Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Living the Dream

This has been a great year for Base Camp and myself. The most enjoyable so far. It was so busy this year so I didn't get to explore as much as I would have liked but the reviews and the handshake and hug thanks from all the people that stayed here by far more than made up for that. It's life changing for some people and I'm certainly one of them.
I use to do a highlight reel of the most memorable things that happen each year but I haven't had the time for two years in a row but I'll try and restore that this year. I'm doing income and expenses tonight hoping to have all the numbers on the tax people's desk when they come in Thursday morning so I can get the refinance of both properties done this year. As well I won't have Linny or Michelle here this year it doesn't look like so I've got to find some help beginning in early March. If you know somebody please let me know. I'm also going to have to search for a replacement if something happens to me. I expect to live forever but since nobody ever has so far I realize the odds are slim so best to be prepared. Linny could probably do it but that's years away before she's ready if at all. So I'm looking.
It's been pretty cold four or five nights in a row with single digit lows and the high not quite above freezing. I confess I'm not hanging outside with the critters when they show up. I'm chucking 10 or 15 hot dogs in the parking lot and putting some in the rafters and skunk hole and then I'm back inside. Tonight is nice. It was cold when I walked outside. Stars were bright and Jupiter was a beacon in the western sky. Two little skunk faces were looking up at me under the porch and three ringtail were scattered in the rafters above the front porch. Everybody got a hot dog and went right to work devouring it. I even gave a couple hot dogs to the lone raccoon on the porch which I never do. They could eat forever. I've seen one eat a whole bowl of Kit&Kaboodle by itself and when the sun came up in the morning it was still too bloated to move off the porch.

There are guests in each of the houses and I can see the lights off in the distance but there's no one else out here and nobody at the lodge. When midnight came there was no sound. Constant quiet.

It is my hope that everyone has a great coming year and from me and all the little people that are wandering around out here tonight, good night from the canyon lands.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Base Camp

Courtesy some pictures Kathy took while here last few days. In the hogan picture you can just see Jupiter in the night sky in the back ground. Pretty cool.

Back from Town

By the time I got back from town five and a half hours later much of the snow had melted though the high was only 37 and the last picture is the one I always take when Jax and I hike up and down Hurrah but looks a little different in the snow. There's a rumor Jax is headed back this way soon.


On Saturday I had three vehicles of guests and Kathy who will watch the place occasionally all leave together. I didn't know how the rock garden part of the trail would be on this side of Hurrah at the bottom because the sun never hits it for the next month or so and once it gets run over a few times it ices up so I volunteered to lead everyone to town. I didn't have any problems going through but each vehicle after that took about 15 to 20 minutes of combined effort from everyone a little pushing here and there and Kathy had some traction slide sort of things we slid under the tires of the distressed vehicle and Mike did some digging with a small shovel and sat on the back occasionally to give the vehicle some weight.

One and a half hours later we all finally reached the top of Hurrah Pass just 2.7 miles from the lodge.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

I'm Glad I Didn't

On Tuesday and Wednesday there was a little bit of snow at higher elevations but nothing at the lodge. The forecast for Friday and Saturday was up to one tenth of an inch. Since most forecasts are made by zip code that means that it's going to snow up in the La Sal mountains but we won't get anything here.

I was thinking when I woke up Friday morning I'd take a picture of normal and say this is the first time I can remember we didn't get any snow on the ground before the new year. Probably better I waited. It snowed all day Friday and was snowing still snowing Saturday morning when I had three checks outs. A few weeks earlier I had put out the word looking for someone to watch the place for me so I could go get Jax and take Linny to a couple hockey games. Kathy responded and came out Thursday to learn about feeding the animals and anything else that might happen while I'm gone. Friday was a white out so she hung one more day and on Saturday morning the three check outs and Kathy were all airing down in the parking lot as we're going out together. I wasn't going to go to town until next week but since I want to guide everyone up and down Hurrah when I get to Kane Creek I might as well go to town now and not do it twice. I hardly took any videos or pictures focused on getting everyone out safely but once I've collected from the rest of the caravan I'll put some on the blog.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019


So one truck tire rim is cracked and when I pull the spare it's the wrong size tire. I didn't put that on there. Not sure what happen. I take the Jeep and drive both tires to town to fix or replace. Got a couple gates to open. The cattle guards have filled with mud and dried after some rains a couple weeks ago and the cows are walking right across them. Four of them went into town and were hanging out by Burger King. I know, I know.

Rock Road Work

Hanging the kayaks in the garage is a lot more work than I thought. Some of the handles are weak and needing replacing and some of the rope that they hang from the garage ceiling needs replacing and I have to get them high enough toward the ceiling that the Kymcos don't scrape the bottoms of them when I drive them in filling up the inside of the Kymcos with sand and dried mud. I'm having the kayaks face different directions, different types of rope and knotting them different, experimenting with everything to make it easier and then marking the roof cross beam so I remember what goes where facing which direction. I'm going to need to drive all the vehicles periodically to keep the batteries charged so between math problems with the kayak hanging I took one Kymco out toward Jackson Hole. I remembered hiking down Hurrah last time where I noticed the side of the road built up by hand with big rocks and I remember noticing this on the way to Jackson.

Genius at Work

Part of this off season is experimenting with ways to do things faster, no duplication, as well as getting more organized for the next season. In the business world I never liked to handle paper twice. You get a bill, pay it. In fact call the trash company or alarm company and see if you can pay the whole year at one time and will they give me a one month discount each year if I pay them in January of every year for the whole year. That way I only need manpower to pay one bill, not 12 and times that by 25 facilities and it's a huge time and money savings and times that by the trash bill, the alarm bill, the.........

Applying that learning experience I don't want to handle firewood (eventual paper) twice. I have a wood guy that deposits it right in the back of my truck and I unload it at the various fire pits around the property. Last year I built up a cache of extra wood on the back porch and then when somebody would run short I'd load it in the truck and take it to whoever/wherever was short. Double handling but not having to make an extra trip to town.

So this time when every fire pit was bulging with fire wood I kept a partial load in the back of the truck so that I could just take it where it was needed without having to unload it on the porch and reload it in the truck.

Couple days ago I walk outside and the front tire is flat. Pretty rare for ten ply tires. I put some air in it and some Fix-a-Flat, drive it around a little, don't hear anything, and park it. Little while later it's flat again.
I pull the spare, put a floor jack under the truck but I can't lift the truck. I'm pushing down on the floor jack and it's an effort. Never been an effort before. I call Nations and ask them what could have changed. They don't know. I walk outside and realize the back of the truck is full of wood, mostly on the left side.
I fill it full of air again. Drive quickly over to Last Hurrah and overfill the hogans and houses with wood, drive the truck into the big garage, and it jacks right up. The rim is broken, no fixing that, takes a spare.

Short One Eurasian Collard Dove

I've been feeding the same three ringtails for at least three years. I sometimes hear from those that read an article somewhere but rarely experience actual wildlife that fed for too long they will lose the ability to hunt in the wild. Apparently not. I doubt a hawk caught the dove and ate it in the chair. The only one I know that could catch it and eat one in a folded chair is a ringtail.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

"No Legs"

Sunflower is gone from the beach. Channel is on my side this year. The beach will erode quickly and probably be gone by March. It goes back and forth.

I'm carrying the last kayak up the hill thinking how come they get heavier every year when I hear a voice say "No legs." That was scary.
It was my voice. How can I be thinking one thing and my mind says something else? There were no legs on the drag mark. No matter which way the cat dragged it's prey, usually by the neck, there would be legs dragging. There's something on the right side, maybe legs, but not like I've seen before. So my choices appear to be a critter without legs or water running across the road, without water. Hopefully I'll be able to take something out there and check it out a little more thoroughly without threat of dark dark. I'm not walking.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Hike, A Trilogy: Part Three

I'm hiking home from town. I'm where the pipeline goes under the river to the Pot Ash plant in Jackson Hole and I've got less than two hours to do the last five miles of sand and uphill. Normally I'd know I had a few minutes of Saturn and Jupiter light to go by but there is cloud cover where they'll be and though the moon came up about an hour after dark last night each night it comes up 48 minutes later so that gives me two hours of darkness before there is a moon and it's unlikely to give me much in this thick cloud cover. Tonight will be dark. No shades of dark, just dark dark.

I've been hiking along enjoying all the footprints of the deer and big horn. I've seen blurs periodically to my right and left bounding over hills before I could get the camera out. There's one very small foot print that makes me laugh. It's hard to believe that a deer or big horn could be that small. There shouldn't be any babies yet this year and none since April or May so they should all be at least six months old but these are tiny. Tracks are everywhere. Both the deer and big horn herds are in Jackson Hole.

On a sand straightaway the tracks spread in all directions and the small footprints disappear. There are mountain lion tracks. The cowboys drove through here Wednesday looking for water. All the deer and big horn tracks are on top of the side by side tracks from Wednesday. That tells me this incident happened in the last 72 hours. Now there's a drag mark across the trail. The signs tell me that the mountain lion made a kill and dragged it across the road toward the thick underbrush by the river.
It's heart breaking that the small one is gone. I'm searching for an alternative explanation. If it weren't for all the tracks I'd say it rained and a small stream of water came across the road wiping the tracks but there's been no rain the last two days, well no rain at the lodge five miles away. I've not seen any water cross the road anywhere else. Usually a mountain lion will make one deer size kill a week to feed itself so hopefully on a hill top somewhere nearby, under a ledge, in the thick brush by the river the cat is not watching me thinking there's probably a couple weeks rations under the coat and pack. I need to get moving and I have extra motivation. I don't want to be out here in the dark dark, not able to see the green eyes. I've lived here 13 years and if something is watching me I'll feel it. I'll know. Even in the dark dark. It's unlikely that will save me without seeing and without depth perception.

 I'm going to make it to the abandoned oil well about two miles from the lodge before the sun has set completely.
I squeezed another half mile out of what was left of the sunset and this is the last picture worth taking before dark dark and a mile and a half to go.
Everything is black. I catch a faint glimpse of the trail periodically. Enough to not wander off. I've hiked it a lot this close to the lodge so I know what's coming. When night comes to the lodge I shut everything off and I can find my way around because I know the feel of the floor and I can sense a closed door before I get to it. I know the rough distance to the next door and how the sound and pressure in the air changes before solids.

Forty plus years ago fighting for custody of my kids I had enough money to pay for a lawyer or live in an apartment. I moved into a cave in Cheyenne Canyon not far from Fort Carson and Colorado Springs. All my belongings in the saddle bags on the side of the Kawasaki 500 or in the drawers of my desk at the stockade. I'd crawl into my sleeping bag and watch the lights come on in the city below me. The tennis court lights at the Broadmoor and then Memorial Park were first. The stars came on not long after and I lived in that cave on the side of that mountain for a year plus. At night I'd wander the mountains. I'd hike out to Low Drive and wait for a car and sing softly whatever song I heard on the radio as it drove by. I'd camo the 500 Kawasaki with pine needle branches putting my gloves over the mirrors so there was no reflection from the stars or moon. I'd put the bike up on the center stand, prop my head up on the instrument panel and feet on the sissy bar, turn the key, and read Ray Bradbury by the neutral light. I found a place across the road where with my hand I dug into the side of the hill and water would drip out. I'd put a cup there and get a couple of cups of water per night out of it. I took my showers in the very cold water of Helen Hunt Falls a half mile away before most people in the city below were even awake. 

The dark and I are friends. In the age of headlamps and cell phone lights the dark and I, friends yes, but we haven't really spent any quality time together for a very long time. We're going to on this night.

I can just make out the trail most of the time. It takes about 16 minutes for night vision to come to me. If any light comes before that, start over. What I don't have is depth perception. Most steps I take are fine but anything with six or more inches of vertical lift or drop sends me spinning in the direction of the elevation change. I put my gloves on in case I fall. It's like walking drunk, blind fold on, bag over your head, rocks sticking up, pot holes, steep drop offs all around you, and somewhere out there, maybe, green eyes watching.

I took an hour and something to do the last mile. When I opened the front door and reached my hand around the wall to turn the kitchen light on while looking down to prepare myself it was still a shock to my eyes. The energy saving small kilowatt kitchen light was blinding.

I fed the critters, three ringtail in the rafters, two skunk, heads sticking up from under the porch, one raccoon and and a few fox visited. It wasn't long before 30 hot dogs were gone.

I was tired. Thighs and calves called me names. There was no adrenaline surge to come down from or anything to think about. I had re-connected with nature, cleared the mind, spent quality time with the dark, avoided being the hot dog, and once again felt the slow breathing of the Earth. When I laid down I heard her softly exhale outside the window. If I dreamed I don't remember it.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Hike, A Triology: Part Two

I'm passing over the top of the Amsas Back on my way home and look back to see Behind the Rocks with the La Sal mountains hidden in the clouds.
It's nice. I've missed hiking and if you know the feeling of being by yourself out hiking in the wild you don't need for me to say anything more. If you don't know the feeling I'm not sure there's anything I can say that will adequately explain it. There is still a lot of trail in front of me, then down Jackson Ladder, where the trail comes out at the bottom into Jackson Hole and I'll turn right and take the trail on this side of the river from the Pot Ash Plant.

I'm looking down at the Jackson Ladder trail and its nearly 3pm. I'm so screwed and it's my own mistakes. Still if I'd have gotten everything right and planned extensively my experiences with Mother Nature are she'll make alternations, changes, things to add to the challenge. She's creative like that. Take the test first. If you live, you've learned the lesson.

I use to bound up and down this trail when I was doing the grid search of No Man's Land ten or so years ago. Every day for a month on the north side of Amasa Back but I'm not feeling that today. The first time I ever climbed it 13 years ago I remember looking at this hanging rock that was pinched between others thinking it would be gone the next time I was here. Then finding this petroglyph and thinking this one doesn't appear to be very old.

Finally I'm close to the bottom but a much slower descent than in previous days. I can see the Saddle, and when I reach where the pipeline goes under the river to the Pot Ash plant I get my first glimpse of the Anti Cline in the distance which sits not far from my front yard. I've got less than two hours to go the final five miles, much of it sandy and or up hill before it's completely dark.

The Hike, A Triology: Part One

One of the Polaris side by sides needs some work. Since I'm by myself normally I would have taken the truck with a trials bike in the back to town, driven the trials bike back to get the side by side, then driven it to town, dropped it at Mad Bro, got wood, and brought the truck back. Though two of the three trials bikes started up Friday after months of inactivity I hadn't gotten to take them out for a good test to see if they had issues.I thought maybe I'd do that on Saturday.

I woke up Saturday morning and when I checked the weather forecast it said 50's today and 30's after that. I'd rather drive the side by side in the 50's than the 30's so things changed. I needed a good hike so I'll drive the side by side in and hike back. I called Mad Bro and they said they close at noon. It was almost 11am. I grabbed a pack off the wall, jacket, and one canteen, jumped in the Polaris and headed for town. While driving I realized I probably couldn't hike 17 miles by the time it got dark. If I took the Amasa Back Cliffhanger trail, up to Jackson Ladder I could come down the ladder and hike back from Jackson Hole. Maybe 12 miles instead of 17 and I didn't want to hike the road I'd driven hundreds of times.

When Mad Bro dropped me off at the Cliffhanger Jeep and bicycle trailhead the sky was a little gloomy but I had a rain jacket and rain pants in the pack so I felt good and one canteen should be enough. It wasn't 50, somewhere in the 40s, but not bad. Click on the pictures to make them larger.

The trail was a little more beat up than I remember and I hadn't hiked it's entirety in four or five years. Four people went by me on bicycles and that's all I saw all afternoon and evening. Looking back at the trailhead I could see the parking lot and the Tombstones where they base jump from.

As the elevation keeps increasing and the trail gets worse I can see the road I had driven a few hours earlier on the right canyon wall. I come to a placement direction marker. It's 2:30pm. It will be completely dark at 5:30pm. I look at the "You are here" smiley face. I still have to hike out to Jackson Ladder, descend down it into Jackson Hole, hike out to the river, and then taking every short cut I know it's five more miles if I can cut through the property to Last Hurrah. If it gets dark before I get there, skip the Last Hurrah short cut and add a dark mile. I'm not going to make it by dark.

I call Heather to let her know where I am and where I'm headed in case issues arrive. Right after I hang up the phone battery goes dead. I look in the pack and the headlamp is not there or the rescue beacon, or any of the first aid stuff I have to keep me alive if bad things happen. The three packs on the wall have all that stuff but I grabbed an hour day pack when I went out the door. It's sprinkling and a cold wind has come up.

On some Jeep trails they have work a rounds. If the road is just too difficult, creative, also sometimes called desperate, drivers look for alternative routes that are easier than the problem spot. The next three pictures are work a rounds the bicycle riders have made to make the trail for them more difficult.