Arctic Circle

Monday morning drive from Akureyri to Dalvik to catch the 9:00 o’clock ferry to the island of Grimsey; the only place in Iceland that extends into the Arctic Circle.

Rough 3-hour ferry ride, not ideal for anyone prone to sea sickness. There were several such people on board. Did not envy the young woman in charge of clean-up.

Grimsey is situated 40 km north of the mainland. The island is small – just five square kilometers – with a population of 70-80 people. Birds outnumber the people by about 10,000 to one.

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Seydisfjordur Iceland

According to the guidebook: “If you explore only one town in the Eastfjords, Seydisfjordur should be it. Made up of multi-colored wooden houses and surrounded by snowcapped mountains and cascading waterfalls.”

On this day the surroundings were obscured by dense fog and the town was swarming with tourists. A nice side-trip nonetheless.

Canyoneering Karma

Be sure to check out and join our meetup group at:

Canyoneering Karma

La Canada Flintridge, CA
3,605 Canyoneers

Welcome to the Canyoneering Karma Meetup GroupOur group exists to serve; to help you learn, practice and hone technical canyoneering skills; to meet other canyoneers; and of …

Check out this Meetup Group →

Our group exists to serve; to help you learn, practice and hone technical canyoneering skills; to meet other canyoneers; and of course to have fun exploring canyons.

Canyoneering Karma is hosted by:

• Canyon Adventures, Los Angeles CA — www.canyonadventures.org

• Canyons & Crags, Cedar City UT — www.canyonsandcrags.com

This group is open to everyone, whether or not you have received any formal training, and regardless of where you may have received it. Ours is a big tent. We believe that bringing people together is good for the sport. It brings people into the community; encourages sharing of ideas, information and techniques; and improves safety and ethics.

Nature’s Temple

The soundtrack to my personal experiences in canyons is almost always Native American flute music. Surrounded by silence I hear the music in my head. I am at peace.

Recently that silence was broken by the yelling and screaming of someone’s children. I back-tracked until I met six kids; guessing their ages ranged from six to twelve. I explained to them that many people come to places like this to enjoy serenity and their noise was disrespectful. A man – who I assumed to be the dad of at least some of the kids – caught up with them and chimed in to the conversation. He understood and reinforced my message to the kids … to a point. When I suggested this place was a temple he said he wouldn’t take it that far.

I guess we all have our own concept of what constitutes a temple. Personally, I feel much closer to God in nature than I ever could in a multi-million-dollar structure built by man.

 

I’d rather be in the mountains thinking of God, than in church thinking about the mountains.— John Muir

Mexico

Arrived in Monterrey, Mexico on the 7th of March. Here training 19 aspiring canyon guides. Four days on, three days off, four days on. From here on to Guadalajara for another seven days of training another group of guides. Home on the 27th.

I have been coming to Mexico since 2003 – Monterrey, Guadalajara and Durango. You would think my Spanish would have improved tremendously, but it hasn’t. Mi Español is still no bueno. Fortunately, the courses work out just fine thanks to some very competent translators.

Internet Forums

I started the first canyoneering forum on the internet back in May of 2000. The original platform was called eGroups, which was later acquired by Yahoo! Those who have been around long enough likely remember it best as the Canyons Group on Yahoo! To get it up and running I did an internet search for “canyoneering”, “canyoning”, “slot canyons”, “gorge walking”, “river tracing”, “kloofing”, and every other related word or phrase I could imagine; inviting anyone and everyone who came up in the search to participate in the group. I was naive enough to imagine we would all come together in a spirit of cooperation to share ideas and information, learn from each other and help each other. Two years later I become extremely frustrated and turned the group over to someone else.

Since then I have been involved in one way or another with several more forums and groups. I certainly see the potential benefits. Unfortunately, I have also witnessed an abundance of pitfalls. Canyoneering existed long before there was an internet, but the exponential growth of the sport has paralleled the exponential growth of the internet. The two have grown up together. Some of the pitfalls that plague canyoneering internet forums are the same ones that plague the internet in general. Others are more specific to the canyoneering community.

Those just getting started in canyoneering have access to a wealth of information that did not exist 15-20 years ago. That’s a good thing, but it presents a significant challenge; sorting through all that information – often conflicting information – to figure out what is worth learning and what should be ignored.

This isn’t a blog post intended to tell you what information is good and what is bad. It’s just a personal rant about the pitfalls. Here is my list of some of those pitfalls:

  • Context – “It depends”
  • Opinions vs Facts
  • How to Think vs What to Think
  • Ego, Ethics and Tenacity
  • Ego and The Need to Right
  • Biases, Motives and Manipulation
  • Credentials

I might add some comments with more details about each of these pitfalls. Maybe not. It’s just a rant after all. If I do, someone is bound to disagree. Sometimes people disagree just to disagree. And those folks tend to be much more tenacious than me with their arguments.

In my old age I’d rather be at peace than be right.

Respect

“OMG! Can you believe that guy? He almost ran right into me!”

Actually, I couldn’t believe the woman who said that. I was stuck behind her group of around ten people, who were descending this section of trail three abreast. It would have been a simple matter for her to step aside and let the man pass, but she obviously felt he was the one who should yield to her. She even mumbled something about paying big money for this trek and expected the porters to show more respect to customers.

It was none of my business, but that minor detail didn’t stop me from ….

“First of all, lady, it is common protocol when hiking, backpacking or trekking for those going down to give way to those going up.”

“But even if you are not aware of that protocol, there is a matter of simple human decency and courtesy. That man is twice your age, carrying at least five times more weight than you, bent over so he couldn’t even see you.”

“And it is you who should be showing more respect to him and others like him. You are a guest in their country.”

 

Nepali porters are quite amazing. Small in stature with spindly legs, moving up and down the mountains carrying incredible loads, often equal to the loads being carried by burros and yaks on the same trails. Much of what they carry on the trekking routes are convenience goods that foreign trekkers expect to find along the way. That includes heavy cases of bottled water, juice, soft drinks, beer and hard spirits. There are no roads. Anything you see along the way was carried on the back of a man, burro or yak. I imagined that larger items and building materials would have been brought in by helicopter, until I witnessed porters carrying framing lumber, multiple sheets of 1/2 inch plywood, corrugated metal roofing panels, water and sewer pipe, and much more.

Of course they are also carrying gear for trekkers. A trekker need not carry any more than he needs for the day – clothing layers, water, snacks, camera. The balance of his gear is carried by porters or pack animals and will be waiting for him when he arrives at the tea house where he will spend the night.

I wondered how the math would work. One porter per trekker? But if a porter is carrying my backpack, how does he carry his own gear. No worries. It’s nothing to a porter to lash two backpacks together, then lash his own gear on top, carrying the gear of three people. And the fancy adjustable suspension systems and hip belts that add so much to the cost of a backpack are wasted. The porter is more likely to use a traditional Nepali system – supporting the load with a strap across his forehead.

That’s not my Sherpa; that’s my Tamang

That answer sounded odd coming out of my mouth when an Australian fellow I met in a tea house saw me with my guide, Sukram, and asked, “Is that your Sherpa?”

Nepal has a population of 26 million people made up of more than 40 different ethnic groups and tribes, including the Sherpas, Tamangs, Gurungs and others. When we think of the Himalayas we immediately think of Sherpas, but the term Sherpa applies to the ethic group; it is not a job title given to a person who carries gear for others. Job titles include: porter, trekking guide and climbing guide. You might find yourself with a porter, trekking guide or climbing guide who is Tamang or you might find yourself with a porter, trekking guide or climbing guide who is Sherpa.

I didn’t have a Sherpa. I had a trekking guide who is Tamang.

NOTE: Sukram appears in several of the photos carrying my black and green Osprey Exos 58 pack.

Dr Carlson?

It popped up on the kiosk when I was signing in for a flight from LAX to Hong Kong. DR CARLSON RICHAR. Somehow the D at the end of Richard and my middle initial – R – got moved to the front of the line. I brought it to the ticket agent’s attention, but she kinda blew it off.

I was also assured that my bags would be checked through all the way to Kathmandu. I wanted to double check when I landed in Hong Kong. When I explained I had a long layover in HK, then on to Kathmandu, I was told I needed to go to the transfers area to claim my bag, then drop it right back off again. But my two checked duffle bags didn’t arrive. When I went to customer service to inquire I was greeted with, “How are you today Dr. Carlson.” I should have just said, “I’m fine.” But instead I said, “I’m doing well, thank you, but I’m not a doctor.”

Can of worms now open.

I had plenty of time to burn today in the Hong Kong International Airport, but I really wasn’t expecting to spend a big part of it explaining that I am not really masquerading as a doctor. Ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit. The DR portion of the confusion was mostly humorous and only added 20-30 minutes to the hassle, at least directly. It did come up a couple more times as I was passed from person to person in search of my bags.

Never did see the bags, but I have been assured that they were located and should arrive in Kathmandu on my flight. Fingers crossed.

On to Nepal.

1200 Feet of Rope

Posted on a forum, “Someone left a lot of rope in Mystery Canyon”.

Several people inquired, “What do you mean, a lot of rope.”

“A lot. Like some hand lines on the entry gulley.”

The post was on the Monday after an ACA Canyon Rendezvous in Zion National Park, so some were wondering if anyone from our group had left the rope behind. I was certain the answer was no, but I didn’t have anything better to do on Tuesday.

I arrived at the East Rim Trailhead and pulled out my empty backpack and a water bottle. Before I set out hiking, two park rangers arrived. I asked them if they had heard about the ropes. “What ropes?” Following my explanation and letting them know I was going to hike down the gulley and retrieve as much of the rope as I could, they asked to see my permit. They turned out to be interns. I did not need a permit to do a day hike, even if said day hike includes the entrance to a technical canyon that does require a permit. I was not there to do a technical canyon; evidenced by my complete lack of technical gear. They insisted I did. I insisted I didn’t.

To resolve the matter one of the rangers got on his radio to talk to someone at the backcountry desk, “There’s a guy here named Rich Carlson who insists he doesn’t need a permit to do Mystery Canyon.” I asked the intern to rephrase the question, but it still didn’t come out quite right. Fortunately, I knew the guy working the backcountry desk that day. He told the rangers to give me a pass on this one. “Whatever he’s doing is probably ok, but ask him to stop by to see me when he’s finished.”

The three of us hiked together to the entrance gulley. Sure enough, there was a rope tied to a tree at the top. At least 200 feet of hand line. Just before we reached the bottom end of the first rope we encountered another rope tied to another tree. Before reaching the end of that rope, another rope tied to another tree. And then another rope. And another. All 200-300 feet long. And not cheap hardware store ropes. These were all real ropes; some static some dynamic.

I was guessing at how much rope I could carry. When we descended past as much of it as I thought I could carried I said goodbye to the interns and headed back up the gulley, untying ropes from trees and coiling them as I went. By the time I reached the top, my backpack was stuffed to capacity. Another rope draped over my shoulders and one under each arm. Out of curiosity I measured them all when I got back to my shop. The total was in excess of 1200 feet. I learned later from the interns that they encountered a couple more lengths of rope farther down the canyon.

Perhaps someone felt they were doing a service to the community by donating so much rope as hand lines. But it wouldn’t have taken much research on their part to realize there was no way the rope could be left in place.

Canyon Rendezvous

The canyon rendezvous concept was started by the ACA in 2000. Here’s is a brief history.

Also just an excuse to wear my buckskins and show off my .50 caliber Hawken rifle. 🙂

Forever Loyal

For several years back in the 90s I taught a wide range of outdoor courses for an Arizona-based retail chain called Popular Outdoor Outfitters. When they decided to add climbing gear they asked me to make a trip to the Outdoor Retailer Show, which was held in Reno Nevada at the time. I came back with a recommendation — “Buy everything from BlueWater Ropes.” BlueWater was one vendor that could provide everything. Not only the best climbing ropes available, but a full line of gear.

The opening order was to be $350,000, but BlueWater turned it down. They had a dealer in Phoenix. A small specialty climbing shop doing an average of $10,000 a year in BlueWater sales. It would take that dealer 35 years to match Popular’s opening order, but BlueWater turned it down. I needed to know why. The answer was simple enough: “Loyalty”. Loyalty to that small dealer took precedence over money. I was disappointed, but impressed with that level of integrity.

A few more years went by before I reconnected with BlueWater. With the encouragement of a friend, Charly Oliver, who had once worked for BlueWater, I approached them about creating a specialty canyoneering rope. The result of our collaboration was the 8mm Canyon Pro, the first rope made in the USA specifically for canyoneering and still the best (in my not-so-humble opinion).

Our collaborative relationship has run 15 years strong now. I consider them to be “conservatively innovative”. I’m always impressed with their openness to new ideas, but that is always tempered by one simple fact — people trust their lives to their products.

People ask me if I have tried other climbing and canyoneering ropes. Of course I have. Ask me why I won’t switch brands and I’ll give you a simple answer: “Loyalty”. BlueWater has earned it.

Training in Portland

Sitting in the Alaska Airlines Lounge in Portland waiting for my flight back to Salt Lake City. Posting to share a quote from Lisa Hewitt, a student in two of the three one-day workshops I taught here. Reminding myself what a blessed life I lead and the joy that comes from introducing people to an activity like canyoneering.

“I’m so thoroughly satisfied with how much l learned this weekend! I feel so revved up to keep at it! We shared so many different ways to complete various tasks on rope. My favorite thing about Rich Carlson as an instructor was how open he was to let others share how they like to do things. I dig a leader that doesn’t have pride issues. Very personable, lots of stories, thorough and patient with all my questions. Thank you Rich for expanding my abilities this weekend. To the rest of the group and ones not in this picture! I’m so elated to have connected with each one of you! For those of you who missed out, there will be a next time!”

We had a great turnout in all of the workshops, as well as the Intro to Swiftwater Saturday evening. Thanks to all who participated and for the warm hospitality. And yes, Portland does have some great beer. 🙂

Looking forward to a return trip to the Pacific Northwest next spring or summer.

1,000 YouTube Subscribers

Feels like a legitimate channel now. 🙂

Working on a Support Page on my website to provide another means of support for my volunteer training programs and free instructional videos.

Hong Kong to the Sierras to Baja

Some trips run like a well-oiled machine. Other trips … not so much.

Getting to Hong Kong for a 2-day Totem CRT Ultralight Rigging & Rescue training involved a 2.5-hour drive from home in Cedar City, Utah, to Las Vegas for a flight to San Francisco, then a connection to Hong Kong. Uneventful so far, except for that crazy woman on the flight into Hong Kong. I don’t understand much Chinese, but I knew she was cussing. There is a funny side of human nature on display between that time when the wheels touch the runway – “Please remain seated until we come to a complete stop” – and when it’s our turn to disembark – a couple hundred people in the aisle between us (row 42) and the exit, but she was climbing over people to get her bags out of the overhead compartment. Human nature is on display again as people press their shins up against the baggage carousel. They must know the very next bag coming down the chute will be theirs.

First night in Hong Kong was a long one. Long flight and jet lag. Dinner with students. Late to bed. Full day teaching. Dinner. Evening class. Repeat the next day. My third day in Hong Kong was a day off. Made plans to meet with a couple of my past students, but woke up feeling like a zombie. Spent most of the day sleeping.

Hong Kong to Beijing to Las Vegas. I’m getting spoiled with airport lounges. American Express Centurion, Priority Pass, United Club. Comfortable, wifi, good food, free drinks. Hard to imagine traveling without those perks. Unfortunately, the open-to-the-public-for-a-fee lounge in Beijing was just slightly better than spending six hours out in the terminal. There were other, more upscale lounges, but I wasn’t flying business class so I didn’t qualify.

Met my wife in Las Vegas and drove west toward the Sierras for some down-time camping and hiking. Then south to LA for a weekend of teaching at Stony Point. I had courses scheduled on two back-to-back weekends. We didn’t feel like driving seven hours back home, only to return a few days later. We could have spent those five days between courses hanging out around LA. Could have spent them in San Diego. Been there. Done that. Talked about taking a bus down to Ensenada where I had spent some time with my son years ago. But instead we decided to fly down to Cabo on the southern tip of Baja.

Spent our first night at the Hotel Tropicana in San Jose. I must have a nose for beer. It led us directly to the Baja Brewery. Drove from San Jose to Cabo San Lucas the next morning. Boat tour out to Lands End. Mandatory beach time. Bar hopping. Beautiful day. Then north to Todos Santos where we checked in at a cozy bed and breakfast called The Vibe.

The owner of the B&B asked if we planned to stay through Friday as we originally planned, considering the rain in the forecast. Not really sure why some rain would change our plans. Of course we planned to stay through Friday. The next day we started hearing news about Tropical Storm Lidia heading toward Baja. Shop keepers started boarding up windows and doors and we overheard people who wondered if the tropical storm would become a hurricane. Perhaps it was time we considered altering our plans after all.

Skies were still clear the next day. We stuck with our plan to drive to La Paz, but took every opportunity to attempt reaching the airline by phone. To no avail. When we found an opportunity to get online the airline’s website offered instructions on how to reschedule flights for anyone affected by the impending storm. We moved our reservation from Friday afternoon to Thursday morning, hoping to beat the storm. Unfortunately, when we woke up on Thursday we had messages telling us the Thursday morning flight was cancelled. The storm was already getting close to the airport in Los Cabos. It rained most of the day and overnight. Power and internet off and on all day. Off all night and into the morning.

The storm passed through Todos Santos overnight. Dark sky and the lack of power caused an eerie darkness. Looking out the front door it was difficult to make out the outline of houses just across the street. Without air conditioning it was an uncomfortable night. Strong winds rattled the doors and windows. Not much sleep and no way to make coffee in the morning.

Drove to Cabo San Lucas Friday morning, not certain when we would get a flight out, but we had no way to contact the airline. Perhaps best to go straight to the airport to talk with someone in person. We encountered much more rain between Todos Santos and Cabo. Arroyos that were bone dry on the drive up a couple days earlier were now raging with muddy water. Cars were half-buried from the flash floods and mud slides. Once in Cabo we learned that all roads leading to the airport were closed. Traffic was backed up for a couple miles.

Once we escaped the gridlock we stopped at the first hotel we encountered – Marina Fiesta Hotel. There was a chain and padlock on the gate. The guard wasn’t expecting any new guests at a time when everyone else was trying their best to leave.

We thought we had celebrated our last night in Baja on Wednesday. Then again on Thursday. Our Friday afternoon flight was cancelled a second time so we celebrated again Friday evening. Then received word from the airline that we wouldn’t be able to leave until Sunday. Celebrated our fourth last night in Baja on Saturday.

Sunday departure confirmed. Google Maps showed the road clear and anticipated a 35 minute drive. We left the hotel with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, Google Maps was clueless about which roads were open and which were closed. Hint: the open road was the one with the backed-up traffic. Made it on time, nonetheless. Witnessed much more devastation from the storm on our way to the airport. It was amazing how much progress was already made with the cleanup. People are resilient.

Second weekend of courses in LA was cancelled. Income lost. Travel expenses went over budget. But it’s only money. Compared to the disruption of lives caused by the storm, we experienced nothing more than a small inconvenience. There is so much to be grateful for in this life. The blessing count continues to rise.

 

It Depends

My students know when they ask questions about canyoneering that my answer will often start with, “It depends ….”  One of the things that makes canyoneering such an amazing sport is the diversity of the canyons we explore. That diversity requires us to learn a broader set of skills and to develop the ability to DISCERN when one set of skills and techniques is appropriate and when it is not.

Delano Peak

At 12,169 feet Delano Peak is the highest in the Tushar Range, the third highest range in the state of Utah.

Join Judy and me as we enjoy the magnificent views from the summit and encounter an unexpected bonus along the way.

Trekking Pole Mods

Turn your trekking pole into a selfie stick AND a monopod so you won’t lose any memories when hiking solo. These are the simple mods I made to one of my Black Diamond trekking poles for my 5-week backpacking adventure through sever southeastern states in January 2017.

StickPic

The StickPic is a simple yet ingenious tool that mounts on the end of a trekking pole and allows a solo hiker to capture memories on the trail. Uses standard 1/4 x 20 threads fir direct mounting of most compact cameras. Adapters are available that will allow use with smart phones and GoPro cameras as well.

Giottos Ball Head

The Giottos MH1004-320 Professional Mini Ball Head is the perfect accessory to add versatility to any tripod. Made from a lightweight aluminum alloy, this locking ball head makes adjusting your camera to nearly any position quick and easy. Installation on the trekking pole required drilling for a 1/4 x 20 threaded rod.

Zima in the Jug

The Jug is a short section of Salome Creek, an amazing oasis in the desert northeast of Phoenix. It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when it was extremely rare to see anyone else in the Jug. There was no parking lot and no signs at the trail head. We had it all to ourselves.

Descending the canyon in the spring of 1994 with a writer and photographer from Outside Magazine, we were puzzled by the cheap black and orange hardware store rope we encountered dangling from the rim half-way through the canyon. There were no other vehicles parked along the road. Why would someone leave it hanging here?

Another hundred yards down the canyon I climbed up on a shelf on canyon left. In the side drainage below I saw a rather large man in his 20s sitting in front of a tent, drinking a bottle of Zima. There were several empty bottles laying beside him. I asked him about the rope and he confirmed it was his. He and two friends rappelled into the canyon on that rope the day before. He assured me that he had no concerns about the quality or strength of the rope. It said right on the label that it would hold 300 lbs. He was the heaviest in his group and only weighed 260.

I asked if he had any concerns about camping in the canyon with rain in the forecast. He had none. The stream would have to come up at least three feet before it poured over the shelf on which I was standing. I pointed out that it wouldn’t take much rain draining off Dutchwoman Butte behind him to start a pour-over directly into the drainage where he was camped. He shrugged his shoulders and took another swig of Zima.

While I was chatting with this fellow, my companions got my attention and pointed to two other guys climbing up the rock another hundred yards in front of us. We learned from the first guy that his friends were looking for another way out of the canyon. They had no ascending gear and had no way to keep their gear dry. The long pools past the waterfall down canyon are unavoidable.

As we continued our descent the conversation turned to the many different ways people could get themselves into trouble canyoneering. I already knew of several ways. On that day I learned a few more that had never occurred to me.

Attached is the article that appeared in Outside Magazine in June 1994. Some of the wording in the article were inspired by the guy we encountered drinking Zima in the Jug.

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Competency Continuum

The competency continuum. People enter canyoneering at different places along the continuum. Some have no rope experience at all. Some have no outdoor experience at all. Some come from rock climbing and have an established skill set and, quite often, some misinformation and/or an initial inability to perceive how canyoneering techniques necessarily differ from rock climbing techniques in many ways.

Others progress on the continuum in one type of canyon, but not in other types.

Skills can be acquired by many different means, including formal and informal training. Skills need to be combined with judgment, which comes from the result of experience. There is a saying about good judgment coming from experiences that came about due to bad judgment. It is very common in the canyoneering community for someone to have experience, yet still lack competence because luck has been on their side and they haven’t perceived a need to expand their skills.

Rules vs Best Practice vs Fit for Task. When someone is still low on the competency continuum, it makes sense to start them out with some rules on how to do things. We should also impress upon them the wisdom of sticking to basic canyons as they master basic skills, then progress from there.

At some point everyone needs to learn what constitutes best practice AND the variables that come into play. In other words, it becomes ok for them to start breaking rules and deviating from best practices IF they have developed the judgment they need to go along with it. Even then, I would argue that we should employ best practices whenever possible because we don’t know who will come behind us, see what we left behind and assume it is an example of best practice.

Fit for task means we are breaking rules and deviating from best practices, hopefully only because we know what the hell we are doing. I would still argue that we need to consider others who haven’t achieved the same level of competence.

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Standoff with the Montana Freemen

On March 25, 1996, an 81-day standoff began between FBI agents and an anti-government group known as the Montana Freemen. The standoff continued until the last members of the Freemen surrendered on June 14, 1996.

The group, which had become increasingly frustrated by the government in the midst of foreclosure proceedings on the property near Jordan on which they gathered, began holding mock trials of public officials and filing claims against officials, private citizens and journalists.

The situation was the third major armed standoff involving federal agencies in the 1990s, after the 1992 incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, both of which ended in multiple casualties. The Freemen standoff produced only one casualty, when FBI Special Agent Kevin Kramer rolled the Ford Bronco he was driving along a dirt road leading to the Freemen farm and was ejected from the vehicle. Kramer died later at a nearby hospital.

Members of the Freemen were tried for various offenses, including bank fraud, mail fraud, making threats against public officials (including a judge for whom they wrote a writ of execution) and the armed robbery of an ABC News television crew in October, 1995.

Also in March 1996

President Bill Clinton approved a comprehensive national policy on the future management and use of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), making the technology available for civilian use. Previously, the primary purpose of GPS was enhancing the effectiveness of U.S. and allied military forces. Both Garmin and Magellan immediately introduced hand-held GPS units for the civilian market.

At that time I was teaching outdoor courses (map reading, wilderness survival, etc) for a chain of outdoor stores in Arizona called Popular Outdoor Outfitters. They told me I needed to learn how to use GPS right away because they would be selling the new devices and wanted me to offer courses. I had been an instructor in the Army and received several commendations for teaching land navigation. MGRS (Military Grid Reference System) and UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) are very similar so I had no trouble learning and teaching GPS.

May 1996

Not sure how, but word spread that there was a GPS instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. I was contacted by the FBI about training agents who were involved in a standoff near Jordan, Montana. Small teams of agents arrived for training, then headed back to Montana.

Not surprising to me, a government purchasing agent used some criteria other than common sense when purchasing GPS units for the agents. The civilian Garmin or Magellan units would have been a safe bet, but instead the agents arrived with units capable of only one function — provide a grid coordinate. There was no “go to waypoint” feature. By necessity the instruction included plotting the grid coordinate delivered by the GPS unit to a 7.5 minute topographic map, plotting the desired destination on the map, then using a good old fashion compass to follow the bearing.

Really enjoyed training the teams and found myself more interested in the news story than I would have been otherwise.

Grandson JeRICHo

23 May 2018

My daughter, Ashley gave birth to a son. They named him Jericho. I pointed out that his name should be pronounced, Je-RICH-o. Mom and dad insisted they would call him by his nickname, Rico. Of course I pointed out that Rico is Spanish for Rich.  🙂