The Divided States

November 30th, 2016

I think that I occupy a very unique position in today’s political spectrum.  During my free time, I spend in a very urban, cosmopolitan and diverse neighborhood, where most of the people I interact with are of the white-collar corporate professionals of the liberal variety.  However, I work in the construction industry, which is heavily occupied by blue-collar conservatives and small business owners.  This has allowed me to hear all perspectives on politics.  I agree with some on the left, most on the right, but one thing I noticed for certain: these two different demographics have no idea how the other side thinks.

This theory is reinforced every fall when I make my annual hunting trip to the rural rocky mountains.  This IS the “White Conservative America” that many city progressives barely know exists–let alone the sheer size of it.  For those that don’t know, most of the land in the western states is owned by the federal government–we know them as National Forests.  The number of acres is so massive that I don’t even want to count them.  Similar in scale, however, is the amount of land that is privately held by individuals.  In South Park Valley alone, for example, there are hundreds of cattle ranches, each one consisting of many hundreds of acres more.  The sheer volume of property owned by single individuals is incomprehensible to the average city dweller in a 1000 square foot apartment.  I think this is where the great political misunderstanding really takes place.

ONE Person Owns all of this

ONE Person Owns all of this

Let’s step back for a moment and discuss the concept of private property and how it relates to the United States.  In medieval England, property ownership was not a right afforded to everyone.  In a world where white men occupied all levels of class structure, only your birth determined your nobility and eligibility to own property.  This is what made the colonies–and later the United States–so appealing to the common people: a person of any birth could own property (granted, only white men at first, but later expanded to all persons).  Therefore, the subject of private property–questions like “what it property?”, “who can own it?”, “can it be taken?”, even “can people be considered property?” (we fought a civil war over that one) is so ingrained into our national heritage that it is impossible to compare our contemporary politics to those of current European countries that never started with the same foundation.

This Flag Sends a Message

This Flag Sends a Message

Out in the western states, this heritage still exists.  This is why you see flags flown like the photo above.  No, this person isn’t ‘racist’ (Colorado was a Union state, btw).  This flag states that this rural landowner is prepared to defend his own property from seizure by any authoritative force or majority.

I recall last winter when a group of ranchers occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.  Social media exploded in an outrage: calling the occupiers ‘terrorists’.  However, I noticed that the vast majority of the keyboard critics (many of you reading, perhaps) were city-dwellers, doling out judgment without even trying to learn the ranchers’ perspective or the background of the situation.  I personally never took a position–it was too complex and remote for someone like me to understand.  However, what I knew at the time about the administration of federal land, I understood that somewhere in the story the occupiers had a legitimate grievance.

This failure to understand the perspective of the other half of America outside our cities is what led to the great shock at the election results earlier this month.  I wasn’t shocked.  I understood how these rural land owners felt–that they were being ignored and even abused by an ever-growing authoritarian government.  For over a year they turned on the TV and saw Bernie Sanders leading a massive horde of people and speaking in very similar terms that the Soviets did before seizing all the privately held land in Russia.  Now: is there any question why rural Americans “cling to their guns”? (Hint: its not for hunting–most of these people eat domestic beef.)

A Public Easement through Private Land

A Public Easement through Private Land

Another common misconception I hear from city-folk is that the government is the best steward of land and resources.  This is simply not true.  I can show you multiple hiking trails in the mountains that are damaged by overuse, littered with garbage, and showing decreased wildlife concentrations due to public encroachment.  The federal government simply doesn’t have the resources to protect the vast majority of land that it owns.  This is why private land ownership is so important.  When someone has a vested interest in preserving something, they will devote their own resources to do so. 
Private Land Cooperation is Imperative to Wildlife Conservation

Private Land Cooperation is Imperative to Wildlife Conservation

 

 

 

 

Property ownership is a right afforded to all–defined in our constitution. It is what separated us from feudal England, and what makes us exceptional still today.  We must respect this right, and the perspective of those who exercise it.

Why your ‘Rights’ are at Risk

November 14th, 2016


This meme pretty much sums up my feelings right now.  If you don’t know who this guy is, his name is
Ron Paul.  In addition to having delivered over 4,000 babies as an obstetrician in Texas, he was also a three-time presidential candidate that disrupted the political scene between 2008 and 2012: by having the audacity to tell the country that both the Republicans and Democrats had lost their commitment to the Constitution of the United States.

I became an acolyte (a constitutional conservative, or ‘libertarian’ if you will) of this man shortly after President Obama was elected.   Since then, I have done my best to explain to friends, family, and strangers that the success of the United States was based on a foundation of a constitutionally limited government.

However, for the past couple of decades, we’ve gone away from a limited government, and in fact have granted more and more powers to the executive branch with every administration–all backed up by rulings of the supreme court.  Conservatives warned of the danger of this, but progressives rejoiced.  For the past eight years I’ve been laughed at and mocked by more progressives than I can count.  ”The constitution is just a piece of paper” they said.  ”The government can grant any right we push for”, they affirmed, never once considering that a government large enough to grant rights is also large enough to take them away.

Last Wednesday, as America grieved over the election of Donald Trump, I watched those very same progressives go into a complete panic.  ”All of our rights are in jeopardy!”, they screamed.  Healthcare, marriage equality, terminating a pregnancy, all at risk, because:

THESE WERE NEVER ACTUAL ‘RIGHTS’.

Rights are secured one way and one way only: in the Constitution.  Many times this document has been amended to add more rights (the right to be free of slavery, the right to vote regardless of sex, etc).  All of these rights were secured by the process enshrined in the constitution itself, and can only be eliminated the very same way.  But at some point we stopped following the rules.  Example: for 40 years Roe v. Wade withstood challenge after challenge, but why haven’t we ever solidified the right in the constitution once and for all, the proper way?

On November 9, 2016, the constitution became relevant to progressives again.  Millions of people scrambling to find out what can be done to limit the power of the president.  Some have even suggesting circumventing the electoral college and award the election based on popular vote–but this too would require a constitutional amendment.

We created a leviathan government, one that was gracious when it was benevolent.  But there is never a guarantee that will always be the case.  Did no one ever think that one day we’d hand the keys to this leviathan over to a madman?

I’m just as apprehensive of the next administration as any of you, but the constitutional conservative part of me just wants to scream “I told you so!”

The only solution to prevent tyranny is to return to the constitution and limit the power of the government.   The rights above that we want to protect must be detached from the traditional Republican/Democrat platforms, and pushed to be amended in the constitution.

We conservatives and libertarians invite progressives to join forces in this endeavor.  The only caveat is, once Trump is gone and someone you DO like gets elected, you have to maintain the same respect for the constitution, otherwise your rights will always be at risk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park – 1/22/11

February 2nd, 2011
The Front Range area got pounded with a lot of snow all week, so my skier buddy and I took a trip up to RMNP to do some touring/exploring/adventuring. I’ve been up to the Bear Lake area a few times, and the paved road access cannot be beat, save for Berthoud or Loveland Passes. However, the crowds that mass at those areas are nonexistant up here in the wilderness.

We set off from Denver in the dark at 5:00, passing through Boulder and grumbling at the two dozen traffic lights on highway 36 that seem intent on screwing over the very few early risers on the road for no reason. The ground through the entire drive was dry as a bone.

Finally, we entered the Park through the north entrance station. Instantly the conditions changed from dirt brown to wonderful, fluffy white. In the early dawn light, we spotted a herd of at least 50 elk huddled together near the side of the road! We stopped and got out to have a look. The air was warm, dark, and silent. I watched as the herd moved about in the tranquil scene, going about their business as we were going about ours. We left them be and continued to the trailhead.

There was definitely over a foot of new snow at the trailhead, and the sky was very dark and overcast, with strong winds. We started off on the Dream Lake trail in a southern direction, before hitting Tyndall Creek and turning due west. On the way, we met up with a solo ice climber skinning his way towards some falls a bit south of us. We stayed with him until the fork south of Nympth Lake, where he headed towards the big cliff faces near Chaos Creek.

Tom getting stoked for some Corps of Discovery type action
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It was dark and grisly, but the powder and terrain was beautiful
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Although the plan was to get above Dream Lake, we were greeted with a huge blast of gale force wind at the edge of the lake. We took shelter in the trees and evaluated our plan. We decided not to go any higher and instead head north on the bench, putting us above Bear Lake.

We made our way higher and higher on the bench, and the sun finally started to make its way out between the clouds. We finally topped out at about 10,500′, amid some rocky bands and trees. From here, we had a pretty good view of the whole line down to Bear Lake, save for a few steep rollers.

Scoping out our intended line. We decided to follow the natural fall line down and to the left in this photo. (Photo by Tom Armento)
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I am ready to drop in. First splitboard descent of the year for this guy! (Photo by Tom Armento)
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I dropped in first. The line was a moderate one, but the two feet of powder was excellent for surfing. I got to another lower bench and called down for my partner to follow. We dropped a good 300′ of steep powder before we got benched out.

Tom blasting the pow
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My turn to surf (Photo by Tom Armento)
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(Photo by Tom Armento)
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This is when things started going bad. The bench was too flat and my board was getting buried in the immense snow. I unstrapped and found myself up to my chest in unconsolidated snow. It was a little scary, especially when I found myself in a tree well or two. I started having flashbacks to a nightmare two years ago on Vail Pass. Eventually, I found a solid ridge that I was able to climb up on by taking off my pack and stepping down onto it to climb up. Then I reached down, pulled up my pack, and continued the process. It was exhausting, and I was in no mood for any more touring.

Luckily, we hit another steep area and I dropped down around some cliffs. My partner took a more direct line on a short headwall, setting off a small sluff slide, but nothing we couldn’t handle.

Hitting the steeps above Bear Lake
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Finally we made our way out towards Bear Lake, passing a few more ice climbers getting after it. When we walked way out to the parking lot, we past a much more crowded scene than we encountered at 6:00 AM. Dozens of snowshoers and a few skiers who were just arriving to start their day, while we kicked back and reflected on ours in true alpinist fashion with some cans of Old Chub.

Map of our ascent (green) and descent (blue).
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(Narrative and photos by Adam Reiner, unless otherwise specified)

Castle Peak, North Face

May 19th, 2010
El Nino has come through with his promises and has been hammering the Colorado Rockies with spring storm cycles. From my daily vantage point at DIA, I could see that Pike’s Peak was more white in May than it ever was in March. The rest of the Front Range was no different. After a long and dry winter, we had thought that the ‘big line’ season was going to be relatively short. This new snow has infused all of us with new confidence of a prospective spring season.

According to Lou Dawson, the guru of 14er skiing, the East Face of Castle Peak is a ‘plum’: sought by many, but plucked by few. Because of sheer avy danger, it is nearly impossible to descend in the winter. By the time the snowpack finally matures to stable spring snow, the eastern sun works the snow so fast that it becomes runneled and full of wet slides.

Barrows and I had suspected that because of the recent barrage of spring storms, that the east face ‘just might be in season’. Both of us being 200 miles away, with no insider contacts in Aspen, we decided to take the gamble and head up there on Sunday morning.

As expected, the trailhead at Castle Creek/Pearl Pass road was bone dry. We drove up to the first major snowdrift and then began the hike in. This was my fourth time up this valley, and I was well acquainted with the approach. The first section followed the north bank of the creek, which would be dry all the way to the bridge that crossed over to the shaded south bank. Reluctantly, we shouldered our boards and packed in up the road.

Mandatory springtime photo of a dude dry-packing in snowboard boots
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The snow was looking very good on the north face couloirs of Mace Peak. There was no sign of the dreaded ‘snirt’ layer, although I knew it was all there below the powder white surface. After a few short miles, we reached the fork in the road and headed south up Pearl Pass road, past the Tagert and Green-Wilson huts en route to the basin below the East Face. I had lost sight of my partner a while ago, and I figured he had already headed up into the basin. Up here I saw a lot of wet slide activity. It was a little intimidating, but I followed an existing skin track that avoided all of the debris. Still with no sight of my partner, I kept skinning higher and higher, as the sun was retreating behind the ridge to the west. Finally, I was up in the basin and got a good look at the East Face.

East Face of Castle Peak at around 6:00 PM
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Although I still hadn’t talked to my partner, I already felt a feeling of discouragement when analyzing this face. It appeard that a wet slide had propagated from the upper ridge, and fell into the thin couloir, where what looked to be a runnel had formed. In addition, the slide debris was blown all over the apron below the couloir. (read my analysis here)

My partner was still nowhere to be found, and I began to freak out. It was getting dark. I didn’t actually think he would have been higher up in the basin, so I figured I’d stand around for another ten minutes, calling his name, before heading down. Just before I was about to head down, I heard yelling far below me. He had taken a left back at the huts and was waiting for me down below. Relieved, I skinned back down to him and we reaquainted. Let that be a lesson in ‘keeping the group together’.

We held a meeting and decided the east face was a ‘no-go’. Not to be defeated, we decided to break for camp and make a go for the north face the next day. I had been up Montezuma Basin before, so I knew the way up in that direction. We camped not far from the huts, set up and made a little dinner while looking out at Mace Peak as it was engulfed in darkness.

Dick Nixon decided to show up for some stew
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It was a cold night and I didn’t sleep much. The alarm went off at 4:00 and we started to mobilize. Barrows saved the day with a really cool espresso plunger, and I was able to sit upright in my sleeping bag, drinking a strong cup of espresso. I was quickly energized and we departed at about 5:30 AM.

Heading up before dawn
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Montezuma Basin is really a spectacular place. It is a huge glacial-carved cirque surrounded by steep headwalls and peaks. The terrain up here is so gnarly, that a mid-winter attempt would be anything short of a suicide mission.

Here you can see the ‘hugeness’ of Montezuma basin, by the spec of the splitboarder below the huge peaks.
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Back in the 19th century, this was home to the silver boom that practically created the first of many ‘rich-ass mofos’ that would reside in Aspen for the next 150 years since. There are even the remains of some old cables where the mine carts followed on down the road. I’m a history nerd, so I snapped some photos for good fun.

On the descent, I actually threaded these cables. Probably not the safest thing to do on a snowboard!
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The first part of the approach was relatively mellow, but soon we had to skin up a series of headwalls, each one steeper and bigger than the last. By the third and final one, I was already beginning to feel gassed. The thing that motivated me was thinking of the amazing high speed corn runs I was going to make on them a few hours later. That, and the view of Castle Peak that final came in from the distance.

I called this final headwall the ‘meatgrinder’. If you make it through this, your reward is getting to grovel up the face of the mighty 14er above.
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Finally, I had made it into the familiar upper basin. In the summer time, Aspen locals will four-wheel all the way up here, to ski on the small ‘glacier’ that remains at the end of the basin. However, today we were treated with complete solitude high above treeline in the alpine zone. From here, I could see my partner already setting a skin track up the couloir, and I was in awe by the sheer epicness of the Elk Range’s tallest 14er.

Barrows setting the track up the couloir. You can see that it was skiied very recently
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I met up with him and switched over to crampons for the climb. At first, we discovered a good freeze and easy climbing. However, the conditions quickly turned to deep, winter powder. Climbing this thing was going to be tough, as each step resulted in a knee-length post-hole. Fortunately, the face was well shaded, and I had no concerns about losing the snow to the sun, so I eased my effort and worked my way up, slowly. The couloir was actually shorter than it looked: probably no more than 800 feet.

Climbing up the couloir
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As I slowly made my way up, I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings. My gaze alternated between my ice axe and boot steps in front of me, and the top of the couloir ahead. Fortunately, I took one break and looked around over my shoulder to the north. I was greeted with one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen in my five years in the mountains–all of the other 14ers in the Elk Range lined up in a row: Pyramid Peak, The Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak, and Snowmass Mountain!

God, I love Colorado!
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Finally, I pulled into the top of the couloir, exhausted. My partner was up on the summit, but my climb stopped here (I’ve been on the summit once before). The ridge was thin, and I was able to peer over into the entrance to the East Face that I had viewed from below the day before. I also looked out at the grand view of the surrounding mountain ranges.

Star Peak in the immediate vicinity, and the Sawatch Range far to the east
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The climb was over, and it was time to ride. We were both really looking forward to this descent. It is not often you can find a steep run of pure winter powder in May. All of the post holing and grovelling would be rewarded. Barrows dropped in first, and we leapfrogged all the way down. The snow was incredible.

Enough talk. Here is the stoke:

Barrows dropping in…
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Had a bit of condensation on my lens, causing this effect that looks like an acid trip I wish I once had!
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Great powder
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Finishing it out
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My turn in the white room (photo by Barrows Worm)
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The ‘Alaska Shot’! (photo by Barrows Worm)
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Then it was time for the bonus turns, another 1500 vert of awesome corn snow, all the way back to camp!

BTW, dude is pulling off this steez in hardboots!
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We made it back to camp right around 11:00 AM. The sun was shining and the familiar sounds of spring were all around. I laid out in a T-shirt, refueling on water and soaking up the moment. We decided that aborting the East Face and riding the North Face was the best decision of the year. This was by far my favorite line of the year, and is right up there as my favorite of all time…

…until next year, when the East Face beckons once more…

(Narrative and all photos by Adam L. Reiner, unless otherwise labeled)


Lindley Hut trip (Central Colorado) – 4/30/10

May 11th, 2010
As winter rolls into spring in Colorado, it is time for my annual hut trip in the Elk Mountains. While most people do the huts in the winter time, but I always prefer the longer days, shorter approachs, and safer snowpack of early May. Luckily, I was able to find a couple of other backcountry enthusiasts that have not retired their boards for the mountain bikes just yet.

This year I chose the Lindley hut, which provided a very short hike to get to. Even better, the winter gate at Ashcroft was open, which allowed us to drive an additional two miles to the summer trailhead.  All the way up from Denver to Aspen, we encountered every sort of weather condition imaginable. It was supposed to storm all weekend, so I was prepared for whiteout conditions at the trailhead. However, we were greeted with partly-sunny skies and light snow for our entire approach to the hut.

Ed da’Gnarly getting stoked at the trailhead.
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We skinned up Taylor Pass road through about four inches of fresh powder. This was my first time taking the left branch of Castle Creek road, instead of the usual right branch towards Tagert, Green Wilson, and Friends Hut. As we crept around Greg Mace peak, the rest of the Cooper Creek drainage came into view. We reached the hut in a little over an hour. I was already beginning to like this hut  .

Skinning up the road
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The hut was very large, and quite comfortable for our small group. From the south deck, we were treated with an incredible view of the Cooper Creek Basin

On the left is the north shoulder of Star Peak. On the right is an unnamed peak that separates Cooper Creek Basin from Pearl Basin (towards Pearl Pass)
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On Saturday morning, we decided to head up the basing towards the face on the right. The aesthetic couloir direct center was calling our names.

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We started up the Cooper Creek drainage, but greatly underestimated the steepness and rugged bushwacking required to reach the base of the mountain. Getting up there would have required many ups and down into creeks and ditches, and skirting cliffs. Its no wonder this area doesn’t get skiied much. It was much gnarlier than the standard approach to Pearl Basin from the other side. Regardless, we found some good features to ride back down towards the hut.

Ed riding a steep tree line
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Mike hucking a small cliff
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Rachel making turns below the cliffs
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After regrouping at the hut, we decided to head back towards the mining road that we came in on, and climb the north facing slopes above the hut. The terrain here was variable. There was deep powder in many areas, but really nasty and rotten ‘snirt’ in others. After an exhausting and frustrating climb, we finally made it near treeline, and switched over to drop in.

Mike
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Afterwards, we retired to the hut, opening the whiskey and running through the various board and card games there. (Let it be noted that I kicked Mike’s ass in chess, twice)

A few photos of the Lindley Hut
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The next morning, we awoke to a much more overcast day. It was snowing much harder than the day before. We cooked a hearty breakfast and prepared to leave.

Mike and Rachel out front
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Ed, locking it up. Goodbye, Lindley Hut!
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Just because we were on our way out didn’t mean we were done making turns. We had spied a small chute during our approach that we decided to return to. Mike left to hike up around it to get above the cliffs, while Ed and I ascended the chute proper.

Ed, dropping into the chute. Best powder of the trip right here (not bad for May!)
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‘Huckmaster Mike’ in action
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This hut trip was pretty casual. There were no huge lines descended. However, it was very relaxing for me to get away from the city life, avoid Facebook for three days , and just chill out with some good friends.

Until next year!