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, April 13, 2014

A Somewhat Serendipitous Meeting in the Outback

I've been back in the desert of southeast Utah for a month as of yesterday, but it doesn't seem like it's been that long. Maybe it's because I'm now on Desert Time (also known as Redrock Time)—that time zone that somehow exists in its own plane.

The view from my back door.
I once wrote a story that consisted of letters home from a paleontologist out in the bone camps of southern Utah, and even though I no longer have a copy, it seems like it consisted of a lot of star gazing and philosophizing about Deep Time and all that rather esoteric stuff geologists enjoy. 

The past month here seems like it was along the same vein as the story—pondering beautiful night skies and wandering about looking for trace fossils (dino tracks) while visiting with good friends and trying to pretend I'm no longer a part of civilization. Combine that with Redrock Time and you're bound to lose track of a lot of things, including what some might call your sanity.

Anyway, I was out today wandering in the Cedar Mountain Formation north of town when I saw a woman coming my way carrying a Jacob's staff. A Jacob's staff is a surveying tool used by geologists to measure cross-sections while in the field (as well as strike and dip), as in the photo below.

Anytime I see someone doing something interesting, I have to find out more, so I struck up a conversation with her. Come to find out, she's a prof at a large university and is studying the Cedar Mountain Formation, which is the major dinosaur-bearing formation in this part of Utah. 

I sort of have an infatuation with the Cedar Mountain, being the lost soul that I am (I've been told it's more normal to have infatuations with celebrities and the likes). We stood and talked until an incoming hailstorm ran us both reluctantly back to our vehicles. 

I thought about this as I drove off and wondered what the odds were of meeting someone way out in the Outback who could answer all my questions about the local geology. It seemed pretty serendipitious.

But by the time I got back to camp, I had decided the opposite was true. Where else would you meet someone with a common interest than where that subject is best represented? It would be more unusual to meet someone in a scuba diving suit on the top of a mountain than it would be to meet them in the ocean.

In any case, it was a fun way to spend an hour or so. I had the same thing happen not so long ago when I was over at the Crystal Geyser out of Green River—two hydrogeologists from a big Eastern university were there doing research, and I learned a great deal from them that day.

It's way easier than signing up for a class and paying for it, that's for sure.

This is Tiva, a beautiful and very smart Native American Indian Dog who paid me a visit along with her buddy Kai and person Susan.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

After Much Indecision—A Home Base

It's been seven years since I sold my house in Moab, almost to the day. Since then, I've been on the road or renting. My average rental time is about three months at once, usually in the winter, though I did spend eight months in one place that I really liked (Green River, Utah). I've camped all over the West and into Canada, but primarily in Utah, Colorado, and Montana in everything from my pickup topper to a tent, a pickup camper, a Burro, three Casitas, an Aliner, and now a converted cargo trailer.

There have been times I just wanted to go home (like when I fractured my back), but I really couldn't afford a home, at least not like I wanted. My requirements weren't all that stringent, or at least I didn't think they were—solitude, no close neighbors, awesome views, and an espresso shop nearby. :)

I've finally reached a decision—it wasn't easy, and I actually agonized over it for months. The way I was finally able to feel good about it was by saying it's not really for me, but for Bodie, Spice, Rowdy, and Callie—the cats who patiently travel with me and my three dogs. I guess I really do have a phobia about getting stuck somewhere.

I'm going to take possession at the beginning of June, and will get the cats set up with a good caretaker and hopefully still spend part of the summer travelling. It's really private, with a big yard that looks down over a wetlands and the Colorado River and lots of big cottonwoods. Unfortunately, the nearest espresso shop is 20 miles away, but I guess I'll survive (I do have an espresso machine I can fire up).

It's located in a small Colorado town about two and one-half hours from Moab, and only 45 miles from family in both directions. As a Colorado native, it feels like home, even though I don't intend to stay there all that much.

About the only thing I kept when I sold my house was my collection of original landscape paintings, and it will be nice to hang them again, though I'll always prefer the real deal.

Everyone needs a home, and now I'll have one—but only after spending the spring in Utah, where I currently am, enjoying the beautiful weather.

My first project will be to build a sunroom like this onto the house (with lots of help).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Utah's Hardware Ranch and A Little Visit to Paradise

Limestone ridges in Blacksmith Fork Canyon

I can count on one finger the number of blue-sky days we've had this winter in Logan, Utah, so when I saw one was forecast for today, I decided to get up early and drive up to the Tetons, which are about three hours away.

I was up by dawn, but after a cup of coffee, I realized I was too sleep-deprived to really go anywhere very far, so I decided to instead go visit a couple of places nearby that I've been wanting to see but haven't because of the never-ending winter weather.

One such place is the Hardware Ranch, up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, where the Utah Department of Wildlife encourages elk to winter over instead of going to their traditional wintering grounds in the Cache Valley, which is now overrun with people. The department feeds thousands of elk there, and people drive the 20 miles up the canyon to take sleigh rides out through the herds.

The elk are tiny dots in the middle of the photo—or maybe they're not as far away as they look and are just really small elk. At least they're not slow elk, which is what Texas hunters supposedly call cattle, according to my rancher uncle, who has actually had his cattle shot at by hunters.

I saw only one other car on the drive up, and when I got there, the elk were high on the hills above the ranch, obviously slowly making their way into the nearby Bear River Mountains as the snow melts. 

I was happy to see almost nobody, which is how I prefer it, even if it means seeing things out of season or, in this case, the tail ends of things going over the hill.

The Hardware Ranch visitor center

Hardware Ranch buildings

Well-fed wild turkeys

Well-fed ranch horses

The happy little Blacksmith Fork River, well-fed by spring meltwaters
 After puttering around a bit on the ranch, I decided it was time to visit Paradise, which isn't all that far from Logan, but yet is miles away in ambiance. I really liked Paradise, and I bet it's even nicer when it greens up. Maybe if I mend my ways I can return someday. Or maybe that's actually where I'm heading in just a few days, when I return to the redrock. 

I did finally break down and buy a Honda 2000i generator, which is what I'm waiting for, and which I hope will make the redrock more like paradise when it gets hot. 

In any case, I now know I can always return to Paradise if things heat up too much down in the desert. 

And if you're wishing you could see the Tetons, here's a nice link to their webcams.

The view from Paradise

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Finally done and time to move on!

Every book I write I swear will be my last, well, at least when it comes to mysteries. Writing mysteries is one of the harder forms of writing, so they say, and I tend to agree. You have to actually work with a plot and remember lots of details, which kind of goes contrary to how I generally tend to live my life.

I'm now preparing to leave northern Utah and head for parts south. I think I may have my migration patterns backwards, as it's actually starting to warm up here in Logan, and the Cache Valley is beautiful in summer.

I considered staying and using the house as a basecamp to explore points north, but then I decided I'd rather spend the rent money on gas to actually get to points north. Anyway, it keeps you on your toes, having to fight the weather, as you full-timers well know.

A cold, wintery, and somewhat lopsided day in Logan, Utah

I'll be heading south in just a few days. I hope to spend some time in the Utah desert, then go on over to my home state of Colorado and camp in the aspens for at least some of the summer, and who knows, I may even make it back up to Canada this year. In any case, spending winter in northern Utah is not in my future plans. It's been a long, cold winter. But I will say the place has grown on me, and I'll have fond memories.

Anyway, the new book is number 5 in the Bud Shumway series and is called the Silver Spur Cafe. Right now, it's available only in Kindle format, but in a few days, the paperback version will be available. For those of you who know the area, it's partially set in the nearly abandoned town of Thompson Springs, Utah, even though the building on the cover some may recognize as being in Green River—the joys of artistic license!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Winter Sunset in Utah's Northern Mountains

Being from Colorado and having lived for a number of years at an elevation of almost 9,000 feet, if you told me some of the mountains I consider most interesting would only be a few hundred feet higher than that, I would be surprised.

A stone house in Logan's historic district

Yet, the low mountains of northern Utah are truly unique, and winter sunsets emphasize their beauty. On top of that, they offer a true solitude that's rare. In short, they have yet to be discovered by the masses. 

Tourists may only briefly consider them as they're driving to the nearby Tetons (less than 3 hours north) or to the spectacular peaks of the central Wasatch range (an hour or so south), but these low ranges grow on you after awhile, especially with their myriad summer wildflowers and large bird populations, especially raptors.

Looking north from Logan into Idaho
To the west of Logan lie the Wellsville Mountains, considered one of the steepest ranges in North America, rising over 4,500 feet from the valley floor and with virtually no foothills. They're the northernmost terminus of the Wasatch Range, and their highest point is Box Elder Peak at 9,372 feet.

The Wellsville Mountains west of Logan
North of Logan is the Malad Range, partly in Idaho, with Gunsight Peak its highest point and very visible from Logan.

Gunsight Peak, 8,244 feet high, just northeast of Logan, has over 2,000 feet of prominence.

And to the east of Logan lie the Bear River Mountains, which are center stage for Logan's numerous beautiful sunsets. This range is predominantly limestone and has tons of fossils, and its high point is Naomi Peak at 9,979 feet. It may not be a tall range, but like the Wellsvilles, it's very rugged.

The Bear River Mountains
The Bears, because they are limestone, have numerous sinks, or places where the surface has sunk, sometimes several hundred feet, due to the carbonates dissolving. These are popular snowmobile places in the winter. One such sink, Peter's Sink, has the second-coldest recorded temperature in the Lower 48 at -69 degrees F (-58 C) on February 1, 1985.

The flanks of Logan Peak, elevation 9,710 feet

When I stand in the Cache Valley and look up at these peaks, it's hard to believe I once lived at that altitude—but then, I was in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Carbondale, Colorado, where things start a bit higher, not too far from where Colorado's Poet Laureate wrote (with Mike Taylor) a song called "Colorado Rocky Mountain High." Of course, that poet was John Denver, someone I considered kind of corny when I was young, but grew to appreciate later. 

John Denver hated the commercialism of Colorado but certainly did his share to add to it—kind of like Ed Abbey and SE Utah. I hope there's never anyone with that kind of fame that discovers the Bears, though wanting to share something so beautiful does seem like the right thing to do.

The Bears from a distance

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This little device could save your life...

Not too long ago, my nephew made the national news. His story made the "good news" sections of some of the papers (like the Huffington Post), but it could just as easily have been in the bad news section if things had gone a bit differently. This video tells the story:

Ron's a diver and very conscious of safety and always carries a PLB (personal locator beacon), but the day of his near-disaster, the batteries were dead. It was an error that nearly cost him his life. Fortunately, Ron's been interested in lasers since he was a kid and once even had his own laser light show, so for him to carry one in his pocket was normal for him, but not for most people. That laser saved his life, but a PLB would've been a much quicker rescue.

PLBs are much cheaper than they used to be, and IMO, anyone who is ever out of cell phone range should carry one. If you go online and read about the lives saved and the situations they were in, you'll soon realize that you don't have to be extreme to warrent buying one. All it takes is one mistake in a location where you're out of cell range.

The purchase is a one-time deal, as there's no subscription service necessary. When you need help, you simply push a button and your GPS location is broadcast to a number of satellites that are tied into search and rescue receivers. The device costs less than $300 and the only additional cost is sending it in for a new battery about every five or six years for around $150.

This link tells you more, and this link shows the one I have. I'm hoping I never need it, but if I do, it will be well worth the price.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bodie Miller (no, not Bode, but Bodie)

If you're familiar with ski racing, you've undoubtedly heard the name of Bode Miller, one of racing's greats (and a somewhat unconventional guy, as many greats tend to be).

The Bodie Miller I know spells his name a little differently from the great skier Bode—that is, he would if he could spell.

My Bodie is another Maine Coon cat, this one from the local Humane Society, where he's been languishing for many months because he's not a kitten and also maybe because he's such a BIG guy. He's about two years old and has the mellow nature and intelligence of the Maine Coon. I can barely lug him around, he's so big—kind of like having a young bobcat.

He acts like he's been part of the pack since he was a toddler, and a sweeter cat I've never had around. 

I've been working on my latest book, another Bud Shumway mystery, this one called "The Silver Spur Cafe." After that's done (hopefully in a week or two), I'll dedicate myself to finding a bigger rig to accomodate this newest ranch hand, then head out. I never did get south, but instead am currently holed up in the land of Neversummer, renting a little house and wishing I'd gone to Arizona, but there still may be time.

At least I'm getting some work done, and all this snow makes for good writing weather (a foot of new snow just today).

In the meantime, stay warm and happy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday, December 29, 2013

May Your New Year Have...

...beautiful scenery...

...awesome sunsets...

...interesting conversation...

...safe landings...

...a good laugh or two...

...a smile on your face...

...a trusty old ride...

...winding roads leading ever on and on...

...lots of gold...

...a buddy to hang with...

...cozy naps...

...warm fires...


...a bit of a challenge now and then...

...great views out your window...

...time for deep thinking...

...and lots of rainbows.

Happy New Year from the Gang at Spotted Dog Ranch!