Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's Time for Change

You who have been born in America, I wish I could make you understand what it is like to not be an American, to not have been an American all your life and then, suddenly, with the words of a man in flowing robes to be one, for that moment and forever after.  One moment you belong with your fathers, to a million dead yesterdays.  The next you belong with America, to a million unborn tomorrows...

This is a quote by George Magar Mardikian.  He was an Armenian-American immigrant that was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Harry S. Truman.  In 1956 he wrote an autobiography and this is a excerpt that is on the wall at the Epcot Center.  I went there when I was a little kid and my mom took a picture of it.  I recently found it and thought it was a perfect pick-me-up for the current times.

Too often we complain about how bad things have become.  And most of us feel it getting worse.  We've lost trust in our government, and they seem to care more about lining their pockets.  We nag about the political views of our neighbors, convinced that ours is the only right way to do things.  Our dollar is losing it's value, our judicial system is tarnished, our rights are encroached upon, and our voices fall on deaf ears.  The media would have us believe our country is about to fall apart, their "experts" are sure of it.  The government wants us to think the hard times are coming to an end, because the "analysts" have done studies.  Is there any truth left out there?  I wouldn't really know... Honestly I'm having too much fun with life to care much about the facts.  Even if I did, I don't think I'd have a whole lot of impact on anything important.  I'm a 22 year old, uneducated, punk snowboarder living in this bubble we've named Utah.  But I do know this to be true:  If we remember and live by thoughts like the one above, we'll all be more grateful for what we have, rather than what we're living without.  Life will seem easier, and we'll be more inclined to get our issues sorted out.  America is in a bad spot, but it isn't going anywhere. We'll find that light at the end of the tunnel eventually, but I'm sure once we get there, someone will complain that it's too bright...

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Life Through a lens #4

Pillars in the Night

What do you do when you're on a trip with a huge group of people and all of a sudden you get a case of unsocialitis?  You take a hike!  This is exactly what happened to me right here.  Realistically my hike was only like 200 feet, more of a mosey, but it still did the trick.

This was my first time visiting Moab.  I was with my singles ward and I had a blast, but I'm a single child (a.k.a. spoiled!!!!!!) and at some point in every ward trip I need some alone time.  So on this night I grabbed my camera and walked away from it all, a man apart from the world, conquering the unknown darkness before me in epic style (yeah right...)  So there I was, wandering along, staring at the stars in a cloudless sky, loving the moment, and snapping some photos. I'd only had my camera for two months at this point and I was still trying to get all the cool features figured out.  I hadn't done any experimentation with night photography so I was messing around with anything I could find.  

When I ended up taking this picture it looked ridiculous on the camera, but I'd made a promise with myself to never delete a photo that had any possibility till I could see it on my computer, so I saved it.  Once I got home and took a second look, I saw something I liked in it.  The poles seem to rise up out of nothing, and there is a pattern that I enjoy.

  I now realize that the night makes any regular object completely different.  Honestly, I'm scared of the dark, not city dark, but the wild moonless dark.  Everything transforms and the world becomes a menacing place,  even the sounds of the night make you feel unwelcome.  But those willing to brave the darkness always come back with great stories,  This isn't one of them, but it started my pursuit of those stories, and now I have whole journals about the subject, and I know I have more to come, BRING IT!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jackalope Brothers Trailers

My good buddy (and roommate) Tim and his brother Jake, have begun to build teardrop camping trailers.  They have giant plans for the business and they've been nice enough to bring me in on the process.  Thanks to their awesome negotiating skills, they were able to secure a spot to show off their trailers at the Sportsmans Expo going on this weekend.  So today Tim and I, along with Brandon Clayton, took the trailer down to the South Towne Expo Center, and got it all set up.  We cleaned it up and made it look great, so great that other venders were coming over to check it out.  Here are the pictures of  our space at the expo.

These guys are creating some awesome trailers, that are completely custom and totally different from anything else on the market.  We're pretty proud of the product, and we're excited to see what other styles we can come up with.  The fact that we've already turned heads from other guys in the industry is huge!  If you'd like to check them out, feel free to visit the expo this weekend and tell us what you think!  And If you want one, (which you will!!!) You can contact Jake Olsen at:

Flaming Hot!

So today at work we got a job sheet to run a new line out of a gas pipe that will eventually go to an emergency generator.  This is a pretty common thing that the welding shop has to deal with, but I've never worked on one.  I have worked on plenty of hot water pipes doing the same exact thing, so I didn't think it'd be any big thing.  Before we got to the job site the guy I was working with told me that it may be different because sometimes the shut off valves don't close completely and the gas will actually ignite...

Now the great thing about this little problem is that it's actually better for the gas to burn, rather than having it leak without burning, as this could fill the room and then ignite, which would torch everyone.  The flame won't go back into the pipe because there is constant pressure pushing it out, plus there isn't any oxygen to burn inside.  Secretly I hoped there would be a gas leak because how cool would that be!  I almost wanted to get some marshmallows just in case.


The end result
Well as it turns out, I got my show!  As we began to drill a hole in the pipe, a spark lit the gas and we had a nice little flame going in no time.  When the pipe does flame, it's best just to let it keep burning till the welding is done, so keep going we did.  It only took a few more minutes to finish the job and we extinguished the blaze, which amazingly went out simply by blowing on it, as easy as a candle!  I got to play with fire and learn something about physics, it was super awesome!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Life Through a New Lens!

The Watchful Eye

So a few weeks ago I got my tax return and like most people, I already knew what to buy with it.  I had my sights on a 70-300 mm zoom lens for my camera.  Honestly I don't exactly understand what the millimeter length means when it comes to the camera lens industry, but I do know that 300 mm is zoomed in further than my 200 mm lens, and really what else is there to know?  While the purchase of this gadget was planned, the sting of the payment (over 600 dollars, yikes!) still stung.  As I walked out of the store I was happy with my new toy, but I was super worried I could have used the money better elsewhere.  When I got home I snapped some pictures to see the difference between lenses and I was blown away at how cool it was.  Awesome buy!  But I wanted to try it out for its true purpose, wildlife photography...

Two days later I decided to take a nice Sunday afternoon drive and see what I could rustle up out in the bush.  A co-worker had told me of a place where he'd seen many hawks and even a few eagles, and I thought this would be the perfect test for the lens.  As I drove to this area I knew my chances of actually seeing an eagle were rather slim, but I kept a little hope that I may get lucky.  Once at the road he'd spoken of, I slowed down to a crawl and kept my eyes peeled for anything interesting.  Within minutes I came across this guy and went nuts!  I took a little time to ease up closer, trying to gain some trust between the two of us.  He responded rather well by letting me get almost to the base of the tree.  Eventually I pushed my luck too much and he flew a few trees away.  I'd gotten what I came for so I decided not to bother him anymore.  The lens had proven it's worth to me within two days, and I was ecstatic!

This was the first of two bald eagles I was able to see this day, which just so happened to be the first two I'd ever seen in the wild.  I was amazed at how big, pristine and graceful they are in their natural element.  The eagle has been revered in multiple Native American cultures for centuries as a symbol of abundance, fertility, strength, with thunderous wingbeats and eyes invigorated by the sun. I'm so happy to have finally glimpsed this bird in the wild, and I'm glad I was able to share a small connection with it.  While I was edging closed we never took our eyes off each other, there was an understanding between us, two creatures both curious about the other.  I hope to have many more moments similar to this one in the future!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

theBrigade's Bogus Journey...

So it's March and theBrigade has now been on two trips.  This one was to the same area as the last, but it was a day longer and the discoveries were much more rewarding.  Allow me to fill you in...

As soon as we got home from Owl Creek, Jeff and I started researching other places in Southern Utah that may hold Anasazi ruins.  I was fortunate enough to come across a summary of Mule Canyon, a hike just a few miles from Owl Creek.  The first ruin in this canyon has been photographed by Rodney Lough, the photographer that I mentioned in my "Light up the Night" post,  so I immediately wanted to go check it out.  Luckily it didn't take much convincing on my part to get Jeff onboard, and Jake liked the idea too, so that was that.  We started getting ready to go.  The original date we'd planned to go was over Presidents day weekend, but due to certain complications it was pushed back a week, and then another week.  Finally March 3rd was the concrete departure date.  Weather looked to be in our favor and we were stoked to be leaving.

Getting there was almost the same story as before.  Jake picked me up and we picked Jeff up at his favorite Thai restaurant.  We started leaving Salt Lake City and soon began the usual odd road trip conversations.  We passed through Utah County as quickly as possible, without throwing up, and managed to leave with a few Brandon Davies jokes that will never be forgotten (not sure if that's a good thing...)  This freak storm came up as we travelled down highway 6 and threatened the whole trip for a few minutes, but we kept going and made it through just fine.  We passed the McDonald's in Price, but we did hit up a gas station in Wellington, where I bought two fruit pies simply because the lady behind the counter looked like she was about to die of boredom, so the two seconds of helping me may have saved her life, I'm just nice like that...  After Wellington I took the seat behind the steering wheel and we headed towards Moab.  The driving went quickly, Jeff snapped a few awesome shots of semis as they drove past, leaving light streaks on the images, tight!

In Moab we stopped at Maverick for some frozen yogurt, and I also found the movie Maverick, which I bought.  Jeff makes fun of me for buying Maverick at Maverick, but what does he know,  Maverick is a ten gallon hit!  When we got to the cashier to pay for our goods, she tried to make conversation about the red velvet frozen yogurt we held, and how it took a while to get people to start buying it, weird...  We got back in the truck and I continued to drive up until Blanding.  On the way we hit another freak storm, it was puking snow and hail like crazy and I almost stopped, but then it just disappeared, I mean like one second we can barely see out the window, and the next we can see stars, very weird...  We topped off the tank in Blanding and Jake took control of the truck at that point.  I skipped eating any beef jerky to avoid any complications like the previous trip, and eventually we arrived at the trailhead without any other incident.

We quickly set up camp and went to bed, anxious to get an earlier start than we had at Owl Creek, but first I took in all the stars.  Wow!  There were so many, it was a crystal clear night and one night away from the new moon, perfect gazing weather.  I stood in awe for a few minutes and then climbed into the tent.  Jake played us a short movie about how to set a snare for animals, should we need to,  and we learned there are four ways to snare an animal.  You can choose to either strangle, dangle, tangle or mangle (say it super fast with an Australian accent, you'll laugh too!)  After learning our daily survival skill we called it a day.  Jake snored just like the last trip (which he insists only happens when he's extremely tired)  while Jeff and I complained about it.  But soon we didn't care anymore and we fell asleep too.

The next morning we got up around seven and found clouds covering the sky.  That put a damper on things, but we weren't too worried.  By the time we started the hike the clouds had all disappeared and it was warming up quickly, so no harm done.  While packing up we found quite a few coyote tracks that we hadn't seen the night before, they were right next to the tent! I kind of wish I could've heard them snoop around, but it was still cool to see the tracks.  We ate breakfast, locked the truck, snapped our trailhead photo, and took off.

The trail was a piece of cake by any trail standards and we made awesome time.  I slowed us down to search a cliffside for ruins, but once I got back down we travelled quickly again.  The first ruin was only about a mile from the trailhead and it was awesome.  It's called house on fire because the rock above it looks like a flame.  This is the ruin Rodney Lough has photographed and it was easy to see why he'd been there, it was in great condition and it was beautiful.  This Ruin alone made my trip worth it, but it wasn't anywhere near over yet.  We spent some time exploring the area for anything else we may find, but it was pretty barren, so we got our packs back on, and continued up the trail.  I searched another cliff area that again, didn't yield any ruins, but did have a great view, and we messed around on a big rock to jump off (We'll never grow up!)  Eventually we found the second ruin, a single one with an odd wall sticking straight out, which didn't seem to serve any purpose, but I guess when you have a full day to kill, why not build a wall in your free time?

After the second ruin we found a place to eat some lunch back in the trees.  We had hoped to get out the constant wind that had been lingering all day, but the trees didn't do a whole lot to cut it down.  Either way, we had a wonderful lunch, while enjoying a little sun and down time, but soon wanted to go explore more of the canyon.  It only took a few more minutes to find the next ruin, the coolest one of the trip, which we now refer to as "The Fortress" for obvious reasons.  The ruin was on a cliff about twenty feet, that was impossible to scale without a ladder.  It had a sturdy retaining wall that provided perfect cover for arrows or rocks thrown at the inhabitants.  There were four structures total that were all in great shape.  As stated, we couldn't get up to it, so we just looked around the area and took a few pictures before moving on.

Next came the kiva, which has a whole wall missing, but it was still incredible!  This ruin gave me a huge amount of insight on how advanced this culture really was.  The architecture was perfect,  There was even a draft chute that acts as a flue in a fire place.  The rock walls were sealed in a mud stucco that was completely different from every other structure we'd seen.  It was clearly an extremely special place in the Anasazi culture.  We spent quite a while here because it was almost in complete sunlight and Jake wanted to nap.  I found a place against the cliff wall that was baking in the sun and within a few minutes was nearing sleep.  Luckily Jeff stood up and it gave me a second wind, so I got up and took a few more pictures of the area.  Then Jake got up and we went back down to our backpacks, ready to find the next ruin.

By this time I'd noticed that with all these ruins we hadn't seen any petroglyphs or pictographs, and I was kind of mad that there weren't any.  I really don't know why I was feeling this way, because I'd seen some amazing things throughout the day and I was still on cloud nine.  I guess I just wondered why they'd go to all this trouble with these elaborate homes and then not bother to write their story on the wall.  Luckily, the last ruin didn't disappoint.  Ruin number five was soon in view and we dropped our packs and ran up the rock face to check it out.  As I reached the flat area just below the ruin I found a whole wall of petroglyphs, seriously, the whole wall!  I was so happy to finally find some that I almost didn't even bother to look at the ruin, but where's the sense in that?  We also found many shards of pottery that had all sorts of patterns on the clay.  To get to this ruin we had to climb up a log that had been propped up as a makeshift ladder.  Right at the top of the ladder was the foundation of a structure that was pretty big, and what seemed like an old retaining wall.  If it had still been there we wouldn't have been able to get up to see them, which makes me wonder how the inhabitants did it, they were tricky people, that's for sure!  Along with the foundation there were three other structures, one of which had been pretty badly destroyed, but it was still standing.  The other two didn't have any sort of roof on them and it didn't look like they ever had, so I don't really know what purpose they served, but they were awesome!  The three of us spent time taking pictures and pointing out small details to each other.  I started to get a little bored so I went to hike down when I found more petroglyphs, it's crazy how they can be right in front of your face and you can't see them unless you really look.  These ones were way above my reach, so they must have built some sort of scaffold to get up on the rock and carve them, but at least they still exist right?  I went back down to check out one more little structure and we soon moved on.

The goal was to hike out the canyon and drop down into the next canyon to make a loop out of the trip, but pretty soon the sun was beginning to go down and we thought it would be best to stop for the night.  We camped close to the last ruin down by the riverbed.  I worked on getting the tent set up while Jake built the fire using flint and steel, something he's very proud of, as he should be, because he rocked it!  Soon we were relaxing by the fire while eating dinner.  Jeff and I messed around with some night shots with our cameras, which didn't really turn out, but it was fun to try!  Then we called it a day and went to bed.

The next day we got another early start.  The night before we'd discussed going back to the fortress and building a ladder so we could get a little closer, and in the morning we decided that we really wanted to try, so we did.  After the morning routine we headed back to the fortress, and began scouting out some good logs for our ladder legs.  We got two, hauled them up the rock face, and lashed some rungs to them.  It worked great!  We were up in no time, checking out more Anasazi handiwork.  This ruin was completely different because the rocks had been chiseled to make all of the walls perfectly square.  I can't imagine how much time it must have taken them to build their homes.  We spent quite a while and got a bunch of pictures.  As we climbed back down our ladder we were all happy we'd taken the time to go back and check it out.  We tore the ladder apart and threw the logs back down near the riverbed, which was really fun actually!  About this time I was getting kind of hungry, so I was excited to get back to my pack and eat some lunch, Jeff had other plans...

Jeff was still doing a little exploring and found a waterhole that appeared to be deep enough to jump into.  Jake wanted to jump in, and Jeff was soon to follow, they tried to get me in on it, but that water was cold!  I used the excuse that they needed a camera man, which they agreed to, even though they knew I was just using that to avoid getting in the water.  We built a fire so that once they got out of the water they could warm up, and then Jake did it.  That animal jumped right in!  The water was so cold that when he came up he couldn't really breathe all that well, and he was struggling to tread water, Jeff and I both thought we'd have to go in after him, but he recovered in a few seconds and came out of the water cheering.  Jeff went next and had pretty much the same experience.  Those two are champs, they do the insane just for fun, and they do it with rock star style!

After they changed into dry clothes, we decided to have lunch right there.  The red rock was warm and it was perfect to chillax while eating some tasty food.  We took and little nap and I headed back up to the fortress one more time. (I'd forgotten my rope and didn't want to be one of those litter people)  Later we packed up and headed down the trail, we'd planned on leaving the canyon and then driving to another canyon to camp in for the night.  I wanted one more look at house on fire so we stopped there, and then continued on.  Soon Jeff realized he'd left his new knife back at the swimming hole and he wanted to go back and get it.  We changed our plans and found a campsite so that Jeff could drop his pack and run back up the trail.  Jake decided to go with him so that they could have two sets of eyes looking for it, while I set up camp.  It only took them half an hour to find it and get back, but I already had the tent set up and the fire burning.  We ate a little dinner, sat around the campfire, and went to bed.

Sunday morning came with clouds, but it was really warm and that helped me to get up and get the fire going again.  We quickly packed up camp and headed out of the canyon, anxious to get home.  We did make one more stop at Butler Wash, an overlook point of more ruins, but we were on the road a little after ten.  We drove straight home, back into the gloomy weather of the Wasatch front.

I've decided the best part of backpacking with theBrigade is that there isn't ever a rush to get anywhere.  Most groups that backpack have a schedule to keep and they miss the chance to see the best the trail has to offer.  We plan big, but if we don't make it then we don't care, we simply find another alternative that seems interesting.  And really the only way to thoroughly enjoy nature is to do it slowly, to go with the flow, to stop and take a deep breath of fresh air.  Another thing about the brigade is that when we're hiking out, we're already discussing our next trip, figuring out what sounds fun, and possible dates to go.  I love that I'm apart of the group, thanks guys!  Here's to the next trip!!