Monday, December 19, 2011

Coyote Tracks in Dishman Hills

canis latrans

It's becoming something of a ritual for me this winter. Every Saturday I wake up to a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee (Seattle's Best at the moment), and head out for some hiking in the Dishman Hills. It makes sense for me because I live so near to the hills, literally a 5 minute drive to the dirt parking lot down the hill from Camp Caro. I feel like I want to get to know the Dishman Hills. I want to know the trails; the main ones and the more confusing side ones too. I want to know the ravines and the rocks and the trees. I want to know the animals. It's hard to see animals in the wild especially when you're on the move, but there are other ways to get to know them.

 I became interested in tracking after I read a book called The Tracker by one of the most famous modern day trackers Tom Brown Jr. It made me want to pay closer attention to where I was walking and what I was looking at while I was in the woods. Sometimes when you're hiking you can feel yourself slip into autopilot. You put your head down and stare at your feet and power forward, and before you know it a couple miles have slipped passed and you didn't see anything. That is not the way I want to hike.

Scat on top of a small pile of pine needles near the trail

 I wan't to see and feel and be apart of the woods. I want to be able to identify a ponderosa pine when I see one, and look at tracks in mud or snow and know what animal they came from. Seeing tracks while hiking is something that constantly happens. Whether I'm in the Montana backcountry or a park in the middle of Spokane, I am always seeing prints on the trail, and I am always wondering; where do they come from? So I picked up a book on animal tracks a few months ago to try and get some basic education in tracking.

When I'm up in the Dishman Hills (or anywhere in the woods) I'm always looking, and always trying to be mindful of where I'm stepping and what I'm looking at. So it was exciting to me when I realized that I was on to a coyote last Saturday. First I came onto some scat that was sort of laying right beside the trail on top of some pine needles and other debris. It was almost as if it was placed there to be seen like a signpost to other animals. The area I saw the scat however didn't really have much snow so I didn't see any tracks. About maybe a hundred feet further the trail wound deeper into the forest and the snow from a couple days before still lay on the ground, and sure enough between all the boot prints and tire tracks I saw what looked like small coyote prints almost skirting the edge of the trail. Ha! I was totally elated. Okay actually I was still really unsure if what I was looking at was a coyote or a domestic dog, but I consulted my book and now I can say with confidence that it was a coyote.

I never knew I could get so excited over a few prints and pile of shit, but I did! Even though I lost the tracks after a few feet it still felt really cool to know that I found them in the first place. Can't wait to go back next Saturday.
Coyote in a slow side trot.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Final Four

 These are four shots taken of the same mountain in different contexts. In central Idaho near Hell's Canyon there is a Wild and Scenic River called "The Rapid River", The river runs swift and violent and cuts through Ponderosa Pine forests and steep rock canyons in the Nez Perce National Forest and the Hell's Canyon Wilderness.

 One day of a weekend trip we hiked around and explored the beautiful country that the Rapid River flows through. After a long ascent I looked over my shoulder and saw this mountain dominating the skyline.

Naturally, I took tons of photos. It was so beautiful and so commanding and so picturesque. I had a ton to sort through and these were the final four. So I want to know. Which one do you think is the best?

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Will Return

Leona Falls. Can you see my brother?

Outside of the destruction zone caused by the eruption, Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument is a very green and beautiful place.The forest is thick with ferns and lichens and mushrooms and moss covered stone and mighty hemlocks, and at every turn a stream is running down the mountainside and crossing the trail.

If the conditions are right, life can grow on rock.

Did I mention the forest is wet? You can see the dew on the leaves and moisture in the ground. The sound of running water is a constant companion, and It seems at every turn you're rock hopping over a stream or fording an ice cold creek.

My brother fording Goat Creek

In the summer of 2010 we were turned back by snow at the top of Tumwater mounatin. This summer, I will return.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Must be the beard

I am going to talk about work again.

So I work with this Mexican fellow named Ehprain who is a really nice guy, and a big Chicago Bears fan (still owes me a case of beer from the Raider game). Anyway, somehow we got on the subject of age and he voluntarily starts guessing mine... "42 or 43" he says. I'm looking at him dead in the eyes and I see no hint of sarcasm what-so-ever. I tell him I'm actually 33 and he says, "Wow, you look a lot older than that." Now people always tell me I look younger when my beard is nice and clean cut, but to be mistaken for ten years older than I actually am made me realize just how old my beard makes me look when it's long.

42 anyone?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leadership 101

I don't talk shop much. Usually I'm the kind of guy who when someone brings up their work I start day dreaming about trees. Unless of course they actually do something interesting. My mom works in an Emergency Room downtown. Her work stories are good. I work in manufacturing. My work stories are lame. With that being said, I'm going to talk about work now.

Today at work I was told to take over the Hardware department due to the absence of it's lead, who sadly flew to California for a funeral. Now, I had only actually worked in Hardware a handful of times in three years. I knew (and still know) nearly nothing about it. That being said, within an hour I had the department running like a welled oiled machine. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my buddy Ryan, who claims that in order to lead, one must first be an expert in the field of that which one is trying to lead. 

"Mike" he said, "Do you think you could be the President of the United States?"
"Yes, of course. I would make a good president." I replied.
"How's that? Do you know anything about economics? How would you fix the economy?"
"Hmm, I don't know much, I'm not sure how exactly."
"Well then how can you say you would be a good president if you don't know anything about the economy?" He asked, getting excited now as if this were a competition that he'd just won.
"I would appoint the best economists I could find to my economic team and have them write a detailed report, and I would make a decision based off that report." I confidently replied.

Isn't that what real leadership is? Leadership is not about micromanaging or being an expert or the most intelligent. Leadership is about surrounding yourself with the right people, and making the right decisions based off what you learn from those people. If you can do that, you can lead, even if you don't know anything about the field that you are in. It's true.

I proved it when I was made Managing Editor of the newspaper in college after only one quarter as a staff writer and having virtually no experience at editing ever. I proved it again at work today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Does it get any better?

Mu Uncle Steve fishing on Heart Lake in Montana

Nothing beats fishing a mountain lake, even if you're only catching pan fries. At Heart Lake one morning in Montana's proposed Great Burn Wilderness my Uncle Steve fished for a couple hours only to catch one little 8 inch trout, but the smile on his face told me that he loved every minute of it. When you're in a place as remote and as beautiful as Heart Lake, it's just being there that counts.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Little Guy

Purple Shore Crab
Purple Shore Crab

While hiking on the coast in Olympic National Park I saw this Purple Shore Crab. He was a little guy but he sure was pissed about me shoving my camera in his face.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In the Clouds

 I shot this in Glacier Park last year. We were standing in a cloud on a mountainside around 7,000' and there was just enough break in the clouds that I saw some mountaintops peeking out from the other side of this huge valley. It was pretty epic. Actually, it was magical.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hello Again

Me enjoying a Seven Devils sunset
I feel like I've been in hibernation. Tucked away in a cave somewhere sleeping the season away. In my case it was the whole year I slept away. Hiking be damned. Writing be damned. Life be damned. If I wrote a book about this year I might call it: "The Year I Nearly Drowned In A Sea of My Own Self Pity."

Wow, I can't believe 2011 is almost over. The year I was supposed to hike the Appalachian Trail. The year I suffered three serious injuries back-to-back-to-back that completely derailed my AT dreams. I can't help but feeling like I missed the boat. Like I missed my chance. Instead of taking the trip of a lifetime I took two ambulance rides to the ER...

Didn't I tell you after my back fiasco I got into a freak accident with an exercise band and temporarily blinded myself? It was brutal to say the least. The band stretched to it's limit broke free of the door jam and in a millisecond hit me in the face directly in both of my open eyes. The lights went out and I dropped to my knees in the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced. Seriously, this pain made my back feel like a sore muscle. I literally writhed in agony on the floor sobbing like a baby for 10 minutes straight. When the panic left  and I was still blind I realized I needed help... I searched for my phone by feel in the blackness. Gliding my hands over my bed, the chair, and finally the table where I found it. I voice dialed my Grandmother who called 911. It took nearly two days to get some of my sight back, and my first vision test I scored something like 20/500.

All injuries aside, I feel great coming into 2012. All my traditional aches and pains seem to have subsided and my new ones are healed up. I feel like hiking. I feel like writing.

It's a shame The Northwest Men's Magazine didn't last. I only wrote one story for it, and it turned out to be about the only thing I wrote all year long. I'm leaving that in the rearview mirror now and wondering where I can go next. I think a good start will be my blog.

2011 was a short hiking season for me. I didn't get anywhere near accomplishing the goals I set forth at the end of last year. So 2012 has to be the year I make up for that. No, I can't do the AT, my moment has passed (for now), the stars aren't aligned.

As inactive as I was in 2011 I still had a chance to hike the entire Seven Devils loop trail in the Hell's Canyon wilderness. We spent 5 days and 4 nights and logged about 50 miles total. I had an amazing time. The scenery was the best I'd seen yet, and apart from the worst mosquito swarms I'd ever seen, it was a perfect trip. It's always hard for me to go back. I remember my last day out there and all I could think was that I wish I could just keep going...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The King of Badger Lake

Fly fishing for me has always conjured a certain image in my mind...

Of a mystical Montana river winding purposely through an old pine forest. Swarms of insects fill the air, whirling about in a frenzy just above the waters surface. A lone man stands knee deep in water near the bank, and unlike most men of our age, he seems to belong. His earth-toned clothes and full brimmed hat match the shade of the evergreens, and compliment the deep orange bark of the huge Ponderosas. He holds a rod in his hand that he rhythmically whips back-and-forth, sending a line soaring gracefully through the sky, like a leaf on the wind, over his head and out to to his front, and back again...

If that sounded eerily like the movie “A River Runs Through It” it's because that's what I'm describing. Brad Pitt as Paul Maclean, fly fishing Montana's famed Blackfoot River in one of the classic guy movies of all time. It also happened to be my only concept of fly fishing.

Fly fishing on Badger Lake

So you can imagine my confusion after I was invited by the President of the Spokane Fly Fishers, Mike Berube, to go fly fishing on a lake, and from a boat. It wasn't quite what I had pictured in the minds eye, and being a total rookie I didn't have any gear. Again I was reminded of “A River Runs Through It”. The scene where the story telling brother-in-law shows up late for fly fishing, drunk with a can of worms.

Not that I was planning on showing up drunk with a can of worms, but I didn't want to be that guy. You know, the guy with no gear, who doesn't know what he's doing, who the others have to babysit. Luckily Mike was nice enough to supply most of what I needed: pontoon boat, flippers, life vest, rods and reels, flies, and a “crash course” in the art of fly fishing

It was a beautiful day on Badger Lake. A few clouds drifted lazily through an otherwise clear blue sky, and a slight breeze blew over the calm lake. Mike started me off with an Olive Willy fly and a sinking line. Still too shy to attempt a cast I was sure would make me look like a buffoon, I dropped the fly in front of my boat and released more line as I paddled across the water.

Not much action on the water. No fish jumping. I passed (and almost crashed into) several anglers from the club. “ Any luck?” I would say. “Had one on, but he got away” they would reply. It would be a reoccurring theme.
An hour went by and no bites, and as the sun crept toward the western horizon the lake was quiet except the sound of chatting fly fisherman. The Spokane Fly Fishers take trips together like this frequently. Throughout the year they fish some of the hot spots the region has to offer, like Badger Lake, Williams, St Joe River, Clark Fork, and even the mythological Blackfoot. With about 300 members they seem like a tight group. They talked about flies and lines, and fondly reminisced about fishing trips past. They asked politely about the wife and kids. They admired the beautiful day and were thankful for the sunshine. They wondered where the fish were...

That's when I heard it. A huge splash behind my boat, so loud that it startled me awake from my contemplative state. I turned around to see a large bird of prey lift off from the waters surface. It was big. A wingspan of four feet easy. It beat its powerful wings and climbed back to the sky, where it circled once and landed on top of the tallest tree on the lake shore. It sat there like a king on a throne, head turning from side-to-side, surveying his domain.

The King of Badger Lake

We watched the Osprey throughout the afternoon, circling the lake and diving in on unsuspecting trout. A dozen times it hit the water at high speed, sometimes coming up with a fish, and sometimes not. “At least someone is catching fish” I thought. Then it occurred to me. If the Osprey is catching fish then they must be at the surface.

I switched to my other rod set up with a strike indicator and a Bloodworm to fish near the surface. My pathetic cast landed only a few feet from the boat, and as I was paddling my feet to put some distance between me and the fly, a fish hit. I pulled up on the rod and a magnificent trout sprang from the water, the sun glistening off rainbow colored scales. Heart racing I reeled and jerked the rod. The fish fought like hell, repeatedly leaping into the air in a desperate attempt to break free. For a brief moment I felt like the old man in Hemingway's “The Old Man and the Sea”. I'm not that old, Badger Lake isn't exactly the sea, and a small rainbow trout isn’t exactly a marlin, but that’s how I felt. As I drew the fish ever closer to the boat I could hear Mike hollering, “Hold on Mike, I'm coming,” but before he could reach me with the net, my marlin spit the hook and disappeared.

I blew it. My moment of glory undone by my clumsy handling of the unfamiliar rod and reel, and a tenacious fish. As the sun faded and the temperature dropped, the action on the lake picked up. Trout who seemingly lay dormant throughout the day suddenly sprang into action, and everywhere I turned they were jumping. I would like to tell you that this is when the slaying started, but that was not the case. There was only one trout slayer on the lake that day. He wasn't fly fishing, or trolling a spinner, or sinking a worm from a lawn chair on the shore. He was spying fish from the treetops and diving from the sky like a bolt of lightning from heaven.

In the parking lot at the end of the day, a few of the fly fishers were chatting over cold beers. The talk was of why the fish weren't biting. Someone theorized about a full moon and a mix of low and high pressure systems. “The osprey did alright,” I said. The general consensus was that he caught at least five. I thanked Mike and shook hands all around. Alone with my thoughts on the drive home, I kept coming back to the Osprey. He gave us all a fishing lesson today. He was the King of Badger Lake

Badger Lake

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Northwest Men's Journal

For anyone who is interested.

The Spokane Men's Journal has gone regional and changed thier name to Northwest Men's Magazine. Not only will it serve Spokane, but Portland, Seattle, and Boise as well. Because of this expansion the launch date was pushed back to July. I have an article and several photo's in already, and plan on writing at least one more piece for the magazine this month so I should have two story's and about a half dozen photos in the first issue. Anyways, if you wan't to follow along and check out the magazine and my work and stuff then you can go to the page and subscribe. Right now it's free but I think eventually they are going to charge... So yeah, I think that's it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lessons learned.. From Johnny Cash

A young cowboy named Billy Joe

grew restless on the farm

A boy filled with wonderlust

who really meant no harm

He changed his clothes and shined his boots

and combed his dark hair down

And his mother cried as he walked out

Don't take your guns to town, son

leave your guns at home, Bill

don't take your guns to town

He laughed and kissed his mom and said

you're Billy Joe's a man

I can shoot as quick and straight

as anybody can

But, I wouldn't shoot without a cause

I'd gun nobody down

But she cried again as he rode away

Don't take your guns to town, son

leave your guns at home, Bill

don't take your guns to town.

He sang a song as on he rode

his guns hung at his hips

he rode into a cattle town

a smile upon his lips

He stopped and walked into a bar

and laid his money down

but his mother's words echoed again

don't take your guns to town, son

leave your guns at home, Bill

don't take your guns to town.

He drank his first strong liquor

then to calm his shaking hand

and tried to tell himself at last

he had become a man

a dusty cowpoke at his

began to laugh him down

and he heard again his mother's words

don't take your guns to town, son

leave your guns at home, Bill

don't take your guns to town.

Filled with rage then Billy Joe

reached for his gun to draw

but the stranger drew his gun and fired

before he even saw

As Billy Joe fell to the floor

the crowd all gathered round

and wondered at his final words

don't take your guns to town, son

leave your guns at home, Bill

don't take your guns to town."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The most important things

"The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a tellar but for want of an understanding ear."

Stephen King

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sloth Bear

When you think of large predators, especially in India, one usually thinks of a Bengal tiger. Last night I was watching National Geographic and they were talking about a species of bear in India and Sri-Lanka called the Sloth Bear. Although not actually related to the sloth, this bear, appears slow, has long curved claws like a sloth, and feeds primarily on ants and termites. What really caught my attention however was the aggressive nature of the sloth bear, and how it is known throughout India as one of the most dangerous animals in the country. The sloth bear is known to attack completely unprovoked, and usually charges humans on sight. The really scary part is that this particular bear always goes for the face. Attack victims usually have their noses, ears, lips, and eyelids torn off. Even survivors are usually maimed for life.

It may be my own morbid curiosity, but really I think it's my fascination with bears (and animals in general), but after learning a little about this savage little known bear on the television I immediately had to know more. I picked up my laptop and did some research and found some really interesting stuff. First of all it's not that big for a bear. They typically weigh around 200 pounds, the largest adults topping out at around 300, which is smaller than even the American black bear. What sets the sloth bear apart however is it's aggressiveness and fierce reputation among the Indians. In fact I read on one website that Indians fear the sloth bear more than Bengal tigers and the country’s dozens of killer snakes, including pythons, Russels vipers (which in itself is amazing because this snake kills thousands of people worldwide every year), and even cobra's. In fact in Mammalia of India, Robert Sterndale writes:

The sloth bear is also more inclined to attack man unprovoked than almost any other animal, and casualties inflicted by it are unfortunately very common, the victim being often terribly disfigured even if not killed, as the bear strikes at the head and face. Blanford was inclined to consider bears more dangerous than tigers...

This fearsome reputation no doubt is a direct result of the animals aggressiveness and tendency to maul the face, but sloth bears apparently also have a taste for limbs. Instead of killing the human victim outright sloth bears will gnaw, chew, and suckle on the limbs, while the victim is still alive and pinned underneath. Oddly enough sloth bears don’t actually eat the victims, but instead run away after a good mauling. Scientists say this is because sloth bears view humans not as prey, but as predators, and that this behavior is also exhibited toward Bengal tigers and Indian leopards.

Numbers for the entire country of India seem non-existent but some regional statistics are:

  • In the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh between 1989 and 1994, sloth bears killed 48 people and injured 686 others.

  • In the Indian State of Chhattisgarh between 1998 and 2000, sloth bears attacked 137 people and killed 11.

Now, there are 28 states and 7 territories in India, and over one billion people. Though the sloth bears range is limited due to habitat loss, and the fact that they prefer lower, heavily wooded areas, one can still imagine that the number of sloth bear attacks on humans per year is probably pretty high, just based off of those numbers.

I said before that sloth bears generally don't eat their human victims, but I did find one notorious case of a man-eater known as “The Sloth bear of Mysore”. This one bear mauled 36 people, killing 12. Eventually after several unsuccessful hunts, the bear was finally shot and killed. I won't go into details, but the story is well documented and can be read about here:

It's amazing how many people die in India every year from wild animals. I could have sworn the documentary I was watching last night claimed something like 20,000 people every year are killed by wild animals. I couldn't find anything to support that (although admittedly I don’t have the resources of National Geographic) but I did find a very interesting New York Times article from 1882 that gave a figure of 21,990 deaths in 1880. The animals listed as responsible are more of the usual suspects, tigers, wolves, and snakes (being the big one), but no sloth bears. You can read the article here:

Considering that India now has over a billion people it's not really hard to imagine that with such a plethora of deadly animals that number could be accurate even today. Especially considering that rural India is still very much 3rd world. Lacking modern emergency services, or even communications and transportation systems, one can easily see how someone in India could die from an infection or broken leg, let alone a wild animal attack.

Anyways, I just thought it was interesting that there existed this bear that I'd never heard of that was so notorious. Oddly enough, one of the things I read is that sloth bears are easily tamable. I know, it doesn't really jive with their reputation, but apparently they are even trained to dance. It's actually quite cruel. They are poached as cubes, their nose is pierced and a rope passed through it for easy control. You can read about it here:

I don't know where I'm going with this, and am really just thinking out loud. You know whats really funny though? I actually think about stuff like this all the damn time.

Here are my other references I used:

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm at a funeral....

I am at a funeral. It's my cousins but I did not know her that well. When I look around I see many strange faces. Even the faces of the people I know are strange. They are my blood, but the years between visits make things unfamiliar. My cousins name was Delane. She lived in the same town as me. I hadn’t seen her in many years. In December the doctors said she had cancer, and now she's dead.

My mom told me that she sat at her bedside in the hospital and cried. I feel sad for my mom. When I look around the church and I see other people cry I feel sad for them too. Ever since I was a kid it was hard for me to see people cry. I guess I should be crying too but I am not hurting like I should be. I loved my cousin but I didn't really know her.

It's not that I don't have heart, because I do. Everyone knows that I am the one who always cries. It's pathetic. I cry sometimes when I watch movies, even during scenes that I don't think the movies makers intended for people to cry. Sometimes I cry when I watch shows on tv. On my favorite show LOST I probably cried a couple dozen times.

I can usually hide it really well. I angle my face slightly away from whoever is watching with me. I make a fist with one hand, (usually the hand closest to the person) and bring it up to rest my face against, like I was tired or something. And sometimes, if it's a particularly sad scene (like when Sawyer and Juliette meet again at the end of LOST) I will make a coughing sound. That way if someone hears me sniffling, they'll think that I am coming down with a cold, instead of crying.

The sad part is that I knew the characters on the show LOST better than my own cousin. But I guess that’s what time does to relationships sometimes. Not that it's the fault of time, but rather the result of it, sometimes. I've heard that some people don't even speak to their own parents. They grow up and find a career and a family, and they have insurance payments and mortgages and dance lessons, and they get too wrapped up in their own lives to bother in the lives of other people. It's much easier to worry about yourself.

Or maybe it's just that some people are too hard headed. That’s especially true with men I think; too stubborn and too proud. In school I used to fight all the time, and my teachers would often say, “Mike, it takes a bigger man to walk away.” At the time I always thought they were just trying to trick me into not getting into trouble. Now though, I see that there is some truth behind those words. It does take something more, something bigger, to reach out to someone and say, “Just calling to say hi and see how you're doing,” or “Can I help you with something?” or just plain, “I love you.”... I know this because I want to do it all the time, but I am too hard headed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I am on a stretcher...

I am on a stretcher being pushed through the narrow corridors of the much-too-brightly lit emergency room. My left arm draped over my face covering my eyes. Not from the light, but from my own embarrassment. When kids are embarrassed they cover their eyes, or hide behind someone, and that’s what I feel like, a little kid. It’s weird how men feel embarrassed and ashamed when we get hurt. It’s as if we’ve failed at something… As if we’ve been beaten.

It’s as if the castle walls that have stood for an age guarding our secret truths have been besieged. The mighty stone blocks fixed around us, protecting our child’s heart, cracked. And if someone is paying attention, if someone is looking close enough, they can see that you’re not so tough after all. They can peer through the fracture and see that little boy who cringes wide-eyed in fear in the dark of his bedroom when the adults yell and fight. They can see the teenage boy, smile etched on his face, aglow with the boundless hope that the cute girl at school will feel the same way about him as he does for her… They can see the sorrow on his face when he finds out she doesn’t… she never does.

I have my own room now. My doctor tells me I need an MRI, but my insurance won’t cover it. In the meantime it’s lots of drugs. My mom is there. She always takes care of me when I’m hurt. She loves me and that is comforting. The love moms have for their children is so strong that I think non-moms don’t really understand. My mom used to say to me, “Michael, do you know how much I love you?” And I would reply, “Yes, of course I do mom.” But I really didn’t have a clue. Mom’s love completely transcends understanding. It’s a force, stronger than the pyramids, more powerful than the atom, deeper than the deepest ocean abyss. Mom’s love is life itself.

The doctor sends me home, but instead I go to my grandmas. She will take care of me while I heal. I lay on the bed while my mom takes my shoes off and grandma prepares some lunch. I know I am blessed to have these women in my life, and I vow then that I would rather die a slow painfully agonizing death than to see either of these women spend one day in a nursing home, because people need to be with the people that they love.

It’s something I learned on New Years. After 4 days of non-stop drinking I awoke Sunday morning feeling like death incarnate. I literally felt like I was going to die. I lay alone on the couch. My heart beating so hard I can see my shirt rising and falling with the rhythm. My chest hurt, I couldn’t breathe. None of my family or friends were answering the phone. I began to cry. I stood up and walked down the hall and knocked on Luke’s door. “Luke” I said, “will you come sit with me please?” Luke came out into the living room and sat down with me, and it felt like the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. All of the sudden I felt like everything would be okay… Even If I died, right then and there, at least someone I loved would be there with me.

..To Be Continued…

Monday, February 28, 2011

...I Wake Up

I wake up and I know something is wrong. I’m on my back; the blankets are pulled securely to my neck and under my chin, and wrapped around my body like an Egyptian Pharaoh prepped for the afterlife. My head rests firmly in the pillow like it must have been all night, and even more bizarre I’m aligned correctly on the bed; my head near the head, my feet near the foot.

Something is not right. No naked leg draped over the side of the bed exposed to the winter chill of the midnight air in my frozen bedroom. No blankets and pillow piled on the floor where I normally toss them at night, immersed in a grand adventure of my nightly visits to Camelot, or the Rocky Mountains, or the Great Barrier Reef, or Mars… I am as I was when I retired 6 hours before, and that is not normal. I haven’t moved during the night.

My alarm goes off. I despise it. I hate it.… I would much more prefer the aroma of coffee accompanied by a woman’s gentle touch, and a voice telling me softly in my ear, “Wake-up baby, it’s time for work.” And when lids part my gaze is met with the eyes of the one I love. She is smiling, and on her face is love and in her eyes a sliver of guilt for pulling me from a dream…. That is the way to begin the day, looking into the eyes of an angel. And if all our days began that way, the world would be a better place.

Instead I am blasted into consciousness by the clock. It’s loud and in my face, like a Drill Sergeant, and if I had a hammer close by I would have mercifully ended its miserable existence on this earth. Instead I reach across my body to hit the snooze button, but I’m stopped half-way as the whole right side of my body is racked in pain.

I slowly make my way out of bed. It takes ten minutes. The pain is building and I know I won’t be going to work. I can barely sit up. I nearly fall over on the way to the bathroom, but the walls of the narrow hallway keep me up. It feels like someone has hammered a railroad stake into my back. The pain gets worse as I hobble around the house trying to get ready for the day, but I can’t. I stumble back into my bedroom and crawl into bed. I pass out.

I have to pee, but I can’t get up. Its noon and I’m hungry, but I can’t get up. My lower body throbs with a pain I haven’t felt before. My pelvis feels like it’s in a vice, slowly being crushed. When I try to roll over a power drill bores into my hips. When I try to straighten my legs, I’m halted by the seesawing of a hacksaw on my thighs. I call my family but no one is answering. I wish had some pain pills. I pass out.

It’s late in the afternoon and Luke comes home. He asks how I’m feeling. He suggests that I get up and walk around. I tell him I can’t, but am too proud to ask for help. He goes into his room. I guess he thinks I was exaggerating. Still no one answers the phone. There isn’t much to do when you can’t get out of bed. I’m worried about my Appalachian Trail trip. A month from now I plan on walking 2185 miles in 6 months, and now I can barely move. I’ve changed my whole life for this trip. I’ve sold some belongings, and I’ve given my notice to my managers that I’ll be moving out at the end of February. How will I move, when I can’t even move?

The next morning is Tuesday and I think a day of rest has to have done me some good. I really have to pee, and I still haven’t eaten. I try to get out of bed, but I can’t even sit up. I can hear Romi walking around the house, making breakfast, taking a shower, talking on the phone. He knows I’m in a bad way, but he doesn’t check on me, and I’m too proud to ask for his help… I think it must be nice to have someone… Someone to love you, and care about you, and worry about you. Someone to take care of you when you’re sick. Someone to be there for you. I wonder how many people have someone like that, and foolishly take them for granted. I pass out.

…Finally my mom answers. She comes over with my Grandma and my Uncle Kevin. They are here for me. That’s what family is for. Family loves you no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you don’t drive a nice car, or if you don’t wear the latest fashions, or if you don’t make the most money. It doesn’t matter if you screw up and say or do the wrong thing, because your family will forgive you. Family will love you just as much when you’re down and out as they did the day you were born, and will stay by your side even when everyone else has forsaken you… I need there help getting to the doctor, but they can’t even get me up. The pain is just too much. My back refuses to comply. My mom calls 911…

…to be continued.

Saturday, February 12, 2011



On bended knee is no way to be free

lifting up an empty cup I ask silently

that all my destinations will accept the one that's me

so I can breath

Circles they grow and they swallow people whole

half their lives they say goodnight to wive's they'll never know

got a mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul

so it goes...

Don't come closer or I'll have to go

Holding me like gravity are places that pull

If ever there was someone to keep me at home

It would be you...

Everyone I come across in cages they bought

they think of me and my wandering

but I'm never what they thought

got my indignation but I'm pure in all my thoughts

I'm alive...

Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere

underneath my being is a road that disappeared

late at night I hear the trees

they're singing with the dead


Leave it to me as I find a way to be

consider me a satelite for ever orbiting

I knew all the rules but the rules did not know me


Really been digging this album lately. if you've never heard it I would suggest running out and buying it right now. The song writing is brilliant. I had to share this one... It's my favorite... Probably because its me.

Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Back on Track

So my gear buying is officially over. Last week I purchased the last few big items on my list, including trekking poles, a sleeping bag liner, and a pack. With the trekking poles I just bought some lower end Black Diamonds. They are fairly light and telescopic so they should work just fine. For a pack I ended up buying the Flash 50 from REI, mainly due to the fact that I could go to the store and try it on. It's not as light as some, but at 2 lbs 10 oz its still saving me over three pounds from my Gregory.

There are so many opinions out there on packs and I was looking at ULA, Gossamer Gear, Granite Gear, and Six Moons, and the truth is that, while all of them had packs that I was interested in, I couldn't try any of them on. Obviously a lot of people buy packs online so it's not that big of deal, but for me it was just too hard. One week I wanted the ULA Ohm and the next it was the Granite Gear Vapor Trail. I just couldn't pull the trigger on anything...

Turns out that It was a good thing I went in to REI. You see when I bought my last pack, my torso was measured at 20", and of course I ended up buying a "Large" sized pack. The Gregory that Ive been using, while heavy, has always been fairly comfortable, but never really seemed to fit me quite right. Last night at REI I had the salesman measure me three times, and every time my torso came out at 18". Which means that Ive been lugging around a pack thats too large for my torso size for the last year because when I was originally fitted the person at REI who measured me screwed up.

Now, I'm not the type of person who negatively takes advantage of REI's return policy. I stand by my buying choices and almost never return items. Well, I paid $250.0 for that Gregory and it kind of pisses me off that it doesn't fit. So yeah, I'll be taking that one back, even though I bought it over a year ago.