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The Divided States

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Peaks, Mt. Audubon southeast shoulder

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
The Indian Peaks are the prominent mountains that can be seen from almost everywhere on the eastern plains of Colorado. Their serrated, snowcapped peaks and ridges stand in stark contrast to the dry desert foothills in front of them. Every day thousands of people are subjected to their view while hurrying along US-36 on their daily commute between Denver and Boulder. Millions more have seen them out of an airplane window while flying into, out of, or connecting at Denver International Aiport.

The Indian Peaks seen from Denver International Airport (photograph provided courtesy of Denver International Airport)
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However, as beautiful as they are from a distance, 99% of those people are completly oblivious to the true feeling one will find when adventuring deep into the wilderness of these mountains. Ironically, although these mountains are within an hour drive of the most densely populated area of the entire Rocky Mountains, it is easy to find solitude here in the middle of winter.

I planned to meet my partner, Barrows, at the Brainerd Lakes trailhead early in the morning. This required the aforementioned drive along the Boulder Turnpike. As I drove, with warm coffee in hand, I enjoyed the sun rising in the bluebird sky, and lighting up my view of the Indian Peaks during my drive. With good tunes on the radio, I sat in silence for over an hour, enjoying the peacefulness of the morning.

Barrows and I got to the trailhead around 9:00 AM. I did not know what was in store. I knew the Brainerd Lakes trail involved a longer approach than I was used to along the usual ‘I-70 trailheads’, but I did not know how far we were going to go up the mountains. At least a foot of new snow had fallen, and the CAIC was reporting ‘considerable’ avalanche danger with ‘pockets of high’. This meant that the front range snowpack was very variable. It could be deadly in some areas, but perfectly safe in others. Because of this, we would have to use our keen observations and experience and make very smart decisions on this crucial day.

The initial approach was as expected–on a two mile snowcovered road. Although I was cursing out the local authorities for not plowing the road, Barrows was good at reminding me that if the road was plowed all the way to the lake, there would be ten times as many people out here. I was gracious for this, for if I wanted to be surrounded by crowds, I would have gone skiing with the rest of the masses at the ski areas on this President’s Day. Not my cup of tea.

The initial hike up the snowcovered road
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After a short while, the mountains really started to come into view. Barrows pointed out many of the peaks that give this range its unique name–such as Apache, Arapahoe, and Pawnee. I wondered back hundreds of years, what the local Indian tribes must have felt while exploring these mountains.

At Brainerd Lake (still on the road!)
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We were making progress along the road, and the weather was perfect. I was getting anxious to start making some vertical progress. Eventually, we made it to the ‘Summer Trailhead’. There were picnic benches, cabins, restrooms, and dumpsters all covered in a few feet of snow. This place would be bustling with activity in the middle of July, but here in February it was very serene. I got a good perspective on things when we skinned past the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary. I have seen these signs all over the state on various trails in the National Forests–they all stand about five feet tall. Here, the snow all but covered the entire sign.

The standard ‘Wilderness’ sign found all over Colorado, they stand five feet tall on dry land
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We skinned a short while through the forest and came back out in a large clearing out in front of Mitchell Lake. Here, I had my first full view of the challenge that lie ahead. Across the cirque was the south shoulder of Mt. Audobon.

I am skinning across Mitchell Lake(photo courtesy of Barrows Worm)
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This relatively ‘short’ face was decorated with a half-dozen couloirs of varying size and steepness. One very long and narrow couloir branched up towards our right, but it looked like it needed more snow, as it had many rocks in the middle of it. We decided to head towards a lower-angle, wider couloir located on our left side of this face.

Barrows skinning up the basin above Mitchell Lake
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Bonus pic of some really cool looking north-face features on the ridge leading towards Mt. Toll
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As we made it up into the cirque, we performed a series of quick avalanche tests. Everything was feeling safe. I was feeling very strong, with intentions of conquering the couloir at this point. Once we made the apron, we packed the boards and began to boot up the couloir.

Barrows enjoying the February sunshine
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At this point my motivation started going downhill. The snow was very deep and unconsolidated. I had instant flashbacks to my attempt on Mt. Rainier last spring, where two feet of fresh snow had ruined any chance of us post-holing our way to the summit. Back here on Mt. Audubon, I was already starting to lose my energy with each step that I struggled to make in the snow. There were times where we could find rocks to scramble upon, until the rocks ran out, and we were left with the sea of snow. Sadly, I had had enough. Thankfully, I looked up and my partner was removing his snowboard from his pack. It was time to go down.

I am scrambling up the rocks in lieu of the deeps now (photo courtesty of Barrows Worm)
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I just couldn’t make the final 20 feet! (photo courtesty of Barrows Worm)
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The afternoon sun was already creeping down the western sky. I strapped into my board and waited for my partner to drop in from above. We were both nervous. All signs during the day pointed to a stable snowpack, but we all know that initial anxiety before dropping in for the first time. “Do I still know how to do this?” My partner asked.

“Just like riding a bike” I yelled in support.

With a quick hop out into the center of the couloir, he was off, making furiously smooth turns in the snow. As I aimed and shot my camera, I saw powder flying everywhere. The apprehension eased for a moment as I watched him ride all the way down the the basin below. Then the anxiety resumed: it was my turn.

Barrows dropping in
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Barrows down in the bottom of the couloir
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I got up on my toes and looked down below me, took three deep breaths, and throttled it. No worries whatsoever! I felt the thrill of the ride hit me, and suddenly remembered why I always put myself through so much torture for these 30 seconds of descent.

I met my partner back down in the basin and we looked up at mountain. The couloir was now decorated with two parallel tracks, making s-curves all the way down the mountain.

Looking back up at our fresh tracks
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It was getting late, so we made a few more turns down in the basin before switching back to our skins for the long slog back out to the trailhead. I stopped many times to look back up at the face. There was definitely a whole lot more to

Storm Clouds over Breckenridge

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
IMG_4271, originally uploaded by Adam Reiner.

I just bought a Canon Rebel XT, my first step into the DSLR camera world. I’ve already started capturing some scenic photos. Here are some photos of some storm clouds over Breckenridge, taken from Keystone ski area.

See more here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamreiner

Rocky Mountain National Park motorcycle tour

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

This weekend my parents came to visit from Illinois and we decided to stay up in Grand Lake for the Labor Day weekend.  I had only been there one time, over three years ago when ‘Briguy’ and I tried to drive over Trail Ridge Road in the middle of February.  We were stopped when the yellow pavement lines terminated at ten foot wall of snow at the west entrance to the National Park.  That was the farthest I’ve ever been on the west side, although I have explored most of the terrain on the east side of the National Park many times since.

To save my Dad a couple of hundred bucks on a rental car, I agreed to hand over the keys to my trusted 1997 Ford F-250 Powerstroke to him for the trip.  That truck and I have been through heaven and hell together four seasons a year, but all I could think about what gaining the freedom to ride my 1989 Kawasaki KLR-650 for 200 miles through the Rocky Mountains! (of course, the fact that I still owe said Dad a few bucks on the generous truck loan, had little to do with the decision.)

I geared up at near 4:20 in the afternoon and made a final pit stop before heading out on my own.  I topped off the KLR with 87 octane and looked around for an air compressor.  I circled the entire parking lot before finding one that said “out of order”.  Without a guage, I estimated that I had about 40 psi in the rear tire and 30 in the front.  I figured it a worthy experiment for my first mountain trip. 


84 degrees in Denver with clouds rolling in

I got out of Capitol Hill as usual without a hitch, cruising out at top speed on U.S. Route 6 towards Golden.  I decided to continue on US-6 up into the mountains because it had worked well on my last motorcycle ride and was much more relaxing than Interstate-70 would have been regardless of the situation.  My Clear Creek detour proved once again to be a good decision, and I made my first stop at the infamous “Kermitts”, a saloon with a large “Tuaca” sign and a collection of the Harley-Davidson types parked out front.  I’ve seen this bar with my own eyes over 200 times by my estimates.  I snapped a few photos anyways., but had no need or desire to go inside.  Maybe next time.  Instead I put on the rest of my makeshift ‘cold weather gear’ I had brought to experiment with on this trip.  I had a light fleece on under my textile motorcycling jacket, which gave me excellent mobility and warmth.  I also put on some ‘waterproof’ (I use that term sparingly) EMS pants over my poly hiking pants. I kept on the leather ‘MLB-branded’ batting gloves although I still had some winter touring gloves in the tailbag.  Speaking of tailbag, that is also a makeshift idea using the legendary DaKine Heli-Pro backpack.  The bomber hip belt and cargo straps on the back secured the bag to my stock rear rack of the KLR.  I had found a motorcycling use to add to the multiple uses of my favorite pack throughout the snowboarding, climbing, mountain biking, city-trekking, and hunting seasons.


My KLR parked in front of Kermitt’s

When I got going again I was forced to pick up the interstate for a few miles.  Just as I ramped on I was stopped in gridlock Labor Day vacationer traffic not unlike the hellish ‘Bormon’ through Northwest Indiana on such an important American recreational holiday.  Strangely, I wasn’t the least bit annoyed by the traffic while riding the KLR instead of driving a ‘cage’.  After about ten minutes it opened up again and I exited onto US-40 to head up Berthoud Pass. 

The temperature started to drop quickly while heading up the pass.  I pulled over and changed into a super-warm pair of Tourmaster gloves I had bought in the bargain bin at Moto-Gear Outlet.  Now my hands were nice and toasty, and I continued up the pass.  I enjoyed making the hairpin turns around each switchback, climbing higher and higher up the pass.  I had read mixed reviews about riding a carburetted motorcycle up to high altitudes, but I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.  I parked at the top of the pass and took a few photos.  Without snow everywhere, I could see where the dirt road went up to the science station at the top of the mountain.  However, the road had a gate in front of it and a sign that said “No Motor Vehicles”.  That was a bummer, for I really wanted to rally up to the top on a short detour of my trip.


Looks like a perfectly good road to me!


Self photo on Berthoud Pass

I departed down the west side of Berthoud Pass, through Winter Park and Granby.  The air started to warm up again, and with the mountain pass behind me, I settled back and enjoyed the cruise. 


“Sweet Mary Jane!”

I may have gotten a little too comfortable out on that straight stretch of highway, and caught my eyes wandering away from the road and to the beautiful mountain scenery around me.  At one time, I brought my eyes back to the road just in time to see a large white van coming right at me in my lane!  He was apparently making a pass, and at the time I made eye contact with him he was already moving back into the other lane, but it was short enough to scare the crap out of me!  For the rest of the ride I told myself “eyes on the road!”

The views from lake Granby were just amazing.  It was a little over an hour before sunset, and there were dozens of sailboats out on the calm lake.  The sun cast a warm glow over the entire scene.  I just had to pull over and take a few more photos before finally reaching my destination in Grand Lake.


Sunset on Lake Granby

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On day two, we occupied ourselves by riding the mountain bikes and hanging out around town.  When I had a little free time to escape, I took the KLR out on my own to find some highly addictive dirt to play in.  By looking at my map of Rocky Mountain National Park, I identified a forest service road called “Kewanachee Road” that climbed up into the foothills on the southern end of the Never Summer Range.  When I got to the trailhead, it was packed with trailers.  A few guys were loading dirtbikes onto their trailers to ride back home in there cages.  I smiled to myself and was so glad I had a dual-sport motorcycle so I would never have to do that!

After I passed the parking lot, the road got pretty technical.  I was met with a long, steep hill immediately.  As I started up, I saw a train of “family-types” on ATVs coming directly at me!  I realized they had no concept of yielding to uphill traffic, I stopped my ascent halfway up the trail.  As soon as I did I groaned to myself about making such a bad decision.  It was going to be a pain in the ass to get started again.  When the “cotton-and-denim army” finally passed me I was all alone again and hit the gas.  I couldn’t handle the angle I was trying to get on, and the rear wheel started spinning wildly.  The next thing I know, I’m perpendicular to the road and going down!  I try to stick my left leg down but it was too steep.  I gave up my effort and the KLR slammed down on the ground.

Breathing heavily, I scrambled to pick it up before more ATV traffic came upon me and suffer any more embarrassment.  Not only is a KLR heavy to pick up on flat ground, the challenge was magnified by me being so far downhill and trying to push the bike up from below.  Grunting, I finally got it up and found that the end of the clutch lever was busted off, and the gear shifter was bent.  “Stupid!” I yelled to myself.  But instead of feeling pity for myself, I decided not to give up on the hill climb.  I got back on the bike and coasted back down to the flat area at the bottom.  This time, I aimed the tire directly up the hill and cranked on the throttle.  ATVers be damned, I wasn’t stopping!  Luckily, I made it up without incident and breathed a sigh of relief.

The remainder of the road was a lot of fun.  It wasn’t too steep, and offered plenty of winding curves as it climbed up through the desert forest.  It was a perfect evening for a ride, and I had some excellent views back to the east.  About halfway up, I stopped to look at my map and realized it had fallen out of my vest pocket.  Although I thought I could keep going, I figured the smart thing was to turn around and head back to meet up with my family.  Luckily, I found the map down on the trail on my way down.


Traveling on Kewanachee Road


Self photo from high up on the road, looking out towards the east

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On day three, we loaded up the convoy (one car, one truck, and me on the motorcycle) and headed on our way through Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was a cool morning, and as I rode through the lower valley on the west side of the park, the temperature was dropping.  I changed into the warmer gloves, but as I started climbing up above the valley floor, the temps rose again.  I took in the sweeping views of the Never Summer range while winding up trail ridge road, and we all stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center at the top of the road for a short hike and some photos.


Wapiti….yum yum


Epic mountain views!

Afterwards, I mounted up again and continued over the pass.  The views from the top of Trail Ridge Road were epic!  I could see the distinctive flat-top of Long’s Peak to the southeast.  The craggy face of the continental divide dominated the view on my right side.  The upper part of the road was very crowded with tourists pulling over and getting out.  I rode very carefully and finally started to descend to the east side of the Park.  I also passed dozens of motorcyclists.  Most of them were on cruisers.  Not many people waved, but neither did I because I was focused on controlling my descent.  However as I came around a lower curve I saw a dual-sport rider coming up.  He gave me a big “thumbs up” as he passed me!


Self photo on top of Trail Ridge Road with Long’s Peak in the background

After making it through the Park we did an awesome hike up from the Glacier Gorge trailhead to “The Loch”, where I was able to show my dad one of my favorite snowboard descents, Taylor Glacier.  Then we went into Estes Park for dinner and finally got on US-36 and took that all the way back to Denver.

This was the first “long-distance” ride I’ve done on the KLR.  I learned a few things, but all in all I didn’t have any problems and had a lot of fun.  I may be in the market for a more comfortable seat, but other than that, the KLR is a great touring bike!