Craig Wisner


Recent Drawings.

Enjoying a little down time out of the sun while my shoulder heals…Two new thumbnails.  I’m enjoying the Ramen Head logo.

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Skull and Toad.  Ink on paper.

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Ramen Head w/Wisner Logo.  Ink and acrylic on paper.


Enemy of the Sun.

I click a link to a message entitled “Skin Biopsy Results” and few words jump out at me before I can finish the page.



Basal Cell Carcinoma.

Our surgery department will contact you to schedule treatment.

There’s an innocuous looking pink bump on the side of my nose near my eye, another on my shoulder.  The positive results of these two spots call into question many other areas, undoubtedly more biopsies to come.  They’re not the first.  They tell me it’s the most common form of cancer and it is typically highly treatable.

I suppose it doesn’t matter how common or how treatable, the word cancer sends a temporary wash of fear through my body.  You cannot help but wonder where you lie within the percentages.  Questions.  I’ll deal with it.  More questions.  Don’t worry, you’ll deal with it.

I think back to a moment with my doctor.

“It’s strange that I have these on my shoulders, I’m pretty good about staying covered in the sun.”

“Honey, this didn’t happen last weekend.  It’s genetics and a lifetime of sun damage.  Did you burn a lot as a kid?”


“There you go.  You weren’t meant for this place.”

Snip.  Another piece of flesh is put into a vial.

I wasn’t meant for this place.

Surgery day.  I’m informed prior to the start that growths around the nose tend to run deep and spread outward, that the surgeon cannot predict how much will have to be removed.  He’ll cut, send the sample to the lab outside to be examined, and cut more until there’s no sign of cancer.  They’ll be slightly more aggressive with my shoulder, simply removing a large chunk under and around the growth.

Needle pricks, numbness spreading from my nose and into my jaw.  John Coltrane is on the stereo and I’m thankful I can talk jazz and art with the surgeon.  I can feel his breath next to me.  He’s steady.  I close my eyes.  The sound of metal gently tapping metal, skin cutting.  The hole in my shoulder is large, almond-shaped, an inch and a half long and three-fourths of an inch wide.  They tug aggressively at the sutures, pulling it shut and tying it off.

An hour and a half has passed.

It’s not that bad.

There is no pain, though I’d prefer I didn’t have to smell my cauterized skin.

They’ve taken almost a dime of skin from next to my eye.  They suspect I’ll heal OK, but I can talk to a cosmetic surgeon in three weeks if I don’t like the scar.  I tell them I don’t make money off my looks, that I’d rather have a scar than be opened back up.  They tell me to wait and see.  I walk out, heads in the waiting room following my bandaged face.

As a lover of deserts, waves, and peaks, I’m reevaluating my relationship with a suddenly dangerous sun.

“I’m usually pretty good at sun protection when I know I’m doing something, like hiking or surfing.  But I can see I need to make it more of a daily habit.”

There’s a smirk on my surgeon’s face, a slight shake of his head.

“Man, going to the grocery store is too much sun for you.  You need to rethink your sun exposure or we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.”

I imagine a burka, hiding every inch of myself from the light.  Hiking sandy washes wrapped in blue robes like a Berber trader.  Sleeping in caves during the day, waking and walking at sundown as the sky reddens and the winds pick up.

I imagine outright abandonment of our damned star.  Becoming a night runner, night hiker, night cyclist.  Enjoying the feeling of cool air on bare skin without searing worry.  Seeking my adventures by headlamp and streetlight.  The world would be empty and quiet and I would be free.

I imagine packing up and moving my family to some cloudy, dark North where my genes might belong and where I’d never need to shield my eyes from the sun’s  blinding glare again.

I imagine I must now start to choose my time of day wisely, to save my exposure for when it counts, for trips in the High Sierra instead of some noontime hike in familiar local hills.

I walk to my studio out back, to sit and write and imagine a little more.

Stopping on the path, shirtless, I squint defiantly at my enemy.

Feeling its heat on my shoulders, I hurry for cover.

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High Sierra Glimpses.

The remnants of a trip over Taboose Pass and into the promised land with Tom.

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A distant cascade

echoes off talus walls

-breeze stirring the pines
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Coyote slips into the grove

behind me

four ears listening,

two of us


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A blood stain

on the grass beside

Bench Lake

-I wash my hands

as two trout heads


into the depths

Steaks lined upon a log

scales gleaming in the sun

-your life

into mine

(I cried upon finishing my soup)

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Waking from a nap-

two ants

drag a fly

from under my hat.

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A lone coyote

descends a rock shelf,

circles the lake

-leaving bird calls

in its wake

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No mosquitos!

Just birdsong,


11 (1024x576)Thunder sounds

tentbound now

-noodles will have to wait



and older


the hint of tears

in their eyes


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Summer Photography.

Here’s a link to a portfolio of work I created for a summer photography course.  I came to quickly realize, when comparing many of my images with those of fellow students, that technology matters quite a bit in the digital world.  My camera, an older 10 megapixel Canon EOS Rebel, is noticeably lacking detail (as compared to newer models) no matter how well I focus.  That said, I’m quite happy with many of these images and would love to set aside some money for a few large prints.

Flickr Portfolio



Local Summer Sleep System.

With daytime temperatures at 100+, clear, washed out skies, and nights at over 70, summer is upon us in Southern California.  I hate it, the days anyway, but it does make packing easy.  For short trips in the local foothills, a simple, hot-weather sleep system is in order.  (Excuse the stock photos, I’m a lazy photographer.)


nanoSea To Summit Nano Mosquito Pyramid Net.  About $50 shipped from anywhere.  2.9 oz., stuffs super tiny, very roomy and airy if you stake it out.  Tie it off to a tree, use branches, or cross a pair of trekking poles.  Combine it with a sized tyvek or polycryo ground sheet (Duck Brand window insulation from the hardware store)  that overlaps the perimeter skirt and you’re covered.  Skip the groundsheet if not worried about crawlers or dirt.  Either way, it’s a sub 6 ounce shelter, including 4 light stakes and some string.


Z Lite Original Pad.  I like closed cell foam pads in hot weather better than softer, inflatable pads.  Because it’s firmer and you don’t sink in, they don’t feel as sweaty.

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Costco Double Black Diamond Packable Down Throw.  $20.  ~16 ounces, 60″x70″.  Packs to nearly the size of a quart container.  Yes, my feet hang out, but it’s summer.

These three items create a small-packing, excellent warm-weather sleep and shelter system for less than $100 and 3 pounds combined.  With a sewing machine you can easily add a drawcord footbox to the down throw for a little more sophistication.



You can feel it in the air, even at sunrise, that the day will be searing.  A bad case of insomnia the night before, I roll into Fast Eddy’s driveway at 6AM, hoping for a coffee refill, greeted by the sound of a million roosters in the surrounding neighborhood.  A mix of canyoneering and riverboarding gear sprawled across the dirt driveway, I’ve always admired Eddy’s style.  I immediately notice that his sleeping pad is an old vinyl, foam-filled workout pad from a 70s or 80s P.E. class, printed with stretching diagrams.  His water is packed in 1 gallon, screw-top glass jars placed inside cardboard boxes.  I can always count on Eddy, who gets out as much or more than any adventurer I know, to humble me with his gear choices.  Every trip with him that begins with me thinking I need a new piece of gear ends in certainty that, with a little more duct tape, I can put the money towards gas and another outing instead.

We drive, winding up the Kern River, Eddy regaling me with whitewater feats, stopping the car occasionally to show me famous rapids and waterfalls.  As his excitement spills forth, my stomach turns while staring into roaring, churning chutes of water through rocks.  I reassure myself that he knows I’m new to this, that hopefully we won’t be running anything like what I’m seeing.  But I’m not so sure.  I can’t help but dwell on the fact that getting pinned under a rock or knocked unconscious and drowning just looks so easy.

Settling on doing the Limestone run, from Johnsondale Bridge to the dam, we manage to finagle a shuttle with some rafters up the canyon.  Loading our gear into their trailer, I see some of it for the first time; baseball catcher knee and shin guards, elbow pads, PFDs, a roll of duct tape.  It looks like it’s going to be an interesting day.

The put-in at the bridge is teeming with rafters and kayakers.  We are the only riverboarders.  We definitely catch quite a few sideways glances from the boaters as we carry what essentially amount to thick, overbuilt boogeyboards with handles down to the water.  Putting on our wetsuits and helmets at the water’s edge, a kayaker spots us.

“Fast Eddy!”

It’s an older friend of his.  Immediately, tales of whitewater feats and the old days start to flow.  More kayaks start to gather.  Eddy is introduced among the younger with an almost royal status, having done, from what I can gather, just about every major rapid and waterfall on the river during the most extreme flow rates.  I’m assured by JB, an old veteran, than I have the best teacher there is on the Kern and I’m in for a treat.

We finish reinforcing our pads with duct tape, put on our fins, and hop in.

Now I’m completely new to whitewater, but I can immediately glean that while kayaks and rafts tend to flow over most waves, on a riverboard, you tend to go through them, all of them, head first.  You have to be comfortable holding your breath.  A lot.  And where you might slide over rocks in a boat, on a riverboard you bump and drag your body across them.  Keeping your legs high and on the surface is paramount to avoiding getting completely battered, let alone stuck and drowned.  Needless to say, it’s a pretty wild and fun ride.  On Limestone Rapids I got caught in a current and took a bad line, got pinned against a boulder, and started to get dragged under.  I freed myself by rolling off upside down and to the right, getting sucked down a small drop head first and on my back.  Eddy watched, complementing me on making a good move to get out of a bad situation.  I have to wonder about a sport where going down a rocky chute head first and on your back is a “good move”.  The turbulence of the water is also very different from a surfing wipeout.  As opposed to an explosion of force, there’s the strange and uncomfortable feeling of it wanting to hold you and steadily pull you down.

But it’s a blast.  I fully understand the appeal vs. kayaks and rafts.  Simplicity of technique and intimacy with your surroundings.  As opposed to being on the water, you’re fully in the water.  At class III and IV, the day feels comfortable and well within my ability, a good introduction.

And Fast Eddy is already texting about the next trip.  Higher flows and bigger water are being predicted for next weekend and he’s itching to take me off a 15′ waterfall.  Hmm.

I took no pictures on this trip, but here’s a video of Eddy running Upper Salmon Falls for some perspective.

Upper Salmon Falls




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