged the trail was "lightly used and steep." The insider info I pulled out of the Ranger was this, "When you get over the pass, take a hard right. Aim for the bottom of the bowl." Pretty vague. Right? 

I asked him, "Can't I just follow the creek drainage to the intersecting trail?"
His no-nonsense response, "No! Unless you can swim waterfalls." Not so much.

So I hit the trail early to buy myself more time to get lost and found. The hike up the pass was so easy a Caveman could do it. (good line, GEICO.)  At the top, I saw a large bowl below me and faint routes wandering off at odd angles from that point. I chose the way "hardest right." I quickly realized my choice was an elk thoroughfare. There were hardly any signs of Homo Sapiens. However, those elk must have been civil engineers as there meanderings followed the ridge's contours. Strong work until an elk labor dispute caused the construction project to come to a halt. At that point I began to imagine seeing trails at the bottom of the bowl. I gingerly made my way down. Nope! It was those nasty trail mirages. I hiked this way and that generally going downhill. It took my about half a mile before I found a genuine cairn. Like a bloodhound on a scent, I began to follow. I might have howled even. The trail crapped out often, but I stay focused. 

It took many hours of beating the bush to arrive at a more user friendly trail. I really like that one since it took me back to Barley the Van and a date with Happy Hour.

My point to all this? Don't get farbluzhet. You might get Sid's "I'm nervous, very nervous" worried look. It will upset your kids too. 

Stay Found,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I'm no Gambler

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

"The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers

Yesterday, I left Carbondale with the idea of summiting nearby Mount Sopris. (12,965 feet). With a  70% chance of thunder-boomers and lightning as the forecast, I was more than a bit concerned. However, after my usual two pots of java for breakfast, I was feeling game on. 

As I made my way through the green ecozones, all was fine. The sun was shining, the wind was gentle and temperature was set for cotton instead of fleece. Perfect. By the time I got above tree line, conditions began to change. 

To the east of me, the valleys of the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness were beginning to fill with cloudy and wet stuff. I felt a few drops of moisture myself. It wasn't my sweat either. With half an Empire State Building of uphill ahead of me, I made a decision. It was time to head down. 

Despite Sopris' minuscule size compared to its neighbors, it's an extremely steep endeavor. The mountain's flank is composed of rock slabs strewn about in a haphazard state. The odds are "flip a coin" whether the unforgiving surface slides or not. The descent is tedious and slow. There is no quick exit off of Sopris. 

One can always second guess a hiking decision. Would I have been able to complete the climb safely? Possibly.

Did I make it back alive for another Happy Hour? Definitely. 
I made the right choice. Sopris is not going anywhere. 

Please try and make the Right Choice when you are in Wild Places. 

That's not my handwriting in the last photo. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hiking with a Viking...

I met Paul the Pilot (AKA Paul the Polly-Anna), on a long ago Ride the Rockies Bicycle Tour. He rode an antiquated Schwinn Le Tour bicycle. His metal steed was clunky, unresponsive and oppressively massive. Paul is a large, lean, headstrong, "Type A" Scandanavian. He muscled his bike up the passes, laughing at the Bike Nazis he left in his wake. He's a tough dude. 

I mentioned the newer, lighter bikes that were available in stores called Bicycle Shops. His answer, "This bike is fine. Why buy another one?" 

You know the saying, "You can always tell a Scandanavian, you just can't tell them much."

Now Paul is gainfully unemployed, recently divorced and taking the same heavy handed approach to backpacking. 

On our three-day, 28 mile journey in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness of Colorado, Paul's concession to lightweight gear was leaving his Grand Piano behind and settling for a Baby Grand instead. Out of his Mount Everest Expedition pack came a pound of raisins, a heavy two person tent, (for himself), a container of liquid coffee creamer, a spice rack, a large plastic 7-11 coffee mug and other extraneous add-ons. I was surprised there was no portable sauna. I feared placing my puny backpack next to his. It might have eaten it. 

Now is a good time to mention, the hiking loop contains four passes over 12,000 feet too. 

So...just like that bicycle tour from so long ago, Paul employed brute strength to make his way up the passes. He still managed to leave most younger, better equipped hikers in his wake.The one and only reason I was ahead of him was my mini backpack was half the Wells Fargo Bank vault weight of his backpack. He's still a tough dude.

Then again, what can one expect from a region who brought the world such notable Bad-Asses as Eric the Red, Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen. I hear they eat lutefisk too. That's fish soaked in lye. 

At least our hiking conditions were to Paul's liking. Cold, wet, damp, cloudy and plenty of white death (snow) to traverse. Perfect for the newest Scandanavian Bad-Ass. 

This Cold Weenie survived the ordeal. In fact, a wonderful time was had by all. 

Cheers from Carbondale, Colorado,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

America's Greatest Invention...

Wilderness Areas, followed closely by National Parks.

Sure, Jazz, the Blues, Democracy and baseball are up there, but the notion of "Let It Be" land use is our Nation's best idea. (Besides the Internet, which I happened to have invented.) 

What a concept! A piece of land valued for what it doesn't have. No mining, no logging, no ranching, no motorized vehicles, and best of all, no subdivisions. 

For the past week, I visited four designated Wilderness Areas-Indian Peaks, Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and felt compelled to visit the Cradle of Wilderness. I'm talking about the Flat Tops Wilderness (Colorado's second largest preserved area). 

All great ideas start with a visionary. The lovers of Wild Places (like myself) can thank U.S Forest Service landscape architect Arthur Carhart for his epiphany. His bosses sent him to remote Trappers Lake (in the year 1919) to come up with a game plan to build a few vacation cabins along its shore. When young Arthur saw the lake, and the volcanic amphitheater leaping from its shores, he filed this report to his supervisors.

"There are a number of places where scenic values are of such great worth that they are rightfully the property of all people. They should be preserved for all time for the people of the nation and the world." 

Thank you! Arthur! I couldn't have said it any better. 

Now I'm at a campsite scattered along the outflow of Trappers Lake. While I quietly quaff my IPAs, my neighbors seem to whisper in their conversations. Maybe they are showing reverence to the beauty that's around them. 

On today's 11 mile hike to Wall Lake the only sounds I heard was the wind whistling past the burnt snags from the 2002 Big Fish Fire. (I heard my heavy breathing too, but we won't go there.) 

Shortly after Mr. Carhart's proclamation, another visionary saw the light. Aldo Leopold fought for America's first Wilderness Area-the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. He won that battle, but in reality, we all won.

Here's a plethora of photos from our Treasury of Just Trails. In the last photo, there's Paul, Robin and Jenny overlooking Gilpin Lake in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness. Contrary to popular belief, I don't go solo all the time. Oftentimes I go fishing for companions, but I usually come away with an empty creel. 
As Jeff Shakespeare once wrote, "Tis better to go-eth alone, than never to go-eth at all." 

Enjoy America's best invention. I do.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Shirley McClain and me...

On yesterday's almost a Ghost Bike hike, I got a late start, the distance to my goal was greater than expected and I was feeling introspective. In other words, sort of a normal day. 

As I girded up the trail to Crater Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness, my mood changed to cheery. The weather was mild, sunny and wind-free. I'll borrow an overused cliche here. "It was a great to be alive" day. And that's exactly how I felt. 

Somehow four years ago, I dodged the bullet, didn't buy the farm, wasn't pushing up daisies and survived and recovered from my ordeal. I am very fortunate. 

Shirley M believes in reincarnation. I don't. I'm very pleased with this scarred, creaky body and IPA addled brain. I'll try to hold onto this form of me as long as I can. It has served me well. I'm like a Timex watch, "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!"

Be safe out there.
Second chances don't come often.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Four Years Ago...

today, I came so close to becoming a "Ghost Bike" ( ) on Highway 2 in Montana. 

You can read the traumatic details from last year's anniversary blog.

This year I'll write about the quiet carnage taking place on America's highways and byways. 

In 2013, there were 743 bicycle fatalities in the U.S. In the same year there were 224 airline crash fatalities. When an aircraft loses its war on gravity, it's a media event.  It's big, it's dramatic and there's photos and video to draw in viewers. 

Not so with bicycle fatalities. Like a sniper going about his business over a large battlefield, the deaths are random and detached. Plink! Plink! Plink! For example: 141 victims in California, yet only one in Alaska spread out over a calendar year of time. 

Outside of a small circle of friends and family, the general population is unaffected by the sudden tragedy. Yet, the death toll continues to mount. Why is that? 

The sad truth (I believe) is the prevailing attitude amongst Americans. 
Here's the bumper sticker sized thought, "The cyclist had it coming. They were asking for it by riding on the road."
Trust me, NO cyclist ever asks to get struck by a speeding chunk of big medal. It hurts! 

Malcolm Stephenson's sedan rear-ended me at 50 MPH. A Montanan State Policeman issued him four felony charges. (Serious stuff). Mr. Stephenson spoke to a lawyer, copped a plea and paid the state of Montana $250 in court fees. That's it. There was  no restitution from the perpetrator to me. He never even apologized. 

When judges and juries start to levy real penalties and fines against the accused, maybe then the word will trickle down to all motorists. Hit a human on a bicycle = pay the price. Until then, the slaughter will continue.

BTW: I won't say bicyclists are angels who are always guilt free. Oftentimes, riders are their worst enemy. In 2013, 63% of the deceased failed to don a helmet. 21% were riding under the influence of alcohol. Bad bicyclists! 

So when you are driving, please pay attention to those folks on two wheels. When you are cycling, please stick a helmet on your noggin. 

I'm so happy there wasn't a ghost bike set out on MT Highway 2 because of me. 

Be safe out there,

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Visit to a Southwest Troublemaker...

I wasn't looking for any hassles when I hiked upstream from the Colorado River Trailhead to see the birth canal of the most litigated waterway in the world. 

The Colorado River (formerly known as the Grand River until 1921), begins its long journey to the courthouses (mostly the Supreme Court) near La Poudre Pass in RMNP. The river rarely ever makes it to the delta it once formed in Baja California. Every drop is appropriated between the Upper Basin States (Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah) and the Lower Basin states (Arizona, Nevada and California). What little remains, sometimes goes to Mexico. 

The river has hardly had its umbilical cord severed before half of its cargo gets diverted east along the Grand Ditch. I guess I can't complain seeing the ditch provides some of the water I drank in Fort Collins, Colorado. It's also a major component of IPA microbrewery beer! There's rumors out there, some people use it for showering, agriculture and even laundry. But that's just a rumor. 

The problem is (despite a big water year like 2015 in Colorado) there's still not enough to quench the thirst of the 40 million people who live both in and outside of its watershed. Who knows where this will end? Probably in the Supreme Court again. 

Use water wisely please.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

On a day that felt...

more like early-May than post-summer solstice, I headed uphill toward Timber Lake in RMNP.
When I closed in on tree line, there was hail, a few rogue lightning bolts and moose.

I love moose. They are an animal designed by a painfully hungover committee. While elk have the grace, style and class of Michael Jordan in his prime. Moose are content to have evolved from Homer Simpson. Doh! 

The committee members added aquatic talents to their long list of descriptors. Decades ago, I saw a bull wade out into a lake on Isle Royale National Park. He went Tarzan for 45 seconds below the surface. Who the heck knows what he was doing under the water. Eating? Looking at the fish? Checking out the view? 

I didn't ask and he didn't tell.

Warming trend on the horizon in Grand Lake, Colorado.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

So long Boulder, Colorado and the...

Front Range for now. 
It's been a very comfortable month of hanging out despite the stranger than usual weather. (Yesterday's high temperature was in the 60's). 
Here's my clicheish thought on world climate change. The new normal is there is no normal.

Which is similar to the denizens of Boulder. What's normal? It's a people watching paradise. Even an ADD adult like myself can be entertained for hours while drinking an IPA and watching the throngs of humanity breeze by on Pearl Street. 

Colorado is home to me, make no mistake about it. Too bad, Sid Sambur passed on his Cold Weenie gene to his youngest son. It would be so easy to live in this state if I could handle inclement weather. 

But then again, there wouldn't be a W, W Jew blog. 

Off to a wet campground in Rocky Mountain National Park manana. Good thing I have a great book to read to while away the night.

Come on summer!

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Wandering, Wondering Jew Blog...

Turns One as America turns 239 years young. 

Coincidence? I think not. 
Both are representative of the wonderful concept of FREEDOM! If you readers haven't  figured it out, I value the notion that I can go traipsing around as I please, just as long as I have the proper permits! 

Alas, freedom is not free. Once again, I give thanks to the Military Veterans who fought for our nation in order to preserve the ideas of our Forefathers.

I give thanks to this country for allowing my parents to seek sanctuary in New York City, in order to escape the insanity of the Holocaust. 

I give thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt for his foresight in saving my cherished National Forests, National Parks and Monuments. I have no problem with this huge Federal Land grab. If not for him the western wild lands would be riddled with sub-divisions named in memory of what they displaced: Redwood Ridge, Elk Meadows and Quail Hollow. Yech! 

I give thanks for our Freedom of Speech. I have the Constitutional OK to display my highly opinionated views on my blog without being hauled away to an uncomfortable gulag. Although, I don't have the right to go into a full-house theater and scream, "Fire! Fire!" That's a rule I can live with. 

Lastly, I want to thank all you readers and hackers who check into my blog. I scored around 17,700 pageviews for the year. I'm still trying to figure out what gets your attention. Comments and critiques are few. 
So...please continue to give a gander in. Feel free to forward my blog address to your billions of Facebook friends, hackers and family members. Maybe The W, W J blog will go viral in the coming year.

Have a safe and Happy 4th of July.

PS. I included a photo of Little Dyl to symbolize what one year old is. She's pretty cute and adorable too. Her dream is to one day own her own pink Barley the Van.