We hire people to be police officers then pay them a fraction of the money the job should call for. Then we give those officers complex procedures to follow to go up against bloodthirsty criminals and international psychopaths who have no rules. I understand that we are a rule of law society and must have rules and legal procedures but some of them increase the danger to the officer exponentially. Then when there is an incident we hire other people, people who do not have the capabilities required to be officers themselves and were not standing in that officers shoes at the moment the incident occurred, to micro analyze the officers actions. We are at war and those officers and first responders are our first line of defense. We thank military personnel for their service as we should. We should also show support to the police.
A recurring horror in our culture is the attack by a heavily armed assailant on a group of unarmed, unsuspecting non-combatants including children. In any language that’s a cowardly act and yet it’s not called cowardly by media reporters or even the police. The word coward seems to have disappeared from our language. The media uses words like terrorist, shooter or, as in one instance after the Aurora Colorado atrocity, warrior. That foul piece of excrement isn’t a warrior, you couldn’t melt him and pour him onto a battle field.
When the media, whose work is not journalistic, does their word dance to describe these cowards the others out there like them get the idea that if they perform a similar foul act the media will smear their face and name on the TV screen, and they do.
We have an increasing segment of our society that are weak and needy and desperate to gain, even for a moment, some public image or recognition. The media has the bully pulpit which is the most powerful communications venue in history and it bears the responsibility to identify those perpetrators for what they are, loathsome.
The predawn light outlines the mountain peaks to the east while the view out the drivers side window to the west is still in shadow. I’m sitting in the drive way of a truck stop about to head out onto the highway and behind me the lights are bright and I can here some of the semi’s cranking up. I’ve just filled up with gas, had an early breakfast and now trying to decide do I turn right or go left. The road here is straight as a string 40 miles in both directions and each way leads to mountains. I love mountains.
There is no traffic in sight and I listen to the muted rumble of the big engine in my pickup and a deep feeling of freedom takes hold. I hit the CD player on and crank the sounds of ZZ Top to eleven. I pull straight ahead onto the highway and as I cross the center line I turn. Which way? Makes no difference.
There’s a place I know that defies description. A place so stunning in mass, texture, color and scope of existence that words cannot begin to capture it.
A few years ago I was in Alaska with my son and we decided to go check out Denali. The official name for the highest peak of that collection of mountains is Mount McKinley, a tag foisted on it as some kind of Washington DC political herky jerk from many years ago. To me it’s Denali, so named by the native indians of that world hundreds of years ago. Denali is the highest peak in North America at over 20,000 feet and when considering the height of the rise from the mean elevation surrounding it at it’s base to the top of the peak, that rise is greater than the rise of Mount Everest.
On our way to Denali we had stopped for lunch in a small town about three hours north of Anchorage called Talkeetna. Talkeetna has a rich, rough and tumble history going back well over a hundred years. The core of the downtown is only about three blocks long with many of the original buildings restored and in use today. Some of those buildings are retail storefronts to serve the many tourists, some are bars that have been bars for many generations, some are hotels and some are cafes and bakeries owned by world re-known chefs that create and present gourmet food that would make any Parisian squeal with envy. It’s interesting that in any of those bars and restaurants, if you listen close, you’ll hear French being spoken at that table, German over at that table, Italian or Asian over there. Talkeetna is a staging area for mountaineers from all over the world.
So Scot and I are eating a gourmet level lunch in a small café downtown when suddenly the front door bursts open and a character looking like he was only a few steps in front of a pursuing grizzly yelled: “its out, its out” and the whole place went nuts. Waitresses, customers, cooks and bottle washers stampeded out the front door and we were left sitting by ourselves. Thinking it might possibly be some kind of fire drill we strolled out the front door and into the street where a crowd was gathering including our café staff and others that were streaming into the street from other businesses nearby. They were all looking in the same direction and when we turned to follow the pointing fingers there it was, in all of it’s magnificent splendor. Denali. The high cloud formation that normally conceals the top of the peak had, for reasons unknown, disappeared, hence the call of “it’s out, it’s out”. The rays of the midday sun were putting on a show as it illuminated every bit of ice and every snow flake into a surreal image of brilliant, sparkling white, natural beauty.
Our waitress from the café walked over to us and suggested we should go immediately out to the local airport and see if someone was taking a flight up to “the glacier”. We didn’t know what she was talking about but found out that whenever The Mountain “came out”, like it had just done, it was sometimes possible to fly through the surrounding mountains and wing back through the gorges and canyons and, if all went well, land on Ruth Glacier.
We made a dash for the airport and arrived in time to climb aboard a bush plane that was headed for the top. Within minutes we were roaring down the runway and had barely lifted off when the driver began a slow turn to the northwest toward the now blazing white mountain radiating against the burning blue of the sky behind it.
I’m in the right seat feeling and absorbing the deafening roar that is the engine melded into the gutteral buzz of the three bladed prop. We had cleared the airport but continued climb power with the distant vision of Denali centered up in the windshield. A mass of white that seemed to dimenish the sunlight. We climbed over the three river junction that is Talkeetna then across rising tundra into the roll of foothills. As we closed with the mountains their peaks vertically shadowed and streaked with glaciers and crevasses in present day and ancient snow. We reduced power to cruise speed then altered coarse between two of the mountains slopes into a granite canyon whose walls on each side of our flight path were rugged and coarse as you would expect but in places appeared to be smooth. The pilot explained that it was thought that the movement of the glaciers over the millions of years had polished out the rock walls in some places.
The air was surprisingly smooth as I sat in amazement of being where I was and seeing things I had not imagined as we maneuvered through canyons and gorges moving deeper into the mountain range surrounding Denali. Then the canyon opened up and about a thousand feet below and to our right was Ruth Glacier. The pilot eased the power back and the bottom fell out and as we dropped. The pilot aligned our approach and judged the degree of the glacial slope that was to be our runway, to a straight in and then we were down. The engine was shut down and in the unusually calm winds I sat there in the quiet of the mountains at the base of one of the most majestic places on earth my first thought was : now how the hell do we get out of here?
We got out and played in the snow a while and considered climbing up to Don Sherman’s shack that was a few hundred yards out and up but decided against it. The weather was calm but up there you never knew what the next hour might bring so we looked and absorbed all that we could then loaded up and reversed track back down the hill.
This event happened almost twenty years ago and during those years this flight out of Talkeetna has become fairly routine with more pilots becoming aquainted with the route and weather clues.. So if you are ever in Alaska I recommend taking the time to go do it.
It’s near….. It’s very near. There was no sound or sighting only a sudden perception of the energy that surrounds it. This is not our first encounter, we have been at this mutual time and place in the cosmos many times over the years and it has always turned away at the last minute. It’s much nearer this time but it won’t close yet. Not yet. It knows that I know it’s here and can still kick it’s ass so it will just continue to stalk, like the cougar. Waiting and watching. Time weighs heavy and the evaluation of seasons past brings no resolution, only the questions. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do that? And yet the yen to that yang is how did I do that? How could I have accomplished all that? Did I miss something or leave something unfinished?
My prayer to God is constant and continuous as I follow his lead to my only comfort. It’s obvious why it’s here but why the feeling of something undone.
A fast running river is the Deshutes. Mountain high snowmelt draining the Cascades easterly then north past Bend Oregon then more north for about a hundred river miles to the spectacular confluence with the mighty Columbia River. There it hangs a hard left west past The Dalles for the final dash to the Pacific. Running that stretch of churning tumultuous mix of rocks and water sometimes makes NASCAR appear tame. Typical water temperature is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit which is near 50 degrees colder than a human’s core body temperature and the instantaneous immersion in it created a shock that was stunning and my first reaction was to gasp and suck in air. Not a good idea since I was underwater and plastered to the underside floor of a faded yellow raft, held there, ironically, by my life vest. My face was pressed against the underside of the boat looking up through the thin, translucent rubber floor at faint shadows cast by the afternoon sun of the other three kamikaze paddlers that were still in the dry. They were jumping from one side of the mini-Titanic to the other looking over the side to see if and where the river was going to spit me out. I could faintly hear them calling my name as they tried to figure out where I was.
We had been rafting for the past week stopping occasionally to fish, rock climb and rappelle the mountains and shadowed canyons along and near the river’s course. The flat water drift was smooth and quietly tranquil between runs of turbulence, a time to just sit quiet to see and feel the beauty that is that place. A sharp focus of colors, depth and textures that a camera can never capture as the banks of the river flowed past.
We had just come through a class four rapid that had smoothed out below the falls and as we came around a bend we could see a plume of standing water. The white rooster tail stood about five feet tall in the middle of the river and there was plenty of room on either side to go around it. We all exchanged nods in agreement that instead of going around it, as rational thinking would dictate, we were going to go through the thing. I can’t say for sure but there may have been alcohol involved.
So we all dug in with our paddles to try and gain some speed to carry us through but it was wasted effort, the current already had us. Each of us rode and paddled sitting astride a corner of the wide inflated gunnels that made the raft, a raft. My perch was the right front corner, Pak was behind me at the right rear, Jude was across from him with Murphy to my left. As we plowed through the white standing wave our momentum also carried us over the rock that had created the thing and all at once I was looking over the bow and down into a deep hole in the water. We plunged into it and as we bottomed out the force of the drop caused the raft to bend in the middle and the paddle Pac had been using whacked me in the back of the head. We were held in that position for about two seconds then the river current took over again and spit us up and out of the hole and as the raft flipped back into its designed shape I went airborne. When I dropped back into the water the raft bulled me under and I was plastered flat against the underside transformed into the curious position of raft barnacle.
I tried to get a hand hold onto something at the edge of the rubberized disaster to pull myself out from under but my fingers slipped and clawed with no handhold to be found. The alarms belled and the red flags fluttered in my brain to warn that the rock we had just run over, just possibly, might not be the only one in the river and the next one we hit, due at any second, was going to smear me all over the bottom of the boat like a pizza supreme.
Then a paradigm shift somewhere in the cosmos swept me down deeper in the water and to the side and it was about then that my life preserver, and I use that term loosely, came alive and I felt launched toward the surface my right hand reaching high for air.
How he knew where I was I don’t know, that cosmos thing maybe, but as soon as my hand came out of the water, Pac grabbed it and we both pulled at the same time and I flew up and out of the cold over the gunnel and dropped into the bilges. I lay there for a few seconds, looking up at the curious movement of the trees on both banks moving in slow circles against the sky and I knew the boat was turning corresponding circles in the river, drifting out of control. Then we all heard it, a faint sound like a gust of wind in distant trees as the river flexed it’s muscles. Then the panic of reason jolted each of us and we all scrambled to our assigned seats and assumed the position as we approached another power run of river.
I’m a gym rat and have been, on and off, most of my adult life. Years ago I went at it because I actually enjoyed it, today I go because I use the workout routine as a benchmark of personal independence and mobility. Many people I know are home bound and all of my cajoling for them to get off their ass and do something falls on deaf ears. When I go has evolved into a pattern of three and sometimes four days out of a calendar week and I try to be there when very few other people are around. What I’ve noticed is that of those people that are there at that time most are pretty close to my age and a couple that may be a notch older.
I wonder sometime what inner demons they combat during their sessions and what wars are being waged inside their heads. You can tell by listening as one of us get to the last reps of a set and that battle ramps up large accompanied by the occasional roar and growl. We don’t communicate much and there is very little joviality around the floor, as there was in those days long gone, but when the struggle ends and that set is finished an occasional nod in their direction is in recognition of their guts and inner strength.
The cosmetics of exercise are of no interest to “my” group. We’re way past caring about appearance but one thing I’ve noticed is that muscle tissue can be developed and maintained at any age. One guy there is crowding 80 years old and benches 265 and is featured in local weight lifting shows. He says he’s on his way to a goal of 285. Know what? I’m betting he makes it.
It’s common knowledge that the condition of the southern border of the United States is extremely dangerous and has been for decades. The illegal movements of millions of people from Mexico across that line into the United States has gone largely unchecked especially during the past few years.
When looking at this you have to wonder: Where is the Mexican government in this? What is Mexico doing to control this flood of people? It’s obvious that nothing is being done and it’s also obvious why Mexico wants to get rid of those people. That government wants them out of Mexico so they do not have to fund infrastructure for them , healthcare for them, schooling for them, jobs for them. Plus those poor people work and get paid here and send million of dollars back to relatives in Mexico who then spend those dollars in the Mexican economy. It’s like Mexico is getting a loan from the United States with no interest and no payback. Yes, it’s much cheaper for the Mexican government to facilitate their own people in crossing the border and let the people of the United States support them.
Why do we never hear our own political “leaders” or the media publicly calling out the Mexican government to provide for their own so they do not need or want to risk their lives and their children’s lives to make that dangerous trip north?
Could it be that our political leaders and some corporations may be making money off those people? Another obvious Yes. Some U.S. corporations have exploited that source of cheap labor and should be held accountable. But don’t hold your breath, the loophole lawyers have already manipulated the judicial system so that can never happen.
So what’s the answer? Could it be that if more people start asking: “Where is Mexico”? or some variation of that, that over time maybe we might be heard? I’ve sent this to my elected officials and local news outlets with almost no response.
Worth trying though, give it a shot and see what happens.
We’ve all heard the term “Bucket List”. “I’m putting that on my bucket list” we say.
Then everyone within earshot knows that whatever is being discussed is something the bucket lister really wants to do. My bucket list is to revisit some adventures from the past to see how the years have changed the landscapes in my memory.
I’m a mountain freak, don’t care much for the beach or seashore even though there is beauty there also. No I like the mountains, and not just rolling hills that are called mountains sometime, but actual mountains with snowy peaks that rise above timberline pushing into the clouds. Some create their own weather while standing aloof above the gritty writhings down at sea level.
There is something about being way high where the air is rare that compels you to be more heads up and watch what you are doing and brings the dangers of a careless act into tighter focus. The same can be said about life anywhere but I feel it more high up and am more aware.
You might think that they can’t have changed much in just a few years, they are mountains after all. But yes they can change and do change, a lot in some cases. Grown trees now tower above remembered saplings. Rockslides take out roads and trails. Snow avalanches sweep whole forests away.
Sheep Mountain will be first. A mountain just south of the gaudy whiz bang that has sadly befallen Aspen Colorado. Rising as a sentinel over the remote Crystal River Valley with its historic ghost town and the Dead Horse Mill. Lots of mining history there. Silver mostly and other rare earths and a quarry mountain of white marble that supplied stone, back in the day, for many of the monuments that stand today in Washington DC.
The next “go to” is the trail leading into the Wemanuche Wilderness that heads at 30 Mile Camp west of Creede Co. It’s near where the Rio Grande River forms up just below the Continental divide and begins its powerful, swirling 2000 mile dash to the Gulf of Mexico. A place where rocks overlook the trail in some places to provide shelter when 3 day blizzards make it impossible to hike. Strange nights with knife in hand and sleeping bags pressed hard against the base of cliffs when lights come and go above the low hanging clouds and seem in search for someone or something. Was it something I said?
From there we go to the Big Bend area of Texas and head for “The Basin” of the Chisos Mountains at the eastern reach of the great Chihuahua desert sweeping up out of Mexico. Nope, can’t forget those Chisos. No snowy peaks there, just the spirituality of the place that is unforgettable and undeniable. Apaches ruled here for hundreds of years and a few can be still be seen if you are real quiet in the early evening. Last one I saw was over on the east side run of the Basin where Pine Canyon opens out onto the desert. He was minding his own business, just looking back up the canyon towards the pour off. He turned to me briefly but I could not see his eyes and then a slight breeze and he disappeared.
Next is not a mountain trek but a river run through mountains down the Deshutes in Oregon. Beautiful country and a river that is a match for any other with rare stretches of flat water flowing into almost constant Class 3s, 4s and 5s and at least one 6. The confluence at the Columbia River will take your breath away.
Will I ever make it back? Doubt it, but hey, they are all in my head so my dreams, sometimes, are spectacular.
As the first step on the end of my journey I suggest that you check out ReverbNation.com. It showcases indie music from around the world. Some of my early on favorite artists is singer songwriter Reagan James, then guitarist David Tribble and a group from Canada called The Written Years. Many, many artists and groups of many genre.
Hope you enjoy!
During the past few years there are four words in the English language I’ve learned to abhor. The first of that four is the word “democrat”, the second is “republican”, the third word in my new dirty word dictionary is”liberal”, and the last of the “Infamous Four”(so far) is the word”conservative”.
I’m an American, I do not have to be either of those and yet on certain occasions I must be all four. We are all human so there will always be differences of opinion when we are at the table to right a wrong or advance an idea, and as Americans we are all obliged to come to that table in the spirit of negotiation and compromise. Naïve you say, I don’t think so. We have solid proof of what chaos occurs when people within an organization are lumped into categories and labeled and that example is called the United States Congress.
Flagg sits motionless in the moonless midnight, listening. There in the blackness he hears it again.
He has released the lock on his seat and moved it as far forward into the nose turret as the track mechanism will allow. He switches off the small red light illuminating the intercom panel to his left and is now in total darkness.
His position inside the clear canopy around and in front of him makes him feel suspended in space with the only light coming from the overreaching canopy of stars that blanket the night sky from horizon to horizon in all directions. Those points of light overhead show and sparkle in the black ocean a few feet below so that the horizon is nearly impossible to discern making his immersion in the night complete. That image of the diamond like stars against the black velvet sky surrounds him.
The vision and the feeling in those moments are surreal and he feels, again, part of a cosmic join up from his seat in the aircraft to the most distant reach of the universe.
A meteor streaks across the sky adding to the light show, one of many that are seen on every night flight. He knows that they break apart and burn to mostly ash upon entry into the atmosphere then fall to earth. He wonders how much of that debris has come to rest as dust on the surface of the ocean below then slowly settled to the bottom. What pieces of the universe have streaked across the face of other planets, moons and stars in other galaxies and now lie submerged in the water beneath him.
The sound that he feels is caused by the roar and vibration of the engine on each wing as it permeates into the atoms of each molecule of every piece and part on the aircraft creating a deep felt pulsating drone sound that always reminds him of an orchestral oboe or the native, ancient speak of the didgeridoo. The separate droning of each engine seems to seek resonance with the other and the sound of their separate undulations begins to narrow, becoming closer and closer together until they both merge into sync, hold together as one for a few seconds, only to separate again and the concert starts anew repeating again and again throughout this and every flight. He knows that as long as that sound is there he will stay alive.
The nearest land is 600 miles behind and to the west of him. The airflow, inches from his face, on the outside of the canopy is moving at hundreds of miles an hour. He wonders what would happen if the glass nose turret canopy were to break apart at that speed and, since he is so far forward of the rest of the airframe, if there would be anything left of him. But he feels comfortable and at ease in spite of the possibility.
His soul is at home.