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Attitudes Toward Drought

It is strange the way weather reports, especially on television, talk about a "40% chance of rain" as if it were life-threatening. This is so common it is easy to not even notice it. But it is a perfect example of how modern life is separated from nature and even physical reality.


I can't help thinking about that as we finally get a spot of light rain here in Colorado, after a dud monsoon season. How tiresome hot sun can get! Sunny mornings are still enjoyable, but in mid-day, the sun simply makes me stay indoors. I can't face it anymore.


But the tourist/camper still thinks that rain is the enemy, and that a sunny sky is something to feel happy about.

What a fraud the modern citified 'nature lover' is! 'Nature' doesn't mean anything to them other than a chance to gawk at freakish scenery of some kind. 

What if they actually had to grow something or hunt something to live? 


"Zero Visibility Possible"

Normally I don't drive my rig on windy days. But I was doing it today, with the excuse being that I had a tail wind. A brown cloud was visible in the sky over towards the infamous Willcox AZ playa.

But I was already downwind of that, so why not keep going east to New Mexico? Soon there were the famous signs along Interstate-10 warning of  "Zero Visibility Possible." I have seen these for many years, and always had a good chuckle over them.

The first indication of something unusual coming up were state police cars, with their lights flashing. Then the sky ahead looked murky -- but more of a dirty white color than the brown you would expect.

As traffic slowed, the semi-truck ahead of me looked 'weird.' I could see down the entire 'port' (left) side of it, even though I was directly behind, with no turns in the road. Apparently the wind from 'port' was 'quarter aft', and it caused the trailer of the semi-truck to blow into an angle that made it …

A Strange Forgotten Substance Falls From the Sky

Light rain hits my trailer. How odd that I can't remember the last time it rained. I wish to hold on to the moment. But how?

The true significance of this rain in undermined by modern comfort and security: it is too easy to buy or get water!

Maybe there are novelists who have done an artful job of relating the experience of rain, but I haven't read enough fiction to know of them. Extra credit points for any reader who offers a fine example from books or movies.





Bringing a Cliché to Life

Why do certain phrases annoy, in a vague sort of way? For instance, 'scudding clouds.'  'Scudding' is an interesting word.

Currently I disport on a mountain bike in the sage hills near Gunnison, CO. The monsoons have survived until now. Sometimes this area is hit with showers and wind on these open, sagebrush-covered hills. Once again I thought of 'scudding clouds.'

I wanted to be inspired by the phrase, but it still seemed flat. What was I missing? Perhaps I needed to stop worrying about beauty, and think about ugliness, instead. Some of that was readily available: power lines bisected this area.

But are these power lines really ugly? One could think of the power lines and towers as noble pieces of triangular architecture, like the ropes and masts on a ship at sea. This area, with its lonely rock skerries in the midst of a 'sagebrush sea,' (another cliché!) brings to mind the place where 'scudding clouds' is typically used. The mountain bike bec…

Fire and Ice

Now and then, I catch myself bragging about setting a 'personal best' when camping. Last week the temperature insidethe camper hit 27 F. 

Of course I have a heater, but refuse to use it. Usually I try to joke my way out of it. A better explanation would be to point at the movie, "The Red Violin." 

Chilly dry air, in contrast with sunlight at sunrise, seems like perfection to me. With a Platonic and pseudo-religious attitude, I pop my trailer door open to the east, and let the glorious sun come into the trailer. It feels warmer instantly, and irresistibly cheerful. If there is a better way to start a day, let me know what it is.


Nevertheless, consider this an exception to the rule. You will not have to read many advertisements for 'the ideal' or 'perfection' on this blog. Experience has taught me that the enemy of the Good is not the Bad, as you would expect. The enemy of the Good is the Ideal.

One of the Greatest Pleasures Outdoors

This May and June we have actually had clouds in the sky, and a bit of rain. There are no fire restrictions yet, despite being into the second week of June.

Sometimes I just sit out in a chair in the afternoon and marvel at how magnificent it is to have clouds and shade in mid-day. If the wind blows, it actually feels cool. Truly, this must be one of the greatest pleasures an outdoorsman ever experiences.


I'm so glad I started years ago at trying to appreciate the Agony of Dry Heat, and the Ecstasy of moderate humidity and the southwestern monsoons. It isn't the obvious tourist-like approach. Perhaps it was just snobbishness on my part.

At any rate, taking that approach has paid off. Last night, for the first time in a long time, I left the outer door open all night.

Another Attempt at Being an Outdoors Fashionista

My last attempt at being a fashionista was under-appreciated by the readership. But I will just try harder...

The topic is timely, now that Arizona is boiling hot in early spring! As I've explained a hundred times, 90% of staying comfortable in the western states is about staying cool, that is, defeating Dry Heat. The latest revolution in form and function is a wide-brimmed visor that fits over a bicycle helmet. In order for you to appreciate how good this innovative product is, let's talk a little about how I used to do it. 

Years ago I saw a mountain biker near Flagstaff with a classic cotton bandana underneath his helmet. This was inexpensive, but it offered poor coverage for the nose. It was hot too, unless you could find enough water to wet it down. (And there ain't no water in the Southwest.)

I have used baseball caps. They are great for the nose. If you get the kind that lack a "crown", they will be cool. But they mess up the fit of your helmet. They provide …

The Ultimate Heater for Winter Camping

Winter campers might argue about what the best kind of heater is, but frankly, I don't like using a heater at all -- for the obvious reasons of fuel cost, safety, and condensation. Besides, it seems wimpy.

There is another approach to winter heating. I owe this success to a camping neighbor. He doesn't buy expensive leather outfits for riding his Harley, but instead wears insulated bib overalls from Walmart. Well of course, that is what mechanics, construction workers, and oilfield workers wear in the winter. 

(I love having useful conversations with camping neighbors. Especially when they mention some trick-of-the-trade that I have overlooked. These conversations are so much more valuable than the usual small talk, long-winded stories about the past, personality salesmanship, etc.)

I have never owned bib overalls. But I took his advice and bought a pair of Walls brand from Walmart for $70. The insulation is not really thick, but they aren't supposed to be a snowmobile sui…

Escape From the Jurassic Mudpits of Moab

You would think that a lot of experience at camping would toughen a fellow up, considerably. But rain and mud have a way of humbling me. Nevertheless, for the fourth time in two days, I narrowly escaped getting stuck in the mud, thanks in part to actually taking advice from a local expert about mud on certain roads in the Moab area.


It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Taking advice. It is certainly good news to become a 'wise old man' who is willing to finally do so. And yet, it is hard to break the changes down that happen to a person who becomes 'older and wiser.' Perhaps a person becomes humbler and more cautious with each misadventure that happens in life. It finally seems inconvenient, expensive, and stupid to have to learn everything the hard way. Misadventures have lost their romantic charm.

There was another reason for my narrow and successful escapes. I had a pair of rubber-bottomed boots in my van. Rather than rashly bulling my way through the mud, I put the b…

Worshiping the Wind

Perhaps one of the readers is up-to-date on El Niño and this remarkable summer in the Southwest, a summer of monsoons starting in May instead of July. The result has been the absence of wildfires, and an explosion of greenery and flowers. And bugs. This has been the first summer in years when I applied bug spray before going out on a mountain bike ride. Well it's about time I was made to appreciate how little I normally think of flying insects.  

The appreciation of something else goes up, too: a nice breeze to keep the bugs off. It's a miracle drug. Normally I praise the breeze in passing on to another subject in these posts. For once, let me talk only about the wind.

It's odd that so many people dislike breezy days. I used to, too, earlier in life. Some of these preferences are explainable: people with allergies are not helped any by the wind. 

Also, many people don't wear hats, which is too bad, considering how well the right hat desensitizes you to wind, sun, and rain…

Calming the Beast in the Cabin

I'm weakening. I hate camping underneath a thunderstorm. But the mud will dry up tomorrow.

There must be readers who are sick of my praise for wet snow and cold mud in May in the American Southwest. They are probably thinking, "Put up or shut up. Move to Puget Sound if you think wetness is so great."

My sermons are an echo of the ones from William James, presented in the page-tab at the top of your screen, Summiting: Ideals and Suffering. In trying to benefit from suffering, the key word is 'non-routine.' Over the long run, suffering loses its charm. In order to be stimulated, you must somehow idealize it, and that is hard to do to something routine. The weather the Southwest is having right now is definitely non-routine.

I'm not just opining and theorizing. My bouts with cabin fever have done me some good, and hopefully for the long term.

I was forced to do things that are easy to neglect: a book that was supposed to be re-read, but somehow wasn't; cleaning …

The Healthiness of Being Stuck in the Muck...

...as an appetizer for Lust for the Dust.

There are people who move to the American Southwest for "nice, warm" weather. I am not one of them. I never fled the Cold of mainstream Gringo-ville; I fled what goes along with the cold.

During the recent spring storm in upper Arizona, I was socked in for 48 hours. Surprisingly, the solar panels (480 Watts, nominal) did a half-decent job of charging the batteries. But without a generator, it was necessary to supplement the struggling solar panels by running the tow vehicle's engine. It would be undesirable to do much of that of course. After turning the engine on, the dog and I went for a walk, and tried to make the best of it.

How wholesome and healthy-minded this experience was! May and June are the crisis-months when I take to dreading Dry Heat. They are the months of disintegrating fingernails, nose-bleeds, cracked heels, paranoid parking with the dog in the van, fire closures in the forest, and wildfire evacuations.

When the mo…

Uses for a Cold Day in a Yuma Igloo

Was it a waste of time to read some of the non-famous-novels of Tolstoy and a biography of Gandhi, "Gandhi Before India." by Ramachandra Guha? Today most people see the "prophet" Tolstoy as a prudish, anti-sex crusader and a romanticizer of Russian peasants. Gandhi was obsessed with diet and holiness even back in his student days in London.

Perhaps, instead, I should read about their actions and ideas that make them remembered as great men, rather than as oddballs and cranks. But maybe it is not that simple. Recall that Isaac Newton wrote more theology than mathematical physics. Was he not earnest in both endeavours? How could the same mind and personality be brilliant in one field and a forgettable crank in the other?

Perhaps we fail to read between the lines in their crank endeavors. More imagination might be needed to spot the great man in the fields where they did not shine.

At any rate I usually mock asceticism until it gets cold. Then I start acting like a holy …

Ghouls Silently Dancing Along the Ridges

Many people in the USA live along the latitude of 40 degrees north. So did I for much of my life. Typically there was a nasty weather collapse near Halloween. Now living in the Southwest, I should be free of all that.

But not this Halloween. Actually I put it to good use. Blue skies can make scenic areas look too predictably pretty. And insipid. I rather like the moodiness of mesa and canyon country during storms.


Canyons also give you a little protection from blustery winds. Of course if it were raining hard, you would be wise to stay out of the canyon. So I took my dog, Coffee Girl, up some canyons that are parked right outside my camper's door.


I wonder who loves this more, she or I? But this time the experience was enhanced by the stormy weather and the possibility of rain on the walk. It sounds ridiculous to think that a little rain has become some great Malevolence to me, but I guess living in the Southwest will do that to a person.







Good luck put a little more mood into this Hal…

Partly in Paradise

One of the advantages of writing is that it is deliberate and slow. It gives you a chance to test the clarity of your thinking.  Computers have made it so easy to edit what you've written that there are few excuses to be inaccurate or misunderstood.

Despite all those advantages there is still room for improvement, particularly in my recent advertisements for the Good Life in the great outdoors. I haven't been clear: it's living partly outdoors that deserves to be praised to the heavens.

My First Flash "Flood," part II

Between the noise and the rain and the sticky goo, I was getting cabin fever. Not just a hackneyed expression, this is a real state of desperation. Oddly enough, whenever I have personally experienced this mood, I rebelled against it with the most determined optimism. This can seem odd or even a little magical to the person experiencing it, but, if we are to believe William James in The Will to Believe, it is common behavior:
It is, indeed, a remarkable fact that sufferings and hardships do not, as a rule, abate the love of life; they seem, on the contrary, usually to give it a keener zest. The sovereign source of melancholy is repletion. Need and struggle are what excite and inspire us; our hour of triumph is what brings the void. Not the Jews of the captivity, but those of the days of Solomon's glory are those from whom the pessimistic utterances in our Bible come. Germany, when she lay trampled beneath the hoofs of Bonaparte's troopers, produced perhaps the most optimistic …

Rocky Mountain High Mud-Skiing

Gunnison, CO. There's always something new to learn in the travel racket, or at least, to accentuate. Camping in the mud has never been my favorite thing, and most dog owners would say the same.

But wait, wasn't I just praising the ability of the human imagination to turn any situation into one of Noble Suffering? And I meant it, too. But I draw the line at flying insects and mud. Mud is not noble.



You might wonder why I had to crash in the photo above, with all that "dry" land between the two tire ruts. The photo doesn't show how crowned that middle area was.

And speaking of crowned... I couldn't take the forest mud anymore. I had to head in to town, just for the pavement. Towards the end of the day, it appeared dry enough to attempt an escape. It was only 200 yards downhill to the main road. I was patting myself on the back for having the foresight to camp uphill of the escape route, at this time of the year.

On the way down, the tow vehicle and travel trailer…

Alpine Chiaroscuro

Modern Mother Nature as a Wrathful Old Testament God

At one time or another, most people have wished that they had more imagination. But recall the old proverb about 'being careful what you wish for.' Too much imagination can actually kill you if it creates panic in the water, and causes you to drown. In other situations it can at least cause you to worry more than you should. 
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South Fork, CO. It was the smell that I noticed first. Oh sure, we've all smelled smoke before, but wasn't the forest fire supposed to be over 20 miles to the west -- off in some useless, dreary Wilderness Area that nobody really cares about?

Doesn't a sudden change in odor imply that danger is close? And when the edge of the fire-storm-cloud is sharp, doesn't that imply that the danger is close? Otherwise, it would be smeared out, wouldn't it?








And why did I feel heat against my body, when there was darkness at noon?



It seemed as though the heat was coming from just over the ridge to the west, the di…

Fully Living Partly Outdoors

A traveler who prefers open country and big skies is wise to extend his stay in high grasslands into late April and early May.  Silver City, NM, is an excellent place to play that game because it is at the boundary of grassland and ponderosa forests. Typically, in the second half of May, the oven door opens up, and it's time to flee to the forest. This year it was the wind that drove me into the ponderosa forests.

But it took a certain amount of fist-making and teeth-clenching. I admit that forests do have certain advantages, such as shade and cooler temperatures, and that they make good wind-breaks. But they will never be my favorite places. Still, I've been getting better at it.

Something quite wonderful happened during the first sunset, back in the forest. A patch of yellow sunlight appeared opposite a window, and ABOVE it. It was a stolen sunlight, seemingly from below the horizon. 

It's just the opposite of what you expect in a forest  -- normally the trees would clip o…