Monday, February 15, 2010


Day two of a hut trip always starts off slow but the goal of the mornings efforts is to get outside on the snow. We first trek up the ridge line above the hut and then descend knee deep powder covered slopes into a snow filled meadow, skiing as far as we can go before entering the trees. We skin up and ascend back up the slope to a saddle on the ridge where we repeat the process a few more times. Skiing the fresh snow was heavenly. Down through the trees and back to the hut for lunch, after climbing the steep slope to reach the ridge on which it sat. The drinking and dancing late into the previous night caught up to me and I felt drained on the climb up. Lunch was followed by a snooze in an effort to regain some energy.

I went out later in the afternoon to ski the powder just outside the hut door on the south facing slope. By then the sky clouded over and the snow began coming down again. The snow was perfect, the wooping and hollering being simple expressions of the joy making smooth turns amidst the trees. Two runs and the sky was beginning to darken as evening approached. We could have done another 10 runs without exhausting the untracked powder available to us on that slope alone. Another night of fine food and conversation. Most people managed to stay up until 10 PM before going to bed. A decision was made that evening to try and get this same hut next year because of the quality of the snow and extraordinary skiing around the hut.

Friday morning after breakfast was spent preparing for the return trip to the Vail valley and our parked vehicles. Gear was stuffed back into the packs and the hut cleaned in preparation for the next group of lucky people to stay for the weekend. Down we went through the forest, carving turns in the powder as we descended to the floor of the Middle Creek valley below. The fearsome "Wall" was just another slope that we carved new turns in, this time wishing it went on for a bit longer. The lower elevation slopes had less new snow and were crusted from the freeze/thaw due to the slightly warmer temps found below. Skiing down the trail was fun and fast, leg muscles burning from having to maintain control. In less than 3 hours we were back at the vehicles, goodbyes exchanged with promises to do it again and we were back on the road. I was back home by mid afternoon.

Saturday was spent making five copies of my new block print. After several hours and more than halfway through the process, I was dissatisfied with one of the colors used and junked the work I had already completed. Sunday was spent trying again and I was very satisfied with the result. Monday, a holiday was also spent printing, but using a different shade of blue as the primary color, also yielding a very satisfying result. More prints will be run next weekend after which it's time to begin designing and preparing for the next block print.

The winter Olympics are happening and so the TV is glued to the channel broadcasting the event. Watching the athletes perform is a necessity while inking and hand printing the carved blocks, the entire process being mind numbingly boring but which still requires that I pay attention to what and how its done.

Since I was pleased with the results of the block print Sunday night, I decided I had to celebrate with some music outside on the truck stereo. With the truck door wide open and stereo cranked up, I chose to first play Van Halen's May 18, 1978 live show at the Apollo Theater in Glasgow, Scotland. A good audience recording of a classic 1978 set list. Although I had a little difficulty understanding Dave rapping with the audience, I could easily guess what it was he said since it varied little from show to show. In the beginning of the show, Michael's bass was not working and the band had to stall until the problem was fixed. It definitely got me rocking, stamping out a patch of ground in the fresh snow that had fallen earlier in the day.

Train for a lifetime
Lure of the Olympians
Just for a moment

Measured in minutes
The pinnacle of their lives
Lasting disappointment

Download it here:

Next up on the truck stereo was Echo & The Bunnymen and their live performance at the Hall Des Foires in Liege, Belgium on August 12, 1984 during the Inside Festival. Another good audience recording, although the people standing around the taper were talking loudly throughout the entire show. Wish I could have understood what they said. By the time I popped in the CD, the cigar/tequila combination had me drifting through space, to be led by Bunnymen to that special place their music always sends me. Even though they sky had cleared and it was frigid outside, I took no notice and continued dancing into the night to a set list of their best and most enduring songs, many of which continue to be played by the band during live shows they perform today.

Back inside the house after midnight, finding myself turning on the TV to watch figure skaters perform in Vancouver. I must have fallen asleep because Mira woke me up and I knew it was time to make it upstairs to bed. Thank goodness the next day was a holiday so that I could sleep late into the morning.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


While time may be melting away, the snow is still coming down in the Colorado Rockies. The second planned hut trip had arrived, making for a short work week. I stayed at the office until after 8 PM on Tuesday to get some much needed work done, after which I got in the truck and drove west to Vail. I found the Spraddle Creek Trailhead at the end of a darkened road amidst aspen trees overlooking the ski town of Vail. Since I had a long climb up to the Eiseman Hut the following day (over 7 miles with a 2,800 foot climb), I went to bed early with no "party on the pass" planned.

I woke up around 7 AM to dress, eat, pack and put the climbing skins on the skis. By 8 AM I was on the trail climbing through the aspens, the track in the snow taking me from Spraddle Creek to Middle Creek. Fresh snow on the ground and on the trees, although not enough to obscure the trail others had made through the snow days earlier. I had first tracks up that morning. The climb up is always exhausting, necessitating that I do it alone so that I may move at my own pace. Heavy breathing in the thin air of the high altitude. At the head of Middle Creek the trail veers uphill, a feature affectionately referred to as "The Wall", the trail ascending straight up the valley wall, the climbing skins having difficulty gripping the packed snow on the trail. After an hour of struggling up the slope, I was making the final traverse to the hut, turning the corner and there it is. What a welcome sight! The others in my group, who left the trailhead later, arrived shortly thereafter. Rick, Bill, Zell, Andy and Herbie, a great group of guys who I had met on earlier trips. A few other groups showed up that afternoon, a total of over a dozen people in the hut by the time the sun had set.

A sumptuous dinner followed by some drinking and conversation. Because of the strenuous hours spent skiing up to the hut, many chose to make an early night of it and head to bed. That was my time to fill up the glass with tequila, unpack the cigar and drop the CD into the portable player. With headphones on head and wearing pretty much all I had, I went out into the darknes on the deck for my virtual concert, the lights atop Vail mountain shining below.

Tonight Echo & The Bunnymen were performing live at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on October 23, 1999. This was a half year after they released their eighth studio album, What Are You Going to Do with Your Life? According to Wikipedia:

Sergeant's guitar-work on the album was understated and he later said, "It was probably the worst time in my whole life, doing that LP—I hated it [...] I'm on all the tracks here and there, but generally I just stayed in the tent! It was a horrible experience." The album is a collection of ballads and has been described as a follow-up to McCulloch's 1989 solo album, Candleland. In a 2005 interview for Record Collector magazine, McCulloch said, "Will [Sergeant] hated the album, and I can understand why. He'd ask me where his guitar was supposed to go on certain songs and I'd say, 'Well, nowhere, it doesn't really have a place'."

Fortunately only two of the 21 songs played that evening in Las Vegas were off the new album, Will's legendary guitar playing shining through on many of the old classics they performed while up on the stage.

The taper had this to say about the recording:

"Weeks before this show I contacted the band's manager by email to ask permission to tape from the soundboard and to my surprise he replied that it would be OK. He gave me his contact info and told me to ask for him at the door. I flew into Vegas for this show with my stealth mics in case it didn't work out but I actually found him at the venue and he set me up with the sound guy who instead of letting me plug into the mixing desk outputs actually just popped my blank DAT tape into the house system which was already configured to record. Needless to say, I was stunned. He also provided me with a backstage pass to meet and greet after the show with the taping experience ever. I have given this out a few times over the years but now hopefully enough time as passed to give it the distribution it deserves. Excellent soundboard and balanced recording...this sounds as good as an official release."

Monday, February 1, 2010


Friday night rolled around and yet I wasn't really in the mood for a blow out night listening to music and tipping the flask. Must have been tired and was thinking more about a good nights rest. I did manage to muster up the energy to go out to the truck late in the evening, bringing along two CDs, but playing only one.

Coldplay received my full attention this evening, a smooth performance in London at Brixton Academy on June 16, 2008 before an audience for Radio 1. They played some of their new songs from Viva la Vida , and some of their favorite "introspective Brit-pop and anthemic" songs from previous releases. Great sounding FM recording and a great performance by the band. The effect of having listened to Chris Martin's soothing voice was to lull me to sleep upon returning to the house and bed sometime about midnight.

Corporate free speech
Politicians take notice
Listen to the funders

The call of duty
Honor paid to those who serve
Names etched on marble

Play the instrument
It touches upon the heart
Tears of happiness

Slips through his fingers
No longer hears the clocks tick
Lost all track of time

Eyes upon the heavens
Resting upon Earth's high throne
Never wants to go

Saturday was spent at home, primarily sitting at the dining room table carving the last remaining blocks for the next print. A very boring chore, but the only way to get to the end and see what it is that I have created when I take ink to paper. Numerous coffee breaks help break the mind numbing activity.

By that night I was rested and more willing do my traditional virtual concert thing outside with my cigar and flask. Instead of using the headphones I turned on the truck stereo in order to spare the ears of any more damage, at least for this night. First up was Nirvana performing in Omaha, Nebraska on October 8, 1989, a great sounding recording of some of their earlier work, before they were catapulted into the national spotlight a few years later. Loud, rough and heavy, loaded with feedback. The music kicked me into the mood, setting me up for round two.

I closed the night down with Echo & The Bunnymen's Sessions, Rarities and Demos. These collections are a favorite of mine, the subtle variations of their studio album performances giving us a different view of their music and performance style, seeing how the songs evolved from inception to their recording. The songs included on the download were from their prime in the mid 80's, while they were at the peak of their game, tunes recorded while they worked on their first four albums, considered by Bunnymen aficionados to be their very best, that high pinnacle never to be reached thereafter. I agree, but there are many other songs they performed later on that are, in my opinion, just as good, even if Ian's voice deteriorated with the passing years. A really fun recording listened to under a very bright full moon.