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A Lesson on Where NOT to Camp

South Fork, CO. There is a quiet, but profound, satisfaction when using a mountain bike for "foraging" and reconnaissance, rather than mere entertainment or exercise. The more business-like camping and exercise become, the more authentic they feel. That's what makes this a job, rather than a vacation. It's an under-rated pleasure to mountain bike on a perfect forest road; one that is smooth, graded, hard, and relentlessly, mercilessly uphill. The shade held up well, and it kept getting cooler. The forest changed into thick, overgrown spruce at 10,000 feet. Other than the shade over the road there isn't a single good thing to say about spruce forests. Finally I got an open view of the neighborhood mountain. Alas there was probably no way to hike above tree-line from this road without bushwhacking through that disgusting spruce forest. Finding this out was why I was there. Some automatic mechanisms clicked into place when I found the best dispersed campsit

Gotterdammerung on the Upper Rio Grande

How I Remember this Devastated Land

It is always fun to visit a dispersed camping area that you haven't seen in quite a few years. I went back to the higher country, just uphill of where I've been camping the last few days, because the fire has become less dramatic. In fact, I now see it as a make-work project for government-sector employees and crony-capitalists. Well, that's how the upper Rio Grande valley still looks at the ingress of the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado. And forest fire or not, there are still many wild roses in bloom. I need a break from the smell of smoke, haze, and destruction.   So life goes on.

The Bleak Part of the Battle Begins

South Fork, CO.  What's it like to be a refugee family trying to kill time in a high school gymnasium, while hiding from the forest fire? It was probably an adventure the first day. But after several days? And the authorities are careful not to give the refugees a specific date when they can return to their homes.  Sometimes I wonder about the sluice-gate of federal (FEMA) dollars that starts flowing once a crisis reaches a certain threshold, and whether authorities and crony capitalists try to over-extend the crisis just to suck every last dollar out of the ol' cash cow. In that sense, a naive trust of authorities will just turn you into a captive/hostage. That -- and not reckless overconfidence or thrill-seeking -- is probably the real reason why some non-sheeplike people won't evacuate when the authorities order them to. Seeing the kindly neighbor-woman drop in on me several times -- yesterday she wanted to know if I needed water -- brought several out-of-date and l

Cecil B. DeMille in the San Juans: Going Pyro-Cumular!

Noon MDT, South Fork CO: In order to burnish my credentials for employment in the responsible mainstream media, I was going to entitle this, "West Fork Wildfire Goes Thermonuclear."  But that might have caused unnecessary worry. And "pyro-cumular" sounds much more positive and friendly than "thermonuclear."  Besides, I don't really know if this is due to a sudden flare-up (intensification), or whether calm winds are allowing a chimney-column to form. But what happened to the pall of smoke that was blocking this view? Did it blow away suddenly, just before this column developed? Consider all the history books a history buff can read over the course of a lifetime. The historian loves playing Monday morning quarterback, based on a collection of papers and documents known to the historian, decades after the battle. But what was known to the commanding general at the time of the decision? The fog of war is something I will appreciate more because