Holidays In and Around Hell

Holidays In and Around Hell

Gas prices might help save us from bad trips this season, but it is, after all, High Summer. All of us will go somewhere. Or wish we did. It’s that scant subseason in which we try to cram a year’s worth of warm fuzzies and completely sick activities into a week-long outing in the increasingly stuffy Subaru. Chances are, some of it will be good. But guaranteed? There’s always a little bit of Hell on the horizon.

1) Hot fun

With the idea that a vacation is vacating the everyday grind and spending a short time in some form of upgrade, it always amazes/confounds/befuddles us that people travel to/through/near Yuma in the summer. Boasting an average WTF July high of 106 degrees (to be fair, it’s a sweet 73 in February), Yuma is Arizona’s hottest city, and, that said, Arizona is the hottest state in the U.S., and, that said again, record highs are expected throughout the country this summer. Still, there are things to see while you’re slowly committing suicide. We suggest viewing the M65 Atomic Cannon at the entrance of the Yuma Proving Ground on U.S. Hwy 95. The cannon was built in the mid-’50s with the idea of hurling nuclear shells far enough so they wouldn’t kill the people who launched them. (The underlying message here is they would kill/maim the people who did not launch them.) Specifics: A single shell was detonated at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. It was launched 500 feet in the air before yielding a 15-kiloton explosion. We knew you’d want to know this.

2) Where has the chill gone?

If you’re visiting the Inland Empire (or anywhere in California) this summer, know that your card-bearing brethren are nervous and potentially poor hosts. The DEA has been going batshit crazy on dispensaries as of late, in one case busting in with guns drawn, handcuffing four patients and leaving with 25 pounds of marijuana and 89 pounds of edibles. Despite the passage of Prop 215, which allows for medical-marijuana dispensaries, raids are now epidemic, shuttering hundreds of stores statewide. Sacramento County alone has seen nearly 100 closures. The California Assembly voted 48-21 June 1 to pass a pro-dispensary bill to create a state licensing/policing agency for medical pot, which has been valued as an industry worth more than $1.5 billion in the state. The bill sees a harsh road through the senate and to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

3) Hang on tight, indeed

In short, we Americans suck. In a recent survey by LivingSocial, we topped the list as the worst-behaved tourists on the planet. More than Canadians, Australians and Brits (also high on the list of loud, cheap assholes the rest of the planet would rather not see), we steal towels, bathrobes, TV remotes, sheets and even Bibles from hotels. And our aspirations for seeing the world? The top-10 dream destinations for Americans was basically a run-down for Holidays In and Around Hell, including the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome’s Coliseum, Disney World and, without a doubt, Las Vegas. As for the Eiffel Tower, we have personal experience of a fearful, fanny-pack/seed-corn-hat-clad Texan screaming to another in the elevator: “Hang on tight, Billy Bob!” Interestingly enough, in a recent survey of Twitter users, Ellen DeGeneres topped the list of celebrities (followed by Oprah) with whom Americans would most want to hit the road. No word yet from Ellen if she wants to meet up with Billy Bob for some pommes frites.

4) Sartorial Hell

By now we’ve all contacted our pals in Anchorage and congratulated/berated them for being the worst-dressed people in America, according to Travel + Leisure’s recent unleashing of its list. (We’re guessing the Fashion Police were somehow diverted from Summit County, Colorado.) Anyway, if you’re traveling this summer and want to feel good (rightly so) about how other people are dressing, you need to steer clear of Salt Lake City, which earned the No. 2 post. A pleasant, clean town that isn’t particular keen on boozing, it’s also kinda 1980s when it comes to the sartorial arts. As the T+L people say, there are only so many ways to rock a polo shirt. Coming in at No. 9, Phoenix has seen a dangerous uptick in the oft-maligned bolo tie. Baltimore and, oddly enough, Orlando made the top-10 list, while Portland made it into the fray at No. 13 (something about prom dresses). Denver, which often fails to distinguish between unwashed rock-climbing clothes and office casual, earned a respectable 17th place.

5) Cheap thrills

For the most part, Time magazine went a little short on the American West in listing the top-50 roadside attractions. But let’s say you’re driving along Hwy 50 in Nevada, often hailed as the Loneliest Road in America, and you’d like something to do besides careen into the ditch and kill the rest of the people in your car. You’ll want to stop at the Shoe Tree near Middlegate. It’s a cottonwood with a bunch of shoes hanging from its branches, and it’s a whole lot better than 30 to life. Up in Driggs, Idaho, we’ve got the Spud Drive-In Theater, which is fairly cool because there basically aren’t any of those left. But what you really want to see there is Old Murphy, the 1946 Chevy Truck that holds a two-ton concrete potato in the back. We’re not making this up. And rounding out the list of roadside WTFs, we have the esteemed giant thermometer in Baker, California. We saw that thing hit 124 one July afternoon while pulling a U-Haul back to Colorado. The asphalt was so hot that it squished under our shoes en route to the gas station convenience store. We were pretty sure we didn’t need the thermometer to tell us that we’d arrived in Hell.

Long-time newspaperhumanoid Tara Flanagan splits her time between Boulder and Breckenridge, Colo.   

Way of the Mountain #190


In the evening the two of us kneel
by the waterhole below camp, filling
our bottles. The vault of the sky
opens and down comes the rain,

big drops splatting our sweat-
rimed shirts, our sun-burnt necks.
We say nothing, keep kneeling,
filling and being filled.

— Richard Kempa
Rock Springs


The wishbone of a well-cooked chicken,
A hand on each hook of a clavicle,
Pulling for love, for peace, for rent money,
As if this breast bone anchor, the larger half,
At least, could channel luck or make bad luck
Disappear. As if the near miss, the short staff
of the “Y” would bring less, when in fact,
It’s the chicken who needs both halves intact
And one more wish to fly.

— Frank H. Coons
Grand Junction

To Mt. Elbert

I watch the hush before late clouds
are drawn to you, before wide sky

is smudged with charcoal trails that wrap
you in the breath of coming storms,

before thunder reverberates
in shadowed fields under your peaks,
before the lightning, wind and rain,
before you shake that wet, gray cloak,

before the dark dissolves stirred light,
unmasking owls and constellations.

— Malinda Miller


Deep in right field
kicking at crabgrass
hoping no one
hits the ball
my way.

— Gary Glazner
Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Poetry Project


I envy the surfers
Who have no choice
but to throw themselves
Into twisting currents at dawn
When big waves rise in the lavender light
Throwing white tails of foam
at the new young sun.

— Bryan Shuman

Tyin’ The Knot

Blinded by love, sure

She felt the rope’s grip slacken
heard the hardwood crack

They both fell even harder
when their tree swing gave way

— Kierstin Bridger

Death is near

humming a little song
in the night
and the melody is hauntingly

— Cathy Casper


Bird-watching in the Desert

Bird Watching in the Desert

Abandonment is the great white fact of the desert

— Scott Baxter, Southwestern climber/poet

The desert smells like rain.

— Tohono O’odham child, quoted by ethnobiologist Gary Nabhan 

In a dry wash north of Lordsburg, New Mexico, a skeleton dances. The bone man’s feet grind into the stony ground, dimpling the creek bed. Wind scrapes across the grey-green flats from the west, flinging sand into the eye sockets, through the slender gaps of forearm and ribcage. A fistful of gray birds surfs the wind.

Lightning flares in the bruised afternoon sky over by the Arizona line. Purple rags of cloud stream out ahead of the storm, dragging trails of virga. Silver light splashes the low hills to the east, at the southern end of the Gila Range. (The Gilas, you will recall, are where Aldo Leopold shot his wolf, where the wilderness prophet had his vision of green fire: I am walking in the bloody Holy Land.)

The dancer doesn’t care about the mountains or the lightning, or about the founding of the Wilderness Society. He dances. He executes a gritty blues shuffle, something mid-’60s Chicago, trenchant and full of longing. His fingers clatter like castanets; his feet strike the cow-burnt earth like hands working clay into something beautiful, and perhaps useful.

Thunder claps. A chill strikes the desert. I take cover under the overhung cut bank — infrequent storms have carved this wash ten feet deep. Mesquite roots claw at the air where the bank has collapsed.

I crouch with my back against the earth, light a hand-rolled cigarette and stare at the skeleton, still dancing. Something gnaws in my belly. It never goes away. I don’t need to see a doctor. The CAT scans and barium dye, the blood and tissue samples — none of it is necessary. All along, I’ve known what this thing inside me is. I don’t need a medical opinion. For years, I’ve been walking in the dry places, following unpromising washes, looking under rocks. I sleep in the mouths of played-out copper mines and stare at sunrise over the rim of a charred steel coffee cup, sure of my self-diagnosis: terminal hunger.

Walking in the desert is my preferred treatment for this malady, a basic ingratitude for the ease and abundance of my life. I am patient. I hope it takes a hundred years to kill me. Season after season, I fill a backpack and walk, grazing the thin pasture of the desert, sustained by this practice. I never know what I’m looking for till I find it. This morning, it was a pale blue trailer out on the flats a mile west of U.S. Highway 70, not far from where I sit.

Abandoned trailers always seduce me. So I marched through prickly pear, cholla and crucifixion thorn for a better look: a rancher’s old line shack with the usual broken windows, dull chrome trim and faded vinyl siding. A derelict mattress leaned against the north wall; a set of bald truck tires lay decomposing in the yard. The windmill was rusted, the galvanized-steel tank full of tumbleweed, rat turds and bullet holes.

I walked to the trailer door, kicked aside the remains of a rotting wooden step and peered through the empty window frame: a few glued-together kitchen chairs, a door-less refrigerator, broken dishes on the floor. On top of the ’fridge stood a ceramic barn owl — smooth brown feathers, flat face, eyes like saucers.

I became possessed by the idea of taking the owl statue with me. The door was locked, so I reached through the small window frame for the inside knob. When I did, the bird turned away, its head swiveling like the child actress’ in “The Exorcist.” The flash of terror in my cells was fleeting, but total.
I yanked my hand out the window as if it were the maw of a tree shredder. The owl flapped off, into another room. I stepped away, feeling more alive than I had in days. I did what one does in these situations. I bowed.

Such moments hide in the desert, waiting to happen.

Other days, other birds: In the low Sonoran Desert, a black-chinned hummingbird sits on a walnut-sized nest amid a tangle of paloverde. The bird glares at me from two feet away, daring me to come closer; I stare for one long moment, then step away. In Grand Canyon, a pair of ravens efficiently tears apart my backpack, opening bags of food, flinging powdered drink mixes, piercing plastic water bottles with beaks like knives. At sundown in the Mojave, near the apex of a slender crumbling ridge, 53 vultures rise silently on six-foot wings, drifting past the alcove I’ve chosen for a camp. No one else is watching.

Almost everything that occurs in the desert is ignored. If truth be told, not much goes on out here. But what does happen sizzles with meaning. The flick of a bird’s wing is a poem. Water seeping from sandstone is an entire language.

Human artifacts speak, too. Listen:

Last April near Yuma, a few miles north of the Mexican border, I found a tiny blue daypack, bleaching in the sun. Inside were a pair of cheap denims (women’s size 4), one lavender acrylic blouse, two pairs of panties (one pink, one blue), a brush and comb, toothpaste and toothbrush, a motel bar of soap. In a plastic change purse were 62 cents and a mass card bearing an image of the Virgin de Guadalupe.

There were no personal identification papers. No maps. No field guide to the birds. Before zipping the pack shut, I refolded the clothes, making sure everything was exactly as I had found it. I sat down and stared at the pack. I considered setting up camp there until the owner came back. I wanted to ask her some questions about the desert.

Doves coo in the washes and fighter jets scream overhead. Is there any reason to go elsewhere?

I of course love the cool mountains,
snow-fed rivers and the color green. But I belong to dry places and savor their offerings: the secretive birds, the hallucinogens of desert light and weather, the broken poetry found in the leavings of my kind. I cannot imagine a life apart from this practice of walking in the desert.

I cannot be sure that what emerges from hiding is real. I know you find it hard to believe this matter of the skeleton. I too have doubts — if I look too closely, the dancer may disappear. But for now, there he is, sleet rattling off his skull. The bones are slick with moisture.

I think he was here last week, too, when the boys from town drove up in their jeeps, smashed bottles and were cruel to their painfully thin girlfriends. He was out on the Navajo Reservation during the uranium years, so I’ve heard. I suspect that this dancer knows every turn in each dry wash we set foot in, and follows the thirsty when they look for water. Certainly he watched fifteen years ago when I tumbled sixty feet down a scree slope in Hance Canyon. I just didn’t see him.

Until today, I had never seen a ceramic owl come to life, either.

Until today, I had never witnessed an early monsoon near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The sky is weeping now, fat droplets pocking the sand with black stains that multiply and merge, saturating the ground. Rocks glisten. The air blossoms with scent — the drab and hostile plants are celebrating. The dancer throws back his head, collecting raindrops in his grinning mouth.

Another storm comes to mind. Late in May, after a week of dusty hundred-degree days in southwest Texas, the evening air was thick with heat and moisture. I lay on the
desert floor, waiting. When the storm came, it slapped the land with sheets of water that sent flash floods down the washes into the Rio Grande. Lightning tore at the darkness. After an hour of this violence, a million stars emerged and the air grew perfectly still. The joyous reek of creosote and ocotillo kept me awake for most of the night. By the next afternoon, the creek beds were dry again.

Today, the storm spends itself as quickly as it began. My cigarette burns down, leaving me mildly sick and dizzy, an ashy film coating my mouth. I don’t care. I loved lighting the cigarette, inhaling its empty promise. I field-dress the butt, flicking brown wisps of tobacco from my fingers, pocketing the tarry paper.

I look up and the bone man is gone. The windmill creaks slowly.

After a few minutes, the sun returns. A few anonymous birds flutter through the branches of a catclaw, sending liquid notes through the suddenly fresh desert air. The sound triggers a shudder of pleasure deep in my chest. I make a silent vow to learn the names of more birds.

Michael Wolcott believes in the wisdom of bones. He watches the birds and looks for water everywhere he goes. Northern Arizona is where he gets the mail.  

Letters #189

MG 189 Letters

Envelope: Klara Lapp, CO

We’re in the market for decorative envelopes to help beautify our Letters pages. If you’ve got an artistic envelope bent, pull out your weapons-of-choice, decorate an envelope with our snail mail address on it, mail the resultant envelope to us, and, if we print it, we’ll give you a year’s subscription to the Mountain Gazette.

Uncle Big Bob

John: I happened across your Smoke Signals article about the Dillon Dam Brewery, “Big Bob and the Beer Math Saga” (MG #180). I really enjoyed reading this story, especially as it relates to Bob Kimble, who was my uncle. Today marks the one-year anniversary of his death, so I had decided to google his name. I landed on your article, and enjoyed reading a little more about him and his life. Thanks for a laugh on a day that I really needed it!

Sharon Wright
Birmingham AL

Forsooth, More Bowden

J.F.: Charles Bowden is sooo good, would love to see more and more from him. Also love your poetry section. Consistently good. Could you eke out more space for it??


Mob(not moab), UT

Colorado Songs #1

M. John: Regarding your Smoke Signals article, “Colorado Songs,” in Jan 2012 Mountain Gazette: You just HAVE to include “Wolf Creek Pass” by C.W. McCall!

Robert Stump 

Colorado Songs #2

Master Fayhee: A listener called me during my radio show last week to mention your article on Colorado songs and suggest the challenge of adding to your list.

I have done so and will be playing a set on air tomorrow, should you care to listen. I humbly will only make three additions, two of note.

Thanks for inspiring a quest.
Here is the playlist for that segment:
1. “Colorado”/Rebecca Zapen/Nest
2. “Colorado Girl”/Steve Earl /Townes
3. “My Secret Place”/Joni Mitchell & Peter Gabriel/Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm
4. “Me & That Train”/Patty Larkin/not sure of the CD … just downloaded it.

Lynette O’Kane,
Assistant Music Director
KDNK radio
Carbondale, CO

Colorado Songs #3

M. John: I’m a 77-year-old mountain dude who hitched from my hometown of Hannibal. Mo. in 1953 for a life in the mountains. I went to work for the Dercums at Ski Tip as a dishwasher, woodcutter and après-ski troubadour. After learning to ski at A-Basin, I taught there from ’54 to ’56, then at Loveland Basin and worked at the Alpine Inn in Georgetown where I was promoted  to pots and pans. I lived in the High Country up until moving to Grand Junction a few years ago. In between, I did some interesting things such as running the ski school in Telluride in the early ’70s, singing in several of the local watering places there and was the MC for the first official Telluride Bluegrass festival in ’74. I went to NYC during the “Great Folk Scare” of the ’60s [as U. Utah Phillips described it] and became well established enough that Dave Van Ronk called me “The best known of the least known.” The thrill of the city paled quickly and I came back to the mountains.

I have several albums of songs I’ve written since I returned to Colorado. Many of them have mentions of life in the High Country and the canyons, rivers and deserts of the great Southwest. Most recently, I did a music video called “Dancing Down the Mountains,” a song that I wrote last year. It has some cool footage, including me telemarking while playing my guitar. It answers your prerequisite of having Colorado in the lyrics. It has been out on youtube since last May and to date has had over 1,600 views. Not bad for a video about an old guy still skiing and singing. Check it out — it’s only 4 minutes and 27 seconds long so it won’t take much time out of your busy day and I really think you will enjoy it.

You can find all of my music on iTunes. Some other specific songs that I think would interest you are on my compilation CD, “Colorado Collection”:

• “Colorado Mountain Song,” which starts with the story of my hitching out West in ’53 and the joy of being here after I arrived.

• “The Ballad of Lady Silverheels.” A tale I know you know well.

• “Wild Stallion.” A song inspired by a dream I had about the life of an aging stallion on the Roan Plateau.

• “The Mountain Bike Song.” As Mark Twain might have said, “A good way to spoil a nice hike.”

There is a direct link to Dancing Down The Mountains on my website; or google it.

Your writing is a constant inspiration to me. Many thanks for all that interesting “palavering.”

John Winn

Colorado Songs #4

M. John: From a Rocky Mountain Parrot Head … written in 1980 by Jimmy Buffett: “Incommunicado.”

A verse in the song references Colorado:

“Now on the day that John Wayne Died

I found myself on the Continental Divide.

Tell me where do we go from here?

Think I’ll ride into Leadville,

And have a few beers.”

Tim Payne, Board Chairman,
Cañon City Recreation District.

Colorado Songs #5

Mr. Fayhee: I am disappointed that Merle Haggard got only a mention of his song titles and no lyrical interludes in “Colorado Songs.”

Ever since I heard “Colorado,” it has been one of my favorite songs, especially the chorus: “Have you ever been down to Colo-rado?/I spend a lot of time there in my mind/And if God doesn’t live in Colo-rado, I’ll bet that’s where he spends most of his time.” I once combined that with “Colorado Girl” as I approached Durango from the south on U.S. 550, after a long absence, and lost my mind listening on repeat as I stared down the early-autumn San Juans.

Another song, which you totally forgot to mention, and was on my play list, was Johnny Paycheck’s “Colorado Kool-Aid.” Technically about South Texas, the second stanza mentions one of Colorado’s most-notorious exports: “What’s Colorado Kool-Aid/Well it’s a can of Coors brewed from a mountain stream/It’ll set yer head on fire and make your kidneys scream/Ohhh It sure is fine/Yeah we was havin’ one of them real good times.”

Thanks for digging up all of those songs for those of us who spend a lot of time in Colorado, in our minds.

Adam Throckmorton

Colorado Songs #6

MJF: One of my favorite artists, Modest Mouse, sings appropriately in “Trucker’s Atlas” about unloading his head in CO and continues to rap a bit about other great states such as my home state of AK … although I am not sure if I got off Scot-fucking free. I have enjoyed this ditty whilst driving across the county many times, as I am sure many of your other readers have on road-trippin’ occasions. Take the time to enjoy the song at some point if you haven’t already. Thanks for the words.

Best regards,

Kenneth Rogowski

Colorado Songs #7

Hey, Fayhee: Loved the piece on Colorado Songs! It immediately brought back the lyrics and tune of “If I had a Wagon,” which most of us who were in grade school in Colorado in the late-’60s and early-’70s learned and sang with pride and gusto at our school performances. It goes: “If I had a wagon, I would go to Colorado/Go to Colorado/If I had a wagon, I would/If I had a wagon, I would go to the state/Where a man can walk a mile high … ”

And then it goes on to add verses about driving to Colorado in a Chevy, flying to Colorado in an airplane and landing in Colorado in a space ship (it was popular during the height of the space program), and ends with “having feet hike on, and it’s Pike Peak or Bust/Where America can learn again/Just like Colorado men/How to hold your head up high/Where a man can walk a mile high!”

It was recorded in 1967 by Up with People as part of the “Moral Re-Armament Show” and was written by DB Allen and JP Colwell. KHOW radio in Denver played it every Friday morning. Check out the video on YouTube. And I’m happy to report that some 4th graders in Colorado are still learning this song!

And we shouldn’t forget that Katharine Lee Bates, was so inspired after a trip to the top of Pikes Peak in 1893, that she penned the words to what is now “America the Beautiful.”

Write on, MJ!

Liane Mattson,
Paonia, CO

Colorado Songs #8

Hi John: I enjoyed your article in Smoke Signals on Colorado Songs and wanted to add one to your list. Richie Furay was the architect of country rock and also founding member of Poco, who still plays in Denver. The song, “You Better Think Twice,” mentions Colorado and our lovely mountains and is a very uplifting tune.

Thanks, peace,

Mark Besocke

Colorado Songs #9

John: In your article Colorado songs, you noted a couple of Dan Fogelberg’s numbers and that he wintered outside of Nederland in the ’70s. He later had a home in Durango. Thus the lyric, “I’m in Colorado, when I’m not in some hotel” from his hit, “Leader of the Band.” On “High Country Snows,” he also wrote an instrumental titled “Wolf Creek.” Finally, on his “Wild Places” CD, the song of the same name notes, “I was walking alone, through the lofty San Juans.”

Kevin Masters

Colorado Songs #10

John: I would prefer a good old-fashioned letter, but, alas, I am at work and only have time for a quick note. Have you ever heard of Tony Joe White? If not, then this is your lucky day. Look for an album called “Black and White.” You will be rewarded with not only a song about Aspen, Colorado, but with one about “Soul Franchise,” as well as a few other outstandingly awesome originals and a b-side of solid traditional covers. If for some weird reason you don’t like the music, you will at least get a kick out of the cover photo.

Cheers and keep up the good work.

Jim Martin

Colorado Songs #11

M. John: What about “Have You Been Down to Colorado” by the Bluegrass Cardinals? Good lyric: “If God doesn’t live in Colorado, he spends a lot of time there.” It’s on YouTube.

Gary Lewis

Colorado Songs #12

Hello to M. John Fayhee! A friend gave me the January issue of Mountain Gazette. This magazine was unknown to me, but Police Gazette came to mind and in thinking it may have inspired the former, I was intrigued. I was given this issue that I might find something of interest in your “Colorado Songs” article. So I might.

I must first say that posting your email at the start of said article and inviting comment shows you have guts. As you say, everyone will be outraged that you left out their favorite song. As for me, I feel your list is fairly complete. I was surprised that you gave mention to the lovely song, “Moonlight on the Colorado,” as sung by Chuck Pyle. I am fond of Mr. Pyle’s work, but feel the best recording of this song is by Liz Masterson and the late Sean Blackburn on their “Tune Wranglin’,” a study of Western Swing in the ’30s recorded in 1987.

There is one song you overlooked that I feel worthy of mention. It is a modification of the popular song, “Home on the Range.” It is a Colorado form of said song titled, “Colorado Home” and written by Bob Swartz and his friends in Leadville, circa 1885.

They made for a fun, rousing piece that I often play to crowds in Colorado. A more complete story of the song was written by my friend Ed Quillen in his Colorado Central Magazine. September 2007.

So overall, you came up with a fine article. One you might consider presenting to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. I think it might pique their interest. Regarding the Mountain Gazette at large, I found the overall articles engaging and fun. I look forward to seeing future editions now that I know of you. Thank you for your article on Colorado Songs.


Rex Rideout

Aloha … Put Up Your Dukes!

Hello Editor: I recently read the unfortunate experiences of Craig Childs and JT Thomas while visiting lava flows in Hawaii (“Rumble in Hawai’i,” MG #187). I have also been the victim of this type of harassment while photographing at the Waikupanaha lava delta a few miles SW of Kalapana. From the description in the article, it sounds as if this same “gang” is responsible for both incidents.

In May 2009, a few friends and I made an early-morning adventure to the lava flowing into the ocean. Instead of walking the 4.5 hours or more from the Volcanoes Park to the lava delta, we poached the view by parking at a public viewing area near Kalapana. It was 1 a.m. or so, and to get to the lava, I confess that we passed a few government No Trespassing signs as we walked down the middle of the road toward the recent lava flows. Once on the flow, no property borders, forests or houses remain. All that is left is the undulating, cooled lava and the remains of concrete pillars, which were once the supports for a large gazebo situated near the sea cliff. Any form or indication of habitable private property has been erased by the new rock.

My friends and I spent the night shooting pictures and video. We even survived a massive lava bench collapse that threw incandescent bees and ash hundreds of feet into the air. As we were getting in position to photograph the lava with the sunrise, three strangers approached. The largest of the men, our “Big Guy,” was well over 200 pounds and stood at least 6 feet or more. He had a slightly olive complexion and short curly hair. He had no facial hair and his facial features and complexion made it obvious he was not 100-percent Hawaiian.

As the man (soon to be a goon) approached, he started asking us where our permits were and how the land (er, desolated lava) we were on was his friend’s and how he was going to contact the DLNR (the Division of Land and Natural Resource police). I asked the goon where HIS permit was, but he kept changing the subject back to us and his right to be there because the sea cliff was his friend’s property. He kept telling us to leave, but my friends and I held our ground. We offered to share our location for photography, but the goon continued to get into our faces as we tried to reason with him.

Unlike the article in Mountain Gazette, no physical violence occurred, but it was close. Fortunately, we had the power of numbers over the goon. I’m a lifelong hockey player used to taking on bullies, and one of my friends is a multi-disciplined, high-level martial artist. Our confidence and the number ratio kept the conflict from escalating. Although the goon had two accomplices, these smaller, and truly Hawaiian-looking, men were always in the background and didn’t seem to want to get involved. I got the impression that they were a bit embarrassed by their friend.

Eventually these men left us alone and we continued to take our pictures. After sunrise, we hiked back to the car where police from the DLNR were waiting. Their daily patrol, not contact from the lava enforcers, brought the DLNR to the parking lot. They took down our names and license numbers, gave us a stern warning and said that, if want to see the lava, then hike the long way from the park. (We most likely avoided a ticket/arrest since we were well prepared with, boots, backpacks, respirators, gloves, etc.).

I mentioned to the DLNR our confrontation with the men at the lava delta. We gave the police a full description of the lava enforcers, since it appeared they would be back for a truck left at the parking lot. I’m not sure what happened later, but I hope the goon and his friends paid for harassing us.

While most Hawaiians have no problem with respectful tourists, there are a few that I have encountered who feel the volcano is for Hawaiians only. They insist that their religion and belief in Pele gives them some special right over all other humans to get close to the lava. I’d imagine in the MG article that the Big Guy’s rant over taking pictures of his mother had something to do with taking pictures of Pele, and not the goon’s real, biological mother. Many Hawaiians also forget that the volcanoes were active long before their ancestors arrived on the Islands, and volcanism will continue long after the last humans are gone.

During our exchange, I mentioned that I’m from Colorado and that I welcome people from all over the world to view my backyard. I said that I don’t have any claim to the Mountains and why should he have claim to the volcano? We are all tourists on the planet, and actions like his will only frighten away other cash-wielding visitors to the Big Island.

Please Check out: for a collection of videos and clips from my volcano adventures. has my stills.

Robert Shepherd

Wheat Ridge, CO

PolySci at 12,000 Feet

Mr. Fayhee: My first letter to your publication. Feel ever free to edit liberally. I always manage to miss the submission deadline for poetry, for your Rivers issue and photos of The Best Dog on the Planet (who is named Dylan and is Hopi, born in Tuba City to the Rez Dog clan, for the Rescue Dog clan) for your Mountain Dogs issue. But something happened yesterday that warrants recording in some public venue, and since I’m sitting beside the Dolores River in the foothills of our beloved San Juans, and the story took place on the Continental Divide at Monarch Mountain Ski Area, your mag comes most to mind.

There was a contingent of soldiers at Monarch this week. I showed up on a Friday, day-six in a row tele-skiing five different areas in a last hurrah with my Monarch pass. The mountain was bedecked in desert-camo fatigues, which I took notice of before I’d even leashed my skis, being newly not-quite-single-it’s-complicated. The kid soldiers on the slopes had minimal cause to shave yet, which was heartbreaking. The guys in the lodge were older — thinning hair, some graying — and wore more of a “been-there, done-that” look, and I’m sure they had been, and had done.

I hadn’t talked much to anyone all week, riding chairs by myself, masticating on life and love. This day I wanted intel. I have a dear friend in the Special Forces who had been deployed to Afghanistan at the age of 50, just after 9-11. I learned from him only weeks after that invasion that not only was an attack on Iraq in the works, but that SpecOps was already there. Inconceivable — what the hell did Iraq have to do with anything? A few months ago, an Iranian handyman named Farhad was building me a new deck. His father was secret service for the Shah before the revolution, and every male in his family had been beheaded. Farhad himself had escaped as a teenager through the snowy mountains of Iran, found asylum in Japan and then America, and will soon have U.S. citizenship. He told me back in December that the reason Obama pulled the U.S. troops out of Iraq early was to have them available for the planned invasion of Iran. What? Three months ago this sounded ridiculous. Now, not so much. A lot of saber rattling lately.

From quizzing my civilian chairmates, I quickly learned the skiing soldiers were army, made up of units from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, and were on the mountain for “winter conditions training.” I did not get into geopolitical discussions of why this was ominous until I rode up with a 65-year-old retired CSU professor who was also a Vietnam vet. I told him that he certainly had earned the right to voice whatever he thought about a potential U.S. invasion of Iran, and he chuckled a little, “yeah, I do get to have a kind of street cred on this one.” We pretty much finished each other’s sentences about why Iraq and why Iran, and the last word was habitually “oil.”

The next chair I shared with a third-year polysci student from Florida, out on spring break. His university-version of upcoming events was analytical, but surprisingly inevitable. At 20 or 21 years old, he’d been a kid when the towers came down, and he was not so much callous as cavalier about the need for us to invade yet another Middle-East country. He guessed that Israel would strike first and we’d have to go in to clean up the mess. But he was certain from his university-led discussions that the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan had not been learned, that the U.S. was still hopelessly naïve about what comes after the invasion, and that it was a shame what would happen to these guys in camo fatigues skiing here today.

Which brings me to an aside: desert camo fatigues in the snow? Really? Please tell me that our guys and girls in the Hindu Kush are not wearing desert camo. Reminds me of the jungle camo worn by the soldiers on the spaceship in “Aliens.” Jungle camo in outer space — really?

Eventually, I rode up with a young volunteer, in his desert camo fatigues, nary a facial hair yet sprouted. So polite, and willing enough to answer my open-ended questions. He talked about how hard it was on the lungs at 12,000 feet, coming from sea level, that he’d never seen snow in his life until yesterday, and how it was important to learn to snowshoe and set up camp in the cold. He said, “Well, we went into Iraq because we thought there were weapons of mass destruction. Turns out we were wrong, but this time we KNOW there are, so we have to go take care of them.” Lord, I wanted to hug the kid and say — no, not “thank you for your service,” but “sweetheart, please be here next year.”

A couple evenings before this, my 12-year-old god-daughter in Avon had been working on a homework assignment on the Iraq war. “We went to war with Iraq because Saddham Hussein threatened President Bush’s dad, right?” I held my tongue and my breath until her mom — a nurse in her late50s with street cred similar to the Vietnam vet’s — answered, “We went into Iraq because of oil, Emma.”

“Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?

… Oh when will we ever learn?

Oh when will we ever learn?”

Here’s to the young soldiers whooping it up at Monarch Mountain in March 2012. I hope to God you’re back next year, and I’ll buy you a beer, if you’re old enough to drink by then.

Suzanne Motsinger
Flagstaff, Arizona

Remembering Cal Glover

Dear John Fayhee: My husband and I have been traveling to Teton Valley for the past seven years. We were drawn to the area because of my husband’s friendship with Cal Glover. They were both in high school together, specifically in the same German class —  Cal would introduce us to all his friends out west in German, quickly adding that they met way back when in Ft. Lauderdale High School, but Bob went north to Massachusetts and he jumped on his motor cycle to head West as a young man of 18 to Yellowstone. If you know Cal, you can just picture him saying this, and in the same breath asking “Where you all from?” and maybe even adding a story or two. His passing was a sad shock to us. Our visit there in February was difficult but glad to be able to see Kim Carlson, his widow, and offer our sympathy to her in person. Reading the Teton Valley newspaper, I saw your notice/website about his writings from past issues and the most recent story about his dog, Toby. I just wanted to tell you it was a fitting tribute to Cal and we so appreciated seeing his collective writing in print.

Thank you for honoring his life by his stories

Celeste Wilcoxson

Pro-‘Arrested Development’

Hi John ! Recently I spent 10 days in beautiful Southern Colo. Stayed a few days in Durango, a few in Pagosa Spgs. Ski’d both & totally enjoyed myself & the wonderful San Juan Mtns! I happened to pick up a copy of Mountain Gazette No.186 and enjoyed several interesting & well written articles. My Favorite was your piece: Smoke Signals — “Arrested Development.”

I can’t tell you how Very Similar we are in our feelings regarding law enforcement and especially the Border Patrol. I won’t go in to all the details, but needless to say, you and I share a lot of common feelings and have had many very similar experiences. Interestingly, pretty much all of my friends feel the same.

I have lived in southern AZ (Tucson) for 40 years, and in the last few years, the Border (where I used to trek and explore backcountry and camp a lot!) has been ruined by BP! There are so many things wrong with this. Your article covered nearly all issues, very well. Additionally, I will add that gun trafficking Into Mexico has been enabled by “border police.” (I forget the name of the incident, but it was in the news). Also, the most horrendous murdering along the border was actually done by that deranged Minuteman (Anglo) crew that broke in and killed that family down in Arivaca.

I am much more nervous & afraid of meeting BP than I am the occasional “illegal(s)” along trails or backcountry roads.

Thank you for your writing and your work putting out a top-notch publication.

Peter Ianchiou

Anti-‘Arrested Development’

Sir: Had to respond to the “Arrested Development” column in Gazette 186. Wow. I mean … wow. I guess nobody likes to give up their freedom unnecessarily, but really …
Let’s see: You admit to disliking law enforcement even as a kid because you engaged in “recreational windshield smashing” and they presumably stopped you. Not a single word about how the folks whose windshields you smashed felt about it. I suppose now if some young punk does some recreational windshield smashing on your personal vehicle, you wouldn’t have anything to say about it, right? Since any kind of infringement on a kid’s desire to wantonly destroy other people’s property is just, like, the man being all heavy and stuff.

But, okay, what you did as a kid was totally cool, and nobody should push you around and tell you to stop destroying other people’s things. Hmmm. But then you get your panties in a twist about living in an area with lots of drug smuggling going on, and having to be waved through checkpoints. I had to reread the piece just to be sure I understood. You object to being waved through checkpoints, or, at the absolute most, having to answer the simple question “Are you an American citizen?” This you equate with living in “police state.”

Deep breath.

Would you like to know what it’s actually like to live in a police state? The cops don’t just wave you through a checkpoint. They stop you and demand money. Or they haul you off to pokey. Then they demand money. And that’s if you’re a white American, ergo privileged. If you’re a local, it can be much worse. They are most definitely not “courteous and professional.” And Lord help you if you write a public column, or even private letter, describing them as “zygotes” or “midgets.”

I might agree with the all-cops-are-pigs line if you could describe behavior like, oh, a dirty cop who breaks taillights like some redneck Southern sheriff from the ’50s. Then you might have a point in your screed. But as you say repeatedly in your column, the police you by your own admission were “messing with” were nothing if not courteous.
When folks treat you respectfully it behooves you to return the favor. If you want to carry a chip the size of Texas on your shoulder, well, that’s your right. But while you do it, you ought to be da** glad you’re living in America and not an actual police state. I thought the Mountain Gazette was a fun, funky, independent paper. This one column just made me a future non-reader.


Lawrence Pearlman

Pro-‘Arrested Development’

Dear Mr. Fayhee: Like many of your other works, “Arrested Development” packs a punch with refreshing lack of inhibition, factual accuracy and entertaining prose. While I largely agree with your portrayal of modern law enforcement, I submit that the problem is much worse in scope and severity than unpleasant traffic stops and intrusive questioning by “pimply faced” tweenie cops near the Mexican border.

From forest rangers issuing parking tickets at trailheads to TSA strip searches at the airport, the number and variety of uniform-wearing, gun-toting agents of the law is at an all-time high. In spite of state and federal budget crises, there’s seemingly no lack of money to wage war, abroad or domestically. But our military-like buildup is not limited to our Southern border. For example, that notorious hotbed of crime and illegal immigration, Fargo, North Dakota, recently acquired bomb-detection robots, digital combat communications equipment, Kevlar helmets and a $265,643 armored truck with a rotating turret. Google it if you dare. At roughly 100,000 Fargoan souls, that’s $2.65 for every man, woman and child spent on one police truck. Sure, it comes with a gun turret, but, aside from Fourth of July parades, what the hell are they going to do with it in Fargo? This isolated example is representative of a nationwide trend. If this stuff can happen in Fargo, well, so go Billings, Boise and Bend.

Though I might sleep easier knowing that the streets of Fargo are safe from wayward Canucks, I’m deeply concerned about America’s troop withdrawal from two wars. While the thousands of returning combat soldiers have honorably served our country, they are going to be largely unemployed and possessing of a skill set centering around warfare. Because we’ve been an occupying force in Iraq and Afghanistan the past 20 years, today’s soldier is also highly trained in traditional police functions including detective work, interrogation techniques, crowd control and arrests. Thus, since 9/11, cops have been trained & armed like soldiers and soldiers like cops, and it’s a safe bet that many returning vets will seek a career in law enforcement.

As for the mushrooming police population, consider it a federal jobs program like the CCC of the 1930s, but with PTSD thrown in. I say this with no disrespect, but out of common sense and legitimate concern. I’m sure that some of these men and women will make fine police officers. Many, however, will have not only discharged their weapon in the line of duty, but taken human life in combat. On the other hand, very few cops ever discharge their guns directly at another human being while on the job, let alone actually shoot and kill one. The prospect of a new generation of hardened combat vets filling our swelling police ranks should concern us all.

On a more mundane level, the very nature of police work has changed radically in the past 20 years, and for the worse. Increasingly detached from the people they supposedly protect, cops no longer help old ladies navigate crosswalks, drive Otis to the Mayberry jail to sleep off another bender or even perform basic crime-solving. Such fuzzy-bear love is a waste of good money. Police cruisers are now profit centers on wheels whose captains are expected to meet predetermined quotas of money that is poured back into the system in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Though your editorial is limited to encounters with cops, most people who don’t work in or around the legal system typically don’t appreciate the fact that cops are but robotic minions to the Darth Vader of law enforcement, prosecutors. These hyper-religious, politically motivated, self-righteous, suit-wearing, briefcase-toting, demigods, who are promoted on the basis of successful and high-profile convictions regardless of truth or justice, have been given god-like power by the United States Supreme Court in the form of “prosecutorial immunity” for all deeds and misdeeds committed in the course and scope of employment. Completely immune from their often-miscreant behavior, prosecutors answer to absolutely no man and certainly not the people they purportedly serve.

The methods by which prosecutors do evil include the obfuscation, distortion and, if all else fails, complete fabrication of the facts, suppression of evidence, lying, engaging in nefarious legal tactics, advancing absurd interpretations of the law and basically doing most anything to obtain a conviction upon which their financial, social and political lives depend. To make matters worse, the vast majority of prosecutors are non-elected, government employees, no different than a city building inspector, but with the power to destroy another’s life. Prosecutors’ actions are all too often motivated by their religious beliefs, personal agendas and the delusional belief that they have the omniscience of god. But absolute power combined with absolute immunity will corrupt any human.

Unfortunately, your statement that we are declining into a “police state” is a fait accompli. Good luck to us all.

Brad Purdy,
Boise, ID

Mountain Media #189

Podcast: The Enormocast by Chris Kalous

Chris Kalous

Whether it’s around the campfire or in front of a computer, it’s a known fact that climbers love to talk about climbing. But with all the internet forum banter and three-minute video edits, it’s rare to hear an in-depth conversation on climbing issues and stories from an authentic, engaging and approachable perspective. Enter The Enormocast, which is the brainchild of writer and climber Chris Kalous. Kalous has been immersed in the climbing life for a long time and has climbed all over the world and throughout the Intermountain West, spending a lot of time in the Utah desert and Yosemite Valley.

The Enormocast is at its heart an informal discussion of climbing issues with the more interesting movers-and-shakers in the climbing community. The guest list has included some people who need no introduction to climbers, such as Kelly Cordes and Steph Davis, and other more undercover characters such as Sam Lightner Jr. and BJ Sbarra. Although he is certainly an opinionated host, Kalous’ gracious and genuinely funny nature keep the show light and the conversation engaging. Chris manages to navigate complex issues such as the cleaning of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre or the evolving climate of land access in Southern Utah by both choosing guests who are intimately familiar with the issues (such as Hayden Kennedy and the above-referenced Sam Lightner Jr., respectively) and drawing upon his wealth of experiences as a perceptive and well-traveled climber. The fact that beers are usually being consumed by the host and interviewee goes a long way to bring a conversational tone to issues that could get a bogged down in policy and precedent. And at the end of the day, Chris manages to remember that no matter how much we love it, “It” is just rock climbing.

— Rob Duncan

Magazines: Ascent 2012

Ascent Cover

It might seem strange to review a magazine in another magazine, but Ascent 2012 is less of a magazine and more of a literary journal meets coffee table book — the kind of glossy, high-quality publication that, after you’ve read it through, ends up on your bookshelf and not in your recycling bin.

Originally published by the Sierra Club and edited by Allen Steck and Steve Roper (also authors of the legendary “50 Classic Climbs of North America”), Ascent debuted in 1967 as a visionary climbing journal intent on publishing the sport’s best stories and most vivid images. It accomplished its mission, going on to become the longest-running climbing publication ever, but after 14 issues published sporadically over 32 years, Ascent folded in 1999. After a trial comeback in 2011, Rock and Ice magazine acquired Ascent and has since revived it into an annual publication, rife with the stunning images and beautiful stories that its originators intended.

Ascent contains what most of us truly desire in a climbing publication — incredible, inspiring images and large blocks of eloquent, uninterrupted text. From Allen Steck’s detailed account of biking and climbing through post-WWII Europe to Renan Ozturk’s chronicle of recovering from a near-death ski accident to make the first ascent of Peru’s Sharks Fin, the magazine’s stories and photos encapsulate the beautiful diversity of the sport. Ascent’s pages span both generations and disciplines, but the sum is simply a keepsake collection of adventurous, inspiring and often hilarious tales from lives defined by climbing. $12.99,

— AA

Books: “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” by Darren Knezek and Christian Knight

Maple Canyon Guide

A climbing guidebook exists to serve two key functions — to provide essential information about a climbing area and its routes, and to get the reader PSYCHED. “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” a new full-color guide to one of Utah’s most-popular areas, fulfills both requirements and beyond.

Tucked into an inconspicuous mountainside in the middle of central Utah farm country, Maple Canyon has grown from an obscure, chossy backwater crag to one of the top summer sport climbing destinations in the West. The cliffs, comprised of thousands and thousands of rounded cobbles glued together with sedimentary rock, makes for some of the most unique climbing around. It’s often hard to tell what kind of hold a cobble will provide until you actually touch it, making the routes there notoriously pumpy and hard to read. The book also covers a host of routes in the surrounding areas outside of the canyon proper for those looking for some added variety. Written by local and active route developers, the book features loads of route information, awesome photos and pertinent area history.

After nearly 12 years without an up-to-date guidebook, this cobble-choked canyon’s popular documented crags have become crowded and overrun, while the numerous unpublished walls often see only a handful of climbers on a busy weekend. While a flashy new guidebook can tend to increase traffic to an area, perhaps this one will serve to redistribute climbers around the canyon’s hundreds of fun, challenging and previously unknown routes. $29.95,

— AA 

See the latest Mountain Media from issue #190!

Ridin’ the Rhythm Rails

Blues Train

“Now I’ve got nothing but the whistle and the steam, my baby’s leaving town on the 2:19.”

— Tom Waits

From the time the big iron wheels first started their screech down the tracks, people figured out a way to hitch a ride on trains, creating a distinctive rail culture. During the Great Depression, when money and work were impossibly scarce, kids would jump on the rails to go pick fruit and produce wherever laborers were needed. Music was spontaneously a part of that transient lifestyle for entertainment, communication and camaraderie in clustered gatherings around campfires and boxcars with harmonica, banjo or a little guitar.

Russ Lallier of Gunnison, Colorado, a train hobbyist, historian and videographer of three documentaries about regional rail history (youtube Russy Baby, or, all of which feature the music of Drew Emmitt (, tells that music was always part of train culture.

“When trains were first coming out, there were tons of songs written by the old wagon-train haulers, known as wagoners or freighters, and riverboat sailors on the Erie Canal,” which were the FedEx of the old days, Lallier says.

The rivalry and angst ensued because the newfangled trains were obviously a threat to their livelihoods and so inspired many protest songs.

“Steam was the devil to the canal men and haulers,” according to Lallier.

As trains rumbled through the years, their lore became captured in musical ballads, from spectacular wrecks to affection for the locomotives. To some, trains were merely transportation, but to those singing the blues, the train was rambling down that track carrying somebody’s baby who just done left them on that southbound train.

Fast track on down the line where Casey Jones needs to watch his speed, Johnny Cash is listening to the lonesome whistle blow just outside his accommodations at Folsom Prison, the Marshall Tucker boys are rocking a southbound all the way to Georgia, and you’ll find that modern mountain railroads have discovered the perfect blend of marrying music, splendorous viewscapes and, yes, halleluiah, brews.

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been in continuous operation for over 130 years ( Teaming up with Durango’s Bluegrass Meltdown event in late April this year, the ride up to Cascade Canyon featured The Freight Hoppers ( and Jeff Scroggins & Colorado ( playing in different cars while people strolled through chugging libations. Reaching altitude, they were then treated to a 45-minute layover concert and a blazing fire at the Canyon’s pavilion.

Telluride Blues and Brews Festival also joined up for the three-hour tour and wildly successful second-annual Durango Blues Train on June 2. More powerful than a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive rhythmically clacking down the tracks was the soulful groove of Erik Boa and the Constrictors, The Sugar Thieves, Robby Overfield, Big Jim Adam and John Stilwagen, Alex Maryol, Donny Morales and Todd and the Fox.

If your tastes run true West, you can hop aboard the Cowboy Poet Train this October 5 and experience the traditional music of cowboys, along with their tall tales as the railway has pardner’d  with the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering taking place that same week.

Blues Train singer

Jumping tracks over to Alamosa is where the Rio Grande Railroad ( rattles up La Veta Pass to their Summer Mountaintop Concert Series, all of which are powered by wind and solar energy, and which include a lot of regional brews. This month features concerts by Michael Martin Murphey with The Rifters (June 16 and 17), The Rifters with Chuck Pyle (June 22-24), Special Consensus with Anne Hills (June 29-July1) and more top-notch music weekly throughout the summer (check out the website for all the acts, bios, and dates).

Rails and Ales is a perfect hoedown for a good high-altitude buzz with a brew fest of more than 20 regional beer makers, and it cranks out the live music on a boxcar stage in a mountain meadow on June 23.

The symbiosis of song and track is something rail riders and musicians have realized for a long time, whether it’s like a lullaby or a train wreck rock finale. Paul Simon once said, “There’s something about the sound of a train that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.” Don’t miss the train.

Dawne Belloise is a freelance writer, photographer and vocalist living in Crested Butte and working in Boulder. She just left on the 2:19. 

Blaze of Glory

Rectory Tower

Author’s note: Climber/Photographer Dave Montgomery of Morrison, CO, had this to say about his photo, to which there is nothing to add. “I took [the photo] with a piece-of-crap 4 megapixel point and shoot after raping off of Castleton Tower. I looked over at the Rectory and the lighting was just stunning! I guess it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have, just gotta be in the right place at the right time. To top it off, my buddy had a lukewarm PBR in his pack!”

At least half of the following is God’s honest truth. I have been diligently pursuing the details of this adventure for two years and was finally rewarded after filling one of the participants with my home-brewed lager a few weeks ago. The names of those involved have not been changed to obscure their identities, as they fear no one.

Located just to the north of Moab, the crumbling rock towers of Utah’s Castle Valley stand broken and forlorn, ancient guardians of time itself. The routes up the fantastic sun-blasted sheer ruby shards of sandstone make this a destination for climbers from around the globe. Traveling through the valley is like having a vivid daydream of exploring some forgotten canyon system on the face of Mars.

Located within the dream is a structure known as “The Rectory” (far left in the photo above). It was on top of this floating sky-island in 1990 (am I the only one who looks at this terrain and thinks of the psychedelic mindscapes created by Roger Dean for the albums released by the band “Yes” in the ’70s?), that a production team chose to desecrate, err, utilize for the filming of the music video to the soundtrack for the movie, “Young Guns II”, and Jon Bon Jovi hit single, “Blaze of Glory”. Even non-climbers may recall the scene, a forgotten ’50s-era drive-in movie theater set upon on a patch of floating desert, crooked stands for the PA system scattered amongst the boulders and wrecks of old cars hoisted by helicopter to the top.

Amidst this faded scene of epic Americana stands Jon Bon Jovi with flowing locks, bone necklace over bare chest and leather pants so tight he had no trouble hitting the high notes, bravely belting out his tune to the setting sun. (Can I get a little “hell yeah!” right here?) It was this location that an associate of mine chose for an epic party of his own. Invitations were sent, and along with time and place, instructions were given to each party for supplies that must be brought along, and up, the 400-foot ascent to the top. For the overnight stay, bags of ice, bundles of firewood, a grill, water, fresh food, dogs, a stereo, several kegs of beer and someone’s non-climbing girlfriend had to be accounted for. No means for the delivery of these items was suggested, with their presence simply dictated as ticket to the party. The details of the “hoist”, as it has become known, could fill this volume, so suffice it to say that the mission was accomplished and a large party began, one fit for the heroic nature of the place, and the time.

Recollections vary, but by some accounts, the kegs chosen for the evening may have been filled with several of the following brews. An obvious choice would have been Durango Brewing Co.’s D-Wheat (Durango Wheat). This locals’ favorite is light and refreshing, enjoyable both by the pint and the gallon. Another strong contender, though perhaps not available at the time of the climb several years ago, is Ska Brewing Co.’s Mexican Logger. If you have not tried this, better grab a sixer and kiss the clear-bottled piss from south of the border farewell. All of what you love about a fresh Mexican lager beer is contained in these cans, with none of the foul skunk flavors, nor pretence of being mysterious and “the most interesting beer in the world”. If not this beer, then smart money would rest on the Colorado Kolsch from Steamworks Brewing Co. With the finest labeling of any beer in a can anywhere (the Colorado flag *prominently* adorns the front), Steamworks Kolsch is the perfect substitute for the flavorless cans of macro-filth that one might otherwise choose to waste their money on. But for the coup-de-grace, for a beverage so rare and extraordinary as to match the nature of the revelry described above, one must assume that a barrel of the Celebrated Raspberry Wheat from Carver Brewing Co. would have been called for by name. Pink as the satin panties that your high school girlfriend wore, this nectar of the gods has been known to cause strong men from Texas to burst into spontaneous song, and bring tears of joy to the bravest of women. Yes, my money is on the “pink” for keg #2.

As for the party? Apparently, the “amount of firewood needed” calculation had been low, so in a fit of recycling hubris, vast quantities of the timbers (aka, garbage) that had been left behind from the filming of the video in 1990 were added to the flames, in whose blaze of glory the climbers howled and danced under the bright desert light of the full moon.

Erich Hennig lives in Durango, CO, and would love to hear from you: