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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Messin' Around in Montana

It's been awhile since I posted, as I haven't had the internet while camping, but in a nutshell, I'm still alive. I left Green River, moseying on over to Colorado for awhile, then finally hit the road...

Saying so long to the big old farm house...

...and to the little town of Green River, Utah.

Heading north—Pinnacle Peak near Price, Utah

We then spent some time at Bear Lake, just over the Idaho border in Fish Haven.

Revvie loved playing in the waters there.

The first cabin in the Fish Haven area, built in 1865 by the Loveland family, Mormon settlers sent there by Brigham Young. Larry Loveland showed me around—he was born in the cabin.

Never thought I'd make it to Paris.

Should've stopped in for some S&H Green Stamps, but I didn't want to buy anything.

Montpelier's claim to fame was a bank robber.

I finally made it to Wyoming's beautiful Star Valley. This was my destination last summer on my way back from Alaska when my alternator went out. I admit I felt a bit apprehensive when I pulled into the valley this time, but all went well. My car now has almost 200k miles on it.

Main Street of Afton, Wyoming.

There was a time when things like this were pretty innocuous, but any more, people might hit the ground when they spot this gal.

I left Star Valley at Alpine, turning west towards Idaho Falls. A big fire was burning on the other side of the mountains near Big Piney, and I sat and watched the water-bomber planes for awhile.

I followed the edge of Palisades Reservoir, turning just beyond the dam and finding a beautiful camp spot up on the mountainside.

I had this huge meadow all to myself.

I decided to go back east and drive up through the Tetons and Yellowstone, even though I'd heard they were a little crowded this year. It was a bit smoky.

The ubiquitous elk at Mammoth in Yellowstone. I wonder how many times this one had her picture taken—there was a long line of tourists, many who looked to be Chinese.

Heading east into the Lamar Valley, the human crowds thinned out as the buffalo crowds took over. One herd of about 30 stopped traffic while the calves cavorted and the bulls wallowed and bellowed next to the road. The dogs' eyes got real big.

Cooke City at Yellowstone's northeastern gate. Good for a quick drive through, as it's been too touristified for me.

I drove over Beartooth Pass, but didn't take any photos, as I had my hands glued to the wheel. After a night camped at the Red Lodge fairgrounds, I took the back road to Columbus. One of my profs in grad school spoke Crow and spent a lot of time with the Crow Indians. I studied Lakota and did some research up in the Dakotas.

I finally made it to Livingston, Montana, then went south into the Paradise Valley and camped at the foot of Emigrant Mountain, thinking about grizzlies, as this is prime grizz habitat. A woman was mauled last fall not far from where I camped (I found out after the fact). This is only about 30 miles from the Yellowstone boundary.

Absolutely no nothing allowed except maybe photos as long as you don't stop to take them. Near the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley.

I'm not sure where I'll go next, as it depends on which way the wind's blowing. Having a tailwind will help save a little gas.

Safe travels to you all, whether it be on the road or in the armchair.

Sunset in Paradise Valley, Montana

Friday, June 10, 2016

Moving on yet again...

Well, it appears that my base camp in Green River has been sold. I can technically stay a few more weeks, but once one decides to move along, the staying isn't as attractive—all I can do is think about moving along instead of enjoying the staying. 

I think I may have spent less than a week there, but I really did enjoy seeing the trains (the tracks are about a block away), as well as watching the hummingbirds and sitting in the front porch swing. I also enjoyed seeing the town again and saying hello to a few friends there. It was fun visiting Little Area 51 again (the old missile base) and reminiscing about things I did when I lived there. Sometimes I think I returned because I was missing Moki and it's where I was living when I first got her. In fact, I taught her to stay with us while hiking around the old missile range, as it's all fenced.

But it seems that my mindset isn't the same as before, as I've had itchy feet ever since I arrived. I think the itchiness reminds me of mosquitoes—which in turn reminds me of Montana, Canada and Alaska.

So, I'll be loading up my little Aero trailer in a few days and heading for points north. I've been checking out staying in a vacation rental for a month or so near Flathead Lake, then hopefully I'll go on north into Canada and Alaska.

Sometimes I feel like I pay a price for being so footloose (I wake up wondering where I am), but like the Canadian alt singer Doug Paisley (not Brad) puts it, "The trouble with tires is they never grow tired of rolling out open roads, there's always a line that you can't seem to find, as down the road you go."

It's that elusive feeling one gets while out on the road—most of you wanderers know what I'm talking about—and sometimes I don't think it even matters where you're going, it's just the going, the doing of the thing.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

It's Time for my Annual Dose of Pain

I have a theory that it takes me about a year to forget really important things. 

I mean, I can forget somewhat important things in minutes (which my dentist knows well and thereby sends a dozen reminder texts the day before I have an appointment), and I can forget unimportant things in mere seconds or even milliseconds (can't recall which). 

In order to remember what I need at the grocery store, I compose meaningless acronyms of the first letters of everything, as I subscribe to the theory that one needs to use one's memory lest they completely lose it, and I therefore refuse to make lists. 

Sometimes the acronyms get really long and convoluted and I forget what they stand for, and I come home with some interesting stuff, which makes me glad I live alone (not counting the critters). 

And sometimes I flat out forget the acronyms themselves and wander around the store unrestrained, buying whatever I want (this happens a lot).

But really truly important things, things one doesn't want to ever repeat because they were painful, take about a year before they pass from my consciousness.

I base this theory on listening to some tapes I made with my little handheld recorder when on the road to Canada/Alaska two years ago, and also to similar recordings made on the same trip last summer, as well as recordings on other trips.

As I listened, I had to shake my head, because most of the entries involved pain—the kind that comes from sleep deprivation and mosquito attacks while trying to car camp, not to mention spiders hitching rides, bad coffee, and dogs throwing up on my pillow during the night—that kind of thing. 

This brief (12 second) recording from my road logs last summer tells how I feel about mosquitoes (and note how I was having trouble talking due to sleep deprivation):

And this was one of the tamer ones (no cussing). I have hours of these, and they make for some entertaining listening (though probably entertaining only to me). 

A lot of the entries feature things like "I'm really tired," or "I'm really really tired," or "How do you sleep in this %$@# never-ending daylight?" A few feature fussing at the dogs for getting into the food box and such (they always just ignore me), and some are just of dogs barking at bears and moose along the highway.

I listen to these logs and think I remember the pain, but I must not really remember it, because it makes me want to go back.

So, I'll return to Green River base camp for a few weeks to reconnoiter, then it's north for my annual dose of pain and reality. I got a comprehensive tune-up for my truck while here in Colorado, and I'll get new tires in Moab next week.

I swore last year upon returning from Alaska that I would never car camp again, especially in mosquito country, but then I swore the same thing the year before and the year before and...I forget how long this has been going on, but it's been a long time.

Shrinks will tell you some people like pain because it makes them feel more alive, but I think for me it's just that I have a bad memory.

I kind of like this photo, though I forget just where it is.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Trouble in Paradise

Having a home base this year, and one that's in a great area for exploration (Green River, Utah), I had pretty much decided I would spend the summer in one spot for once. 

But even at that, I've been back and forth between Colorado and Utah about a half-dozen times under the guise of this and that (getting my teeth cleaned, getting the dog's shots, etc.), as Green River doesn't have much in the way of such amenities. And getting a bad case of norovirus didn't help things much and delayed my return to Utah by a couple of weeks.

And so, I've spent less than a week in the new base camp, even though I've had it rented since May 1st. But it was a great week there, and I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of geologists from Norway who are studying the Entrada Formation. 

But it hasn't all been great—I discovered, like many such places in desert towns, that the house has roaches, the big-little bastards, not the little-little ones. These roaches are so big that you start to wonder if they have souls and whether or not killing them should be considered murder. 

So far, I've avoided the quandary as I haven't had to kill any, as the cats seem to be doing it for me (as I said in an earlier post, the cats are serial killers with no conscience, but in this case, it's good). I just find the roaches dead on the floor with their little legs sticking up into the air as if trying to walk that stairway to Heaven. I haven't found a lot, just three or four, but even one's one too many for me.

I'm not used to roaches, as Utah is the only place I've ever tried to live with them (except one long summer in Florida, where they disingenuously call them palmetto bugs, and also a week or two here and there in Hawaii). There's really no hope of my getting used to them, as I consider them intolerable. 

In Utah, they seem to like areas close to rivers and wetlands, and my base camp is very close to the river. It seems that certain areas of these desert towns are thick with them, and there's little to nothing one can do to get rid of them. The neighborhoods in Moab close to the wetlands are notoriously infested.

St. George is another desert town with major roach infestations. I wonder what's involved when they have to bomb the St. George LDS Temple.

I once lived in a different house in Green River where I could see them walking down the sidewalks at night under the streetlights as if on an evening stroll to check the town out. Since I had five rescued cats at the time, the roaches were smart and stayed away from my house (as far as I knew, anyway).

And I once lived in a house in Moab that I fondly referred to as the "roach pit," and that I bombed about once a month to no avail. When word got out that it was time to do the bombing, the roaches would mysteriously disappear for a few days—they probably were partying at the neighbor's until the air cleared, or maybe they went on little backpacking forays into new neighborhoods or hitchhiked to the house in Green River.

I hate pesticides and it's the only time I've resorted to using them, always being careful to take the dogs and cats and leave the house for a couple of days. But after awhile, I finally conceded defeat and moved on, leaving the roach pit to friends from South Carolina who were better able to deal with them. They used Borax and sugar bait and eventually got rid of them, only to have new bolder roaches invade the following year. My friends also eventually left.

I can tolerate about anything except roaches (and certain spiders and scorpions and giant desert centipedes and...), so it looks like my corner of Paradise may not last very long. It's a month-to-month lease, as the house is on the market, so I can leave any time I choose. But in all other regards, it's a very nice property, and I hate to leave.

I would probably come unglued if I were to find one in bed with me, so maybe I should do like the old-time cowboys did and cut a hole in some tin cans and put one upside down on each bed leg. Or maybe double-stick tape would work, as I used to put that around the outside of my dog door to keep the scorpions out when I lived in Moab.

I may just keep the house for awhile longer and leave the cats there to happily chase the intruders all night while I have someone come in to check on them each day while I go to points north. Maybe by the time I return the cats will have killed them all off. 

It's always handy to get others to solve your problems. 

The prickly pear are starting to bloom.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bumpity Things in the Night

I had almost drifted off to sleep last night when I heard a strange thumping noise. It was loud enough that I couldn't write it off to simply being my heart or a resident ghost or anything like that, so I finally got up and looked out the window.

It was pretty dark, but I could make out an even darker form picking up my large trash can and slamming it back down onto the sidewalk, where I'd set the can for collection the next morning. It reminded me of a sumo wrestler trying to break all the bones in an opponent's body, though not faked like on TV. Whatever it was, it was strong. 

Deductive reasoning told me it had to be either a Bigfoot or bear. I could see a set of wet bear prints on the front step through the window, so I went for bear.

I stepped outside (staying close to the door, as being able to run away is the better part of valor) and watched it for a moment, wondering what to do. Even though the can has strong bear-proof latches, I've seen the destruction bears can wreak (more on that later), and didn't want the can destroyed—not to mention the town has a $500 fine for letting a bear get into your trash.

So, I started banging on the side of the house. Even though the bear was only maybe 20 feet away, it paid me no mind. 

Cassie doesn't worry about bears because she can climb trees.

OK, so what would a bear do to scare off a human if the tables were turned?

I started growling in my worst and best way, and to my surprise, it turned and ran down the street. After I got over the shock, I felt rather proud of myself—I've always been a little timid around bears, and now I realized it was for no reason at all! I had the power to scare a bear away at will! I was a talented bear growler (no, not a beer growler, dealing with that is a whole different talent).

Just a few days previous, a neighbor had his garage door partially destroyed by a bear trying to get inside to his garbage can, and the wildlife people had set up a bear trap full of watermelon and honey, but nothing came of it. The bear was too smart (but maybe not as smart as all that, if it fell for my growling).

With my new found superhuman bear skills, I guess maybe I'll tent camp in Alaska this summer after all. Instead of sitting up all night wondering what every little sound is, I'll sleep like a little baby bear.

We'll see if it comes back tonight. If it does, I'm prepared.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I think I need a therapist...or a big Class A motorhome

Well, I sold my Chalet trailer. I posted it, then took down the post after a couple of days, having changed my mind, but a nice couple saw it while it was up and came out and spent the night in it and really wanted it, so I sold it. I had camped in it for about a month and really enjoyed it.

Blaze Foley wrote a song called "Clay Pigeons," which has a line that goes: "I'm tired of running around looking for answers to questions that I already know." I like this, as it kind of describes my life with trailers. (I like the following rendition of Blaze's song.)

I think the main problem I have here is simply that I may need a therapist. When I don't have a trailer, I want one, but when I have one, I don't want it anymore. There's probably a name for this condition, and it may not be curable. Actually, what I want is a Sportsmobile or Tiger, but I can't afford one. But I might not want it if I did have one.

In the meantime, I'm trying out a new hobby: buying leather recliners for my new base camp. I'm still in Colorado, and I've found two very nice ones so far, both for around $100 each and in perfect condition. One's a Lane and the other's a Barcalounger. This means I may need a bigger tent if the house sells and I have to move. 

Why does one antisocial person need two recliners? Well, I actually need four—one for me and one for each of the dogs. And then there's the cats...

Colorado's Roaring Fork Valley is a great place to find nice furniture, as the kind people in Aspen upgrade often and donate their used stuff to Habitat for Humanity. Economists call this the "trickle down effect."

I've also found some nice used Persian-style rugs for $10 each. It's really not like me to want to buy stuff, so I'm thinking the economy's ready to crash or something and I'm sensing a need to get stuff while I can, kind of like some animals can sense earthquakes before they happen.

In the meantime, my cousin in Phoenix called and is moving back to Alaska and wants me to travel up there with him in a month or so. He already has a condo there, so I would have a place to stay for awhile if I go. Maybe I should ask if he needs a recliner or two.

So far, I've had the base camp in Green River rented for almost a month and have spent three nights there. I'm kind of hoping at this point that it will sell, as then I wouldn't have to move the new recliners, and I could just resell them and buy another trailer. Or maybe I need a big Class A motorhome that would hold a couple of nice recliners. We'll see how things turn out...

Spanky having an adventurous swim in the Uncompahgre River near Ouray.

Friday, May 6, 2016

I said I would never buy another trailer, and now I have two...

Living in the middle of nowhere is great until you need supplies, then you either do without or trek to the nearest bigger town. For me, that would be Moab (see previous post for reasons not to go there) or Price, which is nice but means risking one's life on a stretch of Highway 191 that's considered the most dangerous in the state.

Since I'm still in Colorado (due to free pizza and a lack of momentum that's probably caused by the free pizza), I occasionally check the internet for local goings-on, and I happened to come across this little fiberglass cargo trailer for sale up the road in Carbondale. 

It weighs all of 250 pounds, will hold 700 pounds, and is easy to push around. Perfect for stocking up on supplies for those who live in the boonies, which means fewer trips to town! And it has good clearance, so one can take it on backroads.

I'd seen these little Aero trailers before, and they're pricey—this model starts at $3,000. They're made here in Colorado, but it's very rare to see a used one for sale (I've only seen one other).

So I of course had to get it. For $600 (that's less than a dollar a pound of cargo space), I felt it was a good deal. I mean, one can spend that much on lattes in a few months if they're not careful, right?

I'm amazed at how easy it is to hook up and also by how much junk it will hold. A run to Target and I'm all set for paper supplies for the next year, and the little trailer still has tons of room! So, it was then on to the Habitat Restore where I bought some rugs and various household items. Before I realized what I was doing, I'd spent more than the trailer cost, and it still wasn't full! 

I suddenly had this strange compulsion to fill it. I wandered around WalMart for awhile (a store I rarely frequent) and didn't find much I wanted, so it was then on to a couple of thrift shops and even a J.C. Penny's, which I hadn't been in for several decades. 

I finally got a grip on myself, but only after beginning to understand that strange rush of adrenaline that shoppers get when "scoring a deal." Anthropologists say it comes from our old hunter-gatherer heritage when we had to go shopping in the flora and fauna mall for our dinner.

Even though it's still not quite full, I can always cut some nose-holes in the side and adopt some more dogs—or maybe cats, as I could fit even more cats than dogs in it.

I'm looking forward to a nice trip somewhere soon so I can cram all my camping gear and water in there and have the entire back of the car for a nice memory-foam mattress. And I might just sell the other bigger trailer, now that I have this simpler and easier-to-manage little Aero. (I know there are bets out on this.)

It's funny how little things can change big things, like how you see the world.

Moonrise over the La Sals

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Moab Meltdown

My new home, one of the area's original farm houses. It has a really peaceful feel and plenty of room.

I've been visiting various old haunts around Moab, almost as if I'm leaving and won't be back. In a way, I guess I'm saying goodbye, even though I know I'll return, but the area has been overrun with machines and is becoming less and less of the kind of place where I want to be. 

I don't mind sharing, but the constant noise of the ATV crowd has finally driven me (and a number of others) away. What used to be a paradise for those who enjoy solitude is now ruined. It's been going on for years but has now reached critical mass (I call it the Moab meltdown). A number of friends I ran into are also getting ready to leave, and some have been there forever. The town has been heavily impacted and one can see signs all over that say, "Throttle down while in town."

A friend who works at the Sand Flats Recreation Area told me that the Jeep/ATV trail, Fins 'N Things, no longer has any dirt on it as it's been worn down to bedrock. A newer event called Rally on the Rocks is expected to bring over 2,000 UTVs in early May. I'm seeing the damage everywhere I go, and the BLM is understaffed to patrol and control this kind of activity. 

This same friend actually sold his house in town and moved out in the valley to get away from the ATV noise. New construction is also changing the character of the town, homogenizing it and making it look like other resort towns instead of the funky Moab so many of us loved. And housing is expensive and hard to find, whether renting or buying.

According to the Moab Travel Council, the area has seen an increase in tourism of 18% over the past year. The town is having a meltdown and nobody knows what to do about it, so they just keep advertising it, but now they're trying to inform people of places nearby to visit and thereby lower the impact around the actual town, though it's too late. 

The ATV/UTV way has always seemed like a rather selfish way to do things since you have such an impact on others and the land. It seems as if the ATV crowd is more about thrills and challenges than actually getting to know the country and its inhabitants, flora and fauna. 

My back yard - almost two acres of privacy, surrounded by fields. Taken at sunrise, so is a little dark.

And so, I'm getting off the road for awhile and will retreat to a place where there's still solitude to be found, though for how long I don't know, as the Moab overflow is also now affecting Green River. The RV and state parks are full every night, and I'm seeing more and more traffic in this little town with no stop lights.

I'm currently in Colorado, where I'm getting ready to move the little bit of stuff I have, as well as my cats, who will love the new place, even though they won't be allowed outside, except on the screened-in porch, as they're serial killers. The many squirrels there will keep them entertained, as well as the buzzards who are roosting in the big elm trees on their spring migration.

We'll see how it goes. I won't have the internet, which is good, as I'll be finishing up a couple of books I've been working on. I also plan to explore a lot of the country there that I haven't seen, even though I've spent a lot of time in that area.

And if that doesn't work out, I may just head north, as the Yukon is calling me and it's too far away to ever see the kind of tourism Utah's now getting—hopefully, though I read that Whitehorse is becoming the new in place. 

In any case, here's to peace and quiet.

Sunrise over the La Sals

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Heading Out

Looking through my photos, I can tell things have been slow lately—there's nothing much but pictures of snow. It's been a long hard winter, and I'm finally ready to head out. 

Canaigre, also called wild rhubarb
It's still cold here in Western Colorado and was snowing just a few days ago, but then, it's just barely April. I can see a hint of green in some of the early-blooming trees, like the globe willows, and it makes me want to hit the road, as it reminds me that it will soon be wildflower season in the desert.

Spanky and Cassie. Spanky was born in the desert and will be going along with us for lots of fun.

The dogs are anxious, too—there's only so much adventure to be had in chasing squirrels in the back yard or barking at the raccoons in the night. It's time to hit the desert and burn off some pent-up energy. Revvie is especially anxious, as he's heard lots of stories about raven chasing (link goes to a video) from Cassie and Weezee and wants to see if it really is all it's cracked up to be.

Desert sweetpea

The trailer is all spiffed up with new curtains and a new paint job on the hitch, plus two new memory foam mattresses for me and the dogs, as well as lots of good books about dinosaurs and geology on my Kindle—and I didn't forget the good coffee and yummy dog biscuits.

We'll head west towards Green River and Price country, then take it from there. The base camp rental isn't available until May, so we'll camp until then, maybe even longer. Alaska and Canada are calling our names again, but who knows if we'll make it this year or not.

And even though we're all anxious to head out, there's always a poignancy that goes with it, a sense that another season in our lives is over. And who knows how many springs we have left—we have no choice but to go, to see new things—the big comfy recliner will always be here (unless we decide to take it to the new base camp in Green River, then it will be there). 

So, maybe we'll see you way out there howling with the coyotes in the Back of Beyond—or if not, maybe at the Quesadilla Wagon in Moab.