Luckiest Man Alive: the fusing of two lifestyles in the high country

Lucky to be Me

Although the negatives of this back country experience are somewhat numerous, and I could go on for too long, like my previous entry, on the woes of sharing tight quarters in a seemingly endless timeframe with people with less than likable character attributes.  However, this next blurb I must dedicate to the bountiful enjoyable aspects of being the Doctor of Rage in the rugged wilderness learning useful and interesting skills from knowledgeable individuals.

One of the biggest events in our monthlong venture is a 28 mile round trip pack mission on horseback, some trailing mules, as we help the wrangler staff bring hay bales up the mountain.  The trail to the upper camp, which is over 4,000 feet above the Swan Valley, consists of several steep and rocky switch backs and old avalanche slides, and the staff had to wait until July 9th for the snow to melt low enough to set up camp.  We have been periodically going on short trail rides in order to prepare for the journey, and I think everyone was looking forward to the change of scenery and challenge of the journey.

The thursday morning we woke up around 5 am and began saddling the horses and packing the mules for the journey.  We started off without incident directly after breakfast further into the mountain range than we have ever traveled before.  Given the choice of hauling a mule behind you or not, I chose to manage my horse only in order to be free to take pictures on the way up.  After the first steep climb and quick decent over a small ridge we entered an old growth western cedar grove with some trees as big as 5 feet in diameter.  I was lost in thought, pondering how these trees survived hundreds and hundreds of years through the harsh conditions of the mountains, and then the acid began to take effect.

Crossing Lion Creek on one of our shorter training rides.

Yes… after a long decision process I hastily dripped two drops of the potent potable onto my tongue as I ventured out of my tent to my horse named Skipper who was fed and saddled, waiting patiently.  Despite the obvious hazards involved with being second to last on 24 animal pack string I was comfortable with the stuff at this point and felt I could act in the case of calamity.  One thing I learned about this job is that it is extremely dangerous, as horses spook like no other creature I have seen.  I have tremendous respect for their athleticism, power and grit but I much prefer the company of mules.  They are much smarter and surefooted, and as long as you are nice to them and do not cause them pain mules will for the most part be very patient and sturdy beasts of burden.

As we rode along the well worn trail I was very cautious to keep all I have learned at the ready, but Skipper was a well behaved and friendly horse, so quickly I took time to gaze at the mountains thousands of feet up all around.  “We’ll be over that far mountain there, yet,” said the wrangler who was riding directly behind me as he pointed to a mass of earth and stone about 10 miles away.  He was a wildlife graduate from a small school in Kansas, and we talked for the first time all month for the first 20 minutes of the trip.  I liked him, but his presence made me a bit uneasy after I began feeling the grip of the drops.  When I was peaking, and felt too high to hold a steady conversation, I would take out my camera if the trail was smooth enough.  At the valleys of the trip I would converse further with him about different studies we have taken and different outdoor experiences, and I found a nice groove and felt extremely comfortable on the horse.

As the trip continued we gained elevation, although no one was as high as me.  The sun began to become warmer and the trail rougher.  As the stock powered us up steep and rocky faces I would have to lean forward all the way to stay on the saddle, occasionally grabbing Skippers mane to ease my weight off his withers.  When the trail would hit the switch backs I would look up and see multiple thousand pound creatures (guided by amateurs mind you) who were just moments earlier ahead of me in the string kicking pebbles and dust down at me from above as we wound up the mountainside.  I felt trapped against a wall and a cliff.  A rider in front, behind and above, there was nothing to do but keep it moving and enjoy the ride.  The sheer power of the horses was exhilarating and I found myself smiling widely as Skipper jumped up the inclines into the horse’s posterior in front of me.  I felt like shouting out with excitement and laughing hysterically as we approached the raging Lion Creek 25 feet below our narrow trail.  The “crick” splashed cool snow melt on us as we trucked on around another pin point switch back.  The leaves and branches were pulsating and swaying, the colors vibrant and bright as the sun shone through the cracks in the canopy.  All was well until we stopped… suddenly…

Not being able to see ahead I assumed someone was fixing a cinch on a saddle or adjusting a load of  hay on a mule, a common occurrence on a pack string.  But then, horribly, I heard a panicked “Woa!!” and other inaudible shouts from up above me that sent a terrible shock through my body.  Dust flew over the ledge overhead and me and the rider ahead of me glance at each other with the same sort of desperate look.  Something was terribly wrong, and the voices only increased with disparity and volume from over the edge twenty feet above my head as the crucial seconds went by slowly, their exact words drowned by the volume of the raging water.  Instinctively I hopped off my horse to assist, running past riders who were frozen, either with fear or confusion.  As I turned the sharp curve I could finally see what was wrong.  I was looking at Butch Mule facing the wrong direction as fellow students and wranglers were frantically adjusting the hay load that had slipped from the mule’s saddle.  As I approached the scene I knew there was little I could do to help besides hold the Mules head and talk to him calmly as they unhitched the twisted saddle and removed the load, walking on the edge of an impressive drop off.  I felt the situation was under control, and remembered I was tripping balls as the mule’s face wrinkled and waved in space.  “Any other mule and we would of had a real problem.  This is where we lost one over the edge last year,” the wrangler told us after the load was corrected.  I personally have seen much less happen to other mules resulting in way more violent reactions, and in way less dangerous and hectic settings.  I gave ol’ Butch a good boy! and returned to Skipper waiting below, avoiding eye contact with everyone.  It was a real close call that almost killed me… and my high.

Big Sky

I wonder if any guide student in the history of big game hunting schools had ever done what I had done, and I highly doubt it.  Surrounded in awe by the Rocky Mountains on a 24 animal pack string, tripping rocky mountains oysters, I was convinced, without a doubt, that I was the luckiest man on earth.   I had successfully fused both aspects of my double life in a spectacular and mind blowing experience, and only wish all of my friends and family that I love and miss could have been there to enjoy it with me.  After tomorrow my month of training will be complete, and I will be off to pick up my girl in Missoula as we began part two of my mission in the mountains and head for Shambhala music festival north of the Canadian border.  This has been an interesting experience to say the least, and more than anything I have learned a lot about myself and how lucky I am to live in Humboldt County around such positive and beautiful people.

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Bitching by the Doctor of Rage

“We should put all the queers on an island and blow it up.” – Random comment overheard by the circle of camp chairs.

“Alright, Miles.  Let’s go throw rocks at stuff.” One said to another after dinner.

The remaining time of my experience in camp copenhagen is going by much faster, for the most part, however there are still numerous reason’s for me to long for different company.  I attempt daily to find the good in these boys, and most of them are good guys, and it’s not their fault they were brought up in a setting intolerant, almost ignorant, to the beautiful differences we all share and compare in this melting pot of a world.  It is, however, on them to find that there is more to life than cursing others for just being different.  They have sealed opinions, racist and FAR right winged POV’s set in a tin of Kwik-crete, surrounded in an oozing blob of chewed tobacco, repulsive to sight and sound.  They are better off left to their own ideas than risk matching wits in what would no doubt be a heated and pointless discussion about politics or society.  I leave it in hopes that they will never hold office or become school teachers.

Half of these kids are just that,  kids, aged 17-19.  The rest are around my age, 24, and there are two guys 30 and 34.  There are ten of us, total, but sometimes, a lot of the time, I feel there are nine and me.  I learned quickly the first week that keeping my mouth shut and my ears open is the best way to get through this school.  My goal is to learn all the tricks of the various trades we are immersed in during the day.  Run, read and write during the night.  So far my tactics have held up and I have been learning a lot of new skills and am glad overall that I have chosen to do this, but would I spend the money on it again… not a chance.  I remind myself constantly, especially in times of mounting frustration, boarder line rage, that I am almost out of here.  After this is over it can be looked at in hindsight as an overall good experience in a beautiful wilderness setting.  At the time I am writing this I have 3 and a half days left until I venture back to Missoula to pick up my girlfriend and begin a brand new Rocky Mountain experience, in which we will vacation together in an unregulated form of recreation… sightseeing, drinking, foxing and smoking weed.  Fishing and camping in Glacier National Park, driving to Canada for 4 nights of pure rage at Shambhala, and then on back to the West Coast via canadian highways.  I will spend this time slowly as possible, and try to get through the next 4 days without blowing my lid and going off on an all out assault on everyone in this camp’s personality flaws and ugliness.  Friday of week two was one of the worst days, and if it wasn’t the knowledge that I was off to the Miz to cover the Ana Sia show the next day this eruption would have likely occurred.

On saturday, after another training trail ride to ready us for our 28 mile round trip mission to the upper camp we are taking tomorrow, I split with the quickness to get as far from the Swan Valley as I could.  To split costs of the motel room I offered my 17 year old bunk mate from Georgia, who is a little poindexter of a kid, to come with me for the weekend. (A move Im not sure was worth it.)  He gets picked on a bit by the other kids, and sat alone for the whole weekend on our first day off so I pitied him a bit.  Upon leaving camp, and with little hesitation, I proceeded to roll up a pinky sized spliff to ease my week long hankering for the Chron and pass the time on the beautiful hour and a half ride to Missoula.   I could tell that the emergence of phase two of my double life, The Doctor of Rage, my Mr. Hyde, was going to give the young southern nerd quite a shock…. but who better to learn from?  “I smoke sometimes, on the weekends” he told me earlier in the week, but I could tell I made him nervous with my hands free 80 mph driving while I rolled up the honker of a spliff.  He made sure to tell me once he almost died because his buddy was driving high.  “Relax,” I said with smoke in my lungs, “I have been blazing blunts for ten years.”  He hesitantly took the joint and realized we were going to be ok, but I noticed that his right hand was gripped tight ’til his knuckles white around the oh shit handle on the door the entire ride up.

Because of his age he was unable to attend the 18 and up event by a matter of a few months, which was probably a good thing because I was planning on taking a few doses and didn’t want to have to deal with an amateur the whole evening.  On top of that I did not trust him not to rat me out to the others, or worse, to the head ass hole of the camp for having hard drugs, thus ruining my recommendation and reference which is about all I can have to show for course completion.  If it weren’t for this, I would have probably forced him to take a dose and left him in the Bel-Air Motel to his wallow in his wildest dreams, or nightmares, while I got my fix of bass and lasers at the local Top Hat club where Frisco DJ Ana Sia provided the tasty beats.  The kid, who was the only one not a racist, and who was visibly, yet quietly, in disagreement with the others’ opinions on “damn mexicans and niggers” would not have dealt well with the crash course in psychedelics.  He was awkward and nerdy, and his personality instantly caused me to give him the internal label of ” a pussy.”  I could imagine him writhing in fear under a full headlock of the liquid LSD, which is not strong at all but is really clean.  One hit for a veteran like me is not much, but without a doubt one drop of the stuff would have rendered him a sobbing pimpled mess calling his Dad on the hotel phone, or maybe the police, complaining that “This crazy New Yorker gave me drugs and I’m contemplating jumping off the hotel balcony,” all the while I danced and laughed to the heavy riddims down the road.  (Check for the review of the show.)

The night was pretty good… much needed relief as my soul gained a bit of positivity from being able to dance off the negative vibes of the week, however the next day was quite a drag.  The kid, awkwardly and often, would half say something inaudibly, then say nothing as I inquired as to what he wanted to say as he wandered aimlessly around the room at times, like he was trying to remember what he was doing. This continued throughout the day until I just plumb ignored everything he said until he would tap me or raise his voice in order to get his point across, which was often a bitch-based in origin. I was a little burnt, and realized then and there, sitting in the laundro-mat that I was in dire need of some alone time, but there was none to be had with this lil twerp with me every step of the way.  I just wanted to sit and do anything, nothing, read, anything, but do it alone, and his very presence made it impossible.  And to make it worse, he was in a hurry to get back to the dreaded camp.  As we arrived back at camp, he was quick to escape the vehicle, and I was finally able to go on a long drive alone, smoke a blunt and milk every second of free time I had before returning to the clutches of the hill billy banter and gossip.

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A Hick in Some Places, a Hippie in Others

A hick in some places, a Hippie in others:  the struggle of a double agent in the world of subwoofers and Bolt action rifles…

Moving East

The missoula head crowd during the summer time of a college town near the rocky mountains seems to have a few things figured out.  The old west look is evident in the alleyways just off the down town strip, with narrow passages moderately crowded with rowdy groups of boozed up Mizzoulans.   I could just imagine the pavement being replaced with dirt roads riddled with horse manure, swinging double doors hanging in the ingress ways of the various saloons and brothels, with wranglers and gentlemen lining the card tables, launching tobacco into spittoons.  Today trophy elk, deer, bison and bighorn sheep mounts don the majority of walls in the late night fare and spirit establishments, and there is a consistent mix of social groups within this town: the inner continental country music types, with beer bellies and lips packed with copenhagen, lifted pickup trucks and sun bleached trucker hats.  The meat head polo roid-bros shouting at each other and chuckling, yelling at their chubby girlfriend booze bags with fake tans and bleached hair, telling them to “get the fuck in the car, and your bitch friend, too.” (This is my least favorite group of this cultural macrocosm.)  Alternatively you have my favorites as well…  the freely spirited and exotic mountain girls, who don sundresses sans braz with cowboy boots and dangling eagle feather earrings, often equipped with a bright and intriguing smile and a small tattoo on the upper arm.  They can be seen smoking American Spirits outside happy hour college dives, riding bikes on the evenly flat urban terrain of missoula, and floating down the Blackfeet River by the dozens on sunny summer days.  (In fact all patrons of the Missoula scene can be seen floating the river, young and old, cooler in tow, by the hundreds on black truck inner tubes bought from the Army Navy store.)   There is a smaller but ever evident population of the lot-like hippie/head population that inhabits the mountain town, which like a larger landlocked Arcata in the mountains, is also a safe haven to a intermingling transient population of drunks and tweaks.  The overall late night scene is one that seems to revolve around alcohol, much more than other fun drugs as in Arcata, however, and the 2 O’clock closing  parade is chock full of rowdy fights and shit talking contests of small peckered juicers and staggering bums who can not audibly udder the words necessary to ask for change or a cigarette.  On a bright note there is also audible inquiries of, “where’s the after party?” around a vibrant fire poi circle just as the bars closed on my second venture to the small yet energetic city.

I find myself first in this mountain town on one of my four nights off from a month long wilderness guide training program in nearby Swan Lake.  Tired of the “nigger” this and “queer” that I have been hearing from the mostly ignorant and backwards camp mates all week I was excited to venture off on my own and be at home amongst the subwoofers and laser lights of a late night music hall, fulfilling the needs of my second lifestyle away from the deer hunts, wilderness hikes and river trips (in fact hearing that most of the others in class cursed missoula as being full of hippies and queers I made the final decision to make the hour and a half drive.)  I covet both aspects of my life dearly, however have not found a way to connect both the wilderness and underground music scene, and have no intentions to.  I must keep them separate, and it is this distinction that keep these various experiences new and refreshing.  Immersion in a back country wall tent for a month, learning hunting, horse packing, survival and wilderness first aid skills is not something most DJ’s and quasi-serious weekend music journalists would be caught spending 4 Grand on.  Then again I don’t think there has been a single guide student here that after graduation, spends 2 nights in Glacier park with his surfer gal before heading up to Shambhala music festival to ingest as many mind altering substances that one can while still being able to meet and converse with new friends and fellow ragians, dance for 4 nights straight and make love to his sexy ass girl friend in the plywood willie-bago erected in the back of the red Chevy Silverado named ‘Molly Whomps.’

Yes, I have carved out quite a lifestyle of interests, and have abandoned trying to hide one from the other, as a result of last summer’s realization that I Just Don’t Give a Fuck is quite a nice way to lead one’s life.  (As long as the concept of respect is kept well within one’s consideration, well…. in moderation at least.)  These activities I choose to become a part of, which go a long way in describing who I am, and my ever fading, almost non existent attempts at keeping people within one group in the dark about the other half of my social existence is why I am having a little trouble getting along with the other students and staff here.  They hear of me coming from New York by way of California and automatically have their impressions.  Throw in me being a Dubstep DJ and weed smoker and they automatically put on an edge that makes me rather read Hunter and Kerouac in the timber behind the tents wrapped in a hammock than sit and listen to them recite new country songs and racist jokes; BS lies of nonexistent sexual encounters and unbelievable made up on-the-spot hunting adventures.

Yes, instead of, like the others, worrying about finding a job with some local and backwards outfitter, who apparently is looking exactly for the type of good ole’ American retard I have just described, the only thing on my mind during our free time is to make sure I run my three miles a night to be in shape for the upcoming festival and figuring out the best way to get my container of acid passed customs on the canadian border.  (I think I will disperse the entire remainder of the vile, 4 drops at a time, onto however many Oreo cookies it takes in order to ditch the suspicious looking brown medicine dropper which has “Cold Remedy:  $5.99” hand written on the side in a pitiful effort to thwart the suspicions of any nosey officer of the law who might have stopped me on my drive from Cali to Montana, smelled marijuana, and looked in my grandfather’s old Swiss Army dop kit.)  I am motivated to get anything and everything I can out of this expensive educational experience, and do not regret coming here, however am daily finding myself bewildered as to how fucked up (although beautiful) the middle of our country can be at times, with the exception of places like Missoula.

I roll into the Miz, as I have just decided to call it, around 4:30 saturday afternoon in the second week of July.  With an empty stomach and a nose full of aderol I am excited to make attempts to seek out some fellow whompers, and see if its possible to play a set in one of the local bars.  I knew I would be in the area for a month and would kill for an opportunity to drop some real filth on the scene.  After a $4 cheese burger and a draft of locally brewed Moose Drool, I wander down the street into the a local smoke shop and start to chat it up with the tie died and stocky young man behind the counter, who was listening to some dubs on soundcloud as I walked in.  After a few minutes of small talk and banter he offered to meet me at his shop when he closed at ten and show me the scene and introduce me to some local promoters.  When we met up, after I found a cheap hotel and soaked in the hot tub, we went out for a bite to eat and some beers, and I began to see why the backwards fucks back in camp didn’t like the town… the exact reasons I did.  The head scene was very evident, and electronic music was in its blossoming stages of widespread acceptance in most of the bars that played music.  We finished our sandwiches and beers and ventured down the street by foot, as everything in the Miz is within a five minute walk, to meet some girls he knew. (one of whom was celebrating her twenty something birthday.) This is when I discovered my new friends roll as the local well known and connected middle man of rage supplies.  Due to a folk fest happening that night in Butte all of his friends who were normally working were out of town, and no Molly was to be found for us.  With our hopes for MDMA dashed by one last effort text message response, I felt obligated to offer everyone some of my untested, yet highly trusted, “cold medicine” I had back in the hotel.  Although not what they were looking for exactly, the girls were more than willing to accompany us back to the Bel Air motel to indulge in some super clean and semi strong liquid LSD and hash oil straight outta Humboldt County.  (I was planning on saving both of the substances until I arrived at Shambhala, giving my mind a month’s break from weed and psychedelics, however after dealing with the good ole boys from places like Georgia, West Virginia, Iowa and Idaho I felt the need to crack the noggin.  They were all back at the camp, chewing tobacco, laughing at each others insults; telling ever more bold lies to top each others’ lies, dribbling ignorant hatred for blacks and liberal scum in a similar fashion the Kodiak chewing tobacco dribbled from their pimpled and bearded lips.)

Within ten minutes we were back at the Bel Air motel, a rather clean facility considering its price.  The girls trusted me, a total stranger, foolishly possibly, with dosing them directly on their tongues.  “Only give me half of one, ok?  I got work tomorrow,” the birthday girl’s friend said as she opened her mouth and stuck out here tongue.  I gave a chuckling “Ok” as I squeezed the smallest drop I could onto her tongue, which we all know is never smaller than a normal drop, no matter how hard we try.  I was happy to hear that my new friend from the smoke shop, an ex marine and Iraq War veteran, was willing to take as much as I was willing to part with, which was 4 for him, and 4 for me.  With everyone in our party dosed, (except a rather annoying and bitchy plump friend who didn’t shut up about “I cant believe you guys are taking Acid!!,”) I rolled a joint heavily laced with crystalized hash oil and we were out the door to check out a local 3 man cover band at one of the more popular local bars.  Eyes lit, with a  double Jack on the rocks in hand and a Jimi Hendrix cover playing for us in the background I was happy to feel the drugs taking hold of the situation.  With a  confirming nod to my new pal, who smiled a wide understanding smile and nodded back, I said “I’m  going to go be a tourist,’ and sauntered over to the other side of the bar.  The walls were covered with historical western images of black and white gun powder photographs of the town a century ago.  Im a sucker for history, and didn’t mind if people saw me gawking at the pictures that most regulars of the bar hardly notice as they suck down their PBR tall boys and shots of Jameson.  The authentic and rustic decor of all the bars was pleasing, as it would have been a shameful display if one of the owners attempted to make the interior of such an old building look modernly chique and bushi.

As the night and the acid wore on, we bounced from bar to bar, after losing, or being lost by, I should say, the girls that we showed up with.  I hardly cared as a one night romance was far from my mind.  I was in a dangerous mood to get hammered drunk and while out to some whomps of any kind, and as we arrived at the bar which the most popular local DJ was playing I knew it was time to do just that.  Switching from Jack Daniel’s to $3 PBR tall boys for my wallets sake I attempted to get into the top 40 trance UNTZ mixes that was pumping through the house system, however could not.  Sensing my disapproval of the selection my new buddy went over and shouted under the table on stage to the DJ after giving me the international symbol for “1 sec.”  Within a matter of 2 songs the mood shifted to the dark and simple, yet highly destructive sounds of Dubstep.  With a wink and a nod to my new homie, approving his move, I proceeded to get my audible fix, spilling Pabst on my sleeve and bumping into everyone.  Several minutes later, after a mediocre blend back into some poppy dance genres, I snapped out of my daze and realized that due to my “cold medicine’s” effect I was being extremely clumsy.  I had the lower limb control of a darted orangutan, drenched in sweat attempting to evade my handlers who were trying to get me out of the food court at the zoo for the sake of the horrified spectators.  With a hint of embarrassment, only a slight hint however, I signaled for a cig and went outside.  “Man this festival is gonna kick my ass, I gotta start running 4 miles a day,” I said as I took a long ironic drag from my cigarette.

The night progressed with a similar tone for the rest of the evening.  The acid was clean and affected the body more heavily than the head.  Visuals were sparing and weak, however me and my new pal frequently erupted into giggle fits beyond our control, and having him there with me was quite a relief.  (If I had not have been with him I would have been no doubt in the same state, however alone, and the image of a six foot three inch acid head rolling in laughter with beer spilled on his shirt would have evoked quite a different reaction from the locals.)  After last call and things around the town took their time winding down we were still extremely high and walked to the river to come off a bit with some bowls of the potent hash oil as the city began setting up for the Missoula Marathon the next day.  I had noticed earlier in the night that Ana Sia from Frisco was coming to town the next saturday, and decided then and there that I would have to come back.  My new pal was heading to NY for Bisco, so I would have to venture this one alone, on acid no doubt, with a press pass and my camera, and a different Hawaiian shirt.

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