Friday, December 2, 2016


one day I'll get a fancy camera with panorama assist.

The month long tour is over. I did the best I could on a tight budget from the financial fumes left over from Central America. I did not intend to tour Southern Utah immediately after returning from Mexico but I saw my opportunity while the temp agencies sat on their asses and smoked cigarettes so I seized it. I would recommend touring slightly earlier, skipping Thanksgiving crowds and avoiding the 9 degree storms that had me curled up with my broken ego and some heated stones for company and warmth. 4th graders are given a free pass to national parks for them and their family and that saves an $80 entrance fee annual pass but the campgrounds are an example of how the national parks simply do not pay for themselves because a patch of dirt and a pit toilet costs $20 a night. And that still does not cover the cost to build a solar array in Bryce Canyon or free shuttle services or road maintenance, but at least it covers the cost of the dirt site and pit toilet and some water. The park system is very costly but does not get enough federal funds to stay afloat with the professional biologists and researchers. Most of the staff is actually volunteers, which tells you everything about how much money they have to throw around to staff. There is not enough money to pay workers so they overcharge for the campgrounds and $30 entrance fees at most of the popular ones. An annual pass is $80 and older folks get a lifetime pass for $10 and the campgrounds are half price. This is probably a gift because they figure you lived a life paying ridiculous prices for campgrounds and now they give you a discount.

I would say that if you can't get to Yosemite then get to Zion...and if you desperately want to spend a week hiking the canyons then go to The Needles in the southern section of The Canyonlands National Park. Those two locations are premium. The Arches was the park I hiked through during the supermoon and I never went back in the daytime but there are some 20 miles hikes in that park. Northern Canyonlands is mostly a driving tour because there is either a rim hike or a hike 2000 ft straight down to the Colorado River and as soon as you leave the rim then you enter a big wash surrounded by canyon walls and the vistas vanish. I hiked down a little and then turned around and walked more of the rim since you have to hike 2000 ft back up the wash to get back to where you started. Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef canyon are both dead end roads that are suitable for a driving tour where you stop at the overlooks and run outside in the freezing cold and take a selfie photo of you doing a handstand and then run back to the warm car. As soon as you enter the hoodoo jungle of Bryce you are basically in a generic Ponderosa pine and Bristelcone forest and the vistas vanish. And Capitol Reef is a long dead end road where a person can marvel at the Waterpocket Fold in the Earth, but hiking into the fold will entertain geologists, but not anyone else, and hiking away from the fold gives a nice vista back toward the fold but the hiking itself is a walk on an old Mormon wagon trail. Mesa Verde is a cliff dwelling park with a long dead end road that leads to dwellings that cost extra to visit or are closed due to rockfalls. Hiking is minimal there. Natural Bridges Monument is similar to The Arches but the bridges were carved by river water, not wind. There is one hike through the river bed from bridge to bridge or one overlook road. But campgrounds are free by late November! The true backpacking areas that I can recommend are southern Canyonlands called The Needles and Zion. Zion is very popular and shuttle service is the only way to enter the dead end scenic drive unless you have reservations at the lodge, where I worked two+ decades ago as a useless food service laborer. The two campgrounds are directly next to the visitor center and could serve as a nice base for day hikes into the canyon as long as you get up early. Unless you want to hike directly up the Virgin River canyon on a trail called "The Narrows" then your options are either the west rim or the east rim and both will reward the summer hiker with cooler temperatures and shade at the higher elevations. The vistas are never ending in Zion and even trapped in a wind-carved canyon is a light show. Of course hiking at 4000-8000 ft. in December means being surrounded by snow and ice about. 

zion panorama
Fans of Zion will recognize the assembled panorama photo as taken from Scout's Lookout, where the trail continues on a dead end knife ridge to Angel's Landing. I tried to tackle that hike but I woke up in the morning stricken by temporary vertigo, a miserable hangover that is not caused by alcohol but by dislodged lunatic crystals in the inner ear. It sucks for those who have this affliction and it's one that occasionally causes me to stumble out of bed and fall on the ground. For me, it causes an extreme spinning sensation no matter if I am lying in bed or walking. It renders me pretty useless. Well, it was bad timing for this affliction to befall me when I finally reached Zion so I painfully managed to reach Scout's Lookout but after attempting part of the trail with hand chains and icy scrambles I felt not only was it too late but I was wearing mittens, leather pants, had a cumbersome backpack and was carrying a useless walking stick...and I had vertigo. So that was enough penalties to postpone my trip to the end and satisfy myself with a panorama photo. It's actually an accomplishment to reach the start of that trail and the flawed belief that the accomplishment is really a particular summit or end of trail keeps people attempting Everest and passing corpses or dying climbers in the snow and leaving piles of shit and oxygen bottles and dead sherpas in their path. I appreciate that there is an additional accomplishment in reaching a summit, but the accomplishment of reaching Everest Base Camp should not be overlooked. It's a philosophical debate that I often have when hiking: what is the goal? Is the goal a photo, a summit, an escape, a view...or is there no goal at all, simply a distraction from other responsibilities? I met some hikers whose only goal was the fresh air. Another hiker was guiding a couple along the chain toward Angel's Landing as I was on my way back. It was getting late as I was scrambling off that trail and they were only starting it. I looked at the one man who seemed to be the guide and asked if he had hiked it before. Yes, many times, but the couple never had. The girl was clinging to the chain with both hands, wearing sneakers and skinny jeans. Her boyfriend was wearing torn jeans. I asked the guide if he thought he had enough time since the sun was closing in on the western rim. Sure...he responded. Well, it's none of my business and so I slithered down the chain and the girl said she could not let go of the chain and had no where to move. She seemed petrified of the cliff. Ok, I'll go around her, which I did. And then I realized we were no more than 20 feet from the beginning of the chain section of the trail, which I considered 'dangerous'. Well, the trail is an additional 1.2 miles and this girl was stuck in genuine terror about 20 feet from the start wearing sneakers and skinny jeans and the sun was setting and they were going away from home. The trail does not traverse the actual top of the knife ridge, but goes along the side of it so one holds the chain with his left hand and looks for steps with a short ledge five feet below them and then a 1500 foot drop down the cliff so a hiker is in certain peril. I think one needs their 'A' Game for that hike. Maybe not their 'A+' game, but at least an 'A-'. That Angel's Landing hike is not frivolous and fatalities have happened and will happen again. You can make 1000 good decisions and then one bad decision and you're dead. As I walked back down the trail I heard the guide say, "Ok, take your hand and place it here and then...don't look down...and then twist and step here." I thought, man, that is no good. That girl not only doesn't want to keep hiking, but it's too late, they have no water, they have no boots, it's cold and more icy further on and what the hell is that guide doing by going step-by-step with her at the very start of the trail and he knows it gets way more dangerous later on? I debated going back there and trying to talk some sense into them but she was in a position that was possibly fatal already so any additional distraction could be enough to make the situation even worse so I kept walking. I felt the guide's tone was confident in order to transfer confidence to her and that gave me confidence that he would eventually tell her to wait while he made the rest of the hike or else they would all turn around at once. But the incident gave me a topic to ponder as I walked down the trail that is carved into the cliff face. The start of that final traverse is an accomplishment...and to continue on to the end is also an accomplishment rewarded with a north and south vista of the canyon, but is it not an equal accomplishment to look at Angel's Landing instead of stand on Angel's Landing? I can see the bonus of 'overcoming one's fears' so I can't say the two accomplishment are equivalent. The girl actually asked me if I made it to the end and I admitted I was turning back. "Why?" she asked. "I guess I lost my nerve." I responded, which was trying to be humble and not go into details about my benign vertigo, my cumbersome mittens and walking stick and the late start I got because the van was an absolute frozen meat locker in the morning and the sun comes over the east rim around 11am. I have no problem admitting my limits in certain scenarios. I could hike that chain traverse no problem in different circumstances but the stars did not align on that particular day and I'm content with a hike of any length. 

I guess if your goal is to overcome your fears, despite fatal consequences, then you must continue on the hike and anything less is a failure, but I compare the selfish goals of the Everest climbers and wonder if there is any reason to admire them. I think it does not matter. My admiration is my own currency to give or withhold and even my disdain or contempt is irrelevant to an Everest Climber. They have their own goals and overcoming fears is probably not one of them. It's a specific location, the top of the terrestrial world, at all costs. Well, it's in a similar realm of activity, hiking toward summits, and if the elevation and logistics is not the same then at least we can agree the exercise is similar. It's a private activity and I'm annoyed at how Everest Climbers are so reliant on others for their private goals. I question the use of paid guides and sherpas and mules and the discarding of body wastes and corpses along the way to this private goal. But there will always be an excuse not to reach the summit of Everest. Maybe that is the point. Maybe it's so ultimately selfish that a person who spends much of the time being self-less has decided to dismiss any feeling of brotherly love and ignore the plight of others intentionally for this goal. We all have our own decisions to make and I can't pretend my goal of a grand tour of the Colorado Plateau was not selfish. Would a selfless man have turned his back on many energy projects in order to drift through a frozen canyon, burning a charcoal stove to stay warm, fixing his van in truck stop parking lots and showering in Library bathrooms? Maybe. 

I finally purchased mobile internet in order to badger the agencies that are trying to hire some slave labor to build their solar farms but now I am done with my tour and am not interested in adding to the punditry that already is saturating the internet. I think I write best when documenting people and incidents involving people so that is what I will stick with. Punditry is for those who have nothing to add so they editorialize and spin what has already been said. It's a pathetic waste of time, like being a backseat driver to a car ride that has already happened.

I tried to draw on a google map so one could retrace my tour from Texas to the Colorado Plateau but this online tech stuff is simply too glitchy for my patience. What good are maps made by other people if the goal is to find oneself?

From Oggy's latest cinescope western feature film..."Oggy On The Run"

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.