Craig Wisner

Archive for November, 2010

Green is the Color of Money

The other day my mom mentioned to me that Wal-Mart is “going green” and is currently one of the leaders in the “green” movement amongst corporations.

I told her that building an empire on cheap plastic goods being shipped by the megaton from China can never be green.  Anything based on consumerism cannot really be “green”.  This seemed to shock her; she went on to explain how they are putting in solar panels, carrying more “green” products, etc.

I’ve thought back to this video quite a bit since then, feeling it does a fairly good job of raising the issue.

This will not be solved through capitalism or consumerism.  It’s bigger than biodegradable dish soap, low-watt bulbs, and electric cars.

Which has led me to wonder:

  • Can this be solved? (I doubt it.)
  • How can there be any lasting social change or any solution to ecological crisis or loss of species if humans no longer have any connection to the land?

Thinking back again to the concept of thresholds, I fear that the way in which civilization alienates people from the land also creates a situation in which people have a near-infinite threshold for ecological destruction and species loss.  As in, they will tolerate any amount of it, because ultimately they cannot relate.  How much rainforest would have to be destroyed before people take a serious look at stopping the forces that cause it?  Barring a complete collapse or drop in population prior to then, I fear the answer is all of it.  All of it will have to go and I fear even then our civilization will not understand.  Thus the threshold, when disconnected from the land, is infinite.

Which has led me to question the concept of “the land”, “our land”.  There are many meaning at work here; there is the land, as in the stuff under your feet, the ~5,365 square feet that I own.  And then there is the land, as in the land that makes up our watersheds, our forests, habitat for non-human species, rivers, lakes, oceans…People will fight for their land in the small sense; if someone encroached upon or tried to destroy part of my 5,365 sq. feet, I would try to stop them, possibly physically.  Yet if a developer were clearing a massive tract of local chaparral, would I fight?  Would I fight beyond writing a letter?  Beyond petitioning or protesting?  Would you?

Thus the disconnect from the land.  This is largely in part to the fact that we no longer subsist off of our land.  If my food and water came from the tract that the developer wanted to clear, perhaps I would feel differently.

This is where civilization is so successful.  By outsourcing everything, all connections are severed.  There is no land to protect because there are no hunting grounds.  We do not use the land (land in the latter sense above) for anything anymore, there is no connection; practically, spiritually, or otherwise.  If there is a connection, it is often purely recreational.

How hard would you fight to save a recreational activity?

Thoughts on Mountain Biking

I’ve been interested in MTB packing lately, knowing many local trails will be closed to vehicle traffic soon.  The MTB would allow me to continue getting into some good spots this winter, away from crowds.  Another percieved advantage of MTB touring; time- being able to do large loops in a limited amount of time.  Given many of my trips need to fit into 24 hours, this could open some options.  Could…

I rode today for the first time in many months, if not over a year.  I left at about 9am and did a 10 mile loop from my house.  I started with Millard Canyon to the saddle below Brown Mtn., then turned back for the singletrack of El Prieto, finishing at JPL and riding home.

El Prieto canyon this morning.

Some observations from today’s ride:

  • Mountain biking is hectic, especially riding technical/semi-technical singletrack.  I’m not new to this, but it’s been a while.  It takes some getting used to the speed and reflexes necessary to not go down in a cloud of rock and dust.
  • This is such an easy way to really get hurt.  I rock climb, trail run, skateboard, and have generally never shied away from pursuits that involve physical risk.  But even when I was doing it a lot, mountain biking has always struck me as the easiest way to break one’s neck, especially when riding technical terrain.
  • Surprisingly, I didn’t ride that loop much faster than I can run it.  I did almost the same trip running a month ago and finished only 20 minutes slower.  I’d assume a greater time difference.  I can actually run uphill faster than I can bike it, especially in rougher sections.  Mountain biking (at least at my skill level) seem sto be a lot of stopping and starting, whereas running is steady, nonstop progress.
  • There was little time to think and take in my surroundings because so much mental energy is occupied with controlling the bike.

The last point concerns me the most; as I now recall, it’s probably the main reason I stopped mountain biking in the first place.   It seems that this morning I missed half of my surroundings.  I’m so focused on where my wheel is rolling and scanning the trail for obstacles that I’m not very present in other ways.  Running gives you time to look, think, feel.  Mountain biking is just one big blur, comparatively speaking.  There’s something lacking on a deeper level- the Connection wasn’t there today.  I think things were a little too cluttered to feel it- too much gear, too much noise, too much speed.

Is this the end?  No.  I still plan on using the MTB for some upcoming trips.  But I’m not sure I’ll be riding for the sake of riding anytime soon.  Leave it to my wife: as I’m voicing my reservations and concerns, she says “Those machines don’t belong in the mountains- too fast”.

Friday I run.  The plan is to do the 20 mile Mount Wilson loop.  Need to start putting in the miles in preparation for the upcoming season:  Cactus to Clouds loop (San Jacinto from the desert floor and back), Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon R2R2R.

Happy days are here again.

Traffic, laptop, panic, Xbox, crowd, plasma screen, stampede, toy, a gambler’s rush in the pit of your stomach as the doors are flung wide open.  Twenty four to thirty six hours of retailer-induced insanity, building over the weeks prior through steady voices, nightly news reports, and carefully crafted images of shiny black TVs (advertised prices good for one day only and subject to availability, of course). Everything laid before us, full of promise, full of need, of want, luring us in; the siren song of the Great American Big Box Store.


If Friday is not enough for the hardier souls amongst us, let us not forget our appreciation for the small business owner on Small Business Saturday.  Yes, that’s correct, it was recently launched by American Express.  Last week I heard a steady, fatherly voice pitching it on the radio (it might have actually been Uncle Sam!), expressing appreciation for all those little guys who keep our economy rolling…and gently suggesting I show my appreciation and willingness to pitch in by shopping with one of them.  Together, with our credit cards, we can turn this country around.


On the seventh day we rest; with empty boxes strewn about, Styrofoam packing blocks, and the NFL and Nascar.  Better get the Geek Squad to install that TV before the Steelers play…


Refreshed, we turn to our computers for Cyber Monday, lest the Great Online Retailers of America not get their share.  Orders placed, sometime Monday evening the wizardry of civilization begins to kick in with rapid efficiency; packages packed, sorted, routed, coordinated, vans and trucks get fueled and hit the darkened roads, jetliners taxi onto the runways.  3…2…1…Liftoff!  The packages are in route, piling in post offices, distribution centers, loading docks…and behold!  I heard the truck!

Seventy-nine barrels of oil later, that shiny, new, bargain Blu-ray disk of Howard the Duck is in your hands.


Go forth this holiday weekend, do your duty, and together we can make this a better place.


And don’t forget your family.

Los Padres Running, 11/23

Woke up a little later than planned, but still was in the car at 6 am.  A little less than one hour of driving to the Frazier Park exit, turning off…snow!  I figured there’d be some in the higher country, but not all through Frazier Park and the drive in.  The plan was to head into the Fish Bowls trailhead and run the loop but the roads stopped me.  Frozen and hard heading in, I knew they’d turn to thick mud if the sun warmed them.  So I parked at the end of the asphalt and ran all the way to the trailhead and then out some.  Good call not driving further, found serious mud at about 6 miles in.

Nice, crisp, sunny cold on the way in, snowing on the way out.  I think I’ll head back on Friday to mountain bike the entire loop.


Silence, sunshine, a moment laying in the straw.

To Run…

It’s cold now.

Running Los Padres tomorrow morning, Fish Bowls loop to Cedar Springs and back around.  No mileage on my map, I’m guessing 12-15 miles.

Pack loaded, clothes laid out (I’ll be damned if I can decide on wearing socks or not),  head into crisp darkness at 4am: craving the initial shock of stepping from the heated car to the trailhead.

I’ll hit the Flying J on the way home; weak coffee, “Shower number 1123 is ready” coming over the loudspeaker, feeling like I might be going a million miles away.


In the high seat, before dawn dark,
Polished hubs gleam
And the shiny diesel stack
Warms and flutters
Up the Tyler Road grade
To the logging in Poorman creek.
Thirty miles of dust.

There is no other life.

– Gary Snyder – Turtle Island 1974


“Silence used to be, to varying degrees, a means of isolation. Now it is the absence of silence that works to render today’s world empty and isolating. Its reserves have been invaded and depleted. The Machine marches globally forward and silence is the dwindling place where noise has not yet penetrated.

Civilization is a conspiracy of noise, designed to cover up the uncomfortable silences. The silence-honoring Wittgenstein understood the loss of our relationship with it. The unsilent present is a time of evaporating attention spans, erosion of critical thinking, and a lessened capacity for deeply felt experiences. Silence, like darkness, is hard to come by; but mind and spirit need its sustenance.” – from John Zerzan, Silence

I suppose this fairly accurately describes my need to run, my need to be outside. The afternoon moments at my river spot, toes in water, stream flowing, wind in trees- all sound without sound. Sounds that spring from silence, sounds that compliment the silence around them.  Three  minutes of sitting and I feel my sanity return.

Tomorrow I run. I look forward to silence.

Grand Canyon R2R2R, 10/9 thru 10/10/2010

A couple things spawned this trip:
1. A desire to start getting out and doing things immediately. I’ve had my eye on the Grand Canyon for some time, but somehow it’s never actually made the calendar. I’m trying to follow more of a “if not now then when?” philosophy when it comes to trip planning these days…On that note, this trip was a total success; quick, cheap, pretty easy to plan. Whereas most people I talk to turn the Grand Canyon into a major outing that requires vacation time, many logistics, and much planning, this trip was actually very simple.
2. The other purpose was to get a feel for the canyon in preparation for running a R2R2R nonstop this spring. I wanted to get a feel for the water situation, distances/elevations, and logistics firsthand. Again, this trip worked great- I’m very confident about what I have to do to run it this coming spring.

I left Los angeles at 2PM and arrived at the South Rim at around midnight. I tried to sleep in the car at the picnic area across the road from the South Kaibab/Yaki Point turnoff but was quickly discovered by a ranger. He was cool about it and gave me directions to the Forest Service land about 10 miles away where I could sleep in the car without issue. I’m glad I know about this area now- saves having to spend any money or worry on sleeping in the park.

I woke up, drove to the picnic area where I’d leave the car for the night, and hit the South Kaibab trail at about 7AM.

One thing I’m certainly not used to is hitting steep downhill without a warmup…usually my running has me doing the opposite.






…met a ladyfriend…

…and down some more…


Looking back on the South Rim now…


…and met another friend. I’m far more accustomed to the nasty-tempered Mojave Green. This one would’ve *probably* let me pet it.



Climbing now…The climb up to the North Rim was by far the best part of the trip. I got passed by Catra Corbett on the way up…as did everyone else…



Camp at the North Rim campground. Very cool that they maintain hike/bike camps without reservation. The location was really good, right on the rim…and far from the Winnebago Warriors, generators, and smell of lighter fluid.


Sunset and South Rim from just below my camp…


Night brought high winds and low temps, probably around freezing. Primarily due to my own laziness in staking, my poncho tarp was flattened a few times in the night. Securing stakes with rocks would’ve taken time…but waking up three times in the night to re-stake the tarp? I was hoping for wind protection with the shelter but would’ve been far better off just sleeping in a bivy.

I was on the trail in the dark the next morning, looking to make the South Rim before temps got hot…

On the way back (up South Kaibab again), I realized what a disaster park employees/SAR must have on their hands here. It’s totally easy for someone inexperienced to find themselves on the canyon floor in only a few hours, enjoying cool morning temperatures all the way down.
And then they realize their pack is heavy, the sun is hot, and they’ve got a LONG way up to go. I’ve never seen so many people under serious duress. A college girl vomiting by the trailside, beet red and sweating and many, many people that seriously appeared on the verge of cardiac arrest. And this is in October…Summer must be a disaster.

One of my favorite signs (I kept running into different versions of this guy on the trail!):



Overall, each rim to rim took me ~7:30.
I feel great about that time, knowing I can easily shave it down when running without a pack this spring. I think <15 hours will be a reasonable goal for a single day R2R2R based on what I saw.

What I liked:
-Seeing the whole South-North in less than 36 hours and only taking a weekend to do the whole trip.
-Plenty of water opportunities.
-Learning where to sleep in GCNP for free!
-The approach to the North Rim. Great views, amazing cliffside trails.
-Sunset on Sat. night.
-Running down the North Rim in the dark on Sunday morning.
-The weather…Early October was great for this.
-An amazing weekend indeed. No regrets whatsoever.

What I disliked:
-Doing this trip with a pack. The entire time I was wishing I could just ditch it and run. Soon…
-Crowds on the way in. Oh my…
Going out on Sunday was much better.
-To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the whole middle section. Both of the rims are great, but the scenery between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood wasn’t all that spectacular to me. I’ve run far more interesting canyons in Capitol Reef, Zion, Bryce, etc.
-I don’t think I’d ever want to camp in Bright Angel or Cottonwood, I think it would be better to just go R2R and skip the crowds and permitting. It’s “backpacking” because you carry a pack to get there, but the campgrounds don’t feel like backpacking.
-Bothering with a shelter. The wind was high enough I figured I’d sleep better with a windblock…and then the wind got so high it was tearing up stakes/flapping the tarp all night. A bivy would’ve been far better than a tarp here.
-Driving I-15 South on Sunday night. The recklessness of the returning Las Vegas crowd is getting scarier every time I drive here. It’s got to be one of the most dangerous American freeways.

Finally, my favorite sign:
I’d never heard the term “estivation” until now. I thought it was just called drinking beer and napping. Now I don’t feel so bad.