Friday, June 21, 2013

From Moab

From Moab:
Dates: 6/15-6/20
Section: 190m
VL Mileage: 1226.5m
I had a great week in Moab. I finally got a well-deserved rest without any disruptions and route planning and preparations. Well, I had at least 3 days of pure rest.  The last days of rest in Moab I tried to rid myself of a stomach ailment as well as a minor bout of poison ivy, most likely acquired in Courthouse Wash on my last day of the Hayduke Trail.

I left Friday, the 15th. I had to. I got wind of wildfires scorching land and forests near areas where I would be walking. The VL had been all about chasing water. It still is, however, now I have to chase fires, or outrun them.

My first day I slugged up almost 27m and 7,000ft into the La Sal Mountains. My stomach growled and I hesitantly hiked on with a cautious mindstate. The higher I climbed the better I felt. I had a feeling in Moab that once I hit dirt I would be okay. The air cooled and my brain was no longer being boiled like it had been for the past 2 weeks. Dark, stormy clouds moved in from the west and thundering booms reverberated off the high 13,oooft peaks. That night I laid down under a sub-alpine conifer with a fanning foliage to keep me dry from the booming storm. I set up my tarp and through the translucent cuben fiber I observed quick, bright flashes of lightning and heard pealed, sharp claps of thunder. I slowly fell asleep through all the jolting.

The next morning everything was wet. The grass, the trees, the road, the dirt, but not me. I made quick miles down the other side of the La Sals and noticed how much different the biosphere. Verdant and green, large meadows covered the mountains. Huge ponderosas stood guard in huge open glades of green grass. Ultimately, I walked out of the steppe of the La Sals and into Paradox Valley. I found my first hut and my first warm meal while on trail this season. I cooked me up some mac 'n cheese and napped a wonderful slumber. My stomach eased in its grumbling though I was as gassy as a pack mule. After the hut, I walked another 7m and found camp on a bench overlooking the dry, and mud-caked Dolores River.

The morning was warm as I went up Catch 'em Up Trail. The cattle path zigged and zagged wildly up a mesa's layered wall. The trail seemed right out of the Hayduke. Once on Davis Mesa I intersected a jeep track and moved quickly. The walking was easy and the miles flew on by. At a junction going to the Wedding Bell Hut I took a cut-off saving me about 10m and some time, as well as a more direct route to Durango. I just had to hope for a water source across the arid Dry Creek Basin.

I found water from a water spigot near a cattle trough. The water was cold and straight from an aquifer beneath the barren basin. I gulped and gulped, then breathed out and listened to the gusty, hot wind penetrate through the tough branches of sagebrush. I finally was beginning to feel a bit north of normal. And it showed in my hiking pace. It felt good to be alone, away from town noise. All alone with my thoughts, I let the wind coerce my brain pattern and pitter-patter at my spirit. The sky was big and blue, plenty of space.

But along the way of my crossing of the basin I noticed newly erected oil wells. They weren't scattered about the place but concentrated in a large area really close to each other. Now, normally I wouldn't express to many political views in blog form but I got to thinking. It seems we finally found a use for the Dry Creek Basin. For many years spanning over a century, pioneers tried to farm and cultivate, and ranch and graze the basin. Eventually, the CCC was created in 1934 and had a work center in the valley to help with erosion control mainly. The valley disappointed the folks who lived here. But the H-bomb happened and now the basin was ravaged by uranium and vanadium miners. The radioactive ore boom busted and the basin laid barren until the oil boom began. The rigs sprouted up everywhere to form a silo-edificed city. My thoughts drifted to our lifestyle that supports our raping of the valley. Can't we just let things be, in their natural state? The order of nature was getting that way in the basin. Not any more.

Walking into the tiny hovel of Basin I passed an oil company with a logo of Lone Cone Peak, the prominent conical peak noticeable from almost every point of the valley. I looked away in disgust as I thought the logo a pleasantry of deception. I thought if the area was as pretty as some parts of Utah or Colorado then someone higher up would try and save the area, because there still would be money to be made, then it would be protected. Every single piece of land, if not protected, must be used somehow. That's how things work in this country.

Our American lifestyle is diminishing our spirit as humans. I eyed the oil rigs in disgust. I thought of all the RVs, the ATVs, and other vehicles using fuel. I thought of all the technology trying to help me stay found. Do we honestly think we are free? Freer than most countries, yes. But, the average American is herded like cattle so they think they are free but are actually confined to cities. Fed enough and given enough to make life easier, most complain and do nothing about it. Is it our innate nature to be herded? Maybe so. Not me.

My point is that we should retain the action of wandering, of travelling, of vagabonding, of what Ruess accomplished.

Here's my ramble:

I pondered deeply for a while the state of our country's lifestyle: the greed for more, instant gratification, conveniences, and such. I believe people should undertake a Vagabond Loop of some sorts in their life. I think it doesn't matter the age but if we strive to search at a young age, and it's supported by family and friends and society, we can achieve so much more in life, at least make it fulfilling and significant.
I've met a lot of older people on trail who have said 'I wish I would've...' This bothers me as I see young'ns enrapt in video games, etc. I really believe that a 'sense of place' should be harnessed and taught to our youth. To me it's as important as the 3 Rs. You learn how to interact with people respectfully, you understand the consequences of your actions and how it can affect others, and develop a relationship with the out-of-doors, among a slew of other things. Being outside or going on a wandering you realize it is all a metaphor for real life because it IS real life.

I told my granny yesterday my stomach and metabolism are getting back on track, as I had a stomach bug in Moab. She said it'll get back on track once I'm back in the real world. I told I AM in the real world out here. When I go to a town that's when my stomach and metabolism get screwed up. While hiking this last section I briefly thought 'I'm not listening to my elders anymore.' Except in love and family, of course. But their way of thinking is so archaic. Now, I understand their plight to make things easier for us but look at what it has done. It is even more evident in the younger because people my age and a bit older have made it even easier. How do we change a lifestyle so prevalent by millions of Americans? I think: walk, just go wander.

It is a shame to say that wandering like Ruess did maybe a lost art, or cause. Industry, tourism, population growth, urban growth, private land have changed the landscape, even technology, such as GIS and GPS. I realized this while walking. Our human footprint, our relatively new human footprint, is seen everywhere, and all just to fuel/enable a lifestyle. Imagine the landscape when Ruess walked. Hardly any roads, scarcely a mining operation or an oil rig, only a few cultures. Now, we can go every single place in the world just on a computer image. Ruess disappeared in 1934, almost pre-CCC. He walked into a veritable frontier with hardly any signs of man. He was free to wander according to his personality and what the land and natives presented or communicated with him. Constantly, everyday, I intersect roads, even in wilderness areas; GPS has marked the globe, mines pilings are littered everywhere, etc. Why must we try and conquer or make our lives easier when we cannot even sit alone somewhere and do nothing and figure out our selves? There is so much life in this world. But we ignore it, purposefully. 

 I look at the positive: people can go on a 'Vagabond Loop' because that is precisely what we've built in the states: trails! Our trail system is the most intricate and developed in the world. But because our lifestyle says we've got to slave away at a 9-5, then retire, then try and enjoy something when were too old, we cannot. So, our relationship with the world is developed when we can hardly move from our RV!

Do you know trail funds come from highway funds? Think about how great our roads are. Amazing right? Now, some of our trails are being lost, or letting nature take it back. Most of these areas are in wilderness. So, that leads me to believe that if trails in the deeper reaches of wilderness are being neglected then as humans we are neglecting the deepest reaches of our mind and spirit. Wandering and wilderness are on the way out. I adamantly defy that and say that is the only thing worth fighting for!

I know who I sound like, and I am damn proud of it.

I go light-weight to live responsibly, to live simply, to minimize my impact on the world and others; I go light so as to try to wander in a marked, manipulated, expended and used world. I go light to not be 'extra.' I wander to search, to be free. I am different than Ruess, though I admire him greatly. I've got a personality flaw that is enabled more by our 'take more' society: driven and goal-oriented. Everett floated, roved and roamed; I mash with intent. But our premise is the same, our essence fuels our existence.

I sauntered onward on this leg of the VL encountering hut after hut. I was grateful and amazed each time I entered a hut. Food stocked the shelves and the huts were in tip-top shape. You could tell someone cared for them. The funny thing to me was that every time I entered, rested, and left the hut I felt like the Ridgerunner of the Bitterroot-Selway area in Idaho in the 1940s, another elusive loner of the wilderness, who broke into Forest Service cabins to pillage goods and food. I, of course, had permission and a key to enter, rest, and eat in the hut. But the elusiveness and roving about struck a chord with me while going from hut to hut.
I mashed and mashed, putting in close to 35m a day for 6 straight days. On the second to last day I met Joe, the owner of the San Juan Hut System. Immediately, I could tell I was in good company, a lover of life and mountains. We spoke with each other for about a half an hour before parting ways. I was really happy to have met him.

So you ask: what do I think about out there? I drift; my mind wanders. Sometimes I reflect on the past for understanding. But more often than not I walk with the current of life and my driven personality. I listen to the wind, and my heart thumps. I watch clouds take shape and re-shape. I especially like this. I squint from the sun's glare. I nap. I breathe, I walk, I think, I face my fears: my inner machine is fueled by the freedom I feel within nature and in my self. Mostly, most acutely mostly, I think of nothing. And feel the most alive I can possibly feel...




  1. Great post, great pics...take care Pal!! Vito

    1. Vito, thx good buddy! Im a little less surly on the newer entry...

  2. That's some epic rambling while rambling! All good thoughts, and a great example of language as a tool to communicate ideas, albeit a feeble tool for expressing the best ideas, toward which you fearlessly stab. I just finished reading Finding Everett Ruess, and now have a better idea of exactly what he accomplished before vanishing at such a young age. I think his story is a great example of youthful rebellion leading to something profound, all due to the serendipity of his escape route of choice - into nature. Many of us were introduced to long-distance hiking via a similar path, though perhaps we appear to flourish less, our legacy comparatively mundane, in proportion to our more oppressive times. We attempt, like Ruess, to wear nature's garments, but find them drab in comparison to the landscapes he was lucky enough (and ultimately unlucky enough) to behold.

    1. Well said blister free. In a way i didnt want to post that rant but i think hiking alone for so long i had to find a way to openly express it. I cannot help but imagine as i walk what the environment, terrain, water sources, and sound mustve been like in ruess' times, even earlier as well. I connect with him. Im from LA. And i rebelled similarly. What makes his rebellion and adventure so impressive is his age. I couldnt imagine doing what im doing at the tender age of 20. But maybe in our oppressive times being 20 now is like being younger than a 20 year old in the 1930s.

      Thanks blister free

  3. Your words and photos are as close to heaven-sent as some will ever see or imagine...thought-provoking at the very least. Ramble on Dirt...

  4. Thanks larry! Im very glad i can share some of the scenes i witness. The world in the most isolated places is simply spectacular...