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Little Queens Fire

Little Queens Fire –
Atlanta, Idaho

Story & images by Jim Friend

house in Atlanta, Idaho

8/17
The Little Queens fire starts three miles northwest of Atlanta, Idaho, at approximately 2:30pm, origin unknown.

8/18
2,000 acres burned
Fire is 0% contained

8/19
7,000 acres burned
0% contained

When we got the call for the Little Queens fire, I looked up the national "Sit Report" straightaway. It stated that a fire of unknown origin had started two days earlier near Atlanta, Idaho and immediately flared up to 2,000 acres, threatening nearby homes and property. I then looked at a map to see where this "Atlanta" was located and was pleasantly surprised. A tiny, remote town next to the Sawtooth Wilderness area, in the middle of nowhere. Awesome.

Back to the yard with my meticulously packed bags. Some last minute preparations and then into the trucks for a six hour drive to Eastern Oregon where we spent the night.

8/20
8,000 acres burned
0% contained

At dawn, we headed out toward Idaho City, northeast of Boise. Beyond this small town, a skinny, winding highway led us up and over a mountain pass to a primitive Forest Service road. Another two full hours of dusty driving brought us to our final destination, an alpine grass and dirt emergency airstrip. After being assigned a spot to set up our equipment, a mobile shower unit, we got to work. I couldn't understand why I was so thirsty, until I realized that the airstrip was nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. An awesome mushroom cloud of smoke from the fire billowed up from behind the ridge to the north. The cadence of helicopter blades, rumbling into and out of the compound, echoed off the neighboring canyon walls.

fire cloud looming over the Little Queens fire, Atlanta, Idaho
A pyrocumulus (or fire cloud) forms above the Little Queens fire, as seen when we arrived at the airstrip, 14 miles outside of Atlanta

Throughout the day, more vehicles and personnel arrived. As is typical for a fire, and to my continuing amazement, another functioning city was set up by nightfall, complete with a large kitchen, dining tent, showers, mobile hand washing stations, bathrooms (port-a-potties, yum), and numerous yurts constructed for operations staff. This transient city would quickly come to accommodate an average of about 300 people.

emerald waters of the Middle Fork Boise River amidst burned landscape
The emerald waters and burned landscape

Towards the end of the afternoon, the facilities lead asked if I would be able to temporarily supply the camp with fresh water. The National Preparedness Level had just been raised to 5 (the highest)*, indicating that fire base resources throughout the country were tapped out. As a result, the potable water truck that was supposed to be at our camp had been delayed at another fire. I was to acquire water from a fire hydrant 14 miles up the road in Atlanta to supply both the camp and our shower unit. I liked this idea a lot, as it got me closer to the fire, which I wanted to put my eyeballs to. Mandatory evacuations being in effect in the town itself, which made the situation even more dubious.

The entire length of the gravel road to Atlanta runs along the Middle Fork Boise River, and the drive turned out to be terrifically beautiful. The super clear emerald waters of the river carve out the occasional deep pool, evincing even deeper bluish-green hues from the depths, with adjacent gray rock walls shooting vertically upward in a number of areas. The effect is striking. On the hills above lay massive evidences of previous fire activity, the flames of which completely decimating much of the entirety of the forest as far as the eye could see. Thousands upon thousands of blackened toothpicks line the hillsides, with barely a leaf or twig left on any, starkly contrasting the blue sky and clouds above.

Dredge mining set-up on the Middle Fork River
Dredge mining set-up on the Middle Fork River

I had heard that there was a lot of gold in Idaho, and found out how true this was by the numerous claim signs pegged with almost perfect regularity along the way. Every 100 yards or so of the river has been claimed by gold miners. The occasional floating dredge could be seen tied up to a tree along the river, with evidence of semi-permanent encampments along the riverbank.

Arriving in Atlanta close to dusk, I found the hydrant just outside the quaint fire department, complete with an ancient fire engine parked out front. Parts of the town looked as if little had been changed since the early part of last century, with all the idiosyncratic architectural signatures characteristic of gold rush towns. Charming. The fire was advancing toward the small town on the ridge to the north, with large columns of smoke rising from just behind the ridge line into the darkening sky. With that foreboding skyline looming horizon, Atlanta definitely didn't feel like a place you'd want to be owning a home at the moment. Water acquired, I made my way back to fire camp, working until about one in the morning, the 19 hour work day behind me.

fire hydrant and old fire truck in front of the fire station in Atlanta, Idaho
The hydrant I drew water from, and the old fire truck in front of the fire station. Much smoke fills the air

One of the many typically charming Atlanta homes

8/21
9,500 acres burned
0% contained

The next day arrived with normal fire camp routines establishing themselves quickly. Breakfast and coffee, attending to the shower unit, supplying the camp with potable water, and the like.

About 40 low-risk prisoners from a local jail made their rounds, helping out in the kitchen and wherever else they could, including at our shower unit. Throughout the day, along with the firefighters and other staff, they would also take trips down to our unit to either empty our trash cans, or for a wash. It was interesting to hear their stories. Wanting to allow a good measure of deference in consideration of the new lives they had ahead of them (almost all were close to parole), I hesitated to ask whatever it was that had brought them to their current dispensations, but inevitably the answer would either be offered, or I would just plainly ask them if the moment felt right. To my amazement, several stated that they were in jail for DUI's, and at least one had garnered a hefty sentence for his first offense.

When I arrived in Atlanta in the early evening, the fire was obviously advancing very quickly over the ridge. The previous day I had seen only plumes of smoke, but tonight, I could actually see the fire. Oddly, two Apache helicopters were flying low around the town. To my surprise, one of the Apaches dipped toward the tree line and eventually landed in a field just beyond my view, sending up a dust cloud. I wasn't sure what to make of these military helicopters, but was sure by the time I left was that the fire was indeed marching toward Atlanta at a marked pace.

8/22
10,352 acres burned
0% contained

Back at the hydrant toward dusk, the fire seemed to be a bit closer, but not by much. A two-prop airplane buzzed around the ridge line, moving very quickly. Waiting for my tank to fill, I could also see what appeared to be a C-130 approaching the fire. Eventually, the two-prop airplane and the C-130 converged, with the smaller plane in the lead. The C-130 followed closely, and at certain points along the ridge, a trail of smoke would proceed from the two-prop airplane. Wherever the smoke was produced, the C-130 bombed out a trail of water.

I found a great time lapse sequence of the Little Queens fire taken on this day near the ICP at the fire base, by Kyle Ford. It's totally worth a gander.

Wildland firefighters at Atlanta, Idaho
Wildland firefighters preparing Atlanta for the worst

8/23
12,787 acres burned
0% contained

News arrived the next afternoon that a back burn had been started near Atlanta,** and with an unusually busy work day in the books, I had to head out near dark. Being so far out in the wilderness, radio signals were spotty, but I managed to pick up a radio station that was broadcasting Idaho folk music. When I arrived in Atlanta, I couldn't believe my eyes. What had the day before only been a fire on a ridge line more than a mile away, as the crow flies, had turned into a veritable firestorm. The entire ridge was ablaze, with fire as close as a few hundred yards in front of where I was standing at the hydrant. Alone on the dirt road, I felt like I was in a video game, about to charge off into the forest to tackle a thousand awaiting hellion ghouls, with many glowing upwells of fire and smoke and sparks setting the scene. The sight was truly amazing. As I waited for my tank to fill, a man in his thirties drove up, hopped out of his truck, and asked if I was waiting to use the pay phone (yes, pay phone) next to the fire station. I said, "No," and he made his way over to the phone to start his call. I had left the door to my truck open, still listening to the folk music I had been entertaining myself with earlier. Just as I was adjourning my water gathering business, the fellow on the phone ended his call and headed my way. Pointing to the open door of my truck he asked, "Hey, is that Bill Coffey?" I replied that I had no idea, and that I had just found this awesome radio station with weird folk music on the way up. He explained to me that the song playing was by Bill Coffey and Ned Evett, who were well known folk musicians in the Idaho area, and that being a big fan, he had seen them play live on several occasions in the Boise area, his home town. Proceeding from this mutual introduction, with the smell of smoke and a nearby threatening fire, began a surreal Twilight Zone-caliber conversation about the Idaho folk music scene. Eventually, we got back to the reality of what was going on around us, and he explained to me that he worked for the Forest Service, having just debarked as the advisor from the heli-torch copter that had dispensed flaming golfball-sized fire pellets throughout the area to the north of us in an attempt to save the town. Since the winds were favorable that afternoon, the decision was made to make an aerial back burn as close to the town as possible, in an attempt to make the fire burn back into itself, thereby eliminating the threat of it advancing out of control toward Atlanta. So far the plan was working just about how they wanted it to.

8/24
16,212 acres burned
0% contained

The previous day's back burn north of Atlanta had been effective, but only to a certain measure. The worry was that the fire would skip over the river, and threaten the southern end of the town, so it was decided that more back-burning was required. Starting from Atlanta and moving toward the fire camp at the landing strip, fire crews would start fires along the northwest side of the road, to the distance of about five miles. With the same intent as the heli-torch the day before, the hope was that the subsequent fire would then again burn northward, into the original fire advancing towards Atlanta, meet somewhere in the middle, and be rendered ineffective.

backburn started near Atlanta, Idaho
The backburn begins… on several occasions when driving the road I could feel the heat of the fire through the windows of my truck

driving through the backburn to Atlanta, Idaho
Another day, another interminable convoy

8/25 – Close Encounters of the Wolf Kind
18,000 acres burned
2% contained

In the afternoon, I was informed that the back burn had progressed to the point where there was some debate among the overhead as to whether they would allow any travel to Atlanta. It was explained to me that any number of hazards could befall me on my trip: Burning trees on the road, landslides, road collapse, and burning material on the roadway. (Hmmm, the "any number of hazards" list presented to me did not seem to include wolves.)

Towards evening, I went to see the head of logistics for the official word. After about ten minutes of deliberation and several radio calls to Atlanta, he told me soberly, "You can go, but be very, very careful." It was decided that I would make my way to the Queens River bridge about ten miles up the road, stop, and wait for a front loader to meet me to clear the road of burning material along the back burn. Among the normal operations transit making their way along that road at any given time, I was the only vehicle approved to make the trip until dawn. Walking out of the logistics yurt, I was elated about this upcoming drive into the unknown.

After a brief chat with John, the Forest Service agent manning the check-point, I headed off toward Atlanta. It was dark by this time, and eventually, the pronounced glow of fire was seen on the horizon, and it wasn't long before I had reached the bridge. The volume of fire immediately adjacent to the road was remarkable. I parked the truck and hopped out with my camera, in awe of what I was seeing. The entire hillside was ablaze, as if it had just been lit. The stream below the bridge reflected the fire gracefully. At times, entire trees would torch, basking the small valley I was looking up into with an almost daylight quality of light.

About a half hour of waiting for the front loader in the books, I decided to walk up the road to see if I could possibly make it to Atlanta without any assistance. Chunks of wood were burning in the roadway, having rolled down from the steep hill above. Small landslides of dirt and rocks could also occasionally be seen or heard. About a half mile into my walk, I found a large burning stump stationed squarely in the middle of the road. I realized there would be no way to move it with either my hands or my truck, so my quest for water wasn't going to be possible without the loader.

I made my way back down to the bridge and paused to look out at the fire and take a few more pictures. I decided that if the front loader hadn't arrived by now, it probably wasn't going to make it at all, and that I should probably head back to camp in about ten or fifteen minutes. Any more than that would be a waste of time. I looked out over the stream and fire for another five minutes, snapping some parting shots. Having my fill of the amazing view, I turned to go back to the truck, which was parked about 50 feet from me, headlights still on. To my utter amazement, standing in the middle of the road between myself and the truck, only 30 feet away, staring at me, was a big white wolf.

fire at night on the road to Atlanta, Idaho
Left: View from the bridge as a tree (not pictured) torches on the hill above, illuminating the background. As I blithely take this shot, the wolf, unbeknownst to me, is still deliberating about putting me on its culinary agenda; Right: A view of the fire from a bit farther down the road.

Version #1 of my reaction to seeing a wolf (much preferred) –
My fingers instantly curled into claws, and I had to restrain myself from lunging towards the animal as my mind shouted, "Kill and eat! Kill and eat!"

Version #2 of my reaction to seeing a wolf (perhaps a more accurate version of events) –
We made eye contact for a second, and having done so, while I was still recovering from the surprise/shock of it all, the wolf (which had a black radio collar around its neck) lowered its head and trotted off across the headlights into the bushes right next to the truck. I told myself, "Ok, you have to get back in the truck now." I decided I should walk at a normal pace, not wanting to trigger a shower of pouncing wolves from the bushes, attracted by a fast-moving, nervous-looking potential prey item. So I walked at a normal stride back to the truck, with the wolf still rustling in the bushes right next to the driver's side door, which was an entirely disturbing feeling. Climbing into the cab and closing the door, I realized that I was so surprised by this peculiar animalia encounter that I hadn't thought to take a picture, with the camera right there in my hands at the time. So I waited in the truck, praying that the wolf would come back out so I could get a snap of him. Unfortunately, he did not produce himself, and I finally headed out, back towards camp.

I was absolutely stoked by this encounter, but wasn't sure this story would be believed by those back at camp. I had never seen a wolf in the wild before, and hadn't to my knowledge met anyone who had, especially at such close proximity. Arriving at the Forest Service checkpoint, I got out of the truck and immediately started with John: "You will probably never believe this, but…" After relaying the wolf story to him, he stated that he had also seen the same white wolf, and in the same general area of the bridge the night before.

8/26
20,956 acres burned
10% contained

John mentioned my wolf encounter the next morning to some of the staff. At least one more sighting of the wolf had been reported. Members of a hand crew had seen the wolf upstream from the bridge, and had found a dead deer some distance up the stream valley. The deer was its kill, of course, and the reason it had been lingering in the area. The logistics lead saw me later in the evening and commented somewhat sternly. "You know," he said with furrowed brow and concerned tone, "the wolf is the only animal that kills for sport. You're very lucky." Given that I had been standing on the bridge for about five minutes taking pictures of the fire before I turned and actually saw the wolf, I almost have to agree with him. Who knows how long it had been sizing me up? Had it been in a pack, I may have been at such a risk. However, given how skinny I am, I believe any wolf would consider me an unsavory target, unworthy of the effort.

helicopter departing from fire camp ; green dining tent near the middle of the picture
A helicopter departs fire camp from the heli-base. The green tent functioned as our dining room

8/27
23,049 acres burned
15% contained

In the afternoon I was able to take a bit of a break in Atlanta to take some pictures after filling my tank. The citizens turned out to be as quirky as the architecture. I chatted with a fellow that looked much like a stereotypical gold miner who told me that he was working a goldmine that his father had passed down to him from his grandfather, all of whom had been able to make a living in it since the early 1900's. Moving on, I passed what appeared to be a social club/antiques store, and glanced inside. The building was dark, with not a single light on inside, but I could distinctly hear the sound of two men chatting casually and a parrot squawking in the background. As I made my way up down the street I spotted a bearded man rolling a cigarette on a storefront porch, drinking a beer, with a big fluffy dog at his feet, which also looked like it had just drank a few beers. I engaged him in conversation and he explained to me that the town had been pretty wild back in the 70's before the police heard about it and decided making appearances. He pointed at the pay phone (yes another one) on the porch right next to us, and said that up until three months ago, you could call anywhere in the world on this phone for free. I later learned from someone else that Canadian gold prospectors had taken liberties with the phone, using it to dial 1-900 numbers (apparently these still exist too) ending the odd privilege once and for all. As we chatted, I looked back over to the social club antiques store. A man was driving away on a four-wheeler ATV, a parrot cage strapped to the back seat rack. The green parrot could be seen swinging on his swing as they drove away down the road. "Now this is my kind of town," I thought. I thanked the man for his time and the conversation and started walking back towards my water truck.

He yelled, "Hey! You ain't got a joint do ya?!"

"No," I replied.

"All right then, get out of here!" he bellowed.

old man rolling a cigarette with a dog; pay-phone to his right, Atlanta, Idaho
A man and his dog... it's a beautiful thing. I'm not sure how many beers were left in the cooler. Pay-phone-of-legend to the right.

8/28
23,273 acres burned
20% contained

The back burn, carefully monitored, advanced beyond the road toward the main fire, with an effective degree of success. Hot spots along the road were extinguished to prevent subsequent flare-ups and a potentially catastrophic jump across the river.

8/29
23,324 acres burned
20% contained

8/30
23,551 acres burned
20% contained

The final days of the Little Queens engagement came with a dramatic reduction in resources and personnel. The base camp was briefly moved to the Forest Service airstrip, one mile north of Atlanta. The two remaining hand crews monitored the road to ensure no hot-spots would flare up and cause the fire to jump the river. The fire at this point was only 20% contained, but since it was burning into wilderness and not towards any other man made structures, the decision was made to demobilize.

9/2
25,500+ acres burned
20% contained

Official de-mobe orders given.

9/3
25,500+ acres burned
20% contained

We pack up and leave Atlanta. We spend two days in Boise, hoping to be picked up by one of the many other Idaho wildfires. This didn't happen. Home sweet home on the evening of the 5th. No wolf nightmares. Yet.

overhead team members observing thunderstorm at fire camp
Several members of the overhead team eyes one of the several big thunderstorms that graced our fire camp


Height of resources:
Six 20-person hand crews
7 helicopters
10 engines
7 water tenders
4 camp crews, and miscellaneous overhead personnel
Total Personnel: 353

Cost of a Sikorsky helicopter, used for water drops: $8,000.00 an hour.

Total cost of Little Queens fire: $4.6 million


thunderstorm at fire camp, Atlanta, Idaho
One of the storms dishes out some of its best

fire camp st-up at dusk, Atlanta, Idaho
Our set-up at dusk. Long live the dream


*The last time the National Interagency Fire Center raised the National Preparedness Level to 5 was in July of 2008.

**Aerial Firing Operations Begin (from Inciweb)

Incident: Little Queens Wildfire
Released: 8/23/2013

Aerial ignition started around 2 pm this afternoon to reduce the fuels on the south slopes north of Atlanta. This will reduce the chance of extreme fire behavior and limit fire movement toward the community. The operation is expected to continue into late evening and will be monitored throughout the night. Based on today's burnout results, and tomorrow's weather conditions, burnout operations may continue on Saturday.


Related Articles:
Douglas Complex Fire - Riddle, Oregon; Jacksonville, Oregon; Driving Along the Oregon Coast; Inland Northwest; Spokane, Pullman & The Palouse;


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"Namibia" Article

Jim,

I spent several school holidays in Windhoek with family friends. Much later I took each of my kids (U.S. born & raised) on separate trips to my native, Cape Town and "Overlanded" through Namibia into the Kaokoveld. I enjoyed your travelogue immensely. Please advise me if you ever publish a collection of your travel experiences. The apple strudel at Helmeringhausen somewhere after Ai Ais was the best ever. Graciously,

Merv Hayman, Sarasota, FL

Hi Merv, thanks for the correspondence, glad you enjoyed the article. It sounds like that country got into your blood, as it has in mine. I'm looking forward to getting back there someday and seeing much more of the place, Namibia has a peculiar allure. Thanks for the complements and I will certainly put you on the list for a travel stories compendium.

Cheers and happy travels!
Jim

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"Bullriding in Texas" Article

Hey Jim,

I love your website. It has shown me that all this time my boyfriend was lying to me about who he was. On his Facebook page he was using the picture of "Thomas Bosma"... Btw great story and pictures.

MaKayla, Rapid City

Hi MaKayla, glad we could be of assistance in busting your prevaricating suitor! Thanks for the complements as well.

All the best, Jim

stars

"Canadian Arctic " Article

Hey Jim,

Just wanted to say 'Hello'…love your intro/bio Mr. Boitano, fits the call of excitement/steelo of Mr. Friend. Hope to keep correspondence, and hope all your travels keep you busy but safe, Check my Friend...

Mico Gonz, Seattle, WA

Miiii-coooooooooooooooo!!!

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"Jalalabad, Afghanistan" Article

Hello Jim,

Very interesting, I find it very important for me because my BF is there. Hope he is fine...His name is Sgt.Jason Adams...Thank you and God bless...

Leonila, Guiguinto, Bulacan, Philippines

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Cpt. Disi was at Kutschbach with the guys of 2nd platoon. I was in 4th, we were right up the road at FOB Morales Frazier. I don't think I read anywhere about you being at KB but if you were up there in Kapisa province with us you would have loved it. It was 10x better than Jbad. The air there was so full of smog, and you couldn't really see that far out early in the morning when the sun was rising. But its nice to see someone like you who was out on patrols and documenting all the things we did. Great stories. Keep up the good work...

Kevin Myrick, Calhoun, GA

* * *

Love your writing. Have you read Spike Walker's books by now?

Kerry, Wenatchee, WA

* * *

Nice.

Christian Louboutin, New York City

* * *

I do not believe I've seen this described in such an informative way before. You actually have clarified this for me. Thank you!

Janice Randall, Post Falls, ID

* * *

I like the style you took with this topic. It isn't every day that you just discover a subject so to the point and enlightening.

Charles David, St. Anne, Manitoba

* * *

Hey Jim! LT Singh just checking your site.. looks great… very slow internet here.. will be home in 2 weeks.

Alvin Singh , New York

* * *

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones. You have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up! And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :) .

Arthur Cox, Next to Paris

* * *

Jim. Take it all in, smother your senses with the culture and people. Watch your top notch and have a once in a lifetime experience. Miss you.

Jeff and Andrea, Los Angeles, CA

* * *

Fascinating photos Jim! Singly they are all fodder for short stories; together they really capture an out-of-body trip! Enjoyed mine, thank you! I'm curious what those compounds contain...mostly businesses? residences? Love that the T-Boy card is making it's way around the globe!

Wendy, Los Angeles, CA

* * *

These are outstanding photos. You capture scenes that I've never seen in the "mainstream media." Haunting images that make me think that there is danger around every corner.

Al Burt, Friday Harbor, WA

* * *

Enjoyed your article immensely! Your title is fun and so is learning about bin Laden skipping out without paying the rent - what a loser! It's great you could meet with Mr. Jouvenal, hear the stories and see the guns. Give our highest regards to T.G. Taylor and the other military personnel serving in Afghanistan. Courage to you all!

Steve, Renton, WA

* * *

Jim, I enjoyed this fascinating article. It reminded me of how sublimely surreal life is. Also, I would like to thank you for your courage, and to express gratitude towards your bringing this piece of the world, with its foreign realities, to my doorstep. I look forward to reading more from you.

Sandra, Seattle, WA

* * *

This is outstanding reporting, Jimmy F! Fascinating stuff. You've taken on a dangerous, important assignment in Afghanistan, and we readers appreciate your work with the military and your unique observations. I look forward to your next post. In fact, I'm going to go through the archives to see your entire body of work on TravelingBoy.

Terry, Los Angeles, CA

* * *

I really enjoyed my entry into Kabul with you and the visit with Peter Jouvenal... look forward to more of that adventure.

Brenda, Richland, WA

* * *

Great story, Jim, a story really "as current as yesterday's news." Now there's a real TravelingBoy!

Eric, San Diego, CA

* * *

Jim you have probably revealed more about Bin Laden than anyone...his rage on the world has to be linked to his limp handshake. Be careful over there!

Janet, Caldwell, ID

Thanks Janet! I get the distinct impression that his handshake isn't the end story to all that's limp with bin Laden's physiology!

Jim

* * *

What a fantastic piece. You're a modern-day Hemingway. Your writing is compelling and fascinating. I look forward to much more of this great adventure.

Roger, Puyallup, WA

Wow, Roger, what an awesome set of complements. Thanks a lot. My first journal entry of 2010 was: "The stories will tell themselves. I just need to show up." So far, so good! Thanks again!

Jim

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Jim, first time reading your stuff. Very cool. I hope to read about our units and life in eastern Afghanistan very soon since you will be coming to our area as an embed. BTW, I'm the PAO here in Jalalabad and will be coordinating your visit with CPT Disi.

T.G. Taylor, US Army, Jalalabad, Afghanistan

* * *

Hello T.G.!

I saw your email address included on a couple of correspondences, and I cannot wait to spend some time with you, and even yet more of our honorable fighting forces over there in that bleak neck of the woods in Afghanistan in January, including CPT Disi. This is truly a trip of a lifetime for me, and I'm completely looking forward to absorbing the experiences there and recording the sufferings and sacrifices of so many of those of you who continue to strain and press to make Our Country Great, those of you who daily labor to assist those in other countries whose lives had once withered under the burden of tyrants, and whose hopes can now flicker again with the help of those like yourself. Thanks so much for putting it all out there for us every day. My fervent hope is to honorably document the expenditures of each of your individual lives in the midst of this conflict, those of you who "anonymously" struggle daily to make what We Hold As Good prevail in what, at times, is a dark and wicked world.

Thanks so much, man. Great to hear from you... See you soon!

Jim

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Sad to say, this is the first time I've read one of your articles Jim. What have I been missing!? Thanks for the funny, informative, and just plain awesome read! Take care and have a great Turkey day!

Jeff, Pasco, WA

* * *

Jim, I just loving reading your blogs. As I've dreamt about going to Costa Rica for at least 20 years, this was a very insightful and fun read for me. You always make me laugh.

Deborah - Burbank, CA

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Wow, what a HILARIOUS guy!!!!! I really really enjoyed the article. The Village Artist is my 'uncle Boyd" as I call him. He is closing his shop next year. That made my day and thank you for letting me know of this on the world's BEST travel information source.

Sandy - Sitka, Alaska

* * *

Hi Sandy!

Comments like those that you wrote make all the hassles and travails of writing resoundingly worthwhile, thank you! I am so sorry to hear that Boyd is closing his shop! The Alaskan State legislature should immediately intervene to make his shop an Alaskan cultural heritage site of some variety (not kidding). Meanwhile, from the sound of the conversation Boyd and I had, it's the federal government that's confused and harassed the poor guy with inconsistent and random applications of federal law to the point where it's probably not worth it anymore. I hope that's not the case, but I wouldn't be surprised. Whatever the reason, I am really sorry to hear that he's closing shop. I'm privileged to have seen it... once in a lifetime. Thanks again for reading and thanks a lot for your comments!

Jim

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Hi Jim,

Now I know what you were doing on the Alaska cruise when I wasn't around. Besides playing cribbage. I'm glad that you, a younger, more slender and fit person, also saw the value in cruising. I didn't come back with a tan, but I did lose 3 pounds while sleeping every night and eating every meal but one. Jade and I are looking forward to three weeks exploring Mediterranean ports in May. We put down our deposit for it on our last night on board and have starting our training. Sleeping in the same wonderful bed every night makes such a break-neck pace completely possible for a grandma like me. I'm looking forward to reading your Afghanistan piece WHEN you have returned.

Janice - Seattle

* * *

Hi Janice!

Yes that was a blast! I would do all of that again any day of the week. Have fun on your Mediterranean cruise, that sounds like great fun!

Jim

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Love your expeditions. Keep writing.

Karen Cummings - Yakima, WA

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Jim can't tell you how much I am enjoying your writing. One other commenter mentioned you are living the life we all dream of, ain't that the truth. As far as looking for a place to live that will challenge you to be able to make a real living and supplying a steady flow of women looking for the bbd (bigger better deal) then you should try the Yakima Valley here in Washington State (inside joke). Look forward to reading more from you.

Huston Turcott (hooter) - Yakima, WA

stars

Awesome!!! I love Japan!

Maja - Chur, Switzerland

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Jimmy my love,

I totally thought you were kidding when you told me you went bullriding. OH MY GOSH you actually did it. (SIGH) Am I going to have to smack you around a bit?? heheheheee Seriously, come see us!

Leah, Richland, WA

stars

Jim,

Rock on Friend! Living it up... inspiring us all to do the same!

Celeste, Seattle


Jim,

Are you for real? You're living the life many people only dream about. You're obviously not yet married. What wife would allow her husband to do all the crazy things you do? This Virginia skydiving adventure is probably the scariest yet. Your writing style helps bring the exhilaration out. Great photos too. Loved the caption about you striking that "gangsta rap" pose. Come to think of it, why do we do that in front of the camera?

Thanks also for the tips. $250 for a few minutes with nothing between you and mother earth is a bit costly but I guess if you have a death wish, this is definitely the way to go.

You mentioned that 25 people a year lose their lives doing this. With my luck I will be among that number if and when I decide to do this.

Enjoyed it very much. Can't wait for your next adventure.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

Jeem!

Found ur Glacier trek (I will Destroy You Glacier Peak) to be serious kick ass. To be honest, I’m such a lightweight, I’ve never been more than a day tripper. When u really get out there on one of those long solo treks, and the water runs short … can u drink from local streams? I’ve heard that pollution is so bad that even places untouched by man are now off-limits.

VitoZee

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Howdy VitoZee,

Great to hear from you and thanks for the complement and question. That is a seriously cool name, by the way: VitoZee. Just from the phonetics of it, I get the impression that you might be a very friendly and mild-mannered hitman working out of North Jersey. Really cool.

As for your drinking water from streams question, there are a lot of answers for it. The simple answer is that, no, you can almost never implicitly trust stream water sources, unless they are flowing straight out of the ground (via an aquafer or spring) bubbling up right there in front of you. That's your best bet, but you rarely see that in the wild unless you're looking for it, and even so, I have actually gotten sick from drinking spring water straight from the source at Panther Springs on Mount Shasta. You never know what you're going to get drinking untreated water from the wilds.

Most of the time the pollution you'll be dealing with out in the wilderness is not man-made, it usually comes from bacteria and parasites that inhabit the bodies of wilderness animals. For example, on this Glacier Peak trip, I drank from a stream I was confident was trustworthy. In the immediate vicinity were living quite a few marmots. A number of days after I got home I fell ill, and had to wonder if I hadn't picked up something from the water I drank, as there was not much of any other explanation for my symptoms. I knew a trip to the doctor would probably result in them sending me back home with a plastic cup that was required to be filled with my own poo, which would need to be delivered back to the lab steaming hot so they could figure out exactly what kind of bacteria or parasite they were dealing with. (Not a joke, remember Panther Springs?) After this diagnosis, I would then have to go back to the doctor and get a prescription, but by then, my body would have probably fought off the tiny invaders completely on its own. Not worth the trouble, and all of this would certainly = Jim minus $280. So I suffered it out, and whatever happened to be bothering me left my system in about 7 days or so. Yuck. No fun.

Anyway, I don't recommend drinking straight from the streams of the wild, but in a pinch, I do it everytime, unless I see a bear or a moose straight upstream from me pooping in the river, which has only happened about ten times. (Or zero times.) Anyway, sometimes I get sick, sometimes I don't. If I'm exhausted and thirsty, to heck with it, I'm drinking it.

All this notwithstanding, or withstanding, or notwithoutstanding, whatever, they just recently invented the coolest thing in the world though, so you might want to check it out. Previously, for treating your water in the wild, you'd always have to put a pellet of iodine or a congregate of other evil ingredients into your jug of stream water and let it sit there for an hour before you drink it while the chemical cocktail thoroughly treats your water. That is ridonkulous because when you're hiking and thirsty, you aren't going to wait a full hour for that pill to dissolve and work properly, you are going to guzzle. Anyway, they just invented this magic wand of sorts that you can find at any decent backpacking or outdoors store. You turn it on and dip it in your stream filled water jug, and the ultraviolet light it produces irradiates everything to death on the spot, after about 30 seconds or so. Kind of like my pinky finger, which I keep forgetting to treat my stream water with, because I'm always so dang thirsty.

Jim

Keep it comin' Jim. Sounds awesome.

Matt Langley, Duvall, WA

Hey Jim,

Enjoyed your Victoria article. It was an intersting slant on a city that is generally just promoted as a destination for tea rooms, gardens and double-decker buses. Now let's get serious ... are the Canadian women there really that attractive, good-natured and open-minded? Maybe I won't get married either and just move up there. It sure sounds refreshing after having to deal with the smugness of all those LA starlets, trying to make it in Hollywood.

Gary, Santa Monica

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Gary,

Thanks so much for the communique. I can honestly tell you that there was little exagerration involved in my description of the girls there in Victoria. God, in his infinite wisdom, has thankfully granted American mankind a few other places than the great old U.S. of A. to relieve our hearts of the burden of the eternally-self-absorbed, career-tracked, Bill-Gates-as-a-husband seeking beastly variety of female. I know, after living here in the States forever (especially in Seattle), how it is. I was recently researching a trip to Columbia, and heard the same news implicitly spoken about the women there, they are apparently of the same caliber of those that live in British Columbia. I invite you, before relocating, to take a trip up to Victoria, to see for yourself. I'll never forget it.

And my brotha', if you think you have it bad in the Los Angeles area (I lived there for six years), try Seattle (where I have lived for the last laborious three). Seattle seems to be crammed with nothing other than Ice Princesses, who live their lives completely within the confines of darkened cerebral domains, mental attentions locked firmly onto the goal of marrying the next Bill Gates, hoping to live in one of those big houses smooshed up against Lake Washington, hearts available only to the ultimate goal, the dream of all dreams ... being on Oprah someday...absorbing the jealous attentions of the millions of suburbanite women watching, all hoping to sit right there across from Ms. Winfrey someday, too, while regaling her with the tales of the good life, closets full of the savvy and smarmy garb purloined at Nordstrom's, their husband a virtual "Prince Charming," their family-owned barnacle encrusted yacht anchored firmly in some northern fjord. Oprah smiles back approvingly amidst a cacophony of applause, screen fades to commercials, all conduits nourishing The Beast.

You're my kind of guy, Gary. Hang in there, amigo. I look forward to meeting your smokin' hot wife someday.

Jim


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