Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mount Adams Hike

It's Sunday morning and as I look outside I see the rising sun burning through the tree tops, creating an electric zoo of flash dancing, brightly lit creatures all across the starboard side of my apartment complex. I am drinking my brain kicker coffee (organic dark roast+Kerrygold unsalted grass fed butter+coconut oil+cinnamon+honey+blender) and writing this morning blog while watching god turn sun slivers into marionettes for my amusement. Speaking of god... yesterday I wrote a short story where I played the puppeteer, and in doing so I fabricated the lives of three young American kids and in turn, completely destroyed them, all in an effort to drive home a political point. After having written that, it dawned on me that writers get to "play god" every time they write. We envision, we create, we conduct, we conclude; and during that process we choose all of the emotions and every outcome, which now that I think about it, is actually bigger than god. Politicians can't even do that. Hmm, no wonder the religious texts that exist on planet earth have led so many millions of humans in certain directions. The power of the written word... is it the greatest force known to humanity?

This is your Captain speaking, that is all.

Okay, now that my opening thoughts are out of the way, let me tell you about an awesome hike I got to be part of last weekend! A group of seven guys, mixture of friends and coworkers, decided to hike up Mount Adams in Washington state. We drove up first thing Saturday morning, stopped in at the Ranger Station to obtain our passes, and then began our hike at the South Climb #183 trailhead parking lot. It was a gorgeous day and pretty good good workout to reach the lunch counter where we spent the night. My total pack weight was 34 pounds, including crampons. After a fun, relaxing night around base camp, morning came and three of us (myself included) decided to hike to the summit. Again, it was a beautiful day (at 9,400') but the higher we hiked the colder it got, and eventually we found ourselves right in the midst of a completely different environment. I think it was somewhere around the second false summit when the weather really took a turn. I can't say for sure, but I think the wind gusts were around 150,000mph and the temperature dipped to well below freezing. In other words, it was FUCKING COLD, man! I wasn't exactly prepared for that type of weather; my gloves were nothing more than two stitched dish rags and didn't do much in keeping my mitts warm. Same goes for the rest of my clothing... way too thin for freezing temps. But, needless to say, we marched forth and made it to the summit (12,276') and I am here to share the pictures and video of our journey! Okay, I will shut up now and let the pics tell the rest of the story, enjoy:
Osprey Atmos 65
Let's go!
Headed up (with view of Mt Adams)
Mountain flower
UFO sighting?
Taking a break...
At the watering hole
First glacier crossing
Base camp at the Lunch Counter
Mmm, food!
View from camp
The Valley Boys

The whole crew
Nearing the summit
C-c-cold!

My summit pack (Marmot Kompressor Plus)
At the summit!

Powerful
So there ya have it, some fun pictures to look at. And if that's not enough, I even made a video, which you can watch right now if you want:

Saturday, August 31, 2013

On The Other Foot

    "I think an iris looks like a mutilated vagina," Danny said as he whacked at the group of flowers with his stick. Justin, being eleven and all, found this to be the funniest shit ever and laughed so hard he almost peed. This was the case most of the time, though. Danny was the compulsory wisecrack of the two and Justin found himself constantly laughing at everything his best friend said, he couldn't help it.
    "DANIEL WILLIAMS... I HEARD THAT! NOT FUNNY, MISTER!" his mother yelled through the open window of her kitchen. She was putting together the ingredients needed to bake a cake, seeing how tomorrow was her son's birthday. Danny would be turning twelve, or as he put it, 'turning the dirty dozen'. She leaned forward to yell again, "AND GOD HELP YOU IF YOU ARE DESTROYING MY FLOWER BED... I WILL DESTROY YOU, MISTER!" She had the habit of calling him 'mister' whenever Justin was around, maybe in an attempt to elevate his stature to a level of proper verbal discipline for all the wrong-doings the two would assuredly commit. Whatever the reason, it too, made Justin laugh uncontrollably.

    "Ahhh-haaa... oh man... you got busted... MISTER!" Justin yelped between fits of laughter.
    "The heck you talkin' bout, YOU got busted too!" Danny replied as he tossed his stick to the ground. "Come on, I'm bored, let's go rotate the whiskers on Myra's cat."
    They began walking toward the edge of the front yard, kicking at every toy that littered their path along the way. Danny had stopped playing with most of his toys two birthdays ago, but didn't have the heart to tell his mother that he had 'grown up', and so she continued buying him useless pieces of plastic that didn't interest him much. Upon reaching the curb he paused to holler and let her know where they were headed, but she called them both back to the house.
    "Aw heck, mom, but we're BORED for crying out loud! We just want to GO!" Danny yelled.
    "You'll go as soon as you come here first, mister! Heel-toe, donchya know?!" his mom yelled back.
Disgruntled, the two turned back for the house, kicking toys as they went. They went inside and upon reaching the edge of the kitchen, stopped to smell the goodness of tomorrow's treats.
    "Mmmm, Ms. Williams, it smells delicious in here!" Justin remarked.
    Danny nudged him with his elbow, "Shhh, she'll make us stay and wash dishes, ya goon."
    "Actually, ya goon, it's your birthday weekend. Do you honestly think I'd ask you to do dishes? Correct me if I'm wrong, but who's the coolest mom in town? Yeah, I thought so," she said as she dried her hands on her apron and walked over to the cupboard. Opening the pantry door, she reached up and removed a package from the upper shelf and set it on the counter. "There... open it! It's an early present," she winked.
    Danny smiled big, looked over at Justin, smiled bigger, and then lunged for the blue package in glee. Regardless of how many useless toys littered his yard, he still very much enjoyed opening new ones. The wrapping paper came off in a hurry and Danny stood there in awe, holding onto the one thing he wanted more than anything else in the world: The Water Propelled Poopapult.
    "Omg, mom!! It's the Poopapult! You really got me the Poopapult! Omg, thank you, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! POOPAPULT!!" Danny exclaimed as he ran over and hugged her fiercely. Maybe it was the way he emphasized poop each time he said Poopapult, but Justin completely lost it and was now lying on the floor giggling like a drunk duck.
    Pleased with her son's reaction, Ms. Williams said, "I'm glad you love it, son. I didn't want to wait until tomorrow and have you open it in front of your friends. I knew how much you wanted this and I knew how much you would overreact to getting it, so I decided to let you open it today instead. Now, run away and let me cook, ya goon!"
    Both Danny and Justin hugged her and thanked her and ran out of the kitchen and straight to the water spigot on the side of the house. They filled up the main water canister and also the spare and headed off down the sidewalk in search of their first target. When they reached the end of the block they saw Cleospatula being pulled along in a pink wagon by her big brown mastiff. She crafted reigns out of jump rope and attached those to the dog's collar. She had an umbrella duct taped and positioned over her head and a few balloons attached as well. Her dog, Otis, simply chugged along, completely at peace with the obligatory task of pulling her wherever she went. This is how she acquired her nickname. The first few times she had done this she used a spatula to smack the metal floor of her wagon, thus startling Otis into walking faster, but after being called Cleospatula by almost every kid on the block, she left the utensil at home, but the nickname stuck anyway.
    They watched as Cleospatula rounded the corner of Alder Street and disappeared from view.
    "We could cut through Doberman Alley and ambush her on the other side," Danny said as he surveyed the nearby yard for dog shit.
    "Yeh, that would work I think," Justin agreed as he scooped up an older clump of doo and tossed it into the discharge tube.
    "Dude, that doo-doo rocks!"
    Combined laughter.
    "Gonna shit her like a ton of bricks!"
    More laughter.
    "Crap all over your face, kiiiiid!"
    They both laughed as they collected various piles of poop and added it to the discharge tube before heading off through the alley. As they neared the alley's end they positioned themselves behind two metal garbage cans that blocked the view of anyone approaching from the north side of Alder St, knelt down and began setting up the Poopapult. Danny figured they had about four minutes before Cleospatula and her slave dog wheeled their way into firing range... plenty of time to prepare. Even though he had never had his hands on one before now, Danny had watched enough YouTube videos to know exactly how to assemble and fire the Poopapult perfectly and without ease. Together, they had it assembled and ready to launch in less than a minute and a half.
    "Awesome, it's good to go! Hand me the water canister, would ya?" Danny asked.
    Justin turned and reached for the main canister and as he did so, noticed a triangular shaped group of red lights beamed onto the ground next to him.
    "What the heck?"
    "What's wrong? Don't tell me you lost it already!"
    "No, no, it's right here, but I just saw these weird lights... look..."
    He turned back to show Danny what he saw, but they were no longer there. Danny nudged him and told him to stop messing and reminded him that it was almost time to launch. They both turned their attention back to the mission and waited for Cleospatula and Otis to appear. Giggling with anticipation, they each began poking one another, trying to knock themselves off balance as they crouched on their heels behind the cans.
    "Dude, come on!"
    "You started it, goon!"
    "You're going to give us away!"
    They both laughed wildly as Justin rocked backwards, bumping into one of the cans, causing it to bang against the brick building next to them.
    "Oh for Pete's sake, here she comes! SHHHH!"
    They quieted down and readied themselves. Justin held the base of the Poopapult while Danny affixed the water canister to the main launch tube and twisted the nozzle. The wheels of the wagon could be heard squeaking and crunching along the concrete walk, and as it neared them, Otis' panting became audible as did Cleospatula's soft humming beneath her umbrella.
    Danny turned to Justin and whispered, "Five... four... three..." He pivoted the aiming reticule forward and calculated the trajectory, "two... one... launch!"
    There was a hissing sound as water gushed into the launch tube, followed by a WOOSH as the mechanism pushed out the poop and sent it hurling through the air. Danny and Justin followed the brown blob with their eyes, smiling gleefully as it sailed through the air, arcing high above and then dropping fast toward their intended target. Seconds before impact... Danny anticipates a direct hit and grabs Justin's arm in excitement... and then...

    The explosion was so powerful it rocked the entire city block and could be heard several miles away. Windows within a half mile radius were completely shattered, car and house alarms rang out, and the buildings around the impact zone lay in rubble. As the smoke lifted, the chaos and destruction that remained became more clear. A twisted mess of pink metal with a wheel and tattered umbrella lay in a mangled heap across the street. Near it, a battered and bloody little girl lay screaming in agony while clutching the neck of the upper half of a bull mastiff. The lower half was nowhere in sight. On the opposite side of the street, the apparent location of ground zero was marked by a still smoldering impact crater that measured approximately thirty feet in diameter. Scattered around it were the dismembered body parts of two unrecognizable children. About a hundred yards away, a metal garbage can was still spinning and finally came to rest. The blood splattered across its dented frame was an ominous painting of immortality, and trapped inside was a badly broken children's toy with a still legible label that read: "The Poopapult... Poop, Scoop & Shoot!"

                                         ***************************************

Later that night on Radiotélévision des Forces Canadiennes, FOX Channel 10:

"The Canadian Province of Quebec has announced that, due to ongoing terrorist activity within Montreal and it's suspected affiliations across border with neighboring America, a third successful drone attack, this time in the town of Burlington, Vermont, has been reported. According to Canadian intelligence, two enemy insurgents were spotted during a training mission, deploying a roadside explosive device that would later be used in the ongoing war against Canada. In this latest drone advancement the Motherland has again deterred future crime against her, thus reinforcing her safety and sovereignty by targeting high-profile terrorist targets in and along all American border towns. Our intelligence ensures that zero innocent casualties were reported in this latest strike, thus bringing the C.D.P. (Canadian Drone Program) to a 97% accuracy rate. And here's Nina with your 6 o'clock traffic report, take it away, Nina."

    "Thank you, Thom. Trans-Canada Hwy 25 west of Parc de l'Île Charron is backed up due to a stalled vehicle, expect a 30-45 minute delay..."



                                                                        The End

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Listen Up, America

I've had several people ask me why I'm a "prepper" and in response I'd like to say that "prepping" is a term that gets misused often, and the concept gets abused even more, so I will relinquish my own thoughts and share with you a 58 minute audio clip that I hope EVERYONE listens to. It's pretty important, and if you care about America like I do, then maybe you'll give up an hour of your time and listen. I don't seek out stupid shit to listen to, ya'll should know this by now. Some people go to church, well, I go to school... and school is in session. Here ya go.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Duffy Butte Hike


Went on a day hike with friends and coworkers this past weekend to the Duffy Lake area in the Mt Jefferson Wilderness. We started at the Duffy Lake trailhead around 9am, hiked in to Duffy Lake, then to Mowich Lake. From here we decided to skirt around Mowich towards Duffy Butte to make our climb, but there is no trail from this point on, so it was bushwhacking all the way, which wasn't so bad until descending Duffy Butte. Not only was it steep and difficult, but it was an open invitation to accidental missteps that could result in serious ankle injury the whole way down. I probably won't do that one again. All-in-all it was a great day for a hike with clear views of all the surrounding buttes and mountains. We were back to the car by 3pm and we estimate our journey to be about 11 miles.

Things I didn't like about this hike:
  • thick layer of dry dust that comprises the trail was hell on the lungs if you hiked behind anyone
  • the mosquitoes were very active and hungry
  • horse shit everywhere
  • difficult bushwhacking down Duffy Butte
Things I liked:
  • beautiful scenery
  • great for overnight camping
  • plenty of area to explore
  • swimming
  • trailhead is motorcycle accessible







And in wrapping up this blog I will share with you the video I created of our hike. It's about 10 minutes long with music, enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Swimming [Deep Ends]


His campsite was situated beneath a grove of Douglas Firs that resembled armor-plated giants in formation, awaiting orders to attack. Beyond them was a steep slope that rose higher than the three hundred foot tree canopies, so high in fact, it blocked out the setting sun which was already beginning to create an early evening chill. Nearby, the sound of the river could be heard rushing over rocks in a hurried manner. The forest grew louder with insect and bird songs as the young man applied the final touches to his tent, making sure each guy line was taut and secured.

"There we go, that should hold" he said aloud to himself. It had rained the day before so he decided to gather up as much dry kindling and firewood he could find before the sun finally gave up on his position. He began the task of roaming the perimeter of the land he was calling home for the night, collecting good wood when he found it. Now and again he'd retrieve the bowie knife from a sheath that hung from his waist to hack at entangled limbs, cutting free logs that were chosen as a sacrifice for the fire. Upon reaching a large, moss covered tree that had long since fallen from grace, he noticed a plastic bag partially hidden within the leaves and limbs down where it met the ground. Curious, he dragged it out using one of the sticks he had on hand and peeked inside.

"Oh... what the..." he remarked as he took a step back and collected his thoughts. About a half dozen, uncapped syringes stared back at him from inside the bag. He stood there staring at it for a few moments, lost in thought. As he continued looking down it began to look like a crinkly white porcupine staring back up. He imagined it being startled from its resting place, then barking angrily before scurrying off into the woods to hide again, and then he wondered if porcupines even barked in the first place. His thoughts returned to the contents of the bag. "Why in the hell are these way out here?" he thought to himself as he retraced the eight mile hike to this spot. He began to reason through it: chances are a diabetic hiker would not have been so irresponsible to leave this behind, which meant it must have been discarded by a druggie who decided to hike into the forest and shoot up, which also seemed unlikely. Either way, he was pretty pissed that it got left behind in the first place and decided that he would swim for its source, but not before starting a campfire and cooking dinner. Hunger trumps.

Night had fallen and the flames of the crackling fire danced and twisted in the surrounding darkness, creating images of movement everywhere he looked. The flickering fire light reminded him of when he was a child living in West Virginia. His family had purchased eleven acres of untouched rural land in the eastern panhandle, and over the years, had slowly grown it from a single wide trailer on blocks into quite the homestead, equipped with a 3 story house, swimming pool, garden and pastured animals. When he wasn't tending the family farm, he'd spend most of his time camping on the furthest edge of their property, building forts where he could protect their land from outside threats. Many a campfires were had out there, alone in the virgin woods, just he and his cache of army surplus gear and lofty imagination.

He remembered the night when he noticed the glow of what appeared to be a large fire on the northern most edge of their land, and upon hiking there, witnessed a pick-up truck completely engulfed in flames. He quickly ran back home, along one of the many trails he had carved through the woods, and told his parents what he had found. Police detectives, fire fighters, news reporters and neighbors descended upon the scene and over the next several days, his family was the center of everyone's attention. It turns out the pick-up was driven onto their land in the cover of night, a man was tied up and shot to death in the front seat, and the entire truck was set ablaze.

The detectives never did solve the murder, although the killer lived just over the ridge. He remembered going back to the scene of the crime over and over, poking around, searching for clues that might have been overlooked by the police. He recalled how quickly the appeal of playing "Army" switched over to playing "Police Detective" instead. He spent hours at the burn site meditating and pondering, trying to bring justice to a case that had gone cold. And it was at this moment in his life that he discovered his special ability to solve mysteries. Not only had he figured out who committed the crime, but he had even lead the detectives to the small pond where the murder weapon had been tossed. All by way of anonymous tip, of course. He wasn't about to reveal himself to the world just yet.

Memories of youth fading, his thoughts returned to the bubbling pot of water in front of him. The fire popped loudly and a glowing ember the size of a golf ball landed in the dirt near his boot. He casually flicked it back over the rock ring using two sticks, removed the boiling water and poured it into his Mountain House freeze dried food bag. While he waited for the contents to cook he fished around in his backpack and retrieved his abalone shell and a tightly bound bundle of sage. He leaned forward and lit the sage in the fire, turned it a few times, and blew it out. Grabbing his headlamp and abalone shell, he rose and walked up to where the bag of syringes were. With the sage in his right hand he made several soft passes over and around the syringes, allowing the smoke to waft in a particular manner. He placed the sage into the abalone shell and set both to the ground, took two steps back, and with outstretched arms began whispering a blessing of retrieval. He finished with the blessing, smudged one more time, and then returned to camp to eat his dinner.

When he was through eating he cleaned up and began rifling through his backpack again. This time he pulled out everything that was electronic: hand crank radio, GPS unit, cell phone, camera. He gathered up these items, placed them into a drawstring bag, and began walking off through the forest. His 90 lumen headlamp lit a wide path for him as he continued walking. When he reached the main trail he hooked a right and walked some more. The river, now only a few feet away, was loud against his side and a waxing crescent moon appeared as a broken fingernail through the trees. "497, 498, 499, 500" he said aloud and stopped walking. He looked around and spotted a fat nub that remained from a branch that had broken off from a tree. He hung his bag of electronics from it. He removed the watch from his wrist and hung it too, pulled a glow stick from his pocket, cracked it, and hung it there as well. He then turned and began his walk back to camp.

As he was walking he remembered back to when all this stuff was new to him. He smiled at the memory of all those watches and radios he burned through when he first started learning how to swim. It took several sessions before he finally made the connection and even then he would still forget from time to time. It took a lot of practice to gauge the proper distance too. One such time was when he read a newspaper article about a winning lottery ticket that had been tossed out by mistake and he decided to locate it. He drove across three counties to be near the source and hadn't parked far enough away before taking the swim. When he got back to his car it wouldn't start and he was stranded a few hundred miles from home. That was when he realized he had to be approximately 1/4 mile away from all electronics. Lesson learned.

Arriving back at camp, he settled in front of the fire and situated himself comfortably in a cross legged fashion, back straight and arms placed in his lap. He closed his eyes and began counting backwards from 50. As he did so, he slowed each breath until his lungs and chest were barely moving. His body grew feint and his mind felt loose within his skull. He began to hum "Ohhhhhmmmmmm.... ohhhhhhhmmmmm..... ohhhhhmmmmmm...." for a long time. The chanted vibrations left his throat and electrified his entire body, creating a warmth that felt like a soaking hot blanket had been wrapped around him. Soon his mind was no longer part of his body, but instead floated freely above the campsite in an observing manner. It jolted wildly and zipped around the perimeter of the campsite searching for a doorway, until it finally found the bag of syringes and hovered calmly just above it. And in an explosive flash of blinding light it disappeared inside of itself, creating a swirling vortex in the night air that resembled a ghostly apparition of sorts.

Time ticked by and everything grew silent. He opened his eyes and looked up just in time to see two guys and a girl approaching the fire. They appeared very tired and walked lethargically, as though shackled at the ankles. When they reached the campfire they each sat down except for the girl, who quietly went into the tent, moments later reappearing with a plastic bag in her hands. She joined the guys and they each started taking off their belts. She pulled from the bag three syringes and a spoon, and passed them to the her left. She then removed her own belt, pants and shirt, and wrapped the belt around her right upper arm and began slapping it.
      One of the men said, "Yo, we haven't even cooked it yet."
      She let out a partial laugh that was quickly replaced by a confused sigh , "Oh my gosh, I'm sooo spaced right now. Donovan, c'meer and fuck me first. Fuck me, Donnie, fuck me." She began rubbing her bare breasts while tilting her head back and moaning at the trees. Suddenly her arms began moving so fast across her chest that they became a blur. All three of their actions were now in super fast speed. Their heads bobbed around wildly, their motions quickened, their conversation sounded like high-pitched chipmunks. He fast forwarded past the scene that was about to occur, there was no need to watch these kids ruin themselves here at the very spot he now camped. He stopped fast forwarding in time to see them sprawled haphazardly, passed out under the night sky. He fast forwarded some more until the sun came up and then watched as the two men tore down camp while the girl took a squat in the woods off in the distant. After a few more rounds of fast forwarding he finally saw one of the guys walking off with the bag of syringes in his hand. After relieving himself, he returned empty handed and the three of them disappeared down the trail.

So there it was, just as he suspected. Three drug addicts hiking through the woods after a wild night of recklessness. He decided to swim out a little further and follow them all the way back to the trailhead before closing his session. After a long round of fast forwarding, he watched as they finally exited the forest and returned to their vehicle. A 1998 Buick LeSabre, green with a black hood. He swooped in, memorized the license plate, and severed his link.

The fire was mostly glowing embers now as he snapped back from his astral retrograde, or, "swimming" as he liked to call it. It had gotten very cold so he grabbed his jacket and went off to retrieve his electronics. The next morning he packed up camp, completed his stretching routines, and began the eight mile hike back to his car. He had marked the location of the drug paraphernalia with a cloth tied to a stick and also noted its coordinates with his GPS. Upon reaching cell phone service he would call the Forest Service Department, report the discovery and relay the information he retrieved while swimming. If they asked how he knew all of this, he'd simply say "have a nice day" and leave it up to them whether or not to pursue it.

At around 11am he finally reached the wooden information station the marked the beginning of the trail. Excitedly, he hurried out of the woods and rushed over to where his car was parked. Upon reaching it, his heart sank and the hairs on his arms and neck stood on end. He peered around the parking lot and noticed three other vehicles, all equally damaged. He looked back at his own car, staring at all the broken glass that littered the seats and floorboards and gravel lot below. Two windows were smashed, he imagined one must have been for fun. His radio was missing, as were his sneakers and CD case. The picture of his girlfriend that he kept on the dash was ripped in two, both halves laying on the ground. Disgusted and angered, he popped the trunk and started placing his gear inside. He paused, took a long swig from his water bottle, took one more look around the parking lot and began removing all his electronics and placed them into a drawstring bag. He retrieved the sage from his backpack, closed up the car, let out a long sigh, and began walking. "One, two, three, four..."



                                                                           The End

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Red Flag Diary

Here I am sitting at my keyboard once again, staring at specks of grit trapped between keys, staring at a trove of capital letters waiting to be pressed. It used to be when I sat down to write I got excited about visiting that special place inside my mind where creativity flows and ideas flirt with words that give birth to sentences. I don't do that much anymore, as you well know. This is a tragic state of unbearable being, an abstention of balance that creates pockets of sadness all throughout the land. Many a wizard have appeared before me proclaiming that if I do not get "my shit together" that this planet will be in peril forevermore. I understand, I really do, and I'm trying to focus, you have to believe me. I do not want to bear the burden of planetary subversion, nor do I want to witness the nothingness swallow us whole, so I will get back to writing, by god! And this is my attempt.

What has kept me silent, you may ask? Several things really. First off, I'm pretty happy and content with my day-to-day. I love my job and enjoy the people in my life. My bills are paid, I have no debt. I can go on long camping hikes in the beautiful Oregon wild. I enjoy the company of my girlfriend and look forward to every moment we get to hang out. She is a field of fireflies seen for the very first time, not a day goes by that I don't appreciate the fact that we're together. I'm also pleased with the changes that clicked inside of me to pay attention to the foods that I eat and to care more about my health. When I look back and think about all the aspartame, MSG, HFCS, red/yellow/green/blue dyes, nitrites/nitrates, rBGH, etc, that has been sludged through my body, I cringe and wonder why it took me so long to give a damn. As I progressively get a better grip on this whole "eating healthy" thing, I find that I'm beginning to feel cleaner and clearer than before, and god willing, I will sidestep future diseases that I was lining myself up for prior.

So, it would seem being happy in life tends to squish the depressed, pessimistic writer types. Happiness is the folly of a fractured soul, you see, but that's not my only problem. Another peculiarity that has kept the writers bug at bay is my insatiable quest for truth and learning. I am seriously addicted to podcasts. I cannot get enough of them! I think a big reason why I can't stop learning about all the goings on of the world is due to the fact that I didn't care about anything growing up. I was just a basic 90's boy who spent his paychecks on bass speakers, amps and Dr Dre CD's. Sure I read books, but only fiction, never anything serious. I skated through the first portion of my life never having voted or cared about what politicians were or did. Up until my 30's, I couldn't even tell you what the three branches of government were, let alone what a filibuster or constitutional convention is. I've been on a fast track playing catch up on all the stuff I should've been paying attention to all along: history, politics, current events. That being said, it's time to discuss the real reason for writing this blog entry tonight.

When 9/11 happened I was 25 and living in North Carolina. I remember watching the towers fall on TV and hearing the news anchors mention words like "terrorism", "the middle east", "Osama Bin Laden", "anti-western sentiment". I remember thinking how I knew absolutely nothing of what they spoke of, and wondered why anyone would want to fuck with us over here. I mean after-all, we're waaaay over here and they were waaaay over there, for Pete's sake! I simply thought we were just chilling out on a big landmass surrounded by oceans, not bothering or being bothered by anyone else. Boy was I wrong. Fast forward to present day America. In this paragraph alone I have already used four or five red flag words that have alerted an algorithm that has placed my blog into the ATTENTION category of some governmental computer system. If I had said this to you 6 months ago (which I did) you would've call me a conspiracy cook (which you did), but with the recent whistleblowing reports hitting mainstream media of the NSA spying on everyone via everything, I no longer feel the need to explain these things to you. Instead, I want to discuss it from a different angle: why should we care?

This is the question I keep hearing: "Okay, so the government is keeping files on us, so what? Why should I care? I'm not a criminal." Yeah, I hear ya, and I'm glad you aren't a criminal, but let me ask you this: if a stranger came up to you on the street and struck up a conversation with you and you got to know each other a little bit, would you add this person to your Facebook friend list when you got home? If not, how soon would you? A second encounter, maybe a third? When do you consider a complete stranger a friend? And even then, would you allow that person access to every part of your profile and life? i.e. honeymoon pictures of you in lingerie, pictures of your children naked in the tub, websites you occasionally visit when you think you have the house to yourself, phone calls to your lifelong best friend during times of distress, intimate moments in the bedroom with your lover, the password to your email, the password to your online banking, etc. Most people wouldn't want anyone to see this stuff, especially a complete stranger, and even more-so, a criminal. Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the government is both a stranger and a criminal, not your friend.

We now live in a country that is ruled by a power-hungry group of people who DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. No matter which political party is at the helm, the three constants that never falter are: MORE CONTROL, MORE CORPORATE INTEREST, and MORE GEOPOLITICAL WAR. They are not public servants, they do not have our best interests at heart. They dangle a GMO carrot in front of us and then hit us with the stick. We currently have a President (whom I voted for in the first election) who ran on hope and change, who promised to abandon the war mongering ways of the previous administration, and instead uses the Espionage Act to go after whistle blowers and uses drones to assassinate American citizens overseas. If a Constitutional law scholar sees no wrong in this, then I fear the government he controls and I'm definitely not okay with it spying on me and recording every detail of my online presence, red flagging key words I write in blogs, compiling a folder on me and storing it for future use. I mentioned the NSA data center being built in Utah way back when I first read the article and I said, "You don't build a 2 billion dollar data center and not use it." I mentioned the growing police state time and time again and said, "You don't build a police state and not use it." Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex in his farewell address in 1961, and again I say you don't build it and not use it. The government doesn't gain power and then relinquish it. Ever. This is a forward momentum in the wrong direction and it's gaining speed like we've never seen. The most powerful military this planet has ever seen is in the hands of a government that wants (and has now achieved) total domination over its citizens. That creates a scary future.

If you haven't seen the foreign film The Lives Of Others, I recommend you watch it first chance you get. It's an outstanding glimpse into what life was like living under constant surveillance in East Berlin circa 1984. As a 1/4 Jew and a writer, the idea of a government singling out certain sects of society and doing with them as they see fit is especially unsettling to me, and after watching this film and noting all the similarities to present day America, you should be equally alarmed. The movie opens with a printed introduction that reads:

      "1984, East Berlin. Glasnost is nowhere in sight. The population of the GDR is kept under strict control by the Stasi, the East German Secret Police. Its force of 100,000 employees and 200,000 informers safeguards the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Its declared goal: "To know everything".

In reading the above intro, I can't help recall President Obama's many speeches about transparency and an honest and open Congress that will be held accountable by the people. That's what glasnost was, and much like in Germany, it's nowhere in sight here in America either. And as for the Stasi's intended goal to "know everything".... well, let's go back to 2002 when America was still in a mad frenzy due to 9/11. Then DARPA director Admiral John Poindexter headed up something called The Information Awareness Office (IAO). What was the intended goal of this program, you ask? To achieve "Total Information Awareness". For fuck's sake, just look at the seal they chose, they were basically shoving their plan of total dominance right up our collective asses and we merrily let them:

If you are still having trouble seeing the parallels I'm drawing for you, then I just can't help you. My suggestion is to cancel your cable, stop watching mainstream news (all of them), stop believing that your political party is the answer to our problems, and begin your very own unfoldment process. Seriously, We The People need you to get your shit together, and so do the wizards.

In closing, I'd like to go back to the topic of drones and make a comment. I had a very short conversation with someone the other day about drones and didn't have the chance to fully articulate, so I will here. I'm not against the use of drone warfare, I'm simply against certain methods we use in determining whether or not a human being should become a target. For example, we do "signature strikes" on people who look nefarious, or are doing something that appears militaristic, or who are traveling near or through areas we consider hostile. We also perform "double taps" which means, after killing the initial target we wait for first responders to arrive and drone attack again. I am not okay with this, and if you are, I'm not okay with you. This isn't an example of an America that represents a beacon to the rest of the world, this is psycho-driven blood lust hell bent on keeping the machine alive.
And as for targeting United States citizens, oh boy, where do I begin? I'll tell you what, since I'm tired of writing and you're probably tired of reading I'll just let you listen to a small podcast clip that pretty much sums it up:

Goodnight, and good luck.

P.S. This article is one of the best I've read on drone usage:  http://rt.com/usa/cia-drone-strikes-unknown-targets-293/

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Hike, Therefor I Am

A long time ago, when I lived in North Carolina, the hiking/camping gene got triggered inside of me. I could feel the pull of nature calling me, the constant tug from an ancient, ancestral past luring me into the wild. Back then, though, it was mostly car camping with an occasional long distant overnight hike, but even then I wasn't too hardcore about it. A few miles in with a tent and a blanket strapped to my back, camp the night, a few miles back out the next day. That was a long time ago and I never did fully commit to exploring all that the Pisgah National Forest had to offer. I simply "had fun" a few times and that was it. Looking back, I would have to guess that being a crazy pet person had something to do with me not going deeper. At any given time I had at least half a dozen exotic pets in my care, and that's not a hobby you can just leave and disappear into the wilderness for more than a day/night. I had responsibilities, you see! Parrots, salt water aquariums, prairie dogs, snakes, sugar gliders, iguanas, etc. They all depended on me, you see! So mainly, I stayed close to home, only escaping for short spells here & there.

But now I live in Oregon and I no longer feel the urge to keep every animal under the sun. I have a cat, that is all. And if I leave enough water and food out, he'll be fine while I'm gone. Granted, he may hate me upon my return and sulk for awhile, but he'll live to meow another day. And that hiking/camping gene? Yeah, it's been triggered again big time. I've been scouring the Net studying all the gear that has been produced for avid hikers and backpackers and let me tell ya, technology sure has helped this area of interest out. Things that used to weigh a lot 15 years ago, now weigh nearly nothing. For example, the sleeping bag I purchased when I lived in NC is a North Face +20 bag which compresses down to the size of Thanksgiving turkey (and that's stuffing the hell out of it). It's big and it weighs about 5 pounds and it takes up half the space in my backpack. Now I'm looking at a Western Mountaineering Ultralite sleeping bag which weighs 1 pound and a few ounces and compresses down to the size of a cantaloupe. Ha! I will own this amazing bag... soon.

The two man tent I was using weighed 6 pounds and barely fit two people. My solo tent is the Eureka Backcountry 1 which weighs just under 4 pounds and has just enough room for me and my pack. But now I'll be using the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 for everything, which only weighs 3 pounds and can fit 3 people decently, but will fit two people plus all their gear, comfortably with no problem. The same goes for every other aspect of this hobby. Everything got lighter and improved upon in so many ways. I've been having a lot of fun exploring YouTube, watching peoples' gear list videos, taking notes and learning which products are awesome and why. I've also been exploring a website called portlandhikers.org and learning about all the remarkable hiking trails that exist everywhere around me. The members of that website have proven to be an invaluable resource and I have since been on several amazing hikes due to reading their trail reports. So, a quick shout-out to all you PH'ers... thank you!

Now that I've gotten the initials out of the way, I'll share some pics and videos of some hikes I've done and gear that I've acquired. First off, the boots:

I drove up to the Woodburn Outlets and visited the Merrell store there. I chose the perfect day to do it: they were having a store-wide BOGO 1/2 off sale. Win! I chose the Chameleon 5 waterproof hiking boots, based on price and customer reviews. Straight out of the box, these boots have been perfectly comfortable on every hike and never needed to go through a break-in period. I've already clocked many miles in these and can honestly say that my feet have never really been an issue during any hike. My back, shoulders, and knees on the other hand, now that's a different story.

Okay, next up is the backpack. I chose to go with an Osprey Atmos 65 for my overnight hiking trips:


As for the pack itself, it's pretty awesome, but I have a feeling my body needs to get accustomed to it. After about 3 miles of hiking with the above items, my hips and waist began to hurt, and once the entire 10 mile hike was completed my entire waist hurt. Needless to say, I was disappointed in it's performance. I went back to the shop where I bought it and they loaded me up, made some adjustments, gave me some pointers and told me to try it again (which I look forward to doing). I like the pack, I want it to work, but if it doesn't they said I can return it for an in-store exchange, which I'm okay with. So I'll keep you posted on that.

Here's another item I purchased that has great potential, but I haven't had the chance to use yet:

This is the Therm-a-Rest Ultralite cot. It weighs only 2 lbs 12 oz and packs down to 6x15. Truly a remarkable design, to be this lightweight and still manage to support 350 pounds. In the above pic I only have four of the six support rods in place because I only weigh 180, but you can add in the others accordingly. If getting off the ground is your thing, then this might be a great purchase, especially for those of you who choose tarps over tents. I've slept on this several times here at home, and while it really is very comfortable when lying on my back and sides, I must say it isn't suited for stomach sleeping unless you keep your arms directly by your side. I have the tendency to position mine in a triangle by my head and that doesn't work very well. The two side poles (lengthwise) are only 24 inches apart and will press into your arms, so I found myself having to dangle one arm off and under the cot to achieve stomach sleep.

Here's my basic backpacking cook set:
And here's an even better way of cooking or boiling water that doesn't require a fuel canister (but is too heavy for hiking):
Okay, enough about gear! Now I'll leave you with some pics and videos of recent hikes. Maybe next time I update my blog I will have a new short story for you guys, lord knows I'm ready to jot one down (how many times have I said that in the past, ha). Anyway, here ya go, enjoy:



























There ya go, my far away friends, a quick look through my eyes on a few Oregon hiking trips. And instead of adding videos to this blog entry, instead I'll create a new entry and add them there. This one is already quite long. So, check back again to see those video links! Bye for now.