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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.