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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Replay of an old post, one of my favorites...

I posted this blog in October of 2007 on my now-defunct blog site. It's a re-hash of old material for your entertainment. Enjoy.

I was raised to embrace the outdoors as my religion. Instead of dressing in our best clothing and making the walk to the Methodist church a few blocks away in my small hometown, our family donned our most rugged clothing, packed ourselves and our 2 big black lab mixes into my dad's old Land Rover, and took off for another new trail, road, or high mountain lake somewhere in the wilderness.

I grew up in a small town in Rocky Mountains. The local range was full of gentle giants, towering mountains that held us in their embrace like loving mothers do their own children. Growing up like this, I didn't learn my morals by being told from a preacher at a podium what was right and what wasn't. I learned by being humbled by views that few people were ever going to see in their lifetimes. I discovered, no matter how badly I wanted to stay home and play with friends and neighbors, that I would always regret the part of the day where we had to turn around and head back to the truck. I was inspired, as a young adult, to continue chasing these dreams, exploring these places that had the ability to expand my view of the world around me and deepen the view into myself.

Through friends and family, I have been led to places I didn't know existed. These places had a way of transcending everything I thought I understood about reality. The journey to and from my geographic destination ultimately became a spiritual voyage into new realms of serenity and passion that made my brain feel like a bomb with a lit fuse. A few days ago, my close friend and most-trusted climbing partner Ryan led me to one such place, except at this place, the bomb in my psyche exploded, shattering my reality once again.

The sun rose on a terribly windy Saturday morning in our camp south of Moab, Utah. We set up camp after midnight the night before, our bodies rested but our minds aching from the five-hour-drive to get here from Denver. Ryan, his family, and our friends Dan and Melissa were all in attendance, making the preparations for what was to be a challenging climb in significantly gusty wind. We all drank some coffee and piled in my van, heading steadily towards our destination inside Arches National Park.

The sun had been up for a while, and we stopped at a few places along the way to admire the huge rock cathedrals that seemed to have been made by Mother Earth for God, or maybe vice versa. This alone was a very deep experience, but was only a glimpse of what was around the corner.

We continued to drive, and turned into a small viewing point off one of the main roads in the Park. There, we saw our climb: Owl Rock. "The Owl" is a modest sandstone spire, but I only say modest because, compared to the other towering monuments in the park, it's eighty foot summit isn't exceedingly remarkable. I should correct myself here and say it WASN'T remarkable at first sight, being limited to walking on flat land. I remember thinking to myself, half-seriously, "This is it? It looks like a giant wang! Where's the glory in this?"

The wind howled, and Ryan, bravely yet nervously, led the route up the large crack on the west face. I ran around taking pictures of this feat, knowing that someday, I was going to be doing the same thing on some other rock. He took his time, placing the correct gear into the correct place so that it would protect us, should we fall. He was graceful yet bold as he approached the summit, and when he got there, he tied into the chains bolted near the top, scrambled to summit, and stood, the wind at his back, the rising sun behind him. However he felt then will never be completely known to me, but how I felt seeing him there was overwhelming. He had become more than a simple human, but also less than a human at the same time. He had become part of the rock, part of the earth, part of a force that is bigger than I can even begin to know how to comprehend.

Ryan set up his belay spot on the Owl, and Dan was next up. Dan made this climb look easy, taking out the gear that Ryan had set on his way up, and trusting the top rope that held his life at bay. Dan easily grabbed holds, crammed his feet into the crack, put his toes on little pebbles that one wouldn't think capable of holding even a child's weight, much less a grown man's. The summit in his grasp, Dan made the final pitch, reached the top, and sat there for minutes, taking it in. Another god-like image burned itself onto my brain, another climber bonded with some unexplainable Chi, and I waited patiently for my turn.

Dan came down, and I roped up, ready, willing, and eager to have my chance to climb a rock. Climbing mountains had been my single goal at this point, but this small tower held more inspiration for me than the tallest mountain I had ever climbed. Slowly but surely, I started my trek. It was an amazing sensation as I crammed my hands, arms, legs, and hips into the large crack that now felt more like a cradle than a part of a sandstone tower. I inched my way up, and got to the crux of the route. Still 20 feet below Ryan, I stopped climbing. This crux was more difficult than anything I have ever encountered before. I was nervous and excited, and I had to talk myself down. I had to breathe.


Calm and collected, I easily moved over the crux and found the rest of the route to be like a ladder to heaven. Meeting up with Ryan, I checked my ropes, got my instruction, and began my Buddhist-like hands-and-knees crawl to the summit. And there I sat, quietly, happily, humbly, and feeling so many other wonderful emotions that I can't write. The wind swept over me, like God was holding me in Her arms, and I never wanted to leave. I cried as I thought of the most important things to me and how those things were now redefined. I smiled as I saw the clouds in my own life give way to a clear view of things that maybe weren't so beautiful, but were a part of me. I felt pride. I felt honor. I felt changed.

In the days after the Owl, I found myself thinking about these climbs and escapades into the wild. I felt like I could train and learn as much as I could, but would I morally be ready to climb? Are all of my sins and my bad karma going to allow me to accomplish what I'm setting out to do? I think, in retrospect, the only thing we can do is trust that there is a general idea for what we are supposed to be in our lives. Having the courage to follow what our ideas for ourselves is the tricky part. That courage gives us the moral compass necessary to have a passion for something bigger and better than what we know to be real. That courage allowed me to climb the Owl. That courage allowed me change my life.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Year in Vehicles

This is one of my new favorite posts.  Check out some of these awesome means of transportation that we've come across in our travels all year!

This is a kick ass Dodge Ram Charger van.  It looks like it's been converted to a true four-wheel drive system.  It's the long-body (with the fishbowl windows on the back corners), and it has a high top.  I don't know if I'd take this thing on every single trail I'd come across, but I'd feel a lot better camping in the snow with a rig like this.

This is one of the locomotives for the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.  This one, #3104, was built in 1970, according to, the home site for the Railroad.

Don't know much about this guy, except he was on display at the train terminal in Canon City.

This is CRRX #402, completed in October of 1949 (the same year as some people I know who share birthdays with Sigourney Weaver).  These streamlined locomotives are probably my favorite type to check out.  In my head, they mark the end of the Golden Age of Railroad.
The one and only, my dad's 1985 Toyota Tercel.  I recently drove this thing to Lamar, and the odometer turned over 333,333 miles just east of Pueblo!  To be fair, it's on it's second engine, but it's a beast in it's own right.  The bonus is that the 4wd system is true 4wd, with a granny gear, to creep you up the steepest of hills!

This is our BattleWagon... umm... Wagon?  How about the BattlePod?  That sounds good.  This is a very comfortable teardrop trailer we were given (THANK YOU IF YOU ARE READING THIS!!) earlier this year.  We took this to Arizona and we had a great time in it.  My son wasn't with us, but there was plenty of room for me, the wife, the little girl, and the dog.  And it almost got TOO hot in there, even when it
was freezing outside!
This is my family's old 4Runner behind what's the real deal, a mostly stock XTerra my friend of mine owns.  His words (which I can assure you are trustworthy) are that his XTerra has no right still being drivable.  Both of these trucks have been through the ringer.  The 4Runner's down awaiting diagnosis.  The saga continues...

Thanks for reading!  Hopefully there's another year full of awesome rigs to share with you all.  In the meantime, run with your inspiration and get on the road while it's good to go! 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Turkey Day 2017

Of November 2017, I can't say a whole lot.  It wasn't a remarkably adventurous month, but there were a few highlights, including a trip without the wife to take my son to see his grandparents in Lamar.  The way back included an overnight stop in Colorado Springs, a drive across the Colorado plains at night, and a stunning sunset over our future home.

Thanksgiving was a success here at the Outpost.  We brined and roasted a huge turkey and annihilated the leftovers in less than a week.  I also got a chance to squeeze some Monopoly in with my mom and brother.  All in all, it was a pretty successful.
The little one got a chance to go with Mom to a show put on by the high school, for a dose of culture.  

Getting through December will be a chore.  Nothing too new, but it's the month of waiting, financially caught up with nothing to spend, sort of like a diet celebration.  Next month, it'll be time to chip away at getting some permits, getting some work done on the BattleWagon, getting things in order for the adventure that awaits us up in the San Luis Valley.
One surprising development is a trailer we found at an RV dealer in Pueblo.  It's only 9 years old, 27 feet long, and plenty of room for us and the kids and a dog.  Only thing it doesn't have is a washer and dryer.  Seriously.  May be the place to start?  We'll have to see.  Something like that would save us a lot of time over building out a cargo trailer to fit our specs, and may save us money in the long run, too?
Digressing, though, we're very excited to check out all of the things we'll be able to see in the San Luis Valley, including the Great Sand Dunes, Zapata Falls, Blanca Peak, Penitente Canyon, the UFO Watchtower, the Cumbres & Toltec Railroad, so many things... stay tuned...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Checkpoint December

With the time approaching, a good half year away and closing, we've been thinking a lot about the basic materials to get started on this project.  While I'm kind of looking to build a trailer out so we can stay in that first, the second step is becoming frustratingly vague.  Do we build a micro-earthship so we can get some of the design and building bugs worked out before committing to the large structure?  Do we drop a tiny house or cabin out there first so we KNOW we'll be warm when fall and winter roll in?  Do we just go all out and try to knock out the whole project up front?

It's all up in the air at this point.  Sketching, calculating costs, figuring out where to source materials... it's foreign.  Not completely foreign, but our work has been cut out for us for a bit.  With the last of our abhorred financial commitments complete, the time to commit is rapidly approaching, and the excitement is almost tangible.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Questions We're Asking Ourselves

Here are some questions that she and I have been asking ourselves, since we haven't really pushed the blog at this point:

How are we going to build our earth ship?
Right now, the consensus isn't a consensus at all.  We're oscillating between strawbale and rammed-earth tires.  It may be a combination of both, using tires for structure and heat-retention and strawbale for insulation and detailed work.  We're not also entirely dismissive of using adobe mud bricks either, and we're definitely planning on putting a yurt on top.

What's the timeline like?
We're finished with our current obligations at the end of April 2018.  Hopefully, before we get down there, we have invested time and money into having the BattleWagon ready to go, if nothing else, and then maybe even buying a camper or building out a cargo trailer.  (Still oscillating on that, too.)  This way we have something to stay in while we pursue larger housing.  Then we hope to acquire a more economical vehicle, a Battle Scout, and start building a mother-in-law cottage that we can move into as an intermediate step.  This should be about all we can accomplish in one summer, next summer, especially if we're climbing and road tripping throughout.

What are we going to do for money?
Mom will still be working four days a week at the high school here in Salida, while I'll be working on the homestead pretty much full time.  The Boy will probably be helping me lots with the building, while the Girl will still have school in Salida, possibly full days at that point, so productivity should be at a high.

What is the closest town?
In order of population and distance:
Moffat; 116, 10 miles
Saguache; 493, 10 miles
Salida; 5,236, 40 miles *Closest regional bus line
Trinidad; 8,771; 170 miles *Closest AmTrak connection
Alamosa; 8,780, 48 miles *Closest regional airport
CaƱon City; 16,400, 98 miles
Pueblo, 106,595, 135 miles
Denver, 693,060, 239 miles *Closest International Airport

Is there anything there already?
There's nothing there.  It's a blank slate.  A few tumbleweeds, a couple of ant hills, and that's it.  No well, no electricity, no septic system.  Nothing.  Can't wait to build on it!  It's gonna be a blast!
Home, sweet home.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The BattleScout Search Continues...

One of the biggest challenges in establishing an EarthBase is finding the right vehicles to use for everything.  I say vehicles, because it's a lot more difficult to juggle a family in one single vehicle.  The BattleWagon continues to rock and roll, but eyes are peeled for a BattleScout, something small and economical, that will carry us all over the San Luis Valley for everything we need without breaking our bank.  The Valley is the size of the state of Connecticut.  Driving a 30-year-old van with a V8 around to get groceries in the next town could be a deal-breaker.  Plus, until we get established, the BattleWagon may double as a base camp.

The current best candidates are Toyotas.  Toyota makes rock solid cars and trucks.  My dad has a 1985 Tercel wagon, 4-wheel-drive with a granny gear, yet over 30 mpg on the highway AND a sunroof!  It has around 300,000 miles on it (second engine), and it runs and runs.  Recently, in fact, we had the good fortune, my dad and I, to drive this very car through the infamous stretch of US 285 known as "South Park" AS THEY CLOSED THE HIGHWAY, and, as I told him while I was driving, I didn't even realize it was that slippery.  Meanwhile, cars are upside down all over, semis are pulled over either chaining up or just waiting it out.  Slippery road, very high winds blowing previously fallen snow right across the road.  That car moved right along.  Blissful.

Also fitting the bill is one of Toyota's vans.  They are some of the only minivans available consistently with all-wheel-drive.  The older vans are especially noteworthy because the engine wasn't in front, it was underneath, so it looks and feels like you have a ton of room.  Plus they're a blast to drive.  The visibility is excellent, and the mileage is pretty darn good.  My brother recently came into a Previa for a case of beer, and all it needs is a transmission.  Van life trumps.

Beggars can't be choosers, and we'll be keeping our eyes open.  In the meantime, we're gonna take the best care we can of the Big Blue Van.