Thursday, April 28, 2016

Death Valley is sort of Dead...

Compared to mid-February when I was fortunate to be here at the height of the Super Bloom.

All those lovely blooms have now gone to seed. However, that's not what's making Death Valley seem lifeless. There's hardly any people here. Measured by the National Park Service's barometer of crowds, the Selfie-Stick Index, the Park is a virtual Ghost Town.

What's the Selfie-Stick Index you ask? Why it's the number of visitors welding Selfie-Sticks/100. The Index was pegging in the 80's when the Park resembled a Flower Shop. Now it's down to a more manageable 20-30 range. This makes walking around the overlooks a lot safer. Have you ever been "cloths lined" by a Selfie-Stick? 

I'm now in Barley the Van, getting a bit seasick as we get jostled by northerly Banshee breezes. Unfortunately, it's not the "When this Van is rocking, don't come knocking,"  kind. Rats! It's also raining. A lot. But, it's a warm rain. Oh yeah, there's flash flood warnings too. 

These photos were taken above DV today, before the wind and the rain came by. 

Excuse me while I blow up my water wings. 

This sure beats White Death. 


PS. If you care to visit, get here soon, it's 20 degrees cooler than normal now. That won't last and neither will I. Triple digit temperatures will be returning next week. The NPS closes all the campgrounds in the Valley by May 10. I suppose it's a way of preventing heat related bad things from happening to the clueless. Think of it as a form of Heat Hibernation. 

PPS. Last photo, there were pupfish swimming near Barley this morning.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Clara Sambur didn't raise a schmegegge...

G(Yiddish for a stupid person)

As told in my last post, 

Barley can get kind of cramped when I'm forced inside by inclement weather. So after another frigid night being buried beneath five blankets, I figured somethings gotta give. 

I checked weather forecasts for the Red Rock destinations of southern Utah. It was a litany of White Death at the higher elevations and cool and sodden at the lower ones.  Incessant cold winds were added as a garnish. No Bueno.

Hmmm. I might not only have to lower my altitude, I needed to lower my latitude. 

I checked the forecast for Death Valley National Park. OY! Perfect! Tank tops, flip flops, baggy shorts and sleeping once again with all my windows open. Is that not  Heaven on Earth? 

So I drove through one cold front after another for 300 miles to sit outside in Shoshone, California. There's no wind, the Bluesy Bullfrogs are croaking from a nearby spring fed pond and I'm wearing a sweatshirt and a grin. 

I can now drink beer without hiding it from the authorities like I did in Utah. I'm in California, the Land that elects movie stars for Governors. 

All is Bueno.

From my Super Bloom posts of Death Valley from February.

Come on Summer!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Little Bryce Canyon"

Is the US Forest Service's term for Red Canyon. This amber colored area sits down yonder from that much ballyhooed National Park. 

I wandered around for 11 miles in Red Canyon. I think its wishful thinking to say it's a baby Bryce. However, you won't hear a molecule of complaint from me. I liked it for what it didn't have. And what's that, Jeff?

Bus loads of selfie stick wielding mobs on a "National Lampoon Vacation" journey. 

"There's Bryce Canyon!" 
Snap! Goes the I-Phone on a Stick.
"Everyone back on the bus! We have another three parks to see today before we eat our next buffet!" 

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye to a selfie-stick.

I think Red Canyon is sort of a local's secret. The trailheads aren't signed from scenic Highway 12. The parking lots are camouflaged behind ponderosa, pinyon and juniper pine trees. You need a Forest Service trail map to figure this all out. Most of the time the Visitor Center seems to be shuttered. This year was the first time I've passed this way to find Old Glory fluttering in the breeze. I scored a map and now it has opened up another play venue for this WWJ. 

Speaking of breezes, I've been seriously windburned in the last few days. There's been Amphetamine-type gusts that even judder Barley the Van to and fro. What really stinks on ice, it's a cold wind. 

This life I lead is very weather dependent. Barley the Van sports about 78 square feet of living area. The Queen sized bed (more wishful thinking) takes up most of this space. In other words. Barley can get very claustrophobic during a bout of marginal weather. 

The Forecast? Marginal weather including the possibility of White Death. That won't do. 

Out comes the maps and the app. 
It might be time to lower my altitude, but not my attitude. 

Come on Summer!
Try to figure out which photos came from where?

PS. My IPA supply is down to one storage area. I don't think I'll need an emergency air-lift to get me back to the more IPA friendly Colorado. Touch wood.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 22nd: A Trifecta of Dates...

Yesterday, it was Earth Day, the first day of Passover and Sid Sambur's birthday. He would have turned 97. May he RIP with Clara. 

So as I strolled around the Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, I gave thought to two out of three of those days.

I'm not a practicing Jew. Even as a youth while fidgeting in the Young Israel of Ester Gardens Temple I didn't get it. The Rabbis droning their Rabbi-speak, the Congregation murmuring back their reply. The sermons that made no impressions on me and the uncomfortable wool suits I had to don. It wasn't me. 

That being said, I'm very Jewish in a cultural manner. I'm proud to be a member of a this very determined and hardheaded Tribe.

What do you get when you put ten Jews in a room? Eleven opinions! We challenge, we question and we can be a real pain in the tuchas. We are lovers of animated conservations, and the characters who express them. We can be passionate in our beliefs.

We are the underdogs who somehow managed to survive a Pharaoh,  the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Pogroms and worst of all-the Holocaust. It was the last episode that brought Sid and Clara together on a blind date in the safety of the Bronx. The US granted them entry and escape from Hitler's Final Solution. For this, I will be forever thankful for. 

So Happy Passover to Jews and non-Jews alike. It's a celebration of Freedom and who doesn't love being free? 

Back to Bryce: While being exfoliated by the wind, I also thought about my father. I often wonder what Sid would think about my present living situation. 

He probably would have used his classic query to no one in particular. "How can a man have three sons and each one be so different?" 

I'm sure he would think I'm strange, meshuggah (crazy) but figure I'm not bothering anyone. I'm staying out of trouble, and I'm paying my bills and taxes. In other words, he'd be OK with it. 

Jews love our Freedoms in whatever form it comes in, including being homeless by choice.

In the last photo, that's really a matzoh PB&J. I spilled my Nalgene bottle of water on the cardboard carbohydrate and it swelled up to look just like bread! Like I said, I'm not a practicing Jew. 

Happy Passover to all and Happy Birthday to you Sid. 

L'chiam (To Life!)

There's more on Bryce from last year's post.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Zion Finale...

It seemed fitting to finish off the Zion portion of this roll with a two night camp out at La Verkin Creek. This waterway lies in a separate unit of Zion NP named Kolob Canyons. It's about as cast off from the main part of Zion as a crushed beer can along a busy highway. It's stand alone beauty could make it a separate National Park on its own merits.

I chose campsite #12 to be my temporary home. My nearest neighbor was over a half a mile away. That's about right for backpacking. 

The Season of Death (Winter) was beginning to yield to Spring. Brush oaks, Box Elders and Cottonwoods were leafing out. In the meadows, lush grass was tall enough for a horse or cow  to notice. Flowers were blooming everywhere. I could almost hear the exponential green growth, and I'm sort of deaf. 
Campsite #12 lies in a thin part of La Verkin Canyon. I lost the sun early in the evening and gained it back late in the morning. In those hours, the sandstone radiated a warm red glow. It felt cozy. The creek made gurgling sounds 24/7. The down canyon winds  shook my tent and woke me from my dreams. I went back to sleep in a New York nano-second. It was all wonderful.

I hiked, I looked around and I read. I managed to consume 300 pages of "Theodore Rex" into my BUSY schedule. The book is over 700 pages. I'm glad I brought it along. Teddy Roosevelt would have said "Bully!" (TR's word) to know I shlepped a two pound book in and out for eight miles. 

Today, I'm off to Bryce NP. I'm about to enter a "Food Desert" where fresh fruits and veggies are about as rare as Wandering, Wondering Jews are in Utah. As always I'm prepared. I provisioned up in Cedar City, Utah. Barley the Van is stocked full of a colorful harvest. Scurvy shouldn't be an issue. My IPA and coffee supply are holding up too.

This trip has been a lot of fun so far. I hope it continues.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Utah State Parks Got it Right...

This time.

I spent a very pleasant day and night in Snow Canyon State Park. No, it's not named for the White Death stuff. The Snow Brothers scored the honorable mention. They were prominent Mormon pioneers. The canyon was discovered by those Tea-Totaling White Folks when they were pursuing lost cattle in the 1850s. Nearby Saint George is where Brigham Young and his many wives overwintered.

Back to the Park: there's 38 miles of trails meandering past petrified sand dunes, lava tubes and red and white rock scenery. Quite lovely. The flowers were making a show too.

There were no ATV'ers! Yay!

It's a sanctuary to the rare desert tortoise too. A chance encounter with these cute sloths is a beautiful moment. I've only seen two in my life. I wanted to cuddle them, but held off. 

Anyway, I'm heading into La Verkin Creek in Zion NP for two nights of backpacking. I brought a big book with me. I'll have plenty of time in my BUSY schedule for reading.

Speaking of reading. Thanks to the anonymous donor who bought a Kindle edition of "Destroying Demons". That's enough gas $ to get us to the trailhead and back. 

It's starting to warm up, time to hike.

Monday, April 18, 2016

X-Games in our National Parks?

I hope not. 

I'm here in Zion NP loving the amazing array of sandstone and color. You name a shape, it's more than likely found here. As far as colors go, I lost count on the potential palette years ago. Suffice it to say, there's a lot of shades. 

As usual, I'm hiking here with my thoughts and daypack for company. I'm happy. 

Last night, the Zion NP Foundation had its annual fundraiser. The draw was a showing of the 3-D movie, "National Park Adventure." For $20.00 I could hobnob with Zion's Superintendent or eat hors d'oeuvres. Guess what I did?

Anyway, the movie began. The film featured the world class mountaineer Conrad "I scoff at the Angel of Death" Anker, his step-son and an extremely hard-bodied, attractive young woman named Rachel (I might be old, but I can still see.)  

The "Team" (narrator's term, not mine) were on a mission to technical rock climb, white water raft, mountain bike off of cliffs, ice climb (now there's a sport I really can't relate to) and trail run. The venues were our Nation's Cathedrals of wild places. There were many whoops of "Yahoo!" I'm happy to report there were no chest bumps. That would have knocked the Ever-Enticing Rachel off of her rock perch while she performed a one-legged yoga stand. 

I found the production to be sort of sickening. The thought of our Parks becoming a source of extreme entertainment bothers me. What's wrong with walking around, letting your mind wander and gazing at the wonders of it all? No competition there. No one-upmanship. No Yahoos! Isn't that what the Parks were meant to be? A place to escape the Rat Race? 

I've had people ask me why I haven't done a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim or worse, Rim to Rim to Rim hike or run. The answer is simple. I love being down there. It makes me feel joyful to sit on a beach to look, listen and feel the River, the Canyon and the smell of the air. I don't want to rush through those moments. I savor that time. That's why I keep returning to our National Parks. 

There's plenty of BLM property available for the X-Gamers. I just hope I'm not there when they are risking life and limb.

Good night from Barley the Van living down by the Virgin River,

Those last two photos are about as extreme as I get. 

A narrow section of the East Rim trail with a death defying plunge beneath.

A step into quicksand. It's not so quick.

Then there was that recent moment of falling off a cliff...but that wasn't intentional.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Barley the Van wishes to Thank...

the generous anonymous donor who recently purchased a Kindle edition of "Destroying Demons". In fact, Barley appreciates everyone who ever dropped down a few $, € or £'s on my travel memoir too.

With that sale, Barley and me will be able to wander and wonder for about thirteen more motorized miles. That's makes us both very happy. 

Even now after 4.5 years of "Destroying Demons" going public, I break out in a grin after I notice a sale on Createspace or Kindle Publishing. I also know that with each purchase Mr. Amazon grows richer too. I'm not so overjoyed about that. 

In a day and age when more books are being published (the reality of self-publishing) but less Americans are reading, it's nice to know you chose my book. 

Thank you,
Reading is one thing animals can't do. That skill makes humans-human. 

When I'm not in motion, I love to read or blog. 
Cheers from chilly Zion National Park.

PS. How many of those self published books won a Gold Medal IPPY! See last photo with Fido posing. 
PPS. I don't think the medal is made of gold. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

ATV'ers and Hikers mix about as...

well as a very opinionated, vocal Liberal (like me) at a Trump political rally. In other words, not so much. 

I'll explain the differences:
Hikers seek unscarred landscape. ATV'ers scar the landscape.
Hikers seek quiet and serenity. ATV'ers make an inordinate amount of noise. Blap! Blap. Blap!
Hikers enjoy clean air. ATV'ers belch a lot of nasty stuff. 
The list goes on...

So why does Utah State Parks mucky-mucks think its appropriate for Coral Pink Sand Dunes State to allow ATVs on 90% of this so called protected area? Thus leaving a mere 265 acres of non--crushable habitat to the Coral Dunes Tiger Beetle. That scarab doesn't stand a chance. I saw motorized tracks on the beetles turf too. I found another telltale sign of Varoom Varoom encroachment there as well. (See the last photo. I picked it up). 

In Utah, there's an undercurrent of jabber from the state legislature to take back Federal Land. (Utah is 65% Federally Owned). If this is the state's idea of stewardship. I say "No Way!" The Fed's might not be perfect, but I believe their land management policies are more sustainable. 

The irony to Coral Dunes is that there are literally hundreds of miles of ATV trails adjacent to the park on BLM property. How do I know this? It says so in the park guide.

I'll take Great Sand Dunes National Park any old day. They are big, beautiful and best of all-NO ATV's! 

Jeff Sambur Champion of Silent Sports (that's the name of a magazine from the Midwest.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Be vewy, vewy quiet, I'm hunting...

Dinosaur tracks!" 

My apologies to Elmer Fudd. 

After another disappointing outcome at the Wave Powerball, I turned my attention to the Moccasin Mountain Tracksite. The BLM, the Utah State Parks and the Kanab Visitor Center all talked it up.

Heck, I've never seen a dinosaur let alone it's footprints. Why shouldn't I go? I'm retired. I could find the time in my BUSY schedule. 

So I drove away from Kanab and found a sandy ATV road. Happily for me, there were no motorized noisemakers around. I squashed the sand down for 2.5 miles and located an information kiosk at the site. I half glanced at the map and wandered out on the sandstone. 

There I turned bloodhound. I put my nose down low to the gritty stuff, and zig-zagged my way across the surface. Since I've never ever seen a dinosaur track, I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for. The closest I was getting to the dinosaurs were a few skittering lizards. A very distant relative to the big guys.

Ahh! But the place was stunningly silent, the clouds looked like parading pregnant sheep, and the temperature was bask in the sun warm. In other words, I wasn't complaining. 

It was after 30 minutes of futile dinosaur track efforts, I tapped my pocket and then remembered. I had a map! Those cool fellas at the BLM took an aerial photo of the site and delineated where those reptilian footprints could be found. I shifted from bloodhound to Sherlock Holmes. 

By lining up trees, a tear shaped pool, and fence posts I found evidence of my elusive prey. I sat by Kayentapus while I ate my PB&J lunch. Mr or Mrs K was a 15-18 foot long, carnivorous Bad Ass. He/She was a distant relative of Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

I thought back on how if I were sitting at this same spot 190 million years ago, I could have been K's kosher lunch. Would the first thing that crossed that pea-sized reptilian brain be, "That tasted just like chicken!" 

The first photo is what my lunch date imprinted on the site. The last photo is a footprint of Jeffus Samburus. A very rare, migratory species. If you chance upon him, don't be afraid. He's pretty docile. 

Cheers from Kanab.
Today is my last chance to score a permit for the Wave for this season. At this point, I would lean into a fast ball  just to take a base. I want that permit!