Monday, February 27, 2012

Man on Wire, Following Dreams, Opportunities

Last night I finished the film, Man on Wire, about a Frenchman who wire-walked between the Twin Towers in New York City in 1976. It was a fascinating film, and there was a very uplifting tone to it. Phillipe Petit was a man who followed a dream, and achieved it. Those type of people inspire me.

Our world is full of people who follow dreams, yet ruled by those who live in fear. There are notable exceptions, but most people don’t realize their true divinity and potential.

I am not a writer who focuses on the negative, and that is not the intention of this piece. This piece is about following dreams. It occurred to me this morning that following your dreams is also about following opportunities that lead you to your dreams.

I have now lived in Durango, Colorado for one year. I have been reflecting on this because the paper I write for here, The Durango Telegraph, is going to have me write a piece tentatively titled, A Year of Dirtbagging in Durango. This is a dream come true to write something like this.

I came to Durango following a vision. I wanted to make a new start in life. My dream job at the college in Gunnison became a nightmare when I was given a boss, who was like the wicked witch of the west. So instead of living in fear after she cut my job to half-time, I resigned and looked to follow my heart where it would lead. I envisioned that I would make it on my own, finally write my first book, and publish The Climbing Zine as a career.

A year later I have finished my first book Climbing Out of Bed, and The Climbing Zine is building a format to become financially stable. We’re not there yet, and although there are moments of doubt and frustration, I am still following my dream. The reality is that although I have very little money, I am happier than I have ever been. That realization is enough for now, and I know I must continue to work hard to manifest the dreams, so they become reality.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oldie but Goodie: Hanging with Ben Johnson

Note: I miss several things about living in the Gunnison Valley, Colorado, but what I miss most is the recreation with my many dear friends, including this guy, Ben Johnson. Here's a story I wrote a couple years ago about a "normal" winter weekend with Ben. Enjoy.

When I run with Ben Johnson I know he’s always going to be gone, like Forrest Gump running across that football field in Alabama. He was a state champion high school runner, two-time winner of the local 2.6 mile sprint up W Mountain in Gunnison, and probably has a list of victories I don’t even know about.

When I’m road biking with Ben there’s a couple tricks that ensure I can keep up with him. Well, one trick really with two outcomes. If I let him stay in the lead I can simply stay right behind him and draft, which basically means he does all the work and I can reap the benefits and use gravity to my advantage. This ensures that I stay with him while riding, and also enables me to save energy.

This past weekend, mid-November high in the Rockies, I had the good fortune to bike with Ben one day and run with him the next. Well it wasn’t just us, our good friend Al Smith III, a bad-ass in his own right, was along for both adventures as well.

With outdoor adventures I typically both love and hate Ben, with the hate always being a short term emotion because Ben typically pushes me past my perceived limits, and the love always lasting.

I think I was probably hating Ben Saturday afternoon, when we were road biking up Taylor Canyon, with an hour of sunlight left, on icy roads on skinny tires and my fingers were so cold they were going numb. This was a leisurely workout for Ben, a 40 mile afternoon ride in winter-like conditions. Freezing and complaining he even offered up his warm pair of gloves and an extra jacket, which I gladly accepted.

Things really got epic as we rounded Almont, ten miles out from Gunnison, and Al got his second flat of the day. We didn’t have an extra tube between the three of us, so like any good Coloradoan Al stuck his thumb out and hitched a ride back to town. Four miles to go there was barely any day light as I looked over to see a buck running parallel to our bikes. The deer hopped with us as we rode till he made a dramatic dash across the road and then jumped over a fence to safety in a rancher’s field.

As the sun set and we still had four miles to go Ben turned on a light on the back of his bikes so that the passing vehicles would see us, at the same time the darkness fell it began to snow. I suffered through this as my feet froze up and felt like ice blocks. When I finally arrived home I could barely waddle up the flight of stairs to my house. I sat inside with a nice adrenaline rush, and felt incredibly alive (then I spent the next half an hour warming my feet up). If I didn’t have Ben Johnson in my life I probably would have stayed inside and been lazy that cold mid-November afternoon in the Rockies.

The next day we were headed to the Orvis Hot Springs to soak and recover from the ride. Ben suggested to me and Al that we should, “go for a little run before soaking.” We agreed and I pictured running for a little while around the town of Ouray.

Ben took us past the Box Canyon in Ouray up to a dirt road and then drove back for a few miles. He parked his car and I looked up the road. It was a steep hill, covered mostly in snow. Al remarked how steep it was and that it would be a shock to the system to start the run with such a dramatic incline. Ben shrugged it off, making a masculine comment inappropriate for the tone of this blog and just started running up. I tried to hang with him for about five minutes and then soon Al and I quickly lost him as he ran into the hills.

Al and I power-walked some of the sections and a couple miles into it the road became a small cross-country ski trail in a foot and a half of snow. Two hundred foot ice falls to the left on four hundred foot rock walls. Ice climbers dangled off an overhang to the right. We couldn’t see him, but we knew Ben was still running.

We headed back, running and walking for the hour time slot that we agreed upon. After an hour we knew Ben wouldn’t be back exactly on time, but ten minutes after the hour had passed he was there. “Good workout,” he said in his Colorado way of talking, a hybrid of Boulder and Gunnison in words.

Yes it was Ben, it always is with you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Continual Experimentation

As I’ve written before several times this month my writing path has been on a different course than ever before. I’m promoting my writing more than ever, and I’ve also been writing more blog posts than usual. It’s an outlet, and I HAVE to write, just as I have to breathe. I would rather be writing a book at the moment, but all good things in all good time.

So this is an experimental phase for me, and isn’t being an artist a continual expression of experimentation?

I’ve found myself continually thinking of the power of blogging. This is a new power, a new outlet, something that everyone with a computer has now. The power no longer lies simply in the institutions, the newspapers, and this is a beautiful thing.

Spring is in the air here in Durango, Colorado, and I’m super psyched about that. Winter is typically my most productive time of year, writing-wise, but there is more to life than work. Life is meant to be lived, and with the dawning of spring I dream about what I want to experience.

My dear friend Adam Lawton’s passage has changed me forever. There have been countless tears, but out of darkness comes light. Adam continues to inspire me each and every day. Because he left his body, he’s motived me to realize I have only a finite amount of time in mine. Adam, thanks for springing my life forward into the light. I’m sure there is light where your spirit exists now. Love you and miss you man.

I watched one of my favorite speeches again last night, the Steve Jobs commencement address to Stanford University in 2005, which I’ll post at the end of this blog. The speech is so inspiring, mainly because Jobs had recently faced death himself with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Jobs was encouraging the audience to pursue their dreams, and to also endure failure, setbacks, and moments of doubt. He was a genius, and he inspires after death.

The sun is shining outside. Spring will soon be upon us. Our dreams are leading us into the light, though we may have to endure some darkness to see that light. What are you dreaming of today?

The great Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Address

Oldie but Goodie on Friends of Indian Creek

Did a lil day trippin out to Indian Creek this weekend. The crowds are starting to come, and I figured I'd share this piece about Friends of Indian Creek (F0IC), the climber's advocacy group. I wrote the piece at the end of the fall season for the Durango Telegraph. They are doing some great things, and whether we realize it or not, FoIC truly helps shape each and every one of our experiences at The Creek. Cheers!

Friend-ing Indian Creek
Local support for climbing advocacy group growing

There’s a joke amongst locals that Indian Creek is the best rock climbing area in Durango. Located close to the southern edge of Canyonlands National Park in Utah, a mere 2½ hours from town, Indian Creek is a premier sandstone climbing destination that attracts climbers from all over the world. With climbers that make pilgrimages from so far away, it’s easy to see why Durango residents feel like the famous gem that is Indian Creek is in their back yard.

But as the area becomes more popular and use is increasing, some local climbers have risen to the occasion to protect it, most notable notably through involvement with Friends of Indian Creek (FoIC).

Some climbing history of this unique canyon: the native people were surely the first to scale the red rock in one way or another, and their petroglyphs and house ruins can still be seen today. Modern climbing began in the early 1960s, but things didn’t really get going until 1978, with the invention of the spring-loaded camming device. The contraption is essential in protecting climbers from falls, particularly in the perfect parallel cracks that define Indian Creek. Since that important invention, the popularity of Indian Creek has only increased, and today it is more visited by climbers than ever.

The land that Indian Creek is situated on is mostly Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, although some is owned by the Nature Conservancy, including the most popular climbing spots, the Supercrack and Battle of the Bulge buttresses. This mixture of ownership is enough reason to have a climbers’ advocacy group. However, the No. 1 issue that FoIC addresses is actually No. 2.

“Poop is a big issue,” said Sam Lightner Jr., president of FoIC. “It doesn’t break down well in the desert environment.”

Friends of Indian Creek, which was founded in 2004, has played an essential role in lessening the impact of human waste, which was listed as a major concern in the BLM’s 2005 environmental assessment for the area. The group has raised funds to install several toilets at popular areas, and human waste bags are available where there are no toilets. This fall, as part of National Public Lands Day, with the BLM and a crew of volunteers, FoIC installed toilets at two major camping areas, Super Bowl and Creek Pasture. They also did some trail work so campers can access the facilities without harming the delicate desert environment and crytobiotic soil.

Steve Smith is a Durango climber and FoIC board member who helped out with the improvements. A chemistry teacher at Animas High School, he felt the calling to help out because of his deep appreciation for the area. “The Creek is an important place to me because it’s beautiful,” Smith said. “There is a stark beauty there that is unique to the Southwest. The climbing is also unique; it blends strength and technique in a very distinct way.”

Smith says that the work he’s done with FoIC involves talking with land managers, restocking the waste bags, and working on selling T-shirts as a fund-rasier. He credits the Durango community for being supportive and proactive through FoIC. “At the recent Public Lands Day, Durango was highly represented, including a large crew from the Fort Lewis College climbing club,” he said. Backcountry Experience and Kling Mountain Guides have also hosted events that have raised money for FoIC, including the recent Reel Rock Tour fund-raiser at the Abbey Theatre, which garnered $750.

Amanda Kiessel, a Backcountry Experience employee who helps organize the fund-raisers, noted that it’s important for the store to support preservation efforts for a couple of reasons. “We want to support organizations that protect and preserve the playgrounds our customers enjoy,” she said. “It’s where we go for staff retreats. We love Indian Creek, too.”

Smith feels that a little effort goes a long way when working with land managers. “The biggest accomplishment of FoIC is developing positive relationships with these folks,” he said. “Having positive relationships requires simple consideration for their needs and perspectives. It’s really a case of people being nice to each other and being willing to help each other out so both groups get what they want.”

The BLM is quick to agree that the FoIC has done a great job representing climbers. Bob Leaver, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM Monticello Field Office, says that he’s been overwhelmed with the number of volunteers who have shown up to help with recent projects. “There is a sense that these folks really want to give back to the area,” Leaver said. “This year we had 97 volunteers for our two projects at Indian Creek.”

Leaver noted that in addition to FoIC, other groups have contributed efforts to improve Indian Creek, including Rocky Mountain Field Institute, the Access Fund, and the American Alpine Club. Earlier this year, FoIC received the BLM State Director’s Public Lands Partner award for its efforts at Indian Creek.

Another mission of FoIC is to keep the camping free of charge. There are no fees to camp or climb in Indian Creek, and it is perhaps the most well known climbing area in the West that remains so. These are just two more unique features of Indian Creek, and when complimented with the views and landscape of the region, it is regarded as one of the best places to climb in the world.

“It’s got a quintessential Western view, a John Wayne-looking place; it is the classic American desert,” Lightner said.

Lightner, who has been working with climbing-related access issues since the 1980s, feels that Indian Creek is in a good place with regards to keeping the area open to climbers. Because of that, the scope of FoIC is broadening to encompass other areas and issues. The group is working to get a climber-friendly policy in place in Arches National Park, something that could also impact climbing policies in Canyonlands, as the two areas are governed by the same office.

Back on the Indian Creek radar, there is currently a push from San Juan County to have an OHV trail pass through Creek Pasture, one of the main Indian Creek campsites. Friends of Indian Creek would like to see the BLM revisit the idea and perhaps make the road avoid that campsite.

“In the next few years, we are also hoping to get a walk-in campground for climbers to use,” Lightner added. “Someplace where you could camp for a weekend, and not have to drive your car, for example, a place located by some of the climbing walls.”

Smith noted that it is everyone’s responsibility to protect Indian Creek and the unique experience that the area provides. “We must continue to use simple considerations as climbers: closing gates, controlling dogs around cattle, obeying closures for raptors, not climbing above or near petroglyphs, and helping to improve the high-use areas like at the Public Lands Day. A little bit of effort goes a long way.”

For more information on Friends of Indian Creek visit their website at Like the group on Facebook at for updated information on the region.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Moonlight Dreamchasers

My first zine, Moonlight Dreamchasers, is now available on Kindle for $0.99. It is heavily revised, and I also added three stories to the collection. The stories included are: This is Buildering, Jack and the Mormon Law, Mary Jane, Climbing Out of Bed, and A Year in the Heart of a Climber. I hope ya'll enjoy, and if anyone is interested in writing a review please let me know and we'll work something out.

Moonlight Dreamchasers on Kindle.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blogging is the New Poetry

"He who is not busy being born is being dying," -Bob Dylan

I recently heard a quote on a song by the rapper Canibus that writer's block is not a problem he has, rather his problem is having too many words, too much to say. I don't believe in writer's block either. I've always got something to write, if I didn't it would be like not having air to breathe. Now getting those thoughts onto paper is another story, but when that doesn't happen, it's not writer's block, it is a sign to take a walk, a run, go for a ski, a bike ride, a climb. A sign to meditate, or have sex or do yoga! If you are a writer you will not get writer's block. Believe that!

That said, I've been writing shorter things lately, which kind of drives me crazy. I want to be a novelist dammit, but the vision for my novel is not clear in my mind, so I won't start writing until it is. Or, as Allen Ginsberg once said, "I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind."

So maybe writer's block is just a lack of vision. Ponder that. My other problem in my mind is that I have so much writing, that I believe is good, that I want the world to read. It is the time in my career that I have to be a businessman. I have to sell my work. This isn't something I ever really imagined when I was trying to create beautiful stories. It is reality though. Fortunately it is 2012 and selling stories is easier than ever. Can anyone reading this help me sell some stories? My message in a bottle is my blog. I'm not hard to find if you think you can help me. No one is hard to find in 2012, unless you're not on Facebook. Sometimes I wish I wasn't on Facebook.

If you're not busy being born, you are busy dying. What if more people took that quote to heart? What if we all realized how precious our lives were, and that there are sources out there that want to conspire to help us live out our dreams?

My blog has been a great outlet while I'm struggling to find the vision for my next longer, beautiful project. Blogging is the new poetry...I'm out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whatcha Gonna Do On The Planet Today?

Well, it's back to the blue bird skies up here in Durango, Colorado and I'm psyched to see them. My kind of weather. It's meant to snow in the winter, and I'm glad we got some snow on the mountains, but this blue bird weather is what does it for me. I've been spending way too much time in front of a computer lately, and I want to try and bask in the sun for a bit today. A few things first.

As I wrote yesterday I'm leaning towards self-publishing Climbing Out of Bed. The question of whether to self-publish or go the traditional route is heavy on my mind. I guess I need to meditate on it for a minute. So that's what I'll do.

In the midst of my angst of what to do with my book, a new friend reached out and shared a piece she wrote, inspired by some words that I wrote. So I wanted to share her piece, I Love, Love. Check it out.

Also, to try to boost our readership of The Climbing Zine I've been sharing stories on If you're looking for a sneak peek into Volume 4 my piece A Climber in the Winter of his Content just went live. If you're looking to savor the entire zine together don't read it though :) The title is opposite of something I wrote a number of years back called A Climber in the Winter of his Discontent. The difference is actually climbing in the winter versus not.

Lastly, I'm trying to be grateful for what I have, and not trying to obsess about what I don't have. I've been getting some love from sponsors, and I'm especially grateful to be an ambassador for Deuter. Looking forward to blogging for them and testing out their awesome gear. Here's a link to my ambassador page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rejection (from a publisher) on Valentine's Day

I made a post this morning about staying positive about being single on Valentine's Day. In the interest of being honest (the job of a writer) the more I hear and read about V-Day the more I am negative about it. After all it's not just the celebration of love, it's very specific, it's about the love between people in relationships. What does this holiday have to offer us who aren't in a relationship? It's like people who wish everyone Merry Christmas during the holidays; not everyone is Christian or believes in Christmas.

Luckily I did go to yoga today, which always makes me more positive. It helps me open my heart, always a good thing to do. It also makes my mind reach a meditative state. Life is long, there is still hope to find someone to love. It probably won't happen today, but it could happen tomorrow; maybe it will happen with someone I've already met, but just isn't in my life on this particular day.

I also got my first rejection letter for Climbing Out of Bed today. What a bummer, they had to deliver it on Valentine's Day. I'm bummed. Kick me when I'm down, I think. But, this stuff is all part of the process. It took years for Jack Kerouac to get On The Road published. Jay-Z was rejected by the music industry, so he decided to start his own record label.

So that is what I think I'm going to do. I'm leaning towards self publishing Climbing Out of Bed. What do traditional publishers know anyways? Self publishing has been working well for The Climbing Zine Volume 3 so why not try it with my book?

Anywho, I figured I'd come clean about my state of mind on this holiday, honesty is the path for the writer. And like Jay-Z once rapped, "I drove through the fork in the road and went straight." It just might be my time to be a renegade in the world of publishing.


I have been out of a solid writing routine lately. It happens. I'm a writer, and the more I write the more I also realize there are other elements to being a published author besides actually writing. Lately I've been promoting my writing alot. Someday maybe I'll have people that do that for me, but currently I do it myself, tooting my own horn as they say. That said, I hope to get immersed in a big writing project in the near future. With another house sitting gig on the way after this one, I certainly have plenty of free time on my hands.

Today is Valentine's Day. Like many folks out there I am single on Valentine's Day. This used to bother me in the past, but it really doesn't, at least not today. With the exception of Thanksgiving, I'm not really big on holidays. I think holidays have so many falsities attached to them that getting upset because I don't have a special ladyfriend on a certain day would be silly, don't you think?

I do think it is cool there's a day to celebrate love though. So that's exactly what I will do today. I love my life. I love my family. I love my friends. I love climbing, and everything that has come along with it. In a couple hours I'm headed to a yoga class. I love yoga more and more as I get older and learn more about it. It is a beautiful thing.

It's snowy and cold outside my writing window at the moment. I just got a final draft to the last story for The Climbing Zine Volume 4 from D. Scott Borden, so I'm going to send that off to our wonderful graphic designer Mallory Logan. We're close to shipping! Hopefully I can get back in the zone of creating something beautiful and long for the people, after this project is done. I guess that is the head space of the writer. It's great to see something published, but a true artist knows she or he is only as great as what they are working on at the moment.

Much Love,

Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lawton's Route Re-cap from Mark Grundon

Mark Grundon, rock climbing guide extraordinaire has bolted a line in El Salto, Mexico, in memory of our dear friend Adam Lawton.

His report on the climb can be found at his blog, El Potrero Chico Guides.

Mark is a guide in El Potrero Chico, Mexico half the year, and in Yosemite, California, the other half, so if you're ever looking for a guide he is the man!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Climbing Zine on Kindle (Ready to Read)

Well after a couple of weeks of trail and error, The Climbing Zine Volume 3 is now available on Kindle. We priced it at $3.99, half of the cost of our printed version.

Click here to see The Climbing Zine Volume 3 on Kindle.

I hope all you Kindle readers enjoy this, and please contact me if you have any feedback on the format.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Who The F**k is Cliff Cash?

Well here he is, one of The Climbing Zine's most frequent contributors:

For more details, CLICK HERE to visit the Cliff Cash blog.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

eLaboration on Motion and eMotion

As I wrote some last night I am currently staying waaaaaaay out in the hills, on a 30 acre property. I am house sitting an off-the-grid house, one that is more sustainable than any other type of dwelling I've ever stayed in. The people who own the house grow their own food, have various animals (pigs, horses, chickens), and get most of their energy from the sun (solar).

On day four I'm finally settling into this place, and I am starting to appreciate the solitude. At first I wasn't sure if they had the internet, but they do, so I feel a connection to the rest of the world. It's like if Henry David Thoreau had Facebook at Walden. It is what it is.

Solitude is a crazy thing because it makes you directly look into your own soul. Looking in I am happy with some things, and other aspects of my life, such as my dietary habits, I realize need to be improved.

As I wrote last night too I feel that yearning for love. All human beings feel that, and that is what brings us together. Even in this day and age with so many technological advances what we truly need stays the same. And that is why I wrote last night that all we are is love. That is the greatest thing we possess, the greatest gift we can give, and the greatest thing to share. Without love what are we?

Well, there's my morning thoughts from the solitude of Windy Ridge. I'll post some photos as soon as I start taking some. The view from the outhouse is world class.

Much Love,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Motion and eMotion

What else are we but love? I've been staying way out in the hills near Durango, Colorado, actually closer to Bayfield, Windy Ridge to be exact, and this is the first thing I'm driven to write on my bloggie blog since being here.

I love the simplicity of blogging, the channeling of in-the-moment thoughts, into words, out to the interweb, the world.

Are we anything but love? That is what I think out here, all alone, with no way to actually reach out to another breathing human in flesh. All alone I realize how social I am. How I yearn to love thee women. The women, thee women, you are out there, I know, so that comforts me and I move along with my night, light the fire, light one up, drink one down, listen to iTunes. Love you world. Love you.

Freedom and Volume 4

Well of course The Climbing Zine Volume 4 is taking us longer than we expected. The zine always does. This time we're making sure it's our best volume yet, so it will be worth the wait. We're also figuring out distribution, and the whole e-reader thing, to reach as large of an audience as possible. That said Volume 4 WILL drop this month, I promise. In the meantime, here is a poem that will be published in Volume 4. Cheers, Luke.

Freedom by Luke Mehall

Freedom, where are you?
I found you briefly, growing up in the flatlands
And then, you were flattened
By growing up, taking tests
Who would have known to fail was the best?
I failed so many times I failed at failure
Wailing with the prospect that I had nothing

Freedom I looked for you in magic mushrooms and LSD
Smoking marijuana every chance I got
Risking getting busted and imprisonment to escape a mental prison
Freedom, I found you in Allen Ginsberg’s America
As my tears spilled into my murderous coffee
Freedom, did I see you again at the campfire?
Did I see you when I gave up and wasn’t looking?
When I wanted to die because I had nothing to live for?

Freedom I found you in climbing, higher and higher
Till all negativity and doubt perspired, leaving just me
Realizing at the time all I wanted to be, was to be

Freedom, then I got addicted to you
And the addiction was just as false
As freedom being found in simply the red, white and blue

It can be, true, but what I learned most about you
I learned you are an ingredient
An essential part in the recipe of a human life
Too much and your heart and soul will ache
Not enough give, too much take
Freedom I think I understand you more
I learned more than I ever wanted to know (at the time)
Freedom now I’ll compliment you in rhyme
Freedom I’ll always be searching in climbing, above
Freedom you are the best when complimented with love

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