Monday, June 30, 2008

A Back Country Advenure

So, I am on summer break, and my natural response to summer breaks is to head to Salt Lake City in order to visit my 100 year old Norwegian grandmother, visit with various extended family members, visit with friends, and enjoy the beauty of Utah. Needless to say, I have been gone for over a week now and intend to stay one more, but I've got an itch to see and do more, so on a whim, I am going to take off on a huge road-trip beginning next week through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and back down through California. But this is not my intended blog for today. What I wish to write about is the adventure that I have already had on my way up to Salt Lake City.
On my way up a stayed two nights in Las Vegas, visiting friends. The first was spent with my married friends, Brent and Jessica Hess. The second night was spent with my single friend, Misty and her roommate. I then headed off early in the morning for Beaver, Utah. That is right, you read that correctly--BEAVER, UTAH.
"Why Beaver?" you may ask.
Well, I had heard from an acquaintance that the mountains just outside of Beaver are really nice and considering that I have been hiking in many parts of Utah and that I hadn't done much of anything in the central part of the state, I decided I would give it a go.
Imagine my surprise when I pulled into the Forestry Service station in Beaver and asked about parking permits, stove permits, back-country camping permits, and the likes, and the ranger stared blankly at me as if I were speaking a foreign language or something. It turns out that Utah does not have the exhaustive restrictions that we have in California. No permits required.
"You mean I can park anywhere and camp anywhere and use my backpacking stove anywhere I would like?" I inquired.
"Yes, so long as you don't park in the middle of the road or in a meadow." The ranger replied.
I almost kissed the ranger out of delight (it is a good thing the ranger was female) as I exclaimed, "I LOVE UTAH!!!" No restrictions or paperwork or fees for a person to simply get out and enjoy nature. It is awesome!
So, I drive off into the mountains and pass many different lakes, forests, meadows and the likes. Naturally, I make various stops in order to take photographs and enjoy the scene. Finally, I arrive at a trailhead that looks good to take me into the back country, so I leave all unnecessary items in the car, put on my backpack and head out into the wilderness with the intent to find some random place to throw down my sleeping bag for the night.
I have done back country camping many times with friends, but this is the first time that I have done it alone. It was a great and strange experience. As I began my hike (around 4 p.m.) the skies were blue with some scattered clouds, the air was sweet, and the temperature bearable. Not long after I had set out on my journey, some scattered storm clouds moved in and thunderstorms were rumbling above me. I was not too concerned about lightening as I thought of the odds of being struck by it to be ridiculously low. The sweet summer rain felt nice falling on my face--it was not too hard of a downpour--more of a heavy sprinkle. The clouds would come and go and the thundering and rain along with it.
After a few hours of hiking, I came across a meadow where I spotted a porcupine. I had never actually seen one in the wild before, and it was cool to observe. It let me within about 20 feet of it before it sent me a warning by perking up all of its spikes. It then slowly meandered on down to the nearby creek, crossed it, and entered the woods.
A short time later, I noticed on a part of the trail some fresh deer tracks. I knew they were fresh because it was loose dirt and the recent rain would have washed out all of the existing tracks. I also happened to notice a short time later some cougar tracks. Not a small cougar--these were big tracks--the biggest cat tracks that I have ever seen and they were fresh. I've always wanted to see a cougar in the wild, but I would prefer to have others around when I see it. I've often heard of cougars attacking people but being scared off by other people who are around. The only fatalities that I have heard of with cougars are when people are alone. The cougar attacks an unsuspecting individual and there is nobody nearby to help fend the animal off. I had been hiking for several hours and had not come across a single person. I must admit that at this point I was certainly hoping that that cougar had tracked down that deer and had made a nice meal of it. The last thing I wanted was a hungry cougar stalking me.
I continued on the trail and came across a few deer a short time later. Twilight was fast approaching and I had still not found a place to sleep. The trail that I was currently on was on a steep slope, so I either had to backtrack to the last flat area I had been to (which is where I saw the cougar tracks) or continue on in hopes that some flat area would appear that I could throw my sleeping bag down upon and sleep for the night. As I pushed forward I came across a felled tree that covered the trail. Usually I would simply climb over such a tree and continue on my way, but this tree was thick with branches, making my going around it a necessity. I saw log off of the side of the trail on the slope of the mountain and decided to step on it in order to work my way around the obstruction. The log looked solid and same enough, but when I stepped on it I quickly discovered that it was rotted out. My foot burst right through it, forcing me off-balance, and with the weight of my backpack shifting forward, I did a face dive down the slope. I crashed through another felled tree with broken branches that were like sharp spikes. I was lucky that I did not fall directly upon them as they would have impaled me, creating a serious wound that could have been life-threatening. Instead, I merely glanced off of them, receiving slashing cuts rather than being impaled. I received multiple slashes upon my body: Three on my left arm, three on my left side, and four on my left leg. The arm wasn't bad, one of the ones on the side was fairly serious and quite painful, but it was my leg that was oozing the most blood. Fortunately, I had some anti-bacterial wipes in my backpack, so I pulled them out and cleaned the wounds on my leg. As soon as I cleaned the wound it would immediately begin spouting blood. Fortunately, I had packed my first-aid kit, so I took it out, found some bandages, cleaned the wound and applied the bandages as necessary. It did the trick as the bleeding was contained.
Twilight had already arrived and it was beginning to get dark. There was one flat area that I had passed recently, next to a series of boulders that looked like the perfect place for a den. I decided that I did not wish to attempt camping nearby what might possibly be a cougar's lair, so I continued on for about a half an hour where I finally found a little area that was just the right size for a sleeping bag. It was around 9 p.m. at this point, so I removed my backpack, cleared the ground of rocks and sticks, and flung my sleeping bag on the ground. I was too tired to cook anything so I simply ate a few granola bars instead, read my pocket-sized book of mormon, and attempted to get some sleep.
It was at this point that I had realized that I left all of my food in my pack. Instead of isolating my food and tying it from a tree, I simply moved my pack about 30 feet from where I was sleeping so that if a bear was hungry it could enjoy my pack without bothering me.
As I lay within the dark, my one hope was that no mountain lion (cougar) had been tracking me (my flat mate, Kyle, had told me of a time that he was stalked by a cougar). I decided to retrieve my buck-knife from my pack and sleep with it through the night. This is the only time that I can recall ever sleeping with a weapon.
I love nature and enjoy being out in it either with company or alone, but it is a little erie being out in the middle of nowhere, having not come upon a single human being throughout the excursion. Needless to say, around 11 p.m. I heard in the near distance (probably within 50 yards) the crashing sound of a huge log being stepped upon by something big. This was not the smaller sounds created by scurrying little animals that one always hears when camping. . . this was big! Naturally, my mind wandered to a bear or to a cougar. I was not too concerned about a bear, figuring that it could easily enjoy the food from my pack and move on without incident. However, if it were a cougar, nothing but blood would satisfy. I carefully opened the blade on my buck-knife and awaited the approach of the animal. I figured that if it struck at my head I could easily whip my blade around and pierce its skull or impale its neck.
I became acutely aware of every sound within the darkness. I could hear twigs cracking as some animal seemed to move nearer and nearer my location. It was not a big sound like I had heard before, but my mind certainly toyed with me as I thought of cougars being a part of the cat family, and envisioning the way that cats stalk their prey, slowly moving carefully step by step towards its victim. I laid motionless, waiting patiently for the beast to pounce upon me so that I could make my counter-strike. Though I do not fear death, I personally don't feel like leaving this life through the jaws of a wildcat.
After a prolonged period of time awaiting the beast, I thought it ridiculous to simply lay in wait. I finally took out my flashlight and shone it around the area, looking for what might be lurking in the dark. The sounds stopped, but I saw nothing through the trees. After some time, of searching with the light, I returned to my attempt to sleep. It was not long (perhaps 10 to 20 minutes) before I heard the sounds of something approaching as the crunching of twigs, branches, and leaves could be heard nearby. I gripped my blade, awaiting once more for the moment of engagement. It was tense. It was retarded. I thought to myself, "Am I going to lay here all night with this knife in my hand awaiting an attack?" I was done with all of the suspense, all of the uncertainty, all of my mind wandering wild with scenarios of hand to hand combat. Then it dawned on me. If it is a cougar, its greatest asset is the element of surprise. If I negate that element I take the advantage and possibly scare off of the predator. But to do this, I must become the predator and not the prey.
I was done with the anticipation. I arose from my sleeping bag, grabbed a branch that I had been using earlier as a hiking stick, and with the other hand carried my knife, held above my head in attacking position along with the little flashlight that I had. I have heard that when it comes to cougars one will want to make oneself look bigger than one actually it in order to intimidate the beast and scare it off. If there was going to be fight, it was going to be on my terms and we were going to get it over with. I became the predator, stalking about in the darkness, making a circular pattern around my sleeping bag as I explored the widening perimeter. It was time to finally put my mind at ease by either scarring off the beast or engaging it in combat. Either kill me now or let me sleep in peace. So I stalked about with the intent to fight. Thirty minutes passed and I found nothing. I did not sleep well, but I did sleep after this point.
came and no attack. I figured at this point that the animal that made the large crashing may have been a cougar that I had scared off, or more likely was simply a deer passing through the area. In the morning I did find both deer and cougar tracks, but I could not tell how old they were--they may have been there for a few days.
I ate breakfast and continued on the trail until the trail disappeared. According to my map and compass I was much closer to where I had parked my car if I continued on the course I was on rather than back tracking all the way that I had come. All that was before me was animal trails--no clear sign of a human trail through the forested mountain. I was off of the trail and seemingly lost at this point. I wasn't really lost--I could always go back the way I came, but I didn't want to, so I said a little prayer asking for inspiration and set off in the direction that "felt" right to me at that moment. I decided I would travel no further than 100 yards so that I could always find my way back. I hiked straight up a hillside and walked forward on the plateau. Sure enough, I found a real trail, but I still wasn't sure if it was the trail that I was supposed to be on. I figured that an unknown trail was better then no trail. At least an unknown trail would lead to somewhere.
Using my compass, I set off in the direction I thought was best (I left a marker pointing where I had come from in case I had to return and try to find the old trail I was on). I gave myself half an hour hiking in that direction and if nothing materialized, I was set to return to where I had come from. Twenty-five minutes into the hike I discovered a road that was on the map and I knew exactly where I was. An hour later I was back at my car, having experienced an interesting adventure. I never did come across another human being during that entire excursion. I could now continue on my journey to Salt Lake City.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

School Is Out For Summer!!!

The 2007-2008 school year has come to an end, which means that the summer mind-set has arrived for me. I decided to kick off this year's break with a little beach camping at El Capitan State Beach (check out the pictures for the views). I had a great time enjoying the natural beauty, the camping atmosphere, and the good company that I enjoyed on the quick excursion. I was so wrapped up in finding the perfect locations for photographs that I literally ignored what was around me, until after I got the shot. . . that is when I noticed that the little pathways I was trudging through were full of poison oak. This is nothing new for me--I've had poison oak before and a heck of a lot worse. This time around I simply have some spots of the poison dotting my arms and a little around my eyes--it doesn't even seem to bother me, other than making me look funny. The worst case I have ever had was in 1999 when I literally left the path and went running through bushes of poison oak. . . that time I got it so bad that I had to call in sick from work for over a week, all the while laying in bed because I was covered in blisters that would ooze non-stop. I even had to go the to doctor on that occasion and have steroids injected into me in order to help with the healing process--crazy!
Needless to say, I had written a poem about it back in January of 1999:

I had a love of nature and still rightfully so,
Wherein I dance within her arms
And follow her sweet flow.
I bent with her sweet body and stroked her hair so fine,
'Twas an exquisite gesture,
But her's was not to mine.
She scoffed me rather cruely and slapped me on the arm
And sent me on my merry way
Believing there's no harm.
I gloried in her presence and dreamt of her that night
And rose up in the morning with
Her kiss of scorn and spite.
For she had left upon me the mark of lovers lost
Wherein I'm left to itch and scratch
The measure of her cost.
And though her poison's in me and spreads like wild-fire,
It is her love that's spoken of
And not the pain required.

Anyhow, now that beach camping is done, I am spending the next few days fixing up and painting my parents' house. And then it is off on a road-trip to see my 100 year old grandmother and whatever other adventures I dream up on the way to and from Salt Lake City!
I love summer! It is great to be out of work without being OUT OF WORK, if you know what I mean.
I hope that all of your summer's are as eventful and that you enjoy it. Give me a holler if you are looking for something to do--if I am in town, then I am certainly game.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For Those Who Are Not Yet Fans

For those of you who are not yet fans of soccer, and in honor of the Swedish National team as they embark upon what I hope will be a fantastic Euro Cup 2008 performance, here are a few videos of Swedish players. We will begin with two humorous goals and then will look at the more beautiful and awe-inspiring goals.
In this clip vs. Iceland it looks like a defender has a hand-ball in the box (if caught it would be a free kick), but the official neither sees nor calls the foul, but all of the players assume that a foul has been called so play stops, that is until Allbäck realizes what is going on and takes advantage of the situation:

In this next shot, Mellberg has a throw-in which he uses intentionally to give to the opposing team by throwing it to the goal-keeper. This is by far one of the strangest goals I have ever seen:

Now we shall look at a few goals that are simply beautiful. How can one not love soccer and attribute to it the fact that this must be the most technically skilled sport in the world. . . to do what these players do without the use of their hands. . . amazing!
Here is an amazing header by Henrik Larsson (who has come out of retirement to play for Sweden in Euro 2008):

And here is some amazing footwork and technical skill by Zlatan Ibrahimovich:

And for those who are looking for something a little more physical, try this video from one of Sweden's practice sessions:

And there is so much more to see, so tune into the beautiful game and cheer on Sweden! They have a tough match against Spain on Saturday and then another versus Russia on Wednesday. Undoubtedly, Spain will advance from the group and the Russia v. Sweden match will certainly determine which of those two countries will advance out of the group along with Spain. Jag Elsker Sverige!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Euro Cup 2008

The European Cup 2008 has begun and all groups have finished their first games. Sweden is the team for me and I am excited as they left the pitch with a 2-0 victory over the defending champions, Greece. Zlatan Ibrahimovich put the ball in the back of the net to give Sweden a 1-0 lead in the 67th minute. It was followed a short time later by a score from Hansson ("He's so hot right now". . . O, that would be Hansel. . . I've got Zoolander running through my head). The Swedes are looking in good shape, considering all of the injuries they have had leading up to the tournament. Their next big game will be against Russia, which will likely determine which of those two countries joins Spain to advance from group D play (I'm predicting Sweden and Spain will advance from the group, but one never knows).
The breakdown of the group play so far is as follows:

Group A:
Portugal defeats Turkey, 2-0.
Czech Republic defeats Switzerland, 1-0.

Group B:
Germany defeats Poland, 2-0.
Croatia defeats Austria, 1-0.

Group C:
Netherlands defeats Italy, 3-0 (this is a bit of a surprise. . . not so much that the Netherlands won, but that they man-handled the Italians who are the defending World Cup Champions).
Romania draws with France, 0-0.

Group D:
Spain defeats Russia, 4-1.
Sweden defeats Greece, 2-0.

You've gotta love European Soccer!!! I love this time of the year!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Enjoy That Humble Pie!!!

I'm a Laker fan and a believer that the Lakers are going to win the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, but I must admit that tonight, Boston owned Los Angeles. The Celtic's Defense was amazing and they have a lot more hustle in them then do the Lakers.
The story of the night is Kobe Bryant. In the pre-game show the sports analysts were comparing him to Michael Jordan and Kobe himself, in no uncertain terms, has stated that he is on Jordan's level. I hate to break it to you Kobe--you are no Michael Jordan! I can't recall Jordan ever getting owned the way that Kobe did tonight. All the hype and conventional wisdom said that Kobe would take over any close game in the fourth quarter. What really happened. . . Kobe choked. Instead of looking like Michael Jordan, he looked like Tracy McGrady--a no-show in the fourth quarter.
The good news. . . Kobe is no Tracy McGrady. He will bounce back from this fourth-quarter meltdown and will come back with a vengeance in game 2.
Go Lakers!!!
p.s. As much as I hate Boston, I love Boston's players. Kevin Garnett is simply awesome! I can't think of a more intense player. A friend of mine, Liz Long, just texted me stating that KG looks like a fire-breathing velociraptor that eats kids for breakfast. Great description--Kudos to you Liz!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Christian Democrats

I have just finished reading the Norwegian Newspapers on-line and took a survey on my political views as they pertain to Norway. If I were living in Norway and was involved in the countries politics, the formulation from the survey states that I would most likely be a member of the Christian Democratic Party. The results page of the survey describe the Christian Democrats in brief: "Another party in the center, promoting Christian values. The party is anti-abortion, anti-poverty and pro-family." The breakdown is as follows:
The Christian Democrats: 47%
The Progress Party: 37%
The Liberal Party: 32%
The Conservative Party: 28%
The Labour Party: 28%
The Center Party: 15%
The Socialist Left Party: 13%
The Reds: 10%

I am assuming that the percentage is reflecting how many of my answers fit into the specific party's platform. The spectrum is probably so wide because of a number of reasons based on issues dealing with Norway. In the United States, I belong to the Republican Party, but I would consider myself a moderate republican, simply because I am more interested in issues than I am with party affiliation. I tend to agree with republicans on more issues, but I don't agree with everything on their platform.

*The following is a brief description of the parties according to
The Labour Party
The Labour Party: A social democratic party that embraces solidarity and believes the public sector should play a vigorous role in society.
The Progress Party
The Progress Party: Norway's most conservative party, it believes the public sector should play a smaller role in society. It urges tax cuts and restraints on immigration.
The Conservative Party
The Conservative Party: Traditionally the major rival of Labour, the Conservatives promote freedom of choice, more competition within the private sector, and tax relief.
Liberal Party
The Liberal Party: One of Norway's more right-leaning "center" parties that supports tax relief but also a strong public sector, liberalized immigration and environmental protection measures.
The Socialist Left Party
The Socialist Left Party: More left-leaning than Labour, the Socialist Left supports high taxes and fees to finance a vast array of social services.
The Christian Democrats
The Christian Democrats: Another party in the center, promoting Christian values. The party is anti-abortion, anti-poverty and pro-family.
The Center Party
The Center Party: Champion of Norway's farmers and support to the country's rural districts, this party wants less free-market influence and more public sector control of society.
The Reds
The Reds: Formed by a merger of parties including Rød Valgallianse and Norway's communist party (AKP), it wants to break down class differences and promote social equality.

Monday, June 2, 2008


My present state of being requires a drastic change if I wish to stave off the physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, and financial atrophy that I am experiencing. It is my desire to be a well-rounded individual and to continue to progress in life. The problem is that I have become so indolent in all aspects of life that I hardly have a semblance of living. I feel as if I am among the waking dead and this cannot be. Therefore, I have decided to make the following goals for myself and am posting them so that I may be held accountable from outside sources (that is all of you, my friends).

The Problem: My physical well-being has been suffering over the past several years. I've never really treated my body poorly, but I haven't kept it tip-top either over the years. Nevertheless, once I began working full-time and attending graduate school in the evenings, most exercise ceased and my eating habits digressed from semi-healthy to horribly unhealthy. The result, I became extremely out of shape, packing on pounds, and becoming short of breath. . . pathetic. To make matters worse, last year (as I was finishing up my master's degree) I tore my achilles tendon. The result--a cast and crutches for six months followed by physical therapy. Needless to say, I am now in the worst shape of my life and this must not be.
The Solution: I am going to discipline myself to eat a wider variety of healthy foods (I won't entirely eliminate the "good" tasting foods, i.e. junk food, but I will limit it. Furthermore, I will exercise at least four days a week (preferably six) with a combination of weights and cardiovascular activities.
The Goal: Lose 20 pounds in 6 months (or if I happen to bulk up with muscle, then I won't worry about the weight so long as my double-chin is gone an my stomach is flat).

The Problem: I have become far to casual with my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I have seemingly been going through the motions and not living the gospel with all my heart. The result, I have offended the spirit on more occasions than I would like to admit.
The Solution: Commit to reading the scriptures for at least 30 minutes a day, take time to pray frequently and sincerely, take time to ponder, seek opportunities to serve others, and train my heart and mind to see others as our loving Father in Heaven sees each individual.
The Goal: Be in tune with the Holy Spirit so that I may recognize and act upon the promptings that He offers me.

The Problem: Having been burned out on graduate school I have taken a "leave of absence" from the intellectual world. Having done so, I have become extremely lazy with reading or studying in general and with each passing day I am the more stupid for it.
The Solution: I am going to set aside 30 minutes every day for my own intellectual development. I am leaving the actual activity open so that I don't get burned out on one activity.
The Goal: To develop my mind so that I can engage in intellectual discussions when such opportunities arise and so that I may feel good about my own personal development.

The Problem: I am innately an introvert. The truth of the matter is that I don't mind spending time on my own rather than with groups of people. This may seem odd to some and obvious to others. It is nothing personal, so don't take it as such, and I am not completely introverted--there are times that I need and desire good company. I suppose that this can be both good and bad. The bad--I don't date as much as I should, and as much as I look forward to develop a loving relationship with some woman and having a family, I don't get my skibbies all bunched up in a knot when I don't. Perhaps I should be more concerned about my dating habits. . .
The Solution: Force myself to be more social--attend more activities, go out more frequently, meet more people, and ask more ladies out on dates.
The Goal: I'll keep this one to myself (after all, I am an introvert--I must keep some things on the inside:).

The Problem: With rising prices, and rising unemployment, there is a bad combination for keeping finances where I would like them to be. I am not struggling by any means--after all, I have no debt, I have enough money saved to get me through the summer without working, I've been consistently stashing money away for retirement, and I've even been able to purchase a few "wants" among all of the needs. Unfortunately, I haven't been saving for a house, which is something I really need to do.
The Solution: Spend less on "wants" and begin a savings account for a home. While I hold tithing and fast-offerings sacred and will continue to pay/donate, I can cut off my financial generosity to friends in need (I know that sounds horrible, but I really need to save for a house).
The Goal: By summer's end, begin placing a specific percentage of my earnings into an account for a home, comparable to what I am doing with retirement.

*I know that this must be really dry reading. My apologies to anyone who has made it this far with the reading--in truth, this particular blog is really for me in order to write down my thoughts and hold myself accountable.