Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grateful for the Mystery and Christmas Trees

Our friends out in Castle Valley let us buy one of their turkeys they raised this year and we went out the Saturday before Thanksgiving to "prepare" the birds for consumption. Two of the Toms below were prepared. It is never fun to kill an animal, but very satisfying to be part of the process, to know where the food on the table comes from, to know it was treated humanely and was put to good use. The turkey tasted great, thanks Brother Turkey.

I really like the idea behind Thanksgiving, so I thought I would write down of few of the things I am most thankful for.

I am a pretty ungrateful person. I am not very good at expressing thanks for all I have and all I have been given.

I recently read something the affect that all of the great spiritual traditions/religions have focused on relationships; relationship with God (or whatever you choose to call the Divine Mystery), relationship with family, and relationship with the "other" (always the hardest one). I would also add relationship with the creation, the natural world. These are the relationships I strive to focus my life on.

Above all I am thankful for relationships with my family. Alina and my four boys are my world. I truly don't deserve them.

I have some pretty amazing parents and siblings. I rarely tell them how much I love and appreciate them. I do. Any of you that know my family know that they are amazing people.

I am grateful for the mystery (that I am coming more and more to accept) that is this life. Just to live here on this amazing planet for a short time surrounded by people that love me and people that I love is enough. I am content.

I am thankful for the ability and freedom to question my existence and my place in this great infinite space.

I am grateful for wild places (big and small). For places that are quiet, places where I can interact with natural processes. Places that overwhelm me and make me feel small, but yet still a part of it all.

After Thanksgiving we went up on the mountain with Reno and Star and got a tree for them and then went the following weekend to harvest our Christmas Tree with Todd and Ash.

Tree down
Uncle Todd demonstrating the art of getting pulled behind a truck

Special moment, if we ever make a Christmas Album this will be the cover

This year was Ridges turn with the saw

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wild Tomatillos and 5 Faces

Todd and I took advantage of the long weekend and explored a couple of areas we had not been into yet.

Spring Canyon that drains down in Labrinth Canyon on the Green and Davis Canyon down in the Needles District of Canyonlands. Davis Canyon canyon is a remote section of the Park that has some interesting Pictographs and Ruins that I wanted to get into.

After exploring around for while we found the 5 Faces Pictograph Panel and several nearby ruins. One of the ruins had an interesting green plant growing out of it. After looking at it, it appeared to be a tomatillo plant.

I was not aware of it but wild tomatillo is native to the Colorado Plateau and apparently it was also cultivated by the Anasazi. Which made me wonder if those plants had actually been on that ledge for the last 800 years growing and dying and sprouting again each year. I wonder what Anasazi salsa tasted like?

Walking the ledge to the 5 Faces

Todd walking on water

Metates and faint pictographs

The 5 Faces

Looking for a route into the Log Cabin Ruin

1st weekend in November

The first weekend in November is always the Folkfest here in Moab and we usually make it out to a few shows but this year we ended not going to any and just hiking and hanging out with all the family that came down.

We took every one up to the Fisher Towers and walked beneath the big towers

The kids climbing around below Ancient Art tower. A couple of climbers are actually on the route above.

Murdocks with the Titan behind

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Chuckin

We stayed in Moab this year for Halloween and took the girls out to the annual Pumpkin Chuckin festival. Good times and disturbing costumes.

The girls checking out the chuckin contraptions

Trebuchet launhcing a gourd

New this year was the air cannons destroying a van with pumpkins, pretty impressive

Gender bending Murdocks, not so pretty

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spirit leaping from shape to shape- Return to life as a Predator

I grew up in a hunting family. The biggest days of the year for me were the opening of the deer hunt, elk hunt, pheasant hunt, dove hunt and goose hunt. They were rites of passage. Growing up in Utah you just grew up shooting things and eating them, it is what we did.

As I got older and started spending more of my time enjoying other outdoor pursuits like climbing, backcountry skiing and running rivers, I began to lose interest in hunting.

I also started to define myself as someone who did not hunt. I was someone who wore Patagonia fleece and climbed mountains, not some redneck who shot things for fun. I made sure I fit the labels I had created for myself.

I was never anti-hunting, I always understood the brutal truth that to live we must kill other beings (whether plant or animal). I was never against ethical hunting, I just became a non-hunter (but I still fished, still ate meat) for the last 18 years. But I have slowly come round full circle, and I have thought a lot about food, killing, animals and hunting. I read several great books a while back written by hunters (Heartsblood by Dave Peterson, Heart of Home and Bloodties by Ted Kerasote) which really explored the motives and ethics behind hunting. Good reads if you get a chance.

I never gave up fishing and have occasionally kept a fish to eat. In Nevada I actually went out hunting Chukars a few times. But this year I decided, for many reasons, to get back into hunting big animals, elk in particular. I bought a spike elk tag and literally dusted off my 30.06 rifle and pulled out a 20 year old box of shells.

Aside from the primary purposes of harvesting local meat from the mountain I work on and becoming part of the food chain in a more local and authentic way, I also wanted to go through the effort it takes to pack out a large animal in wild country without the crutch of an Off Highway Vehicle (OHV). A large part of my job has become responding to people complaining about roads that have been closed and a very common reason they provide for needing roads everywhere is that there is no way to retrieve elk and deer without an OHV. Not true, and I wanted to be able to prove it.

I spent four different days out looking for elk, all of the days were spent away from roads hiking in the backcountry and I got into elk everyday (just not the kind of elk that I had a permit to take). As I watched all of these elk, out doing what wild elk do in wild country, I wondered if I would really be able to take the life of one.

On the fourth day out, two days before the hunt closed, Myself, Todd and River hiked into a drainage on the backside of the La Sals and found two spikes.

I was surprised how much adrenaline started pumping just knowing there was a chance of taking an elk. Without boring you with the details I ended up stalking one from above on the canyon rim and taking one of the spikes. In the end the experience was one of satisfaction more than anything, but I would be lying if I did not say that it was also one of the most intense and exciting experiences I have had in a while.

We quartered the elk under a full moon, surrounded by bear tracks and bear scat. We did not want to leave any meat over night because of all the bear sign, so we divided his warm body into pieces a human could pack out and divided him up between the three of us and packed him out (without an OHV) in one back breaking trip. The coyotes found what we had left in the canyon about 30 minutes after we had left. Packing large chunks of meat out on my back, with my son, under a full moon with a pack of coyotes gladly howling about the large carcass they had found in the canyon bottom, made me feel more apart of the earth than anything else I have done.

Thanks Brother Elk

"After the carcass is dressed
and hung from the branches of a cottonwood tree,
I go inside and try and wash my hands-
but the blood won't come off.

There's no mistake.
I am marked for life.
I wear the elks tattoo
as its meat become my meat, and it's blood stains my blood.

leaping from shape
to shape"

Part of the Poem "Skinning the Elk" by Art Goodtimes

"Not a single one of us has to catch a trout to eat. Nor, for that matter, do those of us who hunt big animals like moose or elk and feed our families for a year have to kill them to survive. We're making choices-more spiritual than economic- about grounding our souls in a landscape through participation, about becoming participatory citizens of a home place through the eating of what that landscape produces. The wading, the casting, the stalking, the picking, the plowing, are ceremonial means to procure nature's Eucharist."

-Excerpt from "Heart of Home" by Ted Kerasote

River looking for wapiti up high

Spirit leaping from shape to shape, in this case elk becoming four boys

La Sal Elk Country

Elk Country before the snow

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Fall Break

We also made it out to Castle Valleys annual Gourd Fest while everybody was here and we got to see some great local talent at the 1st annual Seekhaven Talent Show.

Gourds and more gourds, can't get enough gourds

Smokey was very happy to be part of the Gourd Fest. I don' t think he was all that worried about the fire danger

Creepy dudes sitting at the back of the talent show

The first public appearance of the MoaB itch. They rocked "Sweet Child of Mine"

Fall Break- A Visit from the Northern Clan

The Murdocks from the north came to visit us for a few days last weekend over the Fall Break. It was good to have almost everybody down to enjoy the glorious fall weather.

Saturday we woke up early and climbed into a part of Arches away from the masses and did some canyoneering in a new canyon. Photo above is Creed and Tyler on the last rappel.

Creed checking out an old aid route on a very large rock along the canyoneering route

Thursday myself, River, Ty and Bre hiked into a remote unnamed side canyon to Harts Draw that I hiked 17 years ago and have always wanted to get back to. This canyon is not far from Moab but gets almost no use. There is very little sign of other people traveling through the the canyon at all, which means a lot of bushwacking. The cottonwoods were amazing.

Me an Mom under one of the branches of the Moonflower Cottonwood, one of my favorite trees on the planet

River heading down the unnamed canyon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Long Ride with the Old Guys

My Dad, Carl and Uncle Rick came down last month for what is becoming an annual Fallpack trip into Dark Canyon. I had to pack some equipment in for a tamarisk removal project we are starting, so it worked out perfect to have them come down and help out.

Dad and Carl at Trail Canyon. I have never seen this much water in this part of the canyon, but due to all the August rains it was still running.

Horse Pasture Canyon

Camp in Horse Pasture

Three old dudes (and Abbey) sleeping after a long day. They must be old because I am not that young anymore.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Short lived waterfalls and old houses, and the Fourth Annual Meat (Harvest?) Fest

Summer is slowly winding down into another glorious fall on the Plateau.

We got another Westwater trip in before the kids went back to school. It was the Fourth Annual Meat fest and many species were upon the grill. We are thinking that we may have to rename it the Annual Westwater Harvest fest to be more inclusive and less gluttonous, maybe not. We did have eggs from Todd/Ashlis chickens, salsa verde made by Mom, Pepper, Tomatoes and other produce from the garden, cheese from Erics goats (Castle Valley Creamery) and live music (Ashli on guitar,Colin on ukelele, and Jeff on flute). Good Trip.

A few photos of other recent excursions

I took the boys and some of the scouts down to some remote ruins on Elk Ridge. I was a little hesitant to take the scouts to such a pristine and remote site, but they did great and were very respectful. It may have been that I told them I would throw them off the cliff and that they would forever be haunted by the spirits if they broke anything, but it worked. Camped on Elk Ride the night before we hiked into the canyon and elk are in full swing. The bulls were bugling all night.

Ridge looking into the main room

Great front porch view

Row and Ridge in the land of Pines and Pinnacles

The last big monsoon storm that came through just happened to center right on Mill Creek where we were hiking. Lots of waterfalls.

On Labor Day we went an floated a stretch of river I had not been on before. We put in at Dewey Bridge and floated down to Hittle Bottom. We hiked up Bull Canyon and played in the potholes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Long Walk in the Big Mountains

Last week we took a long walk through the Weminuche Wilderness. 54 miles through and over and around the Grenadier and Needles Ranges in the San Juan Mountains. Todd, Ty and I had been planning the trip for quite some time. Like most hikers who do this loop we were planning on using the Durango/Silverton Train to get to the trailheads, but a week before leaving we decided to make the whole trip via human power the way God intended. This added 15 miles to the hike, but in the end we were glad we did it and we still beat the train out.

The Weminuche is an amazing and big place on the scale of the Central Idaho Wilderness areas. The hike included some of the the most rugged alpine terrain I have ever seen. The wild berries (raspberries, strawberries, thimbleberries and grouse whorttleberries) were at their peak so we stopped and ate a lot of them and scared a bear off of one berry patch. Saw more kinds of mushrooms than I have seen anywhere. Caught brookies, cutthroats and rainbows in Vallecito Creek and chased herds of overly friendly mountain goats out of camp in Chicago Basin.

It was so nice to be away from the news and politics of our world for more than a few days. I am realizing that I often times allow myself to get to wrapped up in the trivial and frivolous political squabbling (are we really still arguing over whether Muslims can build a place of worship near Ground Zero?). I have tried to refocus my energies into understanding the world, my motivations, my beliefs and what makes people think and believe the things they do.

I have been reading/studying more Buddhist/Eastern philosophical traditions lately and really drawn to the goal/process of becoming more mindful. One of the processes for becoming more mindful that really appeals to me is that of "walking meditation", learning to be aware of each and every step and breath and of the world around you. I used the long walk to practice walking meditation, not sure I became any more enlightened but I did learn many things like it is much easier to meditate when walking on flat ground, and that going up long uphill climbs with a heavy pack is not conducive to quiet introspection due to the sweating and cursing.

River also came along and did great, I was pretty proud of him for not complaining.

River walking out of Chicago Basin in the rain

On top of Columbine Pass (elev. 12,800) between Johnson and Needle Creeks

High camp at 12,000 feet looking out to Mount Oso and the Guardian

River before the long off trail descent to the gem colored Vallecito Lake

Me and the boy pondering existence (aka catching our breath) in Chicago Basin. The big peaks of Sunlight and Windom behind

Monday, August 2, 2010

Westwater B-Day Partay

We celebrated Toads 3oth on Westwater yesterday, which he celebrated by successfully taking an open canoe down the canyon, with no swims.

My mom watched the kids, so Alina could come, which was great she had not been down Westwater for a long time.

Rare photo of Alina and I on the river with no kids in the picture

Todd and the Rampage in Big Hummer?

Gneiss shist and Alina and River

3 Generations

Front flip off the bow, which ended in a backslap on sunburnt flesh