Friday, December 26, 2008

"Dead Men Hike No Trails" - Tales by the Campfire

So there I was, seeking warmth on a cold desert winter night, at my neighbors campfire. One part scrimping on wood costs, another for the solace of company, I found myself listening to a man travel the travails of his writing career.

There were about eight of us encircled around the fire and more than a few had added beers to the mix, so it was an eclectic conversation. My interest was piqued when I learned the guy sitting to my left was an author.

Being a wannabe writer myself, I was interested in what he had to say. I didn't learn much about Rick McKinney that night, and so here I am, back in New York City hunkering down for the off-season with more time to spare than a clocks and watches case in a pawn shop. "Where to start?" I asked myself, trying to recall the title of the book he'd mentioned writing.

We'd been talking about the Appalachian trail(or something) and I mentioned a book that "most" people will recall, because it sold well. I won't mention it here, because - well, because I want to focus on RICK's book! After all, as he had lamented, he actually hiked the entire trail in a push, and not only that, he wrote his book while actually on the trail!

After a few false GoogleSteps, I came up with the correct title, and hit the listing of Dead men Hike No Trails by Rick McKinney.

The conversation veered away from the topic quickly, but I kept wanting to go back. I learned a tiny bit about his efforts as an author, but no very much. He gave a synopsis of a book yet to be published, if ever a house can get past their concerns of a lawsuit by a mega-giant corporation(how's that for intrigue....?). I even pushed my own idea for a story, wondering if the subject would cross copyright boundaries, to which he responded "I'd write it and let 'em sue me!" Sounds like sound advice in this day of 'any publicity is good publicity.' Well....maybe for an author such as himself, with other works which would surely be of interest within such a commotion.

At any rate - I'm going to order Dead Man Hike No Trails as soon as I hit the Publish button on this post, and while I don't expect you to blindly follow my lead, I do hope that you will at least check out the several reveiws he's received, and perhaps add his blog to your reading list. If you're feeling really generous, and maybe Santa dropped a new computer down your chimney this holiday season, it seems he could make use of your old one. Check his 12/18 entry, entitled Donate Your Laptop? for details.

And - act fast! - click on, Rick's website for more where that came from. There's plenty to take you out of the winter doldrums, while doing a good thing - lending an ear to an author's written word.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Virgin's Guide To Joshua Tree Climbing

Well, it's ready for public consumption. People ask all the time for the basic information on Jtree - camping, getting around, stuff like that. And I often go to some lengths to tell them what I know. I have been wanting to put it all into a blog post so I could just say "Go Here!" and now I can do just that!

The Virgin's Guide To Joshua Tree Climbing is a hefty resource of just about anything people heading there for the first time might need to know. It includes links to the various businesses, photos from the area(more to come when I return from my nest trip - leaving Thursday morning!) and some stories to back up some of the suggestions I have made.

What it does NOT include are blatant tricks of the trade. I am not going to be responsible for letting the cat out of the bag on some of the stuff best kept in the bag, so don't expect to find out how to get over on fees, camping limits or whatever else people tend to want to work their way around. Some things are better left unsaid, at least on the internet, and if a person can't figure things out for themselves....well, I am sorry for them.

I will be updating the thing with more information as I gather it, and am thinking maybe it can be a winter project to make a print version of the thing available through cafepress. We'll see.....

If there are any areas you feel should be covered and haven't yet been, or have something useful to add, leave a comment here or on the VGTJTClimbing page. I'll do what I can to include it.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Which Way Did She Go?!

This entry is to support another web page I created, called The Virgin's Guide To Joshua Tree Climbing. The title states what it's about. I want to give directions to Jtree via the back way(Cima/Kelso/Amboy) on the thing but....too much text, so instead will link to this blog post.

NOTE: Updated with mileage and all street name information on 12/19/08. Unless our government decides they need to redo some part of this route, you really can't screw up if you follow these directions. But, it could happen - who knows what those people have in mind sometimes. Hell, they near as demolished Route 66, arguably a significant part of our country's history, because....well, probably because someone got paid off to do so. But, as long as our marines in 29 Palms need easy access to Vegas, I think this route is safe. At any rate - if you get lost, I take no blame nor liability. Yer on yer own, friend......

Here you go!

- Leaving Las Vegas, head south on I-15

- From the Blue Diamond Rd exit(turn off to camping at Red Rocks, seems like a smart marker), proceed 43.2 miles, and exit at Nipton Rd. Turn left at the stop sign for this exit, onto Nipton Rd.

- Travel 3.5 miles, to Ivanpah Rd. Turn right.
Note: Just before this turn, there is a road sign indicating the town of Cima, with an orange arrow spray painted on, indicating the turn you'll want to be making.

- Continue onward for 3.3 miles to Morning Star Rd. Turn right.
Note: At some point on this leg, you'll pass a Tax Dollars at Work handsome sign indicating that you're entering the Mojave Preserve.

- Travel 14.9 miles, and come to a Stop sign. Head straight/veering to the left ONTO Kelso Cima Rd.
Note: Here's where people might mistake the way to continue, so take note! You want to go straight/veer leftward and NOT turn to the right, which is the continuation of Morning Star Rd. There is a dilapidated old home still standing about just down the way, which you can see from the stop sign. It's an interesting side visit to make though, if you have to pee or are into photography. Just remember to get back on track if you do.

- Along the way, you'll pass a small building called the Cima Store. It's a post office/convenience store sort of thing that may or may not be open. I've never stopped inside, so can't tell you what you'll find if you do. Maybe beer and soda for sale and a person with some interesting stories to tell....

- Continue on Kelso Cima Rd. for 18.6 miles. Come to a T-intsersection. Turn left.
Note: This is the site of famous Kelso Depot, a restored historic building from back in the day. You can stop for a potty break and walk around the grounds. The building has been remade as a museum, and if open, well worth taking the time to visit, particularly if you enjoy railroad, mining and/or american history.

- You will now be headed toward Amboy(a sign points the way at the T intersection), still on Kelso Cima Rd. Continue onward for 33.3 miles.
Note: At 22 miles along this stretch, you'll pass the exit/travel under the overpass for HWY 40. Take particular care near the HWY 40 exit, for merging traffic. Even though they have stop signs, some people are stupid. This is also the place where one might encounter a highway patrol officer checking for speeders, and it's a good idea to keep your speed within reason for a few miles in both directions, if your normal inclination is to drive quickly.

Before the Hwy 40 section, you'll pass a sign advising that Kelso Dunes are in 8 miles. The dunes are interesting, though I have never stopped. One time I was on a bus here in New York City and sat next to a cute young guy with a broken leg. When I asked him what happened, he told me he'd done it while sand-surfing the Kelso Dunes... Yup. Small world, go figure.

And, you'll also be advised of your departure from the Mojave Preserve along this leg of the trip. Hopefully, you stopped along the way at some point and found the desert to be much more alive that you may have expected while encased in your vehicle. Spring foliage, lizards and desert tortoises, interesting old bottles and cans discarded long ago - it's out there!

- You'll come to another T-intersection. Turn right(toward Amboy) on National Trails Hwy. Continue for 6.9 miles.
Note: This portion of the road was, at one time, part of the infamous Route 66.

- Turn left onto Amboy Rd. There is a sign that advises this is the way to take to get to Joshua Tree National Park. Continue for 43.3 miles.

- Turn left onto Utah Rd. After 2.2 miles(a stop sign along the way), you will intersect with Hwy 62. Continue forward past Hwy 62, and you will enter JTNP through the Twentnine Palms Entrance within a few miles.

If you prefer, turn right onto Hwy 62 and head towards the town of Joshua Tree, where you may also enter the park via it's West Entrance.

As most climbers will camp at Hidden Valley Campgrounds, it is simply a matter of preference. The park road is windy and slower, but scenic. Hwy 62 is straight, has higher speed limit and stores/gas stations and such along the way.

Personally, I find the drive through the park via the Twentynine Palms entrance to be interesting and always go that route since I won't be using that portion of the park as much during my stay. I get my camping site set up, and then head into the town of Joshua Tree via the West Entrance, if needed, for a stop at Nomad Ventures and to go online to let friends know my campsite number.

DISCLAIMER: I have done as good a job as possible in taking notes for these instructions, but who knows - maybe I made an error. Do pay attention, particularly to the described landmarks mentioned, and you won't get lost. But if you find I've erred in some portion of this description, do please let me know, so I can correct it for others.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hit the Road!

I came across an interesting short article called "A History of the Gunks Carriageways," from a blog called

It's a nice little read but what it really does is tell me just HOW much information is actually available in the Mohonk Archives. Both at the Preserve and the Mountain House.

It gives me an idea.....Since I am not(yet, anyway) a skier, nor an ice climber(which I will likely never be, with my aversion to cold and discomfort)... What a nice idea it might be to make a winter pilgrimage or two to the archives myself! I could try doing some cross-country skiing on the Mountain House grounds(being a preserve member does entitle us to access) and then, after a nice warming cup of hot cocoa(strike that - caffeine!) take a meandering visual hike back in time through the archives.

From what I understand Daniel Smiley had an obsession with data collecting, and for this we can all be grateful. The history of the area has been, indeed, preserved!

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yosemite 101

Last year I read about the Yosemite Facelift online, and so many people I knew from various online forums had attended, I felt that I could get an easy introduction to Yosemite by attending the 2008 Facelift.

Because I would be going alone, and don't climb Yosemite Hard, the idea of getting involved with a volunteer group was appealing, especially since I like to volunteer! But even so, I knew this meant there would be a built-in social scene and ease of getting on some routes with the other volunteers while we weren't doing the actual cleanup work.

I'll just say right off the bat that, if you have heard about the Facelift and thought about going - DO IT! The group of people involved is varied in all aspects - age, socio-economic status, political bents, skill levels in climbing and outdoors lifestyles, party hardness - there's a group to fit into for everyone who seeks it and if one likes to go solo - that works out well too.

....I have to admit that I wrote the part above a month ago, and have procrastinated since then. In order to at least get somewhere, I'm going to post some of the landscape photos. Hopefully I will get back in here with some comments and also pictures of the people I met and hung out with on the trip.

So - here are some photos from my first Valley visit!












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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happie Asks a Favor

Hey - I'm trying something new, and wonder if you might be interested in helping me out. In an effort to drive some business to my t-shirt shop, ClimbAddict, I have taken the suggestion of others and created a "lens" at

Wanna pop over there and read my article? It's called On Belay: Finding Rock Climbing Partners.

It's still a work in progress, and even when I have the article completed I will update content periodically. But it's my first time trying this, and I can tell you that it took a lot of effort and was pretty frustrating, trying to figure the thing out! At any rate, I am wondering how it comes off to the casual reader.

What I am thinking is that, when I have some topics I want to write about that are sort of more informational, rather than personal, I might create one of these Squidoo lenses and link it here on my blog. The reason for this is to reach a broader audience on both this blog and m ClimbAddict shop.

Why do I want to do that? Truth? Because I want to be a climbing bum, and can't get on the road if I am tethered to a my current situation. I have a great apartment in the middle of it all - if New York City is your center of existence! It isn't, for me, any more. I have an easy job, running a business with two wonderful assistants. But it doesn't support me lavishly, and without a little more lavishness, I simply can't fund climbing trips or a move to a closer proximity to the crags.

I am considering expanding the online shop to include designs related to camping, hiking, conservation and stuff like that, and the Squidoo site will also be an avenue for that.

At any rate - do take a click when you have a moment, and let me know what you think. You can leave feedback on the Squidoo lens, or come back here and tell me what you think of me - hahaha. Again - the link is On Belay: Finding Rock Climbing Partners. Any helpful suggestions are always appreciated!

EDIT: You know what? That Squidoo place is like a whole other world! Galaxies have collided.... I made some updates to make my first lens a little better, and have some ideas that I want to add next week after I get back from the Gunks.

If YOU are into blogging or other creative writing, you definitely might be interested in getting into the Squidoo Swing. Next week, I will start a "Group" over there, which is a collection of writers banded together to showcase their stuff. If you'd like an invite to that group once I have it established - let me know!

I think the group I make will be broader than climbing, as there is already one there, called Rock Squids, and they don't seem active. Too small a niche I guess. I'm thinking our group will be something about the idea of being adventure athletes and writers. The lens will be about Trip Reports, and in it we showcase the lenses we make about our days out there. Subject to change though - I am going to research a little further to see how this will fits in with the scheme of things.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Tom Evans of ElCap-Pics - MVP/Climbing

A new feature of my blog is going to be the occasional highlight of someone - a person, group of people, organization or maybe a company - that brings something to the table that goes above and beyond the average.

Tom Evans, who goes by the name of elcap-pics on Supertopo and other places online, is the first to be so distinguished.

Tom is a Supertopo regular who provides pictures of climbers who are on routes of ElCapitan in Yosemite National Park. His latest report, at time of this post, highlights the successful speed ascend record of Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama as they break their previous time record on The Nose.

I met Tom when I was in Yosemite a short while ago. He was posted in his usual spot, on the bridge near El Cap Meadow. He's easily recognizable with his camera and telescope set up. After all, not many people have a camera lens in size that looks more like a telescope used by a sea captain!

The man is very approachable, and he keeps a telescope set up nearby, as so many people want to "take a look." He's very generous in focusing on the latest activity and explaining exactly who you are viewing and where they are at on which route. When I went to take a photo of the Nose while standing next to him, he stepped in and helped me set my camera in the best way possible to get a good photo.

I can't imagine what that delicate piece of glass on Tom's camera cost, but he uses it daily to shoot photos of any climber on the formation that asks him to, and he offers copies of the photos on a "donate what you feel they are worth" basis. Considering how cheap climbers are when it comes to spending money on anything but gas and gear..... it's a pretty amazing thing that Tom is so generous. There's simply no possible way he can recoup the costs of that camera lens and his time spent through donations on those photos. Still, for many a climber, an ascent on El Cap is one of their most coveted goals, and to have a photo of the ascent such as Tom is able to provide is certain to be a cherished momento.

Tom's threads on Supertopo are always interesting, with little details that bring the photos to life. He does this all out of the kindness of his heart. It's certainly an act that deserves recognition.

His website does have two posters available for sale, and they are really beautiful and distinctive. Quick - take a peak! I told you so!

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Camp Cooking - TV Dinner?

Remember those Swanson's Hungry Man TV dinners from the 1970's? Well, I do and I'm not too embarrassed to admit that they fall into the category of comfort food for me.

See, when mom and dad had a night out planned, cooking for eight children would seriously have cut into the prep time my mother needed to get herself ready for the evening. Eight kids? There WAS no open time available, and so she would create it by employing the magic of "convenience cookery."

It might be pizza or hamburgers my father brought back from town, a 20 mile drive away, and that was a real treat. Being a kid whose mother was adept at gourmet american fare, we usually had full meals with good, hearty food covering the four groups, and to get the stuff that other kids considered the norm was a pretty big deal. But sometimes dad was too busy and couldn't coordinate the fast food run with his work run. That's when mom would pop Pot Pies or TV Dinners into the oven for us.

There's something about the meal being self-contained in the little tin plate(yes, I know it's not really tin) that made it very novel, much like the cut-away Kellogg's single serving cereal boxes. We never had those at home either, so to go to a friends house and see a cupboard LADEN with those sugary breakfasts, and get to jack the box open myself was like....well, it seemed nearly like a wilderness experience to me, at the time.

So....even though I know that sort of food is crap, I can't help but have fond memories when I think of them. Memories of mom and dad out of the picture momentarily and me on my own. To get into whatever mischief I cared to, untethered by the cumbersome leash concept of being caught red-handed.

Which brings me to the point of this post. As is my habit, when I am writing about food prep and recipes I use in camp, I title the post "Camp Cooking." This means I will follow through and provide said recipe/technique. I do keep my word in such matters.


If you, too, have childhood memories of those Swanson's meals, you are going to like this one. I happen-chanced upon it accidentally, on a weekend when I was rained in with no tarp to facilitate an al fresco kitchen. I had brought my usual stock of dinners, which are usually a bit time intensive, what with the chopping of vegetables and such. The rain was SO hard that it was simply not possible, for even if I did the prep work inside my tent, I'd still have the two-burner stove to contend with, and I knew it would succumb to the flood in a hell of a lot less time the forty days Noah floated through.

The night was waning. And my hunger was gaining. I started to think it was going to have to be a cold meal of pretzels and cookies for desert. Since I had set up the tent in rain and was soaked to the core, I really wished for some warmth. wish sometimes seem to command...something. For just as I thought the thought, the winds and rain began to simmer down. Luck! The torrent was ending!

Of course it was late by then. But I was hungry, and I wanted to eat. Not paradoxically, I was hungry, and I didn't want to wait! So, I did a mental inventory of my foodstuffs and I did what I knew I had to do. I broke into Teddy's stash of chicken deli meat.

Yes, Teddy gets deli chicken for lunch on Sundays in the Gunks. Why? because it's hush money. I NEED to pay him off to keep him quiet.

If you are a follower of my blog, you know that I do trailwork on Sundays. We always stop for a lunch break around noon, and the guys bring out good food. Dick Williams usually has fresh, oven-roasted chicken. How could anyone possibly blame Teddy for not doing his best impersonation of a dog in trying to get that booty? You simply cannot. Teddy will give "that face" and when that goes unnoticed, he'll sigh and whimper. Just a little whine, of course. He's well aware of the irritation factor.

But if that doesn't work, he'll stamp his foot and do a "doggy insist" sort of sound, and then strain at his leash to get closer. It's simply not acceptable, but it's also unavoidable. Unless I pay him off. And so, one day I was in the grocery store and it occurred to me I could pack a quarter pound of chicken sandwich meat into the cooler for his Sunday meal. After all, he works hard at being Teddy and does need sustenance.

It happened that the deli man overshot the half-pound request and so I knew, that cold and rainy night, that Teddy would never miss it if I poached his chicken.....

"Now, what can I do with this?" I asked myself, and then remembered that I had added a pouch of instant mashed potatoes to my kitchen bin, and a packet of instant mushroom gravy.

Suddenly, I was overcome by the memory of a particular childhood evening....My parents were going to a benefit dinner and mom was dressed in a glittery sliver and charcoal full-length sheath, carefully applying Red red lipstick in the mirror, and worrying about how she would get from the car to the hall entrance where the benefit was being held without being ruined by the rain that had been pouring in torrents for the last three hours....

She had made us TV dinners that evening, and she brought them to us at the table in that outfit. Hair perfectly coiffed, makeup in place and dressed to the nines. Just like in the television commercials! Ummm....sort of.

I knew I had the makings to create a reasonable facsimile to that tv dinner of the past..... Well, at least the meat and potatoes part. Good enough for the beta version. On later attempts I would bring along a small can of Green Giant peas, to complete the effect. Well...okay. I still haven't figured out the cranberry cobbler desert. You're on your own for that one, though I think it would be easy enough to manage with a bit of thinking.

So - here's what you do:

Take a pot and make the mashed potatoes. You'll need water, dried milk and butter, plus the potato flakes. As the liquid heats, begin the gravy in a separate pot. Note: Do NOT use McKormick instant gravy. That stuff is bad, and not in a good way. Knorr's makes a decent brown gravy, and I have found the vegetarian mixes from stores like Whole Foods are very good(considering), too. Especially, I like their mushroom gravy. It actually has a....few....bits of mushrooms in there, so don't be frightened if you get a sliver. It's supposed to be there, I'm pretty sure.

Be watchful of the gravy, because it lumps and burns easily. You need the lowest possible heat setting and still pretty much need to stir constantly. If beer is part of your meal prep regimen, you should take care to handle that task beforehand, as a trip to the cooler in situ will be your undoing.

When the potato water is boiling, add the flakes, and stir them up. Then, cover and turn off the heat source. Now, add some of that deli chicken(or turkey, or roast beef) to the gravy. Just tear it into shreds, so it fits into the pot and heats more quickly The you won't have to worry about cutting it up on your plate. Unless you're a purist, and are going for the aesthetic appeal. Your call.

For the vegetables - as I said, a mini can of green peas has a very similar texture as the back-in-the-day tv dinner. I tear off the label, pour out most of the liquid, and set the can on the stove very near one of the other pots to heat it up. (Oh yes, my cooking stove is one of those flat two-burner types. I don't know how people cook with single burner units. If I had to do that, I'd have to have two units. Sometimes, I even secretly wish my stove had three burners.....).

So, that's about all there is to it. The meat is thinly sliced and heats very quickly. Just having it in the hot gravy for a minute does it. You don't need to have heat on the gravy to finish it off.

If you are camping with another, I suppose you have to dole it out on a plate. Maybe it would be cute to invest in some of those divider-style ones.... In metal, dammit. If I ever see them...I am getting them! But I am alone, and I just pour the gravy and chicken into the potato pot and eat from that.

The first time I had the peas, I thought.... "Why not add them to the meat and gravy to heat them?" This was a mistake. Learn form my blunder. Even though it all ends up in the same place inside you, it just doesn't work. It ruins the whole effect. Creates a chemical reaction of some sort. Blechk. Maybe fresh garden peas would be different, but then it wouldn't be a campsite tv dinner if you had fresh peas, would it?

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

How Hard Can Running a Climbing Gym Be?!

....I have no idea, since I have never been in one except to flail away on some routes. What you don't know won't hurt you, the saying goes, but maybe that's not all there is to the story.

I ran across a post on entitled Rock Gym Pro - Climbing Gym Management Software and have to admit - it never occurred to me that the back end of managing a climbing gym would include aspects different than pretty much any retail business. It seems, I am wrong!

Andy Laakman, who owns the Mountain Project website also runs a rock gym, and he ought to know. He ran into all sorts of troubles, he wrote in the above link, and so he went out and used his extensive experience as a programmer to create a climbing-gym specific program. Now he's putting that software out for other climbing gym operators to use.

Not much of a market....but I figure that he can use all the help we in the climbing community, can give him, in letting gym managers know of this package. So - if you know someone who owns or manages a climbing gym, or is thinking about doing so - send him over to the site Andy's made about that software, which is here. Who knows, it might just be the advantage that tips their MakeItOrBreakIt scale to the MakeIt side!

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Monday, July 28, 2008

I TOLD You So!

So, my last post was about the Gunks Boulder CleanUp Day, which occurred this past Saturday. I'd mentioned that there a couple of good giveaways for volunteers.

I was right about that. A day or so before the event, I saw a post on and there was a list of some of the schwag to be had. When I saw THREE shoe companies had donated, I knew I was probably going to have myself a new pair of shoes out of the day. Acopa, Evolv and LaSportiva had each provided a gift certificate for a pair of shoes from their product line.

How did I know this? Would it be because I had prayed to the shoe gods for deliverance? Because I'd had a premonition, where I saw myself sending No Solution onsight(even though I walk past it every single time I am in the Trapps and...ummm.... haven't a chance in the world to get up that line)?

No. It would be neither of those reasons, but the simple fact that I knew there would be only a handful of volunteers, and my chance of winning would be very, very good. Same as it ever was.

This year, they really did go to town for this event. Well, maybe not to town, but they DID go to the Mountain Deli to pick up some delicious Breakfast Burritos first thing in the morning. The American Alpine Club had donated a chunk of dollars to buy us all breakfast. Thank you AAC! I haven't had a Deli's Best(eggs/cheddar cheese and bacon in a wrap) in too long.

Rich Gottlieb, owner of Rock and Snow, also donated a pile of cash to feed us. His donation provided a barbecue at the Visitor's Center, after the work was done. What was there.... Oh, hamburgers and hot dogs, both meat and vegetarian. Corn on the cob as sweet as Teddy's disposition, chips, dips, hummus, potato salad, cole slaw and macaroni salad. Probably some other stuff I didn't even notice. Soda, juice and beer. Thank you Rich! I ate TOO much that day.

Oh yeah - there was ice cream, too. I had no room for it though.

So, we all piled in ranger Dave Lucander's pickup truck and headed off to work. Our mission was to remove tick marks and skim off whatever we could form the chalk layers which have built up on boulders along the carriage road since last year's cleanup.

I have to tell ya - there was plenty of tick marks. I though people were supposed to wipe them off after they'd finished working the problem? Well, I made it my business to get rid of 'em. Maybe just because I knew from experience that the chalk buildup stuff just...doesn't....go away completely. It was very satisfying to erase the ticks and not see them show right back up, albeit in a ghostly form, as soon as the water dried.

Of course I scrubbed the chalk patches too. As did everyone else. We scrubbed, and we scrubbed. And then we scrubbed some more and moved on to the next boulder. Then we came back and scrubbed some more on the previous ones.... Even though the chalk has permanently stained the very popular boulders, our efforts do help reduce the brightness of the glare. Plus, the boulderers get better holds for a while, since the grimy layer is removed. Get 'em while they're hot, people. As we all know, the chalk will be back.

So - back to those shoes. As I'd suspected, I got a pair. Thank you Evolv! I received a gift certificate the explains how I can go about claiming a pair of ANY shoe from their product line. Nice! Since I ripped through(yes...again...) the rubber on my pair of Mythos a month ago, this good news came none too soon.

Well, actually, it has come too late. On time would have been last fall, when I still had a bunch of rubber left on the LaSportivas. I waited too long for the resole. Now they need, not only to go to the resoler, but first to a good old NYC cobbler, who will stitch the seam I ripped open on the toe. Oh yes....I wore down the left toe PAST the rubber.

The good news(more good news!) was that I was flush with cash this wekend and had taken the bus up from town. So, I had time and funds to go to Rock and Snow and replace the LaSportivas. Now I will decide on a second pair of shoes, from Evolv. I think I may get something to work with on bouldering. Maybe THAT will help me send! It surely can't be my chicken-hearted inability to commit that keeps me at a V.LessThanZero grade.

Not only did I get a pair of shoes. What else did I get? Take a guess.

Oh yes, I did. I was the recipient of one of two Yearly Family Memberships to the Mohonk Preserve. Good for up to four from a household, the memberships cover hiking, cycling and climbing. Sweet!

I joked "Hey maybe NOW I can get myself a man - I got a free membership waiting for him." Dave laughed and added "You've got a dowry." Well....maybe. Maybe not. But everyone did suggest I should add Teddy's name and get him a membership card. Which I think might be a cute thing to do.

There was more to giveaway, and I wasn't the only one to win big. So, I really would like to extend my appreciation to all those who DIDN'T show up to help clean up the place. Without your non-participation, I surely would not have scored so well. Thank you Suckas!!!!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Attack of the Tick Marks

Event: Trapps Boulder Cleanup
Event Start: 07/26/2008 @ 9:30AM
Location: Trapps Bridge (New Paltz, New York)
Description: Meet at Trapps Bridge and work until 4:00. The Preserve will provide water, a ladder, and an afternoon cookout.
You will provide enthusiasm, a soft bristled brush, ability to work with a team, and even a pad.

Complimentary barbeque with Mohonk Preserve rangers and raffle for all volunteers, 6:00 – 8:00p at Visitor Center
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 845-255-0919

I gotta tell you - this is going to be a day well spent, so if I were you, I would plan to be there. What is it? It's a volunteer clean up of all the chalky buildup on some of the most popular boulder problems in the Trapps.

I helped with this last year and had lots of fun, meeting new people and learning about some of the historical and FA's newer lines from some pretty good boulderers. We goofed around a lot, cleaned up a lot of greasy, gunky white crud and generally enjoyed the day.

Afterward, there was a barbeque cookout at the Visitor's Center, with burgers, chips, salad and beverages - vegetarian fare too, and plenty to go around. Then, there was a giveway of prizes. We weren't sure how to do the choosing, so we played Spin the Bottle. Don't worry - if the bottle points toward you, all you have to do is accept the prize you won. Last year, I got a YEARS MEMBERSHIP to the Mohonk Preserve. No shit. I did. But.....I had just paid for my own, and I just felt I didn't need it. So, instead it went to the guy who was next to me, an intern with the preserve, who really would have been hard-pressed to fund his membership. Things just work out.....

You can click the title of this post to get to the Home page of where the event is listed...under the "Events" headline over on the right. Let Dave know you'll attend, so he knows how much picnic food to prepare - or surprise people and just show up. I'm in, so I'll see you there!

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

I Wanna Go Climbing!

Two weeks in a ROW I am stuck in NYC. For work, of all things. And I am missing out on camping and climbing. Very little consolation the rainy forecasts have been, either, when the thunderstorms came naught to pass....

My assistant asked for last weekend off, and I had to oblige. She rarely asks for time off. But then she changed her mind on Thursday! At 6 o'clock pm. Too late for me to get rides and climbing partners set up. I was not happy. But worse - she then asked if she could have THIS weekend off instead! My holiday weekend?! When I was hoping to catch an early start and make a long weekend for myself!?

It was awful. But I got over it, and fortunately I was not obviously obnoxious about it with my assistant.

Then - my other assistant called, leaving me a message. About "her August schedule." Uh Ohhhhh.....

Now, this one has had no qualms about asking for days off, or to change sessions to suits her own needs. Or saying no to me when I am relying on her to say yes. She had just taken 3 days off a week and a half ago, to boot. I couldn't imagine what she was possibly going to request.

Imagine my surprise, when her need was "to go to Europe at the start of August, for God knows how long," in her words. At least four weeks, and likely more. And somehow, I got the impression she was thinking I would simply fill in for her while she was away, holding her job.

I don't think so. For one thing, I had just booked my flights for my own trip, to Yosemite in the end of September. I'll be volunteering at the Yosemite Facelift cleanup, which is from September 24 - 28th, but am staying for a total of ten days. It will be my first time there, and this will give me a very nice introduction to the place. I know it will be magical.

So, the thought of hoping she would return to NY before my trip, only to have the days draw nearer and nearer with no word from her, was just not acceptable. As if a 4-plus week vacation from a company with 3 people in it would be okay in the first place.... ESPECIALLY when the reason I HAVE employees is so they can do MY work when I go away!

But that wasn't the only thing......

The thing is, I can't tell you. Not just yet. But, when I had the first assistant take two of my weekends from me, it just seemed like it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I had committed to making a change. Clearly, the situation I have constructed for myself just wasn't working. This, I have known for some time.... and it was just so crystal clear at that moment.

I mean, compared to someone who works a 9 to 5 office job, it works really well. But I left the office world because I didn't WANT to be working for the weekend and 2 weeks off a year. So, the upset I had from the upset of my weekend was the final straw and I "made that commitment for change."

Now, it's a very tenuous commitment, as you will find out, eventually(if it comes to pass). The change is contingent on a few items, of which I am not willing to lay out there just yet. You might say "Well, then you haven't fully committed, have you?"

I would reply... "Ohhhhh, yes I have..... But it's a doozy."

Two and a half days upstate each week, and a month each year in Joshua Tree just isn't cutting it. Even the added Yosemite trip is just serving to show me just HOW MUCH I am missing out on... Zion! City of Rocks! The Adirondack, Needles, Acadia, Vedawoo, Wind River, Smith Rocks, El Potrero Chico, Hueco Tanks, Red Rocks, the Flatirons, Squamish, Tennessee Wall, Red River Gorge, New River Gorge, Owens River Gorge....All those gorgeous places I haven't yet been to!

Really. I need to get out more.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Movie Review: "To the Limit"

As if anyone needs to be told this film is worth seeing....

It was good. Really, really good. The cinematography was very well done, with a storyline including subtle references and humorous insinuations. My favorite was a scene in which a group of tourists were being toted around Yosemite with the guide explaining about the crazy climbers on El Cap, and the scene shifts to show the face of one of the Huber brothers as he talks to the other. For one second, I was like "They aren't ON the tourist trailer.....are they?"

The imagery between what is an adrenaline-laced sleep-time climbing nightmare and the nightmares that were reality for the two as they trained and made attempts are blurred in a magical way that drew me, as the viewer, right into the experience. There were some - very gripping moments - to say the least.

There is a lot to see in this film, from the fearsome technical intricacies of speed simu-climbing, to the deep bond of brotherhood that makes such acts possible. The compassion and care-taking between Alex and Thomas is touching and tender in a way that seems almost incomprehensible in juxtaposition to scenes where they channel full-bore testosterone-charged savage forces from within during attempts at the record. Ladies - you will not be disappointed. Neither will you guys....

I made an error in the earlier post I made here, when I wrote about the film running near me in NYC. I had referenced a review in which the critic chastised the Hubers for not respecting an 'old-timer climber'(her phrase) who had done the first rappel off El Cap. I had assumed she was talking about Chongo, and that was incorrect.

The rappers really were old guys.... Who, I don't know, but they compared themselves to the likes of Warren Harding in the daring-do required back in the day.

While it is definitely true that the Hubers were left unable to comprehend the profundity of the other's experience.... it is a scene that makes the film just that much more wonderful. I can see how a non-climber wouldn't "get it," but...since nobody reading this blog is likely to be in that category, it's safe to say the scene is stellar.

Well worth the nine dollar price of admission, I will most likely see the film again. There were two others in the showing I attended, a guy and his girl. Afterward, as we walked out of the theatre and were exclaiming how great the show was, I asked if they climbed. "A few times," the guy said in what seemed like a serious tone, "but not like those guys do." Perfect.

Though I can't claim to having seen a whole lot of climbing films, I will say that this one is riveting from start to finish with a story line that has perfect continuum. It would make a great date movie, in that there is a back story that non-climbers can follow, plus SO much way-past-the-edge adventure that you will be seen as a hardman by proxy. At least until you explain that you don't do...quite....that sort of thing. So - play down that aspect if you're looking to be getting some while the getting's good.

Anyway - about "To the Limit" - Go! If you are in NYC, you must go, it's as simple as that. If not here, and the film shows near you, don't miss it. Or get it on DVD when it releases. This is not a one-shot view. And I'm not just saying that because they show the boys with bare chests and hair a blazin' for most the film.....

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Huber Brothers in NYC?!!!

Well....Not exactly.

But their film about speed climbing The Nose, titled "To the Limit," is showing in one of our small theaters, beginning tomorrow, June 13th. Here's the beta:

Showing at: Cinema Village, 12th St., Between 5th Ave and University Place
Showtimes: 1:30 PM, 3:30 PM, 7:20 PM, 9:25 PM
Length of Film: 95 minutes
Tickets: $9.00 - a bargain from the Big Box office current price of $12!

Here's a bit written on the thing, at
"Thomas and Alexander Huber, risk takers in the extreme, rank as two of the best mountain climbers of our time. When the two Huber brothers first set out to break the record in speed climbing at the 'wall of all walls,' the 1,000 foot vertical nose of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in California, Academy Award winner Pepe Danquart followed them to places never before reached by a film crew.

With breathtaking footage of the mountains of Patagonia and Yosemite National Park, "To the Limit" is a portrait of two competitive brothers who go to the very edge of the possible, both physically and psychologically. Brothers, who ordinarily live separate lives, become like twins when they climb together - as they have since childhood - each driven to search for their own limits.

Alexander Hüber has climbed in the mountains since childhood. At the age of 12 he stood on his first 4,000 meter peak. Born in 1968, he is the more pragmatic of the brothers, and graced with a phenomenal patience. A certified physicist, he is at the same time the analytical planner, the rationalist who pursues his goals with an exceptional single-mindedness. Since 1995, Alexander has been a mountain guide and ski leader. He lives in Traunstein, not far from Thomas.

Thomas Hüber is superficially the opposite of his brother. He took younger brother Alexander on his first climbs. An inspiring dreamer, idealistic and a little chaotic, he has a more open and laissez-faire attitude than Alexander. He plays in a rock band, "Plastic Surgery Disaster," is a mountain guide, and lives with his wife Marion and his sons Elias and Amadeus in Berchtesgaden, in the Bavarian Alps.

"To the Limit" completes a trilogy of sports films by Pepe Danquart, which includes "Home Match" (2000) and "Hell on Wheels" (2004).

And, there's a thumbs-down review at in which the critic refers to an "old-timer climber" (Chongo) who gets no respect from those bad boys, Alex and Thomas....

I don't know how long the film will be running, but I intend to see it next week, probably at the 1:30 showing on Monday, since it fits in nicely with my schedule of non-work in the afternoons.... I'll come back with a review after I check it out.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Watch Me!

As usual, I start my morning with coffee and a big, fat hunk of internet time sink. Out of obligation, I look at my business emails(grateful when there aren't any....hahaha) and my personals next. Deleting all the automated crap I signed up for thinking "Sure, I'll want that newsletter" and...well, right.

Then it's over to Supertopo for a gander at last night's drama du jour. Three hours difference in time, and I sometimes miss out on some good....well, okay. The truth is, the *big news* is sometimes drunken babbling, or the fizzling of a flame war. But, it's the addiction, of course, and I always think "There's going to be something good I can get to go with my joe..."

Well, this morning, there was. A guys came on to announce the launch of a new video website he's been working on. The site is called, and you can find it by clicking that hot link., if you're like me and your caffeine hasn't kicked in yet, causing slow synapse connectivity...

The thing that makes his unique is that the primary focus will be climbing videos. There will be a Lifestyle section, which I hope will be filled with *around the campfire* antics and other such nonsense. And an "Other" category, which I suppose might be a place where people who submit climbing videos can upload other works. I mean, if I think someone is an awesome videographer, why not have an in-site link to their stuff? Makes sense to me.

This is a new launch, and there are not very many videos on the site yet. But don't let that stop you from taking a look, and passing the word along to people who can help this guy add some great content to his site.

So - since I am still...waking up.... I am just going to copy/paste the guy's Supertopo post here. After all, he knows better than I do what he's up to! Here's what he wrote:

Hi Everyone,

I've been a climber and a web designer for many years. Recently I decided to combine the two and construct a website providing a service which I think is somewhat lacking on the internet. The site is called Climb Clips. Simply put, it's a climbing video community. It runs using a system similar to You-Tube. You-Tube works fine, but why lose our climbing videos among millions of other non-climbing related clips?

Users can
sign up and upload their own climbing videos,
view other videos sorted by category,
send messages to other users,
Create and modify personal profiles
Create interest groups with other users
Rate videos
embed videos on other websites, just like you-tube
and more

There are few rules:
Mostly all directly climbing related content, though there are "lifestyle/fun" and "other" categories. Go nuts!
No overly violent of overly obscene content etc..Swearing and huge whippers = ok.
I want to try to keep videos depicting areas with access issues off the site. At least don't tell where it is.

So, the site is in it's infancy. You might call it "ClimbClips: BETA", no pun. Embarrassingly enough, I only have 2 video clips on it! But you have to start somewhere right?

I plan on adding "exclusives", my own video work on various climbs/subjects. I'm not trying to compete with the big boys in that regard though. It's all about fun. ClimbClips will always be 100% free.

Again the site is new, so there may be bugs in it still. If anyone has suggestions or comments, I'd like to hear them.

-T. Carrier

Now.....if only I wasn't too cheap to upgrade from dial up, I could actually watch the videos! The good news is that I am not in the majority, and most people have quick connections.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Near Trapps Guide Nearing Completion

Every Gunkie has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Dick Williams' updated version for his guide to the Near Trapps. Today I asked him for the latest news while we were doing trailwork..... It's coming soon!

Maybe not as soon as you'd like, but look forward to a spectacular leaf peeping season from new vistas in the Nears this autumn. The book should be on the shelves in early August.

Dick said that there is a bit of work being done on the cover in the next week and then, off to the printer it goes. The final stage of production takes between six and eight weeks. He says he'll be happy if the book is available by August.

Now....there can be no promises, of course. But even with a buffer zone, I think it should be safe to say that the book will be ready to fly off the shelves at Rock and Snow for the high point of this year's Gunks season.

I wish I'd thought to ask him a few questions about the new additions in the guide, but I can tell you for sure there will be descriptions of not only old routes not noted in "the Black Dick," as the last guide to the Nears is affectionately referred to, but newly established lines as well.

The big joke I heard was when he was talking about some of the FA's he'd been doing(this was in 2006) and someone said "Hey! In your old guide you said not to bother with the part of the cliff between..... and that the reason you gave was that it was loose and chossy! Now we know the truth is that you couldn't get all the FA's before the last book went to print!!!!" At the time. I looked over at him and though he did blush....he didn't deny it either!

But seriously, Dick, with the help of his climbing partners, spent a considerable amount of time working over in the Nears in order to bring a book that promises to be as well done as the "Grey Dick" guide to the Trapps. Which is to say - an extraordinarily researched and detailed book. Following the same formula, he reclimbed every route on the cliff, or had someone else whose opinion he valued do the routes he was unable to.

Not only that, but he spent many, many, hours cleaning choss and trundling killer blocks from lines where the cliff is known for the loose stuff. This work had to be done very carefully, as you can imagine, due to the dangerous nature of it. From what I understand, there would be people at the trail up and down from the areas where they were working, to alert people of the potential for falling rock and to stop them when active trundling was occurring. Walkie-talkies were used for communication amongst the team.

Back in 2005 I was lucky enough to tag along when Dick walked someone along nearly the entire length of the Nears, giving them first-hand beta on all the classic routes. During that time, he pointed out many lines that were not in the old guide, some recent FA's and even some of the unclimbed lines he had in his sights. Last season I followed a new 5.5 of his down just past "Up In Arms," which is the last route listed in the existing Nears guide. There is also an interesting 5.7 in the same area that he had people climb and provide feedback on called "The Shadow Nose." Go down there on a sunny day and take a look....The name is a good giveaway to find the route!

So....that's what I've got for info on the upcoming book. In other news, today was our first day of trailwork this season and we kicked things off, appropriately enough, on the trail going up to "Welcome to the Gunks."

If you've walked that access route, you know that it needed a little attention. What begins as a solid set of stone steps transitions about halfway up the slope into a sometimes steep bit of dirt, with bad footing if you don't stay attentive. If you haven't been looks like this:

The established trail was steep and fairly straightforward, and that was a contributing reason as to why parts of it had washed into a slippery slope. During wet periods, water found the path of least resistance to be a great escape, which eroded the slope and increased the grade in places.

We had a couple options in fixing the situation. We could have rebuilt the existing route by adding more stone steps to replace the dirt sections, or we could reroute the line to include switchbacks. We chose the latter. In this scenario, the angle up the slope is more gradual. This is easier on the user, but also helps lessen the rate of erosion on the slope.

Here's the start of our new section, angling off from the original trail:

This is a better shot of the work we started today. It's far from finished. We will need to reinforce the trail in places on the downslope, and add some stones in areas where we need to protect tree roots. We'll also do finishing work to make a solid, even, route that will hold up for years to come.

The section heads upwards in a slight rise for about 30 feet before making a switchback to continue the path. Now the Welcome to the Gunks access trail will have a hairpin turn, reminiscent of the infamous one on highway 45/55 down below!

Here's Dick Williams and Al DiMaria working in that upper section, which reconnects with the original trail about 10 feet below the cliff base.

Again, this is just our initial work, and more fine tuning will be done on our next session. Which will be Sunday, June 1st, weather permitting, in case you were wondering.... We can always use volunteers and if you would like to join in, we meet atop the Steel Bridge at 9am!

As a special bonus for our work, we were graced with the beauty of a pink LadySlipper Orchid.

If you are in the area, keep an eye out for her. Go up the trail, and when you rejoin the old section, she's located just to the far side of the route, a few feet uphill(the flower will be on your right side as you ascend the trail). Be careful; the flower is quite delicate and is one of only a few examples you will find in this part of the Gunks. The LadySlipper Orchid is, obviously, coming into season now, and can be seen for the next few weeks before spring turns to summer and she fades away until next year.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Good Old Marty from Alpine Endeavors - What a!

Quick Post: Here's an offer found on the front page of you might be interested in - A day of climbing with a guide going for his AMGA Cert in Single Pitch, at no cost to you. They need six people to act as clients while the guides go through their test. Check it and, if you're interested, better act quickly.

Here's the details:

Event: Free Day of Guided Climbing Instruction
Event Start: 04/18/2008 @ 9:00AM
Location: Shawangunks, NY
Description: We are looking for six people to participate in day of rock climbing in the Gunks, free of charge*.

The day will consist of beginner to low-intermediate climbing with a guide candidate on routes from 5.2 to 5.7 under the supervision of an AMGA Certified Rock Instructor and Rock Guide.

The purpose of the day is to evaluate AMGA SPI guide candidates during their final assessment of the AMGA Single Pitch Instructors Certification. All guide candidates up to this point have successfully completed an AMGA Single Pitch training Course (three days of training) and have successfully completed a one day assessment of their technical and rescue skills.

The day is to provide each candidate a realistic opportunity to teach basic climbing skills - knots, belaying, and climbing techniques to beginners as well as to asses their ability to clearly communicate the skills, manage the group, and facilitate the days progress to a group of actual beginner climbers.

For more information on the AMGA Single Pitch Instructors Course, please visit:

*day passes are not included. They are required and are the responsibility of each participant.
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 845-658-3094

I can personally vouch for Marty, as can just about any other climber on the east coast! In fact, I climbed with a guy in Jtree who was there for his AMGA multi-pitch cert. that knew Marty. This guy was from West Virginia, if I rememebr correctly.

Actually, it's interesting, because I did something similar that day, with this guide. His name is Karsetn, and he approached me asking if I would be interested in following him on the classic Josh route "Walk on the Wild Side."

The caveat was that we'd need to do the walk-off descent, instead of simply rapping off the route. he wanted to familiarize himself with the descent as it might have been one of the "tasks" he'd be graded on for the certification.

I'm always up for adventure, even if I'm a pretty big chicken when it comes to JTree walk-off and scrambling, and I am really glad I agreed to the offer. For one thing, I'd not yet been on the route and definitely wanted to do it. I was not disappointed; it's a great line.

The walk-off was involved, to an extent, although for the most part the route-finding was extremely obvious. The route ends at a bolted anchor, and one 3rd classes up a ramp to the crest of the formation and toward the back for the descent passage. There was a decision to be made shortly after a section one must rap to a lower level at, but the wrong choice shows as a dead end(or....ballsy jump, I suppose...I didn't look, taking Karsten's word for it!) within a very short time.

There was definitely a section I was glad to have Karsten short-roping me on, and one other where it was nice, although I would have been okay without it. And, I got to do something that most visiting climbers to the Tree don't do. The rap from the route anchors is definitely more expedient....

We were smart, getting on the route fairly early. The sun was just coming over the formation as we topped out, but not high in the sky where the heat would be a problem. By the time we reached the floor and got back to our packs, it was becoming hot. We'd had perfect timing.

Afterward, we went and did some other routes. Well - I belayed Karsten on a 10D(Pinky Lee) which WAS in full on noontime desert sun. Ouch! He sent the route, with one fall at the start of the crux. It may have helped if I hadn't referred to the line as simply a 10 when I showed it to him....(one: Karsten had only been in Jtree a day or two, and I am fairly familiar, and Two: I don't climb 10, so....I forget the distinctions in those letters....ummm yeah.)

Next, I suggested Touch and Go, which is a beautiful route that I thought he would enjoy. i wanted to give it a good shot myself, as I had a past story with the route(no time for telling it right now....). Karsten, of course, led the route with a fair amount of ease, though he did have some pump going on. Pinky Lee and the Sunshine Band took their toll. I did okay for the first part, though it was defintiely at my limit. Then I hit a cruxy move and gave up.... Pretty much I sat on the rope after every move for the duration. Pretty awful on my part.

We finished the day at the Gunsmoke area, where Karsten onsighted 3/4 of the traverse's north wall before coming off. Then he rested and did the same on the eats wall. Strong. THEN....this is sort of wrong.... I suggested he try The Chube. He walked over and said "Too bad I left my shoes over there." I offered to go get, but he then said " looks like it's not about the feet."

There was a group of 4 or 5 people who had been working the problem.... Karsten got on it and sent it on the first attempt. In approach shoes.

I have some photos - but gotta go to work. I'll come back in later on and add them in.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Turtle Crossing

As everyone who knows my preference knows, I take the back way to Jtree from Las Vegas. I don;t know why everyone doesn't frankly. The option is a crowded superhighway... who wants to do that!? It's not quicker, that's for sure. The only thing I can think it has going over the Cima/Kelso/Amboy way is it's ability to allow the travelers to maintain life as they know it, cubicle-ized, contained and somafied.... It sure can't be the convenience of 'rest stops,' because on the back road, you can pull over anywhere you want and rest. Need a soda? Shoulda thought of that at the Last Stop for Food and Gas, back in Jean, a few miles before you exited the system at Nipton Road! It's only a 2 hour drive between that and TwentyNine Plams - who couldn't figure out they'd like a soda for the road?

"Two hours?" you ask. Why yes, 2 hours. Not THREE and LONGER, which is how long you'll be on the life is a highway rote route, staring at trailer asses, dodging crappy drivers and generally being stressed out with the whole road game. Plus, and this is important....there are no po-leece to fleece you should you pedal come to close to the metal. Oh, sure....there are signs that say "radar enforced," just like on the Big Boy road. The catch is....they don't enforce here. Try going 110mph down 215 for 120 miles and see how good your investment pays off.

And not only that....what are the chances, I ask, of seeing a beautiful desert turtle on the massive roadway? Less Than Zero is not only the title of a book about society's decadence.... That's right - you have virtually no chance - whatsoever - of running across(noooo, not THAT way) this guy of you don't take the path less traveled.

But, no shit, there he was, hanging out at the side of the road just before I hit Cima. I slowed the car, pulled a U-turn(on 215, even of you DID see a big old turtle, you wouldn't be able to stop, much less turn around for him) and stopped many feet away, in order not to frighten the poor traveler.

It's important to mention here, and this cannot be overstated - NEVER touch pr pick up a desert turtle. NEVER. Why? because you will scare the piss out of him, and he will die from lack of water. "Even if he might get hit by a car otherwise?," you ask. The answer is the same. Not maybe, not probably. He will die. And Good Samaritan laws don't apply in nature. You'll be guilty as charged.

So, what to do for Mr. Turtle, I wondered, since he was parked on the very edge of the road and seemed headed toward the greener grass of the other side. Providence imposed itself as I heard the distant hum of an oncoming automobile....

I did what any nutsy earth lady would do. I waited for the car to come within sight, stepped into the road just far enough to get their attention but not freak them out, and waved as they came closer. Then, I pointed down to what I thought should have been obvious.

Apparently not, because they slowed down and cracked a window as they approached. I yelled out "Turtle!" and they squinched their eyes like I was talking some alien language. I repeated myself and pointed to the guy.

"oh, we thought you were in trouble." They rolled the window up and zoomed off. Without even a nodding glimpse at what was probably a 50-year old local resident. One might guess they see such things every day. One would most likely be guessing incorrectly.

But, there I had my answer. It was my new job to hang out while this turtle made his epic crossing. And that is exactly what I did.

Now, you might make an argument that all my 110mph saved time was wasted with the 45 minutes I sat guard for this turtle. For that is how long it took. Okay....maybe not that long. But a while anyway. I didn't pay attention. "But what about the wasted time?" you ask.

the answer is, there was no wasted time. I have no idea what you are talking about. In fact, I would go so far, if you suggest such a thing, that you spend too much of your own damned time racing along the highways of life.


Here's Mr. Turtle's Trip Report(with pictures):
Here I am, waiting for a break in the traffic, so I can get across the road. It's a task, I can tell you. Cars come down this road fairly infrequently, compared to say, 215, but even so - I gotta be careful. No mistake, Big pancake ain't just a JTree classic, ya know.

Anyway, this yellow rig is racing down the road - thank God it's way over on the other side! But it starts to slow down..."Uh oh," I say to myself. "I hope it's not one of those stupid do-gooder turtle picker-upper accidental murderers!" You know the types. They are really tall and skinny and have no shell.

The tall turtle stops about 20 feet away, and waits, which makes me feel a little better about the thing. But she's got some strange contraption in her hands, and keeps pointing it at me. I have no idea, but I am a desert denizen, as you know. And everyone knows that alien abductions are most likely to occur out here. Usually at night, I've heard, but....well, I just hope that's not some sort of probe.

She doesn't seem to be attempting to come closer, and that's a good thing. When I get scared, it makes me want to pee, and I don't know why, but I've always felt that would be a bad idea. I've seen some shit go down, I'll tell you, but I never lost control in that way.... But the seems to be able to come forward of it's own volition! Ho-lee's moving. But then it stops. And makes a clicking sound. I have no idea what has just occurred. Maybe my soul has been captured....

After a while, I heard the familiar sound of one of those metal City Turtles. Those fuckers are fast, I tell you. And they could care less about us old folks. The wizz by and sometimes...well, I don't want to tell you!

Then, a strange thing happened. The tall one guards my space and makes sure the City Turtle cannot come close enough to hurt me! Wow. That's unexpected... Still, pretty wierd. But I guess I'm safe enough to continue on my way, as I had been doing before being interrupted. "So, lady," I think, "This is the crux of the problem. Watch me!"

I have always been a safety-conscious turtle and my momma taught me to look before crossing the street. This day would be no different.

Here I am, just about to cross the point of no return. To you big turtles, it's just a painted line. But to us shellbacks, it's more. Much more. Every second spent on the other side of that line is like being run out on dicey choss!

Phew...This is hard work. Oh look - Food! I didn't expect roadside dining.

Believe it or not, another City Turtle has come by, in the time between the last picture and this one, and the tall one once again guarded me. When it happened, I withdrew, as is standard operating procedure, so I'm not exactly sure what went down, but it seemed safe again, so off I headed.

Okay, I'm on my way for real now.

You know....I just turned to tell the tall turtle thanks, but I think I scared her. Maybe she thaught I was going to bite her toe or something, but she backed up real quick....I hope she didn't pee. That would be awful!

She stopped, and raised that thingamajig again, and for a minute I worried maybe it was a gun, but just like before, it just clicked a sound and did nothing else.

I was tired though, and really wanted to rest. Unfortunately.... INCOMING!!!!

Damn, those City Turtle Speed Demons! That one was close. They didn't even slow down, even though you'd THINK it odd to see a tall turtle standing in the middle of the road..... Kids these days.


Here I am approaching the halfway mark. I don't know who puts these lines on the road, but I can tell you that we turtles find them very interesting. They seem to be some sort of equator. City turtles reverse direction once you pass these markers. Why, I couldn't tell you. And occasionally there's an aberration. But for the most part, it's "Before the Yellow line, Look Left. Pass the Yellow Line, Look Right This Time!"

In the distance here, you can see the oasis I am headed for. Heavy brush and shelter from the heat! My sweetie has a little den just out this way...hubba hubba!

Speaking of which, I think I got a second wind....heheheh "Honey, I'm on my waaaaay!"

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008


NOTE: The trip was a good one, and so busy I had no time to write as things came up. So here I am, back in NYC with plenty of time to spare. I'll be posting items from the trip over the next days, weeks and hopefully not months like last time! Here's Story 1, which was started at the time of the incident.

Saturday morning on March 23rd. This story is is about my pre-coffee adrenalinerush…. Everything’s fine - now - and at 9am, I’ve got my coffee(which I really don’t need, as you'll soon understand) brewing, putting down a few words in the meantime.

The morning started out just fine - I had snagged a prime campsite in a way that once again reaffirms, somebody - somewhere - likes me. The park is PACKED. As I drove through, Ryan was full. Talking to a guy I met later, I found that the last site in Jumbo campsite was snagged by him about 6pm on Thursday night. As I rolled into Hidden Valley and say the “Full” sign at the entrance, I rued the day I had changed my travel dates to accommodate an impending visitor at home in mid April. Because of that, here I was, in Joshua Tree during spring break. Woo hoo. Yippee kay yi…yick.

Of course, I understand that the term “Full” is relative…so I did a run through the place. Loop B first, and every site had at least some indication of inhabitation. The main loop, was worse - cars everywhere, people strolling the roads looking to see whow as there and what was up. It was with small hope that I came to “my” spot - #24, the Stem Gem site - and saw a tent parked directly in front of the problem and another on the area where I traditionally pitch my own. No room in the inn, I realized. What to do….

I knew I was going to have to do what I do least well - ask someone for assistance. Running the back loop first, I saw one site with room for another car and a tent. It was a family. A suburban-looking type of family. “Slowww down, Nellie,” I told myself. “No need for panic. There’s probably another option.”

As I headed back toward the main loop, I noticed a site that, though not top-rate, was at least going to get morning sun, which is imperative to me. My number one criteria for a site in the place.

There were three guys at the table, readying their supper. But only one car, and only one tent. Worth a try, I figured.

Hopping out of the car, I came upon them and asked about pitching my tent. They pointed to a square by the road and said “Sure. There’s been a visitor here every night. The place has been full since last Sunday.”

Disappointment rolled through my body, imagining a 10 day trip with my claim staked at such a…..crappy spot.

Scanning the place, I noticed a small canyon heading uphill in the back, and said “I’d like to not be in your way - Let me see if I can find a spot back there.” The guys, on a 3-week tour the southwest by way of the Czech republic, said something I didn’t understand. Most likely the were saying “I don’t understand; what do you want?” hahaha


There she was….My new home. Juuuuust enough room for my tent, set in front of a flat boulder, with enough flat ground that, if I laid just right, I would have relative sleeping comfort. I looked around and saw that this would do very nicely, considering the alternatives.

And, it WAS a nice spot. The guys headed out on Saturday morning, and I took over residency, but kept my tent where it was. I found that the sleeping was actually very fine, in fact.

So….On Saturday morning, I wanted to get up early and see the guys off. I was a little….groggy.

Out of my tent in my down jacket, I set to work on organizing things in my trunk as they packed their gear. The sun came up very quickly, and cold turned to hot just as fast. Somewhere in that time frame, I switched out my down for a lighter hoodie more suitable for the day, and the next thing I knew, the guys were rolling on their way, headed up to the Petrified Forest and then on to Indian Creek. I waved good bye, took a moment to peruse my new space and felt all was right with the world. I could keep my tent in back, but be generous with the front area of the site, letting others park a car or camp in front, as had been done for me.

It was about that time that I decided I’d like to make breakfast, and headed to the car to get a box of cereal. Reaching for the door handle, I realized the car was still locked. Being a New Yorker, it was usual for me to do so, especially with a laptop, rack and camera inside. I just slept better that way.

Reaching into my pocket for the keys, I came up empty. Oh. No.

Oh yes. My pocket was barren. No keys were within.

In denial, I mentally scanned my surroundings, hoping against all hope that I was wrong….For I knew what I had done. I’d tossed the down jacket, with keys, into the trunk.

Of course I riped my tent apart, even though there was next to nothing inside. I walked the site, prospecting for the tell-tale sign of shiny metal. Nothing.

I could have kicked myself. Always, I double check the key location as I locked up the car. Always.

Except once.

And the boys had already left. Boys are helpful in a lot of situations, and it’s always been my belief that being locked out of a car was one where having a boy around would be most useful.

I knew the campsite was well stocked with males, and so I knew what I had to do - go find one willing, able and available to snake my lock.

First I thought of my neighbors, who I had heard talking and saw a woman preparing some food. I called over and explained my problem, and the lady said her brother, who was a fireman, was still asleep. But when he woke up, she’d see if he could help. But she doubted it.

By then I had walked up to her, as would be appropriate when in dire need of help. I saw an older man sitting in a chair in the rear of the site, turned sort of away and seemingly ignoring me. It was a little off-putting, for in my mind, men were supposedly happy to assist a damsel in distress. Even when a situation dictated hopelessness, a guy was always good for an honest effort.

Another belief shattered, I suppose. Truth is - I don’t think I ever needed the outright assistance of a guy who wasn’t a paid for service sort on man before. I’d heard stories from women whose men had come to the assistance of others, and always had wondered what that must be like…to see my shining night gallantly save the day. I’d always imagined how proud of my guy I would be when/if that day came for me. How I would send him off to modern battle with a smile of encouragement, trust his return after helping the beautiful maiden, and awaiting his tale of heroic effort and success.

If I was that girl whose men were both not present for my dilemma…I would not be feeling very noble. She had even suggested I call Triple A. Considering I was twenty miles from town, and my wallet and cel phone were….locked in my car….I couldn’t help feeling the shiver of rejection. To turn away a stranger in need, when you could help - at least a little; without so much as a limp offer of good luck. That’s cold.

Upon the mention of AAA, I was jolted back to the reality of my predicament Forget the Three A’s, I was envisioning a triple-digit bill, and that simply would not do. So…I thanked her and said I was sure there must be a dirt bag with some car-getting-into experience around.

As I headed back to my site to regroup, the man I’d seen sitting on a chair got up and meandered over. I wasn’t sure if he was coming to take a look at my locks until he actually stopped in front of the car! I guess I was being vetted as help-worthy or something….

Mr. Neighbor didn’t sound too promising, as he explained how times had changed and the last car he’d broken into was way back in the sixties….. But he said he’d see what he could do, and mentioned going back to his campsite to see if he could find a length of wire.

I looked down at the ground as he headed away and what do you suppose I saw, laying in the sand in front of his feet? I kid you not - it was a wire coat hanger. Do I have the gods on my side or what!? (Yes, it would appear that I do.).

So, he whipped out his Leatherman and put the snips to use, and then fashioned a ghetto Slim Jim. He poked and prodded and tinged on something metallic-sounding deep inside the door innards. Alas, it was not to be.

Just then, a park ranger ambled by and I said “I locked my keys in the trunk.” I did this because I thought he’d want to know what I was up to there, with a wire snaked down a vehicle… He came over, reminisced about such dilemmas for a moment and then said that he’d finish the campsite walk-through and if we still hadn’t gotten in, he’d call the park LEO, who sometimes has a tool kit for just such emergencies. If they weren’t packing, he said, he’d get me to a phone where I could call the dreaded $$$, I mean AAA.

Those minutes were lonnnng ones, I can tell you, and when Mr. Ranger returned, I couldn’t believe my luck when he pointed down the road and exclaimed “Oh, there they are right now!” He walked over and returned with a kind lady LEO brandishing a few plastic chocks and two wire J-shaped rods. She came toward me and said “I am not a professional….” and then got right to work. First, the guy tried to give her beta on the thing, reaching his hands out to take the tools. But she scoffed and said “Times have changed, that ain’t how to get in.” She rammed a few chocks in the door, snaked the wire down and told him to pry the door a little further ajar.


Next, she simply pressed the electronic lock and the door was sprung like a jailbird out of Mayberry on Barney Fife’s watch.

Of course… the alarm began sounding…. Luckily, it was about 9am now, and so my car wasn’t being the camp rooster announcing day’s break. We all rushed to find the trunk latch, and finally I discovered it in a little pull-out bin below and left of the steering wheel.

Popping the trunk, there were my keys, in plain sight. Hanging out of the pocket in my down jacket…..

So - it is confirmed. I am one lucky lady.

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