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,