UP BEAR CREEK
Rafting the San Juan River Canyon
by Art Goodtimes
May 24, 2012 | 1174 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TSP … Math-heads & complexity geeks know it as the Traveling Salesman Problem – how to fashion a formula that will predict the shortest routes between, say, 100,000 cities. I guess there is a certain kind of geeky gratification to solving such a computational Gordian Knot. But I could care less. Shorter and faster are no longer modes of choice. The older this hippie gets the more he likes going slow. Wasn’t always this way. But times change. And taking my first river overnight on the Southwest’s classic Sand Island to Mexican Hat stretch was a spring highlight … Of course, I was blessed with great river-mates. People I’d sort of known around Telluride but got to know a lot better, one of whom had done some 50 runs on the San Juan over the last 30 years – a wealth of knowledge and great stories … We had a few little rapids. Just enough to keep you alert from getting caught on the rocks or a sandbar. But mostly a nice long lovely coast – at least for me, as my raft captain did all the oaring. Which was tough the first day out – breaking in misplaced oarlocks and bucking stiff gusty winds. But which settled into a pleasant lollygagger’s delight for the rest of the trip … The food was gorgeous. No paltry hikers’ portions or industrial mix-with-water packets. This was the real thing. Cooked over charcoal. One night salmon fillets smoked on little planks of cedar soaked in bourbon. Beer. Tequila. Coffee with sugar or stevia, half-and-half and touch of Valrhona chocolate. I mean, I don’t eat this good at home … And while the party ethic is encouraged, the leave-no-trace ethic is the prime directive. We had our own groover (portable latrine box with attachable seat) and were instructed to wash hands, crush cans, spill crumbs into the river and not along the river campsites. In fact, the hardest thing of all for me was learning to pee into the river. There’s the shyness thing (although a few males were shameless in whipping out their peter and pissing into the stream in full public view – once as we promenaded by in our raft). It’s impolite to expose one’s genitals to public view in our culture (sometimes illegal). A bizarre, almost quaintly baroque notion – or so it seems to this Rainbow hippie. But it is the custom, and one usually tries to observe the local customs, so as to not offend the locals … No, the real reason I was shocked by the BLM river ranger’s etiquette talk was that, in mountain streams, I’d always been instructed not to piss in the water. To get back a ways from the water before urinating. So, learning the new ropes was unsettling … But it was impressive. The campsites were free of fire rings or old toilet paper flags flying from the bushes. And they smelled of willow leaf and yucca, not uric acid … If you want to see some photos, check my Facebook page.

PARTISAN MADNESS … It seems sad that we seem to be being pushed into an orgy of impolite and often untrue attack-ad games when we talk about national politics (even some state politics, though not as completely). I think many of the Republican principles are wise – fiscal responsibility, work rather than welfare, local control (meaning local participation in federal decision-making when it affects local communities). Just like I subscribe to a lot of the Libertarian principles – personal responsibility, ending foreign wars, get government out of the bedroom and our personal lives … But I don’t cotton to the current crop of Tea Party refuseniks unable to set aside differing principles and work across the aisle towards good governance on behalf of the people. There are dozens of reasons why this is a bad idea. But the most recent Scientific American editorial (June 2012 issue) in support of Planned Parenthood gives one pause ... When we champion extreme positions, we all bend the facts a bit to make a point. But when Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona pronounced on the floor of the Congress last year that PP spent “well over 90 percent” of its money – much of it in the form of federal funding – on abortions, he wasn’t just using hyperbole. He was lying ... PP spends 3 percent of its budget on assisting women with ending unwanted pregnancies (none of those services using federal monies). By proposing to cut its funding – half of it from federal and state funding – Republicans have stepped from good governance into partisan intractableness and even lying on behalf of their cause. That’s just one of many risks in letting extreme campaign partisanship rule the day. Citizens don’t know if their leaders are telling the truth or not anymore. It seeds distrust, and a nation only governs wisely with the trust of its electorate … In 2011 PP served over 4 million people with tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, it performed 750,000 breast cancer exams and 770,000 Pap tests for cervical cancer. Thanks to PP’s assistance in providing birth control options to women – in particular the pill –maternal deaths have declined 60 percent since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Connecticut’s law against public access to contraceptives in 1965. And more than half of all doctoral degrees in this country went to women in 2009, compared to 20 percent in the early 1960s. The Chicago Tribune has even called PP “America’s largest abortion preventer” … Who knows what partisan source provided Sen. Kyl with the false info? The fact is we are moving beyond the reasonable into the realm of the deceptive with our partisanship. And it’s not a pretty picture. Or a true one.

THE TALKING GOURD

Πάντα Ρέι

-for Ken Wright

On sandbars & river’s edge

geese & their goslings

ignore us, boating by

while a solitary heron

perched on legs like cattails

keeps a close eye

Bighorn sheep

leap from ledge to edge

browsing under blue skies

Circling high above us

on a rim of acrylic sandstone

& poured igneous

a hawk. Maybe an eagle.

And first sketch

rafting the San Juan

I feel the cold rush of blood

rippling through the narrows

of my body’s veins

The mind’s hot sun

warming lungs of Russian Olive

Tamarisk. Native willow

Just another critter

on the canyon block

Hitching a ride with the flow


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