Coping: With the Lost Art of Adventuring

MY brother-in-law who lives in his own apartment on the property with us, and who is retired military (SF & Rangers) is getting the wanderlust again, and so are we.

I’ve been eyeing a weather window next week where we might be able to pick up some strong tail winds out of Texas and head west to Arizona to do some high country flying.  Panama has been half eyeing homes out in the Las Vegas area because none of us are exactly “retirement material.”

The house is approaching ideal but that doesn’t leave much to do.  A couple of days with a small dozer to put in a small lake, raise some fresh water shrimp and put in pasture for some beefs might work.  Time in the garden, too….but to what end?  We look for ends – great adventures as just such things to us tumbleweed types…

Travel and adventure is what life’s about.  Growing up in Arizona, both Elaine and Panama like to get out and hike.  And t’other day when we were talking about it, Panama mentioned how he wanted to be back in the West again, so he could pull off the highway (wherever) and just go hiking as he did in his earlier days.

In his military career, I thought he would have gotten his fill of hiking, especially after hiking 600 miles from Turkey toward Europe to catch up with his unit.  They’d been out practicing “go to ground” and he did it, umm, a little too well.  When no one could find him, they simply left. 

That’s the short version of the hike, but he’d had others. In our discussion, the idea of “pulling off the road and being able to walk for 10 miles…” came up.

Sadly. I told him of our most recent 6,000 miles drive a couple of months ago.  “Even in places where you’d think you could get out and hike,” I explained “There’s really not much of anywhere to do it.  Even in the wilds of southern Wyoming, heading west on I-80 toward Salt Lake from Fort Collins and Loveland, most every foot of land is now fenced, at least along the road.”

To be sure, that’s a stretch, but over 2/3rd’s of Wyoming looks fenced from the freeways, at least.  And if you park your car by the edge of the road, it’s likely not to be there if you return in much more than 3-4 hours.  Police don’t want derelicts left by the road, so it becomes a tag ‘em & bag ‘em.

Not at all like camping trips in the 1950’s when barbed wire was rare in the BC interior where we waded through brush to fly fish pristine lakes.

We’ve seen some places where you can still get out and walk, like West Texas, but even here the art of exploring is quickly fading.  For one thing, if you do it within a hundred miles of the border you’re likely to stumble into either CBP units or weed walkers and coyotes.

Up north, Utah and Wyoming, if you can find a break in the barbed wire, there’s still a lot of public land around, but access to the public is being systematically denied.  Access permits, fees, scheduling of hikes (as in the Sierra)…it’s all a gigantic change from open/natural to confining around the edges.

Worse, I hear from friends and relatives up north, that barbed wire sales are still brisk in places like the northern wilds of British Columbia and even Southeast Alaska.  Time was when a salmon troller, of the sort that used to work the 34-40 foot double-enders out of Seattle’s fisherman’s terminal back in the day, could simply winter-over in Southeast Alaska. Ever see a Columbia River Bowpicker?

The hardier, and single Alaska fishermen used to  pull into an inviting cove in the lee of an island, go ashore and build a woodpile, keep the small marine wood stove on the boat going more or less continuously.  For food, there was plenty in the cove, the case or three of Del Monte fruit cocktail would last until you went off to the nearest settlement for provisions.

Storms would come through, blow themselves out, and there was big game if you wanted to clear and smoke it.  Halibut and other seafood was easier.

Point is, back then America had a frontier.  I don’t know where the frontier is, except Southeast Alaska.  There are big open areas in the upper reaches of the Yukon, too, but places to explore without wearing thermal everything?  Ha!

Between privatizations, keeping the public off public lands, and septic requirements for boats, life at the fringe is getting to be just a damn nuisance.  Regulations galore and that means inspections and permissions….

The problem is people.  We have too many of ‘em.

In 1970 there were 3.7 billion people in the world.  I’d been out of high school for several years bv then.  A man like Panama, who’s a bit older than me, remembers the world as about 3-billion people and damn few of them were out trying to hike “public” or just vacant lands around Arizona’s Mogollon rim, or even once you got outside of Tucson 10 miles.  Hell, even I remember that one.

Today, world population is just a shade under 7.3 billion people.  And population is still growing by 75-million a year. 

To put that into perspective, that would be like adding everyone in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Houston (16.7 million) and doing it 4 1/2 times.  That’s why world ends badly, more’n likely.

In the short time I’ve been alive, enough people have been born such that if they could be stood on each other’s head, their combined height about be the distance from where you’re standing all the way to the moon 17-times over.

So I just thought I’d mention this morning that growth in small dribs and drabs in person victory over some obstacle, or other.  But in larger doses, it becomes cancerous.

Back when the world population was much smaller  (a mere 1.6 billion people) Joshua Slocum sailed a small boat named the Spray around the world alone, becoming the world’s first solo circumnavigator.

In 1899 he published his account of the epic voyage in Sailing Alone Around the World, first serialized in The Century Magazine and then in several book-length editions. Reviewers received the slightly anachronistic age-of-sail adventure story enthusiastically. Arthur Ransome went so far as to declare, “Boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once.”[16] In his review, Sir Edwin Arnold wrote, “I do not hesitate to call it the most extraordinary book ever published.”

Adventuring, at least on the scale of Slocum, or those wintering over trollers and gill-netters in Southeast Alaska are part of a dying breed.

The poet Robert Service, himself a veteran of the Yukon (where he was a bank teller, not explorer) did manage nonetheless to capture the gist of it in his “The Men Who Don’t Fit In.”

   There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,

    A race that can’t stay still;

   So they break the hearts of kith and kin,

    And they roam the world at will.

   They range the field and they rove the flood,

    And they climb the mountain’s crest;

   Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,

    And they don’t know how to rest.


   If they just went straight they might go far;

    They are strong and brave and true;

   But they’re always tired of the things that are,

    And they want the strange and new.

   They say:  “Could I find my proper groove,

    What a deep mark I would make!”

   So they chop and change, and each fresh move

    Is only a fresh mistake.


   And each forgets, as he strips and runs

    With a brilliant, fitful pace,

   It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones

    Who win in the lifelong race.

   And each forgets that his youth has fled,

    Forgets that his prime is past,

   Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,

    In the glare of the truth at last.


   He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;

    He has just done things by half.

   Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,

    And now is the time to laugh.

   Ha, ha!  He is one of the Legion Lost;

    He was never meant to win;

   He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;

    He’s a man who won’t fit in.


Seems a bit odd to be writing a farewell to the Frontier.  After all, there always is one.

But the frontier of today is a line of code, an algorithm, a compiler, or may be app.

Something’s lost though, something old school and irreplaceable.   The difference between cold saltwater spray in the face when it’s 40-degrees out and the wind’s piped up to 25 out of the northwest, and having a breakthrough insight into a coding problem is a difference of day and night.

Technology is taking us to the land of non-physicality and I don’t like it.

Worth mentioning to the new generations that don’t write.  In fact, the whole idea of adventuring can be seen sinking into the horizon when it was reported last month that children in Finland will no longer be taught to write.  Instead, they will master keyboarding and mousing.

In Engineering terms, this begins to set up society for a massive epic fail:  When the power goes, so will the people.

And that is why adventuring matters.  It’s the natural reservoir from which human persistence springs.

Climate Note

Reader Ray H. who sends me sometimes daily critiques of my thought processes (don’t tell him but there are none), mentioned this about climate change:

[You wrote]

Is Earth warming? Yes. It from cutting down rainforests and burning off vegetation that used to cause more vertical air mass rising, which in turn brought rains and staved off desertification? Obviously!

Really? Would you make a cold, long-term stock trade based solely on the last two-millionths of a second of that stock’s performance?

We possess between 30 and 130 years of more-or-less accurate climate data, on a planet that’s 4,500,000,000 years old. We can know certain facts from history, i.e. Why Washington’s crossing of the Delaware was truly remarkable, or that Vikings farmed Greenland until the 14th Century. These historical markers correspond to periods of time, each hundreds of years in duration, in which temperatures were respectively much lower than (what we now call “normal”), and much higher than (what we now call “normal”).

I would suspect, based upon just this bit of information, that Earth will warm for another 150-200 years, possibly as much as 6-7° C between 20° and 70° of latitude, and then it’ll cool for 500-600 years, becoming 4°-5° (C) cooler than it is, now, and that this will happen irrespective of any non-ELE action taken by mankind. Ya know what? if this doesn’t happen, our progeny will all be dead, living in sealed biospheres, or living on another rock, orbiting another star, ‘cuz all living planets have such climatic variations — only dead planets don’t…

We may never hear the end of the climate debate; it’s a good thing, too.  Have you ever considered the resulting unemployment if the climate debate ended?  Why, that in itself if the issue was cured and no longer mattered, result in probably a one half percent increase in global unemployment.   Especially ironic is cutting down trees to make paper for climate reports, but I may be the only one to see the humor and irony of it all.

Found Money

Remember Thanksgiving’s column?  About finding free money?  Well, here’s another winner for you:

Hi George,

Thank you for the link in the Thanksgiving day column. I entered my

sister’s name and there were two entries for her. Not a lot (less than

$20) of money, but why leave it on the table?

Absolutely  A dollar saved is half a dollar taxed.

Write when you break even