I have more access...

Added: 31-8-2007

more from the man….back sitting in exactly the same place as the last entry, this time sans jugglers but with a steady stream of passing naked bikers and a fella off to my right repeatedly shouting “You’re all evil!”…the Burn continues, more hot weather today and we’re getting closer to all sorts of pyrotechnics as the weekend approaches.

yesterday we encountered more drama as the weather took a turn for the worse and our camp was totally decimated. the dust can really whip up out here and during the afternoon we experienced a gigantic whiteout that included some pretty serious winds…about 3.30 most of us were sitting in the kitchen tent when there was a huge crash from outside – our twenty odd feet high pallet rack, supporting our camp signs and various blinking electronic things, had collapsed spectacularly, blown down by the wind and almost decapitating a fellow standing nearby (he missed death by throwing a Buster Keaton move – the structure literally landed around him leaving him unscathed in the middle apparently). after rushing to the rack we turned back to see that the kitchen tent had been entirely decimated too, the tarp blown down and the poles all bent. finally there was my tent – survived the wind but not the large ladders and poles blown onto it. I got a rip in the tarp, a snapped peg and a severed pole. not good. add it into the inventory of my things that are Completely Covered In Dust and it is clear that Burning Man has taken way more of a toll on my stuff than I ever imagined.

so drama it was….spent the remainder of the afternoon covered in dust with the rest of the camp, running round trying to salvage things and move the kitchen to a new place. we became a bunch of exhausted people, of of which meant we were missing such Burning Man delights as Math Camp, the Propane Poofter Workshop, Slut Cultivation 101, Mario Mayhem Sings Toto’s Africa (nb. one of my favourite moments so far was cycling past a man in a kimono on a carpet in front of his tent singing along to Elaine Paige’s ‘I Know Him So Well’ in an extremely passionate way), Playa Speed Dating, Grin and Bear It! Public Nakedness For the Shy, and, shamefully, Sexy Bitches Like It Raw (er, 5.30 to 6.30am yesterday morning, can’t believe we missed it). last night I was actually in bed by midnight, amazing considering the previous days…

anyway, we’ve recovered and now we are gearing up for our big party this evening – Wolf and Lamb from New York are apparently going to come along and knock out a 14 hour DJ set, putting Sven Vath to shame and basically ensuring no one in the area of our camp gets any sleep whatsoever tonight. then, tomorrow: the burning of The Man. we have a new man now, some clever people have replaced the old one with a nicely lit green fella and we’re all gonna do some whopping and a-hollerin’ round him tomorrow night. gone be something alright, if any of us can stay awake…

Stuart                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Playa calling

Added: 29-8-2007

awooga. live Burning Man blogging in full effect. I’m writing this under a shady tarp, just outside the main ‘Centre Camp’ from where I can hear the calming sounds of festival bongos. behind me someone is juggling. if I look up from the computer I can see…well, all of humanity I supposed, as long as humanity is wearing as few clothes as possible and is liberally decorated with things in neon colours. yes, as suspected, Burning Man is Quite A Scene, and we’ve spent a fair proportion of our time hear wandering round slack-jawed at all everything we’ve encountered.

and what would these things be? well, everything is taking place on the Playa, a desert space so flat that anything is possible, especially from an outsider art point of view. the festival is arranged in a giant semi-circle, with the Man (more on that in a minute) in the centre and then about 18 blocks radiating out from 9 o’clock all the way around to 3 o’clock. you’ve got camps on all these streets therefore, from resdential areas futher away from the centre to the full-on party camps (yes, we are one of those. once we get our generator working) right on the first street AKA the Esplanade. in the northern part of the clock there is just gigantic space for everyone to do what they want, whether it be driving giant mutant art cars that in most cases act as giant otherwordly mobile discos, building amazing art installations out of pretty much anything (notable materials include old car and tanker parts, anything with neon on it, or tarp) or just writing round in various states of undress. all told I hear there are about 50,000 people here. our camp has 25 and is easily the best. once we get the generator running.

what have we seen then…well, biggest talking point has to be that on Monday night the Man, who is not normally scheduled to burn until Sunday, was sabotaged by a deranged fool/anarchist hero (delete according to taste) which led to the strange site of thousands of neon-lit bikes steaming across the Playa at 3am to stand around and watch an unscheduled burn. “Save the Man!” cried some. “Let him burn!” cried others. either way the saboteur was caught, roundly ticked off and then taken into custody. it is unlikely that he will be allowed back in, ever.

aside from a premature burn there have been plenty of other things to entertain us. for example, every morning we get a naked man with butterfuly wings coming into our camp. strange at first, weirdly normal over time. there are the continuinally moving art cars/sund systems, some of which are pirate ships, icebergs or even giant versions of Jabba’s sand barge from Return of the Jedi. all contiunally blast a diet of techno into the atmosphere, although there was one brave soul yesterday playing U2 from the back of his converted car. dotted around the Playa are tons of art installations, from a crashed monkey space ship to an inflatable tent with a terrifyingly noisy theramin for wasted festival goers to cause havoc with. there is an extremely intricate temple being constructed out on the Playa too, for scheduled destruction on Sunday night, but I’d recommend walking past this to the ape carousel – a large structure of revolving figuresthat is intensely strobed at night to give an really brilliant impression of apes swinging through the trees. much eye candy out here.

and lots of fire too. it’s a pyromaniac’s paradise out here – funny that, considering the name. we’ve got flame thrower arrays, cars with mobile flame throwers and the inevitable fire spinners who seem to have been imported from any other festival I’ve ever been to. over the weekend there will be more fire too, as the art projects will be destroyed one after the other in an orgy of big flames and whooping. at least that’s how I imagine it will go.

anyway, that’s all for now. can’t believe I can get Internet access here – it’s really the middle of nowhere. tonight our camp is hosting the ‘Tron Project’ where we show the movie Tron and a few of our guys reimagine the soundtrack live. the only problem is the power – our (second in three days) generator is playing up and at present we can’t do much in the way of entertaining. we can, however, eat and rest like kings – for our 25 people we have a luxourously stocked kitchen, a huge crash tent with foam and fur, two more big domes for music and movies, and a tent called Prague that could be said to be air-conditioned. it’s a long long way from our small tents, both of which are currently sitting in our camp literally covered in dust, along with the rest of my things and me myself. in my tent it seems like everything is under an inch of playa, making my personal space look like it’s just been discovered after a nuclear war. at this point in my US trip, and considering we are eventually heading back to Hanksville next week I have no idea how I, or my clothes, tent and sleeping bag, will ever be clean again….

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From the heart of Utah

Added: 22-8-2007

from the heart of Utah yes…Dave and I have now made it a few hundred miles north of where we stopped walking on Sunday courtesy of an amazing invention: a car. yes, we are now on a road trip courtesy of Kari Signor, daughter of Bill Signor who we met in West Virginia last year, and we are on our way to Salt Lake City in order to pick up a lift west to the Burning Man festival.

so walking is over for a week or so at least. we had to finish a section however, and what a lot of bother that was. last journal entry relayed how we had managed to get from Moab to the middle of nowhere, and then hitch into Hanksville. well, we still had another 27 miles of a section left and last Sunday we had to do ’em. things did not start well at all though, and we sat outside one of Hanksville’s three gas stations for two and half hours trying to get a lift back to our last position on the 85, some 53 miles south of the town. loads of cars towing boats were going past, none of whom were interested in picking us up (despite our showers and clean appearance, I fear we were still not fresh enough for the crowds of people who go down to their multi-million pound houseboats on Lake Powell. Lake Powell, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, is a controversial man-made reservoir that literally removed all trace of the supposedly amazing Glen Canyon from the map some 40 odd years ago. more here). we eventually got a lift from a kind art gallery owner whose name I have shamefully forgotten, but by the time we got on the road it was about 5.30.

at this point we had a tough decision. we had only got 26 miles down the road and needed another 27 to get back to our starting point. no cars were passing, and it was hot and isolated (again. love Utah). snap decision was made: we would walk our missing miles backwards, walking away from civilisation (er, the direction of Hanksville) and returning to the middle of nowhere we escaped from on Saturday courtesy of Hawaiian surfer Geoff the Red. 10 miles on Sunday night, and another rapidfire 17 on Monday morning (up at 5am, dark, yawning. finished by midday, burning hot, utterly in the back of beyond) saw the job done, and it was with great relief that we got a lift back into Hanksville from a fella named Bill who was off fishing somewhere in the north of the state.

so all was good. and here we are: clean, refreshed, and driving all over Utah in a big ol’ SUV. very American methinks. I reckon we have now seen more of Utah than any other state thanks to Kari’s holiday touring service, and have taken in such sights as Cathedral Valley in the haze caused by a giant forest fire, the Little Sahara sand dunes, the Detour bar in Richfield (bars, as you might expect, are not that common in Utah where c.70% of the population are Mormons. what you have to do is go to a ‘club’ where, for about $5 you can become a temporary member and join the other denizens of the establishment in a gloomy room serving drinks that feel far more illicit than usual. Dave and I – obviously – quite liked it) and the originally named Fish Lake. it’s spectacular country out here, and we’re lucky to be able to see so much of it.

not all is chipper though. Dave’s camera is screwed, and he’s sitting online right now trying to find somewhere in Salt Lake City that will sell him a new one. not an inexpensive purchase that…

anyway, all for now. new links will be added to the previous journal entry after this, new photos should go on the site sometime tomorrow, and we’re gonna be doing our best to update the site before Burning Man. despite the cyberhippy nature of parts of the festival I’d be surprised if we can get Internet access in the middle of the Black Rock Desert and therefore we’re unlikely to be able to get a full update online until about 10 days time. until then, simply think of us in a variety of costumes on the playa (but hopefully not particpating in Assless Chaps Day) and having wild technofun. out….

Stuart                                   Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Moab to Hite, diary

Added: 19-8-2007

rah – a night in a bed. up this morning at 8.15 refreshed and now, one big breakfast later, am finally sitting in front of a computer to relate our latest tale of stupidity and dehydration. as per, I believe diary format will suffice…

Saturday 11th August, Moab to Base Camp Lodge, 17.5 miles

early start following a final night packing at the home of Scott and Amanda (thanks for all the help guys). bought sandwiches at City Market and used the cool morning temperature to head as quickly as possible into the wilderness south of Moab. let’s see….cloudless blue sky, some fetching switchbacks, odd pockets of shade, a pleasant valley walk south with a backdrop of mesas and cliffs – and vehicle support from the much-appreciated Chelsea Cobb (nice delivery of Gatorade, burritos and chocolate). worked out a dance routine involving our umbrellas. it was so good it might never be repeated again. made it to Base Camp lodge about 3.30pm after crossing Hurrah! Pass and sweating a lot. at the Camp we were amazed and delighted to find a bunch of football (soccer) fans, and even more amazed to find they had Fox Soccer Channel on in the middle of nowhere. Leeds won and Spurs lost (big disappointment). the guys there were nice interesting people, and we managed to have a political discussion that lasted a good couple of hours and took in all the topics we currently like (Iraq war intelligence, Hilary, George W.Bush as ‘tragic figure’ (hmmm), American isolation/unilateralism). in a nice twist, and proof that America is actually a small country, two of the guys at the lodge ran the league at the Rockville sports complex in Maryland where Dave and I have played football when in DC. crazy. slept that night in a hogan, a native American yurt-type thing that is constructed from cedar (keeps critters out) and mud (keeps things cool). knackered at 10pm.

Sunday 12th August, Base Camp Lodge to north of Needles Outpost, 25 miles

On the road in the half-light at 6am. got hot early and we trudged south on sandy paths. spent a little time going off the trail and getting lost, and then spent a lot more time retracing our steps trying to find the path. by 11am I was exhausted. packs were heavy due to large volumes of water being carried – our water drop was not for over 20 miles. by the start of the afternoon I think it was the hottest of the trip – our thermometer broke at 115 degrees. sweatmungous. tried to shelter during the afternoon in some shade, ended up under an umbrella curled around a rock in the fetal position trying to keep skin out of the nuclear sun. very hot. rest of the afternoon a complete nightmare, I went white and looked generally dead, Dave soldiered on bravely with very little water. at each stop I collapsed and did a heavy breathing routine that was quite frightening. reached the water drop extremely nervous at about 9pm in the dark, did a small jig when water was found. immediately drank too much and slept outside, too knackered to put up my tent. quite a mess. did wake up during the night to see the Perseids meteor shower though – very nice.

Monday 13th August, north of Needles Outpost to Needles Outpost, 22.7 miles

woke up with no enthusiasm for going anywhere. first part of the morning was spent wheezing along in Dave’s wake praying for shade from the giant mesas. scenery was fantastic but all I was looking at was my feet. likely the worst part of the trip for me (I thought at this point), couldn’t believe what I was getting myself into. after a while I developed a style where I just trudged along looking down, constantly thinking of water. in my head a Greek chorus (or maybe an Ornette Coleman ‘Free Jazz’-type chorus) developed of Edwin Starr singing ‘Gotta to keep on walking!” on one side and Beyonce trilling “Don’t do this, it’s foolish!” on the other. made the water drop at 10.30 and collapsed again. one Clif Bar later I was back on it, for a bit, and help from a man in an RV with water was much appreciated after lunch. an afternoon storm developed and Dave and I lay in the road and got rained on – was great. at about 3.15pm we reached Needles Outpost and the gratefully received help of owners Tracy and Gary – all air con, Gatorade, hot dogs and burgers, and loads of chat. felt 50% human again. showered and cooked dinner, endured an terrifying co-ordinated assault from hundreds of angry mosquitos. at 9pm it was time for bed after eating the Rudolfs’ tasty couscous meal. knackered again, no energy to stay up looking for meteors.

Tuesday 14th August, Needles Outpost to Bobby’s Hole, 25.5 miles

6am start, fended off more mosquitos. Dave left his walking sticks at the outpost and had to go back to them. ran into the Canyonlands National Park ranger and he laughed at our bold/stupidbeyondbelief plan to walk across the park. nevertheless, his local knowledge on paths was good and we decided to cut across the park instead of walking around Elephant Hill. a good decision – what followed was the best walking trail of the trip, following the Chessler Park Loop SW towards our destination for the day. before leaving we filled up on loads of ill tasting water and met lots of French holidaymakers (the French have all quit France and are in Utah hiking). it was a hardcore and amazing morning, walking across trails of rock that required a lot of scrambling (with full packs this can be an issue) and being psyched by the quality views everywhere. incredibly hot again, Dave drinking all his water and coming on sprightly, me trying to conserve mine in case our water drop 15 miles away was compromised. after a while the sun settled into a furious holding pattern, I became a lolling, raggedy zombie and Dave suddenly turned into David Lean by getting out the video camera and asking me to repeat various ascents and descents of stone things. God I was knackered…made Bobby Jo Campground in the middle of the pm and had a sleep, then spent the rest of the day walking towards the water stash. big expectations when we got there – and then it was fouled, only a litre left. Dave and I shaped up, and had a prelude to a big argument. he had run out of water, and left to walk another 10 miles to the next (hopefully there) drop. I stayed on my own and cooked noodles with my reserve water, hitting the sack very weakly at 9pm.

Wednesday 15th August, Bobby’s Hole to Manti La Sal National Forest, 25.5 miles

I woke at 5, 2 litres of water left and 10 miles to go to catch up with waterhound Dave. in a terrible mood, memories of the Paonia wilderness misadventure clear in my mind. start walking in the dark, hoping to get most of the 10 done without being caught like a vampire in the sun. discovered that I couldn’t get ‘Staying Alive’ out of my head. at about 9.15 I had some incredible luck, running into two dust reseachers (yes, researchers of dust!) called Dan and Cody who – it certainly seemed at the time – saved my life with six litres of water and an orange. great folks, and by the time I reached Dave for the second round of our argument about water consumption I was in a fine mood and well hydrated for the first time in ages. once we had concluded our shouting match about the best way to deal with water in the wilderness we climbed up a few thousand feet to the forest and cooler temperatures. I immediately became happier and had “People Make The World Go Round” in my head. things got even better when we found the next water stash and remembered we had also buried two beers and a can of tuna with it. had a quick sleep, saw some bear tracks and trucked onto Duck Lake for 7pm. I thought I might be able to get a swim and a wash (we’re pretty darned funky at this point) but the lake was dry. instead we cooked a massive Top Ramen noodles meal, had a fire and drank a beer. we also apologised to each other for earlier water arguments and agreed that All Was Good. sleep at 9pm feeling very good after expertly (meaning I only used three attempts) hanging a bear bag.

Thursday 16th August, Manti La Sal to Manti La Sal, 25.5 miles

oversleep and are not away until 6.30pm. lovely morning, sun is out but we’re at 9000 feet so it’s cool. find the first water stash of the day and meet a group of men out on ATVs getting ready for the start of the bow hunting season on Saturday. make a mental note to warn any deer we see that things are about to change for the worst. also meet a guy from a camp up in the woods for disturbed teenagers – they go out to the wilderness for six to eight week programs designed to get them to be better people. the guy informed us that there was a disturbed adolescent on the loose who wanted to do something so that he could get arrested and get off the mountain. had horrible visions of a hulking brute called Rex or Gorp who would take advantage of our slow pace to use us as a punching bag/ticket out of nowhere. agreed not to approach him under any circumstances. after lunch we got caught in a huge storm and stood under a tree for an hour with our umbrellas – very boring. fella from the camp found us and told us that Rex had been caught. much relief all round. Dave’s tendons started playing up like last year, he made things worse by treading in an icy puddle. with all the rain and cloud it was pretty cold up top for a bit. eventually we went downhill and ended up camping on the only flat bit of ground we could find – the only problem with it being that it was essentially a cow toilet. more noodles, Dave to bed at a new early record of 7.30pm.

Friday 17th August, somewhere in the forest to somewhere on the way to the 95, 26.9 miles

6am start, cool again. we’re downhill today, heading out of the cool and into the hot. Dave’s tendons have reached the point where he finds it hard to stay still, so everytime we stop for something he circles me like a strange cripple with two left feet. feel a bit sorry for him, especially as I’m feeling 100% after my earlier brush with dehydration. downhill is quick, we cover a lot of miles and are basically done with the day by 6pm. not too much to report, apart from the fact that the path keeps looping back on itself and making us walk further than we want. camp at a great location with a view over a canyon and plenty of room to cook Top Ramen. bed at 9pm, just in time for a large storm to roll in and annoy us for a couple of hours with high winds that blow a load of sand into my tent. realise that the Jonathan Safran Foer book that I am reading, Extremely Loud and Incredible Close, is really really good – for a while there it was annoying me.

Saturday 18th August, somewhere on the way down from the forest to the 95, 14.9 miles, with 3 extra miles added for stupidity

great happiness today as we prepare to return to civilisation. as the week went on thoughts turned from water type of drinks we wanted to what type of food, and consuquently our trip to Hanksville today was much anticipated. we got walking at 5.45 and made it to the road without incident at around noon. small problem appears with our plan – there seems to be one car every 20 minutes on this road. we were 53 miles south of Hanksville, had no shade and were literally in the middle of nowhere. we decide to go to Hite Marina and get supplies and, when a truck full of guys who looked like a charitable Boo-Yaa Tribe turned up, we accepted a lift off the trail to get food and drink. only problem was that we were not actually at the turning for Hite, the trail notes had a mistake in them and we hadn’t double checked our position on the map. the Boo-Yaa people took us three miles into the middle of absolutely nowhere before we noticed that we were in a Bad Place. we jumped out of the truck, leaving my lovely GoLite umbrella behind and began to walk a bonus three miles back to the road. quite why our benefactors didn’t reveal there was no store where they were taking us was a mystery…back on the road there was depression and much swearing on my part. felt like we would never get out of the nowhere we found ourselves in. luckily for us, however, help came in the form of Geoff the Red, a surfer from Hawaii on a road trip who picked us up and took us the distance into Hanksville. all was well with the world again, and we all checked into a motel and made ourselves clean. more miracles happened when we turned on the TV and the Spurs-Derby game was on (are you reading Uncle Bob? quality outfit, that Derby). Geoff hung with us, we all checked photos and drank beer, and then had our much anticipated steak meal in Hanksville’s ‘Best’ restaurant, a place where the service was interesting, our meals cold (we got our expensive steaks reheated and they put a baked potato in foil in the microwave – some nice screaming from the kitchen. there was also a quality incident with a snake on the floor of the dining room, and we particularly enjoyed the delivery of our salads after our main course) and the decor questionable. we loved it.

anyway, that’s it. today we are trying to get back to the road to complete a 27 mile walk up to the turning for the Henry Mountains. it’s our last walking for a bit as it’s Burning Man time this week. gonna be good.

oh, I got my latest test results and am fit to continue for another month. this means more San Francisco party information coming soon. huuge thanks to the Allen Memorial Hospital in Moab for their help with the tests, and the extremely cool fact that they waived the costs so I could donate more money to the Association of International Cancer Research. hospital people – you rule.

more soon. another hot day today…

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook


Added: 11-8-2007

Alive…alive!!! we have made it to Hanksville, centre of the known universe. well, centre of all things around here anyway, a town with a population of 300 and 2 steakhouses. just a quick journal entry to let those with worries (mother! father!) know that we are alive, well, and currently drinking Polygamy Porter (“Because one is never enough!”) in the Best Value Motel. we have endured trials, tribulations, dehydration, spoiled water drops, tendonitis, a blazing argument, a diet of Top Ramen noodles, chafing and many other maladies peculiar to the cross-desert hiker. we have emerged better men, changed men, thinner men. we have a story to tell…and no time to tell it here. more tomorrow when we get up. for now – steak.

oh, Martin Jol rules. out.

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

River Man

Added: 11-8-2007

offline for a few days now, seems like the website is getting a little dusty…where to begin…well, I can highly recommend the delights of rafting down the Colorado river. when considering a rafting trip, dear readers, I advise you all to do away with commercial ventures and instead assemble yourselves a team of crack individuals drawn from all over the US but with one thing in common: Colorado. take this team, make certain that it contains an age range from about 6 years old to over 60, equip liberally with cool boxes stuffed full of food and drink, healthy supplies of beer including such pecularities as Old Chubb (an 8.8% mindblower of a Scottish Style Ale) and Steam Engine Lager (tagline: “Arguably the best American style amber lager in the World.” Not quite Carlsberg then) and a desire to seriously kick back while floating downstream on a very muddy water. stir this mix gently for a couple of days in order to be ready for a 60th birthday party, introduce a wardrobe of funky costumes for the ladies and bizarre combinations of y-fronts and vests with spunge breasts attached for the lads. bring forth guitars and sing songs, pitch the idea of (a long story, we are now in Utah) to the group and then let settle overnight until Dave wakes up still wearing his sponge breasts.

breathe out. then let half of the group disperse back to their homes and let the wild ones remain. 20 people, all up for the Westwater rapids. youngest age 11, oldest, well, let’s not go public with that. bring forth Caleb, the finest paddle boat captain we had (and the most, er, relaxed), and let him mold a green team into potential greatness. begin two days of practice and include some frankly appalling rescue drills. rest one night and practice some more. approach the rapids with care, then with wild abandon. whoop, holler and swear at the waves, let people fall out the boat (Morgan) and then drag them in again, punch the air like Bryan Adams in a Kayak, send forth more whoops. get a fixed grin on your face that refuses to leave. approach Skull rapid with the trepidation that four days on non-stop warning from the elders will give you (Mike, Willy, you had us on that one). fly through Skull nonchantly, avoiding the Room of Doom and its attendent animal carcasses and then come nearly to grief on the soulfully named Sock It To Me rapid (not sure if the YouTube link really nails it, but…) where Chelsea will fall overboard and Dave will save her, and our boat will end up stuck on a rock with three people facing forwards and rowing, and the other three of us facing backwards and rowing. realise that this is not the method to get off of a rock.

escape and do more whooping. be gutted that the rapids are over. be grateful that there is beer and much chat. realise that we are all still grinning. do flips off the boat, get relaxed in the way that we have been all through Colorado and then have a moment of great satisfaction when we lash together three row boats and the paddle boat and them float downstream whilst toasting the world with Jim Beam at 1.30pm. get an even better feeling when, for a while, our floating city is being rowed on one end by Mike, our ever genial host from Redlands Mesa, and his son Danny on the other, some 20 feet away. ditto when Steve and his son Grady get in on the act….

ok, stupid prose aside we have just had the most incredible four days on the Colorado river with good good friends. we did lots of paddling, performed quite sloppily and were almost voted off the rafting island (at one point Dave and Chelsea and I were not going to make the final cut for the rapids due to inexperience and a lack of a paddle boat captain) and then, just when we thought we were out, they pulled us back in…we bonded as a team, as in all the great rafting movies (like, er, The River Wild with Meryl Streep) and then nailed the rapids without, miraculously, Dave or I falling in. these rapids were a step up from the Class 3s we did in Buena Vista (I think they are normally a Class 4) so now we feel like we have a vague idea what to do in certain situations and will likely be planning future rafting trips soon (coming next year: Rowing the Pacific: Kon-Tiki 3 with Stu and Dave)…

we’re back in Moab now, on dry, hot land. today has been another admin day with lots of running around collecting things (we have some extremely great new umbrellas courtesy of GoLite, gonna be right handy for what we’ve got coming up in the sun) and packing stuff and doing what needs to be done. as I write Dave has gone off to photograph arches and canyons in the setting sun, and I am sitting in a bar in front of televised little league baseball (who watches this, apart from parents and scouts?!). tomorrow we quit Moab for ridiculous heat – nearly two weeks of extremely early starts and late finishes now await us, along with Lord knows how many moments of intense nervousness as we approach our water drops. for the record (i.e. if anyone wants to follow if we are alive) we should arrive at Needles Outpost on Monday night and then begin a real hard section of walk to Hite near Lake Powell on Tuesday morning. we should get up the 95 highway to our turn for the Henry Mountains on Sunday afternoon, at which point we will move to the Best Value Inn in Hanksville (“Your stop in the desert!”) for a well-earned shower and bed on Sunday evening (we are taking calls then: 00 1 435 542 3471). Monday morning we set off for a three day walk over the Henrys and then…well, then it just has to be Burning Man. only problem is, we have to hitch from the middle of nowhere in Utah to Reno in order to make it happen.

will try to check in before then, hopefully at Hanksville. any other access before then is going to be unexpected, a real pain ‘cos I’m missing the start of the Premier League (nb. Dave is missing the start of the Rymans League or something)…

all for now. here’s the thanks part, coming at you like hiphop liner notes: Mike, you are a real and true star. Dave and I are so grateful for you hooking us up with the river expedition and that you all had a crazy faith that we would get down the rapids. we were dead pleased not to let you down. Willy: likewise you wise old river man. Paula: great food, top party. won’t forget Dave’s paddle in a hurry. Patty, Steve, Dave, K.O. – was a pleasure to be in your team from the beginning, hope we can do it again sometime. to the later crew, far too many to mention – we hope we can repay all of your partying quality (nice sarong, Chip) by inviting you all to join us in San Francisco at the end of October/beginning of November. Danny, Grady, Caleb, Christian, Nicole – Dave’s house is always open to you in England 😉 mine too of course, once I get one…

oh, we also saw a bobcat, and a bald eagle. to us poor Europeans this was really quite fantastic…

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Dewey Bridge to Moab

Added: 5-8-2007 0

back in Moab now after another event-filled couple of days…last post was from the motel we repaired to last Wednesday night – since then we’ve left town and come back again. following the brush with dehydration on the Kokopelli we were keen to drink as much as possible in town and get healthy, something that was made possible thanks to visits to the Moab brewery and Woody’s Tavern on Wednesday night. marvellous place, Moab…

so, yes, at the time of our departure back to the trail on Thursday afternoon we were in good shape. to get to the trail we required the kind assistance of Chelsea, neice of Mike who we stayed with at Redlands Mesa, and a climber who is here in Moab staying with friends Amanda and Scott for part of August. Chelsea was kinda enough to take us the 30 miles back to Dewey Bridge where we got on the road in fairly overcast conditions that added up to temperatures in the high 80s/low 90s. not too bad. we made good time, charging down the river road through spectactular scenery (canyons, towers and pinnacles of red rocks etc. let’s just say that this is total western movie country) as the sun got hotter and hotter. tunes were courtesy of the new Common album and, rather fantastically, a Soulsearching podcast that began with the Isley Brother’s ‘Summer Breeze’. top walking moments…

we made 15 miles on Thursday afternoon, and ended up at the Red Cliffs Lodge, a rather posh and fantastic retreat for those who are on considerably higher budgets than us. nevertheless, we took our sweaty selves into the restaurant, feasted on expensive food and wine and admired the view from the windows – the lodge and surrounding area has been used in countless movies over the years, from John Wayne-era westerns to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and, er, Mission Impossible II. you can imagine the scenery out there is a little special…

the rooms were not within our budget however, and therefore we camped literally across the road from the lodge on a bit of flat land we found in the dark. we had fantastic stars, a little bit of thunder and lightning…and bugger all sleep. temperatures are so hot at night here that I’m finding it difficult to fall asleep and instead end up turning over all night cursing. not a great night.

Friday morning we were up early and finishing the miles into Moab. not so much to report unless you count the amazing scenery that comes with following the Colorado river south down the 128. canyons, overlooks, boulder fields, sheer drops – magic. hot in the sun, cool in the shade. all was good, save for one thing – our last water drop. yet again the stash was spoiled, meaning that 5 out of 16 gallon jugs we dropped have been compromised in some way (another one we found on Thursday had sprang a leak, we’re still not entirely sure why when others in equally exposed places hadn’t). while we didn’t need the water on Friday morning thanks to filling up at Red Cliffs Lodge, we were very perturbed at another ruined stash….doesn’t bode well, and we’re a bit nervous about the integrity of the remaining drops across the state. it’s likely an animal that is getting into the drops but there seems to be no pattern to this evil beast’s motives – drops have surived in trees and under rocks, and yet have also been mauled in the same sort of hiding places. who knows what motivates this malicious creature?

to add insult to injury, at a spring at the bottom of the 128, before we went into Moab, we met a mad cyclist who insisted that we would die in the desert. we never got this guy’s name but he was a Vietnam vet who had come out of that war with a self-confessed ‘difference’ about him, a difference that seemed to manifest itself in the use of long words and rambling rants (some of which sounded remarkably like some of Dave and I’s theories about America and Americans, which was slightly worrying). he believed it impossible for us to have walked to where we met, and went on to declare that we would never make it across the state alive. talk about cheery. he was scrawny, tanned from all-year round outdoor living, and in possession of what may or may not have been a war wound (Dave reckoned it was an appendix scar, I opt for a more outlandish take on it) that was like a knot in the centre of his abdomen. it was an odd look (the guy really did himself no favours – one rant ended up with him yelling “And then the police were screaming at me to stay away from the school! but I just wanted to explain that the kids all have to become farmers to save the planet!”. not sure that old scrawny prophets outside school gates are encouraged these days in US towns).

anyway, that was the journey into Moab. since then we’ve been lucky enough to bunker down at the house of Amanda and Scott, meet Amanda’s parents Becky and Michael and be introduced to the rather fine comedy show Flight of the Conchords, the funniest show with two blokes on guitars since, well, Trevor and Simon I guess (nb. it’s way funnier than Trevor and Simon).

so what now? a week off, for a start. my medical tests need to take place next Friday, and if we carried on walking we’d literally be in the middle of nowhere – the real middle of nowhere – next week. therefore we are going on holiday: on a rafting trip down the Colorado river. we’ve been lucky enough to be invited to join an armada of Mike (he of Redlands Mesa, again)’s friends as they cruise four days down the river from Loma to Cisco. we’ve already walked some of the trail by the river on this route, and we know it will rock. it will also give us time to sit on our backsides, and develop a plan to deal with future compromised water drops. not sure how we’ll do it, but we’ll post here when we know…

Big shout to: Larry, whose kind donation to the Association of International Cancer Research is much appreciated, along with all the help in Grand Junction. nice one mate. and to Chelsea, Amanda and Scott – Moab hosting extremely gratefully received!

nb. new pictures here in the Gallery – last ones of Colorado.
nb. nb. almost finished Harry Potter. bloody big book, very nicely progressing. next up: Jonathan Safran Foer’s second one, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Kokopelli Journal

Added: 2-8-2007 0

Sunday 29th July

post-pub we walked 10 minutes to the evening’s camping venue, Triangular Park. lovely grass. at 11.15pm, while relaxing in front of our tents, we came under attack from the park’s sprinkler system, an unprovoked action that caused not a small amount of alarm between the two of us. in the confusion my head torch went missing, presumed lost. tents were eventually reclaimed from the agressive sprinklers, and bed achieved, without light in my case, at approximately 12am.

Monday 30th July

at 7am we were awoken by the sounds of heavy traffic and a goods train. Triangular Park turned out to be right next to a main road and railway line. my head torch was located – in my sleeping bag. we breakfasted in town long and hearty, mindful of the days ahead (trail bars and crisps for breakfast and lunch, with only the evening meals (courtesy of Jon and Kathy Rudolf’s dehydrating operation) to look forward to). more coffee was drunk at a cafe and some outstanding Burning Man matters attended to (we’re going). the terrible news that Mike Reid had died was discovered, his last words a tremendous shout of ‘Paaaaaaat!” across the cosmos. final provisions were bought at City Market at approximately 10.30am. at 11.00 we began our walk to the Kokopelli trail in great heat. ultra-final provisions were bought at Loma and lunch was taken at Mack, attended by three Siberian huskies that lived in the grocery store. at 2.30pm we left tarmac roads and began a two hour odyssey on an up and down path that connected to the Kokopelli. at this time the sun had gone in and was replaced by clouds, possible rain and an appreciated wind. it was minuted that this was a Very Good Thing. at 4.00 we joined the trail proper and began our walk to the first water drop. at 4.30 I was bitten by an ant and swore quite a lot. the water drop was located at approximately 7.00, after a period of searching near the wrong tree. following this important event (which occasioned a great deal of relief for team WTS) we made camp, fought off ants and Dave made toritllas. as I write this now, at 7.32pm, we are still experiencing high temperatures and ant attacks.

Tuesday 31st July

alarm sounded at 6am, camp was cleared by 6.45. Dave reported symptoms of flu, and painkillers were issued. at 7am temperatures were bearable, at 8am less so. we walked 8 miles to our second water drop and recovered it amongst much rejoicing. at this point Crystal Light lemonade powder was tried for the first time, and both of us declared ourselves very satisfied with the results. at 11.00 we set off from the water drop with temperatures in the low 90s. at 11.20 a short cut was noticed and followed. spirits were high at this discovery, and somewhat tempered the fact that we were carrying 50lb packs crammed to the brim with water and trail bars. a lot of sweating was done. at approximately 2.30pm the 3rd water drop was reached. this time things were not so smooth, and only one water jug was recovered from its hiding place – empty. morale was very low at this point, as remaining water supplies were very low. strong action was called for, and therefore we attempted to sleep beneath a railway bridge in some shade. temperatures in the sun at this point were over a hundred degrees farenheit. later, assessed on Dave’s compass/thermometer contraption, they measured 115 degrees farenheit at 5.30. it was decided that the devil was now firmly in the driver’s seat, and that an attempt had to be made on the 4th water drop, ten miles away. spirits were low, flu remedies were taken, packs felt heavy. at 5.45 we set out from under the shady bridge into the sun and began our trek south to  drop 4. cloud cover finally appeared at around 6.15 and the walk was continued in better conditions. exhaustion set in very soon after this however, both of us shuffling along mindful of the limited water supplies we had left. water drop 4 was reached at approximately 9.15pm, video diaries recorded (me with giant tongue) and a slightly manic search of a tree commenced. water was discovered, and relief was felt all round. with little light to see where we were camping, tents were errected somewhat shabbily. completely exhausted, we went to bed as a storm played out to the south of us.

Wednesday 1st August

terrible night’s sleep, Dave with flu, me managing only 1.5 hours (felt completely awake for most of the night, should have been hiking). both of us woke up extremely weak after the previous day, missing a 5.30am alarm and instead getting up at 6. in slaking our thirst the previous evening we had perhaps taken too much of our water supplies and it was a long walk to the 5th drop. temperatures rose quicker than the previous morning, and by the time we reached the drop, at approximately 9.30am, we were both exhausted – me especially so. water was found, relief was voiced, and lemonade was prepared. at this point new plans were discussed in light of the enduring effects of the missed water drop. Dave’s flu persisted, despite extensive painkiller management. it was proposed that we head for the 6th water drop, at Dewey Bridge, at then hitchhike into Moab to attempt full rehydration and flu recovery. no dissent was raised regarding this plan – we are stupid (witness crossing the US on foot) but not so stupid that we stay in the field in >100 degree temperatures at <100% fitness. cloud cover aided our journey to the Bridge, and we covered 8 miles in pretty good fashion. at the bridge more water was located, more lemonade made (total livesaver, this lemondade stuff. we were also necking loads of vitamin drink sachets to keep up whatnot and replenish electro-thingies) and some shade taken. hitching then began, bearing fruit an unbearably hot 1.5 hours later. Joe (he of the Guestbook) picked us up, took us ten miles south to the back of Greg’s truck, and then the whole move was finished off by Bruce, fine fella who took us all the way into Moab. stinking, covered in dust, carrying a little flu and needing much more fluid, we checked into the Best Western at 4.55pm. cleaning has commenced, as has the watching of Fox News (“Dog shoots owner!” “It’s safe to call that a disaster.”). soon we will eat and finalise plans – like how the hell to deal with this heat and still make miles. anyone have a weather machine?

Stuart                                  Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

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