Friday, October 22, 2010

Old Hutman of the mts hikes again

Old hutman of the mountains hikes again.

Copyright Terry Wright 2010

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this is a trail?? Aug 2010

Franconia Ridge in fog 2010

It sounded like a great idea, a return to my roots in New England from the deserts and mountains of California, new girlfriend in tow, to meet family and relive past triumphs in the huts. And it was in principle, with a few quirks thrown in. The plan to hike to Greenleaf from Lafayette place, spend the night, then cruise the Franconia ridge, down Falling Waters and up to Lonesome to meet sister

Cindy for more nostalgia and good times. Return to the trails of my youth 40 years later.

The memories floated back over the years from 1963, when I spent sterling summer at Lakes with Tom Martin and an eclectic croo, spent a stint as opening hutmaster at the old Lonesome Lake hut, helped close Carter. got fired by George for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong woman, and all the time operating from the family compound behind the church in Franconia.

Because Middlebury started later than most schools, I worked my way into the system by working closing at Carter with Alex MacPhail, an old mountain buddy from Wellesley, meeting George at Lakes on a big closing weekend , injuring my leg and getting a ride with him down the mountain to my car.

I applied the next winter for a hutman position, and got a spot on the construction croo for the next summer 1963. I showed up early and ended up the opening hutmaster at Loch Lone, the old log lodge on the north end of the lake, now disapeared by the magic of the usfs. The others left me there after 2 pack trips, fighting off the black flies and contemplating a pile of food and other supplies. I was just kicking back, anticipating a beer on a gooferless night when 5 people show up with reservations. I had no plan for dinner, but rummaged around in the provisions we had just brought in, found a veal loaf and some veges, made some bread and we were golden.

Rodger Gaboon Field showed up 2 days later to take over, and I cruised back to Franconia, called Pinkham and found they wanted me there tomorrow, oh well, a short break. I fired up the black bastard, my 47 Chevy roadster the next morning and headed east, neatly blocked by a blowout in Crawford notch, but a Parnelli Jones tire change set me on the road again. Entering the old TP a craggy familiar face was lounging in the corner, my old friend Tom Martin, hutmaster at Lakes the year before. He had liked my hard work packing 2 loads, washing dishes on an injured leg, and had requested me to fill a vacant spot on his hut croo for the summer. So I was gonna be a hutman, cool, with all the experiences available there to.

Many adventures and fun times with the Lakes Croo followed. I remember chasing a frozen turkey down the slides in a sleet storm then picking it up and hugging the cold carcass back to the hut, digging the gaboon naked and having a troop of girl scouts suddenly appear, runs down the ammy to Dr Green’s in the black bastard with a ride back up the cog with the booze safely stashed under the coal car. Every evening we had a hoot singing songs of the day, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and mounds, and old standards….the crowds loved it. Great times with the mountain girls: Kathy Shed, Midge Collins (Ralph), and Barbara Livesy (now Ricker).

But I digress. The return of the Old Hutman of the Mountains, me , Terry Wright, at 67, with Judy from Tulsa, the new girlfriend, on a jaunt to the Huts in 2010. Sister Cindy now lives in a palatial mansion on the old family turf behind the church in Franconia, so we prepped there, borrowing equipment, taking preliminary hikes and reliving the mountain life. We debarked in the teeth of a moderate storm, raining hard all night, and still pittering as we pulled out of the driveway, through town with Bode posters all over, and off up the freeway, only to see a cute black bear wandering across the highway, taking his time, turning slowly and back into the woods in the middle of town. Bears used to be found only in the mountains, but they have discovered human food and bird feeders and are now part time residents of the town.

Summits in clouds, I know its raining up there, but we are outfitted, rain gear, panchos for the packs, good boots, hiking poles, clif bars and my recorder for tunes. We headed up the bridal path, Judy loving the woods especially the stand of white and silver birches along the way. The going was easy as I remembered through the woods, but then we hit the rocks, much steeper than I remember, how did they get horses up here? Fine footing in the granites, coarse crystals grabbing our boots. Then to the dike, here the rock is slick, fine grained from fast cooling of magma, with slopes going every which way and really steep. Plus it started raining, adding to the slick and danger. I have my rock climbing helmet on, and am really careful, being somewhat unstable on balance. I live in fear of falling and breaking a hip, both parents died from that affliction. Judy is game, a rock climber in the past and we work our way up, many people coming down and up, quite a crowd, again not remembering it this way, this rocky or this steep.

Conway Granite left with folded Devonian Littleton fm

We have time, so take it easy, resting frequently, talking to people going by, great conversations of the mountains; the weather, love those new Asolo boots, a construction croo guy sails past, and we have a Limmer conversation.

The Nawtch Aug 2010

Finally we top the last rise, solar panels on the roof and a windmill whistling in the breeze, fog everywhere, still in the clouds. Enter the hut to the usual boisterous crowd, a new refurbished hut, clean boards, big kitchen, great space. We check in, Hilary asking if we’d been in the huts before, I mention I’m an OH and she says, not much has changed. Find a bunk, Judy above and change into dry warm clothes and down for a much deserved nap.

I awake to stirrings in the main room and roll out to explore, to the overlook of Franconia, in and out of the clouds and peek a boo views, not enough to see Cindy’s house, but I know it is visible on a clear day 4 gables pointing skyward to god. The generator is on, and I see the stash of propane tanks through the trees. We used to pack tanks down to Lakes at 120 lbs per, and empty tanks up to the summit 70 lbs per; now its all done by helicopter. It was the last year we could say everything at the hut was packed by manpower, or the donks.

By the hut a gathering is in progress with a hutman giving a tour of the infrastructure, Solar and wind power, no more gaboon, all solid waste packed out, a composting system, and composting toilets make this a green machine. A black pipe on the roof was once a preheater for the hot water system, but the Forest Service has refused its use, for the reason it is an eyesore. Its still there, but not used, strange are the ways of bureaucracy.

We troop inside, and clear the tables for dinner, still family style, no napkins. We sit with a jovial family group, which offers wine and we sip and tell stories of our lives. They are impressed that I was an OH, and I tell a few stories met by enthusiastic response. Ravioli night, the same meal throuout the hut system, the result of some adminstrator trying to cut costs. I remember we had free reign, requisitioning what we wanted and then cooking as creatively as we wanted. The fresh rosmary bread, and veges and cookies for dessert, all delicious. After dinner there are pep talks about pack it in, pack it out, and announcement of a history of the huts meeting with the head hutman. One of our group announces that there is a really old hutman in our midst, and I smile and wave at the applause, surprised at the reaction from all.

I look for signs of the past, and find pictures of Linus Bob Story and Tommy Deans, both old friends from way back. And in the journals, comments from the old days. I sign in the present book “Terry Wright, Lks 1963, FPMandMMS”. Those of you who know, know.

We repair to the bunk and snooze a little then back to the fray, I join the hut history group and tell stories about pack trips, especially the one above mentioned about chasing a frozen turkey down the slides in the teeth of a sleet storm. We were packing in the usual 4 25lb turkeys for the full house on the 4th of july, when one of mine slipped out of a soggy box, through the ropes and bounced down the trail several hundred feet to the bottom. When I retrieved the gobbler, I grabbed it in my arms and took off down the trail, not wanting to spend the long cold minutes it would take to put it back on the packboard. It must have looked weird to people on the trail, and when I arrived at the hut crys of astonishment echoed from the croo.

The generator off, lights dim then dark, and we found our way back to the bunkroom and settled in for a warm comfortable night after a conjugal kissing session on the narrow bunk.

A boatman’s shanty sung in definite tones by the head hutman shakes me out of the bunk, dressed and groggy headed for the coffee. Another great breakfast, with delicate coffee cake, another hut standard. It is raining out, we hear the heavy drops pounding on the roof. Doesn’t look like a good day to hike, but the weather report says a clearing trend is on the way. The BFD skit is good, two climbers simulating a fall, dressed in climbing gear and using ladles as ice axes. We straighten up and get some good advice from the main hutguy, I am still determined to do the Falling Waters despite my gut knowledge that it is major steep rocky trail.

Off into the fog, not bad with fleeting views of the valleys and the hut as we wend our way like Mallory and Irvine up into the clouds. We reach Lafayette summit and hunker down into the shelter of the old corral. I get down on my knees and propose marriage to Judy, no big surprise, but her reaction is that it would wreck her finances, she would lose her past husbands social security payments and effect her independence. Oh well, we still love each other, geezer love at 67 years, and that’ll stick like superglue.

Off into the fog soup to the Franconia Ridge, and gradual clearing to see great vistas of the notch, the Pemi and a ridge trail longer than I remember. Judy comes around a corner and comes out with “Do you have any string?” I look and her boot sole has become completely separated and is flopping like a flag in the breeze. Never seen that with a Limmer boot. I have given up my old Limmers, hard heavy and painful, for some Asolo mountain boots, great, stiff as a board soles and very comfortable.

I reach into my pocket for the bootlace I found on the floor at the hut, good and stout and make the repair, wrapping it around the ankle like a long thong ski binding. Old instincts still remain, and when I saw the broken lace lying there I thought “moop” the Burning Man concept of matter out of place, I scarfed it up, knowing that there might be a use.

Great views down the steep slopes and ravines into the notch and the Pemi, Owls head rearing its back above a carpet of green. A raw landslide scar on the east side of Lincoln looks new and long, a mute reminder that the hills move, the Willey slide the main example.

The ridge is longer than I remember, and have several map reading mistakes, but people point out the top to the Falling Waters, out there at Haystack. My legs and knees are feeling tentative, not looking forward to the precipitous descent to the notch.

We take the plunge and it is worse than I ever remember. The last time up here was more like 20 years ago, with a body still strong from years of hiking, skiing and being the mountain man.

Descending into the short forest we find a rock climb down, each step a stretch down, searching for a good foothold and hand hold, placing the hiking sticks to balance the high center of gravity. Slippery roots to be watched and always the awareness that a fall might mean a break and a nasty rescue. I remember several fetches of injured hikers and an arduous evac with stokes litter of a 200 pounder. I don’t want to cause that.

I rest frequently, Judy seems to be unstoppable, I’m beginning to think we may have to rethink logistics at the car, my legs and knees are starting to feel like spaghetti. I consult the map and the store map shows no detail at all, and the AMC guide shows a number of switchbacks to the waterfalls. We lump along, wondering where the falls are, finally traversing over to a small retort and Judy talks to some German hikers and comes back with the report it is 5 pm and we are still 2 miles from the highway, and another 1.5 miles to Loch Lone.

Terry takes a break

Try a slow descent over cliffs and rock climbs along the falls; a group of young hikers bounce along and party at the falls, bathing in the torrent from above. At one point I lose it and start a major fall, stopped only by grabbing a stout tree and finding a lucky foot hold. The falls are beautiful, and I recognize the first cascade from the last trip, my high point then in a driving rainstorm.

It’s getting dusky, but beautiful with the sun backlighting the trail and trees, hard to believe I am dragging ass, now resting every 15 minutes. We find some hikers, and try a call on verizon to Cindy, now up at Lonesome, eating dinner, to no avail. Now down the easy road trail, sounds of the highway, finally the bridge and a picture of us after our loop to the ridge. The car finally comes to view and we load up, I painfully lever my self into the drivers seat and we are off to greater glory, back to the Franconia house, to prep for a return to California, Benton house in the high desert, Burning Man (read also Burning Truck).

Terry and Judy, the victors

Copyright 2010 Terry Wright

2589 words

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Burning man and burning truck

The new truck
The Man Burns
The old truck burns

Burning man and burning truck a study in personal disasters.

More pictures on

I have a history of creating disasters; from running over my laptop with my truck to dropping my sea kayak twice with massive injuries. My Bioenergetic therapist says, “your’re not grounded”, I hear the words, “ bull in a china shop”, and I open the door of the boat car and ding the side of a black Jaguar owned by a very pissed floozy real estate agent. I’ve tried being super careful of my movements and to think ahead to the consequences of actions, but I am an action packed person, and shit happens all the time.

Burning man is an adventure, from the prep, sorting stuff out, loading up my camper and trailer and pickup cab with a large assortment of odds and ends, including camping equipment, party costumes especially the red pimpdaddy coat, food, water ice, and a million other accouterments for a week in the desert. I drive slick up from Benton to the Wigwam, the Indian museum local eatery in Fernley, finding block ice at last. The Safeway in Hawthorne had discontinued block ice, and I had iced up there just last year on my way with cathy on the 3-flat tire entry into burning man. (see previous blog) and made vocal my dissapointment that there were no blocks there. Oh well snafu again, I take it as a bump in the road, always solvable in one way or another. Jason and I learned doing field work and to use fluid logistics to work around any roadblocks. There is always a way to complete the journey or task at hand.

Darkness descends as I join the parade of burners headed to the nirvanah of desert events. Burning man; a week of performance art, exploration, people gawking, all genres of music, art cars up to 200 feet long festooned with lights, decorations and partying people dancing to techno, friends gathering and culminating with the burn, immolation of 200 foot high neon outlined statue of the man, the symbol of freedom from all earthly cares at least for a while. All for the price of survival in the desert and my $300 ticket clutched in my hand.

Trouble strikes first as I pull out of Empire, the last town before Gerlach, with a safe front yard to camp in overnight in Elizabeth’s and Kevin’s front yard. Bright lights beckon in the pitch black desert darkness, suddenly illuminated by the bubble gum machine flashing in the rear view, and I look in vain for a pull off. I signal and find a brushy shoulder and sit and wait for the law to come down on my head. Portly sheriff comes to the window, and I hand him my registration, drivers license, and proof of insurance. “Do you know your lights are out on the rear of the trailer?” he asks in a matter of fact tone cops use. “No, they were working when I left my home, I worked for 2 hours to get them going.” “Well they’re not working now,” I hand him the paperwork and he disappears into the oncoming headlights to do his dirty work.

He appears out of the dark again, “did you know you’re proof of insurance has expired?” oh shit, look at the dates, and sure enough, it’s the one that expired back in December, out of date. “I’m headed to Gerlach and have a friend there who can fix the lights, Kevin, lives on Diablo street”, “That’s ok, I won’t give you a fixit ticket but Ill have to cite you for lack of proof of insurance. You might be able to fax your current proof to the court, talk to the lady at his number” I scramble in vain looking for the correct scrap of paper. He points at the long ticket and has me sign it, and we are off in the parade again. “so near and yet so far” I sigh, defiantly bummed about the interaction, and my stupidity to not have checked the insurance. I had done that at the beginning of the summer, but it was nowhere to be found in my plastic bag of paper. WTF?? SNAFU!

Gerlach is hoppin, Brunos bar and motel full of cop cars, burner vehicles, the Miners club where I spent an evening with the Indian science teacher watching a triple overtime NCAA playoff basketball game last march; people spilling out the doors. I wend my way back to Elizabeth’s, looking for a quiet place to rest the night. No problem finding it but a big truck down the street has a noisy motor going, refrigerator truck for a food concession in a hastily thrown together marketplace for the burner hoard. I get Mitch on the cell, hes packing for Saline, no idea why the lights arnt working, oh well, ill be in the daylight tomorrow, no need to fix now. I tour the encampment, a food stand, and the huge parachute with a big stock of burner necessities, I buy 2 masks, and am armed for the dust storms with my doggles.

Pop the top on the camper and look around, all my accumulated camping traveling stuff here, chairs, portapotty, full kitchen, the refer, and comfortable bed and sleeping bags, all ready for beddy by. I mellow out, have some wine and snug in for the night lulled to sleep through the earplugs by the drone of the refer truck motor.

I’ve spent 10 years working on this arrangement and these things, all designed to make life in even the most remote wilderness a comfortable, well-equipped experience, nothing needed. A few forgotten items, like the insurance proof, but otherwise all set for a week in the desert.

Desert dawn breaks with shafts of god light beaming from holes in clouds, chilly temp, I look for coffee in vain at the village, and brew my own cup, pound down a couple of hard boiled eggs, then batten down the hatches for the trip into the event. I have a list, I check it twice, patrol around the camper and trailer, find all in working order, a promise made to myself after running over my laptop. Tune in the fm to the KBIR, the burning man radio station, and head into the fray.

Traffic moves smoothly into the playa, I pull out of line to take a picture of the sign at entrance, always a hoot and creatively different, and a guy runs out to me yelling “its dangerous out there! Come back tomorrow and get your picture” He must be kidding, or putting on an act, I snap a couple of the sign with the new “Terryproof” camera, an Olympus 8000 tough, advertised to be good to 30 feet underwater and shock proof, just what I need to document the dusty environment. The SLR Nikon can stay in its pelican case dust proof, for only the clearest days. No need to expose that expensive piece of technology and monster lens to the invasive desert environment. At last count I have destroyed 5 cameras during my career to various twists of fate. The canon was wiped out by a huge wave on the Zambezi, and I was very lucky to have a spare Nikon to finish Africa.

Entrance is slow but easy, a far cry from last year; we waited around in the sun for Cathy to get her ticket from will call for 2 hours, then had another flat, destroying a tire on Bob’s trailer. I find an empty gate at the greeters, stop and pick up the map and book and I’m off to find Saline central. At Detroit and 8:15 a huge space opens up with Sherry’s flags, and her car and tent parked lonely in the middle. She’s napping and I knock on her car, out she unfolds all 6 feet and flowing red hair of her, joyous to see me the first person to arrive. Sourdough Sherry, retired nurse from Silver spring Nevada, Saline stalwart, has reserved our spot in the sun for the duration of the event. A quick look around and listen, finds no loud camps nearby and I back in and settle in.

A mild windstorm kicks up, and it doesn’t look like a good time to set up a complete camp, so I bring out the rudiments, a table, the chairs, recliner and my new bombproof chair (well see).

Fun Fun Debbie blows in with Ron and Pete, 3 hours wait in line, hot and dry and immediately set up shade, chairs and settle in. Saline Bat signs set up to tell where we are, and more pack in, Sherry the parking director.

Unfurl the mt bike, another prized possession, dual suspension GT, vintage 1995, but a great playa bike, cow horns turned up for easy riding. No lock, but who needs one? Check headlights and im off.
Time to head out to Earth Guardians, to find Canyon and survey the realm. It’s a new lighter pavilion, bar at the back, displays all around info center and lecturn at the front, now with a sound system, great for my talk. Last year we had 250 people, lets see if we can get more this year. Canyon is decked out in Cowboy kitsch and is busy doing organization for the Hot Springs patrol, I make sure I’m set for Thursday night at the Black Rock camp, and then cruise to her neatly arranged camp with 32 foot trailer and air conditioning blasting.

I nap, we party, and agree to meet at a party for playa info later, drinks, and red are the theme, ill wear the pimpdaddy coat, a red shag number with glistening foil embedded randomly. They’ll love that. Also the Uncle sam hat with natty dreads will top it off. Back at camp, a great thump thump sound system has been set up behind us. I go over and talk to the head guy friendly and remind him of the rules, no big systems in camp areas. He agrees and we part friends

Great success the party, and a monster margarita sends me with a motly crew off into the playa to take in the scene. Fast conversations, with an older lady, 13 years at playa info, great fun experiences.
We are lit, feeling no pain, and out onto the playa to check out the scene. We tour the art cars lined up for inspection, many new ones, mostly ships, 50 feet or so, with lights, sound systems and people partying. Mirror man comes along, Mike Bilbo, the BLM chief interpreter, with a new set of mirrors covering his body like armor. The Tin Man come to life.

We head with the throngs out to the man, he’s looking great on a big high scaffold, outlined in neon a real spectacle. People are lined up climbing a set of stairs underneath and watching the scene. Art cars, blaring techo, costumes, lots a light wire all around, Mike’s looking for a special bar, but doesn’t find it, so Canyon and I head to my camp for mellowness and food. She’s bushed, and I am too, so we return to our camps and bunk down for the night.

up late, fix the sun shade and tarp over the camper, joshing with danee, bob, ffdebbie and a host of others. head off to cyns office to write brian about the ticket.

roam with canyon to the home brew place, free beer, you need a cup tho, we return for that, then do more rambling and find spankys wine bar, great old hits, i get spanked for not having a cup, (mine was full of beer) that hurt! many years from my last spanking

canyon has a meeting, but we agree to meet at playa info for their party, in red, ill wear the pimp daddy coat and top hat with dreads.

i find arcane in his shop, way out on the playa, no elizabeth, so i dunnoo if she goes tot the hotsprings tmw or not. he is deep in grease and a fuel pump, so i mosey to 9th and try to find leopard martini lounge hiddden in the back of someplace . find the deep end, now with a different name, but 500 or so people partying and huge sound system. back home to a quick dinner, and nap then off to the party. again no cup, i have to go back to canyons to fetch. after part of a margarita, i quit and we tour the art cars, all lit up now and belching flame, sitting there stalled by the bureaucracy, a slow down at dew.

we walk to the man and it is beautiful on a 3 story pedestal and much neon many colors. the crowd ebbs and flows and i head to camp, watching a 50 foot crystal of blinking light bulbs in all colors. great show. cruise in, little noise and sleep. at 3 get up and throng are still raging out there a n art car comes by blaring music. oh well back to the bed.
day 2 tuesday

Another day, more clouds and cool, just right for our enjoyment of the playa which we have experienced so hot and windy, downright uncomfortable, but we hardy souls can take it for the rewards in store. I rig the monster sunshade, cutting it in half cause silver bob arrived in the night and is parked next to me, leaking water from his drinking supply. He hit a cattle guard coming into Gerlach at 70 and it popped loose a pipe and we have a mud pond.

We visit, the polish woman’s army arrived during the night, she now split with abalone al, but mom and cousin are there spouting polish and handing out “polish camp burning man” buttons to all. The giving of gifts, one of the mainstays of the bman culture, I have a pocket full of orthoclase feldspar crystals I brought from Benton for trade.
Yesterday at the home brew stand I traded for an IPA. And got some wine and a spanking for not having a cup with me at Spankys wine bar. That hurt.

All the days are melding together, we get up, head out to the playa, and check out the art, then back to Earth Guardians, and Canyons lair, then more exploration. Central camp is always happening. With 3 stages, coffee and a center performance space, people doing hula hoops, which now is an art form, yoga, juggling, plastic balls rolling down arms over backs and then arms again, a new artform.

I check in at the BMIR radio main booth, a cool container. have a great time with the dudes there, recording my blurb for my talk, “be there” all in bman speak.

Back to Canyon’s for a cool nap and then out to the fray. Christine shows up and we talk about going out to the Black Rock, and she’s into it. Canyon is leaving Friday morning for Oregon, and will not be with us. Cathy has stayed in santa Barbara with more pressing things. So I need another person. I will go myself if necessary, but the prospect of getting away from the madness for a night in the silent desert, with the moon coming up late for light.

We spend Wednesday roaming camps, I find Leopard Martini Lounge and have a martin, woha, that was powerful! Stanford prof Elizabeth Miller was there, and her friend, we party, and I snooze back at the camp after joining in on the afternoon cocktail party, sparkplugged by the polish womens army. Donnee has set up with another woman and the whole gang is there, even the Hollanders, juke and kees, great friends.

I look in vain for my pack, I had it on last night, but it is nowhere around, has all my playa gear; doggles, mask, 3L water bladder, first aid etc, a loss. I check the lost and found to no avail. Damn, another disaster. I look in vain also for my power cord for my computer, it is gone too, might have been in the pack. This is a real loss, no way to write every day as I usually do. Damn. This losing shit has gotta stop.

Thurs morning prep for the campout. Christine is coming with which will make it much more interesting. I detach the shade structure and trailer and pack the loose stuff inside to weather the trek across the playa. Back to EG, all is ready for me to give my talk, Canyon has arranged our egress and ingress with a slip of paper for each of us, all we need but our ticket to get back in. I pickup Christine at 3 pm, then to EG for the fashion show, great costumes, Canyon in her cowgirl outfit, raging around being the king or queen pin of the hot spring guardians. We meet the others, and ready escape behind the EG van, going to the playa to distribute more guardians at hot springs.

We cruise into the vast expanse of the playa, 20 miles following confusing tracks, finally finding the right one headed to the Black rock. Two naked women are the guardians we are replacing. Short conversation, and we go on to the playacita, and instantly agree that a site on th e ridge would be ideal, 360 degree huge view mountains and playa all the way to the event site. We settle in, great conversations, great views of the sunset like a great orange across the playa, miles and miles of nothing out there. A lone vehicle heads north up the playa leaving a plume of white dust behind. I heat up the stewp and we devour it, absolutely delish. Washed down with zin.

Darkness falls, I blow off some mortors, and am not into rigging the fire launcher, so we cruise and crash, a faint thump thump from burning man and flashing lights 20 miles away, with the Black rock faintly outlined in the dark. (see photo)

We stir early, coffee, light bkfst, and we are off across the vast plain. We approach the fence, following the same path, and notice 3 trucks converging on us cornering us. After checking our credentials, we are led to the entrance gate, where we wait in line and check in again, and on our way back to the event. Another check for Arcane and Elizabeth at the mechanics outpost to no avail. And back into the fray, with the camping packed in, thousands of people wandering around. I drop my lecture stuff off at canyons and snooze on her bed; she is on her way to Oregon to yet another party for the weekend, back Tuesday oh well, we all have our priorities.

Im moved into canyons trailer, but return the truck to park in the Saline camp, re rig the sunshade and hang there for the rest of the day with forays out to find friends or have another cocktail party with the polish womens army, they are loud and raging, shouting about some wrongdoing. I hang with Tahoe Bob, Sherry, and share a bottle with Kees and Joke, my last one, oh well there is plenty out there. Ride the bike over to EG, snooze, then out onto the playa in the evening, getting really busy out there, art cars galore, now 4 big boat floats, cruising on the playa sea. Lights galore, fire sculptures, Big boom explosions, hoards of people. I walk the play exploring a stage with dances, juggling acts. The thunderdome is raging with people tethered on ropes thwacking each other with boffers, people clinging above on the frame of the dome, packed in on the ground, dust flying, faces grimaced in combat, techno music blaring. Back to the trailer to the AC and read and fall asleep on the soft queen bed of the queen of the desert.

Saturday, big day, I putter around at Saline camp, get bkfst, go back to the trailer and get set for the performance art of geology. I pack them in, 350 at best count, standing room only, and dozens of questions, the publicity worked. Another nap, out amidst a slight windstorm, nothing like previous years, we are blessed with a cool windless time.

Sit in front of EG, watching the crowd, the scene and talking to people, answering more geologic questions. I manage a fart, it comes out wet and I run leaking to the truck and shit is everywhere. Another disaster, this has gotta stop. Clean up in the EG shower in, no one there, great. Chug some Pepto and munch a couple of imodiums and im back in to the fray.

Walk to the burn, the frantic crowd packing around the barriers, I weave around among the art cars, do the complete tour around the circle, 50,000 people making a monster noise, lights, dance thing.

The burn starts after the man’s arms rise with a great fireworks display that goes on and on, then a huge explosion of fire and he starts to burn. A great symbol of the discarding of cares and time of catharsis. I wander around and see all I can see in the crowd and art cars, big sound systems, man what time energy and money goes into this.

Sunday, move out of the trailer, find my bike missing, someone wanted it more than I do, I left it in front of EG, that was a mistake. It was 13 years old, a heavy GT dual suspension bike, with many great memories, shit this disaster/loss thing has gotta stop. Getting the truck, I drive on to the playa to check out the temple, take some pix and inscribe Turtle Jim’s name on the structure to remember that great man.

Back to saline camp, hook up the trailer, try the lights, they work fine, something is fucked up with the wiring. Load up the trailer with camping gear, pack the camper and get everything set for an early morning departure, Tahoe Bob next door leaves at 3 am, so that should wake me up. We repair to the Lift truck for the temple burn with Sherry and Tahoe Bob, George and his son, a great view from far away.

Up at 3am with the roar of T Bobs van engine, fold up the camper check all sides, turn off the propane for safety, and off on the exodus, already a line at the road, but a short wait and im off into the empty quarter. Down the Smoke creek desert dirt road, the road of 3 flats, taking it easily to avoid that. Snooze at the reservoir, then on to the Hot springs, burners there, long soak and conversations about the event. Off down the road toward Pyramid Lake

. I was doing my favorite thing, cruising a scenic road in my 4 wheel drive Toyota Tacoma and pop top camper with trailer in tow thinking of great music over the xm stereo, planning a rib lunch in Sparks, parking the trailer at Mitch’s then with Christine’s support, flying to Tulsa to connube with Judy. A loud explosion from the back of the rig and a view of smoke and flames in the rear view mirror startled me from my reverie of desert scenery. Things went south fast, I jumped out to see the back of the camper and interior engulfed in flames, and no fire extinguisher, a paltry few gallons of water in the cooler and no one around for miles. All I could do is grab important things like the computer, projector, camera, a few clothes, a box with critical stuff: address books, checks, and a few other things. Then things started exploding around the cab, the propane tanks in the back, windows and I backed off. The initial explosion was the windows blowing out with the fire already raging inside. My phones were inside, along with my neck wallet with credit cards and new drivers lisence just replenished after losing my wallet in june. Now here is a real disaster, everything else pales in comparison.

No one around, so I just watch,take some pictures and some notes as to what was inside. Finally a pickup comes down a side road, the ranch kid takes one look and goes back to phone the fire dept, I know it is 30 miles away in Nixon, so have no hope of stopping the inferno. He returns with a crew to make sure a brush fire doesn’t start. Finally the police show up and the fire engine, mostly Indians. They start up the pump, but nothing comes out, a tap on the tank confirms that there is no water in there. The ranch crew has Backpack water sprayers, and they go to work on the brush and a few squirts on the carcass, a shadow of its former self. Oh well I was looking for another truck, looks like ill get one now.

I make a plan, tow the trailer to Christine’s, and stay there until she returns and somehow get id so I can get on the plane in 2 days to go to Tulsa. Finally AAA arrives with a strong woman-man team with a flatbed, after sending a regular tow truck by mistake. They go about the business of dragging the carcass onto the flatbed, cleaning up the site and hitching the trailer up with the original ball, a 1 7/8, I was able to take off the truck, much to their surprise.

We make the long trip to Sparks, slow on the dirt road, then to Christine’s. I talk to Mike, and we agree I’ll stay with him if I can’t get into C’s house. I can’t find the key,so I find a side window open and I’m in. She is still incognito at Burning Man, comes in at 3am, surprised to see me, and she understands and is supportive, helping me get a phone, money, the police report, a plan to get through tsa and onto the plane. Windy has my passport in Sonoma County and emails the image and my birth certificate to me at Christine’s. Mike is going to Truckee anyway to hang a painting, so I ride along get a new license from DMV (nobody there cause their computers were down this morning). I also go to B of A and get a debit card and use a check to put money into that account, have a beer with Mike at the Hilltopper where he has a display of paintings.

Early early Christine and I go to the airport and they except me seeing the birth cert and new license and my sad story backed up by police report and glossy photos, and I’m on the plane to Denver and Tulsa and into Judy’s arms.

How did it happen? They all asked, and I dunno, all I know is I was tooling merrily along the Pyramid lake road, fresh from a Burning Man with several disasters and triumphs, and a soak in the the Smoke Creek valley hot spring when all hell broke loose. Something ignited and caught fire in the back, I had some propane tanks, some strike anywhere matches, and waterproof matches, but we will never know. Mitch fetched the trailer the next day and it still sits at his place in Washoe Heights.

4571 words Copyright Terry Wright 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Benton-saline safari: hot springs and dozers

more pix on picasa site: -

Saline valley pres day 2010

I spend a week alone after linda and cathy decided not to come, doing t guide, perfect day wed, ski to wild willys hot spring in sunset.

went to ridgecrest for major toms potluck, good times with saline crowd hang at the cinder cone,
visit sam and plot on the grand canyon trip in 2011.
Prep on Monday work out, food buy, lunch with mark, to town, j calls, comin in tmw,

We party down prep stuff, then watch road warrior on the big screen.

Interminable prep, forgot fireworks, Johnny and I take off at 10 am to bishop, shop vons and then off to big pine and up death valley road, still no snow on, into eureka valley, mud puddles, big rain here, workers on rd grading, up behind the dunes, and spot garbage mike In his big green truck headed to dedecker canyon and the staircase of rock. Mike is there, not sure, until we slide right up, then he builds roads and comes on later. J and I cruise, stop and pics, and talk, grind down on the pass road, dodging and hitting rocks all along the road.

Make camp at checker gulch, no one else around here. we eat turkey and j soaks I cruise in the camper. Sleep. Mike comes down late, and he makes it. Johnny up early, me coffee, then up to upper, Mike talks and we have a good time again.

Check out the lower, get a book, visit lee, no one here either, Mike arrives and shows me his new telescope, made from some lenses and a pop bottle. We banter and talk, just like old times, I am greatly relieved.

Lazy day snooze in the afternoon, mike comes down for dinner, stuck chuck brings his dogs, going berserk, we play guitar into the night. And see the lights coming down from s. pass. They progress to the lake and then stop. Whutzup? A big mystery. We crash without knowing but figuring something stopped them.

J does a foray to lee and finds the nps has been notified a bulldozer is blocking the road at the lake. Shit. We hang and finally a caravan comes in Oregon john leading the pack, he and jeanette are getting married at the lower at 3 pm. With beer tasting after, a gathering of the tribe. So we partake, cute ceremony. They had to move a 2 ton boulder and then dig out the bank so people could get past. Put there sometime between Sunday aft and Monday aft. Johnny is ragin: Who what where why, who coulda? Who woulda? Mebbe miners. Oh well. We are here and dint have to deal.

Another fine evening, playing guitar, fun songs, chuck strumming also, no dogs thank god.

Saturday: perfect blue day, 67 years young; golf game, major bkfst, sausage, bacon, eggs, underdone pancakes. Soak, at upper, good crowd. I repair to camp and bake cake, sleep a bit, then to ball field for text to judy, back in time to warm up meat and salmon for the potluck, great crowd, great party, Christine and long hug remembering turtle jim, friend who died last fall, icon of the valley. Maj tom and Carolyn, finally trail off to bed and tubs.

Sunday ball game another perfect day,I hang out and announce teams, sing anthem, red coat and uncle sam hat, good times. Potluck, huge crowd, good food, remember turtle jim (and at ball game). Crash in inyos truck, and drives me home to rest. Left mug there, search to no avail.

Monday, yet another perfect day, not a cloud, now planning to stay till Friday, then come home to Benton for terrence stamp and bubbly Julie. We pack up for a day trip to the bulldozer and to macevoy canyon across the valley, Mike wants to go too, immediately in pain and whining about his back and loud stereo, which he turns down. We put up with this until the main road, and I switch seats with him, and he is better. NEVER ride in a vehicle with mike again.

Bulldozer scene, huge rock moved by handyman jacks and Flipper pulled with his winch and power wagon. Up to the mouth of snowflake mine canyon on a rough rd, hang, roll rocks and kk and Johnny slide down a trof of slippery talc pieces. Bad road out to n. main rd, but eventually back to the springs to another Terry’s perpetual beans dinner with tritip chunks and Johnny’s potatoes, to sleep early, read new Ludlum book. And fade away.

Tuesday, Kk and inyo pack up after a long morning and I head down to the lower to find Tequila Pete of Maine and Missy, and Skip and Terry from Colorado with great hugs. Pete and Missy were stuck on the s pass in the snow, got turned around, went to Ridgecrest and rented a 4 wd truck, come in over steel pass last night, ready to party. I settle into Colorado camp, skip and Terry, and the ft Collins crowd, Dt carving another face on a root, Skip cooking up a storm, waffle iron at the ready. Timbo gone back to work in Lancaster, 4 years from retirement, but having a good time at boeing. Kk and inyo come by to give goodbyes, and are off to women and babys over steel pass. I do a soak-nap-soak in wizard pool, and news of potluck at skip and terrys, so I prep for that. Visit major tom’s camp, with Carolyn, and buy a beautiful photo of the Inyo front from the wizard pool for my photo bank. We confab about the grand permit, and agree. Potluck steak bbq at skips, with a goodly crowd, record some outrageous conversations; mike lurking in the shadows. Getting ready to leave tmw. Get severely chastised for farting in the general vicinity of Terry. Double shots of tequila going around, I take a nip and head to bed.

Up early with the sun hitting camp at 730 am, another shitty day in paradise, clear as a bell, Johnny makes more salmon scrambled eggs for a grate bkfst. G mike has his and fades off into Lippencott land to escape the valley, headed for a desert survivors hike and campout near niland, socal east desert. J and I prep for hiking and head to the Black mt. Loop trail, rising steadily above the valleys, jets roaring by beneath us, grey darts zooming past the springs. At the music rocks and telephone ridge, I fire up the iPhone and get Judy up from a nap, have a short conversation before being cut off by the poor att reception. Hot up there, I take a snooze and j does also, then he goes long way around, through the canyon, and I kick back, talk to Little Linda, she has been at the house in Benton, leaving already for Kelso, and head back to camp for another snooze, and then upper soak, good conversation with neighbors with starlight camper up the gully. Back to camp, cut up the rest of the meet for a final go at tpbeans, thinking about leaving tmw, but the weather is so perfect the water is hot and friends are still here. What more do you need? Heat up the pot over the fire and Johnny arrives with a bottle of wine and we partake of the juice of the gods. I crash and think this is not a bad way to spend another day, so maybe ill stay.

Up to another clear blubird day,coffee ritual, j makes oatmeal and blubs and we settle in for another day. I write, he rides to the lower to do dishes, he fell off his bike yesterday, with a beer in one hand and hurt his shoulder, and is hurting, not leaving today, and neither am i. Ha ha haaaaaa.

Soak the upper, more new people, old Gif here for 2 weeks with great conversations about desert doins, and people. More tales, Major tom got turned around on south pass, high centered on snow, had to dig out and beat a retreat to Lippencott rd, passing g mike on both the valley road and Lippencott. Skip had eggs bene for all, I missed it, will be there tmw for waffles, he makes great ones. Cruise the camps, no one new that I know, talk to rob and dawn with another poptop next door, and he comes for a visit and a rundown of my camper setup. This takes about an hour and repeats itself every trip. People love talking about campers, comfort and little tricks we have learned. The solar cell is always a hit, and Im playing music on the stereo, charging the computer and batteries all at once. The new deep cycle batt is helping a lot with the depth of charge.

J and I fix another major meal, down a bottle of cab syrah and watch the darkness gather, punctuated by a fingernail moon high above with promise of more to come. Fighter jets rumble by high in the sky, a constant reminder of wars happening. Daytime flybys are deafening, with ears plugged as they scream 200 feet overhead, helmets visible, bristling with armament, bound for where men win glory.

We pack up more wine and treats and debark for evenings activities. No community fires happening, so we enter Pete’s sphere, a group of 10 revelers, playing guitars, partying, passing the lung, drinking tequila and micro brew from ft Collins, colo. They are a great group from all over, Pete and Missy from Maine with DK and Robin, other colo people, us from calif, Dave from bishop, all out for a good time and challenging survival in the deserts of the west. I fade and head for home, reading a bit, then fading off into dreamland with the brays of burros and the crys of coyotes echoing in the canyons.

Up again to a fuzzy day, high clouds, word of weather coming in, but Johnny is gonna hold tight, hes determined to spend 2 weeks here, and has a good start. I m leaving after 9 days, that’s good for me. And James and Julia are planning to arrive tonite in Benton. I putter, put things away slowly, eat more tpbeans now a stoop, and chip away at the job of packing. Finally off, with warm goodbyes with Johnny, my desert compadre.

To the lower for farewells and a skip waffle, 20 to them for food and beer, and to Lee for campground host payment. Now off up the hot dusty road to Steel pass, stopping for pix and pee and vistas, all great. No problems on the staircase, measure width to tell people how tight it is. We have conversations at the dunes about the road, and the road ahead, finally over the pass to Bishop, Vons and home for more fun times.

Copright 2010 Terry Wright 1832 words

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fish Lake Valley incedent

Fish lake valley hot springs incident.

Another perfect bluebird east Sierra day, sunday, a day for puttering and then time for an excursion into the vast outback of the northern white mts, encircled by white streaked peaks and promise of adventure, people, hot springs, to see god.

But first things need fixing, the bolt on the negative lead on the battery of the venerable 88 tacoma has broken off. I made a special trip to Bert’s garage and fixit shop on the highway north of town. He shambled out from the front seat of his office, the beaten up pickup, with xm radio, where he presides over his kingdom, 3 acres of cars, parts and other junk, to some, to him, history. Banter first, leading into the real reason for my visit, the battery connection. I had jury rigged the ground when the bolt broke with a hose clamp, but I had to take it off every time I jumped Win’s truck, or the landcruiser huddled in the shelter of the old trailer mitch had given me for a bag of weed and gas money to haul it down from Carson city. His verdict was simple, replace the broken bolt with a new one after prying the mess apart, which he started to do with his knife, but stopped in time so I could get home and finish the job myself.

Anyway, I pop the hood, dig around in the tool box and found some bolt packs, ready made from the hardware, selected something that looked the right size and stick it into the hole I had vacated by prying the old bolt loose and send it flying to a snowy grave. The new bolt in place, all set, but I find the hose clamp is still in the loop, so I end up undoing everything and slipping the clamp over all the important parts that belonged there, and refastening the nut, and another nut to the bolt end, securing the ground forever. Cranking down on the screw end, thoughtfully oriented so I could get the screwdriver to it and 2 nuts on the other end made the whole rig bombproof.

Now what? Too good a day to waste, suddenly the whirling entities of fluid logistics packets aligned and said Fish Lake Valley, Mary Ahnger, warm weather , old friends and locals at the hot springs bubbling at 102 degrees, always an adventure. Prep takes a while and im outta there later than I thought: 2:30, but I realize the truck clock has been changed by the absence of battery, look at the iphone, more like 2 pm, now im happy.

Now for Mary, facebook has her number, but no response. I down a bowl of Terrys perpetual stoop, the latest incarnation of a smoked turkey from the freezer and the contents of the frig and bean suppository.
Finally gas up at the corner and head up the hill, Montgomery pass, with the buttress of Mt Montgomery rearing its head to the south streaked with snow gullies like spiderwebs across the bare rock..

Grind up to the pass, over into Nevada and down the grade into no man’s land, a monster wildness of mountains, fans, valleys, time to space out. I take the turn onto 256 into Fish Lake and stop to photograph the glistening ridges in the sun, punctuated by sage poking through the blanket of snow. Drive slowly past a grazing herd of wild horses, looking fat and happy. Mellow out and head into the valley, finding the hot springs road on the left past the mine yard full of equipment. It is 50 mph dirt rd winding into the wilds of desolate desertdom. I hold it down and finally round the corner to see the springs and a trailer, and a gaggle of locals, kids splashing and big guys drinking cheap beer. OK whats this gonna be like? I’ve dealt with locals before, but never this crowd, by reputation a rough bunch, isolated from the real world.

We start talking. “hows the water?” to a bald older dude, tattooed arms blue sunglasses, “just fine, warm as always”. The others turn and sense my presence, I fall into the conversation, beautiful day etc. Younger bald dude talks about the area, I say “didn’t they dig some geothermal wells just over here?”. He sparks “yeah, and I worked on two of them, on the floor, running the prongs that lift the pipe, and the other guy ran the chain, that was dangerous work. We went down 5 miles into the earth,that’s a lotta pipe hauling”. “I’m a geologist, I’ve been on many rigs. “ He grabs my hand in a firm shake, “ya in the day, I was the main man on the rig, Halliburton ran the show”. “We geologists love you guys, you bring the stuff to us we cant see any other way.” We are instant friends. I see that I would be welcome in the tub scene, only kids in there now, with bathing suits on. I had anticipated this and repaired to the pickup and put on my trunks, grabbed my chair and a plastic goblet of wine, and entered the fray.

A big round Indian looking guy with a badly beaten up face, black right eye, lacerations on the left cheek, and very drunk, approaches me, and starts talking. “Are you looking at my face?” shit I’d better be careful, sounds like a volatile dude, and drunk at that. “How can I help looking at your face?” . I grab his shoulder in a friendly gesture and he smiles, just bsing me, oh well, I’m as good a bullshitter as the best of them, a match has been made. “Joe is mine, goodta meetcha”. “Terry is mine, I live over the mountain in Benton” waving at the long ridge of the northern Whites. Nods all around hes a local, “ya we know Benton, go through it on the way to bishop, the nearest big town.”

A large lady with the roughneck, “I’m from Minnesota, visiting, its different up there, down to minus 70, winds from the north, freezing pee before it hits the ground.” “My woman friend lives in Tulsa, she’s in the middle of an ice storm, the whole city is shut down” my rejoinder, it strikes a chord, and stories of cold start flowing back and forth.

We talk about the land, I mention the sump, and theyve all been there. Young baldie starts in " thousands of years ago the natives here used to drive mastadons and other game off those cliffs, main course at a mastadon bbq." "wow" I come back " can you imagine a monster beast bbq with hundreds of starving people around buiding a big fire and roasting it, chopping off steaks as they get done." All think about that and many grins come out. I can visualize with the best of them and they know that.

I descend the newly repaired ladder into the warm tank, and relish the penetrating heat, buffeted by bouncing kids, chattering, but mellow. A boy about 6 jumps in and out in his underpants, and an older girl finally hauls him off.

Another woman is drunk too, with 2 red haired girls, babbling about nonsense. The kids are running around. I complement one on her necklace, and she proudly shows it off, she made it. She asks about my necklaces, and I tell the story of the split twig figurine, 4000 years old evidence of man in the Grand Canyon, and the Alaska killer whale symbol of the Tatshenshini, they are all listening.

Talk turns to birds; several are poking around the edge of the pond. “Mudhens, that’s what they are called they taste like mud, bottom feeders all” Joe pontificates about the birds. “In Minnesota, we have loons” the large woman shakes her body and a cross on a chain bounces on her breasts. “I used to live in Maine” I rejoin”I found out how to cook a loon. The way you cook a loon is to put a loon and a rock in a pot and boil it until you can stick a fork in the rock, then you throw away the loon and eat the rock” to great guffaws all around. I love these people, living on the edge of civilization, on the edge of everything moral, physical and mental.

I check out the latrine, a concrete shithouse, park service type, then change out of my now cold skivvies and return to a monster fire in the making, of railroad ties, black smoke, looks like they are in for the duration. I listen to the fire talk, the women have disappeared into the trailer, and the men are having men talk. Time to take off, sun getting low on the high ridge of the White mountains to the west, streaks of light emanating from puffy clouds, and high cirrus in the west, a portent of things to come weatherwise.

Goodbyes all around, see ya laters and good feelings as I drive off into the sunset, over the pass, thru the bug station, eliza with her goggle dark glasses wishing me a good day, and home to the double wide to sip whiskey accompanied by the fading of the light on the monster view of my White mountains

1446 words, Copyright 2010 Terry Wright.