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Boneyards in the Badlands

The Uncompahgre River valley, southwestern Colorado, a couple Halloweens ago. In answer to my question, the boys at the public lands office said, "Mancos shale." What a cool name. It was Eastwood's name in his second Spaghetti Western. It was this rock that made the western Colorado Badlands bad . Mancos shale results from silt. It suffocates the roots of plants; thus few plants grow out here, and hardly any critters. Not even crypto -biotic soil. Only an occasional prairie dog or scavenger would try to make a living here. It's not like I'm complaining. Instead of standard tourist scenery, I prefer scenery that has a strong flavor of any kind, even the horrific. There is more drama in it. It is more evocative of life and death struggles. Maybe I've bought too many postcards from Nietzsche, over the years.  Well this is the place for it -- the Badlands between Montrose, CO, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The complexion of the ground

EmmyLou on a Windy Night

An RVing friend surprised me recently when he confessed that he and his wife just hate camping in wind. It is strange how some flavors of hardship discourage you, while others bring out the best in you. For whatever reason, I rather like rocking and rolling in my trailer in the wind. All RVs, even a cheap cracker box like mine, come with some sort of stabilizing jacks; but years ago I got rid of mine. Cliffs are certainly good places to experience wind. Wind results from a difference in air pressure, which is connected with sudden altitude changes, or one cliff-face facing the sun while another is in the shadow. One night I went to sleep listening to EmmyLou Harris singing some of her classics. Ahh dear, a female singer is always at her best when she is wailing about her wounds, be they real or imagined. Can you imagine anything more boring than a country-western diva, a Puccini heroine, or a Celtic lass singing about how reasonably content she was with the universe? I woke up

Nearing the Top

Most hikers are probably fond of that moment in a hike when you're starting to wonder if you're ever going to get to the top. But of course the experience would be boring without the voluntary suffering of it all. Then you see some blue sky peaking through, so you must be getting ready to crest. Recently Coffee Girl and I finally made it over the top of Book Cliffs, which my little poodle valiantly surmounted four years ago. I can't be sure that he used this trail, but it's the only one. It was 1600 feet of altitude gain. It's counter-intuitive how the high-altitude side of a cliff ramps up the edge, and then falls precipitously. The Mogollon Rim (in Arizona) does this as well. The top of Book Cliffs was fun to explore; it was crossed by more ravines than I thought; it wasn't just a flat mesa-top.

Urban (Parking Lot) Boondocking

You have to admire the constitution of campers who can actually sleep in a noisy parking lot in town. Do engines ever get shut off? You get to enjoy trains, boom cars, loudspeakers on the pole lights, semi-trucks pulling up in the middle of the night, and perhaps worst of all, predatory strafing of your RV by the parking lot Zamboni. So why do it? There are practical advantages such as minimizing driving while accomplishing shopping errands. And there are plenty of $30 per night RV parks that are half as loud as a free parking lot. There are tricks in parking lots that will get you a few hours of sleep: 1) It is surprising how quiet a semi-truck can be if you are parked aft of its trailer, rather than sideways-adjacent to the engine and Thermo-King refrigerator. 2) It's also surprising how restful it can be to sleep next to a busy freeway, since the sound is so steady. 3) White noise helps quite a bit too. You can use music, a DVD movie, or whatever. 4) Stay up late at night an

Shopping at Cabela's

Several times now, somebody expressed surprise at learning that I was an NFL football fan. They usually say something like,"You don't seem the type," whatever that means. The same people would probably be surprised that I was excited to learn that Grand Junction CO had a Cabela's store. Soon I was there, poring over the latest and greatest multi-tools and LED flashlights. It's odd that, with so many items in such a gigantic store, it's only these two items that interest me. Besides, I already have a high-end Leatherman multi-tool and never bring it along, because of its weight. Imagine how easy it would be to criticize female shoppers fawning and coo-ing over some expensive and useless trinket just because it was kyooooooot! The sidewalks of Ouray CO are full of such shoppers. But one Sunday morning Coffee Girl and I went on a nice hike on that remarkable network of trails than emanates from the town of Ouray. Afterwards I finally found a restaurant that