The New Grand Strategy

As things so often do, change has come to my family’s doorstep. Tess and I have been adapting rapidly and re-prioritizing and as a result we’ve instituted The New Grand Strategy.

Movement

Colorado is my home state, and being here on the Western Slope has been enjoyable, however, the old saying “you can never go home” hits the nail on the head (to mix metaphors). That is to say, we’re planning on relocating. Soon. Tentatively, we imagine we’ll end up back on the West Coast and of the possible locations where we might settle Seattle and the Sound, we feel, might work out well.

As the potential for (yet another) move entered our conversations we’ve really had to think about the parts of our lifestyle and careers that we’d like to emphasize. As much as I love the landscapes of the Rockies and the Canyon country that sits at its feet, none of this enhances my situation. In fact, while I still get out into it, the pattern is that trail heads are often out of reach for want of time and resources. So I spend an inordinate amount of time pining away for something I am not independently wealthy enough to obtain.

Yep, I’ll probably never again be a working Wilderness Guard. And I’ve made my peace with that, as best as I can. The West Coast has some advantages for us as a family — jobs in our industry, culture in which we can participate, friends we love and miss, public transportation we’ll use, and, yes, even some amazing landscapes which, when viewed through the lens of air pollution currently settled on the Grand Valley, seem very attractive if at times a little moist.

Health

I tend not to talk or write about this much, but my health has been generally good. I haven’t had a seizure in more than a year and I haven’t needed medication to control the seizures for more than eighteen months. (thank the gods above and below). Ultimately, that little episode has resulted in a renewed and enhanced focus on my health. I like to think about it as if I were playing a video game and needing to manage my resources to stay alive through each successive encounter (groan, yeah I’m a nerd).

In the upper right corner of my consciousness are three Health levels — PHY, SPI, MEN — in the past I focused on my physical health, much to the exclusion of my spiritual and mental health. I guess I figured, with naiveté, that if I could run thirty miles at the drop of a hat the other aspects of my being would necessarily take care of themselves. Unfortunately, not so.

These days I apply a great deal of attention to these levels, so, if there was some good that came from that period of my life it resides here. Believe me, seizures are terrify.

Employment

Now that my health is stable and my memory is better we have decided that it might be a good thing for me to put myself forward once again. Yes, this is a call for action. Finding employment is never easy, and I’m spreading my résumé around the internet liberally, but I’m hoping to harness the power of social networks here too. I have many friends and acquaintance and I’d love to impose upon you, especially those of you with whom I’ve previously worked. You know what I am capable of and the best endorsement I can imagine comes from you.

My résumé is posted here. And, as usual I am always available via phone call and email. If you know of an operations engineering position or project management role, I thank you in advance for passing it along.

Self-Employment

If you read that last section and wondered to yourself “What about the boy? What about the writing?” you’re not the only one. Care of the boy and more words will continue to happen. This has been my full time occupation for a while now and relative to anything I might do in technology I enjoy it a great deal more. This should come as no surprise. Said no stay-at-home parent ever, “Gosh, I’m rolling in too much cash. I suppose I should toss another load of laundry in and roll myself hipster cigarettes with spare $100 bills.”

UP SLOPE is nearly complete. It will be delivered to the editor thereafter, and you should expect to see it on Amazon soon. I have several additional projects that are in various stages of outlining, including book three in the sports in space series. I am anticipating writing this one a great deal and it’s been a real struggle not skipping ahead to this project while I’ve got some things to take care of with UP SLOPE.

Even if my word count drops a bit, the writing will continue.

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I’ll Be Going Back There

Something like summer today, oh yeah! Aral and I went down to the valley for some breakfast, coffee, company, and network-not-offered-by-CenturyLink. We left the house early, but the sun came up this morning and meant business. I needed four wheel drive to get down the drive.

Click on Image for full details

After spending some time at our new favorite cafe/bakery we took off for Rabbit Valley. Past Mack is a small patch of BLM land that extends south from Interstate-70 to the Colorado River. When I was a kid I used to go out there and boulder around or run the single jeep trail that extended down the valley to somewhere near the river. I even recall on day, slipping around in my tiny little Honda Civic with my best friend Bryce and bald tires. I think we got stuck at one point and ended up pick the car up and putting it back on the road.

Playing in the sand

Back then, Rabbit Valley was a bit of backcountry nobody knew about. Not so any more. The BLM has installed pit toilets, camp grounds, wells, and even graveled a significant portion of that old road. There are trails everywhere, and while it wasn’t a bustling metropolis we saw many more people than I had expected.

Water break

Still the run was A W E S O M E! I spent a lot of time pushing the buggy through the sand, but it still felt fast. And oh man, that sunshine. I ran in summer short-shorts and a sleeveless jersey. And I got hot.

Aral only complained of “mean bumps” once, and it was more of a “he he, this is funny” complaint. Right now, much later in the evening, I’m feeling like a million bucks. I did just eat a really yummy salad, but even just a week into re-running my body is settling in to the pattern.

Tabeguache, Ahhhhh!

First thing I have to say about this run is “I can’t find my heart rate monitor.” The second thing I have to say about this run is, “Don’t talk to me about my heart rate monitor.”

Click on the image for details of the run

Yeah, I’m high five-ing myself these evening. It was a short run, only three miles and change, but it was fun running. And dry. Did I mention that the trail wasn’t a muddy, nasty mess?

Aral was a real trooper on this trip too. He didn’t nap, rather he cheered me on all along the way. His favorite was stoping along Raven’s Ridge to pee on a tree. I also think he liked running over the pump track at the end.

Good times were had by one and all.

 

Mud Month Has Arrived

Wow, it has been a while. The last time I posted a trail running related post was more than a year ago. Yeah, sure, there have been a number about running in general, but nothing about me actually running.

Bummer I know, but hey, there is good news. I’m back out on the trail again. Late at the end of 2013 two friends I ran with last back in 2009 compelled me (by the power of the Sun Sword) to get my ticket for the Canyon de Chelly Ultra. This has been one of a couple I’ve really wanted to run for a long time now, so it’s little wonder that I nabbed my place in the starting pack.

With all the moving and travel lately I’ve been hard pressed to get back into training mode. Everything has become measurably harder since about the middle of January. Worse it has been wearing me down from time to time too, but on Wednesday Aral and I packed the last of our stuff up in Ootek and left Boulder. We spent Thursday unpacking and organizing and then by Friday I was able to leverage enough time to take my first training run in a long, long while.

Aral still rides along in the Chariot like a champ, which makes any of this possible.

Right now we’re up on Glade Park house sitting for my parents. Yesterday I loaded us up at about nap time and hit the road intending a longer run along pavers and jeep roads on the Park. It was windy and chilly, but the sun was out and had warmed the snow cover that remains up top.

Click for detailed rundown on Strava

I wasn’t really thinking ahead like I should have been when I turned off on Holloway Lane pushing the buggy along at a reasonable clip into a head wind. The Lane was pretty squishy despite county maintenance and yet I trotted along to Black Mesa like a complete boob intending to traverse the lower road and then follow it down to the McInnis Canyon parking lot.

Not much past the second switchback I realized two things. First, I was already too far down Black Ridge Road to turn around. And second, mud month has begun here in ernest.

My new Brooks TrueGrit 2 trail shoes got tested in a profound and meaningful way. And at times, the build up of bentonite clay clinging to the buggy wheels weighed more than my child and gear stowed inside. I really had to huff it hardcore to clear this short-ish stretch of “road”.

And when I got back to 161/2 Rd I was beat. The next two miles I could only manage a jog at best and my pace suffered.

Incidentally, mud makes an excellent training tool. You’ve got to be very careful of your foot placement and drive your legs much harder than you would have to even in a pool. The resistance is amazing and the instability in the surface demands mindfulness.

Everything is cleaned and drying today. I’m really hoping to get out for a shorter run this afternoon (I will accidentally-maliciously schedule during nap time), but I’m going to stick to pavers for a while.

And Glane and Josh, if you read this be afraid for I have the power of bentonite getting me ready for CdCU.

Colorado Summer Weekend

Aral in the tundra below Engineer Pass

Sometimes I need to be reminded of what a lucky guy I am. This weekend, the family and I took a free-form trip around my home state and were both challenged and rewarded.

I spent most of last Friday cleaning and packing. Trying to organize my truck (while juggling a two year old) so that I could comfortable fit four people and two dogs is an undertaking. Around four in the afternoon we departed the house to go sit in traffic for a while. I picked up Tess along the way and we headed up into the Rockies for some needed rest and relaxation.

Night one was spent in pouring rain just below the summit of Boreas Pass along the Breckenridge Divide. Despite the rain and the late camp everyone slept well and we woke up to sunshine. We headed over the pass to Camp Como and stopped periodically to check out land parcels for sale.

The original plan was to take Georgia pass back toward Breckenridge, but as we started up the road it felt like were just another car in a long line of vehicles headed over this part of the divide. I kept on thinking of a verse from John Denver’s “Colorado Rocky Mountain High”.

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

And rather than continuing up and over while sucking RZR fumes and Chevy dust I decided that we should head toward the San Juans for night two. We drove across South Park and then over Monarch Pass before stopping in Gunnison for a brief visit with old friends at The Bean. It was rodeo weekend so town was jam packed with great beasts of trucks and RVs so we headed toward quieter high country up above Lake City.

We took a short walk around town and fueled up and then headed up Engineer Pass knowing that both limited access from that side of the Alpine Loop and expected thundershowers would keep crowds to a minimum.

Back in the high country we pitched camp just shy of 12,000 feet. We mulled around the tundra exploring, watching and listening. Pika came out and marmots barked from their porches. Soon enough dinner was done and we made for bed while swimming in the rose glow of setting sun.

Sunday we completed the drive over Engineer Pass and down the way past Animas to Silverton. We poked around Silverton for a while, but like all good things this trip needed to end. Back up and over Hwy 50 I detoured over Cottonwood pass and then across South Park and Kenosha pass.

Atop Engineer Pass

Paradise

Are we in the Wilderness Yet?

For years now I’ve been telling myself that this place is my home. Colorado is my home. In that statement is a nugget of a critical nature. Here is where I attribute comfort and contentment. Here is where I grew up and a landscape that is largely responsible for the development of a land ethic in me. Here is, as fractured as they can be, I have a story book of memories. Its where I’ve wanted to return ever since I was unfortunate or stupid enough to leave.

So why, after skiing through the falling snow tonight, I am forced to ask myself can’t I find those things any longer? Kicking and huffing through the nearly knee deep powder on my way around the back side of Town Loop and up Brush Creek I found myself grouching at every car that I could hear flying up or down Highway 135. I’m flabbergasted when I round the corner of the trail only to find that the HOA of Skyway has decreed that their miles of walks must be plowed to the asphalt. I find myself counting the number of SUVs pulling long lines of snow machines up county road 738 as if there’s only minutes left to get in that last sled ride before the end of days. And when I pass house after house, dark because they are not occupied, only to find a line of “Do Not Trespass” signs which pinch my ingress between the plowed road the right and virgin, untrammeled golf course snow to the left I’m ready to scream.

Now that I’ve returned to the house and put my ski gear up to dry I find that I’m sad and sort of hollow. How can I be sad and hollow here? A thought occurred to me after I gave up and turned around. Most of my life I’ve watched as this invisible line has slowly migrated over much of the world that used to bring me so much joy. It separates the Rich Man’s Playground from Every Man’s Paradise.

As a Backcountry Wilderness Guard for the Forest Service during the summers of my college education I was fully aware of a single, wealthy individual buying up the bottom lands along the North, Middle and South Fork of the White River which bordered much of the wilderness I patrolled. As his agents worked overtime to unseat families who had occupied that land for generations the easements across that private land also started to disappear. Fancy, expensive fences showed up out the morning fog. Oddly enough too, trailer parks and plots of cheap housing started showing up in Meeker and Rifle. Someone has to serve.

But this isn’t about the vast disparity of the very few ultra wealthy who move into this place and take everything over and the very many increasingly poor who can’t afford to live here. That disparity is obvious and frankly its been beaten to death. If it doesn’t change there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m completely powerless in this situation.

This is about a land ethic or what is missing. As a kid growing up, after the Monkey Wrench Gang perhaps to tone down my excitement over Hayduke’s response to a lack of land ethic, my Dad handed me a copy of Aldo Leapolds A Sand County Almanac. I read pretty much everything and anything my Dad would hand to me, and in this way he helped shape the adult that I became. Here is a quote that I think is fitting from Sand County.

“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”

This is, in some sense, a sort of deep ecology. It is, and has remained since reading this book, a sort of guiding principle. I own no land other than my fraction of the public lands of this nation. But this is how I chose to live my life, by “including soils, waters, plants, and animals” in my community. So how should I feel when I’m excluded from that community by often arbitrary or solely economic concerns which work to increase value through exclusion? Pinched?

Playgrounds are nice to have around, ask Aral. They serve a very specific purpose, usually the mental and physical enrichment of children in relative safety. They are however, by their very nature exclusive, and because of this there is no land ethic in their creation. They are also terminal in nature. As they are used they become increasingly decrepit and less safe. They require a constant input of energy just to stay as they were when they were completed.

Now imagine a world that does not see the playground as something that is limited to children. Rather this world and a single animal within its larger community is convinced that any place they chose to be is and should be as safe and as fun as a playground. Ah, but the thrills of the swing and the excitement a slide used to engender just isn’t there any longer. They need more!

And more! And these “pastimes” become increasingly exclusive. They don’t consider the water in a place. Or the animals that make their living from a place. And even the soil from a place may be replaced just to serve the needs of the playground and the few who can afford access.

When a place starts to create playgrounds like this it is no longer a community, and thus it lacks a land ethic. I can see and understand how one perspective in a situation like this might be “Hey, I have this land (through some magic of circumstance). How can I employ it to my economic advantage?” Aldo would have recognized the influence economics has on land decisions, but he also understood that our long term well being cannot be separated from the quality of our environment and thus the composition of the community that lives within its wider bounds.

And that brings me to my second observation. People who own second or recreational housing cause a crisis of community. All those dark houses represent a phenomenal use of materials and energy. They displace animals, use water even when unoccupied, and ruin the soils upon which they sit. Collectively these structures carve up the existent communities. And perhaps most concerning they leave holes in the human communities where they exist. Even when these people are resident they are more often than not removed from the community that grows up because of proximity.

And then there is the problem of the playground. When an economy and thus its dependent communities is developed largely around the idea of providing play time to people compromises must be struck between wild nature and those who choose to play. Some forms of play are considerably more impacting than others.

And those that have far less impact on the community upon which they tread tend to be considerably more inclusive while not disrupting or only temporally disrupting. As illustrated, just about anyone can learn to cross country ski. Very few people can or will ever enjoy rock crawling, yet everywhere its practiced its impact will disrupt the ecology of the place and future use of the area. XC skiing preserves the value of the place, rock crawling uses it and discards it as if it had no value.

And ultimately that’s it. Perhaps I’ve naively idealized “Colorado” for most of my life. Last summer I witnessed a large diesel truck pulling a 5th-wheel trailer, pulling a boat, pulling a trailer full of ORVs. Something like this, its turns out, can be encouraged. What I’m looking for, what I miss, is a community that discourages this sort of behavior which is only concerned with an economic exchange of the value of its land for a joy ride. I want to find a place and a people that will walk softly on the earth and act like a part of the environment which supports them.