Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Patriotic or Hypocritical? A quiz!

I started writing up a clever quiz to help you determine whether you are a patriot or a hypocrite. Clever though it was, I realized that it all boiled down to one or two main points. A quiz with two questions is not a very good quiz, so I decided to switch the format up. I apologize for the misleading title!

In any event since, I dunno, January of this year, there have been a large number of republicans who have been very critical of the president, congress, school, healthcare and whatever else. Okay, so being critical of things does not neccesarily equate being a hypocrite, sure, but this peticular brand of critisism seems a little misguided and boardering on the irrational, misplaced side. It all republicans who make this error; from my observation it's the people who, when they walk into the room, tip the whole house to the right or the people who are republican because it's morally wrong to be a democrat who are guilty of misplacing their casuistic blame.

I'm talking about the people who treat a decision made by a democrat, no matter what the intention or the possible outcome, as being based on a socialist agenda and therefore inherently evil (McCarthyism?).

How is this hypocritical? Regardless of your personal moral or political beleifs, a person who says they believe in the consitution (I choose the constitution for this example because it is pretty well accepted as good) should, inherently, support certain things. When a person says the are patriotic they should recognize that the system of government we have in place is set up to protect the rights of the people. The intrinsic rights of everyone, not just yourself, are to be protected so far as they don't infringe on the rights of anyone else. So far so good?

Where some people seem to drop the ball is when they forget that we live in a democracy. A democracy is, by definition, rule by the people. In our particular brand of democracy the people vote on officials who will represent their ideas and the officials vote together for the nation as a whole. The idea here is that the laws we come up with will be representative of the nation as a whole. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

How, than, can a person claim to love the US Government and reject the laws and elected officials put into place by it? I'm saying disagree with, I'm saying reject.

In my opinion, a person can love or hate candidates to their hearts content, it is their right to do so, but the appropriate time to reject them is voting time. After a president is elected it is impossible to reject them and still believe in the constitution. The way I see it, after election day, if you don't like the results, you can blame the system for being flawed and you can start your campaigning for the next election but if you believe in the constitution, you support your president at that time.

To do anything else would be un-American.

The Grand Canyon! (Thunder River / Deer Creek Loop from Monument Point)

As promised, here are the photos from The Grand Canyon! The trail we followed is called the Thunder River Deer Creek Loop, here's the trail we followed (this image was taken from http://www.trimbleoutdoors.com/): We set up camp at Monument Point. Monument point is a really cool remote spot on the North rim of the Grand Canyon, about 30 miles down a dirt road. I use the term "camp" loosely, it was just us in some bivy sacks on a tarp by Todd's suburban. We left bright and early on a Thursday morning on the Bill Hall trail. Here's a good shot of the trailhead marker:

After about 30 minutes of trying to find where we actually dropped into the Canyon, we saw this little guy marking the way. If not for these two Cairns, we would never have known this was a trail. We were a bit sceptical even after  seeing them, which says something of the steepness of it...

The trail was very, very steep at parts. It involved scrambling on all fours in some areas and straight up down-climbing in others. We're pretty hardcore though, so we didn't need to take off our packs ;)

We stashed some water when we reached the fork in the trail. We planned on dry camping at this site the last night, which means that we would camp where there was no water source. We needed the cache of water for the hike on the last day.

After the fork in the trail we hiked a couple miles to the Esplanade. It had some pretty cool mushroom shaped rocks and is pretty much the only consistently flat stretch of the hike:





After the Esplanade we descended the Redwall, which is by FAR the most brutal layer of the canyon to punch through.

Here's a view of the inner canyon as we neared the end of our descent:



After descending into the canyon, crossing the esplanade, punching through the Redwall, traversing Surprise Valley (as hot and sunny as you could imagine) we finally reached Thunder River. I can't stress enough how beaufiful Thunder River looked, with it's breathtaking multiple waterfalls, after diving into the bowels of the earth. I also want to point out that, at this point, most people have camped out for a night. We did it all in one day. Heavy.



We had a quick lunch of summer sausage and crackers by this little mini waterfall, and than continued to our Day 1 campsite:

Our campsite was right beside the river, providing a nice source of water to filter from and was right up against a rock-face, which provided a good amount of shade. It was overrun by mice, so we were forced to hang our packs:



On the morning of Day 2 in the Canyon we left the well beaten path and followed beside the Colorado River up and down several small cliffs. This was easily the hotest day, with temperatures reaching the mid 90's and no shade. It was all well-worth it though, as this trail led us to Deer Creek, in my opinion the best part of the hike.

Deer Creek and Deer Creek falls were absolutely breathtaking. From the slot canyon, which in some places is around 100 feet deep, that the creek winds it's way through to the huge waterfall where it makes it's way into the Colorado, it was amazing.



After we had our fill of breathtaking rock formations and waterfalls, we set out for our campsite.

This is where the photo's end for now, unfortunately. I will add photos to this next section after I have pulled them from my memory card and converted them out of their current format (NEF).

At day three we made the decision that we would punch our way out of the canyon completely, bypassing the last night on the esplanade. It was something we had kind of toyed with for a while, as the prospect of camping dry was not a fun one. The thing that finally made us decide was a mass of very ominous-looking rain clouds coming in over the rim. Camping in bivy sacks in the rain did not sound appealing.

So on day three we punched out of the lower canyon, passed the redwall and up the final ascent. It was a grueling death-march.

On the way we passed a group of Argentineans, who we had take out picture. When we described how we did the hike in three days one of them mentioned "See, I told you it was possible." For some reason, this made it worth it ;)

I finally peaked the North rim at around 4:30 (admittedly about an hour later than the rest of my group, yikes).

It was a great trip, definitely the mostly physically and technically challenging I've ever done in the Canyon, but I would recommend it in a second to any serious hikers who are looking for a challenge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My blog has moved

Hello, all!

My blog has moved, you can find it at:

www.brianlwillis.com

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Grand Canyon!


I am going to hike the Grand Canyon! This trip is long overdue...it's been about three years since my last canyon hike. The trip will include myself, my brother Nick, My dad, Todd (a friend of my dad's/coworker) and his son, Ty. We will be going in off the North Rim taking the Deer Creek / Thunder River loop, which is an awesomely intense hike. To quote a post on www.arizonahiking.org "I have to be honest. This is a Death March. Tremendous elevation gains and losses, major exposures, some poorly marked trails, even some scrambling... everything a true adventurer needs. This hike is epic." 

Sounds pretty cool, no?

I'll be bringing my camera and full equipment, so be expecting some great photos soon, as well as a full run-down of what the hike entails. 

Should be great. Stay tuned.

Oh, and just for fun, check out the website I just put up/am in the works of finalizing: www.brianlwillis.com/socialmedia.html

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mexicali


If you're in Arizona, like I am, you've been hearing about Mexico in the news almost daily. Sometimes it's SB1070, sometimes it's drug wars; we've heard it all. A couple of friends and I wanted to take a trip before school got in full motion. Mexico, with it's beautiful beaches and great food, was just too tempting to resist, in spite of the apparent danger (and a little bit because of it, actually). Mexico definitely lived up to it's reputation!

We wanted to go to Rocky Point, but no one wanted to risk driving their car into the country. We decided to park on the border and walk across. Mexicali was the closest to Yuma, where we were staying, so we decided to go there.

My good friend Jeff S lived in Mexico, so he was a great guide. I think we got a pretty real Mexico experience, but I'll let the pics do most of the talking:



Mexicali is actually a pretty decent sized city, as you can see above. Lots of cars, big open streets in some parts. It was actually not very touristy in most parts, which surprised me a lot. Once we got deep into the down-town part of the city we were the only Americans in sight!

You may be asking yourself: "How did he get downtown?"



We took a bus! In all honesty, I was a little spooked by the idea of using a foreign bus system, but Jeff assured me that we could find our way back, so we all handed the bus driver nine pesos and climbed aboard! Wanting to get the real Mexico experience, I sat down next to a local, who seemed a little uneasy by my presence. I tried to take the above pic as covertly as I could to not draw attention to ourselves.







Buildings in this state of disrepair were a very common sight as we walked around the city. Jeff asked some locals for directions to a good area for food. His directions led us on foot for about 15 minutes.


  


We went down a couple streets and alleyways (you can see Jeff W in one of them above) This was the only point I was really nervous throughout the whole thing; everywhere we went, we drew a ton of attention. People constantly asked us for "Just one peso," in broken English as we walked and several times a random man would yell "What are you doing here!?" menacingly. Jeff S instructed us to ignore them, saying we wouldn't run into problems if we didn't engage them.






I tried to be respectful and not take pictures of locals without their permission, but this guy was too legit NOT to take a photo of.







We also passed this truly disgusting building on our quest for food. I won't go into the details of why it is a disgusting building. I will only tell you that local, less then virtuous looking, women seemed to be advertising something at the hotel entrance. In a different photo you can see one of these women, but I didn't want to post it for several reasons. You can make your own inferences as to what kind of hotel this is. We actually ran into one of the staff managers for the hotel too.








We finally did find some food. You can see Jeff W selecting some pastries above. This place was awesome: the pastries were delicious, a poorly-made movie was playing on a small TV and they sold glass bottles of Coke that you were compelled to drink on the premises or pay extra.



 Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the taco stand we went to, but let me assure you, it was fantastic. The tacos were the best I've ever had and the restaurant was was filled with locals. We ordered a drink called "Jamaica Water" which is made of hibiscus flowers and water. It was also great. The building looked like a slaughterhouse was located in the back and the ceiling was literally dripping in grease, but that didn't bother us at all. 








We talked to a lot of interesting people on the way out of Mexico, including one guy who told us he had jumped the border earlier that day and been taken back by Border Patrol. He let us know he'd be trying again soon. The guy in the picture followed us for almost an hour and a half. He turned out to be pretty cool though, and he let us take a photo with him. He followed us right up to the border and, admittedly, we were sad to part with him there. Jeff gave him the rest of his mango drink, and we gave him a Popsicle stick (at his request, he said he wanted to use it to build up his house), among a couple other things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prestwich Reunion



I put several of the pictures from the Prestwich Reunion up on my shutterfly account. I will continue to add photos as I sort through them, there were a ton!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pan-Handler



The man in the picture above is homeless, but that's probably pretty apparent from his haggard appearance. I saw him as I was exiting the 60 in down-town Phoenix. He was holding a cardboard sign like many people you see standing on the side of a freeway overpass; I've seen them countless times and I have never before given them anything. Actually, I usually lock the car doors when I see them. For some reason when this guy walked up to my car, though, I made eye contact with him and really wanted to help him out.

I didn't have any money on me, so I parked my car at a 7-11 a block away, bought an energy drink and got some cash-back. I walked over to the overpass and waved the guy down. He came over and I explained that when I saw him, I really wanted to help him out. I handed him the cash I pulled out, he thanked me and proceeded to tell me his story.

Mark (as his name turned out to be) is a Vietnam Veteran. He explained to me that he had done three tours in Vietnam as a Marine. During his second tour he was shot in the chest, earning him a Purple Heart. He said he came pretty close to dying, but fully recovered and went back for a third tour. During his third tour, he explained, he and his best friend at the time walked within three yards of a "bouncing betty". If you don't know what a bouncing betty is (like I didn't), it's a anti-personnel mine that is triggered by proximity. When triggered it jumps up to chest level and shoots shrapnel in all directions. He said that his friend was torn in half by the mine, but that his friend's body effectively shielded himself. After this experience he had a mental breakdown and was discharged. When he returned to the US he was diagnosed with PTSD.

He wouldn't explain particulars, but he explained that since then his life had spiraled downward and never really recovered. As we finished talking I asked if I could take his picture. I took a couple quick exposures, shook his hand/thanked him for his service and walked away.

I don't think that this guy is unique in his story or even that it suggests any underlying message about war or politics. I just felt bad for him and thought his story was interesting.