Tuesday, October 31, 2006


My 2nd NASCAR post in 6months. Be afraid. On Tuesday I got to change lightbulbs. The 160,000 or so people are about to rain down on Avondale and Goodyear in a white-trash monsoon. The big race is on November 12th, in honor of my brother's birthday. So nearly two weeks away, and RVs were already starting to line up on Indian Springs Road, as the gates don't open for another week. There was a full-service Basha's grocery store thrown up in a tent, and the mobile McDonald's should arrive soon. Apparently one NASCAR race brings more money into a community than a Super Bowl. The drivers stay at the Phoenician and travel around the Valley in private helicopters.

While I was there, the Texaco car was doing laps. One vehicle and it was unbearably loud - extremely hard to have a conversation. I can't imagine what it would be like with all of the cars zooming around with brassieres floating amidst the constant sonic boom. Seriously, one car was louder than when the Blue Angels were flying over the house during the Goodyear air show.

Oh, and upcoming: I think I get to fight James Bond while dressed as a ninja next week. More on that when the time arrives.

Friday, October 27, 2006



I'm sitting in a coffee house of the rejected, the reformed and the resilient. Tonight is No Limit Hold 'em. All the extras from Mad Max, now members of NA, have all turned out, only to turned away by the crowd waiting to be served. Understandably, it makes them uncomfortable.

<----And what the hell is this? I can tell you one thing, it's damned hard to take seriously when it's yelling at you about the timing of the rope drop.

But if the large bird on ice skates is pointing at me and telling me it's time to drop, damn it, we're going to drop. Who are you going to listen to, really, when it comes down to it? An enormous roadrunner on skates with a jersey representing the team playing this evening, or a large disgruntled gorilla in a Suns jersey, who is unsure of how to rig his rappel device? I can't answer these questions.

Oh, and that guy in the background... His job is to follow the monkey around and ask him if he wants water. Talk about the 'cush' life - taking orders from a primate.

Really, though, I may have rivaled my most esoteric job to date. The gorilla is quite friendly and well-spoken. But you try running a contingency anchor when a gorilla suit is on the line. See if you can keep a straight face.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Near the Phoenix zoo, inhabited by the likes of the Arabian Oryx, Rothschild's mynah and the White Faced Saki and the Botanical gardens, which boasts a vast array of lithops (native to Namibia and South Africa) are the Papago Buttes. This area was at separate times a national monument (until 1930) and a prisoner of war camp for Zie Germans.

Today, Mike showed me that there are outdoor activities within Phoenix proper. You know, a day off of ropework to hang out on ropes. We found a simul-rappel, but no pictures were up to par for general consumption over this vast public ether.

Friday, October 20, 2006

US Airways Center

Cleaning scoreboards. Here we go:

I've gotten word that we get T-shirts for big name concerts that will list us as crew. Some of my workmates have the likes of Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin and Shania Twain. I can't wait to develop a new fashion sense. Or a more prolific presence on E-Bay.

Oh, I finally got word. I am certifiable.

Monday, October 16, 2006


That's right. Finish the statement. They said it couldn't be done (by me). They said noone (me) would do it.

What will I be doing, you ask? Well, this week I get to clean the scoreboards at the US Airways arena.

Friday, October 13, 2006


You were all salivating, I know. Here it is, as posted on the ACA forums, with all of the public derision to follow. Let loose the hounds. Without further ado:

Englestead and Orderville Canyons, Friday October 6, 2006.

We were aware of the flash flood warning issued and decided to descend Englestead canyon. Hindsight would certainly suggest reconsideration of the decision, but we don’t feel it worthwhile to sit and discuss hypotheticals. Our interest is in presenting an account of the events of the day. The intent of this posting is to describe the decision making process once we were committed and the lessons gleaned from the experience in a hope to facilitate a discussion of the hazards involved in canyoneering and of ways to mitigate the risks created.

Englestead has two extremely committing sections, with a middle section with limited, but definite high ground possibilities. The canyon is normally a 3 or 4 A IV, but as the descent continued, it became apparent that the canyon had flashed the day before, with foam lingering as well as anchors surrounded by debris. In light of the recent precipitation, this should not have been surprising. There were some swims involved, and we should have packed wetsuits. However, the synthetics we had packed were sufficient as long as we kept moving.

We dropped into Orderville canyon at 12:15 PM. We decided to continue down canyon, taking note of all high ground possibilities. We hiked ~2 miles down canyon in 45 minutes. When the sky clouded over and quickly began to sprinkle, we talked about options; when it began to pour, we ran back upstream to the last area of high ground. We found a small overhang and waited underneath, watching the watercourse.

Orderville had an insignificant small brown flow when we entered, and it quickly increased volume from the precipitation landing directly in the drainage, but there was no extreme change for about 15 minutes. At ~1:40 PM we heard the sound - train, plane, thunder, or that suck-straw the dentist uses magnified a million-fold. Around the bend came the curtain, followed ~20 seconds later by the head wall, about 2.5-feet higher than the curtain by 8-feet wide. We referenced a rock and watched to notice trends in water flow. It changed tidally, as the flash from each drainage up-canyon reached Orderville and joined the main flood.

At this point, I would like to present some issues to consider. Let’s revisit the rating of Englestead under normal conditions – 3 or 4A IV. The roman numeral denotes that if something goes wrong, you could very well need to spend the night in the canyon. A flash flood could be considered something that goes wrong. Despite the efficiency of the group and the familiarity of the canyon, we should have all had a bivy possibility, along with dry clothing and a means to make hot food. We had some dry clothes, some food and some emergency blankets, but not enough for spending the night comfortably. Packing more of these items would certainly lead to a heavier load through the canyon, but the precautionary principle might be best to use when considering packing for a canyon. Without these means available, being soaking wet and with the temperature dropping, we needed to consider other options.

With Orderville flowing and draining into the Virgin River, hiking down-canyon into a bigger flood was off the table. One viable option considered was a possible exit route from the canyon up to the East Rim. We scouted two routes, and one was a distinct possibility. However, two concerns were present:

1) We did not have the topographic map of the area with us. Once we got up the initial pitch, there existed a possibility that we could become cliffed out. It was impossible to tell. An argument can thus be made, that despite the familiarity with the canyon itself, to ALWAYS carry a topo with you.
2) Exiting the canyon introduced another variable in the trip. Should a rescue become a necessity, being found out of the canyon could take more time.

The resulting decision was to ford up-canyon and up to North Fork Road. Anyone familiar with hiking up Orderville canyon out of Englestead is aware of the upclimb near the boundary of the park. During dry weather, it’s an easy chimney problem. I’ve heard that when muddy, it becomes irritating. I’ve climbed it under low-flow. This obstacle was considered before leaving the relative comfort of the high ground.

At 4:30 PM we began the slog up-canyon. Swift water techniques, e.g., taking advantage of a leader eddy, were often necessary for moving upstream and traversing the watercourse. Climbs up over log jams, backed up by waist deep lakes of debris were tiring. When we passed Englestead canyon around 6:00PM, it was still flowing.

The inevitable arrived – we reached the upclimb. As expected, the normal location for climbing was occupied by a waterfall. Below the waterfall was a significant hydraulic. We attempted a variation of a pack-toss to get a rope fixed up the climb to no avail. The solution that worked involved one of the members of the group tying into the rope, swimming across the hydraulic and climbing the face and gap canyon-left. That person then became a human anchor as the other individuals pulled themselves across the hydraulic with the rope and ascended up the climb. As the last individual got over the obstacle, it was quickly getting dark.

We continued up-canyon in a similar manner, watching the full moon emerge. (Despite the cold, it was quite beautiful. I reckon not too many have seen Orderville canyon flowing under a full moon.) When we passed Birch canyon, it was still flowing. At ~10:00 PM we exited the drainage and hiked up to the road down in the meadow of Orderville canyon. We reached the top of that road at 12:15 AM and were relieved to find an occupied trailer. The owner drove us back to the Ponderosa and we arrived at 1:30 AM. Had that individual not been present, it would have been a very long, cold walk back down North Fork Road.

The group consisted of 3 ACA certified guides and one who has completed all courses through the Rescue class. It is important to realize the combined skill set and experience of the group. I introduce this issue not in an effort to boast of our competency or confidence in handling the situation presented before us that day. The experience was humbling and no one in the group wishes to recreate the experience. However, Rich Carlson has often discussed the ART (Anchors, Rappelling, Technique) of Efficient canyoneering. Proficiency in all aspects of this statement (Efficient is capitalized for a reason), as well as each individual’s self-sufficiency and strong background in swiftwater allowed us to surmount the obstacles presented to us that day.

Describing these events in a public forum is not decided upon lightly. Again, in hindsight, the decision to enter the canyon was incorrect. However, I would like to preempt too much attention being directed at this point. The decision to enter, albeit flawed, was arrived at by weighing the risks involved against our knowledge and experience. These decisions are often made by mountaineers, climbers and paddlers pushing their skills and limits, e.g., by climbing during small weather windows, free-soloing, or paddling 150' waterfalls. Occasionally, even the most experienced individuals do make mistakes and pay dearly for their decisions. No one involved in the trip claims to have a monopoly of knowledge over the subject or to possess an ability to defy or subdue nature’s power.

If showing humility from an experience can prevent even one fatality or injury, or even an unpleasant overnight in a canyon, this post will have been successful. We are all autonomous individuals. It is up to each individual to make decisions that weigh the abilities of every individual in a group as well as the environmental hazards present on each day. In the end, the group must be prepared to face the consequences of those decisions.

That's all. On another note, the links section is being noncooperative with me. We're going to have a heart to heart and see if we can reach an agreement.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Here are a couple more photos from the Rope Access Course. Thanks to Paul from Canada and Rob from Australia for the pics.

And darker, a well written piece related to Arrest this: (click)

Monday, October 09, 2006

No Picture

First, let’s show the schedule of recent days:

Tuesday: Bullion Falls w/ Zach
Wednesday: Hidden Canyon w/ Amber
Thursday: Angel's Landing w/ Zach and Brenda, ACA Pro Division Meeting
Friday: Englestead and Orderville Canyons w/ Chuy, Ruben and Keith
Saturday: Drink to forget w/ those that needed to
Sunday: Employee Canyon w/ Amber, Karl and Joe

What to and how much to say? Where to begin? How to say it? Who could understand? I’m alive. Sometimes we trifle w/ too many other trivialities. Sometimes we skirt the edge of all of it. My body aches. The abrasions abound. The feet wonder why I hate them so much.

I was utterly explicit in December. I hesitate now. I try to be nothing if not honest. I don’t know how this time. Time and distance will allow the mental digestion and maybe sometime I'll describe the course of events, but for now, I'll give a different perspective:

It’s interesting who comes to mind. And it’s a good mental diversion to wonder why those people come to mind. When all you want at the end of it is a hug from a specific person, when you don’t want that hug to end once you get it, when you are unable to express that.

When you close your eyes in the shower and the water is brown and viscous flowing over you.

There was an experience as a child after a large storm, riding in the middle of a canoe in the Appalachians, crying with soaked jeans on, that I wondered how my dad navigated a waterfall and forded back up river with a rope to fetch my brother and me. I wonder now if he ever knew how.

Again, part of the journey is the learning. We already reached that you can’t dwell in hypothetical land. It's unproductive and self-destructive. Sychronicity abounds because things worked out how they did. That's it. You take what happened and learn from it, become stronger, better.

No machismo here. No self-congratulations. No redemption. Just humility and grace. Thanks be to the skill sets and self-sufficiency of the people involved. Thanks be to people's ability to rise up to an occasion and surmount obstacles. Thanks be to those that care and try to understand. Thanks be to those that give you the hug when you need it the most.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


It is finished. Probably a first descent. Much of the slippery algae made me feel like a goon. Definitely 3 rappels, but could be more depending on water flow and how much you want to stay in the water course. We left evidence of 2. Cold water. Found an old dog and he seems to like me. Enough. On to the pictures:

Monday, October 02, 2006

Arrest this

Time for that healthy release of pent up aggression. Pardon the foray into realms usually omitted from this area. I mean, the line has been crossed again and again. However, this latest breach really gives me the red ass.

We’re all a bunch of flakes. Crunchy crunchy, tasting good with ketchup. So do not meddle in the affairs of dragons. All the best intentions, only some of the backup.

What are the chances that this one might be arrested at some point for being declared an enemy combatant? Clearly disrespecting authority already by pressing her mouth and face against the shop glass, making faces at strangers. What are the chances that I'll disappear at some point because someone claimed that their violent action against the federal government was influenced by this post? How would you know if I was being held in preparation for a military tribunal?

All of this, all of it, is an idea. Live for yourself and your white picket fences, live to bring joy to those around you, lock your doors, love unconditionally, ignore your neighbors, say what you mean in truth and fear the future. Choose.

It is heartbreaking to see a parasitic species as the largest threat to biodiversity and the cause of another mass extinction. Yet, the world doesn’t care one way or the other. No anthropomorphism there. One source of the beauty, magic and fear instilled by nature, as defined in terms of the prevailing sentiment of our civilization being separate from it, is its stoicism - life will continue in one form or another. Choose what you want to do about it.

See what you want to see.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


To a new Cozza. Welcome to the world Mikey!

And to a new couple. Congratulations Danielle and Casey!

The Fall colors are here, the food, showers and ATV free,

but something is missing.

This is not my beautiful house. How did I get here?

Yet, I've found that some ideas are good ones.

Frustrations, social awkwardness, misunderstandings, indecision, revelations, beauty left unsung, happi-/sad-ness, hope - all these come in this product. Act Now Act Now. Step right up.