With the smoke and the fire and the stars at night

Up again in the morning bright

With nothing but road and sky in sight

And nothing to do but go...

—old hobo poem

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life in the Stopped Lane

Seems like the third or fourth big snow so far this year...

Sometimes, if you can't head south, it's better to just make a big pot of hot chili and stay indoors. This is for all you in the warmlands so you know what you're missing...

If I still skied, I'd call this a powder day and be happy. Instead, I'll shovel snow—or maybe I'll just eat chili and wait for it to melt. Glenwood Springs, Colorado, courtesy of El Nino.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Well, Blogger decided it was hungry and ate my post about my dog, Moki.

Where from here? I dunno, maybe Wordpress...

You can read more about Moki here

She seemed to not be feeling well and was on and off her food, so I took her to the vet, but they found nothing wrong. They put her on a mild painkiller and she seemed better. After a short camping trip, where she seemed fine, she passed away during the night. A good friend who's a retired vet tech thinks she may have had a very fast-moving stomach cancer.

She was a good dog and passed on October 16th. We miss her very much.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Most Important Day of the Year

Sun deprived and tired of winter (even though it technically begins today), the Winter Solstice is the best time of all for us nature worshippers—the shortest day of the year and turning point when minutes of sunlight start being added instead of subtracted, spreading hope and cheer, especially to those of us with a touch of SAD. 

I always feel like I made it through another close one, and as soon as Christmas and New Year are over (followed shortly thereafter by my birthday), the coast is clear and all set for spring.

I've spent many winter days camping, some at temperatures well below zero, but I can't say it was as much fun as in more moderate temperatures, even though there's nothing like stepping outside into the winter chill and seeing the Milky Way hanging in the sky like a jewel to remind one of their own insignificance.

But sometimes, in my hurry to get through winter, I forget how beautiful it is. So, to help me remember, I've put together a video using some photos I took while winter camping, mostly in Utah and Colorado, though there are a few from Canada (Alberta and BC). 

Stay warm out there!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Another Video - Geology in the Dolores Triangle

I can't seem to muster up anything much to write about, and I guess that's because I'm finishing up a bunch of dental work. I made this video of doing geology in Utah's Dolores Triangle to help keep my mind off it (hope to go back, it's a very special place). After you start the video, click on the icon at the lower right to make it full screen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Video of the Dolores Triangle

For those of you who would like an idea of what the road into the Dolores Triangle is like from the Grand Junction, Colorado side, this video shows it's not really too bad—however, I didn't show some of the trickier spots. But in all actuality, unless you don't have much clearance, it's not difficult, just long. Parts of it do become impassible when wet, however. 

And, as Trainman said in the previous blog's comments, if you go in there, be sure to bring your skeleton back out with you. (I forgot to state that the skeleton had been found the previous year and is still under investigation. It will be featured in my next Bud Shumway mystery, "The Rattlesnake Cafe" if I ever get around to writing it instead of goofing off.)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hanging Out with the Rattlers in the Dolores Triangle

The Dolores Triangle has always had a certain mystique for me, probably because: 1/ it's very remote, 2/ One can see its broad uplands and immense canyons from I-70, and 3/ I've never been there, in spite of saying I'm going to for many years.

Already a good 30 miles from civilization and with a long ways to go - destination the distant mesa center-left under the horizon. 

The Triangle is defined by the Utah-Colorado border, the Colorado River, and the Dolores River. It's a large region of untouched canyons and mesas, and there are only two ways in - by miles of rough road through Colorado or by crossing the Dolores River in Utah, which is typically only passable in the fall, and then only if running less than 150 cfs. It was running over 900 cfs from recent rains, so I came the long way, through Colorado.

Looking towards the mesas we would conquer, coming out with geological knowledge and a few strange tales to tell.

My brother was out in the wilds doing research, so I decided to visit him out there with pizza and to help finish up measuring sections and paleocurrents. 

Typical signpost out in the Triangle. This one says, "Dolores River," and is at the intersection of BLM 107 and some road to who knows where.

It was as remote as one could ask for, reminding me of how un-peopled the country around Moab used to be before it was discovered. But, unlike Moab, I don't think the Triangle is in much tourism danger, as it's so difficult to access, but who knows? But there sure aren't any espresso shops out there, much to my chagrin, as I ran out of good coffee, a truly life-threatening situation, as my brother drinks the cheap stuff.

Looking towards Pinon Mesa in Colorado.

We had a great time, though we both came back sore and weather beat, having to leave because the roads become impassible when wet, and snow/rain was predicted. It had already rained on us once out there, but the roads were OK coming out.

It rained hard the second night and we woke to fog drifting through the canyons from the Colorado River far below. We were probably stuck from slick roads, but we didn't care (until I ran out of coffee, anyway).
While there, my brother saw a rattler and I heard one, a bit unexpected for so late in the year, but it has been unseasonably warm.

One of the sections my brother measured and sampled. You can barely make him out on the rim in the center. He's holding a Jacob's staff, a large cross for measuring inclines and distances. He told me he felt like a penitenti carrying it. Click to enlarge.

One morning, we woke to a bright red sky, which confirmed an oncoming storm. As I was trying to wake up, I heard a loud strange growling sound. I would've thought I was hallucinating, except the dogs also started growling. When I heard it a second time, I decided it had to be a jet boat on the river far below. My brother didn't hear it, as he was in his camper.

A bigger perspective of the same section.
The Dolores Triangle has long had its own strange tales of people disappearing. 

Having a full moon made it even more special, as we could see the surrounding landscape for many miles.

One day, a man and woman came by on an ATV. After talking for awhile, they told us about finding a human skeleton a good mile off the road not too far away. They were rock hounds and spent a lot of time wandering, thus the discovery.

Looking towards the Dome Plateau area in Utah across the river, with Arches just behind the horizon.
It turns out the couple was a retired physician and his wife, and he told us some strange details about the find, which is still under investigation. And they also told us there are a lot of mountain lions in the area, though this had nothing to do with the skeleton.

We finally made our way out, reluctant to leave and yet wanting a hot shower (and a latte). But it's the kind of place that sticks in your mind, with its vast sweeping views from Green River to Westwater and the backside of the La Sals, as well as all of Yellow Cat country and Dome Plateau, not to mention to the east into Colorado. Kind of epic, and a place that will call you until you return, but also a place that demands respect if you want to go home again.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

My Alaska Adventure - Video

For those of you interested in a short video of my summer trip to Alaska:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Change in Direction

I've been very fortunate to be able to spend a lot of my life wandering and exploring, dogs following along, living in the moment and enjoying the place where I feel happiest—the wilderness. I've never had much money, but then I don't need much. 

But there's always a nagging feeling that I need to be doing something—probably a remnant of past brainwashing, which is hard to ditch. So, I sometimes post on this blog or work on a book or take a road trip somewhere new, if I have the money, or take a class here and there, and it seems to satisfy the itch for awhile—maybe a week or two.

My past education was primarily in anthropology and linguistics, but I've found myself returning to my first love—geology. My grandfather had a huge pile of rocks in his yard—as a game warden, he was out and about a lot, finding cool stuff. 

He inspired me to start my own collection when I was just a wee lass, and I've had numerous rock collections through the years, including some beautiful rocks I "collected" at various gem and rock shows in Tucson. 

I always end up giving them away or donating them to some museum or college, as owning rocks and fossils is kind of the antithesis to traveling light. For example, the Museum of Western Colorado has a nice collection of insect fossils I collected from the Green River Formation, one of only a few places in the world where ancient insects have been preserved.

Anyway, I've been working on a degree in geology and now have a minor in it. I love science and find I'm happiest when I'm out doing fieldwork of some kind, which combines my love of the wilds with a sense of purpose. 

So, on that note, I'm now going off into a whole new direction and will be doing some actual geology fieldwork in southeast Utah. This will take me into places with no internet signals, so I may not be posting on this blog very often, though I still hope to keep it going with an occasional post. 

So, I'm off on a new kind of adventure—wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Finding Time to do Very Little

When I had a house in Moab, I used to get up in the morning, have a cup of mud, pack a lunch, then head out to points unknown and just wander with the dogs. 

I worked part-time for the local newspaper, and since I was always out and about, I managed to find lots of news stories the editor wasn't aware of. 

Sometimes a story would consist of interviewing some old timer, and other times it would be "real" news, since I covered the crime beat (such that it was), as well as search and rescue (SAR). The SAR beat could keep me pretty busy, as Grand County has one of the most active SAR groups in the country.

I covered lots of stories of base jumpers falling into the rocks, ATV drivers going over cliffs, hikers getting lost, rafters disappearing in the big rapids, bicyclists breaking legs—the kinds of things that always happen in an active outdoors area. 

The emergency room at the local hospital actually has a chart showing the number of accidents for the season at each mountain biking trail.

But sometimes my day would include dropping by the office to listen to Sam Taylor, third-generation owner of the paper, relate stories about the early canyon country, some that I knew were tall tales—Sam's been gone a number of years now. Those were good days.

I explored a lot of the area in an intimate way, looking at every nook and cranny, which is really the way to get to understand an ecosystem. 

There were places I knew so well I could tell you what grew where and when. I was always finding something of interest, whether it be an old sheepherder's stove, lithic scatter, or a rare penstemon.

I had several books on the flora and fauna and could tell you what everything was called, an art I've partially forgotten at this point. I knew where the jackrabbits holed up and where the bullsnakes lived and even could walk you to a coyote den or two. I have no idea how many miles I walked each day—sometimes not even one and other times a lot.

It was the best of times and in some ways the worst, as I had very little money and many bills to pay. This improved after I decided to sell the house, freeing me from a house payment and associated costs.

I've had some hard times camping, especially in inclement weather, but nothing can beat hearing coyotes yipping in the middle of the night or getting up to a stunning sunrise. 

I'm currently in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, one of the nicest towns anywhere, with cool nights and days and stunning scenery, but the canyon country tugs at my heart and I'll be going back over there when it cools off, probably mid-September.

Moab's been discovered, but there are still lots of places where one can hide out and explore and watch the full moon rise over the distant mountains. 

And there is lots of big desert close to Moab that the tourists aren't even aware of—places over by Price and Green River. Plenty of country for everyone.

As much as I love my home state of Colorado, maybe I'll give up the wandering life and move back over to the canyons one of these days. I guess that if I do, I'll still be wandering, but in a smaller way.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hot, Dry, and Broken Down

Leaving the shade of the tall larch trees at my camp near Kalispell, I head south, but not until I buy a bottle of Glacier Huckleberry Wine for back home.

I take the wrong exit in Missoula and find myself at the smokejumpers' headquarters at the airport. After taking a break from the sweltering heat by sitting in the shade with the dogs (my car thermometer reads 100 degrees), I flee. The heat is setting records, and it feels like if you lit a match the atmosphere would catch on fire. 

Having lived on gorp for most of my trip, I suddenly have a hankering for good Mexican food. I turn south at Butte, heading for Dillon.

For some reason, I really like Dillon, Montana, and the food at the Mexican bus is actually some of the best I've ever had. But there's a bicycle race that day, and the town is so packed it's hard to drive around. 

I take the dogs out to the fairgrounds for a walk, then brave the crowd and get some enchiladas. It's evening, and I had hoped to camp there, but it's still too hot, so I continue south, ending up camping on a back road near Pocatello, Idaho. 

I should turn east to go to Yellowstone, but I decide I want to go visit Logan, Utah, where I spent some time last year. I'll cut back north from there, camping at Bear Lake.

Seeing a sign that says Soda Springs, I turn off the freeway and go east, thinking this cutoff will take me to Logan. Before long, I'm at a small lake with picnic tables, and I stop and make coffee while the dogs swim. 

We have the whole place to ourselves, and it's paradise with the cool water and distant mountains—and even an occasional nearby train, as this is where they cut through the mountains of southern Idaho. A sign points out ruts from the Oregon Trail, but the grass is too tall to really make out much.

I'm soon in Soda Springs, a small town on the old Oregon Trail with historical signs everywhere. I find the springs and wait, as it erupts every hour on the hour, and it doesn't disappoint. Gulls love the water, which is carbonated and supposedly tastes like a mild beer, and they bathe in the geyser.

I spend some time driving around the town, then decide to head on over to Star Valley, which is near the Tetons. Taking a back road that winds through the mountains, I stop after an hour to take a break.

It's then that my battery light comes on. I call my brother, but soon lose the cell signal. I check for loose wires, finding none. 

After a moment of panic, knowing it's probably my alternator, I decide to head back the way I came. Going forward would take me to Jackson, where it's expensive to even breathe, but maybe I can make it back to the Wasatch Front and the Salt Lake City area.

I manage to drive the 70 or so miles back to the freeway, then head south, soon going up Malad Pass. Just as I'm being passed by a truck, my car begins acting like it's possessed—all the dash lights come on and the speedometer starts jumping around. I limp the car into a nearby rest stop at the top of the pass, wondering how I could be so lucky. The car completely dies under the only shade tree there.

I ask a man and his wife in a nearby pickup if they can give me a jumpstart, and they kindly help me limp 10 miles into the nearest town of Malad, Idaho, population 2,000. We have to jump my car several times to get it there. I pull into the first motel and get a room, marveling at how seedy it is, but happy to be there, as they allow dogs and have air conditioning. It's 102 degrees.

After two days in Malad, the local shop has my car fixed for the exorbitant sum of $300. It was indeed the alternator, and I feel fortunate that their prices are so reasonable. I do have roadside service with Geico, and they said they would tow me to the nearest Toyota dealer in Logan, who told me they would charge $500 to fix the car.

While walking the dogs, I meet a Marine on his way home from Iraq, and he asks if I've seen any bedbugs. I'm kind of puzzled until he tells me he's staying at the same seedy motel and that the Trip Advisor ratings say it's infested with the little beasts, though he thinks the complaints are from the wing we're not in. 

My love of motels grows, and I decide to buy another trailer when I get home—at least if you break down, you still have a place to stay. When in motels, I always sleep in my sleeping bag with a sheet covering the bed, and I've seen no signs of bedbugs, but I end up washing everything in hot water at a laundromat on down the road. I'd been lucky again, as none seem to have come along.

I'm happy I didn't break down in the Yukon, where just the tow alone would have cost thousands of dollars. I feel very fortunate and celebrate by spending the night in the desert, howling with the coyotes, happy to be home.