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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Final Resting Place...

will be on Mount Sneffels. (14,150') in Southwest Colorado.

My brother Mike owns a hand written set of directions on what's to become of my estate, and my ashes. The instructions are specific on where to place my four-six pounds of gray powder. (Mostly granulated bone).  One third of me will be spread facing east toward the rising sun. (I'm a morning person) The rest will be scattered toward the San Juan Mountains. I want a wind blown perspective of all those luscious acres of Federally-protected Wilderness Areas. It's all about the big views. 

The San Juan's are the most dramatic, steep, rugged and wicked-wild mountain range in Colorado. The Sangre de Cristo's mountains are close, but lack the depth and breadth of the San Juan's. The San Juan's possess more real estate to get lost in. I've been exploring the area for about 40 years, but barely broke the surface. 

My summer game plan was to hike heaps of Colorado. On a daily basis, I pushed this senior citizen body into dependable shape for my upcoming Alps journey. There, I'll be ambling the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.  I'll be ascending 5,000'/day on many of the stages. That's the equivalent of walking out of the Grand Canyon a few times a week. I'm pleased to say, mission accomplished. I'm feeling healthy and fit. I'm lean but not mean. I'm ready.

It's been a soggy summer in Colorado, more reminiscent of a typical Seattle winter. It's green, flowery and buggy. There was a stretch where I thought mud and mold would digest Barley the Van. Yet, I felt happy to be in the State which adopted me in 1978. 

During this sojourn, I thought a lot about things. There will come a time when life in Barley the Van won't be possible. I'll have to settle down. I think my next to last resting place will be in Southwest Colorado. By that time, I'll be looking up at the views instead of gazing down from the peaks, passes and basins. As for now, I'm not ready yet. There's that one-way ticket I have to Europe. 

Who knows what my future or the World's will be? 

Which brings us back to the start of this post. Who will deposit what's physically left of me on Sneffels? 

I'm hoping Keith and Justin Sambur (my nephews) and maybe a few others who liked me will deposit my remains. (You guys better stay in shape to haul me up there!)  It'll be OK for them to anoint me with a Double IPA. I won't need to stay sober for the scree-lined descent. I'll be staying up there. 

All these photos were shot in the Centennial State. Thank You! Colorado for giving me sanctuary here. 

The last photo is me on incredible Mount Sneffels. Note the measuring cup in my hand. I want my nephews to get the portions right. 

Next stop...
The Alps.
Follow along, this could get interesting.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Shame on the Rio Grande Forest for allowing...

cattle grazing in  the South San Juan Wilderness. 

Today, I had the displeasure of hiking up the "Three Forks" Trail to the Middle Fork Trail toward Conejos Falls. I read a brief route description from John Fielder's "Colorado Wilderness Areas" Guide. Mr Fielder didn't mention the cattle-caused degradation of the trail's condition.  I suppose being a Polly-Anna sells more books. I'm no Polly-Anna so I'll say it. The trail sucked. The cattle vandalized the terrain as much or more than logging or mining roads would have. Unlike those mindless bovines, a Civil Engineer considers drainage issues. 

I muddled through ankle to calf deep mud and muck. At times, the trail was a 12-15 foot wide path of primordial ooze. Instead of a "Thread Lightly" code of ethics, the cattle prefer to "Thread Heavily." When those grass-eating terrorists grew tired of getting their hooves wet, they created new trails. The meadows and forests are braided with new paths. John Muir, who coined the phrase "hoofed locusts" (in reference to sheep) would have had a stroke if he hiked the SSJ Wilderness. 

Need I remind you, from the Wilderness Act of 1964. [Wildeness] is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life is untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." 

Sure, an "alternative fact" lawyer can say, "Well, there no mention of cattle!" My retort? There's no mention of chickens, pigs or goats either.  The intent of the Wilderness Act isn't to allow wonton destruction of what the Act is trying to preserve. 

I'm a retired city firefighter who once fought forest fires for the USFS. (Bighorn and Pike NF). I have a degree from the Syracuse College of Environmental Studies and Forestry. ((Class of 1976). I'm well read in the tales of Gifford Pinchot, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, David Brower and Edward Abbey. They all understood the basic belief (in verifying degrees) of Land Stewardship. 

Rio Grande National Forest! You are flunking Land Stewardship 101 by allowing cattle to graze in a so-called Wilderness Area. The Rio Grande's powers to be are selling out to the Sage Brush Rebellion, the Old West mentality and the Cliven Bundy constituents. All for a measly $1.87/AUM. (Animal Unit Month). 

I understand many of these cattle grazing permits have been grandfathered in. The cattlemen had the right to run their four-legged wrecking crews on Federal Land prior to the SSJ becoming a Wilderness in 1980. Still this doesn't seem right. Face it, cattle grazing on Public Lands is Federally Funded Welfare. 

My last photo sums up how I felt about today's amble into the South San Juan Wilderness. It was light on inspiration and heavy on steaming piles of cow poop. It was the shits. I know that's crass, but more so is making a mockery of one of the best Congressional Acts in our Nation's Conservation History. 

Come on folks! You can do better than this!

Let's make our Public Lands better for our future generations.
Jeff Sambur

PS. This blog and photos have been sent to the Rocky Mountain Region Forest Supervisor, the Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor and the Conejos District Ranger

Copies have also been sent to the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club of Colorado.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

"If I had one more low gear...

I would have driven up that hill!" 

Is the quote I eavesdropped upon in the Moab Diner a few years ago. 

The driver's Jeep Jamboree compadres nodded sagely in agreement.

I thought to myself, "how weird is that!" It would be like me saying,  "If I had another Clif Bar I would have summitted  that mountain." Except, I would be relying on myself instead of a machine. 

While I was spying, the Diner's customers was a 50/50 blend of hikers/mountain bikers and 4x4 vehicle aficionados. It was easy to spot the difference between the two antipodal recreational categories. The 4x4 gang dawdled over weak mugs of Mormon-made coffee while the "Silent Sport" crowd wolfed down their breakfasts of pancakes or veggie omelettes. The no-fossil fuel contingent wanted to beat the heat and the crowds. The drivers were  loitering until their mob showed up. No rush! 

Lately, I've been spending time in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. In my humble yet knowledgeable opinion, it's the most scenic part of a State famous for scenery. The San Juan's are Da Bomb! 

Back in the day, miners struggled up the gulches, creeks and mountain basins in search of a Motherlode of valuable minerals. Their trails remain. I use them. If the miner's dig-a-hole-here hunch was correct, rudimentary roads were built to move the ore to nearby settlements. The 4X4 crowd use those roads. 

On my way to two trails ensconced in a few Wilderness Study Areas. I had to drive my high clearance Barley the Van on miles of not quite 4x4 nor two-wheeled drive road either. (More like Three-wheel drive!) I was jounced and juggled around. I felt like a dryer sheet in an unbalanced laundry load. On one narrow stretch of dirt, crumbly rock walls lay on one side and a river-built chasm on the other. There was no margin of error or room for two side-by-side vehicles.

 People drive these roads for pleasure! I don't get it!

On my hikes, I'm fueled by coffee, veggie omelettes and a still high dose of testosterone. I off-gas water vapor and CO2. I sweat a lot too. When I take a misstep, scabs and scars are the results. (If I were a hemophiliac, I would have croaked long ago). It's the price I pay for being an aggressive hiker.

In contrast, the Motor-minded crowds fuel up on whatever they eat and plenty of gasoline. The Jeeps, ATV's, OHV's and motorcycle dirt bikes off-gas CO2 and water vapor too. BUT!  (From Wikipedia) There's carbon monoxide (CO) from incomplete combustion, hydrocarbons, (properly indicated as CxHy, but typically shown simply as "HC" on emissions-test slips) from unburnt fuel, nitrogen oxides (NOx) from excessive combustion temperatures, and particulate matter (mostly soot). No Bueno! 

When a Rough Roader takes a misstep, they can score a dent or scratch. No bleeding except for their wallets. A really bad misstep could cause a tumble down the above mentioned chasm. But Man! What a ride! 

At the end of my day, it's Happy Hour. I tip back an IPA while gazing at my bounty of photos. Sometimes I get a warm, fuzzy feeling (other than from the High Test brews) 
knowing I earned those views with Good Ol' American Sweat Labor. This makes me smile. 

I'm not sure what sense of satisfaction the Varoom-Varoom contingent receives during their Happy Hours. However, there are two things I'm sure of.

1) That Dude would have driven up that hill if he had one more gear.

2) I always carry an extra Clif Bar to reach that summit. 

Enjoy the photos. I earned them.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Walk in the...

Woods, except only harder and wetter. 

Former firefighter colleague Doug M and I decided to backpack a stretch of the Eagles Nest Wilderness. I'll admit our trip research was on the mild side. We're just TOO BUSY! 

Our planning went like this:

Me: "Doug? See that Cataract Trailhead on the north side of the Eagles Nest map?

Doug: "Uh-huh."

Me: "Let's start there and go south to Boulder Creek Trailhead. I guess we'll stop at a few lakes along the way." 

Doug: "OK! See you on the 27th." 

Not exactly Lewis and Clark inspirational. Is it? 

After shuttling vehicles to the trailheads, we gathered our packs and started up. The forecast for our ramble was in the 80%-90% dicey to damp range. There was a 100% chance of mosquitos. 

Most of our journey would be on the misnamed Gore Range Trail. From our tree-lined avenue the spiky, formidable and rugged mountain range was a distant rumor. We caught tantalizing glimpses of the Gore's every few miles. Then the pines and aspens would close in on us once again. The trail itself was an obstacle course. We had to hurdle over truckloads of downed timber. There was some crawling involved as well. (That really sucked for the 6'4" Tall Texan). Progress was slow and tedious.

Then the rains came. We lost our Mojo. A four night backpack trip became half of that. We met our goals of walking from Point A to Point B. 

But Hey! We were in the Great Outdoors and not working! Doug caught me up on the latest Poudre Fire Authority gossip. His straight talk made me bless the fact I'm still gainfully unemployed. Life is better in retirement. I dare say a wonderful time was had by all. 

Now a Colorado History Lesson: The Gore Range was named in dubious honor for Sir George Gore, an Irish Baronet. In 1854, Gore hired the mythical Mountain Man Jim Bridger to lead him through central Colorado and beyond. His Mission? Murder and mayhem for thousands of large scale wildlife type animals. His entourage consisted of 
30 heavily laden wagons and 50 servants. The Baronet wasn't a big believer in "Leave no trace" Wilderness ethics. It was more like "Thread heavily." I betcha he didn't even burn his toilet paper. Goes to show you, anyone can have a scenic mountain range named after them. Go figure.

Cheers from cool and cloudy Buena Vista, Colorado 
Hark! Is that an Happy Hour IPA I hear calling my name?
Yes! It is. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mother Nature is beautiful, unless she..

kills you. 

Ever since I've seen the lyrically named Music Pass on my Sangre de Christo (Blood of Christ) Wilderness map, I've wanted to backpack there. According to Google info: beyond  the pass, there's alpine lakes teeming with chubby trout. Rimming the Valley and basins are numerous 13,000 foot-plus mountains beckoning the peak-bagging crowd. The terrain is steep and Ireland-green with vegetation. The landscape sums up the notion of the 1964 Wilderness Act, "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” 

I like that. So...I went.

I left my non-4x4 Barley Van at the lower parking area. After sauntering uphill for a few road miles, my hike  began to Music Pass. Of all the Welcome to "such and such" Wilderness notices, the placement of the Sangre de Christo sign was the most dramatic I've seen. (See photo). Now, we're talking sublimely luscious. 

I descended down the valley only to eventually go back up to 11,460' Lower Sand Creek Lake. This would be home for two nights. I found a nice piece of Federal Real Estate where I set up my tent to mark my turf. After hastily stuffing a day pack, I took off to see Upper Sand Creek Lake. Mind you, at this point dreary gray clouds were beginning to evict the summery blue skies. I heard gurgling thunder, but it was a distant rumor. Two-and-a-half miles later, I was at the Upper Lake. I shot a few photos. 

Shortly after, I heard a whisper in the wind. "Gotcha!" Then all hail broke out. Ice pellets ranging from pea to grape-sized slammed into me. I quickly donned a few layers of fleece and a "My Trails" ultralight poncho over my sweaty cotton tank top. The temperature plummeted as I was getting pummeled. I began to trail run down  through polar puddles of crystalline solids. My feet were numb. I splashed through fast flowing creeks. The water felt like a tepid shower. The storm wouldn't let up. First a flash, followed all too quickly by a belch of thunder. I was running in the epicenter. As I closed the gap between me and my shelter, I began to worry, will I find nothing but ripstop nylon confetti where my Big Agnes tent was once standing? 

Nope! Good tent! I crawled inside and into my snuggly warm down sleeping bag. It took over a hour for me to defrost. The hail continued in total for three hours, followed by light showers. Mind you, the forecast was merely a one in five chance of any precipitation occurring.

Moral of this post? Be prepared. Mother Nature is beautiful, but she can kill too. 

For a great read check out "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. 

Hey "My Trails" and "Big Agnes" I just gave you a plug! 

Cheers! And be safe out there,

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Weren't you the guy who saved his...

Wife by performing CPR on her, after she got struck by lightning?" 

I asked this question to Nelson, a stranger to me up to that awkward introduction.

His humble response, "Yes, that was me." 

This scenario played out thirty-seven years ago in Fort Collins, Colorado. We've been acquaintances turned beer and backpacking buddies ever since. Nelson now makes up the better half of the "100% Kosher Sub-Eleven Foot Adventure Team." I'm the other half.

Besides being short in stature, we share a few other common traits. We both have a deep love for wild places, especially mountains. Freud's conjecture would be we are making up for our lack of inches by achieving peaks where we can finally look down upon others. Maybe so.

We sweat our way to the summits in hiking styles as antipodal as a tropical rain forest is to a Saharan desert. 

Nelson finesses his way up. He analyses the terrain and chooses the path of least resistance. I, on the other hand, take the direct approach. There's the top, go for it! Oftentimes, this isn't the wisest choice. I.E. false summits, exposing myself to more exposure and the possibility of a much longer and steeper tumble. Nelson is a ballet dancer, I'm a fullback. He's smarter. 

Nelson's wardrobe appears to be out the Activewear issue of a AARP magazine. He looks professional. His trousers and shirt sport perfect creases. (I think he hauls in a iron and board to look sharp.) He's clean! I buy my outdoor wear from Big 5 Sporting Goods, Walmart and Goodwill stores. It's a sloppy disheveled look. I guess it's me. 

Nelson's organized. He's a "place for everything and everything in it's place" type of guy. I'm the "there's some space, cram it in" sort of fella. That's why I can't find necessary gear and he can. 

Most of all, Nelson has many endearing qualities. 

He's a man of humility. He doesn't toot his own horn. His achievements have to be coaxed out of him. I now know he taken more than a few award winning photos. He's an artist of the shutter speed, aperture setting and tripod. I recently discovered he's summited Mera Peak (21,247') in the Himalayas without oxygen! 

 Most of all Nelson is a Mensch. From Merriam-Webster :  a person of integrity and honor. I try to be a Mensch. I estimate my batting average to be about .650. Nelson nails it at 1000. He consistently does the right thing. I wish I could be more like him. 

I'm honored he considers me a friend. 

Sometimes inspiration comes in small packages. 

For more posts about this interesting man, please check out:


Monday, July 10, 2017

A Real Game...


It was a six-pack's worth of years ago when I awoke in a ditch. Blood was everywhere. Worse still the red stuff was your's truly. Movement was out of the question. Good Samaritan First Responders pleaded with me, "Don't Move!" So I listened. 

Getting struck from behind by a speeding sedan wasn't part of my Life Game Plan. 
I was then on Day Two of a Ten Day bicycle tour in Montana. 

Eventually,  I was placed in a lower rib to chin brace for ninety days. Three Doctors declared my survival to be a medical miracle. As my paramedic buddy Steve Main once said, "Jeff! You must have landed just right." 

I then had to deal with the physical and mental side of surviving a near crematorium experience. Yes, I was stiff, scarred and sore. I wasn't sure how I'd mend. On the cerebral side, I was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. My dreams (nightmares) caused me to jolt awake drenched in a clammy sweat. That sucked. 

Three months to the day the brace was unceremoniously deposited in a dumpster.. A few days later, this slow moving walking wounded was on a plane to NYC for my youngest nephew's nuptials. Before the affair, I would be staying with my nephew Keith and his lovely wife Courtney. 

At the time K&C lived in a swank high rise in Manhattan. (Yankee Third Baseman  Alex Rodriguez lived in an adjacent building). A Doorman allowed me passage after getting the high sign from Courtney. Up I went in the elevator.

Upon exiting, I stiffly looked right and then left.  Courtney was standing in her apartment's doorway. Her eyes were Full Moon wide open. Her right knuckles were clenched in her mouth. It was a look expressing many emotions at the same time. Most of all it said, "I'm so happy to see Uncle Jeff alive!" 

For me, it made me realize there are people who would miss me if I hadn't woken up in that Montanan ditch. There are people who actually love me. 

We then gave each other a long teary hug 

So...what have I learned from this Readers Digest True Story episode?

First) Even a curmudgeonly sociable hermit like myself can be lovable. 

Second) Pay more than lip service to your passions and dreams. Always be working on your Bucket List, even if the result maybe living in a van down by the river. Do what feels right to you. (Just so it's not harmful or hurtful to others.) 

Third) Unless you foster suicidal tendencies, no one is certain on when they will feel the icy breath of the Grim Reaper or the sudden desire to be pushing up daisies. (Final photo) Play with passion. Life is finite. 

Here's a few more anniversary posts, if this one wasn't enough!

Cheers and be safe out there!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

In 2009, I rode my bicycle from...

San Diego to Bar Harbor, Maine. I went looking for America.  My 6,500 mile journey took me through Small Town, USA during the Bull's Eyes year of the Great Recession. 

From my two wheeled conveyance I witnessed the economic calamity from the ground up. Countless businesses were shuttered, our Nation's unemployment rate hovered in the 10% range,  many homeowners found themselves suddenly homeless. As we all recall, it was hard times in the US and the rest of the World. 

In the hundreds of bars, cafes, diners and General Stores I stopped at, I made it a point to speak to my fellow Americans. I asked a lot of questions and was rewarded with honest, forthright answers on how our citizens were coping in the money crisis. The overall consensus seemed to be, "Its tough, but we're all in this together." 

Fast forward eight years, our Nation is now being chaotically led by someone who utilized a "Divide and Conquer" strategy to gain access to the White House. Trump rose to the top by  "telling it like it is." There was no politically correct pause button. Armed with a 100 word vocabulary he verbally cheap shotted most minorities. He sidestepped his history of being crude to women. His speeches were heavy on "Bigly" promises, (now unfulfilled) "alternative facts" (lies) and daily doses of finger pointing. His rants were light on details, kindness, unity and compassion. Everything about his campaign scared the poop out of me. 

Since the Inauguration, it's been a long slog of "The Apprentice" repeat episodes. This is understandable when the Billionaire President has Steve Bannon (White Supremacist) and Jared Kushner and Ivanka   (Jews lacking a kosher soul) advising him. The message is bound to be muddled. 

Now, I find myself waking up and checking the latest top billing "Reality TV" show. Thinking,  "What the Hell is he up to today?" It seems to be a daily assault on the environment, National Monuments, health insurance, public education, our Allies and just plain sanity. 

The result has been I've become more withdrawn. 

 I want good scandal-free Government. I want the US to cease being a Rogue Nation (similar to North Korea). I want a President who sleeps with his wife instead of punching out angry Tweets at 3:00 am. I want a return of America the Beautiful and the demise of America the Badass. I want a leader who acts Presidential instead of adversarial. I want both sides of this ideological chasm to tone down the nastiness which occasionally escalates towards violence. 

I want out.

On August 22nd, I'll fly on a one-way ticket to Geneva, Switzerland. A few days later, I'll start a trans-Alps hike from Chamonix to Zermatt. After that I'll begin my third Camino de Santiago. 

The reasons for my third Spanish Pilgrimage are many. The biggest is the  joy I get from partaking in Happy Hour with humans from all over the World. We sit, chat, exchange ideas and information about our countries. We tell stories, lots of them. We laugh. When we are done, we hug. The Camino is truly "A River of Goodness." (Tony "The Pilgrim" Greenwood quote.) I need a vaccination of this now more than ever. 

I'll be a Goodwill Ambassador. I'll make it known our current FaceTime leader's aggressive views do not represent all Americans. I'll smile, hold doors open for strangers, buy rounds and say "Por Favor!" and "Gracias!" I'll try and win over hearts and minds. 

Lastly, getting back to my 2020 Presidential Campaign run, I'm still in need of a First Lady. American voters don't take candidates seriously without one. (Last bachelor President was James Buchanan in 1857). On my first two Camino's I met one kind, sweet and affectionate woman per Pilgrimage. I'm hoping for a good outcome by starting this 550 mile amble with eyes and heart wide open. Wish me luck. 

So what will be the name of this European Journey? One without a finite end in time or place? 

 "The Hugs! Not Shoves! International Be Nice Mission." Of course.

Until then, I'll be spending my time in the mountains of Colorado. I need to whip this senior discount applicable body into shape for the rigors of the Alps and whatever comes after that. I want to be lean, but not mean. Fun loving hikers are welcome to join me along my Intrastate way. 

For further readings, please check out:

I'll end this post with a verse from Simon and Garfunkle's classic: "America"

"Kathy, I'm lost", I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
"I'm empty and aching and
I don't know why."

Counting the cars

On the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come
To look for America,
All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

Maybe there are times one needs to leave your country to rediscover it.

The last two photos demonstrate the infamous "Shove" vs. the Hug.
Who do you want to see represent the US?

Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day,