Category Archives: USA

The Gamble of Sunrise

Is watching the sunrise, mountain top to mountain top, worth a 4.15am rise? Getting up very early to experience or accomplish something is a gamble few of us make. After pondering the long list of considerations revolving around the possibility of satisfaction, one is left with good old opportunity cost, “Would I be better off sleeping?” If you can catch such a sunrise any day then maybe you would trade the early rise in summer for a later rise in another season. But, The BB and I cannot.

After we’d bought the tickets for Mammoth Mountain’s* inaugural Sunrise from the Peak in July, friends of ours advised, “It’s only sleep.” They opted not to join us. Continue reading

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San Franchrimbo

Christmas comes to San Francisco in many guises.

Colours

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Christmas colours come to public transport with the longest nails I have ever seen. The driver related how people told her she wouldn’t be able to tenpin bowl with them. However, recalling her father’s words, “You can do whatever you set your mind to,” she went right ahead and now wins trophies using specially drilled bowls.

Continue reading

A Flight To Impossible Places

I am a villain.
While I could be watching the nation below me                                                                  – knobbled and streaked, dappled and scratched –                                                            I am asleep, imagining these things.

flying, Australia

Australia

There is something in me that feels sleeping on a plane is the waste of a precious gift. Continue reading

Trucking Tidbits

I was tickled by the personal nature and encouraging tone of this sign and others in the series down the hill towards Denver. It was just missing a “Well done. You’ve made it” at the bottom. Who says the Colorado Department of Transportation is an uncaring bureaucracy?

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And on the subject of trucks…get a load of this. It looks like a postman’s motorbike with bulging panniers or a bee with pollen-laden sacks.

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Whiskey’s for Drinkin’, Water’s for Fightin’

That, according to a Colorado local politician, is what they say in America. He was referring to the Colorado River, which is in a bit of strife, but even a quick look at the Pacific Institute’s fascinating and easy-to-read section on water conflict chronology demonstrates the world-wide applicability of the latter part of this saying.

Humanity has been going at it over water since at least 3000BC. And the disputes are coming thick and fast in the present day – from a 2007 murder in a suburban garden over water restrictions in Australia to the capture the Tishrin hydroelectric dam by Syrian rebels in 2012.

IMG_6356 Continue reading

Rocky Animals

The BB and I ascended from Denver airport past tattered mountain goats whose scars belied their reputation for nimble-footedness, past drifts of snow still hanging on in cool pockets, to the Rockies.

Colorado, Rocky Mountains, mountain goats

Our accommodation was at the YMCA just out of Granby. I think I expected dirt floors in a log cabin – yes, a couple of hundred years out of date, I know. Continue reading

Born in the Summer of My Undisclosed Year

  He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before…
*

John Denver (who renamed himself after the capital city of his favourite state, Colorado) wrote simply of his love and reverence for the Rocky Mountains. The song I first heard as a teenager carried me to its source.

I was thrilled to be in the Rockies. It is, as John says, a striking yet serene landscape.

He climbed cathedral mountains

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

He saw everything as far as you can see.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado, landscape

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams                                Seeking grace in every step he takes  

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

 His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

But the landscape which had such a profound effect on John is changing. I was dismayed to see vast areas of greyed-out forest in the mountains. North America has lost millions of hectares to the mountain pine beetle.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Global warming favours pine beetles. The climate in the Rocky Mountains has, on average, become warmer, and warmer winters allow more beetles to survive. Higher temperatures also mean the beetles can mature faster. Recent droughts have rendered trees more susceptible to attack. Another causative factor in the epidemic is past fire suppression practices which resulted in many pine trees of the age the beetle prefers.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

The devastation affects watersheds, timber production, wildlife habitat, recreation sites and transmission lines. Falling trees present hazards and dead ones increase the risk of a catastrophic fire.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado  Rocky Mountains, Colorado

As if that’s not enough, the loss of a forest is the loss of a carbon sink. In addition, decaying and burning trees emit carbon, creating a feedback loop which intensifies global warming.

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land.

John focused on calling attention to environmental issues and died about the time the pine bark beetle epidemic began in Colorado. It may not have been what he was referring to in his song but it certainly ranks as a ‘scar upon the land’.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

* Rocky Mountain High                                                                                                         Words by John Denver; Music by John Denver and Mike Taylor

References:                                                                                                                                        For thorough and easy-to-read information visit this page at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ website.                                                                                          Further information is available at the US Dept of Agriculture and National Park Service

Rocky Mountains, Colorado