There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

16 February 2017

The Pickin' in the Pines Festival 2016

For three glorious days up in the cool pines of Flagstaff, Arizona, you can hear some of the greatest bluegrass music our country has to offer at the Pickin' in the Pines festival.

Held in September each year, last years festival was my first time attending. From camping with a village full of bluegrass lovers to the bands playing at the Pepsi amphitheater to the workshops and classes being offered, it is a full bluegrass experience.
I'm salivating just thinking about it, and hope to return each and every year. Until September rolls around again though, I'll settle for this reminder of the great music to be found,

Enjoy the steeldrivers, just one of many great acts to be found last year. Long live Bluegrass!

15 February 2017

Leadville Colorado & Southern Railroad

The train depot, built in 1896, is where I pick up my ticket before getting ready to board the train that will take me on the second highest tracks in the USA.

The Leadville Colorado railroad train, already at an elevation of 12,500 feet, will rise another 1,000 feet on this train ride.

That's high my friends.
As I board, I find that I have my own seat in the caboose, all to myself. I sit back in the chair, open the window, and let the Rocky Mountain air cool my skin as the whistle blows.
The beauty of the Arkansas river valley below is stretched out before me as the train makes a wide turn that shows off her power. Two of Colorado's highest peaks, Mt. Ebert and Mt. Massive, create a spectacular view. A female deer and her young doe stare at me for a moment before hopping the tracks and disappearing into the trees.
After a bit we come to an old water tower, marking the mid-way point of our ride. You can see the Climax Molybdenum mine and Fremont Pass from here. I feel like I can see the entire State from this vantage point. A light rain starts to fall.
I head to the dining car to get a snack and see the other train cars. I walk drunkenly along the rickety cars, loving the side to side motion as the train rolls along.
The rains passes almost as quickly as it arrives. The air feels even fresher, if that was possible. My smile is not contrived, but a true reflection of how happy I find myself in this moment.
So, if you ever have the chance to ride a train, any train, I highly recommend it. The sweet sounds of "All Aboard!" may be just the ticket you are looking for.

13 February 2017

Snowmobiling in the San Juans

As the train slows to a stop in the mountain town of Rockwood, I spot the white van in the sparsely filled parking lot. I exit and start to make my way towards a tall, lanky young gent.

"Are you the one that wants to snowmobile?"

"Oh yeah. Am I the only one?"

It turns out that I was the only one, but that didn't seem to bother him. He introduces himself as Dion as we head up the road to the top of the San Juan mountains.

He is easily twenty years my younger, but surprisingly the conversation flows without effort. This is his last snowmobile tour, as he is moving to Springdale, Utah, in two days to be a rock climbing guide.

He is trying to get his life together, a story I know all too well. We arrive at the trailhead, an elevation at a little over 11,000 feet. The skies are growing darker, and a light snow starts to fall. I tell him it's been about 20 years since I last rode a sled.

A quick refresher course and we are off, just the two of us. The scenery is truly epic.
We race up the mountain side, the snow coming down faster and harder the higher we go. Quickly our visibility goes to almost zero. Dion checks in with me to see if I want to brave it, and we keep climbing.

I feel so alive.

We come across another group, and after talking to them we finally decide to turn around. It's a total white out, and I'm not even sure where the trail is.

I just don't want to get stuck, or worse, dump the machine over.

We take a break on the edge, overlooking the valley below. Dion tells me about the summer he traveled to Patagonia, with stories of climbing and world adventure.

I smile and relay some stories of my own.
So I find a kindred spirit up in the mountains of San Juan as we cascade through the snow, fly up and down hills, weave in and out of trees, and just live in this moment.

09 February 2017

Pickin' in the Pines - the camping experience

Just outside the town of Flagstaff, Arizona, there is a little festival that happens each year in September.

People from all over come to camp for three nights, playing their banjos and other stringed instruments in what is affectionately called the Pickin' in the Pines festival.

Last year was my first time attending, and I went all out with a three day pass that included camping just outside the arena.
After making quick work of setting up my campsite, it was time to just relax under the tall pines, sip whiskey, and listen to the music and good times all around.

Many of the bluegrass acts playing in the festival were also camping in the same area as the attendees, which meant you could hear great bluegrass music all the time!

Hiking trails galore start from the campgrounds as well if you need to get away from it all for a bit.
It was here that I heard some great local music, new bluegrass bands from other parts of the West including Durango, Taos, and Moab.

I hope to make this a yearly event for me, but we will just have to wait and see. Until then, I'll strap on my cowboy hat, let my hippy flags fly in the breeze, and enjoy the sweet sounds of Bluegrass Americana.

08 February 2017

Monte Cristo

Back in the year 1889, an gent by the name of Joseph Pearsall discovered silver and gold in the South Fork of the Sauk river. Over the years a mining company turned the pristine Washington State wilderness into the town of Monte Cristo.

The boom attracted thousands looking for their piece of the American Dream, even some that already had their fill, such as John D. Rockefeller.

The boom lasted from 1895 until 1912. By 1920 the town was all but abandoned. If this was a play, enter the adventure seeker on stage right during the modern day, looking to find the trail through the pacific northwestern wilderness that will take him back to this hidden ghost town.
I drive along the back country roads in early morning light, stunned by the beauty around every turn. The road comes to an abrupt end, with two trails heading in opposite directions. Their aren't any signs indicating the way to Monte Cristo, which is just how I like it...challenging.

I decide to not follow the trail that seems to summit the mountain, choosing to follow what looks like an old logging road.
Erosion from the overflowing creek has caused the trail to collapse. It does seem as though I should cross the creek, and choosing my stepping stones carefully, I make it to the other side. I find a bridge that re-connects with the logging road, and carry on.

After a few miles, a faded and weathered sign propped against a giant boulder reassures me that I've finally come to my destination. I tread lightly.
Thick overgrowth and shiny spiderwebs cover the buildings that remain. Railroad ties and tables lay in dormant fashion along the ground, seeming ready to cry out the stories that lay within. I slip my gas mask on and explore...
Two girls appear suddenly and they scream at my sight. I quickly rip the mask off my face and let them know I'm not a psychopath out to harm them. They shake their heads and move quickly on, which is probably just as well.

I don't need the distraction.

Signs point out the remains of what once was, a local store, post office, sleeping quarters, etc...

I find rusted antiques that hold invaluable wealth
as I move among the fragmented bones of a town that once was, history that is clinging to the past by a thread.

I hope to help keep the memory alive.