IMG_6293Spring and Fall are the only rational times to go backpacking in the Southwest Desert and I was lucky enough to get invited on a four-day adventure thru the Slickhorn region of Cedar Mesa in Southern Utah the first week back from Thailand.  There are now at least four other Ultra-light backpacking enthusiasts in Durango and we all ventured 3 hours southwest to hike a route chosen by the mentor of many who prefer to pack ultra-light, Will Rietveld. (He’s written about and reviewed Ultra Light gear for quite a number of years and is a native Durangoan – link.)  Actually everyone on this trip except me  has hiked all over this southwestern wonderland, but only Will had done this particular loop before. Last year I’d hiked and blogged about trails north and northeast of Unknown-1this region, so it was good to discover another patch of this BLM-protected land where hundreds of Ancestral Puebloan ruins exist in a desert backcountry setting.  You’d think we’d get tired of seeing and visiting ruins because we live so close to Mesa Verde National Park, but when you find these relics and ruins of ancient time along a trail without a soul around, it always produces awe and wonder.  These folks, the Ancestral Puebloans, spent about 1,200 years with estimates of as many as 40,000 people this desert backyard of ours, WoodenKivaand it’s a never-ending quandary thinking about how they lived, farmed and especially wintered in this high desert region.  Not much remains and when you come across their art, their houses and their shards or a tiny corn cob, it’s pretty special. 

I’ve seen and gone inside a fair number of Kivas (ancient underground structures thought to be ceremonial or religious in nature) but generally not often in remote locations where there is only a placard rather than a ranger telling you to respect the ruins.  In our 4-day 41 mile trek we probably visited at least 3 or more sites a day, which besides providing cultural InfoBinderconsciousness was always a welcome break out of the sun and heat.  At the “Perfect Kiva” they even had an information binder stowed in an ammo box if you wanted to know more about that particular site, it’s discovery (as late as 1976) and the environs. It’s was amazing that we could still go down inside the Perfect Kiva and hang out as long as we wanted.

IMG_6358IMG_6362Not sure how many readers are familiar with the Ancient Puebloan concept of the Sipapu, so I’ll let you know it “symbolizes the portal through which their ancient ancestors first emerged to enter the present world” Wikipedia. All these Kivas had distinct Sipapus as well as well-used niches, chimneys and the meditative tranquility of a very scared place.


Of course, just hiking thru, around and over sandstone canyons is worth the effort.  We averaged 10 miles a day and not much of the route was on what you might call a conventional trail. This area is often visited, but requires lot’s of route finding thru the boulders, stream-beds, slick rock  and slides.

traverseboxcanyonAnother benefit of hiking with these UL guys is that we all can learn some new or alternate tip or trick and I was able to tweak my gear shortly after getting home.  Can’t wait to get back out on the trail again soon.

BTW on this hike my base weight was just under 9 pounds, plus food and water which decreases each day.  Sure beats the 40-pound days of the past.


Back in the Saddle

It seems to take us a little bit longer each year to recover from the 14 hour time change.  The stack of mail, posting tax statements in our returns, restocking the larder and restoring the Durango routines has kept us busy as usual.  We’re already spinning, hiking, mt. biking and road riding this first week back, despite the low concentrations of hemoglobin.

A maintenance trip to Silverton truly reminded us why we love Southwestern Colorado.  Just look at these clear blue skies, and the wildlife you’ll literally run into.

IMG_0545Off on a four-day ultralight backpacking trip in the morning to high desert before it gets too hot to visit that country.  How many summers do you have left?


Two Last Suppers and a Ruin

IMG_6218Both factions of the Trang Cycling Club wanted to have me to dinner before I left. The Fahsang Group got to me first and féte’d me with a very fancy 8-course Thai meal served in private room in a white tablecloth restaurant with a four-foot lazy-susan to share the plates. Since I’d never been cultured at that level I took too much off the first plate that was served, not realizing there would be 7 more and custom dictates that the diners only take small portions many times from each individual dish. I soon got the picture and couldn’t understand them talking about my manners anyway.  Great food and good times.  They all enjoyed seeing photos of cycling and hiking in Durango and environs.  Always interesting to see these fellows in the light without their lycra, jerseys and helmets. One interesting fact came out at dinner was that one fellow’s daughter was working at the Grand Canyon right now in a foreign work/study program.  I invited them all to Durango, including the daughter.

IMG_6229Still full from the night before, the Trang Touring Cyclists booked a restaurant that featured our favorite Thai dish, Panang Curry, for a good-bye luncheon.  At this meal I got to meet some wives and daughters of the cyclists for the first time.  Also really good food and fun stories.  By the time I boarded the late afternoon train I was sure I’d gained 10 pounds.

I really like taking the train north to Bangkok as it’s a coach with a sleeper bunk, and you sleep most the way there.  Stanna was at the train station to meet me (and her cycling bags ) for our last two days still further north of the big city in a place we often wait for our departure flights, Ayutthaya.  I should iPhonemention that we took one short side trip from the railway station in Bangkok to get my iPhone screen repaired.  I’d researched where and how much on the Internet and found that I could get it done for $67 rather than the Apple Store price of $260.  One hour later the iPhone looked and worked as good as new.

Ayutthaya is famous because it was the capital of all Siam for over 400 years and many of the historic ruins are still


standing and show exquisitely at night.  One year when we visited they staged a pageant on one of the temple grounds in full historic dress, elephants and all.


We always enjoy walking around this ancient inland island city, especially at night.

The flight home was easy this time because we flew direct from Tokyo to Denver.  Five movies on one of those new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and we were home in Colorado. If we don’t come up with a better plan for next winter, we’ll be back in Thailand next year. Maybe you’ll meet us there!

Bi-Lateral Home Stretch

StannaTempleYou may not have know but we’ve been on two different trips these past weeks.  Stanna in India, Bhutan and Nepal while I’ve been hanging in Trang.  And as usual we’re totally occupied right up to the last minutes.  It’s especially hard here in Trang as the exit isn’t ever easy.  Stanna’s last nights on her tour have been filled with dinner’s, demonstrations and even costume photos.

I’d planned some big rides, but recuperation from my handlebar malfunction allowed me to take on several other things on that long list you plan to get done while you’re away. I’m getting further and further from nerdland which each passing software and app update and in an effort to struggle back to SS Coding 2014Apr03the pack, I’ve had on my list to learn app coding.  I’m here to tell you it’s no joy and not easy until you see that simple tutorial project come up on the simulator screen.  Then it’s okay let’s learn some more, and it’s what I’ve heard kids do when they are learning to get to the next level in a computer game.  You’ve got to hit a wall, get destroyed or annihilated, proverbially

“tilt” the game (or in my case get error messages) and start over, many times from scratch.  Don’t get excited and send in any app ideas I’m only 30% thru a 420 video tutorial and my level of understanding is mostly focusing on learning the vocabulary.  Not to mention trying to overcome an aging dyslexic disfunction, which in coding makes it tantamount to impossible.

MockUp - Version 2

You’ll have to trust the photoshopped image on the left, because Stanna actually did feed and ride a real live elephant, but unfortunately she now has the fingerprint of the photographer directly over the models head.  We’re hoping someone in her group got an untainted version of the pachyderm’s placidity as well as her reticence.  She used that quote from my dad, I mentioned earlier;  “I now ridden an elephant twice!”

Back on the Trang front, I finally got back on the bike for real and have been doing the 5 am morning rides with the Fahsang guys.  I was worried I’d lost my training level, but I IMG_6174think they must have taken the same 4 weeks off I did, because they still want me in front pulling them up the hills.  They are, however, very courteous and encouraging, shouting, “Pai Tom, Pai” directly behind me. Getting back in shape has allowed the ice cream fetish to resume and SunSern and I celebrated after lunch with an entire container the first day back on the bike.


Meanwhile, Stanna’s been taking in culture and exotic lands rather than the local gluttony going on in southern Thailand.  I’ve managed to view quite a number of her photos thru the iOS Photo Stream capability and between the iMessages and the photos enjoyed much of her trip so far.  Broadband is available in all but one of her hotels albeit some fairly slow and generator dependent.


And I’ve been sitting around shooting the shit with the riders at their day jobs.  Just like with Durango cyclists, where I hardly recognize anyone once they’ve removed their helmet, I’m amazed when we go around to see what each does for a living.  Real fun to go inside their shops, workshops, and businesses to see what’s on the other side of the counter.  It’s comes in handy when I had my wreck tattered jersey repaired, needed a IMG_6194scooter tire repaired, or even getting the defective Trek Stem repaired.  They all love “taking care” of the Fahrang.  Just yesterday I watched the entire process of making sweet treats at a small wholesale bakery.  Unbelievably simple process and quick assembly from raw materials to sealed package, probably took 30 minutes for a complete batch start to bagged and labelled in 10-packs.  They’d like me to import the sweet IMG_6182treats to the states, but I’m not sure they’d pass the FDA tests for salt ingredients.  They were so tasty I had to push the scrap bowl away after only 5 or 7 pieces.

You’d probably rather see more Nepal photos and so would I.  We’ll try and get a Trekking blog out as soon as we meet back up.  Hopefully this one will hold you at bay until then.  The Durango Ladies Hiking contingent dressed up to the “nines”.  (Can you say that for women?)  Soon we’ll be in Durango.