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The Blog is Back

For those who have been faithfully following my blog (haha, inside joke- I know from the stats that nobody is following), I want to apologize for the year long- wait, two year long, sabbatical I’ve taken from writing.  It’s hard to say why I stopped… The best I can do to try to explain is that enough time had went by that I had a lot to catch up on and was feeling a little overwhelmed by the task of updating.  As time went on the project of “catching up” kept building and building.  Soon I convinced myself that it was such a daunting task that I would just neglect the whole dang thing.  Anyway, I’ve recently made some new goals in my life and have decided to put more effort into the things that I am passionate about- and writing is one of those things.  I didn’t even know where to start since I’m so out of date so I decided to pick up at the beginning of the 2011 fire season.  I may fill in 2010 at some point later but I’m having computer issues and don’t have access to most of my photos from last year anyway.  So, here we go.

 

 

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Looking back on my posts this summer I noticed that I failed to post about one of the best days of the summer.  While in Grand Junction I had a mandatory day off (they make us take a day off every 21 days).  Wally, another jumper happened to have the day off as well.  We got a hold of ex Boise smokejumper Ryan Jordan who lives in GJ now and we all three went to hang out on the Colorado river in Ryan’s jet boat.  We grabbed a case of Tecate and some fishing rods and hit the water.  Despite knowing that I’d be hanging out all day on the water in 100 degree weather, I neglected to apply sunscreen so I ended up with a brutal sunburn but aside from that it was a great day off.

Out on the river

Out on the river

hiking around on the shore

hiking around on the shore

Found an old holding pen

Found an old holding pen

thirsty catfish

thirsty catfish

parked in a cove for some fishing and swimming

parked in a cove for some fishing and swimming

found some good cliffs to jump from

found some good cliffs to jump from

Ryan J getting some hangtime

Ryan J getting some hangtime

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Still no fires around here during the last week but lightning is expected the first part of next week- lets just hope there isn’t a bunch of rain with it!  Anyway, we had another practice jump this morning.  We are keeping our skills fine tuned for our next fire jump.  This is critical since most of our injuries stem from landing in an area in which was not intended- for example into the trees, a rock slide, a cliff, onto the backing course of an Asian driving school, or any other potentially lethal areas that typically surround an intended “jump spot” out in the wilderness.  Parachute accuracy is an important skill for any smokejumper who intends to do the job for very long.  A jump spot may be a patch of grass or short brush as small as a volleyball court and surrounded in hazards that will nearly guarantee you a medical evacuation if hit.  A volleyball court may seem large while you’re standing in it, but from 3000 feet it looks like a putting green at the mini-golf course, and maneuvering down into it while negotiating gusty winds can be as challenging as lassoing a greased midget riding a coked up show pony.  That’s why we like to keep or skills sharp by getting a jump every week or two regardless of how slow the fire season is at the time.

Touchdown

Touchdown

Flinders boys got to see their ol man jump

Flinders' boys got to see their ol' man jump

Brollier executing yet another perfect jump

Brollier enjoying his morning

Different types of canopies: DC-3 in red made by Airborne Systems , white and blue and the CR-360 in blue and yellow made by Performance Designs, inc.

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Since I’m currently rotting away in Spanish Fork like an old mayonnaise sandwich in the Utah sun, and haven’t jumped a fire in half a fort night.  I don’t have much to post about.  I’ve decided to do some posting anyway- on some events that happened in the past.  That way I can keep throwing posts up on a regular basis.  Soooo… Fly fishing trip is the event for the day.

Chris and I made a last minute trip to his “super secret” fishing spot to which he brings NO ONE!  I was really excited and honored to be let in on his coveted fishing area but once we got there (about 5 hours from Boise), I found out that despite it’s extreme remoteness it was in fact one of my favorite places too since it was near where I grew up!  So we both had great past memories of the place, which made it that much more amazing.  Getting to the fish meant driving the last hour on a dirt road that made a Bolivian Jeep trail look like a freeway- then a four mile hike to top it off.  We showed up to camp in the dark and celebrated with a few pulls of whiskey then pitched our tents and hit the hay, looking to get up at first light.

The next two days were full of amazing weather and pretty good fishing.  We hooked several nice steelhead and got some good sunburns- Perfect weekend!

Cast away!

Cast away!

Chris showing his fightin skills

Chris showing his fightin' skills

Nice work Dude!

Nice work Dude!

Hooked up!

Hooked up!

Dont horse it!

Don't horse it!

Those little guys sure can put up a fight!

Those little guys sure can put up a fight!

Go tell your big brother to come bite my line next!

Go tell your big brother to come bite my line next!

Fish on!

Fish on!

Had to run a couple hundred yards trying to keep below him!

Had to run a couple hundred yards trying to keep below him!

Huffin and Puffin but so so happy!  Love It

Huffin' and Puffin' but happy! Love It

Swim free little buddy

Swim free little buddy

Nothing like just you and the river...

Nothing like just you and the river...

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It’s been way too long since I’ve gotten on here and updated… sorry Andy and Emily- since I’m pretty sure you two are the only people who even look at my blog.  But on that note, if ANYONE happens to stop by, whether I know you or not, PLEASE PLEASE just drop a line- a word even!  Just let me know that there are people who read this occasionally.  It is a lot of motivation to keep updating this just knowing that there is even one more person who looks at it!!  Pretty Please…..

Ok, so.  I have been having anxiety thinking about all the stuff I need to catch up on and I know that by the time I get to the present events, they will be in the past and I’ll really have a hard time catching up.  I decided to just do a quick re-cap of stuff just to get up to speed.  Sorry for not elaborating on any one event but that’s just going to have to do.  So here it is ESPN highlight style:

ALASKA- LAST 3 WEEKS:

Fought a couple more fires, had some good times, got to see some AMAZING country!

en route to fire

en route to fire

Flying low to kick out some cargo out to the guys on the ground who just jumped

Flying low to kick out some cargo out to the guys on the ground who just jumped

Home away from home

Home away from home

Warm Day!

Warm Day!

Cold Day.... and REALLY windy

Cold Day.... and REALLY windy

Thatd be in the AM...

That'd be in the AM... about ready to tent up for the night.

Middle of the night, dirty, cold, tired, and absolutely loving it!

Middle of the night, dirty, cold, tired, and absolutely loving it!

The game its self is easy... put lots of money in the middle of a circle of people, flip a quarter.  If its tails youre out, if its heads your still in.  Last one in takes cash.  Thats about $6,400.00

The game its self is easy... put lots of money in the middle of a circle of people, flip a quarter. If it's tails you're out, if it's heads your still in. Last one in takes cash. That one ended up being about $6,400.00

The end of Mustache May (which, I must admit, bled over into June a bit..)  Right before shaving it :(

The end of Mustache May (which, I must admit, bled over into June a bit..) Right before shaving it 😦

WEEKEND OFF IN BOISE:

Sometime in late June I had a weekend off…  Saturday I rode my motorcycle to Wieser, ID. for the National Fiddle Championships and Music Fest!  I didn’t actually see any of the actual competition part of the festival but I did spend my day watching live music on the stage outside of the comp area.  Most of the fiddle competitors had their bands in tow and played for everyone’s enjoyment.  The weather was amazing- it was a great day.  Highlighting the day was a band called “Milk Drive”.  They were amazing… I recommend them to anyone who is into bluegrass.  The four of them are all in their twenties and exploding with talent.  Somewhat “Nickel Creek”ish with a little more edge.  Fantastic.

Sunday I was invited by my good buddy Chris to go rafting on the North Fork of the Payette.  Chris, being a bartender, fly fishing guide, and all around fun lover was guaranteeing an amazing time- I was in from the words “hey do you want to…”  Well, it proved to be a great time of course.  All around a great weekend- just the kind you want when you only get one once a month.

Milk Drive

Milk Drive

Gearing up for a day on the Payette

Gearing up for a day on the Payette

Part of the crew, about to shove off

Part of the crew, about to shove off

On the water, woohoo

On the water, woohoo

Chris, our skipper and party official

Chris, our skipper and party official

celebrating the triumph over another rapid

celebrating the triumph over another rapid

Just enjoying the summer the way it should be enjoyed!

Just enjoying the summer the way it should be enjoyed!

GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO:

My first trip into the Great Basin was spent mostly in GJ, although I was in Utah and Nevada as well for short stints.  Overall great- great fires, great country, great times.  I was previously not much of a desert fan but I haven’t spent much time there either, or in the right areas.  Colorado and Utah especially have gorgeous areas- most of them are National Parks and I hope to tour some of them on my motorcycle late this fall if everything pans out.  Anyway, despite 100 degree plus temps, lack of trees, and the fact that every plant, animal, and insect is trying to poke, bite and sting you, the desert is quite nice.  Quite nice during sunrise and sunset anyway.

Flying over Salt Lake

Flying over Salt Lake

Our aerial battalion

Our aerial battalion

Bad ass air tanker- Book Cliffs in the background

Bad ass air tanker- Book Cliffs in the background

snakes on a plane

snakes on a plane

Red rock country

scenes from a loft

Red rock country

Red rock country

Ready, in the door, waiting for the slap on the shoulder

Ready, in the door, waiting for the slap on the shoulder

View from my first fire in Colorado

View from my first fire in Colorado

Whooped her again

Whooped her again

The desert at its best

The desert at it's best

Right before starting a 120 pound packout... that was the last time I smiled that day

Right before starting a 120 pound packout... that was the last time I smiled that day

BRAUN BROTHER RUNION:

For the second year in a row I took time off of work in the middle of what is typically the busiest time of the season.  The reason?  Only the best frickin’ three day concert in the frickin’ world, that’s why!  Challis Idaho:

Amazing scenery

Amazing scenery

So, as you can see, Challis is a great destination on its own- no imagine the chance to spend three days watching your all-time favorite bands along with only a few hundred other “friends”.  Well my friends, that is the Braun Brother Reunion show.

As luck would have it four of the bands- Ray Wylie Hubbard, Micky and the Motorcars, Randy Rogers, and Cross Canadian Ragweed were playing in Boise on Wednesday night, so I of course saw them all.  The next day we drove the 4 and a half hours to Challis and got there just in time to see Stoney LaRue do a jaw-dropping solo acoustic set of songs requested by the crowd of maybe oh, 80 people.  Unbelievable comes to mind.  In the middle of his set we were visited by yet another (same as last year) five minute hailstorm that pelted everyone with grape-sized hail.  It was amazing- like the heavens opened up with Stoney’s angelic tunes…. Ok, so maybe not, but it was effin’ rad anyway.

It was like having one of your very favorite musicians come over and play in your living room.

It was like having one of your very favorite musician's come over and play in your living room.

Next was Ray Wylie Hubbard.  This guy is a true Godfather of the Texas brand county rock that is, in my opinion, the best music on earth.  On stage with him was his 15 year old son playing lead guitar.  This kid was a prodigy.  Some of the best guitar I’ve heard came from a kid who was probably learning geometry in school… unbelievable.

Ray Wylie and his boy

Ray Wylie and his boy

Well, I could go on forever, in great detail about the amazing weekend and all that happened but I’m keeping it short remember… Let’s just say it was 72 hours of beer, thrift store shopping sprees, kick ass music, great friends, and more beer.  Use your imagination…

One of the coolest tats Ive ever seen!

One of the coolest tats I've ever seen!

The best find of the weekend!  Behind the whiskey is says FLY WILD and on the back is a flying V of ducks.

The best find of the weekend! Behind the whiskey is says "FLY WILD" and on the back is a flying "V" of ducks.

Breakfast cocktails and a rousing game of horshoes to start the day off...

Breakfast cocktails and a rousing game of horseshoes to start the day off...

getting wild in three, two,......

getting wild in three, two,......

Livin it up

Livin' it up

Smock gettin into it!

Smock gettin' into it!

Taking a little beer break in between sets

Taking a little beer break in between sets

Meet Cody, he and his girlfriend are the coolest.  We hung out all weekend and luckily he lives part time in the Boise area so we can party again.  GREAT PEOPLE!!!

Meet Cody, he and his girlfriend are the coolest. We hung out all weekend and luckily he lives part time in the Boise area so we can party again. GREAT PEOPLE!!!

Reckless Kelly going off!

Reckless Kelly going off!

Cody Canada from Cross Canadian Ragweed and Smock partying together... practically.

Cody Canada from Cross Canadian Ragweed and Smock partying together... practically.

Well, I’m sad it’s over but I WILL be back next year, you can bet you ass on that.

Well, that about wraps it all up… that’s been my life for the last 2 months.  Hopefully it wasn’t too abridged… who am kidding, any more detail and you would have X’d out of here long ago, haha.

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Ok, Ok, So I haven’t been keeping up on this quite like I said I would but hey, all of you that know me know that I’m a bit of a procrastinator.  Anyway, not too much happened the end of last week… We had our units test that consisted of let down procedures, MTV (Malfunction TV; it’s a simulation of all the different malfunctions that are possible and you have to react to each of them accordingly), and tower exits (simulated aircraft exits, but off a 4o foot tower instead of a plane).  I actually did pretty good, I was one of two guys that wasn’t asked to do anything over again.  They did remove one guy from the program that couldn’t get his exits down just right… even though he made little mistakes they weren’t going to have it.  Poor guy, that would be awful to go back to your home base to let everyone know that you failed.

Anyway, yesterday was our first jump.  I was pretty nervous but everything turned out pretty good.  It’s a strange feeling exiting the way they do.  I am used to the traditional “jump” out of the plane.  Here they sit in the door and do somewhat of a violent scooch out of the door.  It’s hard controlling your legs when they are out there dangling in 100 mph plus winds but other than that I think that it is an easier and cleaner exit.  Another main difference from the rounds that I’m used to is that instead of your chute opening (or beginning to open anyway) immediately upon exiting, here there is only a small chute about the size of a beach ball that deploys above your head.  This chute is only used to steady the jumper and keep his body in a good position for the deployment of the main (ie. not tumbling head over heels or anything).  It does slow you down to about only a 90 mph free fall though.  You ride this pilot chute for 5 long seconds (doesn’t seem that long until you have experienced 5 seconds of free fall, believe me, it seems like forever) then pull your drogue release which pulls out the main. The main deployment is somewhat violent but very reassuring.  From there we have about 3,500 ft to play around and get into a position to land.  It would be easy if winds were light and constant but that is rarely the case.  We jumped twice again today and have been jumping a large field but from here on out the spots will continue to get smaller and more challenging!  I’m missing the Jordan Valley Big Loop rodeo back home and that makes me pretty sad, just so you know…

Oh, also, sorry about no pictures, I was going to put in a bunch but I realized that I didn’t bring my camera-to-computer cable with me to Alaska so I cannot import any pics to the computer for now… oops.

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Today we started out with a good stern talking to.  We were told just what was expected of us, and that if we do not constantly meet their high standards, they will have no problem washing us out of the program- which for me would mean termination of my employment with the BLM Smokejumpers.  They are serious too, last year they “washed” two guys (out of about 12 total) who had been jumping for nearly 15 years a piece.  Today I got the first sensations of nervousness, nothing like being threatened with your job to make you pay attention.

We then dove into learning all the detailed parts and components of the parachute harness.  Main container snaps, main release handle, reserve droop risers, cable housing, medium ring of 3-ring release, drogue release cable, Detiker clamp, ring terminal, upper and lower RSL snap shackles, main lift web, cobra click locks… etc…. These are a few of the many intricate parts which are found just the harness!  We have to have these and many, many more terms perfectly memorized in order to continue in the program.  Tests are administered often and the pressure is high.  Today was a definite wake-up… this isn’t going to be the laid back, Alaska vacation that I was expecting.

After that we learned just how archaic some aspects of the Forest Service jump system truly are in comparison to the BLM.  We jump with friggin’ computers!  These devices, when activated, measure barometric pressure the entire time that the jumper is falling and if he falls more than 1800 ft. and is still moving at 78 mph or greater, it will automatically deploy the reserve chute.  That’s pretty nice I guess.

Next we learned the procedure to do the detailed 26 point equipment check on our jump partner (person who you actually exit the airplane with).  It was stressed that if a single point was missed it would almost certainly lead to your buddy having to result to emergency procedures in order to save his life.  Did I mention that this was stressful?

Lastly we practiced our suit-ups.  Suit-ups are the act of dressing ourselves in all 70 lbs. of our jump gear.  This includes knee pads, jump jacket, jump pants, harness, two parachutes, helmet, gloves, and an attachable gear bag that hangs at our hips.  It is required that this all happens in two minutes or less in order to pass the program.  I got it done in about 4 minutes… good thing I have some time to practice before the test.  Well, I better start studying for tomorrow-  keep reading!

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