Mother Nature’s Sun

Hurry down doomsday, the slugs are taking over. (image property of world-visits.blogspot.com)
Hurry down doomsday, the slugs are taking over.
(image property of world-visits.blogspot.com)

Well that’s that, then.  What’s done is done.  It’s drier than a iguana’s ass out there.

Au revoir to you, first rain-less January in San Francisco history.

February, ho!!

Can we get a rain cloud up in this bitch? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Can we get a rain cloud up in this bitch?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I Can See My House From Here!

(photo by D. Speredelozzi)
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

These days, you hear a lot of talk about how people look down on San Francisco; but few take it to this level.

These guys posted some pretty cool video footage of their aerial pleasure cruise around the skies above San Francisco the other day.  You wanna see it?  Click here.

This looks fun.

Down in a Hole: Trekking the Grand Canyon – Chapter 7 (Interlude: A Novice’s Tale of Backpacking Folly)

Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, just upstream of the Grand Canyon. (image property of commons.wikimedia.org)
Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River, just upstream of the Grand Canyon.
(image property of commons.wikimedia.org)

Smash the Bottle, Boy

As I sit sipping my wine, in my riverside campsite along the banks of the thundering Colorado River, I reflect upon my previous visit to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to this very same spot in fact, some 15 years ago.  It was my first backpacking trip ever.  My girlfriend Sarah and I spent two nights down in the canyon, camping both nights at that crowded camping area a mile or so back up Hermit Creek (mentioned in the previous chapter).

And remember: I'm not only the Addicted to Dirt president, but I'm also a client. (photo by K. Riley)
And remember: I’m not only the Addicted to Dirt president, but I’m also a client.
(photo by K. Riley)

Suffice to say we were novices at backpacking- green from head to toe, me even more than her.  Perhaps our biggest blunder was the way we handled the toting of wine to the canyon bottom.  Never having heard of Nalgene bottles, or of any other kind of durable, portable vessel for liquids, we each carried a full bottle of wine in our pack.  After a grueling nine-hour descent from Hermits Rest down to Hermit Creek, we arrived at camp around two in the morning.  As we lumbered on up to our campsite, I ceremoniously slipped out of one of my shoulder straps, leaned over, and just let my sweat-soaked pack fall to the ground, with prejudice.

Smash!!

Like a jackass, I had dropped my pack carelessly, shattering the wine bottle I’d lugged all the way down from the canyon rim.  So now, instead of enjoying some nice red wine while dangling my aching feet in the cool waters of Hermit Creek, as pre-envisioned, I could look forward to two days of wet, merlot-stained clothing, all of it sprinkled liberally with microscopic shards of broken colored glass.  And no wine to drink.

At the advice of my lawyer, I done cropped the female out the picture.   There's still a little nipple there if you require it, however. (photo by some random dude)
At the advice of my lawyer, I done cropped the female out the picture.
There’s still a little nipple there if you require it, however.
(photo by some random dude)

 

Spill the Wine, Take That Girl

But what about the other bottle of wine, you say?

I wish I had a better answer to that question than I do.  Apparently, and absolutely inexplicably, somehow Sarah and I both forgot that we had a second bottle of wine, stowed in her pack.  Don’t ask me how we forgot; and don’t ask me how we failed to come upon it during our almost two-day stay down at the canyon bottom.  While it’s true that sometimes you do lose a piece of gear in the bottom of your pack, thinking you forgot it when really it just found some dark recess of the pack in which to hide, this explanation is woefully inadequate in this situation.  But as unsatisfying as it it, I’m inclined to chalk up this moronic joint-blunder to extreme fatigue, as we did both arrive at Hermit Creek completely legless.

I'm just happy to see you, that's all. (photo by K. Riley)
I’m just happy to see you, that’s all.
(photo by K. Riley)

 

At any rate, when we left the canyon bottom two days later, we hauled our packs all the way back up to the south rim, a process which took a good twelve hours of hiking, interrupted by a rejuvenative bivouac of a few hours’ sleep, to complete.

Bury me with a ruby ring. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Bury me with a ruby ring.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

At some point in the early afternoon hours of the second day, we stumbled over the lip of the rim, out of our heads from heat and exhaustion; and promptly dropped our packs to the ground, first mine, then Sarah’s.

Smash!!

And there went bottle #2.

What a couple of losers.

(to be continued)

 

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Next chapter (The Worst Toilet in Arizona- Part 1 of 2)

Down in a Hole: Trekking the Grand Canyon – Chapter 6

 

The sun goes bye-bye over the canyon wall. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The sun goes bye-bye over the canyon wall.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Tonto’s Tent Sale

By the time we reached the Tonto Plateau, after descending the long, steep Cathedral Stairs down out of the middle canyon, we were nearly out of direct sun for the day; though there was still a few hours of light left.  From here it was only a mile and a half, all of it more-or-less flat, and with almost no sketchy drop-offs, to Hermit Creek, where we’d been planning to camp for the night.

Wow- talk about a good hair day. (photo by K. Riley)
Wow- talk about a good hair day.
(photo by K. Riley)

However, when we arrived at the Hermit Creek Canyon overlook, a hundred or so vertical feet above the camping area, the sheer number of tents visible in the narrow canyon below turned us off.  The place looked like the tent section at an REI outlet store, albeit with a more aesthetically compelling backdrop.  And although we were all by this point completely jelly-legged, dangerously irritable, and viciously hungry shells of proper humans, and moving warily beneath miserably aching shoulders, I was able to convince the crew that, in light of the capacity-crowd Rainbow Gathering being staged here at the Hermit Canyon campground, we’d be better off suffering the remaining mile and a half of mostly-flat hiking to reach the Colorado River, at Hermit Rapids, and set up shop there.  At the bottom of the Grand Canyon, camping hard by the Colorado is far preferable to camping anywhere else; the only reason not to go that extra mile is that your legs simply won’t do it.  So if they will, you might as well get on with it.

 

The team poses for pictures on the Tonto Plateau.  The Cathedral Stairs are visible in the background. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The team poses for pictures on the Tonto Plateau. The Cathedral Stairs are visible in the background.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Dead Dog Day Afternoon

Hermit Canyon twisted endlessly on its way down to the big river.  It was getting dark and we were running on fumes.  By the end I was dragging the team along like a dead dog on a leash.  It was some full-on National Lampoon’s Vacation shit.  My only mistake was continuously saying stupid stuff like “I can hear the Colorado just around this bend!!”  That wasn’t helping, though it definitely wasn’t intentional.  I never once said it when I didn’t fully believe it to be true; but I, like the rest of the team, was exhausted and near-delirious, barely able to trust my own impressions of the landscape around me.

Twisting through Hermit Canyon. (photo source unknown)
Twisting through Hermit Canyon.
(photo source unknown)

Remember that Looney Tunes episode where the fat guy and the skinny guy are stranded on a desert island together?  After awhile they are so out of their minds from near starvation that when they look at each other the skinny guy appears to the fat guy as a giant hot dog, and the fat guy appears to the skinny guy as a jumbo cheeseburger.

Well, that’s where we were at by that point in this day.

 

Whistle While You Bitch

Finally I powered on ahead to seize a campsite, throw down my pack, and walk back up the twisting canyon to cheerlead the others down to the river.

As I headed back up canyon, it was about 45 seconds away from being too dark to see without artificial light.  I soon saw, through the haze, one, then another, then another vaguely-discernible human-like shape stumbling towards me along the gurgling little Hermit Creek.  A moment later I was met with an angry, tear-filled wife, a cheerless, indignant friend, and a tired-but-still-jovial Bud, who was more than anything just glad to be on a deep canyon adventure for his birthday.

 

The Colorado River: aorta of the American West. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Colorado River: aorta of the American West.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

By the Time I Get to Colorado

Three minutes later, four heavy backpacks lay in the soft sand along the edge of the roaring Colorado River, as we all took a moment to rest our bones before setting up camp.

As tents began to spring up and flames ignited beneath pots of water, spirits began to rise commensurately.  Soon we were all just kicking back in the sand.  You never saw four people happier to sit and watch and wait for water to boil.  A plastic Nalgene bottle full of wine was proffered, and the day’s toils began to fall away.

Oh, Sandbox, the aurora is rising behind us. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Oh, Sandbox, the aurora is rising behind us.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

(to be continued)

 

Previous chapter (05)

Next chapter (07)

And You Thought YOU Were a Bad-Ass?

Yeah, I feel your pain.  I too sometimes manage to convince myself that I’m some kind of hardcore; but days like today quickly put that shit in perspective, and definitively to rest.

I took this photo last Saturday from Dewey Point, a spot on the south rim of Yosemite Valley immediately opposite  El Cap.  If your vision is good enough, you can actually see the tents of the now-even-more-famous climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson.  I get vertigo just looking at the thing, nevermind being on it. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
I took this photo last Saturday from Dewey Point, a spot on the south rim of Yosemite Valley immediately opposite El Cap. If your vision is good enough, you can actually see the tents of the now-even-more-famous climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. I get vertigo just looking at the thing, nevermind being on it.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

When you free climb over 3,000 feet up a 90-degree straight vertical wall of granite which boasts very few hand-holds, you immediately emasculate everybody else- plain and simple.

And that’s just what happened today on Yosemite’s El Capitan, on a route known as the Dawn Wall, which is often regarded the world’s most challenging rock climb.   After 19-days spent hanging off the vertical granite face, the herculean effort culminated in a dramatic victory, as the two climbers finally reached the summit, at around 3:30 PM this afternoon, further cementing their spots among the world’s rock climbing elite.

The rest of us have no balls.

This (relatively) close-up view of El Capitan, also taken from Dewey Point this past Saturday, gives some perspective as to the sheer immensity of the granite monolith, as the climber's portaledges (hanging tents) can be seen clinging to the face of the wall. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
This (relatively) close-up view of El Capitan, also taken from Dewey Point this past Saturday, gives some perspective as to the sheer immensity of the granite monolith, as the climber’s portaledges (hanging tents) can be seen clinging to the face of the wall.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

So what have you done lately?

 

 

 

Dreaming of a White Man Christmas

On the night of last week’s full moon, I took Peanut on a pale orb-lit hike up to Sweeney Ridge, a lovely crest from which one can, if they look west, see and hear the roiling Pacific Ocean assaulting the shoreline, two and a half miles and 1,200 vertical feet away, behind the lights of Pacifica.

Commemorating the Christmas season by pasting a big glowing star on a water tank on top of a mountain ridge is such a cracker thing to do. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Commemorating the Christmas season by pasting a big glowing star on a water tank on top of a mountain ridge is such a cracka-ass thing to do.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

If one looks east from this spot, one can see the San Francisco Bay Area: almost 500 square miles of orange-glowing urban sprawl, ribbons of red and yellow-streaked freeways, and far off in the dark sky, chains of white lights describing queues of airplanes lining up and making their way into the region’s three major airports from all corners of the globe (which actually has no corners).

And this spot, Sweeney Ridge, has another “thing” about it- it is what is known as the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, which is no more than a euro-centric term for the Columbusing of the Bay Area.

Thank god somebody finally "discovered" San Francisco Bay.  Just think how many years- centuries- went by with NOBODY having any idea it existed. (image property of www.weekendhike.com)
Thank god somebody finally “discovered” San Francisco Bay. Just think how many years- centuries– went by with nobody having any idea it existed.
(image property of www.weekendhike.com)

For, weren’t there some folks here before us?

Down in a Hole: Trekking the Grand Canyon – Chapter 05

The Hermit Trail cuts its way across the Redwall Formation. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Hermit Trail cuts its way across the Redwall Formation.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Forward Halt!!

Listen up, fellas:

When your wife is utterly terrified that she, you, or some other member of your entourage is about to stumble off the edge of a timeless void into the vastitudes of an unknown canyon thousands of feet deep, throw her a bone and call a halt to the proceedings.  Believe me- she’ll thank you for it later; and if she doesn’t… well you were gonna find out sooner or later one way or the other.

So we turned around and headed back to the Hermit Trail to reassess.  It was just too hairy on the Dripping Springs Trail.  If there’s even one member of your crew who doesn’t feel confident enough to proceed, you need to heed that voice (weakest link and all that), and either bring them around gently or yield to their concerns; but you can’t just keep dragging them along the brink all day long- especially when you know the shit is only gonna get sketchier with the miles.  It isn’t right, or advisable; and anyway you won’t make any kind of decent progress that way.  Besides, feeling like you’re about to trip and plunge off a cliff skyrockets the odds of it actually happening.  Plus, it’s not as if the fear was irrational or unjustified- there really was a gaping maw of an abyss right there next to us.  You could practically extend your arm outward and have the palm of your hand staring straight down to the dry rocky parched stream-bed thousands of feet below.

 

You can't get paid if you ain't part of my crew. (photo by K. Riley)
You can’t get paid if you ain’t part of my crew.
(photo by K. Riley)

Baby Oranges

Back at the Hermit Trail, we found a square foot of shade to huddle the team under for a few minutes, then had a sustenance power-up session starring cheese, nuts, and baby oranges (what do you call those things again?).  After due consideration of the available avenues, we decided to continue down the Hermit Trail into Hermit Canyon and on to Hermit Rapids, rather than turn around and climb back out of the big pit as lame-ass failures.  Plus, this was Bud’s 60th birthday dream trip, and one which would probably never happen if it didn’t happen now.  So there was that incentive on top of everything else.  And anyway, it helped that I myself had been down the Hermit Trail before, and was able to vouch for it as a far-less-perilous route than what I had seen of the Dripping Springs Trail in the preceding hour.  (though, to be fair, the Hermit Trail was still completely perilous, fraught with an uncountable number of unfathomably-precipitous drop-offs into the great never, just on a somewhat slightly lesser scale than the other trail.  I mean, that’s what the Grand Canyon is. If you can’t deal with that, then maybe you should go check out the Everglades, or the Cape Cod National Seashore)

When viewed from this vantage point, Hermit Creek is just mocking you. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
When viewed from this vantage point, Hermit Creek is just mocking you.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Scruffy Says: Stop, Drop and Run

Though it took us a good six hours to cover the remaining six miles down to Hermit Creek, the descent was for the most part uneventful.  At one point Robin started having the beginnings of a bug-out, because somehow her fold-up backpacking chair, which had been strapped to the outside of her pack, had vanished somewhere along the trail; but I was determined to snuff that shit out before it could really take flame.  Since I clearly remembered seeing the chair on her pack no more than a mile back, I deemed it worth the effort in the name of team morale; and so I dropped my pack and ran back along the trail until I found the chair, a blue square laying there pathetically in the middle of the trail, with a black square mesh pocket smiling off the back of it.  I picked up the chair and ran back.  It felt great to proceed through this terrain without the burden of a loaded backpack, even if it was only for twenty minutes.  Returning to the team, assembled at Lookout Point and stalling, delaying the inevitable as long as they might, I re-fastened Robin’s chair to her backpack, and we were off again.

(to be continued)

Bitch, I'mma cut you. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Bitch I’mma cut you.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

 

Previous chapter: (04)

Next chapter: (06)

Tenaya’s Final Tear: Lamenting the Corporatization of Your National Parks

You see what happens, Lebowski?

This is what happens when you sell off your entire country to big-wig corporate fuck-heads.  These bastards want to strong-arm the National Park Service into extending their contract to oversee and administer all concessions within the park, essentially cock-blocking all would-be bidders with the threat of a $51 million-dollar trademark fee, should they acquire the next contract.

Click here for the story.

Courtesy of a benevolently-bestowed corporate easement, hikers make their way across lower Lyell Canyon in Delaware North National Park, formerly known as Yosemite National Park. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Courtesy of a benevolently-bestowed corporate easement, hikers make their way across lower Lyell Canyon in Delaware North National Park, formerly known as Yosemite National Park.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

And here we are talking about iconic sites throughout the park, sites whose names long pre-date this stupid company’s involvement in park affairs.  In fact, many of these names were given by the Native Americans who, as many self-entitled and/or unacceptably-oblivious douches must sadly still be reminded, were here long before any of these corporate crackers came to town and started throwing dollars, lobbyists, and contracts around.

A rogue blogger trespasses on some corporate conglomerate's property.   Peanut- get HIM!! (photo by C. Chalk)
A rogue blogger trespasses on some corporate conglomerate’s property.
Peanut- get HIM!!
(photo by C. Chalk)

Now although, as we all know, nothing is shocking, and such has been the case since time immemorial, I am nevertheless galled by the gall.  After all, I thought we owned this place, me and you.

How exactly does one go about owning this? (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Tell me again- how exactly does one go about owning this?
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

And not just this place, but the rest of our other “National Treasures” as well.  But actually no- I’ve always known that that was just smoke being blown up our collective national ass (sorry, K).

The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park. Aww shit- I gottsta get me some of that sweet stuff for my vey own! (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.
Aww shit- I gottsta get me some of that sweet stuff for my very own!
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

But this shit is still over the top.

Trespassers will be shot on sight. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
Trespassers will be shot on sight.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

There’s nothing that can be done about it; so just lament away.  It’s all gone.

"Customers" will be charged by the joule for any warmth derived from a fire constructed of materials found within the confines of Delaware North National Park. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
“Customers” will be charged by the joule for any warmth derived from a fire constructed of materials found within the confines of Delaware North National Park.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

The dream is dead.  And somewhere, way out on the far side of for never and ever, the great Ahwahnechee Chief Tenaya sheds the last of his salty tears, as the the final nail in the utter subjugation of his people, their way of life, and everything they stood for, is finally hammered home once and for all.

Are you gonna tell him?  Because I can't do it. (image by Google)
Are you gonna tell him? Because I can’t do it.
(image by Google)

Give it up for democracy!  Woo-hoo!!  

(Cue the National Anthem)

 

Shipwrecked in Hollywood

It was just like Gilligan's Island, except in this case Ginger just made a couple of  phone calls and was back in Hollywood 90 minutes later. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
It was exactly like Gilligan’s Island, except in this case Ginger just made a couple of phone calls and was back in Hollywood within the hour.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

I closed out the year by spending a few days visiting some family and friends down in Los Angeles with my wife.  Personally, I think the place gets a bad rap.  But then so does everywhere.  And in a way I guess that’s perfectly legit.  Everywhere does suck.  But everywhere also has redeeming qualities (except Gary, IN- but I guess that goes without saying).

From a distance, L.A. is actually quite harmless most of the time.  Thank god it wasn't one of those "Jack Bauer" days. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
From a distance, L.A. is actually quite harmless most of the time. Thank god it wasn’t one of those “Jack Bauer” days.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Went out on the town one night, saw the third Hobbit movie (best of the three) one night, had dinner with a friend and his wife one night, and went out with my sister and her husband one night.  It was good. There were some laughs.

The man in the corner of this picture has a sinister purpose. (photo by K. Riley)
The man in the corner of this picture has a sinister purpose.
(photo by K. Riley)

Did a nice mellow hike around the neighborhoods and beaches of Playa Del Rey.  Flanked by the overhead shadows of planes taking off from LAX, soaring out over the ocean, bound for any and everywhere, we came upon a recently shipwrecked boat stranded on the empty beach, only its stern catching the outer tendrils of the gently-lapping waves.

 

The iconic Hollywood sign stands sentinel over the vast sprawl of  the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan region. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The iconic Hollywood sign stands sentinel over the vast sprawl of the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan region.
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

Ended the trip (and the year) with a hike up to Cahuenga Peak and the Hollywood sign, at the top of Griffith Park.  Then made my way back home to my pets.

The sun goes down over Santa Monica Boulevard, and 2014. (photo by D. Speredelozzi)
The sun goes down over Santa Monica Boulevard (and the year 2014).
(photo by D. Speredelozzi)

It was a year of ups and downs- more downs than ups; but most of the ups came in the latter half of the year; so it’s cool I guess.

2015 promises already to be a better year than 2014.  Let’s hope it keeps its resolution.