Friday, December 7, 2012

White Mountains - California & Nevada

Peace and Quiet



I spent the past few weeks savoring the last of Fall in the White Mountains near the California-Nevada border.

The West side, a few miles north of Benton, California (photo above) is about the northern limit of the Joshua Tree. With few people, no trees to obscure the view or mar the silence with soughing boughs, and no friggin' babblin' brooks neither, the place is almost quiet. An occasional plane disrupts, but I've only recently begun exploring and still have hope of finding the perfect spot.



From Highway 264 on the East side

















It got cold so I moved to the East side where elevations are a bit lower. Here, I came upon some major mining trash. I admit I admired the cutting torch crafting at the ends of the ore cart rails. Were they to tip and empty the cart?




Ore Cart Rails







Hand Crafting?













It was quite pleasant (warmer) a few miles south of Dyer, Nevada. This sculpture was on the road to The Global Stewardship Foundation.









Art is Where You Find It







































































































Then, once again, winter descended. A cold wuss, I took the temperature drop personally and headed south.


White Mountains From Dyer, Nevada











The bright yellow areas at the bottom were actually bright blue.






































This sunset was a parting gift. I guess clouds can, on occasion, contribute.



I've stopped over in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a bit of administrative tidying-up: vehicle registration and such. Then back to chasing the warmth...further South.




Supposedly, Spring'll come again.






























Email:  mfhalb@gmail.com

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tryin' The Ozark Trail (stove)

UPDATE 4/11/13 - The regulator on the Ozark gave out a couple of weeks ago (after less than three months use) rendering the stove inoperable. I looked online for a replacement but couldn't find one. I DID find lots of reviews -- many of which had similar experiences. I bought another Coleman Flame-thrower. You can't simmer anything, but at least it works. (see post: 11/16/12 Coleman Jus' Ain't Makin' Em like they Yoost Tuh) Anyone have a Cook-Partner for sale?




ORIGINAL POST:

How's that aphorism go...if at first you don't cum, scream, scream, some more?

Even I know it's inappropriate to cum in Walmrtz. But there I was, once AGAIN perusing the stoves. When I 'splained about "Touchie" the Coleman, the guy at the sporting Goods counter whupped out his carpet knife and, within seconds, had thet Coleman mohunker settin' thar jus' as purty as you pleez. I showed him how the knobs boomerang about an eighth of an inch when you release 'em. He encouraged me to return mine.

As you know, there are only three camping supply houses left: WalChina; Oh, dahling, you-look-Devine REI; & Sprotzminz Wayrhouzer. When buying adult toys and stoves I prefer to be able to fondle the moi-chin-dize. I mean, I want to check these things out, dontchya KNOW? So that rules out online.

I went through some serious moments at Sportminz where the helpful young lad informed me "they" discourage floor-walkers from opening boxes. I explained as how, unfortunately, I just COULDN't bring myself to part with $89.00 plus tax, without SEEING it. He said he'd take the heat and we proceeded.

I strolled out with my new purchase tucked under my arm. At the car I placed it on the roof while I got the door open. As luck would have it -- I am Lucky Herrmann, after all -- there, peeking out through the opened end, was a dent!! A DENT by god!! Corrr!! In a boxed unit with a 30-day-return policy!! If it warn't fer the beneficence of the Cosmic Furball (a cat, of course) I'da been STUCK. I mean, they'll take it back if yuh have the receipt and yer times not up, but what if THEY had noticed a DENT? As Grandfather said to Peter, "What would you do THEN?! (From Peter & The Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev) So I took it back and counted my lucky stars I escaped from a retailer that sells damaged goods.

Devine was brief. They only had a couple of Primus Desktops and they were both around the price of a vintage Lamborghini.


I trudged bak to Wal-world where I
Inside, out of the wind
 took the Ozark up to the counter (a different store) and explained about Sprotzminz discouragements. A clone of the other guy, he too whuppt out a blade,  and slit the hymens (tape). He listened while I 'splained about "Touchie" and watched with interest as I tested the Ozark's knobs. (Not dissimilar to feeling a vibe, lube or other adult toy, but wayyyy less evocative.) They stayed put; it looked promising. I paid and made my way back into the open air.

To go on a bit....the knobs are sensibly positioned under the burners (What's WITH putting them next to each other at the FAR right, Coleman?) and, as aforementioned, they don't spring back a quarter inch -- or was it an eighth? -- when you turn them. The Ozark lacks a carrying case though, which means doing without a built-in bear/raccoon/javalina alarm.

The regulator/connector fits snugly in a clip underneath. The wire rack over the burners is held in place by a wingnut at each end underneath. Removal for cleaning is a bit tedious, but looking on the bright side, it works great as a handle. (AFTER it's cooled, fool!)

Since it doesn't have windscreens, a bottom (the underside is open) or lid, it's ALOT lighter. But being lid-less (in Gaza?) means the splattered oil, spilled coffee and food particles (javalina/bear/raccoon enticements) are always lying about ready to get on whatever comes in range. So I keep it in a pillow case. Cotton (Not eL Bean certified tho), as you know, is one of the finest dust screens. (Ferrari's have 100% cotton air cleaners.) Still, without a protective case it's "at risk" so I watch where I put it. You should too....watch where you put it that is. And always, ALWAYS practice safe sex. (Have you heard about the new, impervious, strain of gonorrhea?)

Anyway, hopefully this'll all help keep you from getting hauled away for screaming (it's inappropriate, dontchya know?) in Walmertz. Whatever.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Coleman Jus' Ain't Makin' 'em Lak Day Yoostuh


I bought this after my Canadian Coleman suffered a devastating loss of a control rod.


It's A Stove


Modified Control Knob
















I wanted one that would light with a steel & flint rather than a battery-operated, peizo-'lectric unit. I also appreciated that this one was ready-to-connect-to-a-five-gallon propane tank like the one used with most back-yard grills.

But watch out!! The controls on this unit are SSSSSSSOOOOOOOOO touchie I've had to resort to modifying them in order to simmer stuff (see image). Yessir, this he'ar unit mustah bin designed by the fellar that invented the flame-thrower. The burners adjust in increments of 1/32nd. And with a knob the size of a fifty cent piece, that means the slightest twitch takes you from "AwwWWWwww MaaaaaAAAAn, it went out AGAIN!"   to FULL BLAST.

I took the knob off to see if the nut behind it was loose; it was tight as a lemon-induced pucker.

I considered other models but this one retains the hinged-to-the-lid style windflaps. The latest fad of having the breeze-breakers fold over onto the grill when closed means that -- when deployed -- they impede the use of large pans. Coleman's are adjustable and can be folded into the lid out of the way when not needed.

I considered getting a unit without a lid or wind-flaps, but the lid acts as an early-warning device for raccoons and grizzlies. And sometimes the breeze-deflectors DO seem helpful. In other words, it'd be a decent stove if it weren't for the dangerous controls.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quebradas Backcountry Byway - New Mexico

Desert Solitude At Its Finest
To the West - The (snowcapped) Magdalena Mountains
It's a little-known area about an hour and a half south of Albuquerque. Solitude and slightly warmer temperatures make the 24-mile-long Quebradas Backcountry Byway a great Fall and Winter destination. Getting on the Byway is a bit tricky; it's worth a look at Google Maps.

A link to a free pdf with geologic information and directions...

http://geoinfo.nmt.edu/publications/fieldguides/quebradas/


DIRECTIONS

The 24-mile-long dirt road can be accessed from the north via I-25 or from the south via Highway 380. It is most often accessed from the north end, via Exit 152 (the Escondida exit) off I-25, just a couple of miles north of Socorro. After exiting the freeway, turn right (east) about 1,000 feet to the "T." Turn left (north) toward Escondida Lake. In just over a mile, turn right (East) again at the Escondida Lake sign. Continue East past Escondida Lake (anywhere else on the planet this would be called a puddle) across the Rio Grande. At the village of Pueblito (a T-intersection with no stop sign) turn right (south) and proceed about a mile to the junction of the Bosquecito Road with the Back Country Byway (A-152). This is mile 0.0. Follow the road to the left at this junction.

From the south: The turnoff from 380 is 11 miles east of the village of San Antonio (380 is accessible from Exit 139 off I-25). Turn north onto A-129 and drive 3 miles to the junction with A-152. Turn left here; Stop 10, the last "information stop" in A Geologic Guide to the Quebradas Back Country Bywayat the southern end, is just west of this junction. You may notice the cautionary bit in the Geologic Guide about the need for four-wheel-drive and/or high clearance. The image below shows what it's like. I doubt if yer cadillac will even wince.
Former winter R.V. -- when a mudroom was a desirable amenity

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Peteetneet Academy - Payson, Utah


The Statue Doesn't  Have a Happy Face
Dave Nielson, the owner of Wasatch Pallet (see: You Never Know....), said if I liked architecture I should check out the Peteetneet Academy in Payson.

Back
I arrived at 4:30 p.m. and the school, which bills itself as an art center, was closed.

As in Springville and Canyon Road, I sought shelter in the cleft (it's a Freudian proclivity) in the mountains. It was serious dark by the time the sign for Maple Bench Campground beckoned.



Campgrounds mean noisy children, barking dogs and slamming vehicle doors. I avoid them, but every now and then....

A bit of hope blossomed when I read the sign at the bottom of the hill: Vehicles with trailers not recommended beyond this point. Encouraged, I drove up the steep, winding road to find a small, sparsely populated camp. James Taylor, the host, came over and our conversation ended up lasting nearly an hour. When he left it was with strong threats to return in the morning when we could more easily peruse a map.

True to his word, next morn' he and his daughter gave me a lengthy list of places to visit. After she left the conversation segued into metaphysics. James told about being in Viet Nam and how the tank he was to go out in got hit and everyone died. There was also a 120 mm shell that went off less than 40 feet away without harming him. He said he came back angry and it took him a long time to work his way back to nice. This year of hosting had been the best of his life; he'd met so many interesting people. We exchanged addresses and I, having made a friend, headed into Payson.

There's a bronze blurb outside the rear doors that intimates at the school being  built in 1913 to convert the heathens. The indirect reference seemed like a thinly veiled attempt to downplay the Mormon conquest. Judging by the look on the guy out front (see face on statue above), the "heathens" weren't overly thrilled.

Art center is a complete misnomer. One large classroom on the main floor is almost completely filled with glass cases displaying family memorabilia related to the Mormon incursion. In a corner there's a poster of one of the school's teachers who died on the Titanic. There are some late 19th-century domestic kitchen tools, a cobbler's form for making lasts and a few similar things. The "art" is a three-month-long display (also in glass cases) of ceramic birds, the kind of figurines you get at Fambly Dolla or Walmartz.

In the office were two crude paintings....one of a former chief of a local tribe; the other, of his wife, was crassly titled: "His old lady." The quote marks made you wonder.

This time it was still daylight when I headed for the hills. The early-Autumn light put a glow on everything and I was all set to enjoy it when I remembered it was Memorial weekend. As I toodled along I noticed folks already settled into the available spots. The area is popular and side roads are few. People camp on the edges of meadows near the highway. If it weren't for the trees you'd be hard-pressed to tell it from a suburb.

Uinta Cul-de-Sac - CLICk on image to Largen
The sun was setting as Lucky Herrmann pulled over to decide if the wide space on the side of the road was gonna be "it." While taking the measure of my new domain, I chanced upon a spot about 300 feet up the highway. It was in a small hollow complete with fire ring...and right next to the highway too! I hurried to stake my claim.

Highway Noise & Reek of Cow Pies are Major Distractions
Friday night was uneventful but Saturday was worrisome. People slowed and some nearly stopped as they (I surmised) debated over whether to crowd in with me. Forced to think, I got the (brilliant!) idea to scatter around old plastic bottles, beer cans (found in the bushes behind the fence) and my own styrofoam plate from the pork steaks. A prominently positioned Lord Calvert whiskey bottle completed the installation. People still slowed, but, or so it seemed, they now resumed speed much more quickly. Sunday evening, chuckling with self-satisfaction, I picked it all up.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Crean Und Shynee (shiny)...Yah!!!

Barely Been Touched!!!
VIRGIN!!!!!

Number 8
A month ago I was late getting out of town so booked a spot (don't tell anyone) in a campground. Maple Bench still had yet to celebrate its first birthday and I picked the site the locals avoid. The host said he couldn't figure what the deal was. I think it's evidence of my psychic awareness, but god nose what of!

The images are for those who've dreamed. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Rose is A Rose is a.....lathe!


It's been over two months since I was in Joseph, Oregon, but the memory of Stewart Jones and his Rose Engine linger.

The Fishtrap Writers' Workshop was held at the South end of Lake Wallowa and the only way there is through Joseph.

Even "passing through" you can't help but notice the sculpture. So it's no surprise to learn that Joseph's raison d'etre is closely tied to the myriad foundries. Another reason is the breath-taking scenery.

Between conference presentations and hiking I found myself skulking the galleries. Unfortunately, nearly all the work is representational. The craftsmanship is admirable, but the "art" was uninspiring. Glenna Goodacre would have thrilled. But when I stumbled into Stewart Jones Designs I knew I'd found it.

Also known as the Indigo Gallery, it's on the corner at the North end of the block a block downhill from The Valley Bronze Gallery.

Robin Woodsmith's beadwork (see video below) first caught my eye. Her fantastical constructs of flashing color are beyond description and their prices inclined me to buy the lot!! For those who wear bracelets, amulets and earrings they are an extraordinary find!

Interestingly, Mr. Jones' displays his work in the cases further back. I'd never seen anything like his Rose Engine creations and was soon to find out why.




































Mr. Jones is one of a select few in the world who owns a Swiss-made Rose Engine lathe. The device originated among the aristocracy of the 1670s as a hobby tool that enabled royalty to create one-of-a-kind gifts for friends, relatives and visiting dignitaries. Its fame was further established through its use to embellish Faberge eggs. Mr. Jones purchased his, made in the late 1800s, several years ago and uses it to produce exotic patterns on silver, platinum and gold.

And the gemstones Mr. Jones uses in his pieces will dazzle. The elegance of all attest to his sophisticated aesthetic. These are mixed-media fine art. Reasonable prices complete an experience (unlike Clines Corners) worth waiting for.

Below is a video about the Indigo Gallery, Mr. Jones and his lathe.






Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You Never Know What You Don't Know....Until You Find Out

Note Swing Set & Lawn

Ready For Delivery
I like to cruise towns to see what there is to see. Springville, Utah had proven to be more than I could imagine, but I'd had my fill and was ready to amble on.

Enroute to the highway (sort of) I came around a turn and saw a huge building. The sign caught my eye and by the time I passed the gate I was down to walking speed. That's another nice thing about being off the main roads...not as much potential for rear-endings.

The Manufacturing Center
I made a u-ee, did a quick "visual" as I drove through the gate and pulled up in front of what I hoped was the office. Inside, I asked the man at the desk if they gave tours. He smiled, but the look in his eyes gave me the feeling he wasn't sure whether to humor me or throw me out. I launched into my schpeel: The building was obviously a major place in its day and I could see from the road that the pallet business was a going concern. I explained that my insatiable curtiosity (ala Rudyard Kipling's elephant) about things I know nothing about compels me...I just can't help it. I went on about how I'm traveling and this looked like it'd make a good blog article. He stood up and said, "Okay." We sallied forth.

I introduced myself to Mr. Dave Nielson who acknowledged ownership and said he'd bought the business twelve years ago. In that time he'd trebled the amount of pallets they sold. We entered a large metal building where they recycle old pallets, cut up wood for new ones and assemble large bundles for delivery to clients. 90% of their business is new pallets. The other 10% is in competition with people who specialize in reselling used. We soon touched on the subject of undocumented workers. Mr. Nielson requires a Social Security Card and/or a green card. Every now and then one slips through, but he said they eventually get caught and are terminated. "The cheaters know it's just a matter of time," he said, "so there's no resentment. It's just a fact of life."

The REAL grinder




Unusable pallets go through several steps on their way to becoming mulch. All nails are removed by hand. The wood is then processed by a grinder three times to prepare it for the REAL grinder. After the REAL grinder gets them, the resulting four colors of mulch add aesthetics to minimalist gardens, are great for keeping weeds down, and since they're  organic they add no harmful chemicals to the environment.


Originally a sugar beet factory, around the 1920s it was converted to coke processing to support a nearby steel mill. Coke is made by grinding coal to powder, heating the powder in a controlled-air environment and after a while it comes out as coke. Coke burns hotter than coal and was thus useful in making steel.

The building has deteriorated and it's too expensive to restore so will eventually be torn down.




In the meantime, it's sitting there.













Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cancer, the Springville Museum of Art & Home


It was while checking the grade on a rocky slope in the Nevada desert I noticed the Metro (3 cyl, 1,000cc, 50+ miles/gal) needs new tires. The Michelin "X Radial"s I bought two years ago were warranted (yeah, right) for 80,000 miles. Now at 35,000 even, less than half their lifespan, they're shot. I googled Costco and began cogitating on how much my pro-rated refund was worth.

I settled on a store in an outlying suburb (of Salt Lake City). It was rush hour (of course) when I began my approach. I made several passes, each involving getting on & off the freeway, multiple u-turns (when sequential they become pirouettes) and other gyrations. Forty minutes later.....not bad for rush hour.

Early demise - Promise not even remotely met.
I eavesdropped as The Tire Manager schpeeled the customer in front of me. The pros and cons of tires weren't as fascinating as the olde days, but his prosody was amusing. Generally found in car salesman, door-to-door proselytizers and multi-level marketers (multi-level doesn't qualify for the teer suffix...as in marketeer), it had that "just get 'em tuh get out their wallet" cadence.

My turn. Things quickly deteriorated. I had THE FINAL INVOICE but not a receipt...and there wasn't one in the computer. AND the computer contained no evidence of my having purchased an INSTALLATION PACKAGE. This was where things got rough. I remembered buying the package, I always do, but without it the tire's mileage warranty isn't worth the noise of voicing it. He Laughed Out Loud when I asked about the manufacturer's warranty. We then went out, took the measure of the tread, and determined that the tires were, in fact, worn out.

Back inside Steve printed out all the information in my file and signed off on my handwritten notes. He then offered to escort me through the bay rather than chance the possibility of overexertion from walking round the building. I accepted.

As we approached the exit door he asked what had brought me to the area. I explained I'd been the primary caregiver for two women undergoing treatment for cancer during the last few years and was taking a breather before entering the next phase, a stem-cell transplant pre-op meeting at the Mayo Clinic. This is a difficult subject for me and I spoke while looking at the floor. The pause that followed my last sentence was longer than usual and when I looked up I saw that he was crying. I asked what was wrong.

He said he'd found out this week his mother has an aggressive form of breast cancer and was going to die. He and his wife were planning to visit, but the doctors had refused to speculate on how much time she had and he was in a turmoil over when to schedule the time off.

It is moments like this that even I find difficult. A friend who's had far more experience once counseled me to simply say, "I'm sorry." And so I did. He thanked me and there followed another pause. I thought he might reach for the door, but instead he talked a bit about her condition, how young she is, the life she's lead and that with all that and 24 grandchildren it didn't seem fair. Again at a loss for words, after a  moment I once more expressed my sympathy and extended my hand, which he accepted.

As I walked out into the deepening dusk of the parking lot I looked up at the stars which were just beginning. I stood there softly crying and pondered on how difficult it sometimes gets. Somehow, most of us find the wherewithal to make it through. Later I remembered what my wife (the one time I legally married) who was an ICU nurse (the Intensive Care Unit is where alot of the dying occurs) said, "It's sad how many people don't take the time to say I love you. It's often too late when they get to the end....and then they realize they've missed their chance." If I'd been thinking a bit faster I might have said something to Steve about the significance of those three words; but I felt sure he knew.

Intuition said head for the pass. I could just make it out against the darkeling sky. As I drove through the streets of Springville a sign for the Art Museum blinked. I made a mental note to check it out the next day.

Suddenly, I noticed a multitood of cars parked along the curb and a large, brightly-lit building loomed in the dark -- people were coming and going. It was the museum and there was a reception in process.


The installation by Ashlee Whitaker, Associate Curator of Exhibition
The reception was for an exhibit of paintings and prints by German-American artist, Herr Wulf Barsch. Born in 1943, Herr Barsch studied painting in Germany before immigrating to the U.S. After receiving his Master's degree from Brigham Young University he taught there. Over the years he also produced a number of lithographs at The Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque.

Mr. Smith's sculpture: Moon Pool
This element is at the lower right
Art has always provided solace and I made for the entrance like a boar that's sighted a sow. (Male pig's are famous for their multiple orgasms; little to nothing is known of female pigs' orgasms. One can guess which gender did the counting.)

Herr Barsch's palette is colorful and he uses it well, but it was Andrew Smith's sculpture, Moon Pool (2004) that made the evening.
At the left-most

After the party the road led into the Exclusive Neighborhood. (Nothing like a big home to assuage the mortality.) At the end I took a right, went about a mile (which way?) and came to Canyon Road.






The name was right and it went toward the mountains. Ten (mostly dirt) miles later I was ensconced on a mountain top surrounded by those stars. Now, I could tell, giving it their all.

And though not fully recovered from the jolt of Steve's mother's illness, they inspired a wave of gratitude for the sixth sense that enables me to find my way home each night...into the wilds where they await with their undying lights.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sawtooth National Forest Going Up in Flames

Smoke & Flames!! Bambis on the run!!

Thousands of firefighters are battling the devastating conflagrations in the Sawtooth National Forest. Flames light the skies at night while the smoke makes driving all but impossible.

Hotspot!!
Flagmen warn of low visibility and signs are posted at every turnout listing the dangers of smoke inhalation (cough, cough).

From Challis to Stanley, herds of deer shepherd their bambis across the highway as the elk, bear and others flee in terror. I watched with terrible sadness as a hephalump (with singed fur and a surly look in its eye) trudged its way to safety.

The sun shines dimly through the haze and there's a Satanic vibe in the air. It's as if the Apocalypse has come. And who knows, perhaps it has!!!

It's great! I have the place to myself!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sublime or Mundane


I'm reading Peripheral Visions (Harpercollins, 1994) by Mary Catherine Bateson. She writes about how the doxa is all about entertainment. She describes the syndrome as an unending need for new experience and stuff. The youths get music and cars. We oldsters get doctors and meds.

Bateson posits how the whole thing fuels a superficial awareness that's blind to subtlety. By way of contrast she compares it (consumerism) to "practice." She points out how in the process of practicing, students become aware of subtle changes and nuances. She neglects to acknowledge the many who get bored, but her point is about attention to and appreciation of details.

I'm tempted to say, "Change is change! What difference does it make whether it's subtle or a two by four up side the head?" But one thing that's noteworthy is the difference between changes that occur within us and develop our understanding and empathy for others and changes in our behavior because we got a good nose-job or now feel superior because we got a new truck.

Each day as I pack and unpack Eggbert I notice things. (Remember the end of Eeyore's Birthday where he happily puts the limp rag of a balloon in and out the empty honey pot?) The experience, although not generally recognized (by me) as a practice, happens at least twice a day. Sometimes the packing creates more space (not a small thing....pun intended); sometimes the over-ripe garbage waiting for a dumpster detracts from the driving experience. Other changes are just plain interesting.

Speaking of over-ripe, the stove hose (image below) is a good example. Sticking out the way it does it's a problem. If it gets broken the stove won't work. I COULD detach it and stow it somewhere, but there's an o-ring inside the connector that's just waiting to get lost...and, as Grandfather was wont to ask of Peter, "And if the hunters hadn't come? What then?!!" So, it hangs there. And when I file it amongst the other stuff, I usually tuck the dangle into a corner or some such. During unloading it hangs up on stuff.

The other day as I was watching the grass grow, my gaze crossed the verdant expanse and saw that it (the stove hose) had tucked itself into a hole in the back (see image). This didn't result from practice and I'm a bit loathe to denote it as a subtlety, but I did notice it. I mean, I haven't bought any big trucks lately so to help me feel better about myself when stuff like this happens I pretend I'm watching a truck commercial on t.v. and think about how I'd feel if I saw MY truck there on the big screen (52 inches AT LEAST!!). I pump my elbow up and down, rotate my fist and imagine the envy of all the passersby if THEY knew how observant I am. And then I wondered....Would the envy of idiots enhance my self-esteem? Anyway, it just goes to show how you can benefit from doing something over and over (bbuuuurrrrrrp!).

Since then I've purposely placed it that way. It seems to be working. It'll be interesting to see if a sublimity will emerge.

So that brings us to mundane. I was raised on wine....with dinner. Around the age of sixteen I was hanging around with a family that had inherited five acres outside Cleveland (Ohio) and was doing the back-to-the-land thing. It was that era, you'll recall. As part of the "trip" he grew potatoes and made his own beer.

There was a rite of passage every time you came to visit. (Bateson is enamored of ritual too.) Upon entering the house you were handed a bottle of homebrew and a joint.

The weed was always good, but I wasn't a beer enthusiast. All I knew was it was so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. I'd coddle it all evening and when no one was looking, pour some into a plant.

Many beerless years later I found myself having to observe a Friday-after-work ritual that involved several six packs. I'd never "acquired" a taste for it, but that Lite was even worse than the dark stuff I'd had as a teenager. I practiced my coddling and between sets admired the office plants.

sublimity?
Then, in a subtle and nuanced moment; someone put a stout in front of me and said, "Try this."

I was trebucheted back to the days of beer and joints and heedless of consequence whupped out my silver cigarette case, extracted a thin one, lit up (inhaled!) and took another swig. I could do this!

Since then, more than 30 years have come & gone. (Yup, ah iz gettin' olde.) I've practiced with stouts and just for grins and the sake of change, porters. Yesterday I bought Obsidion Stout from Deshutes (Bend, OR) brewery. It's not bad but I like Sheaf Stout better.

It's the mundanities that keep us humping. We camped, Eggbert and I, last night in Malm Gulch about 40 miles West of Challis, Idaho. The steep, tawny-colored hills shined in the light of the full moon which rose out of nowhere, moved across a horizontal linearity and hours later disappeared behind a peak. The silence unsullied.

A lone bicyclist showed up this morning while I was fixing breakfast in my birthday suit. He said hello and went on. I donned my swim trunks. When he returned he allowed as how he and his wife hike nude and everyone goes skinny-dipping at the hot springs. So, no big deal.

Adventure through comparison. And my (formerly) fav cup
He then told of a petrified forest about a mile and a half up the road. I hiked in to see five, count 'em, five, chain-link-surrounded stumps on a hillside (see image). They vary from four to six feet in diameter and the tallest is about six feet. Not what I'd call a forest, but it COULD offer some relief from the mundanity....of the same old beer.

Jeez!! Fencing!
The vegetation is similar to the high desert of Wyoming and New Mexico (lots of sage), but with mountains. It was nice to be able to see a distance. And I appreciated not having trees whispering and soughing away.

The road up the Gulch only goes 1.9 miles from the highway....barely enough to get away from its noise. But traffic is light this time of year; school is back in session and the hills help block the sound. So three stars for Malm Gulch on highway 75 West of Challis, Idaho. Any more traffic though and I'd have had to give it a one.

And people ask, What do you DO out there?" I'm busy, I say. It's a circle after all, that encompasses the subtle, superficial and doesn't really have an Either or an Or. And although I'm enjoying Bateson I still consider Waiting For Godot the finest bit o' lit(erature) ever written.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Return of The Salmon

Photographs can't capture the grandeur.
The Manning Bridge - Originally a toll crossing run by a woman and her husband. 



A narrow spot -
About 300 feet across

The Bridge from upriver
Sunset Near Sand Bar , a rafting stop. 













I was well into my 16th year when I first read about the Salmon River. The article told of a mountain man, Sylvan Hart, who lived at  Mackey Bar. As with most of my wanderings, I figured I'd get there somehow.















I wandered the woods and had a great time, but disdainful of maps and uninclined to ask directions, I never found him. I spent three summers in and around The River and looked forward to stopping by again.


After Eugene (see: Voodoo Donuts 8/4/12), I headed eastward. I'd met a couple of surveyors on my way to the Fishtrap Writers' Conference who told me about Der Kleinschmidt Grade (see: Ah hung muh butt...8/14/12). One of the changes that occurred over the years was my aversion to maps. Now, after extensive perusal I saw that Der Grade made it an easy shot over the hill to Der River.


Things here too have changed, albeit only recently. Last year they started paving the road. For over 40 years it was a rocky, bumpy, single-lane dirt traipse (sorta like The Natchez Traipse) cut from the side of the mountain. They disdain guardrail so ya'll can still dump yer old cars off the edge. And they kept the single-lane designation. It's only true in a couple of places, but the sign was cheaper than adding a center stripe.

So anyway, the easiest route from Baker City, Oregon to Council, Idaho is over the Kleinschmidt Grade. And from there the Salmon River Road leaves off the highway at the South end of Riggins.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ah hung muh butt o'er the Kleinschmidt Grade


The dropoffs are sharp enough to make it do-able (doo-doo, that is). 
And unfortunately, the cat-hole suggestion as per the Nat'l For Svc, is out of the question; hits jus' too dang steep. 

Photos can't capture the distances. And although I gave it a shot with my MP3 recorder, the calling of the chukars (partridges) was too faint. 



On the Snake River just below Oxbow Dam
Evening




Downriver



Were I of philosophical bent...

View from Camp -- It's Payette National Forest.


It was too beautiful to just drive by. But the only place to camp is in the road. And that's what we did (above photo).




That's the river in the center.


The temperature rises quickly, but the silence maintains. And no whispering pines, neither.