Inferno in the San Juans

Posted in CDT PTSD, Trail Tales with tags , , , on June 11, 2018 by A lo Hawk

The plan was to meet my friend George (aka Honey Badger) on the Continental Divide Trail in the middle of the Colorado wilderness on a specified weekend in June. Honey Badger had spent months planning an epic 90 mile traverse of the rockiest terrain to split the continent. He would begin hiking at the CDT trailhead at Wolf Creek Pass near Pagosa Springs and exit via the Colorado Trail at Molas Pass north of my hometown of Durango. I offered to backtrack from Molas, meet him on the trail and we would hike back to my car together.

The long awaited departure weekend arrived and Honey Badger loaded up his Mazda in Austin Texas and began the long drive to Colorado. Meanwhile, a thousand miles away, the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge train threw sparks into dry grass along the tracks and ignited a blaze that would be named the 416 fire. On the eve of his trek I contacted George to update him on our 500 acre alarm and wished him Happy Trails until we meet in a week.

Five days later the 416 fire had grown to a 5,000 acre conflagration, forcing the evacuation of over 800 homes and the intermittent closure of scenic highway 550 between Durango and Purgatory ski resort. To reach Molas Pass, I waited in line for a police escort available only between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. As our caravan passed below the burning Hermosa Cliffs, the massive bone white column of a pyrocumulus cloud billowed into the sky.

I arrived at the trailhead at noon surrounded by the imposing majesty of the Grenadier Range and Needle Mountains to the south and the solemn vigilance of 13ers Sultan, Grand Turk and Kendall Mountain to the north. I shouldered my pack, acrid scent of smoke stinging my nostrils, and followed the short connector to the Colorado Trail where I turned toward the Weminuche Wilderness.

The day was already warm with a dry south wind pushing the foul air deeper into the mountains and reducing visibility. The trail dove 1,440 feet to El Rio do Los Animas Perdidas or “The River of Lost Souls”. A field of lovely Columbine (the state flower of Colorado) greeted me after descending 33 switchbacks which led to a bridge spanning the churning emerald water of the Animas. I followed alongside the silent tracks of the culprit train for a quarter mile before continuing up a bank on the other side.

Here the trace initiated a nine mile, 3,542 foot climb up the Elk Creek drainage to finally top out on the continental divide at 12,682 ft. Moments after signing the Forest Service register, I met a fellow backpacker sitting on a log inhaling a package of cracker crumbs. Bonefish was a hungry CDT thru-hiker who had run out of food and was trying to get to Silverton to re-supply. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it would have been easier to reach Silverton if he would have stayed on the CDT a little longer instead of taking the CT to Molas and hoping for a hitch.

Continuing to ascend, I was awed by a magnificent cascading waterfall draining some unnamed and unseen high alpine basin. The route then meandered along the white bleached rocks of mineral infused Elk Creek as the drainage closed in on the headwaters. In the evening I reached treeline and found a sliver of smooth ground among the boulders of a large scree field to set up my tent. Later I discovered I had camped among a community of disturbed and vocal Pika varmints who squeaked incessantly while I boiled water for my tasteless and half eaten rehydrated meal. I watched the orange glow of sunset creep up the walls of rock towering over my head satisfied with my first day’s progress (11 miles in 7 hours).

I opened the vestibule of my tent onto a warm morning and set up my stove for coffee. The sky was clear blue and the air was alpine fresh as I broke down camp anxious to go on the hunt for the Honey Badger. After a mile of easy strolling up a grassy hill on meandering switchbacks I stood atop the divide separating two monumental water flows. If I pissed toward Elk Creek it would flow to the Animas, San Juan and Colorado Rivers ending up in the Gulf of California and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Spitting the other direction would feed a creek leading to the Rio Grande, Gulf of Mexico and finally the Atlantic.

Ahead I saw a wooden sign where this trail intersected with another forming a T in the tread. A left turn heads north with the CDT and CT overlapping for almost 200 miles. A right turn heads south toward a wave of CDT thru-hikers and a few section hikers like George. To the west I could see a haze of smoke from the 416 fire rising on the horizon.

It wasn’t long before I saw the head and torso of a hiker emerge above the foliage disguising the trail ahead. Lost Larry carried a sad sack full of woe but he also told me he had seen my friend three days ago. Knowing a thru-hiker would walk more miles per day than my mate, I got a clue he was likely behind schedule. An hour later I confirmed that assumption when I met two more thru-hikers who left Wolf Creek Pass after Honey Badger but did not recall meeting him. At this point I knew something was wrong but the day was glorious so I continued hiking up and down the roller coaster of single track between 11 and 12k ocassionally dropping into the trees. I stopped a few miles past Humpback Pass at a small saddle above Nebo Creek where I could see a distinctive landmark in the distance, a square notch called the Window on the flank of 13,821 ft Rio Grande Pyramid. This would be my turnaround, approximately 17 miles from the car.

When I returned to the trail junction, an impromptu confluence of hikers had formed under darkening skies. Besides the aforementioned CDT hikers, I saw a lone figure striding  confidently toward us from Elk Creek. We talked for several minutes before realizing we had met before. Freebird and I became acquainted on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2005 when we were resupplying at Kennedy Meadows before entering the southern Sierra. I remembered him as a quirky fellow who planned to hike the snow covered high country in sandals. Since then he has become something of a trail legend; not only completing the Triple Crown of North American Hiking (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail) but completing each trail three times for the absurd title Triple Triple Crowner!

As I reached the crest of the divide above Elk Creek, my phone alerted me of a tenuous signal so I was able to see texts from George indicating he had turned back but would meet me in Durango. Not having my glasses I was unaware the messages were from yesterday and the weak signal made it impossible to hear the voicemails that would have told me he had returned to Austin. All I knew was I was free to scoot home at my leisure.

Standing above the deep gouge in the earth under a blood red sun with white flakes of ash and blackened aspen leaves floating in the air, I thought of Dante’s Inferno, part of the Divine Comedy which depicts a journey through hell as 9 concentric circles of torment located within the earth. Instead of concentric circles I looked down on as many inviting switchbacks and stepped eagerly into the vulcan depths.

In fact it was a pleasant nine mile descent with evening temperatures cooling and shadows growing longer. The woods were so quiet I spooked a young moose who had been lying on the duff as I came around a corner. We stared intently at each other for a moment, ten yards apart, then slowly turned to go our separate ways.

Moments later I saw the unmistakable look of an experienced thru-hiker advancing quickly on long tanned legs. Birdfood informed me of the new Burro fire near Delores which has forced the closing of the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to Durango. Apparently the last hiker to get through until the fires are extinguished, he suspects more areas will be closed and is trying to haul ass out of here.

I bottomed out at the Animas River at dusk, thoughts of a cooler full of cold beer and soda motivating me forward to the start of the 33 switchbacks. Shadows became darkness but my eyes adjusted and my breathing recovered on the steady nocturnal climb. I finally pulled out the headlamp for the last mile; arriving at the Subaru before 10 pm, 23 miles covered in 15 hours (including unknown amount of time talking to all the trail folk). Knowing the road to Durango would be closed until 8 am tomorrow, I drove to Coal Bank Pass, beer in hand, where I knew I could get a signal and settled into my sleeping bag for a restless car snooze until morning.

On the day I returned, the 416 fire had grown to 16,000 acres with 10% containment, the Burro fire was over 2,000 acres with 0% containment. Highway 550 was closed midday and has not reopened. Authorities later decided to close all 1.8 million acres of the San Juan National Forest.

 

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Flowers for Memogen

Posted in Enigmatic Corporatic with tags , , on June 7, 2018 by A lo Hawk

Memogenetics Memorandum: Transcribed audio field notes from volunteer consumer subject R.A.G.

Product Introduction: [Subject mimics broadcast television commercial advertisement in an unmodulated voice]

“Are you having trouble remembering what you just heard? Are you having trouble remembering what you just heard? Introducing Memogen, a new memory enhancement drug made from a poisonous substance found in pufferfish.”

Side effects may include long term memory loss, drastic I.Q. swings, psychedelic dreams, early onset Alzheimers, intermittent panaphobia, possible phobophobia and you may even lose weight.

“Memogen, the name to memorize.”

Initial Assessment:

“My cognitive improvements were noticeable immediately. I remembered names, phone numbers, security identification numbers, everything I’ve eaten, my first grade teacher’s name (Matilda); every masturbation, bowel movement and hangover I ever had!”

“Later, I increased the dosage until each sensation triggered a flood of memories. I now spend hours in ecstatic reverie reliving the memories of my ancestors accessible through my DNA.”

Final Evaluation:

“Okay, I remember taking those giant pills…uh, what was I talking about?…ahhh…Who am I?”

The Natural Give and Industrial Take

Posted in Sausage Makers Society on June 4, 2018 by A lo Hawk

Blinding flash of white followed by a deafening thunderclap concussion, let the sonic wave roll over and fade into the distance

Click

Sudden rotten deadfall crash explodes my meadow tranquility

Buckle snap

Otherworldly vibrations of a million cicadas haunt the night

Car engine roars

A lonely loon tremolo echoes across still lake waters

Door slams, tires squeal

A woodfire crackles while dancing flames hypnotize

A cacophony of horns honk like mechanical geese

Raindrops steadily drum against a tent wall

Deep thumping bass chord of Harley-Davidsons in harmony

Wind rustles leaves

The radio erupts with percussive beats and screeching voices

Twig snap

Jacked up pick-ups with offensive decals belch black smoke when they gun it

Chirp

Red pulsing strobe lights accompany a barking staccato siren, let the bellowing ambulance pass by and disappear into the distance

Welcome to My Nightmare: Redux

Posted in Sausage Makers Society with tags , on May 28, 2018 by A lo Hawk

Welcome to my nightmare

I think you’re gonna like it

I think you’re gonna feel you belong

–Alice Cooper

Aloha! You have found your way to my obscure blog of pre-apocalyptic angst on the ninth anniversary of its creation. We know from the pseudoscience of numerology the number 9 is a symbol of wisdom and initiation which holds the path toward mystical knowledge. Nine has all the qualities of numbers 1 through 8, i.e. 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36. Add 3 to 6 to get 9. Nine rotations of this planet around the sun completes a cycle in my Temporal Triptych. 

Please Be Advised: You should NOT proceed to my abstrusive rantings unless you are comfortable with the word salad of James Joyce, the cut and paste prose of William Burroughs or what Allen Ginsberg called the “spontaneous bop prosody” of Jack Kerouac. Other crushing influences include the crude and brutish Bukowski, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and the OG or original gonzo journalist H.L. Mencken. My subversive style has most often been compared to the modern Sausage Makers such as The Word Butcher and King Kielbasa as well as the dystopic themes of Meat Beat Manifesto.

This site is currently devoted to two ongoing autobiographical projects which can be accessed using the right sidebar. My Walk in the Woods chronicles my hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2008 and Everything in Moderation I ironically refer to as my fun little cyberpunk serial. If you are still viewing and would like a Pu Pu Platter of my favorite twisted essays, link up to these rough cut gems:

Burroughs inspired highly stylized Selections from US Army Survival Manual

A Kerouac tribute actually written On the Road to Fayetteville

An exploration of wickedly angelic Tween Piety in the Nation’s Capital

For those intrepid illiterati investigators who dare descend into Alice’s vortex to find A Lo Hawk’s original nightmare

Happy Trails, The Ephemeral R.A.G.

Everything in Moderation, Ch 6

Posted in A Cyberpunk Serial on May 26, 2018 by A lo Hawk

Everything in Moderation, Ch 5

Chapter Six: Neophyte

A hatch door opens with a hissing sigh. First a head then the torso of a human figure emerges from the ovoid chamber.

“Welcome back from your nine year Earth assignment, Uranium 238.”

Radio Active Gram U-238, a fission based humanoid with a half life of 4.47 billion years, born on a planet in the binary system Nirvana-Centralia, stands before his temporal mentor.

“Congratulations on completing the first of three cycles in your training.”

“Thank you, timelord.”

“The Bio-Mech Wars with Centralia are heating up again and we need to send you back to inject more humanoid consciousness into their past.”

“I am ready sir.”

The time travel novice climbs back into the small chamber and closes the hatch. Suddenly the ovoid is gone.

The Many Faces of Enigmatic R.A.G.

Posted in Sausage Makers Society on May 18, 2018 by A lo Hawk

Department of Homeland Buzzkill

Dedicated to denying citizens their constitutional right to pursue happiness since November 8, 2016

DHB Director Felix DeLouse

Unglued States of Absurdity

Page 2, Classified report on notorious fugitive R.A.G.

Known Activities/Behaviors continued…

…civic provocateur, aboriginal anarchist, cyber shaman, subversive thinker, eschewed athiest

Known Aliases

ALAN GRAEME / Believed to be the first alias used or suspect’s actual name. First name may be Roger. Currently off the grid, early records have been deleted.

IRREL d’AVANT / Suspect is known to travel the sci-fi and comic book convention circuits in costume as a biomechanical technician from the planet Centralia. [see attached photo]

Suspect often travels on foot using a massive hiking trail network to cross the continent. Name typically changes with geography:

MR ROBOTO / West coast trails including the Pacific Crest Trail

A LO HAWK / East coast trails including the Appalachian Trail

LA PLATA / Mid continent trails including the Continental Divide Trail

TUMBLEWEED / Sketchy information indicates limited use in the high mountains of Colorado, thought to be the suspects’ home base.

CAPTAIN COINSTAR / Leader of a roving band of homeless scavengers who “procure” aluminum, copper and other valuable metals for cash to trade for their nectar of the gods Pabst Blue Ribbon.

SERADD THE IMPALER / Dungeons & Dragons game character since college in the 1980s; a dwarf who uses a head spike to eviscerate enemies with a rhino charge to the gut.

KING KIELBASA / An online asshat, troll and flamethrower with no filter or shame. Known for sending foes a photo of his plump polish sausage.

RADIO ACTIVE GRAM / A cyberpunk mastermind personae with possible temporal distortion capabilities. [Content redacted. Additional clearance required]

THE WORD BUTCHER / Most recent iteration [no image available]. A pedantic snob who only communicates with a tightknit group of Illiterati known as the Sausage Makers Society.

Known Associates: Suspect strongly assimilates with three quinquagenarians and one tricenarian:

EDDY MUDDY aka Lobo / First known contact (FKC) with suspect occured during the bicentennial summer of 1976 when suspect’s family moved to the same street in Round Rock, TX.

THOMAS ASCETIC aka Rogue Botanist aka The Scribe / Has written a daily journal since FKC with suspect at La Universidad de Tejas in September 1979.

GEO ECOLES aka Honey Badger / The muscle of the group met the suspect at UT Austin in 1983 under the pretense of forming a Triathlon Club.

RYE BALD aka Lumpy / The youngest member and cousin to the suspect. Considered part of a flyover american sleeper cell. Has been associated with the suspect since the early 80s.

Current Fugitive Status: Most wanted enemy of the state, whereabouts unknown, cash reward offered for information leading to the suppression, apprehension and incarceration of this dangerous encephaloterrorist.

 

Cherry Picking the Family Tree

Posted in Enigmatic Corporatic, Sausage Makers Society, Snark File on May 8, 2018 by A lo Hawk

[Fade in to a genetically ambiguous gentleman with a vacant stare holding a multi colored cube]

“Friends, are you racially confused, looking to alleviate your white privilege guilt or confirm your repressed xenophobia? Go to FindMyTribe.com and order the most accurate and complete genetic ancestry home test kit on the market.”

[Cut to a clear tongue depressor with an ice cream scoop at one end]

“Just a quick swab of any orifice with our patented sampler and return in the sterile envelope. Within 5-7 business days receive a scientific looking report with pie charts and a notarized certificate of authenticity. But wait, you also get online access to our comprehensive terrestrial genome database and for a nominal membership fee your chromosomal sequence will be compared to our proprietary intergalactic samples. Listen to these sincerely produced testimonials…”

[Cut to a silly man in child’s clothes]

“Thanks to FindMyTribe I had to exchange my lederhosen for a kilt when I learned I am Scottish instead of German.”

[Cut to a white supremacist in drag]

“Because of My Tribe I resigned as Grandmaster of the KKK and turned in my hood and cape for the headdress and ceremonial dancing skirt of a Zulu princess.”

[Cut to a stiff in a business suit]

“I found out I am 4.8% Neanderthal so [Cut] I quit my corporate job and now wear animal skins and carry a club.”

[Cut to an androgynous being wearing a Ziggy Stardust costume]

“My mom was abducted and impregnated by an alien from Sirius. Daddy, I’m building a ship to come home to you on Dog Star. Howhooooooo!”

[Cut to website logo with mechanical voice over]

“Supplies are artificially limited so drop the remote and call this number now!”