Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring. Growth.

Spring. Growth.

These words compliment one another and become synonymous as those of us in the northern hemisphere begin our turn to the sun.

Shorts, t-shirts, sun, bikes, happy girl
Plants bloom, bear cubs stumble from their den, rivers swell, Stan's sealant dries out.

Urban Camping
Relationships, too, grow in spring's warmth.

And the mind?

Spring mountain biking is prime riding season in our desert home. Relatively moderate temperatures, longer days, bright florals contrasting with red rock, freshly tuned bikes, and pale legs abound at trailheads. Locals rush like lovers separated by a six month voyage to embrace favorite trails. Visitors from around the globe head to Moab, Sedona, and Grand Junction to test themselves in unforgiving, alien terrain of which we have no shortage.

Excitement is the catalyst for the mind's growth. Last year's skills and comfort level return quickly as our enthusiasm draws us to ride as frequently as possible. Confidence springs forth and we begin to wonder about new possibilities on the trail. With excited, fresh nerves it's much easier to pedal or drop into uncomfortable situations and nurture the mind.

Travis keeping it straight 
The other Jesse
Keri, Jesse (there's another one), Travis, and I all hooted and cheered each other as we took turns tackling doubt and discomfort in an effort to cultivate growth on recent rides. We all added up a few frequent flyer miles in the process.

Keri: MASSIVE growth with much more to come.

JSwell himself. Photo: Keri Gonna Be Selwyn

"Honestly, you just take a deep breath and say 'Fuck it.'" -Johnny Knoxville


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Controversy and Celebration

My country's political climate has been dismal for the last two weeks. In previous years, I rarely kept track of the news because it seemed that good news was a rarity and I chose to be blissfully ignorant. However, that ignorance has been difficult to come by since January 20. By choice and by association, staying away from current events is impossible on social media, at work, walking around town, in my email, etc...Now for the first time in my life, I find myself paying attention and seeking more information and participating because of the grave and very real attack on what I believe is important to us all, our environment.

Each and every one of us lives, works, recreates, relies upon the environment every day of our lives. Even if the most time you spend outdoors is walking from your car to the grocery store, you are reliant on the air, the water, the food, the overall climate. For me and many others in the country, the outdoors is far more than air, water, soil, trees. It's a gestalt that provides our place of worship, a place to grow and learn, a place to deepen or develop relationships. Simply put, the outdoors is to be appreciated and cherished and protected. 

Given, in our day and age, we require resources to function as a society. But to sell off lands owned by the people and that has infinite value to millions for the short-term gain of a few is wrong and very, very short-sighted. To take away protections for the water that we ourselves drink, rely upon for crops of food, and play in is beyond belief. Our representative's willingness to do such things and their motives, which basic common sense should say is wrong, is confusing and frustrating. 

I have hope, though. Just this week Utah Representative Chaffetz withdrew his bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of our public land thanks to the outcry of constituents. However, there are still a number of other bills just as sinister waiting to be passed. If you care about these issues find your representatives and call them. Tell them you care. It helps ease the feeling of helplessness.


"Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

My belief is that Theodore Roosevelt's words apply to all of our natural world, not only the Grand Canyon. He knew it then, let's remind them of it now.

This post is filled with photos of OUR PUBLIC LANDS.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter Escape: Packrafting the Salt River

It was slightly strange looking back in the gear filled car. Instead of skis and normal gear of the season were rolled packrafts, paddles, drysuits, food, and all the other camping gear required to spend four days on a wilderness river.

While heading south from Colorado to ride a section of the Arizona Trail, we stopped at a rest area in the bottom of a 2,000ft deep canyon. Looking down on the river responsible for the canyon’s formation, we both remarked how beautiful and different this area was and that we should return to explore the river some day. Now, a year later, in the midst of Colorado’s largest winter storm in years, we were back in the car heading south towards Arizona. Rain and mountain snow from this same storm system had bolstered flows on the Salt River, which also aligned with six days free of work. 

Making it’s way from mountain to desert, the Salt River, via a series of dams and reservoirs, provides water for Phoenix and it’s sprawl. Prior to becoming ensnared by the first of these reservoirs, roughly 90 miles of river run wild, free to environmental whims. The upper 40 miles are within Apache Tribal lands and are off limits. However, below the rest stop that gave us that first view of the Salt lay 50 miles of cactus-lined river open to exploration.

Shoving off the frozen mud beach, we gave a group doing the eight mile day run a parting wave. They’d be the last people we’d see or hear before taking out four days later. Perfect. 100 yards later, rusty and stiff in our boats, we entered our first whitewater of 2017. The 18 miles we covered were defined by narrow passages within boulder lined micro-gorges, our first icy swims, drifting by abstract salt banks, and the sudden appearance of Saguaro cactus.

Keri swears each Saguaro has a unique personality and I’d have to agree. Some taunt, some cheer, some laugh and play, some hold themselves regally, some yield to age and decay. I enjoy them all.

Day two offered up a few of the river’s larger and more technical rapids. One we portaged, not yet feeling confident, and had our first experience with quick-muck. Stepping inches away from my own footprint, Keri’s foot and lower leg instantly disappeared. The consistency of wet concrete, powerfully rank, and the color of tar we dug and pulled and dug and pulled until the muck relented. We were mindful to walk on solid surfaces from then on. We camped on a sandy bench in the canyon’s heart that night enjoying warmth from a small fire and the soothing silence only found deep in wild places. Looking at our map in fire light, we realized we had read and run the second largest rapid of that day without mishap. Stress gave way to building confidence. Despite this, we were both shaky with adrenaline and giggling when boiling whitewater gave way to calm pools and a realization that we were upright after the Salt’s final larger rapids that following day.

Beyond any named rapids, the Salt was anything but flat and mindless. Countless riffles sped us through tamarisk flanked hallways. We gambled on which route around or even through an island would be fastest or cleanest and raced each other. Keri won her bet with frustrating frequency. We pulled into a creek mouth, hidden in the brush, that final afternoon. We found ourselves in a sort of enchanting oasis of large twisted trunks, crunching leaves underfoot, and a clear creek. If it were not for a battalion of cactus standing guard no more than a rock throw away we could have been beside an eastern stream.

Passing under Highway 288, our takeout loomed. Relief and disappointment shared my shoulders. With my aging, I’ve become more acutely aware of the risks these pursuits in removed places impart on myself and those I love. I do not wish to feel the pain of loss, nor do I desire others to know this pain on my behalf. Relief springs from knowing the greatest chance of mishap in a place with no assistance has passed. Disappointment stems from the knowledge that opportunity for mishap sharpens focus and brings more depth to experiences we pursue in wild places. Few grins are bigger than that following a chance for mishap, few things strengthen relationships more than these shared experiences. With the takeout approaching, this is also gone. 

This was the first time I have genuinely become aware of this dichotomy and skipping out on feet of powder for a river trip was worth every snowflake's weight in salt.