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


Monday, October 12, 2015

One More For the Road: Not a Trace

My wife and I have been living and working in Elevenmile Canyon, just off Route 24, acting as campground hosts and front booth staff in the Pike national forest outside Lake George, Colorado.

Every week, all week long, scores of climbers, climbing guides, and their clients pour through the gate, many of their vehicles sporting Access Fund stickers.

Boulder, Colorado, the corporate home of the Access Fund, is two and a half hours away, three at the most.

There is not a single established trail leading to any of the dozen crags inside and surrounding the canyon.

There has not, this year, been an Adopt-A-Crag in Elevenmile, nor is there any sign that there has been one since before the fires of 2012.

My fellow campground hosts and employees had never heard of such a thing, save some efforts by Colorado College to shore up the canyon's two hiking trails, one of which is a prime climbing access highway that sees little or no climber maintenance.

The pretty much unanimous sentiment in the local community and among the service personnel of the several government and private agencies that administer this land is that climbers leave trash and impact while trying to camp without paying, which is when they usually abandon burning fires; either that, or while arguing about leashing their dogs and paying the day use fees 'because we came in at night'.

So keep sending in that $100 every year, although I think that's pretty steep for a bumper sticker and T-shirt, if you've got it, flaunt it.

It's obviously doing a lot of good in the AF's home state; how about yours?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Other roads, other worlds

No rants, no politics, just pictures, videos and stories of friends, climbs, places we've discovered and trails we've walked.

Tales From a Gypsy Campfire

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy trails

That's it, campers.

End of the song, last bow, final curtain call.

Two weeks in the desert have driven home some reminders, while others lay patiently waiting along old trails, long forgotten, overgrown by manzanita, shaded by yucca and guarded by groves of cholla and weathered oaks.

There is nothing more to say.

It's been a long and winding road, some of it light, much of it dark, often rocky and uphill, in storms.

I've advocated responsibility and put my own hands and resources to the task of caring for the places I've developed and discovered.

I've tried to pass that vision along, and to advocate for the climbers of the world to do the same; to preserve and protect our heritage of non-commercial independence and day-to-day environmentalism, to accept that for every freedom, we inherit a dozen responsibilities.

I've watched a generation come out of the gyms, with urban sensibilities and a city-dweller's earnest, clueless approach to the forest and the world beyond the magazine articles, with the latest gear in their packs and the media-hyped, corporately-sponsored causes of the day on their lips.

Some have taken up the torch, put their hands to work and their money where their mouths are.

Most have not.

Long past time to admit the truth.

There is no winning this argument; the deck is marked, the dice are loaded, the house is crooked, and the other players are not showing all their cards, while the very best, among whom I cannot be counted, are carrying the fight, albeit against strong odds, to an enemy who cannot be quickly or easily defeated, not without severe and in the end fatal concessions.

Nothing we can say or do or tell ourselves can change this, short of a complete replacement and overhaul of the way business is done, in the United States Congress and the White House.

As well as among climbers and their organizations.

Take a good hard look at how much your advocates and groups, organizations and icons value your input and opinions, how much credit is given to the members and the climbing community, when compared to the constant  linking of every new "campaign" and "educational program" and "pact" to some corporate source or another.

Here's a clue- if you don't know everything they're doing, you don't know everything they're doing.

Get it?

Some of that is probably for everyone's good, and some of that just might run completely counter, whether by design or not, to everything the members pay for and the mission statement they were sold.

Old news, I know; 'though down this road we've been so many times', etc.

There are good people, some truly great people, some of whom used to be friends, many of whom still are, putting up new lines, taking care of trails and anchors, and getting to know all the not-quite-so-lost and no-longer-quite-so-secret places of Smoke Hole and the surrounding crags of West Virginia.

Some of them even give the Access Fund grief, when the Fund deserves it, just for fun, and to make an ornery old man smile.

There are also a contingent of elite professionals who give back very little to the places where they earn a living, unless you count trespass and exponential impact as a contribution.

I have been waiting for the Regional Coordinator to admit  that he doesn't want to do trail work or coordinate anything more complex that the next Chilifest, for years now... and every year, the advocates give him their stamp of approval, with no clue how the locals upon whose land he and his employees have trespassed feel about them or the organization they represent.

This month, I spent two weeks watching the clusterfoxtrot that is and will continue to be the fight for Oak Flat, I saw good people as well as a lot of folks with very private agendas trying to make their way through that maze.

I thank you all and I wish you well. I will continue to support the fight for as long as it lasts.

We hiked old trails, found a lot of new things and re-discovered some others. I spent a lot of time laughing and remembering with my wife, recalling the good points and bad in our journeys, many of both found here in the crags and along the plateau of Gaan Canyon and Oak Flat.

We reaffirmed our faiths, our determined commitment to speak the truth as we see it and live as we must to be free. We started some new ideas and let go of some things.

This is one of the things I am letting go.

I spent a lot of time, over the last three or four months, in thought about my beginnings, about the sport I knew, and I looked back at the slow decline of climbing from a passion and obsession among oddballs and outcasts, a discipline, the most useless of arts, carried on far from the madding crowd, a dream of measuring yourself against something more, now awakened to a live streaming debacle that celebrated every detail of a middle class white American team, both of them basically raised to climb rock, funded by every major manufacturer of gear and shamelessly sold by every form of climbing media, ascending a decades-old aid line while the same climbing press and supposed community, and the world, almost completely ignored the fact that the Federal government is, for the first time in history, giving National Forest Lands, sacred to the San Carlos Apache, to a foreign corporation.  

I'm sorry, but maybe I'm just dense; is there actually something more important in the way of access issues than a corporation, three greasy state reps, and a has-been Presidential wannabe using midnight politics to force this country to trade traditionally-used public lands and allow a form of mining that will, within a few decades, render it forever off-limits to all human life, potentially obliterating historic landmarks, while using more water than nearby towns and poisoning the Queen Creek community, all without benefiting Superior, Arizona, or America in any long-term, proven way?

I have beaten my head against this wall for too long. I said things that have offended major celebrities of the sport, and perhaps I have, from time to time, leaped far beyond the boundaries of good taste.

(Bobbi, I was always a huge fan, really. I was just following John Sherman's lead... seems to be the popular thing to do.)

To me the answer is obvious, and I cannot, I will not accept that there is any other way that the question can or need be phrased.

Do you support and defend the right of Americans to climb on, to keep and enjoy their public lands, or will you dine with the Devil?

Best bring a long-handled spoon.

I'll leave you to it.

Happy trails.

West Virginia to Colorado to Arizona: The Gypsies Spend A Week at Oak Flat

Crossing into New Mexico via Raton Pass; miles of rock, and no one climbing.

Winter weather gilds the desert

Sunset Point, on the way south from Flagstaff to the Valley of the Sun

"Don't think we're in Kansas, any more, Toto."

Upper and Lower Gaan Canyon, from the Northern plateau