Nez Perce, the Corps of Discovery, and Me: Kamiah

The Nez Perce Tribe of American Indians tell a story about a great monster that devoured all of humanity and then began eating all of the Earth’s animals. Coyote got himself intentionally eaten and once inside the belly of the beast, he produced a set of smuggled knives and cut his way out, thereby killing the creature and freeing the previously consumed animals. Coyote then scattered the monster carcass across the land and the bits of it grew into humans.

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The heart of the monster is in Kamiah Idaho, where it gave birth to the Niimiipu people, whom Lewis and Clark’s translator mistakenly called “Nez Perce”. The translator was mistaken because the Niimiipu did not in fact pierce their noses like the Chinook over towards Oregon, but since that misassociation in 1805, the name has stuck.

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Lewis and Clark camped on the Clearwater River nearby the heart of the monster for a couple of months on their way back east. They called it the long camp in their journals and after last week my wife’s journal would record a similar entry. For her, spending a week nine miles outside Kamiah, a town of 1,200 people, 3 hours from the nearest airport (Spokane), at my parent’s home with all of my siblings, was surely a long camp… despite the fact that we were at a house and not actually camping.

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It is a nice place. Quiet. Small. Picturesque. The town has a main street, a cafe, couple bars, a hardware store, grocery store, a gas station but no stoplights. It once had a thriving lumber mill, which closed, then reopened on a reduced scale. As far as industry or commerce goes, that’s about it.

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The fish and game are abundant and the scenery unspoiled which would make Kamiah a great outdoor tourism destination, were it just a little more accessible. No, were it a LOT more accessible people would likely flock there for hunting trips and other sorts of outdoor recreation.

But for the most part people don’t.grocerystore

Living in Kamiah is a little bit like living in an episode of that old TV show Northern Exposure, just in Idaho not Alaska.

I liked that show.

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Death Valley: What’s Grandma Doing at the Dunes?

“Looks like there’s a lot you don’t know about her” is Uncle Rico’s reply to Napoleon Dynamite’s query upon finding out his grandmother had broken her coccyx whilst four-wheeling at the dunes. IMG_8969

For those of you whose only interaction with sand dunes is watching movies like Lawrence of Arabia I can now testify that what I always thought were actors trying to look heat exhausted and parched, isn’t acting at all. It is simply humans trying to walk up small mountains of sand that do everything in their power to imitate the experience of walking up the down escalator. What looks like heat exhaustion and thirst experienced by those lost for days in the Sahara is just as easily thigh burning frustration that ramps up to miserable in less than two minutes.IMG_8972

Miserable is too strong of a word, I was being dramatic. Really the dunes are beautiful (not being dramatic) and my biggest regrets are that 1. we shared the experience with hoards of other tourists, and 2. We didn’t bring a snowboard or some other device with which we could slide down the dunes, rewarding ourselves with fun for the effort it takes to scale a sand dune.IMG_9023

While crowds can be a nuisance when looking for desolation, they can also provide entertainment in the middle of what would otherwise be solitude (boredom). We saw numerous photo shoots in progress, mostly of girls in formal dresses and guys in tuxedos, and we saw this guy. This guy and his eagle were brought in as a prop for one of said formal gown wearing women photo sessions… because a sparkly dress in the middle of Death Valley really needs an eagle to make it interesting.IMG_8990 (5)

I do have to admit the eagle was pretty cool. Owning an eagle is akin to owning a tiger, just a little bit more American.IMG_9014 (7)

Death Valley: moonscape ala crater

IMG_8939 (2)There were some more adventurous than us who followed the trail down into the bottom of the bowl. Looking at them work their way down the trail it looked not so much adventurous than strenuous.  Teddy and his principles to live by would have been so disappointed with us. We were perfectly comfortable with that.IMG_8949

It looked like the sort of fools errand that is easy in the beginning but then bites you hard with regret in the end. We chose to enjoy the vista without eventually resenting it.

In such a place and time one’s choice in company really matters. We were well matched. We both appreciated our surroundings, content to talk or not, to walk or not, and preferring being here deciding whether or not to do less, than being at home on the couching having decided to do nothing.IMG_8957

Death Valley: there is a big difference between 30 and 16 degrees

My weather app told me to expect a low of 30 degrees at night in Death Valley. We figured we could handle that. Of course once we got there my app stopped working. No, that’s not true, I had no cell reception and consequentially I had an actual vacation with no app interruptions.IMG_9154

The national park had just reopened after severe flooding and the sign on the road up to our camp warned that the area was closed. I loved that sign and the fact that it dissuaded the crowds from taking that road. There are in fact crowds in Death Valley in December.IMG_9130

The crowds show up in December because 30 degrees is much easier to deal with than 130. The crowds are much easier to deal with when you ignore the closed sign and go down that road toward Scotty’s Castle. The Castle was closed but not the camp ground.IMG_9283

The first sign of trouble was that strange whine the aluminum table made when we  fired up the propane stove. We weren’t exactly sure what it was or why but thought it was perhaps just some sort of cold metal hot metal sort of resonance. Whatever… we had fresh carne asada to cook so we got to work. After about 15 minutes of the skillet sitting on an open flame it was still cold to the touch. Huh? I guess 30 degrees is a little colder than we thought. I attributed it to the wind chill.IMG_9045

Downing a whole tea pot full of anything right before bed is not the best idea but it was hot and I was cold. I am currently researching the effects of cold weather on the brain’s ability to process forward thinking. This is a direct follow up to the study I did that night of whether or not I really believe that mummy bags are intended for the sleeper to wear less clothes rather than more, in order to enjoy reflected body heat. I tested both theories that night along with an exercise in multiple midnight runs to the bushes.IMG_9304 (15)

Moral of the story is that I am not a genius and have been away from the camping world for far too long.

Also… upon our return we found that the expected 30 was overconfident. The thermometer registered 16.

Remind me next time to tell you about how the campers next to us weren’t cold at all since they were in a palatial motor home the size of a tour bus. But of course what else would you expect Stanley Tucci to camp in?

I Promise to Lock it Up This Time: I want a bike

I had a bike once. Not an expensive or fancy one, but it was pretty much exactly what I wanted. It appears someone else appreciated my taste in bikes enough to steal mine while it was resting on my front porch.

I want another bike.IMG_3219

Simple, fixed gear, no embellishments, I liked it. I have no intentions of completing a triathlon or riding in a pelaton, but I expect the bike to work well enough to ride.

Now should Santa want to upgrade just a little perhaps there are some other options…n5sso2vizknlrdjabpjt

A Brooks saddle and toe clips would be welcome.khioeue35ljonol4dhv1

A rack complete with a wool blanket (refer to previous blanket post) and some chrome accents… also acceptable.

Really, if I’m completely honest, I want a carbon fiber lightweight frame in matte black, no stickers or logos. I want black wall slick tires, only a front brake, preferably disk, fixed gear, chrome seat post and handle bars, natural leather saddle and grips.

I also want a 1960’s Ford Bronco.

I Don’t Need to be Professional When I Go, but I Would Like to Take Good Pictures While I’m There: GoPro

Unlike my desire to own an 18th Century Samurai helmet, this one is fairly easy. I want a waterproof GoPro camera.For-Gopro-hero-3-original-Waterproof-Housing-for--fpv-multicoper-free-shippng

I have no intentions, aspirations, or fantasies of pulling off amazing daredevil feats that should be uploaded to Youtube where I will become one of many in a montage of superhuman stunts and tricks that gets passed around via Facebook and whatever other platform is trending. No desire at all.AMCLP-001_main1

But I do want to go places, see and do things worth seeing and doing, and I would like to take pictures or videos in those places that are worth looking at. A number of those things involve water. Often times, moving water. My current camera, which sometimes doubles as a phone, has issues with water.SWNS_WAVE_100010007.jpg

 

Is Somewhere to Sit Down Too Much to Ask?

It is a running joke in my home that all I ever say, or the thing I am most likely to say at any give time is, “I have no where to sit down,” spoken in an exasperated voice. This is due to everyone else in my home using every flat surface available, including chairs and sofas, as a desk or shelf.

Sometimes when a guy comes home from work (where he ironically spends all day sitting at a desk) all he wants is to sit down and relax for a moment without having to compete with backpacks, craft projects, and children for seating space.

For Christmas this year, I want my own portable chair.chair_table

Campaign chairs are not meant for the living room but rather are supposed to help create a living room when one is out and about… on a campaign.

I don’t campaign much, in any sense of that word, but in my mind I intend to go on numerous adventures and at the risk of going soft, I am not above some level of luxury.b667c3ea23820249c79153bf79903cd1

There are plenty of options in travel and/or camp chairs, but I am not interested in a primary or camo colored nylon contraption you pick up at CVS, I have those already. They work fine but don’t look fine.

How strange it is that we venture out into nature with hopes of appreciating its beauty, yet once we arrive in said beauty we vomit out the contents of our camp trailer in a large mismatched pile of trash called “camp”. I think we could do better.tripod-stool-medium-[2]-966-p

I like the idea of the leather and wood tripod. I like the idea that I could quickly fold it flat and slide it into the side-strap of my backpack. I could haul it up to the top of Angel’s Landing or to the beach bonfire and with little effort find a place to rest my weary bones and spoil the wonder of my surroundings.littlemopuntainbrothers

You see, I think there is room in the great out doors for both TR’s “Strenuous life” and the finer things. I’m not really going for the whole TR imperialist have a bunch of servants pack in my personal library and caviar, though I appreciate the aesthetic of that time but rather I think I picked this idea up from American Indians of the great plains. They were not camping per se, they were living.

I spent a large amount of my formative years living in a tee-pee. We called it camping but it wasn’t the same thing as the REI crews with their springbar tents and Bunsen burner camp stoves. We had nice sleeping mats, good chairs, a giant stove inside our “tent.” We were outdoors to enjoy the outdoors, not punish ourselves in some sort of nature flagellation.

I advocate the same in our modern world.XXX_MAIN-01 (1)

There is no law dictating that quick drying, lightweight, nylon and aluminum must be ugly… but most of it is and it would be nice to have somewhere to sit, in the midst of outdoor beauty, without spoiling the view with our presence.

Balboa Pier: Newport

I do not live in a beach town but as Californians we are required to visit the beach regularly. When others in our environs learn we are headed to the beach they unfailingly ask, “Which beach do you go to?” This is not worded, or meant, as an inquiry to this instance, but rather a broader declaration.

I refuse to declare a beach affiliation.

But we did recently visit Balboa Pier in Newport. It was nice.IMG_4723

“It was nice” is no sort of manifesto. It isn’t even a resounding endorsement. But the place was in fact “nice” and if you please I will now walk backwards into a more meaningful review.

You can park all day for $10.IMG_5719

California doesn’t mess around with those silly beach tags like New Jersey. The beaches are quite literally a “free for all”. Whats not to like about that. Nice, right?IMG_5648

The Pier itself houses the original Ruby’s Diner. Not a culinary powerhouse by any means but an Orange County staple none-the-less. You can eat your burger while sitting on the rooftop deck watching the sun set over the beach. That would make anything taste great no matter who cooked it.IMG_5727

If cold water and waves that break right on the sand aren’t your favorite you can always head for the boardwalk.  There you are treated to arcades, shaved ice, and carnival style rides like a bucking shark. Who doesn’t want to ride a bucking shark?IMG_5591

None of us wanted to ride the bucking shark but we did ride what was marketed as “possibly” the longest Ferris wheel ride in the world. It was indeed lengthy.IMG_5647

 

With full bellies we were ready to test the scientifically proven tale that one must wait an hour after eating before swimming to avoid certain drowning. We thought it a safe place to test this tale since there were at least 7 million junior lifeguards on the beach for summer camp. I found myself wondering how many 9 year olds it would take to save me if I were to go under for the third time.IMG_5721

Turns out I am too naturally buoyant to find out. No loss. I’m satisfied stating that Balboa Pier in  Newport is Nice.

Mount Rubidoux: the beginnings of repentance

Children have a way of naturally highlighting the deficiencies in their parents. Quite often these adult shortcomings are obvious to everyone except the specific parent in question. We parents get caught up in minutia, lunches, pick-ups, drop-offs, lost homework, lost shoes, bed time, sugar intake, oil changes, lessons, stop hitting, say thank you, and on, and on. It’s like running with your head down.nicetrail

Then your six year old, the one who spends no time thinking about any of these things, asks, “Dad, have you ever been on top of a mountain?”

“Uhhhh, yes. Of course I have. On top of a mountain is in fact my favorite place to be. I would rather be on top of a mountain than anywhere else.”

My answer was a little indignant. Of course I’d been on a mountain. I grew up on a mountain. If I were to divide up my identity like a pie perhaps two of the six slices would be labeled “mountain man”. It was not till that moment, sitting in a car in the suburbs, that I realized my child had never been on a mountain. She had never seen me on a mountain. Never sat on the summit and felt the joy of looking out over the world. The simultaneous peace and excitement felt when the ground drops away in all directions.balancing

I have never given that little girl that experience.

Or a pony.

Or a marshmallow the size of a house.

She is deprived.

“Are we on a mountain now?”

“No, we are in a Target parking lot.”

“I want to go on top of a mountain. Can I go on top of that mountain?”

She was pointing up at Mt. Baldy.

“Maybe once you get bigger you can go up there.”

“Have you been up there?”

“No… No I have not.”climbing

Not only have I not been on top of Mt. Baldy but I haven’t been anywhere for far too long. No, strike that. I haven’t been nowhere for a very long time. I had spent so long, and my children have spent their entire lives, living in a place that is so much somewhere that getting to nowhere is quite hard.

I had never taken the six year old to nowhere.

I do not live nowhere now. Nor do I live somewhere. We live in between.jumping

Repentance doesn’t happen overnight but you must start right away. My supplication for outdoor forgiveness began in small steps; steps about the size of six year old legs.

Mount Rubidoux in nearby Riverside has a summit of only 1,329 feet. It has a paved trail. It has a tower, a cross, a large American flag, and on one Saturday morning, a very proud little girl.IMG_1460

Mancation: Lake Carmi

My phone thought we were in Canada. I got that warning text that any placed calls would be expensive, so I turned the phone off.IMG_5642

When we met up with Eric he came bounding through the rain to the car and with his ever present grin asked, “you guys are sure you want me to bring the boat?”

Yes.mate eric

He shrugged in agreement, grinned, and bounded back to his car. That is what Eric does. He grins and bounds, and on this occasion he towed his boat to Lake Carmi on our behalf.

This was all Eric’s doing, The lake, the lean-to, the boat, and the grin. The rain was not his doing.

As is required in any camp, a fire is the first order. I’m not sure why. We didn’t need it to cook, we would not freeze without it, and it was raining. None the less we held a tarp over the fire pit, built a log cabin, and Eric handed me a box of matches reminding me that as an eagle scout I only get one match. It took me two.steak and apples

Kaleo lit the propane stove with one match.

From our store he pulled five pounds of butcher cut tri-tip, a roll of fresh mozzarella, and a bag of apples. I produced a bottle of home brewed mint-lime soda. Soaking wet, smelling like camp fire, we ate like kings.

We slept like peasants.sleepin leanto

Maritime adventurers, professional fisherman, and fools will all launch a boat in a downpour. After a good breakfast of bacon and eggs, we honored our position as fools. We land lubbers marveled as Eric bounded from shore to dock and from dock to boat. Following his lead we lubbed from shore to dock and stumbled from dock to boat.boating preston kaleo

We zoomed about a bit, played around a little, then decided on a spot to settle and cut the engine. Mr. were-bear and I set up shop in the back and broke out the bottle of craft soda, Eric and Preston prepared to fish. We of course failed to pack fishing gear, but Eric and his grin were prepared to provide. He pulled from the deck a rod for himself, and ever the gentleman, handed a Lightning McQueen children’s fishing pole to Preston. The good Dr. Preston caught Eric’s grin like the flu, and cast his hook into the deep.boating preston fishing

Grins were all they caught.

Without fish but with frozen fingers, we eventually loaded the boat back on the trailer. Camp was broken and the four of us looked at each other blankly. “Now what?”

Ben & Jerry’s? Maple syrup farm? Apple cider factory? We were unsure and decided to first go drop off the boat at Eric’s house then just pick a road and figure it out.

We unhooked the trailer and Eric stuck his head in the door as a curtesy to his wife and kids. As is the eternal law of fathers seeking adventure, as soon as Eric poked his head in the house, one of his three children threw up on the floor. His wife encouraged him to get in the car with the mancation crew, but as is the eternal law of GOOD fathers, Eric just grinned, looked over at us, and sent us on our way without him.IMG_5823

The three of us back in the car again, looked at a clock for the first time that day.

8:30 am.