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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  

 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ghosts of Christmas





Dawn came with a crimson scattering of high thin clouds and temperatures below freezing.  With my Cindy wrapped in a warm robe and lights twinkling in the window, we toasted our 5th Christmas together with mugs of strong mocha and breakfast brownies.

Two hours later, we parked on a quiet side road and gathered our gear to repeat a Christmas tradition, climbing a new line.

Christmas trees



Ready for another adventure.




Miss Pink Pants braces for the cold.


With temperatures standing at just below freezing, ice chandeliers hung over green moss in the shady corners of the cliffs.





The rock was frigid, the sun bright and the conditions perfect if colder than the Devil's heart.  We rapped in, cleared a small belay and I began climbing.  As I moved out of a corner onto the face, Cindy spied a pin I had climbed right by, set in a crack that had obviously been used for practice as shown by the number of previous placements visible.



I found three more pins set at regular intervals as I climbed the short, fun face and tried to imagine what it would have been like in a pair of infantry boots, with a pack and rifle, likely in the dark.

With numb feet and freezing fingers, I pulled the top and brought Cindy up in short order.  The rope was coiled, anchors dismantled and stowed and we hiked back out to the waiting vehicle.



 With tradition secured for another year and bellies rumbling in anticipation, we steered Icy Blue south, past Seneca Rocks, to rendezvous with our old friend Pyro and his family for a Christmas luncheon before heading home to our cozy next.

Hoping that all of our friends and family scattered across the country and the globe have a safe and happy holiday and a fantastic New Year.  Stay tuned to see what we put up and where we go to welcome in 2014!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The paradox of respect

(This post was edited for typos and for clarity of several points.)

Another season of introspection and reflection.

I posted recently on Joe Kinder's site, regarding use of the forest and the crags, and the hypocrisy inherent in most of the dogma espoused and rebukes offered by the climbing community, their advocates, and the publications that manipulate and inform them.

I left the forum with the three tenets of respecting the forest, respecting the stone, and respecting the authors of the routes that brought them there in the first place.  I'm sure the last two rang true, but in light of the fact that I was defending "gardening" two saplings out of a crack in Lake Tahoe, as well as the host of activities related to new route development which go on at every new crag, my admonition to respect the forest may well have been received with some amusement or confusion.

The point is simple- we now confuse "conservation" with "preservation", and we believe that a one hundred dollar membership and a bumper sticker erases all our environmental sins.  Respecting the forest is staying on the trail, keeping your dog on a leash to prevent it from chasing game or digging or crapping next to waterways, and understanding that the forest grows and dies in an endless cycle.  When climbers return to a remote crag after a long winter, and brush the debris from holds and ledges, they have just disrupted the cycle of soil distribution, seeding, and growth that is intrinsic in a forest setting.  When you burn natural gas propane cylinders in your camp stove, you are in all likelihood supporting fracking, even if indirectly.

So judging Joe for two saplings is literally missing the forest for the trees.

Climbers and most of the other avowed "green" outdoors enthusiasts are too often the people who scream about logging and then chant the mantra of "It's good for the forest" whenever the first plume rises from a forest fire that will burn homes, dislocate wildlife and open new ground to a host of invasive species.

They will march and make angry emails and phone calls to stop the construction of wind turbines on the off chance that one endangered bat might be killed in one hundred years of operation, when those same bats are being killed by the dozens as they fly into high-tension lines and pylons that carry power to the computers on which the emails are typed.

And they will create more impact with a tidal wave of Internet responses to two saplings being removed from some crack in Lake Tahoe than the actual event on which they are commenting.

The splinter in thy brother's eye is not so large as the beam in thine own...

And I am just as bad as the rest of the high-impact creatures with whom I share the planet. I don't live in a cave, weaving my own clothes from hemp and eating seasonally-harvested local foods.  I don't have a solar-powered yurt with geothermal heat, and I don't drive an electric or bio-deisel vehicle. I eat imported foods and buy imported goods and watch electronica for hours out of sheer boredom, when visiting friends who own those toys, who choose that lifestyle.

In other words, I don't preach about environmentalism without a voice in the back of my head telling me just how much of my own message is hypocrisy.

And I live a life accordingly spartan- no wide-screen cable TV, no massive stereo, just two chairs and a table, several boxes of books, a laptop, a camera, camping and climbing gear for two, clothing for just about any season and a truck to haul it in.  If you choose to have more, good on you- it is always a personal choice, and I respect your rights even if I disagree entirely with your choices, or make other choices for my own life.

I see the paradox of my disenchantment; that I keep putting up routes and building obvious trails leading to them and railing against the inevitable hordes of clueless strangers who come to take those things for granted.  I was raised in an age when those who came before spoke out and their opinions and judgments were respected.  I have pounded my head against this wall for as long as I have been climbing, because the burden of education was passed down to us from gnarly old curmudgeons up in the mountains of Britain, in the Himalaya, in the Rockies, and on the soaring walls of El Cap.  The pioneers never worried about popularity, or stepping on someone's toes, or some group of wankers on an Internet forum judging them for lines they would, in all likelihood, never see.  I'm no Bridewell, no John Long or Billy Westbay, nor am I one-tenth the climber that the icons who shaped my attitudes were on their worst day.

But I am eternally marching toward that unreachable goal.

And I am learning, if slowly.

Some days I rage, some days I laugh.

And some days, I type.

These lands are ours.  We need to be involved with them, to use them and try to preserve them without losing sight of our inevitable effect on them and connection to them.  We need to see the forest with a clear perspective, instead of through the rosy glasses of Leave No Trace and the pollyanna oblivion of our climbing advocates, who create new impact with every membership drive, and then spend the rest of year wringing their hands and begging for money to address impact and inform all the people who just don't understand.

We need to point out the inherent contradiction between a public lands bureaucracy that censures climbers for the negligible impact of stainless steel bolts while foreign companies devastate hundreds of square miles of sacred Native lands and historical landmarks.  and we need to understand that our government does nothing because American companies are doing exactly the same thing on every continent in the world.

In much the same way that climbers have done and will continue to do the same things- scraping, pruning, clearing loose rock and dirt- for as long as there is climbing, where ever it may be.

Respecting the forest isn't preserving it in a museum-like state- it is far too late for that, by a century or three.  It is understanding that we need wind turbines to stop destroying mountains covered with forests to get at the coal underneath of them.  It's understanding and accepting that if you are not a consumer, you are a resource, and that, in the end, we are all consumers, and the connections between our consumption and the true conservation of the forests and wild places is far more wide-reaching than we like to remember.

Climbers may whine and gripe, judge and spew about environmental sins, but they are not leaving the crags in protest to join gyms, forever renouncing the impact of outdoor climbing.

So saplings will be gardened out of cracks, tree limbs will be pruned back, trails will be laid off and wildlife will get disturbed and be displaced.  Ideas that are good for us all may kill a dozen endangered bats in a century.  Elk in Alaska may have to learn to live near oil rigs. I take responsibility for the resultant impact from every route I climb and share with the public, and for the impact my life has outside of climbing.

For me, respect for this world is defined as, whenever possible, using only what I need, from the best sources in terms of renewability and impact, not just the most convenient.  It is staying informed and alert and active about the issues, and informing others, even if they don't always want to be informed, even if it makes a lot of folks think of me as an asshole.  It is seeing how so many things inter-relate, and trying to stay consistent in my vision and my practices.

It's tough, I know- you just wanna go crank some routes, man.  You never signed up for this forest crag stewardship thing.  You pay your dues in the AF and the WWF and you even went to a conference in D.C. with the local AAC chapter.  You're not some fanatical climber, you just enjoy getting out and getting some exercise.  Just mastering that whole "How to shit in the woods" thing was enough... now you have to worry about all of this?

If you are an older climber, an experienced survivor, you just want to have some fun, not spend your days lecturing noobs, fixing trail and picking up trash.

Sorry... Life is mostly a series of revelations about responsibilities you never knew you had, without notice or explanation.

If climbing is going to survive and grow in the outside world, the dialogue and the dynamic has to change. Our definitions of acceptable and realistic impact, the way we address that impact and the fights we have over that impact have to change.

How climbers handle that change will determine the level of respect they are given by their government, by the old guard, and by the next generation. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hard Bark

This is how it is.


I'm a curmudgeon; a grouchy bastard who seems to have little or nothing good to say about anything.  I’m tired and sore from about fifty years of fairly adventuresome and demanding life, thirty-something of which have been spent becoming the the best carpenter and craftsman I could, working my way up from jackhammer-lugging grunt and rake operator to a foreman, eventually a superintendent, and working as a concert and theatrical rigger.  During roughly the same period, I was doing everything I could to become the most versatile, well rounded, impact conscious, proactive rock climber I could possibly be.
 

So, for most of the past three decades, no matter how broke or exhausted or beat-up I was from days and sometimes weeks of brutal labor and long hours, I spent my free time looking for, finding, developing and (hopefully) sending new lines interspersed with sessions of repairing trail and picking up trash.


I’m further from the beginning of my climbing career than the end. And I am determined to make an impact on the future, beyond the lines I’ve left behind and the trails I’ve built. 


My climbing partner, Doctor Goodwack, would say that I'm wasting my time. He might be right. He'd say that you're all worthless and weak, and that the ones of you that aren't are either too comfortable, too old and beat down, or too young and stupid to waste time or rope on.
 

He's got a lot of hard bark on him. 


Hell, truth is, since I wrote this little piece the first time, I’ve grown an awful lot of hard bark myself.  Some days, I doubt climbing, and certainly the mountains and forests, the wild places in which the finest climbs live, will survive in any recognizable form.
 

But I still hope we’re wrong. I'm betting on it, in fact, that's why I'm sitting here typing on a laptop, tossing out messages in a bottle to a generation that mostly doesn’t know or give a damn who I might be, instead of crawling into my tent with the lovely brunette who calls me her husband.



Because I want you to know that I feel you out there; sitting on a bus, or a train, or in some airport lobby or library, at your desk or table or in your car, where ever, picking idly at your skinned knees or gobied hands while you read this, feeling the aches, or the Hunger, when there are no wounds, no aches.



Unimaginable as it may seem, I was one of you once, before all these miles and memories, these scars, all these years... all this hard bark.



I know that, even with this tide of pushing for high numbers and press attention, trying to milk bucks or swag or just a moment in the sun out of this fickle, pointless, incredible obsession, there are dreamers out there, dreamers who dream not with their eyes shut, in their beds, but with them open, in the deep woods, on the big stone, or some tiny, unknown little chunk of rock lost deep in the forest. I think about you, sometimes, while I’m hanging there on hooks, gingerly pulling up the drill while flakes fall away, or working through some demanding sequence between clips, or laying hundreds of feet of trail for hours, piling stone and moving dirt, cutting and placing logs, marking the way.



I believe in you, from all these many years down the road beyond my own folly, when the convenience of sheer numbers makes it easy to forget being young and proud, headstrong and reckless, hungry and open.


Even with all the blah, blah, blah that makes up most of the magazines, ezines and forum space these days, I can feel you there, just the other side of the page, dreaming of long, clean lines, of hard, steep moves, or of just clipping that next bolt, someday.



You hear the green song while everyone else is racing down the trail, hell-bent for leather to be first.


You know the peace of being last on the trail, and the serenity of that first moment, alone at a new belay, with a new climb behind you still ringing in your soul; a rope's length above your partner and the world and light-years from all the crap that clogs the gears and weighs you down.



And you're doing incredible things. You climb sooner, faster, stronger, and better than we ever did, and you genuinely seem to be trying to rediscover (or at least reinvent) community and true love for each other. You're pushing into the big hills and the hard numbers routinely, and that's one of the things that stir me to the keyboard. For all my hard bark, and despite the likelihood that few of you will give enough of a shit about what an old climber thinks about anything to give this a second‘s glance.



So enough preamble, I guess we're gonna dance or fight, one of the two, so we might as well get it on.



You're fallin' down on the job. You crank hard and you dress really cool but you're sloppy and careless and self-centered to a fault even in this narcissistic sport.



(And no, this is not that "When I was your age we walked ten miles to school through burning hail, uphill both ways, and when we got home they beat us and killed us," crap... this is me, talking to you. Thanks for your time... I won't keep you much longer, I swear...)



Facts is facts, and the fact is that we did (and still do) put up the new routes, keep what few animals we ever had about in close check, and manage to not only build but routinely maintain the trail system at several crags, for years. Decades, even...



All while holding down jobs requiring at least forty hours per week (in those days I averaged sixty-plus) and commuting at least an hour each way (in my case two and a half), and tending to all the sundry crap that life will try to tack on you in the years between your age and mine.



You buy crap guidebooks. Too many members of the climbing press have been printing minimal information and sending the masses hither and yon for years now, creating impact and land issues and cutting and pasting the same mealy-mouthed obligatory crap from rip-off to rip-off. Leave no trace... unless it's on a crag located on delicate access land that no one bothers to mention. Respect the earth, but not the climbers whose work they are stealing to make money we never see a dime of.



Ask the people at the crag who put up the lines. If they can't tell you, find someone who can.



Any guidebook that doesn't list first ascentionists is crap. 


Period.



You want a mini-guide, call it that... but don't leave out the history of the routes and crag to avoid admitting that you stole the info instead of meeting the people and finding out their stories.



It's your history... and you're letting it slip away. People like me (and even a few nice ones, as well) are out there putting up lines, building trails, carving out crags you'll never hear about. Because they've seen what happens.



At Franklin. At Hidden Rocks. At Muir Valley and Joe’s Boulders, Oak Creek Overlook, Paradise Forks, Jack's, the Supes.



The word goes out and people come, regardless of how many cars are there when they arrive, because they just gotta be on the scene. Gear left on projects gets stolen, and projects get worked with the red tags still dangling.



And those who came for something that they cannot name pack their gear and move on to the next lost corner, in search of something that exists in moments of fear and wonder, a song that speaks in silence and the sound of the river, a calligraphy of shadows and stone.



We're mostly working class citizens who spend hundreds of hours and thousands of hard-earned bucks (yes, thousands... priced a new rack, rope, battery drill, aid gear, and health insurance policy lately?) over the course of decades.



We put time and love, sweat and blood into the routes that climbing shop hard persons routinely talk crap on, downgrade, and misname. Which is like having one of your relatives repeatedly call you by the wrong name at a family picnic... after a while, that crap kinda gets on your nerves.



That is why I'm here, trying to keep a little of the beta stream unpolluted and complete, and potentially wasting an hour I’ll never get back to make a fool of myself, given my long and checkered past of internet feuds and hostilities, shouting at an invisible audience scattered miles and years away from me in time and space.



So what?  I’ve wasted more time on lines that didn’t go and partners that didn’t show.  To hell with it… let me toss out a few tips.



Get involved. Ask questions. Introduce yourself to climbers you don't know... who knows, you might meet someone who put up the routes that you love. Respect the locals, and their right to ask you not to climb on their land. Donate to bake sales and fundraisers and food pantries, because in most of the places where we climb, so many have so little while we enjoy so much.


Go to Park Service meetings and Access Fund Rendezvous, and do more while you are there than get autographs and beta to the latest super-secret, cutting edge destination.  Find out what they are fighting, where, how they are organizing, what is a real issue and what works in resolving those issues. They are your crags, and your responsibility.



Dig into and keep track of the stories you aren’t hearing or reading about in your advocates' news letters.  If your dollars support the big organizations, your voice needs to one of those to direct its course. If they won't listen, stop giving them your money, or demand new leaders and policies. 


We've left you a legacy... the same one the generation just before left to us. We haven’t done the best by you, by any means, and out government has done less for all of us, to an even greater degree. 



Of course, the last generation doesn’t collect a tax from every dime you earn, but your dear Uncle Sam does, without fail.  Now is your time to prove yourselves worthy, to claim your birthright.  Ask hard questions, and accept no easy answers from the people and agencies that run your public lands, the people who lease away your old growth forests and whose quest for insuring gigantic corporate profits have trumped their mission to preserve our unique ecology and irreplaceable history, as well as their responsibility to local communities and their economies. 


Find the many good souls out there in that incredible juggernaut of a system and do what you can to sidestep the bureaucracy and incompetence to make things happen. 



Before you get together over latte’s and congratulate each other for saving an acre of grid-bolted sport climbing or gruesomely overhanging boulders back here in the east, remember that multinational corporations in the Dripping Springs Mountains of Arizona have unblinkingly confirmed their plans for the eventual, inevitable destruction of Apache Leap, the bouldering heaven of Oak Flats and sport mecca of Queen Creek, the incredible spires and walls of Devil’s Canyon, and the long-term vitality and economy of nearby towns.


This land has been privately owned under the protections of the original Mining Act, while across the United States far less historically-significant landmarks have been taken from families to create public lands.


Isn’t it time for the government to reclaim it from foreign corporations with no goal of preservation in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in America?



The destruction predicted is based on mining practices that would be illegal for an American corporation operating on American soil.  They are quite simply the most destructive way possible to mine the region.  The land swap and freeway development (meaning even further ecological mayhem and denied access), are both intended to mask the extent of the destruction, are supported by several state and Congressional representatives, all invoking the sacred cows of jobs and economic development (aka more taxes to play with during their careers.)



This is huge, folks.  Don’t just post this on Facebook or send a check.  Contact Congress, kick some doors at the Access Fund, scream at the Sierra Club and the American Alpine Club, then get out, picket, chain yourself to some equipment or a gate, get arrested, whatever it takes to drawn the public’s attention and get involved in the fight. 



They are our crags and our lands. Our heritage and legacy.



Our responsibility. 



It starts with the little things.

There is a tiny crag on private land at the edge of Franklin, West Virginia that is sliding away into eroded oblivion.

A place where Access Fund members have been climbing for over 20 years.  

But it wasn't Access Fund members who organized or paid for the first Franklin Trail Daze, it was a non-member, something that has been true for all but one of the trail work events we held there from 2007 through 2010.

And it isn't the Access Fund that maintains the trails right over the hill in Seneca Rocks.

There's a lot of talk about why the Access Fund members and administrators, the much-ballyhooed Jeep Discount Sales and Conservation Team and all those headline-happy affiliates can't do trail work on private land, despite having no problem climbing there or sending other people to do so by the carload.

But there is no whisper of an explanation why those heavily-funded paragons of impact control can't work on the trails that cross public lands.

Maybe they just don't know how to start.

Let me help you... I've done this sort of thing before.

It's simple;



If you move two stones on the trail and pick up two pieces of trash every time you go climbing, and if all your friends do too, you'll be amazed at what you can do in just a month. 

Don't just seek to empower climbers, but widen your focus; support and reach out to the people in the communities surrounding the climbing areas, as well.  Aren't they as worthy of your compassion and support as any war or drought or storm refugee in another land?

If you climb the less popular lines, you learn to find the beauty in every line, and enjoy the absence of crowds. As you go on, you'll learn that climbing is so much less about simply moving over stone, and so much more about finding that place inside of you, anywhere, anytime.



And then they really will be "your" crags, because you're not just visiting, anymore... you're making all of it a part of you, and becoming part of it all.



Christ, I'm tired, my shoulders are cramped and my neck feels broken from bending over this thing and there are probably a dozen things I forgot to mention... but the clock shows 11:27 and my internal alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. and if I don't want to sleep in the truck then I had better get into that tent I mentioned about an hour ago.




But I want to thank you for your time, and your love of the sport I also love so much.


Be strong, stand proud, question everything, try everything, give lots of hugs, take lots of pictures, keep a journal, pull hard and don't ever be afraid to fall down, in life or on the stone.


Only by learning to fall without fear can we reach the skies.


 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fear

The scariest part of climbing is not bad rock, bad gear, bad weather, poor belayers, severed ropes or falling rock.  All of those things will either kill you outright or pass, in time.

The scariest part of climbing is the rest of the world, of that crazy thing called "Life" that goes on, eternally, as we lose ourselves in the moment of climbing.  It is only when the endless moment is broken, or the ascent complete, that the things we fear come rushing in.

Fear, true fear, comes to me now; standing here on the razor-thin divide, decades vanished in a blink of compressed experience and scars, between the present and the bad-assed, dumbass youngster who chased his dreams out onto the open road with just a backpack and a duffel bag of assorted gear, who wrote from the heart and lived in the moment and could power through anything except getting his foot out of his mouth. 

I feel the whisper of self-doubt and despair as I stare into the mirror at the opinionated, beat-up, increasingly disillusioned and cynical grizzled old man who somehow took that kid's place, a curmudgeon who feels the weight of three decades of watching this fringe sport go "mainstream"; mourned the resulting death of individuality and increasing hordes of environmentally-blind gymbies with little or no empathy for the spirit that moved us, the old guard. 

I feel the miles and trials of two years of living on the road, often hungry, unemployed and homeless, with my wife, who has battled Multiple Sclerosis for the last decade and more, trying to find someplace where we could make a home for ourselves, and failing. Feeling the fire that once raged in my belly, dawn to dawn, slowly dying in a deluge of personal tragedies and struggles, even as the hunger sharpens with regret and reminiscence. 

I rage against the loss of strength and focus in myself, and against the growing apathy, entitlement, and self-satisfaction I see in the climbing world and its many advocates and organizations. 

I fear the day I lose my beloved wife, or the day in which I can no longer love and care for her, this amazing person who has come to be everything to someone as self-centered and inverted as I can be, who loves my faults and forgives my sins, gives meaning to my days and stands behind me against any crowd of detractors or critics, beside me through the worst storms life has thrown against us.  

Every run-out, every crap face, every sketchy piece of gear whispers "Is it worth it?  Is this really worth the chance of losing a life you dreamed of for so long?"

And every moment away whispers, "You're losing the edge, getting soft, getting old.  This is a youngster's game, and you are no longer young."

And so every day is a battle, a struggle of inner tides, a balancing of the things that make me who I am, the man my wife fell in love with, and the man I will someday be; older, perhaps alone, sight fading, muscles devoured by the years, courage drowned in the caution of brittle bones and longer healing, adventure lost to the narcotic lure of the known and comfortable.

We have been told that the only thing to fear is fear itself.  But fear tells us that we are alive, reminds us that we are sane, in the face of steep odds and personal danger.

I do not fear the fear... I fear the point at which I can no longer address its causes, at which it drags me down as surely as gravity ever did.

I do not fear falling... I fear simply letting go.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A walk down memory lane

Took a hike in Germany Valley, yesterday, to stretch our legs and enjoy the fall colors.








We picnicked on cheese and bread, chocolate muffins and fruit, washing it all down with power punch, gear spread out on a huge flat rock in the center of the river, watching eagles and buzzards, hawks and ravens soaring on the updrafts around the North Fork cliffs and the numerous crags that dot the western slopes of the valley between Seneca Rocks and Smoke Hole Caverns.

After an initial hand washing in the cold river water, Cindy wandered around barefoot, like the child she is at heart, looking at interesting rocks and fossils and watching native trout and bass with the avaricious eye of a fishing woman denied.



After a pleasant hour spent in leisure, without a single human sound save our own voices, we packed up and headed back upriver, to see some old lines on the adjoining parcel of private land.  Imagine our surprise when we found fresh chalk and evidence of several recent visits by climbers unknown.  No surprise... private property counts for little or nothing among the climbing community's members in this present age, and the landowner was fairly affable- the chance remained, no matter how slim, that these folks had, like me, actually asked to climb on private land.

Back in the Day: Working on the steep, thin start of "Steppin' Razor", a 5.10 of mine, bolted ground up on hooks.  This was shot during the first ascent by my lovely wife, Cindy.  I discovered early on that having her behind the camera kept her from screaming when we took long falls.


Finding sign of intrusion into this private little corner was a slightly sad experience... I have been climbing and developing climbs here for well over twenty years, some with my incredible friend and climbing partner Mike Fisher, and in all that time, only a handful of folks had ever found the spot.  As far as I knew, no one besides me had ever bothered asking the landowner for permission or even considered that something in West Virginia that had huge trees on it and a river running through it just might not be Public Lands.

Whoever the visitors were, they weren't well-behaved.  My rope had been unwrapped from where it hung under a steep project and left to lay in a tangle in the dirt.  chalk had been used to write obscenities on the rock adjacent to one of my favorite lines.




While erasing their chalked graffiti at the base of a tall, overhanging and slightly run-out 5.9 I bolted almost 20 years ago, Cindy was struck at by a copperhead, one of the largest we have seen this year.  Her new heavy boots diverted the blow and the reptile slithered off under the leaves while the human screamed, beat the ground and made a hasty retreat and her mate experienced a deep wave of deja vu.

I have to hand it to my wife... for someone that spent a week in hospital (and almost lost a leg) from a copperhead bite, and that within the last five years, she handled it amazingly well.  In her place, I might well have ran shrieking from the forest; pack shed, arms waving, frightening forest creatures and small children for miles around.  As it was, we both spent several minutes pushing along the old trail, through new-fallen storm debris which made every step a likely encounter with another specimen, eyes darting and hearts pounding.

Back down at the old road, we trudged the last mile or so back past the gate to the car in relative silence, stopping once for a smoke to calm still-dancing nerves; five minutes that passed in silent introspection and memory.

Once in the truck, we laughed, again, and all the tension drained away as we held hands and smiled into each other's eyes.  Snakebites, crazy landlords, corrupt powers of government, silly climbers, and insane employers... it all fell into perspective.  Fall colors fell in showers of red and gold through the afternoon sunlight, squirrels and chipmunks dug madly through the leaves preparing for the coming winter, geese flew in staggered V's across the clear skies of West Virginia, and Cindy's hand was warm in mine.

All was well with the world... as well as we could make it.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Hypocritical Oaths


Today, I read an article online about how the talented young climber Joe Kinder had removed two juniper saplings in the course of putting up a new route.  That some concerned observer had taken a picture of the saplings after removal and posted the pics, event, and Joe’s cell phone number on the Internet, provoking an avalanche of feedback and criticism.

I know… hard to believe, right?

Joe apologized to the outraged public, paid a fine and went above and beyond to show his remorse.  I truly believe the guy genuinely regretted the action, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Is Joe in fact sorry because he is now convinced that it was somehow wrong to be more concerned about the safety of his fellow humans than the uncertain fate of two junipers growing in a crack?  Or is he in fact simply pissed at himself for doing this without hiding the evidence and then having to take so much grief and humiliation from a huge community of hypocrites?

Alpinist magazine congratulated itself on having an article about vertical gardening while nodding sagely at the wisdom and importance of environmental sensitivity when establishing new routes, and the nobility of Joe’s admission of error and efforts at restitution.

But is it all, in truth, just so much self-congratulatory delusion?

Don’t get me wrong- I have built and repaired a LOT of trail in the last 34 years; stopped erosion and cross-cutting and landslides in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia and back here in West Virginia, at my own home crags, under lines I did and did not develop.  

And I have cut saplings and cleaned moss and loose soil out of cracks and pockets to produce new first ascents and climbing routes.

I wrestle with this.  I have hiked to interesting outcrops with fun looking lines and decided against development or even sharing their locations, based on the dense profusion of life and the variety of micro-cultures thriving there. 

I have spent every day since the placement of my first bolt and the lead of my first trad FA practicing and preaching stewardship; the concept that the route developer is responsible for the trails and impact of the crag.

But while I am shouting into silence, the Access Fund and its corporate partners, the climbing equipment companies, are creating climbers by the hundreds with huge social events,  Learn to Climb clinics, and promo tours, all of which, BTW, have a gigantic impact on the climbing venues in which they are held.

(Sorry, but you can’t put upwards of three thousand people anywhere outdoors without a lot of water bottle tops, tape, rope ends, human waste and trampled vegetation.  I cleaned up after three Phoenix Climbing Comps.  End of story.)

To round out the picture, membership in the Access Fund will now get you a discount on one of the finest 4 wheel drive vehicles in America, to allow you to go anywhere you like off-road to practice your LNT views and hone your shiny new skills with a drill, as you righteously retro-bolt classic run-outs into safe sport routes.

Which is perfect, because we need to go back to that crowd calling for young Joe Kinder’s blood over the desecration of two junipers; the online experts and forum ninjas, the cyber judges of unknown and unproven provenance, the members of the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund and the faceless, vocal hordes of entitled climbers of middling experience and skill: The Climbing Community.

This is a unique culture with a number of people across a wide range of ages and origins, genders and physical challenges, doing truly incredible and impressive things, some of them even admirable as human beings.

But, increasingly, they are technocrats of suburbia; living in apartments and condos and houses built on what was often open farmland or second-growth forest, structures that are only “green” by definition, requiring just as many resource consuming, impact-creating humans as ever to assemble and complete, and producing just about as much waste in transportation and construction, if not manufacture.

The new environmentalists come and go from these idealistic illusions of home driving vehicles that no matter how environmentally conscious are still made of thousands of pounds of refined substances that do not simply melt away in the sun at the end of the vehicle’s life.  It has been this author’s experience that most of them are SUVs that typically arrive at their destination carrying one or, rarely, two people and, more often, up to five dogs, where they will park on vegetation as necessary to get to the Scene happening around the latest Destination Crag, no matter how many cars and vans and hybrids are already lining the roads.

Once they have trampled all the tiny new growths on the trail, texting all the while on their improved 4G network or shooting footage on their GoPro while their unleashed companion chases deer and squirrels and kills the occasional wood mouse or chipmunk out of sheer fright, they will invariably stop somewhere near the center of the trail adjacent on of the more popular lines, usually the one with the biggest crowd, where they will ignore the traffic jam they are creating as they break out a pack full of aluminum and nylon, two of the most high-impact substances ever created.  The second substance will also comprise most of their apparel in some form or another, although not one in one thousand will have any idea of the means or methods and impact of recycling either product, short of weaving a rope rug or putting biners in the corners of your truck bed.

While half a dozen of the chosen top-rope the same handful of moderate lines on which they have been falling at the same crux for most of their outdoor climbing careers (usually a period measured in days, not years), other groups not of their local tribe will pass hopefully back and forth, since the lines now under siege will inevitably be the only routes in that grade at the crag, and the ropes draped upon them will remain until the last light fades from the sky and all the chalk bags run dry. 

Meanwhile, the dogs of these paragons of environmental activism and sensitivity will carry on with their program: digging comfy holes in the middle of belay areas, running off to the parking lot to pee on other people’s tires and get bitten by copperheads or rattlers, chasing deer and crossing property boundaries and, in between all of this, pooping out interesting piles and logs of artificial color and ingredients along the trails.

As evening falls and even the strongest cell phone batteries begin to fade, the tribe will all waltz off, in separate cars of course, to meet in some trendy bistro with a carbon footprint the size of Rhode island, there to update their Facebook status and upload to their blogs and spurt their GoPro onto You Tube, none of which has any environmental impact or carbon footprint because the Internet is maintained by a mystical force without physical location that runs on Tesla Zero-point generators that create power from nothing in a parallel dimension.

It’s true… I read it on the Internet.

As the worthies of the Fund and the Conservation teams drive away to their just reward and adulation, behind them, just out of sight across the horizon, carefully avoided and never mentioned (save during valuable sound bites on Earth Day) are the hundred acre parcels of national forest and BLM land being clear-cut of all timber, their micro climates and biodiversity destroyed as heavy diesel machinery pushes logs and waste across the forest floor, leaking hydraulic fluid and fuel and oil, choking streams, burying rock outcrops and cliff lines, all at a tidy profit for the Federal government (yes, the same government that fined Joe) and for the timber companies, who pay as little as $1 apiece for one hundred year old trees…

… while climbers cheer as they sit on Ikea in their green homes and watch “Chainsaw Wars” on cable-fed big screen TVs, which also has no environmental impact, because we just push satellites into space with big sling shots, like on the Road Runner, and big screens are made of sugar so they just dissolve in hot water when you need to recycle them.

While climbers are exchanging email addresses and blog sites at the next Rendezvous, there are toxic chemicals seeping and men dying in the coal mines of southwest West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, communities poisoned and buried by the mountaintop removal that has destroyed well over two hundred mountains of the Appalachians and Alleghenies in the quest for cheaper methods of “extraction”, a process that more resembles war than mining.  The coal extracted goes most often to produce the electricity that in fact powers most of the cities in which these climbers live and in which their advocacy groups make their homes.

In Arizona, the Resolution Land Swap has failed again, but corporations, like dragons, only slumber, and meanwhile mining rigs drill night and day, their lights and machine noise now despoiling the silent desert stars of Apache Leap, a 200-foot tall escarpment of historical importance that could be destroyed if plans to mine just behind go forward.   Led astray by groupthink and corporate spokesmen once revered as rebels, climbers have done an amazing job of turning their backs on Queen Creek, Oak Flat and Devils Canyon, places that for over a decade were the center of bouldering and outdoor climbing competition in the desert southwest.

But climbers have more important things to worry about these days.

After all, there were these two trees in a crack not one person in a thousand could ever climb…

We do need to be environmentally conscious when producing lines, when climbing them, and when travelling to and from the crag.  But we need, as well, to maintain a sense of perspective, because the sum total of the impact created by climbers is a pale echo of the massive corporate destruction being carried out on our public lands, activities from which our government makes millions, and big timber and coal make billions, while sacrificing lives and communities.  We need to hold our advocacy groups accountable for making deals with these companies, and for failing to speak out to this government.

Otherwise, mission statements and oaths to Leave No Trace are at best a demonstration of  ignorance, at worst nothing less than denial and hypocrisy.

It is not popular to criticize the Access Fund or cast aspersions on revered publications like Alpinist

But truth is the only exception to the rule that things that do not change, die. 

Mister Kinder, I’m not a numbers climber, not a V12 boulderer, no big shakes on the Scene… but I would probably have done the same thing in cleaning a new line.
 I have before, I will again, and even the critics just seem to keep climbing my lines… and that is a truth all its own, in the end.



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tour de Force

What a week and a half can do...

One day, you are completely wrapped up in trying to get your hillbilly landlord to just finish the apartment you live in, return a call, or adhere to the conditions of the lease in any way, trying to support yourself and a disabled wife by working at an ancient, decrepit hotel, originally built by slave labor and housing a restaurant that was obsolete by the beginning of the Reagan Administration.  When not immersed in the day-to-day folly and frustrations of a decaying southern city filled with and run by corrupt politicians and  inbred dynasties struggling to hold life back to the age of The Waltons, you spend a lot of time and effort trying to teach a pig to sing; trying to introduce fresh food and new ideas into a stagnant culture, all while surrounded by the oxymoron of cafeteria-style "fine dining", created by an owner/manager with delusions of grandeur and more mental issues than a lifetime subscription to "Psychology Today".

Life and crisis laugh at planning and routine.

All the tedium and petty annoyances seem precious and golden in the hindsight of sudden, traumatic change.  you long for the simple challenges of dealing with crazy, as opposed to the helplessness of facing life and death with no option but to sit and wait, to hope if you must and pray if you still can.

Instead of blowing up balloons and wrapping presents in preparation for her 27th birthday, we instead spent the end of last week with our daughter in the hospital; separated from home, husband, and a two month old daughter of her own.  Life went into that sporadic stop-and-start of a bad European film; sleepless nights, early morning, changing schedules and plans while still trying to live a day-to-day routine of necessity.

Friday night, our lass was stable enough to return home, and Saturday, her mother watched the bouncing baby while the exhausted parents relaxed and I prepared coconut shrimp and "drunken" beer-battered tilapia, steamed broccoli and baked potatoes for a small birthday dinner.

Rain soaked the weekend, interrupting the Columbus Day holidays of scores of visiting NoVA and D.C. hikers, mountain bikers, campers and rock climbers.  Carloads of timeshare victims slogged past in long lines on their way to musty condos in Canaan and hunt cabins up the North Fork, while tour groups stared out at soggy leaves and rolling clouds atop Dolly Sods and Spruce Knob.  Friends who had planned to wed atop Seneca spent the weekend eating at local restaurants and climbing wet rock at Secret Crag #7.  Boaters stared in frustration at a river still too shallow to do more than wet the hull between hundred-yard portages.  The fall foliage season's promise of economic boon once again faded, settled to earth in a slow sigh of red and yellow leaves.

Monday, stir-crazy and getting creaky from sitting watching the weekenders and the dog hunters and the rain, sorting gear and reading sci-fi, Cindy and I tossed packs in the truck and went to hike a fire road in Germany Valley that we knew would be good for a hike up onto the Allegheny Front, with the added attraction of a short side trip from parking to check on some old crags and climbs.  I had a rope hanging there, unfinished business on a steep route from back in 2006 that had I had become determined to finish before the holidays.

After the brisk hike along the shoulder of the road, eyes and ears tuned for the sound of onrushing tractor trailers, we slowed the pace and relaxed; stretching out slowly, adjusting lighter packs as we walked the muddy gravel road in new boots, conversation wandering among our recent troubles and old friends, past travels and crazy settings in which we had camped, cooked, and climbed.  Fall was there around us; quiet, muted in the mists and rain, but still gorgeous in her own right, a different sort of beauty from the bright splash of chorus girl colors that attracts throngs of tourons to Seneca and Smoke Hole, the Skyline Drive to the east and the Blue Ridge parkway to the south.  Bright crowns of fallen leaves decorated beds of ferns and hung throughout the underbrush of spice bush and red oak, laurel and juniper, while Virginia creeper blazed red where it hung from golden hickory trees.

The road climbed steadily, bringing a burn to disused leg muscles as we wound up through the ancient forest, traffic now far away as the sound of birdsong and the occasional distant dog's bark became our soundtrack.  Occasional rifts in the low-hanging clouds revealed deep hollows dropping away on one side or the other, tiny cabins nestled at the base of threads of wood smoke, dreaming above mossy tumbling streams.

Two hours later, we found ourselves at the foot of walls that were impossibly dry after three days of mist and rain.  Fox grapes, creeper and poison ivy draped routes soaring 80-90 feet, all of them overhanging to the point that rain was not really an issue.  My fixed rope still hung on the steepest line of them all, a wall 80+ feet tall with an overhang of more than 25 feet from top to bottom along the line I had chosen.  Recent massive deposits of chalk indicated that either we had seen newcomers, or one of the three or four parties that know of the area had returned for a brief visit and taste of two of the best lines in the cirque.  Chalk on several other spots told a tale of exploration... and of hasty retreat in the face of steep, thin, run out lines on somewhat intimidating terrain.

No shame there... some of this stuff scares the crap out of me, and I bolted it.  Discretion is the better part of valor.

We clip open one of the trails leading directly to the good stuff and head back to the car and a supper of stir-fry and wild rice, cold brews and anticipation.

The next day we are back early with food and gear, drill and bolts and a determination to climb and move the rope up the old project.

"Rock of Ages" is an incredible line; a 5.9 with a high first bolt that gives the climber clear and early warning of the commitment required to lead this line.  A 20-foot dihedral leads to a ledge, above which a steep, sparsely-protected panel offers scattered buckets and an off-balanced mantle move onto another ledge.

From here, over fifty feet above the base, you cast out into steeper and steeper territory, cranking pockets and edges past three more bolts in 30 feet to a final incredible rail clip stance that you reach through a mandatory step out onto a pocket with 80+ feet of air under your heels and the river roaring away another 100 feet below that...  massive exposure as compared to the average WV bolted line anywhere except the New River.  When you lower off the anchors, the wall falls away from you immediately, and your touchdown is several yards from the base.

We ran a couple of laps on this line, with Cindy climbing impressively and reaching a new high point, fighting through to a final stance almost to the anchors.  A snack and a smoke and we sorted gear and lined up on the project, placing a 4th bolt above a good rest stance (finally!), retrieving the old fixed rope and lowering out to land ten feet from the base... and that's just from the 4th of what will undoubtedly be 9 or 10 bolts!

A serious slog out, with heavy packs and trembling legs that required three rest stops in what is normally a slow unbroken march back to the car.  Hot food and cold brews led to calls confirming the next day's arrival of Doc Goodwack, primed to send.  I sorted my pack and we segued into an early night and dreamless sleep.

Crawling out of bed the next morning, I wondered what I had done, exactly, planning on climbing with the original WV madman after a day on some of the tallest, toughest lines on which I had ever put bit to stone.  Cindy answered a "grandma call" and went to babysit the grandchild and help out around the house, leaving me to keep up with the new, streamlined version of Mike Fisher making its debut at our crag.

Mike was out of the car, pack ready and coffee in hand when I rolled in, a hand rolled twist burning in the corner of his mouth as he shook my hand and smiled.  We shouldered loads and headed up the hill to warm up on some moderate moves before Mike stacked his rope under the steep broken maw that is the start of La Machina, a line he had bolted back in 2010 and had been working on sporadically ever since.  Like the rest of us, Mike's plans had run headlong into the roadblock and detours of Life, and it had been a long fight to finally narrow the crux to three specific areas of contention.

He worked through the moves as always, powerful  sequences interspersed with self-deprecating humor, inventive terms like "Parkinson's pop-lock" and "evolved T Rex hold" exploding between long pulls and titanic effort on small holds.





All too soon, I had to run away to work, but promised to return the next day.  Mike hiked down to grab his bivvy gear, his plan to throw down at the foot of the wall for the night, as he had many times in the past.  I went off to fry wings and burgers and try to make a living in the nadir of employment that is Petersburg, WV.

The next day I was back, after initial technical difficulties, with Cindy in tow and a bag of hot, fresh, homemade breakfast burritos in the top of my pack.  A grateful Mr. F chowed with gusto as we tossed down packs and climbed into harness.  We warmed up on his moderate Second Rule, debating the relocation of the final bolt for better clipping, reminiscing on the first ascent, enjoying the morning with just the three of us and a sky full of broken clouds.

Mike took a burn on his line, but fell at the fourth bolt.  he rallied and sent the rest of the route, then lowered for a rest.  Cindy and I ran up the newly-rebolted "Thieves in the Temple", and the new moves and bolts were just as enjoyable as they had been the week before, grateful confirmation of my decision to slightly change the line for reasons of safety as well as aesthetics.

Later in the afternoon, Mike pulled on his shoes, and put paid to a project he has been working on for the last two and a half years.




We celebrated in the small ways that three friends will, enjoyed a little more climbing and a few more hours at the crag, then hiked down the hill and went our separate ways with hugs and handshakes and smiles all around.

Today it's back to the grind; incompetent local bureaucracy, inconsiderate neighbors, idiot landlord, new job, worries for aging parents and step daughter and grandchild, uncertainty and frustration for that colony of imbeciles running our nation into the ground in D.C., watching my hairline and muscle mass recede, fighting old age and pushing through the dross and drudgery of day-to-day.

Until next time...


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Take a Stand for Arizona


The amazing formations of Apache Leap, just outside Superior, Arizona.  All of this could be destroyed if the proposed land swap with Resolution Copper goes ahead.


Yo, CLIMBERS and other lovers of America and our outdoors-

Arizona climbers need your help!

There is a vote scheduled for this Thursday, September 19th in the US House of Representatives on legislation that would trade away the popular Oak Flat climbing area in Arizona to Resolution Copper Mining, a foreign owned mining company.

All 435 members of the House of Representatives will have the opportunity to cast a vote on this legislation, yet many of them know little or nothing about the bill except what the bill sponsors have told them.

If this bill (HR 687) should become law, it will result in the largest loss of a climbing resource in the history of the United States. The bill also poses major environmental and Native American concerns. HR 687 is an example of bad, special interest legislation and passage could establish a terrible precedent.

Your Congressional representative will have the opportunity to cast a vote on this legislation, and we need your help to let him/her know of the many valid reasons to vote "NO" on HR 687.

Please take a moment and call or email your Congressman or Congresswoman today.

Visit our Action Center to send a letter through our easy-to-use advocacy tool (
http://www.accessfund.org/c.tmL5KhNWLrH/b.5208267/k.8C84/Action_Center/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=tmL5KhNWLrH&b=5208267&aid=520296)
that will automatically identify your Representative. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

For What It's Worth...

So it comes down to this: Cannabis is not a drug. 

Oxycodone and Valium and Zanex and Zoloft are drugs. 

Cannabis is addictive. Like power and money and sex and chocolate, Assassin's Creed and Halo and Oprah, the Home Shopping Network and Jersey Shore and NCIS are addictive. Going through rehab is something thousands of juvenile cannabis consumers do each year, earning private rehab centers millions of dollars in the process and guaranteeing healthy bonuses for administrators and equally healthy stock dividends for investors, many of whom are judges and government officials.  

However, checking into a rehab center does NOT prove that anyone is actually "addicted", since the alternative is often to have uninvited conjugal visits from a your fellow inmates and the trustees during your year in state lock-up, the fist inside the glove of judicial compassion dispensed to those who fail to recognize their addiction to the evil weed.  

Ironically, one of the conditions of release is often rehab, so they get you coming or going, in the end.

Cannabis and its cousin hemp have probably been the subject of more government disinformation, more cultural frenzy, more religious hyperbole and more unjust persecution that any other plant in history, bar none.  To paraphrase a statement once made about Appalachia, there is more known about cannabis that is not true than any other plant on earth.

Cannabis is a plant, one with an incredibly long history that winds throughout most of the nations on earth, making it pretty distinctive in that one detail alone. Various parts of the cannabis plant have been used by people the world over, throughout history, to build houses, make paper, weave clothes and make rugs.  It has been smoked and eaten as an intoxicant, prescribed as an analgesic and has been included in hundreds if not thousands of herbal medicines for over seven thousand years- all without a single recorded fatality.

Right now, there are some incredibly important people in my life who could benefit from open, unrestricted, unprejudiced research into the medical properties and applications of this amazing, misunderstood plant. A man who admittedly used it strictly for recreational purposes, a man who still reached the highest office in this land, says that the Federal Government will not persecute the users and possessors of this plant in two out of the fifty United States, Colorado and Washington, as the Federal government waits to see how the will of the people plays out and reels back from grassroots efforts that have resoundingly rejected recent politically-expedient legislation.

But the rest of us are on our own. The former cannabis user on Pennsylvania Avenue refuses to order the DEA to reschedule a drug that is classified as having no medical benefits despite the paradox that the government he heads holds two medical patents on drugs incorporating elements of this plant. 

Despite the fact that even the most conservative polls show that well over 60% of the country wants a change in the dialogue and focus of the Drug War, the man elected to lead our government in interpreting and obeying our collective will instead refuses to shift the focus of the DEA to stopping the flow of methamphetamines and oxy-/hydrocodone along the East Coast and throughout the Southwest.  Between three and fifteen people die each day from each of these drugs, and the associated costs in terms of property destroyed and law enforcement is counted in the millions.  But well over half of the budget of the Drug Enforcement Agency still goes toward the harassment, arrest, and imprisonment of people who simply choose another system of healing, another perspective on life or another vector of recreation. 

Supported by a Congress whose integrity has long since been compromised by large contributions from major pharmaceutical companies and other special interests, former Choom Ganger Barack Obama refuses to restore the right of American farmers to grow hemp, the non-intoxicating cousin of cannabis indica that is a historic cornerstone of American agriculture, having grown on the farms of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln; a crop that turned the tide durring World War Two as farmers were urged to "Grow Hemp for Victory!"  

Hemp actually has as much if not more medical potential than its THC-rich cousin, due the high levels of cannabinoids and cannabidiols, compounds that are opening new doors to natural healing every day, as we recover knowledge long-lost to prejudice and ignorance.  Hemp is an incredibly hardy, versatile crop that could single-handedly reverse the fortunes of hundreds of small farming communities and thousands of small farms and farm families. In this continuing Prohibition, Obama is continuing a tradition established by both Democrat and Republican Presidents before him back to Richard Nixon... promising America freedom and liberty, and leaving her wrapped in chains.

We are less free than the colonists before the revolution, less free than the citizens of this nation before the Civil War.

How long do we watch our loved ones suffer and our nation decline because we cannot get past this one simple point? How long do we turn a blind eye to raids, beatings, and shootings right here on our own soil, while we are distracted with wars decades in the planning, misled from the pulpits and inundated with canned events carefully staged and in some cases even orchestrated by our intelligence communities, the media, the politicians and the puppet masters behind them who pull the strings of stock market and public opinion?

With the economy and public confidence still at an all-time slow, why are we attacking- sorry, "sending in advisers and training freedom fighters"- in yet another Middle Eastern country, setting the stage for incrreasing involvement and another decade or so of killing hundreds if not thousands of our sons and daughters, and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, spedning billions of dollars we don't have to defend rebels who mostly hate us and who admit to using the same weapons from which we are supposedly trying to defend them? 

If defending people from an unjust government is the goal of our military, they have work to do a lot closer to home.  As far as I know, Syria isn't selling meth, running guns and putting 12 year old hookers on the streets of America, unlike some of the people so recently armed by Eric Holder and his boss.  Maybe those are more worthy targets for an application of our military might.  

Wouldn't putting the family heads of the cartels and the officers and thugs of the dictatorships and regimes six feet under strengthen border security and stabilize the region directly attached to the United States?  Wouldn't encouraging democracy and improving economic conditions in Latin and South America increase literacy, reduce birth rates, decrease illegal immigration, reduce federal law and INS budget needs, reduce the flow of guns and drugs in both directions across the border, and encourage tourism and businesses on both sides?  

Why are we attacking old people, veterans, and sick people in this nation, killing seniors who refuse their medications and imprisoning patients who seek their own answers, rather than respecting their choices and giving them the tools to avoid a lifetime of addiction and half-measured treatments?

Why is cannabis the ONLY thing the American Cancer Society won't try to use in its "Fight for the Cure"?

Why allow research labs to try to find a way to CAUSE avian flue to cross over into humans, but deny researchers the right to investigate the properties of cannabis and hemp, and the ways in which THC, CBD, and CBN could be used to improve the quality of life, to heal and cure?

Why must cannabis users die so that corporations and police unions can live?