Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Mucking about with Mother Nature"

If you consider yourself any measure of a backcountry kinda guy, then you harbor at least a secret admiration for Survivor Man. Or Man vs. Wild. Or Dirty Jobs. Or any of those guys who -- at least in reality-TV fashion -- put their  self-reliance and so-called skills out there for all to see tried and tested. 

But for most of us, this is probably more like our true backcounty bad-assedness: The Wildeman.

WILDEMAN - watch more funny videos

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ski season, at last

So it finally got here.

Yeah, I'd gotten out in the backcountry. And, yes, Purg was open for a few days with a ribbon of man-made so-called snow. But that's not ski season.

Ski season, to me, is when winter finally arrives to deposit upon us those grand and glorious and deep San Juan dumps. And it's when we finally get up there to romp and ride that manna from the Pacific.

This is no small thing in my life. And my family's lives. And in our mountain-town tribe's lives. This is one of several potent and meaningful annual rituals in our lives. Along with the spring's first river trip, and ... well, that might be about it.

It's that big in our personal calendars. Seasonal rites and ceremonies for we mountain-town folk.

So this weekend we celebrated. Driving up the gorgeous gash of the Animas Valley in a driving snow. Gathering with those many other mostly local fellow snow acolytes. (Only in mountain towns does a blessing of "Praise Ullr!" rouse approval and agreement among strangers in a crowd.) And meeting up with other tribal members to practice our rites: Riding the chairlift, discussing and dissecting lines and powder stashes, cruising and carving and crashing and giggling with wintery glee down what were amazingly good early-season powder-skiing conditions this weekend.

And the kids? Oh, we crossed paths occasionally. But mostly they were off, meeting up with their own neophyte mountain-town tribal pals, finding their own lines. Forging their own mountain-town lives.

Damn good stuff.

Sacred stuff around these parts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some fireside reading

Snow, at last! So while you're sitting by the warming glow of the fire (or the computer screen), here are a few personally recommended articles of Four Corners interest for your winter-night mulling-over. Enjoy.


"Dueling Claims," by Laura Paskus, from High Country News, looks at the repercussions of the creation of a "traditional cultural property" around Mount Taylor, in north central New Mexico. Mount Taylor, near Grants, N.M., is sacred to several Indian tribes in the region, and the U.S. Forest Service's designation could hinder a potential new uranium mining boom in the region still suffering from the bust of the last uranium frenzy. That last mining binge left a legacy of mine waste, illness, and post-boom poverty. But what the new TCP is creating is also toxic: anger between the pro-mining and pro-cultural resource groups. That anger may have also spilled over into a string of brutal beatings -- using bats, rocks, and brass knuckles -- of at least five Navajo men last summer.

Read "Dueling Claims" here.

Check out High Country News here.


"My Oh Mayan!" by Corey Pein, in the Santa Fe Reporter, is a lighter tale -- but with even farther-reaching effects. This is a fun and funny -- and not a little creepy at times -- romp through the hand-wringing over the upcoming supposedly-prophesied end of the world in the fall (or so) of 2012. Craziness or not, Plein -- who says that "2012 is the only year besides Y2K with its very own Library of Congress catalog" -- takes us on a ride with a few of the figures involved in the craze. That craze is generating no small change -- it has spawned dozens of books, seminars, videos, and recently a $200 million major movie -- and those who claim to have decoded the Mayan texts that reveal the prophecy aren't shy about bickering over the propriety rights to their "discoveries." And  in the meantime, a profile of a culture that gorges itself of such hype also emerges.

Read "My Oh Mayan!" here.

Check out the Santa Fe Reporter here.


"Long To-Do List for New U.S. Parks Chief," by Todd Wilkinson, of the Christian Science Monitor (via the Flathead (Mont.) Beacon), is a nice look at the new head of the National Park Service, as he takes over the agency he has been part of for 32 years, and that in recent years has been underfunded, understaffed, and generally underloved -- and left with a $8-billion backlog in maintenance alone.

Read "Long To-Do List" here.

Check out the Christian Science Monitor here, and the Flathead Beacon here.


Please support these publications that are still doing good reporting and offering fine writing!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Talk is cheap

Change ...

Hope ...

Nobel Peace Prize ...

"Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss."
         -- Pete Townshend

Check out, too, this response to Obama's announced troop surge from the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. 


Talk is cheap

Change ...

Hope ...

Nobel Peace Prize ...

"Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss."
         -- Pete Townshend

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An Old Bum's manifesto

Check out this month's rather philosophical installment of my San Juandering column in Inside Outside Southwest, titled "Bum is not a Four-Letter Word."
Snow on the ground. The mountains pearly and pretty and just a'beckoning me to come play. As I walk through the neighborhood, I'm searching for little scenic glimpses of the glistening La Platas through the leafless trees. When I'm driving around town and up the valley, I'm craning and scanning, seeking panoramas of the deeper and steeper crystalline San Juans.

All because I'm aching to go.

That's what this time of year does to me. Still. And I will go up and get out there. Soon. After work and school and the usual slew of daily demands, we'll head up there ...

It's true, I do not fit the classic profile of the ski bum anymore. I'm no longer renting a cabin with five other ski-heads, or working nights so I can ski days, or hitchhiking to get around. Today, I got me a job (several, actually), kids (two), a house (one), and responsibilities and demands and a damned full Google calendar (much and many).

But that doesn't mean that those callings and cravings of the ski bum have dried up in me.
 Read the entire story here.