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Thread: DIY Art

  1. #101
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    49) David; Hawaii

    David started pacing with his sign. He gritted his teeth and paced and ground his toe into the dirt like he was crushing out a cigarette. He felt trapped and hurt under the sun. He could look up to the hazy distance and see the luminous summit of Mauna Kea. The place he sought so badly. He would walk out to the intersection where the protestors stood. He wanted to keep going up to the summit but like a bad dream he kept ‘getting stuck’ and couldn’t quite find the combination of effort and intent to go past the intersection northward.

    He looked at the other protestors. College students, local elders.

    “Mixed bag,” he thought as he went to smash their heads in with his sign but the sign whiffed through them harmlessly. They could not see him or know that he was there. It had been like this for some time. He lost track of the years and days and minutes. Sometimes he was here with the protestors. Sometimes he was out on the open highway, allowed to walk. He would walk and pray and see numbers and then he would turn around and got in the opposite direction. He did not eat.

    He had cried and pleaded with his surroundings. He now stood with his sign in a brief moment of stoic resignation. And then he had a flash of re-memory. Grey truck. It was like a jolted de ja vu sequence that stuttered and stopped as if the observable bit rate was not fast enough. He would flash to a memory and the memory would become the new present moment. He remembered everything and nothing. He had no call back system or attention span. A stretching, creaking, yawning, cracking motion of ideas.

    Grey truck. He looked but did not see then he saw himself standing on the corner from the perspective of the truck occupants. He was holding a sign that said ‘432’. Kanu and Uncle both saw the crazy little haole from the day before.

    “Hey there is that crazy buggah!” Uncle said with a nod of his head. Then Kanu remembered the events from the day before: the long work day, surfing, seeing the guy hitch hiking late in the afternoon…

    “Oh yeah I saw him again after surf,” Kanu thought out loud somewhat absentmindedly, it felt like so long ago. He looked at his coffee cup in his hand and moved it closer to his face as if inspecting it, then moved it away judging the distance and proportion.

    Uncle responded, “You saw that guy?! We on back here, where you see em?”

    “Down south, Honolo and then Honaunau…”

    “You saw THREE times?” Uncle sounded alarmed.

    “Yeah we stopped at Aloha station and then he must’ve got ride a way because we saw again. I don’t think he saw me,” Kanu explained.

    “You shouldn’t have take no pictures!” Uncle reprimanded.

    Kanu remembered the picture! He flipped on his phone and went to the photo application. The last picture, the one he took along the highway the day before, just showed empty highway shoulder backed by a desolate lava field that fell to the coast. “Oh shit,” he muttered as he showed the pic to Uncle.

    “See there Little Brother, you got some trouble, eh?” Uncle laughed.

    Kanu looked out into the grey. They were driving into the guarded neighborhood on a thin strip of perfect grey pavement with freshly painted road lines that popped with color. Running the length of the road was a strip of green grass then a strip of white sidewalk and then a row of green hedges. The black void of the lava fields yawned beyond the irrigated hedge line towards Waikaloa. Kanu could see oasis’ of green in the hazy distance that were only there because of irrigation systems that came from the mind of man.

    Volcanic fog hung low over the Saddle Road and the Kohala Mountains beyond. The Leilani Estate volcanic eruption had been going hard for over a month now. Millions of cubic yards of volcanic gases and dust were belched into the atmosphere daily as it rose and billowed and back eddied in the huge lee created by Moana Loa.
    Kanu thought about the geologic nature of the volcano and acknowledged the validity of tectonic plate theory.
    Right then he heard Uncle say, “Dat Pele, not good wit dis.” He gestured to another huge steel gate installed at the end of another billionaire’s driveway.

    “But Uncle, they are paying us to build for them.” Kanu already knew where this conversation was going. Kanu ignored the ensuing rant and returned attention to his phone. The day wore on hot and sticky under a billowing ash sky.

    While Kanu worked, David walked southward. For the first time in his recent recollection, David walked with purpose. By 9am he crossed Henry Street in downtown Kona. By noon he could look down from Honaunau to the Emerald waters of Kealakekua Bay and felt a throbbing in his head. By 3pm he was half way through the Kiphoehoe Park Reserve where the verdant foliage of south Kona gives way to the grey forest. He was so tired but knew he was close to where he aimed.

    At 6pm, just near dark, Uncle pulled his battered old Ranger off the Hawaiian Belt road onto the Milolii side road to descend to the sea and home for the night. Kanu had fallen asleep with his head deep in the folds of his black hoodie.

    Uncle nudged him, “You sleep in the morning, you sleep on da way home! Who my supposed to talk to?” Uncle laughed. Kanu pondered in his half responsive mind why he always felt so tired. Just as he was about to fall into another doze he heard Uncle say, “Oh shit!”

    David was beat. His already worn shoes were in tatters. He had covered roughly 40 miles on foot in the heat of the day. David thought to himself, “How can I not be here if I can feel pain?” He saw the truck lights approaching. He knew it was the same truck. He did not remember how he got there. Here in the dark.

    The truck slowed and Kanu said, “What the fuck, dat guy here?” Uncle rolled to a stop and unrolled his window. David stepped cautiously towards the truck. He was perched on the edge of the narrow shoulder. Ten feet away was a run of chicken wire fencing that lined the edge of a small orchard.

    David teetered in delirium. His sandy blond hair now bleached out by the sun. “It has been years? But I only just got here?” David struggled for clear thinking.

    Uncle was about to let out a timid, “Hey Brotha, howzit?” When David suddenly double stepped to the truck and slammed and small pocket knife blade into Uncle’s chest. In one motion he then opened the truck door and pulled Uncle to the ground as he clutched his bleeding chest. David slithered into the drivers seat and drove his left fist into Kanu’s face with all of his might --

    Kanu’s head hurt. His eyes were closed but he could feel the steady pull of the little grey Ranger as it climbed the familiar turns of Milolii road. He had done the drive too many times to count over his life. He waited for the familiar ukulele plucking for the radio. He felt hazy, hungover. “I didn’t drink last night…” was his dull thought. He tried to open his eyes but they felt crusty. His head hurt and his thoughts were foggy.

    He remembered building rock walls at work. He remembered driving with Uncle as they climbed south out of Kailua, heading home. Then he remembered being the little homeless guy on the side of the road. Then he could not place his next thought.

  2. #102
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    David noticed Kanu stirring in the passenger seat. He knew he had not driven a vehicle in a long time but it came naturally. He felt like he was traveling at Light Speed after so much time on his feet under the hot sun. How long had it been? He felt the pull of the motor and gravity sinking him back into his seat. He might have been speeding. He felt free and he did not know how or why he got there.

    Kanu opened his blood crusted eyes. He was slumped against the door with hoodie pulled over his face. He could see his hands and dusty feet in his worn slippahs’. David saw Kanu moving so he reached over and gave Kanu a quick jab in his left shoulder with his bloody knife. Kanu now jolted awake in pain, fear and confusion. He saw David driving but did not know his name.

    He blurted out, “Whatda fuck?!” And before Kanu could mount a counter attack on his assailant, David gave a quick jab again and barked with a new forced authority, “Sit there!” Kanu felt more struck by the words than the blade and he did not move. “Sit there and I won’t gitcha!” David reiterated as he gestured with the knife wildly in Kanu’s face.

    “The speed of light keeps breaking!” David blurted with spittle at the edge of his mouth. “It breaks at 432 again and again!” David could feel a swelling sense of desperation. “But the mass goes up with Gravity and Time,” David jolted into response to an imaginary debate. “And the distance goes up with Gravity and Time.”
    Kanu did not know what to think.

    “Gravity is the pull of the collapsing wave form!” David continued. “The size and ratio of mass and distance is equal between the nucleus and electrons as is the Sun and the planets.” David was first waving his knife but as he ranted he became more dejected and depressed by his own conclusions. Kanu sensed a shift and knew that he had to act soon. David was now driving slow and erratically on the Mamaloa Highway about a mile south of the Milolii turnoff now.

    The Kanu remembered Uncle. He turned and looked over his shoulder and then out the window. He felt a sudden rush of rage and adrenaline like never before. It was almost like the feeling he got when he saw a rogue waving looming on the horizon. David lamented while banging his knuckles on the steering wheel, tears on his cheeks.

    “Vaporous cosmic explosions in the furthest reaches of space only appear to us as taking millions of years because they are so big and far away…”

    “What is he talking about?” Kanu could feel his temper swelling.

    David turned to face Kanu, not looking at the road. “Vaporous quantum collision maps in the deepest depths of particle physics only appear to take nanoseconds because they are so small and close… it is just more evidence of the scalable nature of the holographic fractal patterns…”

    And at ‘patterns’ Kanu had heard enough. He moved with a speed and precision previously unknown. He lunged with both hands and gripped David firmly around the throat and squeezed as he yelled,”Recite! Recite!” in David’s face until his eyes bugged out. The truck careened and Kanu had to grab the steering wheel as David let out a feeble squeak from his crushed wind pipe. Kanu instinctually leaned down and pulled the E-brake under the center console of the truck.

    He leaned further and opened the David’s door and pushed him out as the truck came to a stop. He kept moving as he grabbed David by this scraggly blond hair and dragged him to the back of the truck. Kanu didn’t have a plan but he threw David in the back of the truck. He returned to the drivers seat and turned the truck around to go find Uncle. How long had it been? How long did they sit before driving? It was dark but the trucks clock read 6:15pm.

    Kanu sped down the Milolii road and soon came to the bend in the road where Uncle had been. He was no longer there. Kanu felt a panic rise in his gut as he bombed down the hill two more turns before seeing Uncles broad shoulders slumped as he staggered along the shoulder. Kanu pulled over and Uncle looked up with bloodshot eyes and blood on his hands and chest.

    “Get in,” Kanu instructed.

    “You got that guy in the truck?” Uncle exclaimed when Kanu finally caught him up on what had happened since he had been thrown from the vehicle. He craned his head to look in the back. “What we gonna do wit him?” Uncle asked.

    “I dunno, I thought you knew,” Kanu answered.

    “We have to get rid. Is he alive and kicking?” Uncle chuckled. Kanu could not help but smile at how Uncle could make light of the situation. “No more since he been kicking you!” Kanu said as they both howled with laughter. Kanu noted that the laugh filled his bowels and lifted his chest. His mind popped alive with a profound memory.

    Kanu asked, “By land or by sea?”

    Uncle answered, “By sea we come to the land and by the land we return to the stars. Dis guy needs a lifting place.”
    Kanu drove steadily down the road he knew so well. The turns. The memories engrained. He had driven this road before the blood… the beach… the tall ship from another land. He felt a surge of anger towards the homeless man in the back of the truck.

    “Dat no come by haole,” Uncle spoke as if reading Kanu’s mind. “You not see guys like dis so much…. Back in,” he instructed Kanu as they pulled up to the little driveway at Kanu’s house. In the rearview mirror, as lit by the white backup lights on the truck, Kanu could see the brightly colored plywood siding on the side of the building as it contrasted with the dark void behind the ragged branches of the large kiave tree that dominated the property.

    It was the largest kiave tree in the area for miles. The only ones that he knew that were bigger were out in the low swamps along the trail to Honomolino. That section of trail always creeped Kanu out and since he was a child he hated being caught out in the dark in that area. The trees trunks lay heavy under their own weight as the jungle rot tries to consume them standing live. But this lone kiave on his property always seemed more friendly, maybe because it was out of place.
    Last edited by carpathian; 01-01-2020 at 12:56 AM.

  3. #103
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    The trees down on the trail to Honomolino had the luxury of living in rich fertile soil in a mangrove like environ adjacent to the ocean. Whereas Kanu’s property up in Haole Wood was several hundred yards form the ocean and nearly 200ft above sea level. All the other kiave in the neighborhood were spindly, drought stricken and struggling in nutrient poor soil. Not Kanu’s tree though. His tree was healthy and strong. Kanu had the sudden urge to go see the tree to understand it more, if not simply hear its story. He turned the truck key off and everything fell to pitch black.

    David felt the truck engine fall silent. He could hear muffled voices in the dark and he was having trouble recollecting where he was. He tried to move and connect with his environment out side of the audible. He could not tell if his eyes were open…. Then he saw a flash. An iPhone light danced and reflected through low tree branches above. He tried to move and could not. He could feel no constraints but his limbs refused to respond to his minds instructions. He felt a panic rise in his gut.

    He wanted to scream, “WE ARE IN THE HOLOGRAM!” But his lips would not move.

    Kanu and Uncle looked at the still body. “Is he dead?” Kanu asked.

    “Not dead but not alive,” Uncle answered. Kanu turned in the dark and his iPhone light beam cut through the branches of the huge kiave tree. “We got to do this now, pick em up and put by tree,” Uncle continued. Kanu hesitated towards the body but Uncle gave a reassuring nod in David’s direction.

    Kanu leaned into the back of the truck and grabbed David by the ankles. They were brown and dusty.
    “He not gonna bite, he wants dis,” Uncle said.

    Meanwhile David was screaming inside his mind. “What is going on?!” He also felt a certain stability in his mind that reminded of how things used to be. He could remember the frozen mountain top and he could see the Beast perched on top of the cliff. He could feel the warm loving weight of his daughter in his arms. He could see the junky on the ambulance and smell the Spice as he took his first hit. He could feel the heat of the fire on his face as his house burned down with his young daughter inside...

    He could feel tears rolling down his cheeks as they placed him at the base of the tree. Uncle gestured to David, “Dis guy here before. He under dis tree and you put him here.”

    Kanu asked, “What you sayin’?

    Uncle answered, “You been here long time. This tree old. Your people… the ones you lived through over the generations have always lived here.” Kanu was silent.

    Uncle said, “Start collecting all sticks we need to build dis thing.” At that, Kanu felt no delay or question of judgement in being told what to do.

    David could feel the earth hold him as large and small branches were piled high around him. He felt that the deeper he was buried the more stable his thoughts became. He did not want to move. He did not want to resist. Kanu and Uncle worked into the night. Sometime in early morning they fell asleep dreamless.

    Kanu awoke early at first daylight and resumed work while Uncle snored peacefully. In the night they scoured the property of all dry scraps of tree branches and leaves and piled it high on top of David around the base of the tree. Kanu paced out a square around the base of the tree that was 40’ x 40’ and at the corners he placed large rocks. Cornerstones.

    Uncle came outside and nodded approval. “See you got it, I don’t need tell you anything. It is on you.” Kanu understood without understanding as he kept working silently. David could hear the busy footsteps all around and in his mind’s eye he followed Kanu around the property as he collected more and more rocks.

    “Hawaii Islands are made of the rock of Pele. The older the rock on the older islands the more broke down it becomes and buried under green vegetation. But on Big Isle, dry side, no green all over. Just rocks ready to be moved and tell their story.” Kanu stacked the wood and brush out in shape of a cross from the base of the tree where David rested.

    Kanu stacked rocks flat out within the paced out square and they used thicker branches to support the rocks on top of the chase way of branches. He stacked rocks taller and taller. David was entombed within a mesh of dry foliage with his head resting at the base of the tree. He could feel the weight of the rocks increase as the weight of the world melted away.

    At one point he realized that he could see out of one eye as it gazed skyward up the length of the old tree trunk. His sight was limited by the mess of tree canopy sticking to of the trunk. He desperately wanted to see beyond the branches to the blue sky beyond. Kanu worked for days with no food and little water. Uncle would sit in the shade and offer encouragement while hauling the occasional rock.

    As the rock pile grew it began to take shape as the top sloped towards the tree trunk. Soon Kanu had to duck under the heavy branches that had previously been 20ft in the air. Uncle brought an old handsaw and Kanu systematically cut the branches off the trunk as his new rock layer needed. David felt joy as he could peer up the trunk and see progress in his vision.

    It had been too much previously. Unfiltered perception scrambled his mind. Now his sight was being focused by the tower of rock around the trunk of the tree as Kanu had left a 6” gap around the tree. As the pyramid grew it further focused David’s vision along the length, steering his eye skyward. Kanu was in deep trance. He felt no pain or diversion. He knew the shape and he knew the intentions if not the exact history.

    He cut more branches and was soon near the top of the tree. His pile of rocks was not perfect but it strongly resembled a 40’, four-sided pyramid with the flat faces aligned north, south, east and west. As he placed the last rocks along the perfect hole that encircled the diameter of the tree trunk to its base, he could feel a draft pumping up the column from the hot ground of the puku to his position 40’ up. The four chases along the ground acted as conduit for air and energy.

    David could see. He could see that his size was synonymous with time and distance. Numbers circled and jumbled in his head but less erratic than before and he started speaking, “Four thirty-two… One, twenty seven, fifty four, one hundred and eight, two hundred and sixteen, four hundred and thirty two. There are 25,920 years in a Great Year… divide by 12 is 2160 earth years…”

    Davids voice rose, “The moon is 2160 miles in diameter… divide by 5 is 432!”

    Kanu thought he could hear something. He put his ear to the top of the hole at top of the tree trunk just as he turned his face to see the sun set on the 6th day of effort.

    He could hear a thin whispering voice say, “432 times 432 is the Speed of Light!” It sent chill down his spine. He felt a hot breeze pick up and could hear the dry air moan across the hillside. Then he heard, “The function is equal to one over Time… the Frequency is 25,920 over 60 equal 432…”
    Kanu did not know what it meant. Then he heard a question, “How many stones have you buried me beneath Kanu?” Kanu was taken aback by hearing his name come form the lips of the entity buried at the base of the pyramid.

    “How do you know my name?”

    And David said, “Kanu means ‘to bury’. You buried me under this tree a month after you crushed my face, Cook’s face, with a rock. You went by the name Tamas. … How many rocks?”

    Kanu thought for a moment and answered, “144,000.”

    David said, “Thank you, I can see my way home now.” David’s left eye peered skyward from the top of the tree and he could see a cluster of stars that seemed familiar and not so far away from down in the darkness at the base the pyramid.

    Kanu heard Uncles voice, “Kanu it is time to light the match.”

  4. #104
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    THE END

    Happy New Year!!

    'Starlight Over David'

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    ... now you guys get to play book critic...

  5. #105
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    Anyone read this all the way through yet? The only book reviews I have received are from my mom and my 10 year old daughter.

    I offered to pay my kid $100 as incentive and she said:

    "I wouldn't have read it if I wasn't getting $100. It is kind of scary."

    My mom, being the religious type, was worried for my mental health and all the Devil talk made her nervous.

    Pros or cons on story flow and general concept...

    Would you refer some one to read it and how would you describe it to them?

    Being so heavily vested in the project, it is hard to separate myself objectively.

  6. #106
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    Whoah this thread went places. I'll try to read through it and let you know

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  8. #108
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  9. #109
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    Whew, got that one off the 'To Do' list. That really helped for me to search out the random typos. (though I'm sure I missed a few)

    For those of you just dying for a hard copy!

    https://www.amazon.com/Starlight-Ove...9370532&sr=8-1

    Standby for non fiction.

    "Secrets of Alaska and Other Places" coming in hot.

  10. #110
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    Sold my first art this week! A friend bought this one for his new house for $100

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    And this one sold at a local fund raiser auction for $145!!

    Attachment 305740

    and then I got a request for something with breaching whales... getting distracted, non fiction... coming soon

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  12. #112
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    I wanted to enter a piece in this contest for a beer can design for Black Ops Heli in Valdez.
    Started with this one on small canvas... got too crowded

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    Got a way bigger canvas, V 2.0 came out better submitting now... winner gets 3 days hell ski trip in Valdez!

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    Anyone finish novel yet?! Maybe it is a harder read then I suspected, or just bad...

  13. #113
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    I read the novel for a bit, but then hit the "too many characters" point about 3/4 of the way through. I felt like I was kind of getting the same point from every chapter. It was entertaining enough to keep me going up until that point!

    Good luck on the heli trip, I like the second piece.

  14. #114
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    Good on ya! Yes, there are 12 additional plot lines that revolve around David’s story. Eventually ( probably real close to where you were ) they all stop then book takes new singular focus.

    Well technically they are all the same story line beginning chronologically way back when and then eventually catch up to David’s .

    I’ve actually thought about complete re ordering of chapters to reflect true epic timeline... a la James Michener

    On the other hand I like the way bits fall like puzzle pieces...

    And yes you were getting similar points through out as I repeatedly hit themes as told through different context. I’m glad you noticed lol

    My liberal mind wrote a story about the failure of the patriarchy and yearning for maternal guidance.

    My conservative mind wrote a story with lesson: get yer shit together, don’t so drugs.

  15. #115
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    Old Girdwood Solstice. View across the water from my house.

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    Last edited by carpathian; 03-21-2020 at 12:47 AM.

  16. #116
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    I have been trying to paint real things. It is way harder, as it turns out, to make something look like it is supposed to look vs just making it up.

    Version 1 going for copy of this Charlie Renfro print.

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    Version 2 I went for large canvas to match print size. Had to stretch the dimensions a bit because canvas was a couple inches bigger. I think V1 turned out better, the shadow lines look more natural.

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  17. #117
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    Matrix in the Morning

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    I turned 40 a couple days ago. Just about time to launch into this next upload session...

  18. #118
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    Anyone finish that novel yet? Come now, I know you have time with the Covid and all.

    So uhhh, here we go. On to Non fiction...

    About 10 years ago I hosted a thread that ran for a while. In that thread I started telling stories about skiing mostly. I was age 29 and my first kid was just born. I was writing the stories on premise that I wanted my kid to read these stories sometime in the future and this forum was fun way to stay focused and entertain internet people along the way. I took next step and self published at Amazon, because who doesn't want to have a copy of their own memoirs sitting on the coffee table?

    I turned 40 last week. My first kid is 10 and second kid is almost 5. I'm going on same premise as before. I have now re compiled all stories from my youth through my 20's and now added a bunch of stories through my 30's. Some of you may have read the 'first edition' a decade ago and that is cool we are still around and you are still reading my bullshit!!

    I just counted... 80 plus chapters coming your way!

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    He leaned forward then and held his gnarled hands out to the firelight, and the flames threw his shadow, magnified, onto the thick logs of the cabin wall. Then he began to weave a tale of high mountains and proud men that rode among them, like princes surveying their estates, like lords high up in their strongholds, where only the wind could touch them, and the world was free of pain and sorrow, and we were always young.”

    Men for the Mountains, Sid Marty

    Part 1


    November 2008

    I just took a swig of my fireball whisky and it starts to take the chill off. It just warmed and started snowing today after 2 weeks of –25C. My brain feels tired of scheming and studying. I have been cramming for the last 2 weeks so I can pass the BC Fallers Standard exam. I am challenging the test based on my experience on the chainsaw.

    With each step along the way I have stretched myself into opportunities only found by stretching the truth. I landed a job cutting seismic lines for a mining outfit based on my experience falling ‘danger trees’ on the local ski hill for firewood. The deal was sealed when the prospective boss told me that he was not going to check my references because he and the referenced guy did not get along for some reason.

    Go figure, so there I am busting balls, learning on the fly and just getting by, by playing it cool and knowing just enough to make it seem like I know more. They always end up catching on though. But by then, you prove yourself trainable and capable and hardworking and you keep your job. And besides, after a summer of insane long hours on a fishing boat in Alaska, I figured I could do anything for 8 hours.

    My wife Vesna and I just returned north to live in Smithers, BC as refugees from the madness of the lower mainland if not the Pacific Rim in general. We are hunkered down around a wood stove in a small cabin located just 5 minutes drive from town. It seems to be the perfect place to homestead in a semi urban environment. It is also the perfect place to raise a family and make a living in the harsh world of ‘bush work.’

    As it turns out, Vesna is 6 months pregnant and I am scrambling to make some cash. Though I had sworn off running a chainsaw after 400 days of work over 4 seasons, I find myself in the middle of climbing the heirarchy of the chainsaw world.

    In the world of chainsaw operators the firewood collecting, line cutting and slashing is at the bottom of the barrel. It may be tough and grueling but you only top out at $300 a day while cutting millions of small to medium sized trees.

    In the world of chainsaw operators, unless you have your ‘fallers ticket’ you are an amateur. In the chainsaw world of British Columbia in specific, falling trees has been a way of life. Basically the bigger the trees the more money you earn and the more danger you put yourself in, naturally.

    I have been reading and re-reading the official government issued hand book that lays out in detail all of the do’s and don’t associated with falling trees. Today I went out with my friend to collect firewood and as excuse to practice falling some bigger trees.

    I was taking my time making conventional undercuts and trying to line up the back cuts perfectly. On two of the four trees I did not cut enough holding wood so that left me standing there with two buried wedges and a tree that was not budging. I was able to make sketchy secondary cuts to the undercut of the first tree but that was not working on the second one.

    It was a heavy leaner and I was trying to get it to fall 90 degrees to where it wanted to fall. Both wedges are buried and I am making quick cuts while staying ready to dash away given a moments notice. That is a good way to make the tree jump off the holding wood or spin around 180 deg and go in the opposite direction. I was nervous. Nick came over to offer a push and examine the cuts. He pulled one of the wedges out and just as I turn to grab my saw and BANG! The holding wood exploded under the hanging tension and the tree power slammed to the ground, luckily in the intended direction. I scrambled to the ground and fell and lost my helmet. We were both safe but as I sat there all disheveled I began to have second thoughts about this tree falling business. $600 a day or not, risk versus reward?

    Gotta make a living, there is a looming recession you know. These troubled times… So we bucked the tree up and loaded it in the truck and here I sit with my bottle of whisky, listening to the fire crackle.

    It is really snowing out there and windy too. The ski hill up on Hudson Bay Mountain is getting hammered. The snow is cold and deep and you can have it all to your self with no frenzy and no rush. Did I mention that I really like skiing? I do very much. But does it pay the bills? Is it going to put my kid through college? Does saying “Fuck it all, I am going skiing!” relieve my karmic debt? What about a maxed out line of credit?

    It is really snowing now and the fire is roaring in the stove and in my belly. I know falling large trees is dangerous. But so is skiing big mountains across Alaska and BC. Cliffs, avalanches, exposure and ice all conspire to wipe you out. You risk it all for nothing if not for the relief at the end of another dangerous day in the mountains.

    I figure it all comes down to gravity. It is all around us and treats everyone indifferently. You can go against it and be punished or move with it and be rewarded by ease of motion, existential bliss. The gravity pulls the tree to the ground on to a cushion of needles or it crushes your leg. You can jump off a cliff with skis on your feet and sail away with the wind or land wrong and crush you leg under you own weight. That gravity is a tricky one.

    Most of these following stories are related to gravity in one way or another. The high’s and low’s of living under the most natural of influences. The weight of a river, the weight of a huge snow-pack, the weight of the ocean as pulled by the moon. I have been strongly influenced by her pull and release if not outright traumatized at times. But you would never guess as I struggle to remain objective in experience and description.

    It all comes down to the cliché of finding oneself. But what happens if you keep digging and when you finally blast your senses clean, there is nothing there at all except feigned emotions and a deadpan sense of humor?

    I am ready to have a baby. To see the world fresh again through the eyes of an infant and to always be thankful for every breath I take.

  20. #120
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    Growing Up Fishing

    I can remember being scared at a young age. Our family was constantly out in search of adventure in the form of salmon fishing. My dad is a zealot to this day when it comes to the pursuit of the picky eating, hard fighting Alaskan Silver salmon, also known as the Coho.

    The technique out in the ocean is a pretty standard troll maneuver. You rig the herring on a double hook setup so that the little fish in spins in a natural manner as it is towed through the water. The fishing line is attached with a quick release mechanism to a thick cable that carries a ‘cannon ball’, a heavy lead ball used to keep the bait from rising to the surface. You putt around in circles trying to not run into one of the hundreds of other recreational fishermen, all spinning circles in the rolling north pacific.

    Once the Coho swim up into the fresh water streams of their birth, you have to use different techniques. It is a true art in tricking the Coho into swallowing a hook once it has reached fresh water. Out in the ocean the Coho is on a seafood diet. In the rivers it they turn a bit more cannibalistic, eating any eggs they see floating around. (part nutrition/part rival elimination)

    To catch a Coho you hid a tiny hook deep inside an egg cluster. The salmon will come up and nibble, nibble very gently. The tip of the fishing pole will show a subtle tip, tip, tip. Suddenly the fish will decide it is good to go and he will turn to swim away, still not swallowing the bait completely. As the fisherman, you are paying the utmost attention to that moment when the fish turns to swim away and then you set the hook!

    On one hot weekend in mid August, the whole family was slaying salmon tow hours upstream form the mouth of the Little Susitna River. This particular trip was unique in two ways. It was the first time my dad had tried to navigate across the treacherous Cook Inlet and it was the third time out time out in our new boat. My dad had just finished building the boat in our backyard in Anchorage. We had taken the boat out on two previous test trips on warm and relatively safe lakes, but this was different. The upper Cook Inlet is colored brown as it is choked full of sediment from the run off of hundreds of glaciers. Along with shallow sand bars and huge tides, the area is prone to strong afternoon winds.

    The boat was 20 feet long and made of wood and fiberglass. The original plans called for an open skiff design but dad added a cabin that would sleep three. The next step in construction was to build an adjacent roof over the steering console and four seats. This was a minor thing to be dealt with later as the season is short and the fish were plenty.

    The trip across was smooth and pleasant. We gained an amazing and rare perspective on Downtown Anchorage that most people never see. We headed west until we came to the tip of Fire Island then we turn due north. We could see might Mount McKinley towering on the horizon as the mud-banked mouth of the Little Su gradually took us in.

    Soon we were S-turning upstream in a river with steep sandy cut banks on the outside of each turn. We were in the huge alluvial plane that grew under the constant melt of the Alaska Range. Two hours from downtown and we were a world apart. We spent two glorious days catching six fish a day times five family members. The boat was already paying for itself ten fold!

    Even though we were an hour upstream from the ocean, the strong tidal currents eventually made there way upstream quite far. In this case, the boat had spent the nights on a mud bank, waiting for a ‘wet-exit’ on Sunday afternoon. Dad was a bit anxious to get back across the inlet before the winds came up so he had the prop churning basically in the mud, trying to dislodge the boat as soon as possible. Soon enough we were zipping down stream with 30 fish, three kids and a dirty dog.

    We came around the last bend in the river face to face with a steady three-foot chop. Apparently, as the tide was coming upstream the tailwind following us out of the north was pushing up against the water, standing the waves into very short length, tall waves. Soon the waves were stacking up into 5-6 foot waves as our little boat pounded into the brown froth. We drop over each wave and with a resounding THUD, cold spray would shower everyone on board.

    My mom quickly took to the familiar crying/fetal position as the oblivious kids looked on. I remember the dog not looking very happy, as she had to slip slid around on the cold deck with the fish sloshing around in bloody water. Dad had to cut the throttle to half speed as he assured us that we were fine and had to just get behind the lee of Fire Island.

    Right about then, the 60hp outboard died. It stopped propelling us home, if you will. We floundered for a minute while dad cursed. He turned the key and the motor started and then died again. Dad was trouble shooting “Fuel, air, spark…” The outboard started again and he realized that the little stream of coolant water that should be squirting out the back, was not flowing save for a small dribble.

    “The mud!” He exclaimed when he figured that the mud from the river bank had clogged the coolant system somewhere and the engine was overheating. So there is my dad hanging out over the back with a small poking tool as the boat is pitching and rolling and about to become a headline. Finally he dislodged the blockage and the stream of water burst forth as the motor sprang to life and the family cheered. Another hour of pounding and we were safe in the lee of the island.

    A year later we were aiming to follow the same route across the inlet and up the river but this time a thick fog rolled in and we became disoriented. The waves seemed to be inexplicably growing in the fog as the prop started to bottom out on sand at the bottom of each wave. I took to the cabin with my brother and our friend as our dads tried to figure out what was going on. Just then the fog lifted and we realized that we were in between Fire Island and the mainland in shallow choppy water. Abort Mission!

    Repeatedly the compass proved to be troublesome. Something about certain motor RPMs would send the compass spinning, like we were in the Bermuda Triangle. Once we were out deer hunting on Culross Island in Prince William Sound in late October. On the day we were to leave we awoke to find Culross Passage under a half inch of ice. I was up on the bow with an oar trying to break the ice in search of open water. Eventually we found open water and were zipping across College Fiord when the motor died. At least it was calm this time, eerily calm. It was flat water in all directions and cloud surrounded us on the distant horizon, no land in sight. It really did feel like the Bermuda Triangle. The compass even started to spin, even though the motor was not running! Soon enough dad figured out that the carburetor must have been icing up due to the cold moist air and we were able to cruise back to Whittier at half speed.

  21. #121
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    Baseball

    If the family was not out defying death in the boat on the weekends, we were probably at the baseball diamond. Both my brother Josh and I were obsessed with playing baseball for about 10 hours a day. It was either home-run derby in the backyard or huge neighborhood pickup games in the cul-de-sac. There were three cul-de-sacs in a row with three different groups of kids. We would sometimes go to the second or third cul-de-sac to play the ‘home teams’ but the best games were always on the home turf. Sometimes we would play until midnight under the midnight sun with parents hanging out the windows or sitting on a tailgate, it was a classic small town Alaskan scene.

    Both my brother and I got on real teams and climbed onto the all-star roster. My dad would be the umpire and I would get so mad when he would call me out trying to steal home.

    Like most things, baseball became more and more serious as I apparently was being groomed for the pros as a first baseman. It became too much. Our all star team was coached my an ex-triple A player and present day drill sergeant at the local army base. He single handedly turned baseball into an extreme sport. With six hour practices and running endless laps and drills and more laps. I later think he was insane, but as a kid I took the beating as part of the game. His son played catcher and he would tie him to a tree with his catcher gear on and throw pitches at him to prove that it does not hurt to get hit by the ball. If you ‘pulled your head’ from a ground ball or a curve ball or a fast ball for that matter, you had to run laps.

    He was a beefy guy and a solid pitcher. He would be drilling fastballs and we would hit them. He would intentionally bean you and make you run laps if you flinched. In the end it took the fun out and lucky for me, my parents were not the crazy overbearing types forcing me to play.

    Around the same time in the 9th grade or so, I was going through the same process in the world of hockey. I was burned out and sensing something else out there in the mountains and wilderness at the edge of town.

  22. #122
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    Death March

    It could be the English explorer in me, but I soon developed a wanderlust and love affair with the mountains. I would sit in math class and stare out the window at the front range of the Western Chugach, as seen from Dimond High School. I had climbed Flat Top Mountain a few times and had ventured over to the lower flanks of O’Malley Peak once or twice. What I saw intrigued me. For every peak I went up, there would always be another row of mountains sticking up higher and even more alluring.

    From Flattop you can follow the ridge back to Peak #2 and #3, Ptarmigan Peak then descend to Powerline Pass. Should I go up Avalanche peak and back to the parking lot or head south, up and over North and South Suicide Peak and come out at Falls Creek? Maybe McHugh? Maybe Indian? Or you could climb O’Malley and cross ‘the Ballfield’ and descend to Williwaw Lakes? Or cross over to Wolverine and Knoya beyond. With peaks named like that who could resist the call of adventure?

    I could not do all of these trips by myself. I needed a partner who was tough but not stupid. Timid where need be, but aggressive otherwise. I met Abe my sophomore year at Dimond. I had just joined the cross country team and was looking to broaden my horizons.

    Abe had just moved to Anchorage from the small town of Girdwood, much to his dismay. The Girdwood kids all stuck together. Located thirty minutes south of Anchorage the tiny ski hamlet known as Girdwood was named after a Capt. James Girdwood back in the mining days. Geographically it is worlds apart from Anchorage with steeper, closer mountains and about 20 times more precipitation. Interestingly enough, the little valley is also the farthest northern reach of coastal rainforest stretching from BC and California beyond.

    All the Girdwood kids went to school in their own town up until 8th grade. In the 9th grade they had to ride the early morning school bus all the way to Dimond High in south Anchorage. To me the Girdwood posse was clearly the coolest clique in school. Girdwood was cool to me because that is where Alyeska Resort is located, Alaska’s only five star ski resort. So logically, most of the Girdwood kids were raised on the ski hill by their ski bum hippy parents if they were not enrolled in the once prestigious but now defunct race academy.

    Lots of kids tried to infiltrate the posse to no avail. Abe and I were each others savior, however and since he was in, I was in. He was my ticket to Girdwood and the mountains in general and I was his ticket because I had a car and was willing to drive him wherever. We started by climbing every mountain that you can see form the highway between Anchorage and Girdwood and beyond.

    We would do a circuit from Alyeska over Max’s Mountain one day. From that route you can see Big League one range back so we would do that one the next day. And the next day we would link off of Big League and go back one more ridge to Wolf Peak or 4710’. Day after day for several years we would do battle with the mountains, head on.

    We were never fond of over night trips or doing anything that absolutely required using ropes. Didn’t want to haul the gear and it was more fun to be scared shitless on exposed terrain without the proper gear. We would push back the boundaries of the 24 hour day under the endless sunlight of the summer months and in the winter we would push into the dark winter days, regardless of weather and fatigue.

    We started calling a good trip a ‘death march’ because you felt like death at the end of it. In the beginning, a death march was defined as 9 hours and/or 20 miles and/or 8000 vertical feet climbed. For a couple of idyllic summers we did back to back death marches for days on end. It was never enough.

    One of the first classic trips we did was on bikes. It was mid February around 3pm when I called Abe to see if he wanted to go ‘bike around’. So we are cruising along through the neighborhoods on the hard packed snow with plans to loop by the junior high or something when I got the idea to bike to Girdwood. Neither of us had biked the 35 miles before but what the heck? It was a school night and snowing lightly and getting dark… seemed like a good as time as any!

    We were 10 minutes from my house and we set off into the great unknown. We followed the freeway down to Huffman where we jumped on the notorious Seward Highway. We were doing all right. Even though Abe’s tire went completely flat 5 minutes into our new adventure, he was keeping amazing time. We got to the Potter Train Station about 5 miles later and decided it would be best if he just took the tire off the rim and ride the rim the rest of the way.

    I clearly remember Abe standing and pedaling as his rear rim spun out on the snow as big rigs were blasting by kicking up huge trails of snow in their wake. He was able to go pretty fast though, despite the weird humming sound reverberating out of his wheel and into our deep ears. We chugged south for two hours into a steady headwind until we got to Bird Creek. It was actually dark at this point and I think some motorist might have been worried for these two lads obviously out on a limb.

    Another two hours of pedaling in the dark snowstorm and we limped into Girdwood, triumphant. We stayed at a friend’s house and rode the school bus to town early the next morning like true Girdwood kids.

    Several months later we would bike the same route in pleasant summer conditions in half the time. Since that was so easy we then hiked Alyeska backwards, as in walking backwards. Now that was a real quad burner. Abe and I grew to trust each other in the mountains. Soon we would have other guys who wanted to go on trip with us and we would do our darndest to scare the shit out of them by free soloing some exposed ridge line or break them down by shear exhaustion.

    Many people did not come out with us again. But for those that did, we were all rewarded by the camaraderie and spirit of adventure.

    One of the few times we packed over night gear, we were sorely beat down. We planned on following the route from Anchorage to Girdwood through the mountains. My brother and I had done the route the year before; roughly 15,000 vertical feet climbed over 38 miles and 18 hours. That was a solid death march but our plan this time was to camp along the way over three days and take our time in the wild country. I even went so far as to bring my dad’s 12-gauge shotgun because we were going head long into grizzly country.

    We started hiking at 8pm along the Powerline Pass trail with the idea to head up and over Ship Pass and camp at the base of Avalanche Peak. About an hour into our hike I had the bright idea of just hiking nonstop through the night. Abe and our new friend Todd thought it was a great idea so we picked up the pace. We had huge packs for no reason now but that was all right, it would just add to the experience. Our minds kicked into autopilot and we marched. Up and down 2000 feet. Up and around the north flank of Avalanche Peak. We descended 2000 feet to traverse Indian Valley headwaters. It was around 1am and basically dark now as we waded through the chest high grass and shrubs and tundra. We were deep in bear country now with it being August and the berries were ripe. I actually swung the shot gun down into ‘Vietnam patrol style’ as giant bears leapt out in our imagination from behind every bush.

  23. #123
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    I would say the low point was around 4am as the sun was coming back up in the far north east. We had survived the night and were poised high on a ridge top looking into the head waters of Ship Creek, Bird Creek and Indian Creek. I was choking down an Oreo and trying to fight off a headache when we saw a huge grizzly 1000ft below on the alpine snow, right on our route. We descended and yelled and threw rocks and the bear spooked pretty easy. Problem was that he spooked and ran down valley into the high grass and shrubs, still on our route.

    The next couple of hours were kind of intense as we navigated around the top of the shrub line keeping an eye out for a brown killing machine heading our way.

    Eventually we came to a junction. We could keep heading east up to the top of Ship Creek and over Moraine Pass and then Crow Pass and out to Girdwood. This was our planned route. Or we could turn south and follow the Bird Creek drainage all the back to the town of Bird, located 11 miles north of Girdwood along the Seward Highway.

    We opted for the Bird Creek route, though it was a new route. The map we had said that if we kept following the trail it would lead right to a nice river crossing. Then trail descended from the alpine to the shrubs and then into the actual forest. The trail was holding up and seemed to match the map and mountain contours. We should be coming to the crossing soon. The trail begins to split and wander through the boreal swamps and oxbow ponds. More bear country as evidenced by the remnants of a signpost. Apparently some aggravated large bear had taken his anger out on the unlucky post. It was shredded leaving no indication as to which way we should travel.

    A nice little ‘left arrow’ or ‘right arrow’ would have been handy. We were exhausted and had to rely on dead reckoning. Going up stream meant heading in opposite direction of our overall destination. Turning right would take us in the direction of our goal but with no guarantee of finding a safe crossing. We were tired so we gambled and pushed right.

    Ten minutes later the trail decomposed into a faint game trail. We were too tired to gamble again and turn around so we pushed on feeling the slight rise of panic in the gut. The problem is that Bird Creek is deep and fast and cold. And somewhere around here it all poured over a huge waterfall. Another problem was this shot gun I was hauling. We were glad to have it so many hours ago back in dark of night but now it was a nuisance, as it seemed to hang up in the thick alders along the creek. We could climb the flood bank and walk in the real forest with ease or stay near the creek to assess for potential crossings.

    It was 8am and we could see the real trail on the other side, mocking us. The delirium had set in nicely. We fought to keep in the game and fantasized about what food we were going to eat when we reached civilization. Eat spaghetti and drink water.

    Finally we found a spot that seemed reasonable to cross. I waded in and battled to the other side as the water came to my ribs. Todd followed and now it was up to Abe. The water came to his chest and he was struggling and only made it when I leaned from Todd’s hand with a stick reached to Abe barely… barely… He was slipping away and barely made it!

    We were still ten miles to town but we were saved! Four hours later we staggered into the last 100 yard stretch, in this case it was the driveway of a friend who was going to get a surprise visit from three very haggard dudes. And in good death march fashion we sprinted the last bit just to make sure we were really tired.

  24. #124
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    Flat Top Avalanches


    A few months later Todd and I we getting pretty excited about the dawning ski and snowboard season. It was still early season, in late October as I recall, but the snow was already piling up on the slopes above Anchorage.

    After school one day we drove up to the Flattop parking lot and decided to go and snowboard on the lower flanks of O’Malley Peak. It was an easy walk across the flats as we made our way to the start of the pitch. Did mention that is was blowing about 100mph? It was quite windy and the snow piled up quickly in the leeward slopes of any feature.

    We hiked up the wind-scoured tundra immediately adjacent to the slope we wanted to ride. We had a random friend along for the hike and it soon became clear that he was not cut out for the team as he lagged behind as we charged forward into the storm.

    At the top of the run it was blowing so hard that it was difficult to put or boards on and prepare for the descent. We were ready soon enough and all three dropped in at the same time. We were cruising along moving with wind and having a grand old time when all of the sudden I saw the snow open up before my eyes as I plopped in behind the now sliding snow. I was skipping and sliding on my butt on the tundra as the 4 foot thick chunks of snow crumpled apart and flowed down the mountain, luckily in front of all of us!

    “That was a close one,” we all agreed as we made our way back onto the tundra and walked the rest of the way back to the car.

    The next day Todd and I figured it would be fun to head back into the mountains even though the wind had only just died down a couple of hours before. So again we trekked from the parking lot right after school. This time we wanted to go up towards the top of Flattop Peak and build a jump of some sort on top of this huge roll I knew of.

    It is pretty ridiculous that we were even out there and that our objective was to hang out on the most dangerous aspect of the entire slope. We hiked up the main trail for a bit until it wrapped around through a gulley with our intended run looming just overhead, completely snow loaded from the day before.

    The pitch was very steep but relatively short and very broad left to right. I knew that under the steep roll it was actually a cliff face that had been completely blow over by the wind deposited snow. We boot packed straight up the face, quite excite to build our jump.

    Right at the top of the apex of the roll I had a funny feeling… I looked up and quickly realized that the entire slope stretching for hundreds of yards to our left and right was sliding down into the terrain trap gulley. By the time I actually did look up, we had already slide some 200 feet. It was disorienting because the whole slope was sliding as one big chunk and by my perspective I could not immediately tell. Kind of like knowing that the world is spinning but you can’t really feel it..?

    Anyway, I looked up and saw the entire buried cliff become exposed and realized that the snow slab must have been 20-30 foot think. Lucky for us the chunk we were did not break up completely and was about the size of a motor home by the time we slide top a stop. I was till in mid stride and Todd was buried to his waist as we surveyed the carnage all around. The snow had piled up some 30 feet deep across the whole gulley.

    Time to call it a day, I suppose and we went to think about what happened.

  25. #125
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    Sunshine Ridge

    I have been chopping firewood all morning. I am driving 12 hours to Canmore, Alberta tomorrow and I need to leave Vesna with enough firewood for the intended six weeks I will be away. I finally managed to get myself a job with one of these ‘fall and burn’ crews. We basically ski do out to the sites where the pine trees have been infected the mountain pine beetle. We cut the trees down and burn them to nothing in hopes of completely eradicating the pest beetle.

    I am slightly nervous being new to the fall and burn game. I will also be getting on the job training to cut bigger and bigger trees and eventually get my fallers ticket. I figure it will all work out. It is funny how you can talk and talk about doing something and eventually someone will hear you and help make it happen.

    I had driven the Seward Highway perhaps a million times. Each and every time I would crane my head out the window and look at all the potential mountain adventures to be had around every bend in the road. One route I looked at many, many times was called Sunshine Ridge. I had actually climbed the route several times with a climbing rope but I always dreamed about doing it free solo, with no rope.

    It is an easy 5.4 route that you can do in running shoes if you want but rock shoes are preferable. It is real blocky and ladder like as the near vertical pitches are no more then 30-40 feet at a time. The overall exposure is sure death though. And it would be a slow death as you feel fifty feet at a time and then the last one hundred vertical feet to the highway below.

    For years it seemed, I would idly say that I wanted to free solo the route someday. It was always someday until one day I was riding to town with my new roommate, Andy.

    I was repeating the harmless daydream when Andy asked if I had my rock shoes? He knew I did because we were on the way to the indoor rock gym. “Let’s do it!” he said and my stomach dropped in that sickened sort of way it sometimes did when I knew I was getting into new territory. ‘I guess that is what you get for hanging out with crazy mountain people,’ I thought to myself as Andy pulled the car over without hesitation. He said he had free soloed the rout 8-10 times and I figured no one better to mentor me into the higher dimensions of mountain travel.

    The first feature on Sunshine Ridge is the scariest. You scramble up a side gulley and traverse on loose ledges around the corner onto the ridge proper. You are a solid 75 off the pavement, as you turn vertical up a wide crack system for 30 feet to the first safe ledge. Andy’s advice was to always have three points of contact and to go slow and think about each move with the utmost care.

    I followed Andy step for step in the buffeting winds. I never looked down save once or twice to make sure I was really doing it. The second half of the six-pitch route has several places where you traverse left or right out over adjacent vertical faces of rock. Scary indeed.

    Once we completed the climb and descended down the easy trail back to the car I was a changed man. I knew the mountains could catalyze positive growth in myself and in others so I took to the task of initiated my friends on Sunshine Ridge as Andy had done for me.

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