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The Pleasure of Big Land

If you find yourself reading about camping or recreating in Utah, there is a 99.9% chance most of it will be hysterical screaming about red rocks.  This post will try to convince you that Utah can be appreciated in another way -- a better way. Let's look at Utah from the point of view of someone who is heading south, from the Northwest.  Let's say they were in a 2,000,000 acre forest there.  Sounds big, doesn't it? It's not.  You can only access the trails and roads.  Most of the land is too steep to camp on, even alongside the roads.  You cannot walk between the trees since the forests are a thicket.  The creeks are not walkable of course, because there is water running in them.   I would like to see a study done that would put a number on it.  Until then, let's say that 0.1% of the land is actually useable -- and that percentage is generous, I think.  That means that 2,000,000 acres comes down to 2000 acres, the size of a couple farms in the Great Plains. I am not

The Great Man 'on Horseback'

What is the benefit of paying attention to the news?  I can think of one: some top story in the news might spark or revive an interest in a book. For instance the recent election in Italy made a splash.  The corporate media immediately began calling her "far right."  This bumped me to reread the biography of Mussolini by Nicholas Farrell. Mussolini certainly had an interesting life.  Because he is not usually thought of as 100% evil -- like Hitler -- the reader of Mussolini's biography can actually put themselves in his shoes, as they must in order to get anything out of reading a biography. Mussolini started as a serious and fairly orthodox socialist, but then he made drastic innovations to socialism that changed history.  Prior to World War I, socialists took their internationalism seriously. The war changed that.  German socialists supported German war efforts.  Then socialists in other countries did the same for their governments. "Men had gone off to fight the n

Can Germany Respond to the Challenge?

Perhaps someday somebody will prove that Washington DC is not responsible for the destruction of the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.  Let's assume that Germany will be most affected by this act of sabotage. Isn't this an opportunity for Germany to rise to the challenge by acting heroically?  It would be foolish to expect this, but I need to look for mere possibilities during this meltdown.  It is too grim and depressing, otherwise. There have been times when societies faced an existential threat and they responded heroically.  The classic example is the Greek response to the invasion of the Persians.  Or the response of a rather small number of American colonials at Concord bridge and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I think that the people of eastern Ukraine (Donbass) responded heroically as they voted for secession from the Kiev regime, as explosive shells came in on their heads. There are probably more examples of this kind than we think, perhaps because we only honor an

Authentic Experience on the Oregon Trail

A couple years ago I got interested in the topography and history of the old Oregon Trail, mostly in southwestern Wyoming.   This seems a little strange since I never visit 'Pioneer museums' across the West.  The Oregon Trail sounds like a chapter in a 5th-grader's history book, so why would it appeal to a hip urban sophisticate like me? (eyes-rolling emoji) It might have been the book, "The Oregon Trail" by Rinker Buck, that got me going on this. (Rinker  did much of the Oregon Trail in a wagon pulled by mules, about 10 years ago.) Yesterday I was cutting a diagonal southeast in southwestern Wyoming.  So why not do (in reverse) the road that Rinker Buck said was the most difficult part of the Oregon Trail?  (I am pulling a light trailer with a rear-wheel-drive van.) WARNING: don't forget to turn off your traction-control system when you are doing steep climbs! It certainly helps to pull off at wide spots on the road and walk to the next wide spot.  When you

Uncertainty When Traveling

I was returning to camp after a ride on BLM roads that was only half-interesting.  Maybe that is why I gave the benefit of the doubt to one last possibility.  The scenery didn't appear interesting.  And this last road might have a puddle or two. At least the road had a nice uphill slope and a hard pack surface.  The road went between two parallel ridges about 500 feet high.  Except the east side was more like a series of small volcanos.  The road kept up with this uniform climb.  I thought that the vegetation was becoming taller each mile, but perhaps I was just imagining that. Would there soon be an isolated copse of aspen trees?  There is something wonderful about frail aspens just barely surviving in the midst of all that sagebrush.  They huddle together, holding on to life by their fingernails. There were no up-and-downs the entire way.  Only a uniform, second-gear uphill.  In all my years of dirt road mountain biking,  I have never had this happen before! Now I could put my cu